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Sunlight Foundation
Washington, DC

The Sunlight Foundation uses technology and ideas to make government transparent and accountable.

The Sunlight Foundation is:

A think-tank that develops and encourages new policies inside the government to make it more open and transparent.
A campaign to engage citizens in demanding the policies that will open government and hold their elected officials accountable for being transparent.
An investigative organization that uses the data we uncover to demonstrate why we need new policies that free government data.
A grant-giving institution that provides resources to organizations using technology to further our mission and create community
An open source technology community that revolves around the Sunlight Foundation’s core mission

Sunlight Foundation is not verified as a 501(c)3 organization.

Latest News

Jul 25, 2016

Policy cycle
[Image by Sunlight Foundation]

BRAIN FOOD: Sunlight's Emily Shaw dug into why she stopped worrying and started loving politics. If you're interested in what we do and what all of us do together, it's worth reading the whole thing. [READ MORE]

"No matter what size the government you’re working with, the democratic policymaking process follows the same basic structure. People who teach political science, public administration or public policy call it the policy cycle, and represent it as a circle, because making and implementing policy tends to be an ongoing and iterative process. A problem might help lead to the adoption of one kind of policy, but then the implementation of that policy creates new problems, and then observations of those problems leads to the creation of further policy.

There are a number of versions of the policy cycle out in circulation. I developed a version that uses language which is a little less tied to the assumption that policymaking occurs just within government. As open government advocates know, people outside government can – and do – play an important role in nearly all of the aspects of the policymaking and implementation process."

FOLLOW THE MONEY: Drew Doggett examined the donors and campaign finance history of the Republican vice presidential nominee, Indiana governor Mike Pence. [READ MORE]

ON TO THE DNC: Sunlighters Louis Serino, Libby Watson and Melissa Yeager have headed up to Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention. As with the Republican National Convention, the authors of Political Party Time are blogging, using Storify, and tweeting at @libbycwatson, @melissayeagr, @SFPartyTime or the hashtag #SFinPHL.

Editor's Note: As in past years, we've added a campaign section to the newsletter to reflect the increased volume of news and analysis about the upcoming election in the United States. As always, please send us links, research and interesting data. -Alex

CAMPAIGN 2016

  •  Secret DNC: "Exclusive parties are coming, you're probably not invited," writes Anna Orso. [BillyPenn]
  • Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has added fundraising power to the ticket by selecting Virginia Senator Tom Kaine as her running mate, writes former Sunlight editorial director Bill Allison. [Bloomberg]
  • At last week's RNC, a speech by billionaire Tom Barrack led Sunlight's Richard Skinner to wonder if the line between campaigns and super PACs has been erased. [Sunlight]

National

  • Yours truly joined Government Matters to talk about what Freedom of Information Act reform will mean for federal agencies, the media and the public. Video is embedded above. [Government Matters TV]
  • Speaking of FOIA, Jonathan Peters dug into some recent court cases and lawsuits that are relevant.  [CJR]

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We want to find and share the most important stories about open government around the world from the past 24 hours here. To do that, we'll need YOUR help. Please send your tips and feedback at [email protected]. If you would like suggest an event, email us by 7 am on the Monday prior to the event.

Jul 25, 2016

Mike Pence, Donald Trump and family members at the RNC in Cleveland.
Mike Pence, Donald Trump and family members. (Image credit: ABC News/Ida Mae Astute)

Donald Trump has chosen his second in command in his race for the White House: Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

Republicans often tout that Pence’s long resume and his reputation for hard work and the “polite demeanor of his Midwest upbringing. After joining Congress in 2000, Pence served as chairman of the conservative House Republican Study Committee – the largest caucus in the House – during the 109th congress and after six terms, became governor of the Hoosier state in 2012. Pence will drop his reelection bid for an opportunity to become America’s vice president.

Now that the GOP convention is over let’s take a look at a few of his big donors and involvement in Republican fundraising over the years. 

Funders and fundraising

According to state campaign finance data from the National Institute for Money in State Politics, some of Pence’s biggest donors include Dean White – a billionaire real estate mogul, who gave $775,000 – and Columbus-based Anthony Moravec – who owns Blairex Laboratories and gave $431,735. The late Bob J. Perry, a GOP megadonor, gave $220,000. Pence also received $2.6 million from the Republican Governors Association’s PAC.

During his 2015 run, more than 62 percent of Pence’s campaign contributions came from contributions of $10,000 or more.

(Note: there are no contribution limits from individuals, PACs or party committees to candidates for statewide office in Indiana. Corporations and labor unions can give a max of $5,000.)

He has utilized a tactic known as “PAC shell games” – which allowed a supportive super PAC,  RGA Right Direction, to skirt limits on corporate giving in Indiana. The super PAC, funded by the Republican Governor’s Association (RGA), gave $1 million to Pence’s run for governor. Super PACs cannot donate directly to federal campaigns, but since Indiana state law allows for unlimited PAC contributions to candidates, the RGA still managed to make up a third of Pence’s entire warchest.

Pence has also received plenty of money from the Koch brothers, including $300,000 directly from David Koch in the past four years.

His affiliate PAC – Principles Exalt A Nation – took inspiration from Proverbs 14:34 of the Old Testament.

When it comes to giving to candidates for national office, Pence has made a few personal contributions of more than $200, the lowest amount itemized on reports to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). According to OpenSecrets, Pence gave $1,000 to former Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Ill., in 2009, $1,000 to Luke Wayne Puckett who challenged then Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., and $2,000 to former Senator Jim Demint, R-S.C., in 2004. Additionally, in 2004 the Mike Pence Committee donated $1,000 to former U.S. Senator David Vitter, R-La.

Political Party Time with Mike Pence

And last but not least, some of Pence’s most notable fundraisers featured on Party Time:

Jul 25, 2016

As you saw last week with our coverage of the Republican National Convention, we here at Political Party Time are temporarily taking over the Sunlight blog in honor of one of our favorite times of the year: convention season! Why, you ask? Because these massive political carnivals are prime spots for big-money fundraisers with exclusive donors, not-so-secret influence peddling at corporate events, closed-door lobbyist meeting in smoke-filled rooms — and we're looking to shine a light on all of it.

That's why we're having Sunlight's Melissa Yeager, Libby Watson and Louis Serino crash the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia! They'll be live-tweeting, snapping photos, shooting videos and bringing you the latest news — all with a focus on money in politics, influence and more. We'll be compiling the most interesting missives from #DemConvention in our Storify below! Or for the full experience, check us out on Twitter — @libbycwatson, @melissayeagr, @SFPartyTime or the hashtag #SFinPHL — or Instagram.

Updates will come often, so stay tuned!

Jul 22, 2016

Major King Kong rides the bomb down to earth
A still image from "Dr. Strangelove." (Image credit: Public domain/Wikimedia Commons)

These months of presidential campaigning have been emotionally exhausting already, and we’ve barely begun to get into it. Set against a landscape of terrible violence at home and abroad, the nation’s political battle feels apocalyptic, like the real-life final set-piece in a huge, over-budget summer movie. My Facebook feed is a river of horrors punctuated by kitten videos. And, yet, every piece of media I encounter assures me that this is not the end, and that we are on the brink of still deeper disaster.

Under these circumstances, maybe it’s pointless to bother thinking about the future, but the sun still comes up and the earth still seems to be turning so I guess I’ll do the human thing and think about the future anyway. In particular, I’ll think about what comes after elections: the making and implementing of policy.

Actually, though we’re not thinking much about it right now, policymaking and the administration of those policies is the constant work of government, going on before, after and during, the high octane of election campaigns. It’s the process of building “the system” that defines what’s legal and what’s illegal, what’s criminal and what’s merely unfortunate, in all of the political jurisdictions across the country. It includes much more than making official written decisions. It includes the enforcement – or non-enforcement – of law. It includes the diligent – or shoddy – implementation of government services. It includes the official – or de facto – limits on people’s behavior in schools, in bathrooms, in hospitals, on the street.   

While the election of lawmakers (including executives) is definitely important, the process of making and administering policy has a number of different stages and points of competition that truly make every day, not just Election Day, an opportunity to change “the system.”

So how do we do it? You can get involved in affecting outcomes all along the policy cycle.

No matter what size the government you’re working with, the democratic policymaking process follows the same basic structure. People who teach political science, public administration or public policy call it the policy cycle, and represent it as a circle, because making and implementing policy tends to be an ongoing and iterative process. A problem might help lead to the adoption of one kind of policy, but then the implementation of that policy creates new problems, and then observations of those problems leads to the creation of further policy.

There are a number of versions of the policy cycle out in circulation. I developed a version that uses language which is a little less tied to the assumption that policymaking occurs just within government. As open government advocates know, people outside government can – and do – play an important role in nearly all of the aspects of the policymaking and implementation process.

Policy cycle
The policy cycle. (Image credit: Sunlight Foundation)

If this policy cycle is a decent representation of the process for making all public policies, you can use it to plan a variety of ways to attack the issue and change the policy areas that matter to you. For example:

1. Defining and increasing the salience of a problem

How do people raise public awareness of a problem? If you’ve ever written a letter to the editor, or posted an angry missive to your blog, you’ve probably already engaged in this stage of the policy process. When we speak clearly about the problems we observe in public life, we help to raise the importance of that issue for others, and this spurs public interest in solving the problem.  The most effective way to do this is through the media. There are many ways to attract media attention to the problem you’ve identified, ranging from putting out a report or interesting website to holding a protest.

Media’s broad success at raising sense of an issue’s importance – called “agenda setting” in academic work –is one reason that media are an important part of the policy process. Media coverage communicates the problem both to potential allies, who could join you, and also to lawmakers, who gain a sense of how important an issue is to the public partly through its presence in the media. (This is also the reason why media partiality or partisanship is such a recurrent hot-button issue.)

2. Developing a popular solution

For the purpose of making policy change, coming up with solutions is just as important as highlighting problems. No matter how often a problem is raised, if nobody has any acceptable solutions to offer then that problem just won’t get addressed. There are often more people offering specific problems than specific solutions, so offering solutions can also be a valuable way to contribute a needed element to the process.

However, it’s a less common contribution because it’s usually trickier to develop an actionable and acceptable solution than it is to draw attention to a problem. For one thing, you need to know your problem’s legal and organizational context in order to make a concrete proposal for fixing it. Over time, activists and organizations who are interested in the same problem over time tend to gather this information, setting them up to generate solutions that will make sense to the people who need to pass them. “Until you’ve worked 5-10 years in government or advocacy,” argued GovTrack founder Josh Tauberer in a recent Medium post, “you can’t see what needs change.” You might not need five to ten years, but you do need to learn a good amount about the relevant institutions in order to know what to target.

3. Building official support

The process of developing a solution doesn’t necessarily mean that others will agree it’s a good idea. Therefore, building a level of collective agreement around a single policy approach is another aspect of the policy-making process. Some of the activities you might do to build official support include creating coalitions, lobbying, advertising, and, inevitably, having lots of meetings and phone calls. Using social networks well is an important part of building support for a policy. Activists develop network-based strategies for building support through conducting exercises like “power mapping.” Activists build official support both by asking official decision-makers directly, which is called lobbying, and by using grassroots approaches like asking a legislator’s constituents to contact their representative in support of a policy. Depending on the topic, broad public support may also be useful and require a public (or targeted) advertising strategy.

People who are good at building support for a policy approach are sometimes called “policy entrepreneurs,” but when they work chiefly with people and groups outside of government, they’re usually called “organizers.”  Either way, they’re skilled at helping people identify and connect around a point of common political interest.

4. Specifying the final form of a solution

When support-building has been successful and a lawmaking body is at the point of seriously considering adopting a solution to a problem, you would think that process was nearly complete – but it really isn’t. The old phrase “there’s many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip” might very well have come from the many ways that an apparent policy success can be completely undone by bad legislative wording. Establishing the final, legal form of a policy solution is a vitally important part of the policy process. However, it’s also the most specialized, since it requires both good knowledge of the policy’s legal framework as well as an understanding of the legal meaning of the policy’s language.

While advocates outside of government can offer model language for a policy solution, they don’t have any control over what the lawmakers actually get to vote on. Lawmaking bodies have in-house lawyers who are ultimately in charge of drafting official policies. However, it’s vitally important that interested advocates keep a close eye on the language of those drafts and on the kinds of amendments that get offered during the process. Because the drafts and amendments can move from introduction to voting extremely quickly, people who care about this aspect of the policy process need to be able to pay very close attention to the proposed policy language throughout the period when it’s under consideration. This is time consuming, often frantic, and there’s usually a high cost for getting it wrong – which is why lobbying can be such well-compensated work. (Sadly, this is usually not the case for those us who do it on behalf of open government.)

5. Implementing the solution as it is specified in law

Once a law has passed, it is generally up to the government to ensure its implementation. However, for some types of service-focused organizations, this is the very best place for to engage and ensure that the policy functions correctly. Organizations can contract with government to provide the kinds of services they may identify a community as lacking. For people in the civic tech movement, for example, this may take the form of joining with government to create better and more public-facing technology solution than the government could make with its existing resources.

Once a person or organization decides to join in this stage of the policy process, they usually have to give up the possibility of being directly involved with any other part of it. Government employees have a limited ability to speak publicly about their work. Most of them are also prevented from interacting closely with the formal policymaking process through ethics laws. However, for many people working for government, this tradeoff seems to be worth the benefit of being able to do a good job implementing a policy that’s meaningful to them.

6. Evaluating the process and effects of implementation

Back on the outside of government, once policy implementation has begun, all the people and organizations who care about the effects of the policy can create change by serving as “public watchdogs.” Public watchdogs monitor the effectiveness and fidelity of public policy’s implementation. Anyone can perform this function, although journalists have done the bulk of the work in this area since the birth of “muckraking journalism” in the early 20th century.

When someone outside of government – whether a journalist, organization, or attentive individual – notes a problem with the implementation of a government policy, they have two main routes for getting the problem fixed. They can take an “inside” route, and raise the issue with the government officials who are in charge of implementing the policy, to see if the policy’s implementation can be improved without additional public process. Otherwise, they can take an “outside” route, which involves going (back) to step 1 in the policy cycle: raising larger awareness of a problem in order to help create a political solution. The choice of whether to go “inside” or “outside” creates an ongoing conversation about strategy for people who want to see a policy program altered but not entirely abandoned.

Either way, it is part of the process of making change in the everyday, routine function of government. It might be less exciting and public than elections, but it is the direct way to impact the kinds of problems that drive people to want to change the system.

It is the core strength of the democratic system that these functions of policymaking are regular and publicly observable. It is an unfortunate weakness of the system that more people don’t, or aren’t able, to involve themselves in it. Even if all of the predictions of disaster are correct and the world continues to fall apart, so long as the policy process holds we can all do something to try to put it together again. After all, if the only thing as certain as death is taxes, then bureaucracy is really a kind of superpower, isn't it?

Make it your superpower.

Jul 22, 2016

Tom Barrack standing on stand at the RNC, speaking.
Tom Barrack. (Image credit: C-SPAN)

Many viewers may have seen the speech given by billionaire investor Tom Barrack during the final night of the Republican convention and wondered, “Who is this guy? Why the corny jokes about Caesar salad and Irish wakes? Why all the talk of lions and gazelles? Why did he compare Donald Trump to a jeweler?” Barrack is not just Donald Trump’s friend, he founded Rebuilding America Now, one of the super PACs backing Trump. As far as we know, he is the highest-ranking super PAC figure to actually appear at a party convention. According to data from our Real-Time Influence Explorer, this group reported raising only $2.2 million last quarter, well below the figures initially quoted by Barrack and his allies.

Sunlight's Political Party Time shows that Barrack has hosted fundraisers for Trump Victory that have attracted such luminaries as RNC chair Reince Priebus and RNC finance head Lewis Eisenberg. Money from the fund goes to the Trump campaign, the RNC and several state Republican parties.

The line between campaigns and super PACs, never clear, has become almost completely erased. The Federal Election Commission has ruled that candidates can attend super PAC fundraisers (although they cannot actually ask for contributions for over $5,000). Trump and Mike Pence have just announced that they will headline events for Rebuilding America Now. And on the Democratic side, Correct the Record, a super PAC devoted to defending Hillary Clinton from attacks, openly coordinates with her campaign; the group argues that it can do so because it posts all its activity on its website. Throughout this presidential campaign, we have seen super PACs managed by candidates’ former staff, funded by candidates’ longtime supporters, and with fundraisers attended by those same candidates.

Super PACs are only allowed to collect unlimited contributions because they are not allowed to coordinate with candidate campaigns. But Barrack’s speech shows the illusion of this “independence.” If a super PAC bigwig can give a prime-time speech supporting a candidate backed by his group, how independent can such a group be?

Jul 22, 2016

CONVENED: Sunlighters Libby Watson and Josh Stewart went to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and explored the scene. "Notably missing from the many of the convention meetings, gatherings and soirees? Voters. While the influence industry is hard at work to curry favor and gain access for corporate players and big-dollar donors, there’s not much opportunity for the public to see what’s going on." [READ MORE]

NationaL

  • The Department of Defense has revised its Law of War Manual in a way that recognizes journalists as civilians and acknowledges their role in independently reporting on armed conflicts. "The new language is a seismic shift for the U.S. military," said Frank Smyth, senior adviser for journalist security at the Committee to Protect Journalists. "This affirmation of journalists' right to report armed conflicts freely and from all sides is especially welcome at a time when governments, militias, and insurgent forces around the world are routinely flouting the laws of war." [CPJ]
  • New whistleblower protections for contractors have some traction in Congress. How much remains to be seen when lawmakers return from the summer recess. [GovExec]
  • Speaking on the final night of the Republican National Convention, venture capitalist Peter Thiel commented on culture wars and government technology. "Today our government is broken, our nuclear bases still use floppy disks, our newest fighter jets can't even fly in the rain, and it would be kind to say government software works poorly because much of the time it doesn’t even work at all," he said. "That is a staggering decline for a country that completed the Manhattan Project." While his critique has merit, we hope Thiel reads up on how lobbying, procurement and government human resources policies got us here, and then gets to work recruiting for 18F and U.S. Digital Service to fix them. [Politico]

State and Local

  • The City of Los Angeles has joined Google's innovation lab and announced plans to tackle urban problems using the search engine giant's methods. [Govtech]
  • One of the best ways municipal governments can use open data from states is to enhance their own services and decision-making, says Mark Headd. [Data Upstate]
  • The staff of Maine Governor Paul LePage violated a policy that prevents state employees from using texts to conduct government business. [Bangor Daily News]
  • Here's some frank criticism of "civic innovation" from the winners of a hackathon in May. "When a diverse team wins a tech competition and is promised to be brought in for development as a prize, being told to volunteer is part of the problem," write David Capelli and Carla Mays. "Having an innovation agenda or a hackathon doesn’t mean anything if we can’t implement solutions we have developed and won." [LinkedIn]
  • While Capelli and Mays' critique that "the current hackathons, online platforms and town halls…have little or no real pathway to implementing these solutions that yield the best ROI for cities, residents and investors," has value, they're not grounding their critique in the debate over app contests and sustainability that has been going on for many years, or the ways that civic tech is maturing in cities that have learned some lessons along the way.
 

International

  • The Netherlands' procurement agency has opened up its contracting data going back to 2010, and will update it every six months. OpenState is also making some progress in opening up the Dutch registry of company ownership. [OpenState]

  • Here's how to use open data to find the most unhygienic food in the United Kingdom. [Wolfram Alpha]
  • What does the vote to leave the European Union mean for open government in the United Kingdom? Ben Worthy, the independent reporter on the UK’s Open Government National Action Plan for the Open Government Partnership, dug in: "Brexit itself will soon become a huge transparency issue. There is an interesting debate about how much ‘information’ there was flowing in the referendum campaign itself, as this great blog post discusses. However, once negotiations begin there will be unprecedented pressure and scrutiny. Prime Minister May and the other 27 countries will probably argue for some secrecy in the delicate process but there will be a powerful case for more open door negotiations and, on a practical level, more leaks than you can imagine." [OGP]

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Jul 22, 2016

A statue spelling "Cleveland" near Lake Erie.
Cleveland, the site of the 2016 Republican National Convention. (Photo credit: Sunlight Foundation/Instagram)

There are subtle layers of influence that exist beyond the convention hall. If the convention hall at Quicken Loans Arena is the Sun — the center of the RNC solar system — then the planets that surround it are an almost endless list of parties, fundraisers, policy discussions and media hubs. Most, if not all of these events, are somehow underwritten by corporate money, either directly or indirectly

Take the Western Caucus Foundation — a nonprofit that is committed to "educating public policy makers … to preserve the West’s dynamic and unique culture" — which held a dinner event and happy hour this week just steps away from the convention hall. Events like this bring out the delegates, legislators and other power players in a big way. Regional pride and a shot at a conversation with their local member of Congress — plus good barbecue — is enough to make sure these events are well attended.  

These events put on by caucuses and their respective nonprofit arms are a way that various interests try get the attention of lawmakers around issues important to them. It is often unclear where the funding comes from since they do not have to disclose their donors. But these affiliated nonprofits provide services, with some rules and oversight form Congress, such as event planning, policy help and public relations work. Sam Brodey of MinnPost wrote a great report earlier this year about the Sportsmen’s Caucus and its nonprofit foundation.

Then there are events with no clear agenda other than promoting the sponsor's brand out there to a very targeted audience. Companies and industry groups often foot the bill for different hubs set up by the likes of Twitter, Facebook, The Washington Post, Politico, and The Hill. These provide varying amounts of free food, drinks and swag, or just a place for journalists to get away from the crowds on the streets.

And there are high-powered corporate sponsors like AT&T. On top of being a sponsor, AT&T’s logo is prominently displayed on flags and banners throughout town.

Corporate sponsorship of events here takes a lot of forms, too. Murray Energy, a coal company based in Ohio, sponsored an event for the Republican Attorney General Association on Tuesday and another event for the Illinois delegation featuring Illinois-based energy companies. Until recently, Murray was under investigation by the Federal Election Commission over allegations that it pressured employees to attend political events. (The company also recently gave $100,000 to a pro-Trump super PAC.) Other big names like Walgreens and Johnson & Johnson sponsored the “Inspiring Women Luncheon,” along with groups that promote female Republican candidates.

But sometimes there’s a more direct connection between the event and the industry the sponsoring company is hoping to promote. The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) held a “Day on the Water” event on Lake Erie. (Though it actually remained in the harbor while we were there because of security surrounding a nearby Trump appearance.) Manufacturers showcased their marine craft at the harbor, allowing attendees to sit on the boats and eat a free food-truck lunch. But we know there’s no such thing as a free lunch. The trip on the water was meant to be an opportunity, according to one of the organizers, for the NMMA to take both RNC delegates and members of Congress – who might be dealing with legislation that helps or hurts the boating industry – and “show them [the] industry first-hand.”

Notably missing from the many of the convention meetings, gatherings and soirees? Voters. While the influence industry is hard at work to curry favor and gain access for corporate players and big-dollar donors, there’s not much opportunity for the public to see what’s going on.

Whether it's a policy discussion, a fundraiser or a boat party, there are many ways to peddle influence, curry favor and gain access at the GOP convention. Stay tuned next week as we get ready to head to Philadelphia for Democratic convention.

Jul 21, 2016

FAILURES: ProPublica collected a series of frustrating experiences with public records requests from its reporters. [ProPublica]

Almost every reporter on our staff can recite aneurysm-inducing tales of protracted jousting with the public records offices of government agencies. Local, state and federal agencies alike routinely blow through deadlines laid out in law or bend them to ludicrous degrees, stretching out even the simplest requests for years. And they bank on the media’s depleted resources and ability to legally challenge most denials.

IN COMMITTEE: The federal Freedom of Information Act Advisory Committee met today at the National Archives. The meeting was kicked off by comments on FOIA by David Ferriero, the archivist of the United States, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith, and Shaun Donovan, the director of the White House Office of Management Budget. Your correspondent attended and provided some feedback on FOIA during the public comment period. Video is embedded below. Please share comments about FOIA and the Obama administration's proposed "release to one, release to all" policy.

AWARENESS: Lily Rothman reported on a series of opinion polls compiled by the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, which reveal something interesting: "No matter what Americans think of government transparency, it’s now at least something they think about." [TIME]

PARTYTIME, EXCELLENT: Sunlighters Libby Watson and Josh Stewart wrapped their coverage of the scene and the parties at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, giving us a behind the scenes look at money in politics and influence at the convention. Including boats. [READ MORE]

CONSTRUCTIVE: The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a FOIA request seeking information regarding how the U.S. government launders evidence through the use of parallel construction. [ACLU]

NationaL

  • How can we take the money out of politics? Here's some ideas from Maria Yuan, CEO of IssueVoter.org. [Huffington Post]
  • The flow of senior Obama administration officials joining tech companies after their service continues: Airbnb hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to craft an anti-discrimination policy. To counteract unconscious bias, Holder could recommend that Airbnb adopt blind reservations. [TechCrunch]
  • The Department of Justice has prompted agencies to "get the ball rolling" on implementing the new FOIA law. [Federal News Radio]
  • Health gadgets and apps are outpacing regulatory privacy protections, reports Charles Ornstein. [ProPublica]
  • The Open Data Institute is working on a transition report on open data. [Huffington Post]
  • The Washington Post editorial board opined that a presidential candidate not disclosing tax returns erodes one of the United States' essential democratic norms. [Washington Post]
  • The U.S. government and the European Union agreed upon new framework for data and privacy. [DOC.gov]
  • Speaking of privacy, the Department of Homeland Security tried to seize the smartphones of a Wall Street Journal crossing the border, who wrote about her experience on Facebook. It's a reminder that border crossings are a dangerously unconstitutional area when it comes to journalists and the Bill of Rights. [MuckRock]
  • New York City is soliciting public comment on a draft policy on the use of body-worn cameras by police and the video they capture.

State and Local

  • Jessica McKenzie reported out an excellent, thoughtful feature about the growing pains Code for America faces with its "brigades" of thousands of volunteers around the U.S.A. [Civicist]
  • There's a growing body of evidence that privatization of public infrastructure and outsourcing of services are often not in the public interest and reduce accountability. [TalkingPointsMemo]
  • Boston launched a wicked good new website at Boston.gov. [Boston Magazine]
  • Lisa Abeyta says that Albuquerque, N.M., is automatically publishing open data feeds of the city's most commonly requested public records. Good idea. [Inc]
  • A team at a hackathon in Louisville, Ky., came up with an idea for an inexpensive wireless smoke detector for vacant properties. [Living Cities]
  • Motor City Mapping is making property data available to the public in Detroit — and Loveland is taking the idea nationwide. [New York Times]
  • Here's a great segment on the growth of secret spending in state and local politics from our local public radio station in D.C. [The Diane Rehm Show]
  • Does crime-predicting software bias judges? Unfortunately, we don't know. [Motherboard]

International

  • U.S. prosecutors have linked the prime minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, to the theft of hundreds of millions of dollars from an economic development fund. The Department of Justice is now moving to try to seize over 1 billion dollars in assets, though Razak may not be held accountable. [WSJ]
  • The Turkish government has now declared a state of emergency and purged over 50,000 people from across its institutions. [New York Times]
  • Here's a look at corruption, Nigeria and the United States. [Council on Foreign Relations]
  • Google has had more influence on government transparency than you might think. [CS Monitor]
  • And speaking of Google, Natasha Lomas suggest that we should be talking about artificial intelligence and access to open government data, looking at how Alphabet's DeepMind is gaining access to a million eye scans from the U.K.'s National Health Service and asking sharp questions about consent, value and public good. [TechCrunch]

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We want to find and share the most important stories about open government around the world from the past 24 hours here. To do that, we'll need YOUR help. Please send your tips and feedback at [email protected]. If you would like suggest an event, email us by 7 am on the Monday prior to the event.