Today in OpenGov: FISA debate heads to Senate


In today's edition, President Trump plays host, the House votes on surveillance legislation, Missouri's governor gets caught in a scandal, Brazil looks to target fake news, and more. 


  • White House sued over lack of transparency around agency reorganization plans. "The Trump administration is facing a lawsuit for its lack of transparency on its plan to reorganize federal agencies and reshape their workforces, with one group saying documents related to those plans should be released as public records." (Government Executive)
  • The Senate wouldn't confirm these Trump nominees, so they found other government jobs. James Hohmann highlights several "Trump picks who couldn’t pass muster with a GOP-controlled Senate yet continues to wield immense authority inside the government." Rejected nominees like Sam Clovis and Brett Talley continue to hold government jobs that are not Senate confirmable. Meanwhile, this week President Trump "renominated 75 controversial picks for administration and judicial posts who couldn’t make it through the Senate last year because of questions about their qualifications, temperament or extreme views." (Washington Post)
  • Treasury watchdog says there was no political interference in analysis of GOP tax plan. "The Treasury Department’s internal watchdog said there was no evidence of political interference with an analysis of the Republican tax plan last year." (Bloomberg)
  • Trump campaign offers donors chance to attend private dinner at Mar-a-Lago. "President Donald Trump is taking another page out of Barack Obama’s playbook by hawking a private South Florida dinner later this month at Mar-a-Lago to celebrate the one-year anniversary of his inauguration." (POLITICO) Our take? Offering dinner with a President to major donors isn’t novel in US history. Hosting such a dinner at his private business, when President Trump has not divested from his various business interests is unprecedented. 
  • Still no record that Trump hotels have donated profits from foreign governments to charity. As Walter Shaub explained, " year ago today, Trump’s attorney pledged to donate hotel profits from foreign govts. But he has ignored a bipartisan request from the House oversight committee for records showing compliance with this pledge." Yesterday, Democrats on the House Oversight Committee sent a letter to Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) requesting that the "Committee finally begin a serious investigation of President Trump's compliance with the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution…" You can read the full letter here.

no more privacy as surveillance bill heads to senate

Yesterday, the House passed surveillance reauthorization without a key privacy amendment supported by Sunlight and bipartisan allies. Charlie Savage, Eileen Sullivan and Nicholas Fandos had the details for the New York Times; "The House of Representatives voted on Thursday to extend the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance program for six years with minimal changes, rejecting a push by a bipartisan group of lawmakers to impose significant privacy limits when it sweeps up Americans’ emails and other personal communications."

The bill, which extends the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act including Section 702, which we believe is in serious need of reform. 

The bill now heads to the Senate, where it will need to gain support from at least some Democratic Senators following filibuster threats by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rand Paul (R-KY). (Ars Technica)

states and cities

A map of cities that have refused to share information about their bids for Amazon's second headquarters. Via MuckRock
  • Cities around the country are refusing to share how they tried to woo Amazon. Grace Raih explains that "since launching our project to hunt down every proposal Amazon received for its second headquarters, we’ve found that a number of cities were more than happy to share what they’re offering to lure in the tech giant. A growing number, however, aren’t so keen and are keeping their bids hidden in a shroud of exemptions." (MuckRock) Nathan Jensen, writing in USA Today, argues that "governments submitting bids to Amazon should open them to the public to show Amazon, their constituents, and maybe even other businesses, all they have to offer." We tend to agree. Open contracting is an important practice for open cities
  • Missouri Governor Eric Greitens admits to affair, denies blackmail accusations. "Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens on Wednesday night admitted to having an extramarital affair with his former hairdresser but denied claims from the woman's ex-husband that he tried to blackmail her. Greitens released a statement after a local television news station in St. Louis, KMOV, reported on the affair." (POLITICO)
  • Meanwhile St. Louis prosecutor to launch investigation into Greitens blackmail accusation. "The St. Louis city prosecutor will conduct a formal investigation into allegations that Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) blackmailed a woman with whom he had an affair." (The Hill)

around the world

  • Verdict against Luxembourg whistleblower overturned. "Luxembourg’s highest court on Thursday overturned a verdict against a whistleblower who leaked documents that exposed huge tax breaks for major international companies in the so-called LuxLeaks scandal." (POLITICO)
  • Brazil joins list of countries officially considering how to fight fake news, raising free speech concerns. "In early December 2017, Brazil's government established a council to monitor and possibly order the blocking of false news reports on social media ahead of the 2018 presidential elections. The news swiftly raised concerns about censorship among the public." (Global Voices)
  • South African President Zuma agrees to deal that would let him cling to power, launch corruption probe. "South African President Jacob Zuma agreed to the appointment of a commission to probe allegations that his son’s business partners had exerted undue influence over state decisions, a move aimed at defusing calls for him to step down immediately, three ruling-party officials with knowledge of the matter said." (Bloomberg)


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