Today in OpenGov: Failing upwards?


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And now, in today's edition, another 2020 presidential hopeful pledges to release their tax returns, members and watchdogs knock NYC's AI task force for lacking transparency, Kirstjen Nielsen tries to rehab her image, and more. 

washington watch

  • The House is considering net neutrality legislation, but it's unlikely to advance further thanks to opposition from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump. "Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that the Senate won't take up a net neutrality bill currently before lawmakers in the House. 'Dead on arrival in the Senate,' McConnell told reporters about the fate of the House bill, which is expected to get a vote in that chamber this week. The bill would reinstate regulations put in place by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requiring internet service providers to treat all web traffic equally." (The Hill)
  • A high profile TSA whistleblower was just fired for the second time. "The 16-year drama of a well-known Transportation Security Administration whistleblower took another turn last month when former Air Marshal Robert MacLean was fired by the agency—for the second time. MacLean on Tuesday confirmed to Government Executive—in the midst of higher-level drama of President Trump’s shakeup of leaders of the Homeland Security Department—that he was informed on March 21 of his termination. It came after years spent in limbo in what he viewed as make-work jobs while awaiting resolution of his complaints to the Office of Special Counsel." (Government Executive)
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders announces plans to release 10 years worth of tax returns by Monday. "Senator Bernie Sanders, whose $18 million fund-raising haul has solidified his status as a front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, said Tuesday that he would release 10 years of tax returns by Tax Day on Monday and acknowledged that he has joined the ranks of the millionaires he has denounced for years." (New York Times)
  • This bipartisan pair of Senators want social media companies to be more transparent when they want you to give them your data. "Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) introduced a bill Tuesday to prevent social media platforms from tricking users into handing over their personal data. The Deceptive Experiences To Online Users Reduction (DETOUR) Act prohibits large online platforms from using 'dark patterns,' deceptive interfaces on websites and apps that, if clicked, lead a user to often unknowingly agree to certain settings that help the company, including relinquishing some control over private information." (The Hill)

states and cities

  • New York City's AI task force has lacked transparency, despite pledge of openness. "One thing is clear about New York City’s AI transparency and equity initiative: it’s been anything but transparent. When the New York Mayor’s Office announced its Automated Decision Systems Task Force last year, it did so with a self-congratulatory pat on the back for being the first city in the nation to take such a step…Now, nearly a year into the process, task force members and others are frustrated with a lack of information about which autonomous systems the city employs. Meanwhile, concerned observers lament a process that itself has been opaque." (Red Tail Media)
  • Interested in municipal financial data standards? This item is for you… Our friend Marc Joffe brought a couple items of note to our attention. First, on April 24th XBRL US is hosting a Municipal Finance Data Forum in Washington, DC. "This forum, featuring speakers from Americans for Financial Reform, the Do Good Institute, the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, U.S. Census, the Office of Financial Research, U.S. Treasury, and more, will initiate a dialogue about how financial data standards can help states and municipalities improve the efficiency of reporting, reduce cost, and provide reporting entities with better data to set policy." Meanwhile, in California, the State Senate is considering a bill to migrate local government audits to Inline XBRL.
  • …additionally, the Illinois House will vote on a bill to put local financial records online. "Budgets, audits, lobbyist contracts and other local government records should be easy for taxpayers to obtain, but too often they are not. State Rep. Anna Moeller, D-Elgin, introduced House Bill 2810 to help fix that. It is headed to the Illinois House floor for a vote after unanimously passing out of committee on March 26. Under HB 2810, local governments would need to either host required information on their website or through the Illinois Transparency & Accountability Portal. Information would include: annual budgets and financial audits; the designated Freedom of Information Act officer’s contact info; public-private contracts worth over $25,000; meeting agenda items and minutes; and records disclosing the government’s debts, tax and fee collections, and pension liabilities." (Illinois Policy via NFOIC)


Former Kansas gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach. 
  • Immigration hardliners are pushing the idea of Kris Kobach, vice chair of President Trump's "voter fraud" commission and failed Kansas gubernatorial candidate, as a potential pick to head Department of Homeland Security. (Bloomberg) That idea might be dead on arrival in the Senate, according to Sen. Pat Roberts, one of two GOP Senators from Kobach's home state. (Kansas City Star)
  • Meanwhile, outgoing DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is hoping to rehab her public image as she angles for a private sector payday. "Kirstjen Nielsen’s image makeover has already begun—but it may be a hard sell. Just days after she announced plans to resign as Homeland Security secretary, Nielsen and her allies are working to rehabilitate her reputation, arguing that she’s not the heartless villain depicted by liberal critics already pressuring big companies not to hire her…Despite the ongoing effort to stigmatize Nielsen, two leading Washington-based corporate recruiters told POLITICO she will likely land a well-paid business job. But they both said her baggage could make image-conscious corporations, fearful of boycotts and Twitter backlashes, think twice about hiring her." (POLITICO)
  • A federal judge declined to push the DOJ to speed up its timeline to release the Mueller report. "A federal judge in Washington, DC, ruled Tuesday that he will not order the Justice Department to speed up its timeline for releasing special counsel Robert Mueller's report and other records related to the investigation. The Electronic Privacy Information Center, or EPIC, which filed a Freedom of Information Act request for Mueller's report, had asked the judge to issue an injunction requiring the government to release the report to the public by April 15, or whenever Attorney General Bill Barr sent it to Congress — whichever date was sooner." (BuzzFeed)
  • Treasury Department consulted with White House lawyers about President Trump's tax returns, potentially running afoul of federal law. "Treasury Department lawyers consulted with the White House general counsel’s office about the potential release of President Trump’s tax returns before House Democrats formally requested the records, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday…Democrats are asking for six years of Trump’s returns, using a federal law that says the treasury secretary “shall furnish” the records upon the request of House or Senate chairmen. The process is designed to be walled off from White House interference, in part because of corruption that took place during the Teapot Dome scandal in the 1920s." (Washington Post)


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