Today in OpenGov: “Accidental” oversight.


In today's edition, government AI programs need oversight and transparency, House Democrats launch a full court press of investigations into the Trump administration, Georgia legislators introduce legislation targeting journalists in the state, and more. 

washington watch

Image via Pixabay.
  • A pair of representatives are urging their colleagues to restore the Office of Technology Assessment. "Reps. Sean Casten and Mark Takano appealed to their colleagues Tuesday to fund and restore a Capitol Hill technology agency that was defunded more than 20 years ago, as advocates say it could help Congress’s capacity to understand emerging technology and its social and policy implications…Casten says the OTA could serve a unique role, even as the Congressional Research Service continues to produce reports and the Government Accountability Office ramps up their new Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics (STAA) team." (Roll Call)
  • Oversight and transparency are key to responsible government use of AI, according to new report. "A commitment to transparency and consistent human oversight are two of the key factors in ensuring that federal agencies use artificial intelligence ethically, according to a new report by International Data Corporation, a market intelligence and consulting firm…The IDC analysts cite examples in health care, cybersecurity and other fields where AI has been deployed for mission-critical operations in government." (FedScoop)
  • Yet another former aide to ex-representative Steve Stockman (R-TX) was sentenced on fraud charges. This one fled to Egypt in an effort to avoid the investigation. "Former Capitol Hill staffer Jason T. Posey was sentenced Tuesday for his role in an extensive scheme that involved defrauding charitable donors by laundering funds to pay personal and campaign expenses. Posey, 48, of Tupelo, Mississippi, was an aide to former Texas Republican Rep. Steve Stockman. He was sentenced Tuesday to 18 months in prison and three years of supervised release. He has also been ordered to pay $564,718.65 in restitution and forfeit $156,855.29 in illicit gains." (Roll Call)
  • Top black donors and activists are urging Democrats to rethink their anti-super PAC stance. "Top black donors and operatives are calling on fellow Democrats to abandon their push against super PACs, arguing that one of Democrats’ most popular 2020 talking points will ultimately cut off much-needed resources for candidates of color. In a letter obtained by POLITICO, The Collective PAC — which helps elect black candidates to office — asked major liberal groups like Indivisible and Democracy for America to stop calling for Democratic presidential contenders to distance themselves from single-candidate super PACs. Such groups play an important role in electing candidates of color, they argued, especially in primaries, when the Democratic establishment has often overlooked black contenders and left it to outside donors to bolster their campaigns." (POLITICO)
  • The Data Coalition announced its new CEO. "Today, the Data Coalition and Data Foundation Boards of Directors are delighted to announce Nick Hart, Ph.D., as the organizations’ new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Interim President respectively. He will take up his posts effective immediately. Hart comes to the organizations with 10 years of experience working with and in the federal government. He is well-positioned to drive the Data Coalition’s policy agenda and build on previous policy achievements, including the DATA Act of 2014, the OPEN Government Data Act, and the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018. As Interim President of the Data Foundation, Hart will direct thought leadership, programming, and hands-on education that illuminate the long-term value of open data for government and society." (Data Coalition)


"Oversight" written on a chalkboard.Image credit: Mike Cohen
  • "Accidental" or not, House Democrats launched a full slate of investigations into the Trump administration… "In a single day, House Democrats demanded President Donald Trump’s tax returns for six years, moved to get a decade’s worth of his financial records and prepared to issue a subpoena for the full Mueller report from the Justice Department. Top House Democratic lawmakers and aides say the triple-headed attack was more by accident than design, but it’s also clear that April 3 marks a turning point for the new Democratic majority." (POLITICO)
  • …Recent oversight moves by House Democrats include, but aren't limited to, efforts to get six years of President Trump's tax returns (Bloomberg), wrangle documents from a top contractor to his inaugural (New York Times), subpoena White House aides in a wide ranging corruption probe (The Hill), and push for a full version of Robert Mueller's report and all of its underlying evidence (POLITICO).
  • Big donors to President Trump's inaugural were nominated for ambassadorships, possibly without relevant qualifications. "An NBC News review of those who donated to the Trump inauguration found at least 14 major contributors to its inaugural fund who were later nominees to become ambassadors, donating an average of slightly over $350,000 apiece. Though the Trump administration says the business acumen of these nominees qualifies them to represent the U.S. abroad, six of the 14 nominations have languished for months in the Republican-controlled Senate. One nomination has stalled for about two years." (NBC News)
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will cut ties with GOP communications firms following recent reports. "The Trump administration's health department is suspending contracts with several GOP-connected communications firms, according to four people with knowledge of the situation, days after a POLITICO report revealed the existence of the contracts. One of the contractors who was hired to boost Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma's profile with the media has also abruptly cut ties with the agency, two people with knowledge of the situation said." (POLITICO)

states and cities

Image via Pixabay. 
  • Iowa will embrace some online voting for 2020 caucus. "The tradition-bound Iowa caucuses are set to allow some online voting next year and among the likely beneficiaries are older voters, who’ll press candidates to focus on issues such as prescription drug prices, Social Security and Medicare." (Bloomberg)
  • This startup is trying to keep people out of jail by helping them get to court on time. "Uptrust, a startup working to reduce incarceration by helping defendants get to court, is rapidly signing new California counties as customers. The company has introduced its product in Ventura County, and will soon launch in the counties of San Bernardino, Santa Barbara and Solano as well. Together, the four counties are home to nearly 3.8 million people. Uptrust’s work is relatively simple: It establishes a channel through which public defenders and the people they represent can communicate, and it texts reminders to the defendants about when they need to be in court." (Government Technology)
  • California's governor is on vacation, but in break from precedent his administration won't say where. "Gov. Gavin Newsom left California on Monday for a vacation with his family, but his office is staying quiet about where the governor will be while away from the state. In addition to an upcoming official trip to El Salvador, Newsom will be out of state for nine full days, leaving Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis to serve as acting governor until April 10. Though the governor’s office announced Monday that Newsom had left the state, it declined to provide additional information about his travel schedule, where he would be while on vacation and whether he was traveling in the United States or abroad…Though communications styles have varied over past administrations, recent California governors have traditionally informed the media about their general vacation plans when leaving the state." (LA Times)
  • Georgia legislators have introduced a bill to create a state run ethics board for journalists. "A group of House Republican lawmakers filed legislation this week to create a state Journalism Ethics Board to develop “canons of ethics” for journalists in Georgia…The board would create “canons of ethics,” issue advisory opinions, develop voluntary accreditation, set up a system for investigating complaints and sanctioning accredited violators of such canons." (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)


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