Today in OpenGov: Evasive maneuvers.


In today's edition, a chance to comment on the federal government's new data strategy action plan, an opportunity to lead California's new government innovation office, a directive aimed at keeping two former Trump administration employees from handing over documents, and much more. 


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  • OMB released its finalized Federal Data Strategy and a draft "action plan" for its first year… "At long last, the White House Office of Management and Budget has released the much-anticipated Federal Data Strategy. The strategy, created by a cross-government team, is a deliverable of cross-agency priority goal No. 2 associated with the President’s Management Agenda: “Leveraging Data as a Strategic Asset.” It also represents the administration’s plan for implementing the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act, which President Trump signed in January." (FedScoop)
  • …The draft action plan lays out 16 actions for the first year of the Federal Data Strategy, (NextGov) and, as former Sunlighter and current OMB staffer Rebecca Williams has highlighted, is open for comment until July 5
  • A federal appeals court is set to revisit ruling around judges' ability to release grand jury information. "A federal appeals court announced Tuesday that its full, 12-judge bench plans to revisit whether judges have the authority to disclose usually secret grand jury information in exceptional cases. The Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals said it plans to take up, en banc, a case involving a historian’s request for access to records of a federal grand jury investigation into the 1946 lynching of two African-American couples in Walton County, Ga." (POLITICO)
  • Money's influence on politics is well accepted, but scientific proof has been harder to come by. "A political scientist who studies the way companies and interest groups influence policymaking, McKay was searching for an answer to a fundamental question of politics: Does money matter? Could making a donation to a politician before he’s elected buy you a favor once he’s in office? The answer seems obvious, but for decades, political scientists had struggled to find a definitive answer. McKay was part of a cadre of researchers convinced it would be possible to reach a well-supported conclusion — if you found the right data to study. In the fall of 2009, as the ACA took shape in the Senate Finance committee, she found her way in. Reams of data that no academic had gotten their hands on before was suddenly available to her. Ten years of database wrangling later, McKay published a study that experts say is probably the best evidence we have that money really does influence political decision-making. It was a long struggle and a big achievement. It was also a whopping anticlimax. Are you shocked to find out that there’s evidence suggesting campaign donations have power in the halls of congress? I wasn’t. Nor, likely, were the 72 percent of Americans who already believe their federal political system is tainted by filthy lucre." (FiveThirtyEight)

states and cities

  • California is looking for someone to lead its new Office of Digital Innovation. "California is officially for looking for its first director of the newly-established Office of Digital Innovation. Individuals who aspire to lead the office can complete the interest form on the California Government Operations Agency website…In January, California Governor Gavin Newsom proposed the new innovation office as part of the state’s 2019-20 budget." (GovFresh)
  • Boston, Massachusetts is expanding its police worn body camera pilot program. "Boston police are introducing nearly 200 body-worn cameras in several Boston neighborhoods on Monday in what the department says is a commitment to transparency. As of Monday morning, 193 police officers assigned to districts in South Boston (District C-6), Dorchester (District C-11) and the department’s “Youth Violence Strike Force" are expected to wear body cameras. The implementation follows a pilot program that began in 2016 and received strong criticism from the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, the union that represents patrol officers." (Government Technology)


  • Citizenship and Immigration Services pulled asylum training documents offline at direction of top leadership. "In May of 2018, the Web Integrity Project wrote about the removal of a series of training materials — lesson plans for officials charged with evaluating the claims of asylum seekers in the U.S. — that had been excised from the website of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, an office within the Department of Homeland Security. As we noted in a detailed report at the time, the removals were unusual for their scope and completeness, affecting at least 26 separate documents, and comprising hundreds of pages…However, a chain of email correspondence released last month under the Freedom of Information Act (with litigation support from American Oversight) has offered an unusual inside look at the process leading up to this particular removal. In answer to our first question— who initiated the removal? — the records turned over under FOIA show that USCIS’ training materials, which had been public for years, were in fact removed at the explicit direction of the Asylum Division’s top official." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • The White House directed former staffers Hope Hicks and Annie Donaldson to keep documents from a Congressional committee. "The White House has instructed two more former aides to President Donald Trump — Hope Hicks and Annie Donaldson — not to provide a congressional committee with documents…Hicks, the former White House communications director, and Donaldson, who was chief of staff to former White House counsel Don McGahn, had been subpoenaed by Nadler to turn over the material by Tuesday. Hicks did provide some documents concerning her time with Trump’s presidential campaign, Nadler said." (Bloomberg)
  • Judge rules that prosecutors don't have to disclose secret transcripts of conversations between Michael Flynn and a Russian diplomat. "A federal judge on Tuesday told prosecutors they did not have to make public highly classified transcripts of Michael T. Flynn talking about sanctions with the Russian ambassador in December 2016. The judge’s decision means that the exact words that Mr. Flynn, President Trump’s first national security adviser, and Sergey I. Kislyak, formerly Russia’s top diplomat in the United States, exchanged during the presidential transition will remain secret." (New York Times)
  • Did the Trump Organization evade taxes on a Panama hotel project? "A onetime business partner of Donald Trump’s hotel management company claimed that the president’s firm evaded income taxes on a project in Panama and under-reported employee salaries there. The accusations were contained in a court filing Monday by the business partner, Orestes Fintiklis, and his fund, Ithaca Capital Investments, as part of a lawsuit against Trump International Hotels Management. Ithaca assumed control of the property after Trump withdrew from it in March 2018, and a bitter feud over the development has ensued." (Bloomberg)
  • Speaking of Trump's business overseas, Open Secrets has a new deep dive into all of the family's foreign business interests. "Two years into his presidency, Donald Trump continues to make money from properties and licensing deals in nearly two dozen countries around the world, fanning the flames of concerns that the Trump administration is subject to unprecedented levels of foreign influence. Trump continued to hold more than $130 million in foreign assets in a revocable trust as his second year in office came to a close, according to OpenSecrets’ analysis of the president’s most recent annual personal financial disclosure released by the Office of Government Ethics last month." (Open Secrets)


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