Today in OpenGov: What the Supreme Court’s McDonnell decision means for political corruption


INSTITUTIONALIZING: On Monday, the highest court in the land issued a unanimous decision that vacated former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s conviction for corruption. The Economist wrote in April that the Supreme Court was inclined to loosen bribery rules; Jeffrey Toobin wrote that it was getting ready to legalize corruption. This may have felt like hyperbole, and yet here we are.

The public knows that there’s no such thing as a free Rolex. The highest court in the land has unfortunately decided otherwise. The broader import of the Supreme Court’s judgment, however, goes far beyond the case of the McDonnells, who could be tried again. By narrowly defining what an official act is and raising the standard of evidence required for a conviction, this decision will erode the ability of prosecutors across the United States to make corruption cases stick in court. [READ MORE]

GREY MONEY: According to a new report from the Brennan Center, “state and local super PACs are increasingly reliant on ‘grey money’ — donations that trace back to other PACs — obscuring their actual sources of support.” [The Atlantic]

SIGNED! Speaker Paul Ryan and Rep. Darrell Issa signed the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 and sent it to the White House. Well done, Congress. [Missourian]

OPEN UP: While we wait for the president to sign FOIA reform into law, here are seven ways to make implementation and compliance with the Freedom of Information Act better, now. [READ MORE]

THIS RULES! The Securities and Exchange Commission announced a final rule that requires companies involved in the commercial development of oil, natural gas or minerals to disclose the payments made to governments. Global Witness is thrilled, as are we and everyone else who has worked to bring more transparency to revenue related to natural resources. The rules were mandated by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, six long years ago. [SEC]


  • For those of you who are not closely following campaign finance reform legislation in D.C., Richard Skinner helpfully breaks down what’s in the latest Senate package from the Democrats, known as the “We The People Act.” While the proposals are unlikely to get a vote, Skinner highlights some that are serious and have merit: “Sunlight will remain focused on these other proposals from Congress that boost transparency and accountability in our campaign finance system.” [Sunlight]
  • The White House is asking for public feedback on artificial intelligence. Please keep it under 2,000 words or less, Skynet. []
  • Politifact ruled that cameras were turned off last week because of longstanding rules about what happens when the U.S. House isn’t in session — not by an order from Speaker Ryan. [Politifact]
  • The Associated Press has now reported on “more than 50 work-related emails sent or received by Clinton … that were not among those she provided,” reinforcing what we said in May about the need for an independent arbiter of what was personal or public business. [AP]
  • While we’d argue that the IRS has “gotten serious” about open data, we strongly agree it needs to do better and move to electronic filing for all nonprofits as soon as possible. [Center for Data Innovation]
  • As president, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would “continue and accelerate” the Obama administration’s open data initiative and “fully implement the DATA Act,” according to a new policy document released today. We’re disappointed to see no references to open government or the National Action Plan for the Open Government Partnership. []
  • Kudos to Buzzfeed for teaming up with Turbovote and President Barack Obama to encourage the public to register to vote.

State and Local


  • Tom Steinberg saw the effects of the filter bubble in the EU Referendum in the United Kingdom and didn’t like it. He’s asking for Facebook, Google, Twitter and other Silicon Valley tech companies to do something about it. [Civicist]

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