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Today in OpenGov: Battleground (state) America

Tuesday, April 26, 2016 14:10
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(Before It's News)

By The Sunlight Foundation

TOP STORIES: The Sunlight Foundation combined our analysis of Federal Election Commission data with interviews of reporters from the Arizona Republic, Baltimore Sun, National Journal, Minnesota Post and Texas Tribune and produced with a ranked list of the competitive U.S. House races where the most money has been spent so far in 2016.


  • Nextdoor announced that it would begin offering its public agency partners (mostly police departments to date) the ability to poll local residents on the private social network. “Having the ability to easily communicate with residents is imperative to our continued community policing efforts and adds another layer of transparency between our department and our community,” said Art Acevedo, Chief of Police in Austin, in a statement. “With Nextdoor Polls, we can connect directly with residents, gather their input in a structured way, and work together to make our city an even better place to call home.” We strongly encourage Nextdoor and participating agencies to not only gather input in a structured fashion but to release it as open data on municipal websites. [Nextdoor]
  • Symantec researchers found that mobile apps released by the Cruz and Kasich campaigns were exposing the personal data of users. [AP]
  • The Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 are suing the Federal Election Commission for failing to enforce the law and “protect the integrity of our democracy.” [Campaign Legal Center]
  • The Financial Accounting Standards Board’s proposal to reduce corporate disclosure requirements to shareholders — expressed as providing more discretion about “materiality” — hasn’t gotten “the strong dose of sunlight it deserves,” argue Karthik Ramanna and Allen Drescher. [New York Times]
  • The FBI plans to keep the method use to access a terrorist’s iPhone secret. [Wall Street Journal]
  • This tweet by billionaire Donald Trump, the front runner for the Republican nomination for president, is still not showing up on his public timeline, with no explanation for the “shadow ban” from Twitter. [Breitbart]
  • While the “Meerkat Election” clearly isn’t happening, Jim Rutenberg makes a convincing case for the role Snapchat is playing in this campaign cycle. NB: We do not endorse his tongue-in-cheek suggestion to ethically compromised pols to post embarrassing videos to Snapchat and then destroy them. [New York Times]
  • The Director of National Intelligence is considering publicly disclosing the number of American citizens caught up in online surveillance. [NPR]
  • The Government Accountability Project is calling attention to Friedrich Mosers’ new documentary about NSA whistleblowers, “A Good American,” and joining a coalition of good government groups calling on the Obama administration to increase protections for whistleblowers. [Letter] []
  • When asked about how the White House will bring the rest of the nation’s police departments to voluntarily share data, Clarence Wardell II responded that it will take time. “We address it a bit in this NPR article, but the high level is that we start with the willing, show what’s possible, and why it’s valuable, then hopefully make it easier for the next group to see themselves doing it, and then to actually do it with tools and resources coming online over time that make it easier to do so for each iteration that wants to join.

State and Local  

  • The U.S. Supreme Court is going to weigh former Virgina Governor Bob McDonnell’s corruption case. [Wall Street Journal]
  • Nine principals have cut deals in Detroit’s school corruption case. [FreeP] [NPR]
  • Michigan State Police are tracking discussion of Flint’s water crisis on social media. [MLive]
  • Flint residents are suing the Environmental Protection Agency. [Detroit News]
  • On that count, here’s a valuable exploration of how Flint’s water crisis happened. [ProPublica]
  • Related: About a third of the mayors surveyed by Politico are concerned that public safety is already at risk because of cost-saving decisions on critical infrastructure. [Politico]
  • The Missouri Legislature is considering a bill that “exempts data collected by state agencies under the federal Animal Disease Traceability Program from disclosure under Missouri’s sunshine law,” taking away the public’s right to know about communications between regulators and large agricultural concerns. [Progress Missouri]
  • The Alliance Defending Freedom is behind model legislation focused on restricting access to bathrooms according to the sex listed on someone’s birth certificate. [Mother Jones]
  • A federal judge upheld South Carolina’s voter ID law. [New York Times]
  • John Oliver focused on Puerto Rico’s debt crisis Sunday. “Last Week Tonight” has now become a culturally significant platform for explaining public policy issues in an accessible way and directing public interest towards areas that merit sunshine. [YouTube]


  • The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists is going to release a searchable database of more than 200,000 offshore entities listed in the Panama Papers. There’s a notable, laudable caveat here: this won’t be a data dump of all of the original documents. “ICIJ won’t release personal data en masse; the database will not include records of bank accounts and financial transactions, emails and other correspondence, passports and telephone numbers. The selected and limited information is being published in the public interest.” [Public Integrity]
  • As usual, Corruption Currents is a must-read digest of news.
  • Australia plans to create a public registry of beneficial ownership of shell companies. [Guardian]
  • Corruption is crippling the development of women’s sports in Afghanistan. Despite spending $1.5 million of American taxpayer’s dollars on coeducational programs, U.S. officials declined to discuss the issue on the record. [New York Times]
  • This essay on statistics, charts, information design and our cognitive biases should be required reading for anyone working with data, government and communication. [ProPublica]

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The Sunlight Foundation is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that uses the power of the Internet to catalyze greater government openness and transparency, and provides new tools and resources for media and citizens, alike.


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