Today in OpenGov: Tech lobby ups spending amid growing pressure


In today's edition, we peruse recent lobbying disclosures, two members of President Trump's "voter fraud" commission question its transparency, the Vermont Supreme Court delivers an open government win, and more. 

washington watch

  • Tech industry boosts lobbying spending amid growing pressure in Washington. "Technology companies including Facebook Inc. and Inc. spent more than $10 million on federal lobbying in the third quarter, as Washington ratcheted up pressure on issues ranging from child sex-trafficking to Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election." (Bloomberg)
  • Overall, lobbying revenue is way up since start of Trump era. "The first year of the Trump presidency has been a boon for lobbyists, with many of the top shops in Washington seeing a handsome boost in revenue." As Megan R. Wilson reports, "lobbyists say the frenzy of activity shows no signs of slowing down." (The Hill)
  • House to hold hearing on online political ad disclosure. Just a day after the introduction of the Honest Ads Act — bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would require disclosure of the funding sources behind online political ads — Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), chairman of the House Oversight Subcommittee on Information Technology announced "the first hearing specifically on the need to disclose the sources of political ads online." Joe Uchill has more at The Hill.
  • Sunlight joined a coalition calling on Senators to cosponsor the Honest Ads Act. In a letter sent to Senators on Friday, 27 reform groups and experts urged Senators "to co-sponsor and support the Honest Ads Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar, Mark Warner and John McCain, to address the need for new rules to expose efforts undertaken by foreign interests to intervene in U.S. elections." The letter was signed by Democracy 21, Issue One, Richard Painter and Norm Eisen the former ethics lawyers for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and many more. Read the full letter and more via Democracy 21.


  • Pence Chief of Staff's "volunteer" role on Trump campaign may have helped him boost election year profits. "Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff had a lucrative 2016 campaign season even as his high-profile work on the Trump-Pence campaign was classified as unpaid volunteer work." Matthew Nussbaum and Maggie Severns explain that, despite serving as a senior advisor to Mike Pence during the 2016 presidential campaign Nick Ayers "joined the 2016 team as a volunteer and never took a dime in salary from the Trump-Pence campaign…But Ayers’ Georgia-based political consulting firm, C5 Creative Consulting, did receive a payment of nearly $75,000 on Aug. 25 from Pence’s gubernatorial reelection campaign, 40 days after Pence had been selected as Trump’s running mate and withdrawn from the governor’s race." C5 also did lucrative work for a number of other clients last year. (POLITICO)
  • President Trump plans to chip in more than $400,000 from his own pocket to help staff cover Russia related legal expenses. "Details on how and where Trump will make the donation remain a work in progress, though a White House aide acknowledged the president’s team has been working with outside attorneys and the Office of Government Ethics since the summer to establish a legal defense fund as one outlet to help support some midlevel aides who are facing unexpected attorney bills connected to the congressional and special counsel Russia probes." (POLITICO)
  • Two members of Trump's "voter fraud" commission are complaining about its lack of transparency. Christina A. Cassidy reports that, last week "two members fired off letters to commission staff complaining about a lack of information about the panel’s agenda and demanding answers about its activities. That comes as Democratic U.S. senators are requesting a government investigation of the commission for ignoring formal requests from Congress." (Associated Press)

states and cities

A screenshot of the Portland Bureau of Transportation's interactive Portland By Bicycle map. 
  • Checking in on the state of California's open data efforts. Last week, the Data Coalition hosted California Data Demo Day. The event, according to this report by Zach Quaintance, was marked by a duality. "Everyone in attendance — from government employees to politicians to technologists to lobbyists — voiced support for open data practices, while at the same time acknowledging that California could do a better job of execution." (Government Technology)
  • Vermont Supreme Court pushes disclosure of public records stored on private accounts. "The Vermont Supreme Court has ruled that the state public records law requires government employees to disclose public records stored on their personal email accounts and phones." (Burlington Free PressOur take? This is a big win for open government! Public business is public business, regardless of where a public servant conducts it.
  • New report on Washington, DC body camera program finds little change. "For seven months, just over a thousand Washington, D.C., police officers were randomly assigned cameras — and another thousand were not. Researchers tracked use-of-force incidents, civilian complaints, charging decisions and other outcomes to see if the cameras changed behavior. But on every metric, the effects were too small to be statistically significant. Officers with cameras used force and faced civilian complaints at about the same rates as officers without cameras." (New York Times)
  • Portland, Oregon brings its popular bike map into the internet age. "The Portland Bureau of Transportation has been publishing and distributing its famous bike maps since the 1970s. However, the free map is now digital and accessible online, which means it can be opened on the go via a smartphone. The map is also searchable and allows for zooming in on a neighborhood or intersection." The map highlights hills, dangerous intersections, bike shops, and much more. You can check out the digital version here. (Government Technology)

One sentence or less

  • President Trump is going to allow the release of previously undisclosed JFK assassination files to move forward. (POLITICO)
  • Is an important intelligence community whistleblower office at risk of being shuttered? (Government Executive)
  • The NAACP is changing its tax status in order to get more political. (NPR)


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