Today in OpenGov: A flood of money in local politics


In today's edition, we round up a raft of recent stories on the intersection of money and politics, share updates on some news from the Trump administration, highlight a bombshell report on domestic spying conducted by the Treasury department, and more. 

Money in politics

Image credit: Nick Ares
  • "The Resistance" is bringing in big bucks, and changing the liberal balance of power. "It started as a scrappy grass-roots protest movement against President Trump, but now the so-called resistance is attracting six- and seven-figure checks from major liberal donors, posing an insurgent challenge to some of the left’s most venerable institutions — and the Democratic Party itself." (New York Times)
  • New group pledges big money to local candidates willing to commit to 2030 agenda. Ruby Cramer reports on a new group, dubbed Future Now, launching with support from a Columbia University professor, a former New York state senator, and a Pritzker scion. "The group’s first investment, totaling $160,000, will support 10 candidates in the Virginia House of Delegates races — all Democrats who have pledged to work toward “America’s Goals for 2030.” Ahead of races across the country next year, Future Now will also seek Republican candidates willing to commit to the goals, a list of seven benchmarks on infrastructure, energy, education, and health care — though many of the proposals outlined align with policies and programs that liberals and progressives favor." (BuzzFeed)
  • GOP Senate hopefuls getting their billionaires in a row early. Maggie Severns and Kevin Robillard report on "a growing number of Republican candidates around the country who spent the first months of this year courting megadonors and even announcing their support before formally launching campaigns, in the same manner that Jeb Bush and others did for months during the last presidential race." (POLITICO)

washington watch

  • Will Republicans in Congress get on board with online ad disclosure? "Republicans in Congress are weighing joining with Democrats to demand greater transparency for political ads on Facebook and Twitter, as both parties look for ways to prevent a 2018 repeat of Russia’s election meddling last year." (POLITICO)
  • Is the Treasury Department engaged in domestic spying? Jason Leopold and Jessica Garrison dropped a bombshell on Friday, writing that "the intelligence division at the Treasury Department has repeatedly and systematically violated domestic surveillance laws by snooping on the private financial records of US citizens and companies, according to government sources." Treasury officials issued a forceful denial after the story was first published, but the Treasury Department's Office of the Inspector General has launched a review of the issue. (BuzzFeed)
  • Money helps, but it's not the only source of the NRA's political clout. Robert Draper, a writer at the New York Times Magazine, talked with Scott Simon on NPR's Weekend Edition about the secret to the NRA's political power. Chiefly, Draper argued, "they succeed because they have a very, very active membership that is easily agitated by the notion, the possibility of liberals taking away their guns. And after a mass shooting, the membership tends to spike at the NRA for precisely this reason. And they are mobilized by the organization to contact politicians and make clear their preferences that there be no further legislation curtailing their gun rights." (NPR)


  • The EPA Inspector General is expanding its probe into Scott Pruitt's travel. "In the latest wrinkle in the Trump Cabinet’s travel travails, the inspector general for the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday announced a widening of the six-week-old probe into EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s taxpayer-funded air travel." (Government Executive)
  • How FOIA helped melt ICE's questionable release of PII. "Daniel Rivero and Brendan O’Connor have a remarkable story for Splinter looking into the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) hotline. Based largely on a FOIA request, as well as another improperly redacted database that they found thanks to the FOIA’d database, the reporting shows how a complaint hotline created to showcase crimes committed by “removable aliens” quickly became a hive of neighbors ratting out neighbors, family members trying to use immigration authorities to get step children deported, and spouses retaliating when accused of domestic abuse." (MuckRock)

this week

  • Tomorrow, October 10th: Open Government for Climate Action, 12:30 – 2:00 PM EST, in Washington, DC. Hosted by the World Resources Institute, this event will bring together "experts from the Open Government Partnership and World Resources Institute as they profile a range of innovative approaches that open government advocates have taken to strengthen countries’ climate commitments under the Paris Agreement. Together, they will unpack how improving transparency, accountability and public participation in climate decision-making processes can help governments and civil society leaders around the world achieve ambitious climate targets."  Learn more and register here
  • October 12th: Examining Foreign Interference in U.S. Elections, Washington, DC. Hosted by the Campaign Legal Center, this even brings together campaign finance, cybersecurity, foreign policy, and other experts to discuss lessons learned from the 2016 election. Learn more, check out the agenda, and register to attend here
  • October 13th – 14th: 2017 FOI Summit, Nashville, Tennessee. "Music City USA becomes home for NFOIC, state FOI coalitions and open government advocates for the 2017 FOI Summit on Friday and Saturday, October 13-14, 2017.The National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) and our host, the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government will convene the annual summit at the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University." You can learn more and register here.


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