Today in OpenGov: Vetoing tax transparency


In today's edition, some Mar-a-Lago members aren't so sure about the administration's lack of visitor records, the GAO will review the mystery of the FCC's jammed online comment system, Iowa is mapping all of its bridges, we pay our respects to a murdered Maltese journalist, and more. 


  • California Governor vetoes presidential tax transparency effort. "Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation late Sunday that would have forced presidential candidates to make their tax returns public before appearing on the California ballot, marking the death there of a measure once ballyhooed by Democrats and open government advocates as an end run to Trump’s refusal to disclose his tax filings." (POLITICO)
  • Bloomberg View editors argue in favor of Brown's veto. They write that "despite the obvious need to minimize conflicts of interest in government, it's impossible to compel ethical behavior from someone who shows no regard for ethical obligations." Further, they find Brown's reason for vetoing the tax transparency legislation sound and argue that "to better safeguard the public interest, Congress should amend the disclosure requirement to include specific details of related business debts, sources of capital and revenues." (Bloomberg)
  • Trump administration rebuffs Congress on private email, chartered travel information requests. "The White House is rebuffing a House committee’s bipartisan request for detailed information about the Trump administration’s use of private email for government work and executive branch use of government and chartered aircraft." (Bloomberg)
  • The Secret Service claims it's not tracking Mar-a-Lago visitors, but some club members question that claim. Last month, the Trump administration said it could not comply with a court order for Mar-a-Lago visitor logs, claiming that the Secret Service kept no such logs. However, as Leora Smith and Derek Kravitz report, "seven Mar-a-Lago members and their guests told ProPublica that uniformed officers, who appear to be Secret Service, stand at the doors of the resort on weekends when the president is there, and hold lists of people approved for access." (ProPublica) Our take? If there is any record of individuals who have access to the President at Mar-a-Lago, or elsewhere, the American people have a right to that information. 

washington watch

Image Credit: Matt Cornock
  • How the drug industry protected itself from the DEA as the opioid epidemic spread. Scott Higham and Lenny Bernstein dig into the "multifaceted campaign by the drug industry to weaken aggressive DEA enforcement efforts against drug distribution companies that were supplying corrupt doctors and pharmacists who peddled narcotics to the black market. The industry worked behind the scenes with lobbyists and key members of Congress, pouring more than a million dollars into their election campaigns." (Washington Post) It's worth pointing out that the DEA and Justice Department denied or delayed more than a dozen FOIA requests from the Washington Post and 60 Minutes during the investigation.  
  • GAO will look into the mystery of the FCC's jammed online comment system. "A federal watchdog agency will investigate a cyberattack that took down the Federal Communications Commission’s system for filing public comments on its plan to repeal net neutrality rules." The investigation, requested by Congressional Democrats, won't get started for several months. (Government Technology)
  • Judge denies attempt to throw out charges against Sen. Menendez (D-NJ). "Menendez’s attorneys had asked Walls to dismiss all 18 counts against New Jersey's senior senator," Matt Friedman reports. Despite initially appearing sympathetic to the defene's arguments, "after reading dozens of pages of briefings from the prosecution and defense and hearing more oral arguments, Walls was firm in siding with the prosecution." (POLITICO)
  • Embattled Rep. Duncan Hunter's (R-CA) legal fees almost outpace his fundraising. "Rob Pyers, research director for the nonpartisan California Target Book, tweeted that more than 87 percent of Hunter’s campaign contributions this year have gone to legal fees. Hunter has raised roughly $409,000 this year  and spent more than $357,000 on legal fees." Hunter is being investigated by the Justice Department for funneling campaign funds towards personal expenses. (Roll Call)

states and cities

The Iowa Bridge Conditions story map. 
  • Is Seattle's plan to increase diversity in election funding working? Despite a bumpy start for the Democracy Voucher program, Gene Balk shares "a new, early look at donor-participation statistics shows that the democracy voucher program does appear to live up to its name — that is, it is helping to democratize political giving in Seattle by diversifying the donor pool to better reflect Seattle residents." (Seattle Times)
  • Elected prosecutors face unique conflicts of interest. Matt Ford reports on "America’s unusual habit of electing its prosecutors. Proponents of the tradition defend it as a check to ensure the most powerful players in the criminal-justice system are accountable to the people they represent. But as [Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus] Vance’s situation underscores, forcing prosecutors to campaign for votes and glad-hand for dollars can also undermine the faith in the system that elections are meant to restore." (The Atlantic)
  • Mapping the state of Iowa's bridges. "Rather than identifying the entire system as broken and blindly throwing money at infrastructure projects, policymakers must identify those areas in critical need of intervention. The State of Iowa has sought to do just that with its Iowa Bridge Conditions story map, a visualization of bridge conditions across the state." (Data-Smart City Solutions)

around the world

Slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, via her website.
  • Investigative journalist killed by car bomb in Malta. Journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia "was reportedly killed in a car bombing near her home. Local media reports indicated that in recent days she had filed a police report complaining of death threats." Galizia was known for her reporting on the Panama Papers and corruption in Malta. (Center for Public IntegrityWe condemn violence against journalists. Daphne Galizia revealed corruption to the public. Her work will be missed.
  • Australia is moving forward with a digital ID platform for citizens. "The Australian Government has delivered a beta of its digital identity platform, outlined in a video showing how to apply for an optional Govpass. Assistant Minister for Digital Transformation Angus Taylor said the Govpass platform was currently in testing phase, with consultation continuing with stakeholders." (OpenGovAsia)


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