Today in OpenGov: A most unethical year


In today's edition, CREW looks back at the very unethical first year of the Trump administration, we check in on President Trump's continued aversion to filling key posts, a couple members of Congress could be in trouble, a campaign spending complaint is dismissed in the UK, and more. 

a most unethical year

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is out with a new report, The Most Unethical Presidency: Year One, a look back at the first year of President Trump's term. 

Noah Bookbinder, Norman Eisen, and Richard Painter explain how, "in the lead-up to President Trump’s inauguration, we at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and concerned people across the United States urged the president to take key steps to avoid corruption and conflicts of interest and demonstrate a commitment to ethical government." The president ignored those suggestions, sparking an ethics crisis that continues to rage. 

The full report explores the various violations of law, ethics rules, and norms by the Trump administration and lays out an "issue-by-issue accounting of a year characterized by contempt for ethical and legal obligations." 

"If we want government of the people, by the people, and for the people to continue," Bookbinder, Eisen, and Painter conclude, "it is time for Congress, enforcement agencies, and most importantly the American people to demand an end to the violations and a return to an ethical and lawful government." We urge you to read the full report here

elsewhere in trumpland

  • President Trump has not nominated anyone to fill more than 240 top jobs, including Ambassador to South Korea. James Hohmann explains, "Next Saturday brings the anniversary of the inauguration. Over the first year, a fixation on the chaos and churn inside the West Wing has often overshadowed the less-sexy decay and neglect at the departmental level. There are a striking number of big jobs that have not been filled." (Washington Post)
  • Trump's "Fake News Awards" may run afoul of ethics rules. "Every awards show has its critics, but President Donald Trump’s much ballyhooed “Fake News Awards” has drawn attention from a group beyond the usual peanut gallery: ethics experts who say the event could run afoul of White House rules and, depending on what exactly the president says during the proceedings, the First Amendment." (POLITICO)
  • Intelligence officials warned Jared Kushner about his close friendship with a Chinese businesswoman. "U.S. counterintelligence officials in early 2017 warned Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, that Wendi Deng Murdoch, a prominent Chinese-American businesswoman, could be using her close friendship with Mr. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, to further the interests of the Chinese government, according to people familiar with the matter." (Wall Street Journal)

washington watch

  • Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) raked in casino cash while pushing bill to benefit industry. "An Indiana congressman who has made repeated calls to “drain the swamp” in Washington collected more than $160,000 in campaign contributions from gambling interest groups that stand to benefit from legislation he is sponsoring, an Associated Press review found. Republican Rep. Todd Rokita’s collection of such contributions has surged since 2015, when he first sponsored legislation that would end employee protections for tribal casino workers under the National Labor Relations Act." (Associated Press)
  • The grand jury probing Rep. Duncan Hunter's (R-CA) use of campaign funds issues subpoena. "A federal grand jury is slated to hear evidence this month regarding certain transactions in Rep. Duncan Hunter’s campaign treasury, which has been under scrutiny since the spring of 2016 as a result of frequent personal expenditures. A subpoena dated Dec. 21 was issued by the U.S. District Court in San Diego to a business in Hunter’s congressional district." (San Diego Union-Tribune)
  • Chelsea Manning files for Senate run in Maryland. "Chelsea Manning, a transgender woman who was convicted in 2013 of leaking thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, has filed paperwork to run for the U.S. Senate in Maryland. Manning, whose 35-year prison sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama during his final days in office, has remained an outspoken activist on intelligence and transgender-rights issues." (POLITICO)
  • This Treasury Department office is piloting blockchain to track its assets. Tajha Chappellet-Lanier explains how the "Office of Financial Innovation and Transformation at the Treasury’s Fiscal Service…is using blockchain (a complicated, hype-laden word many struggle to understand) to better track agency-owned physical assets like computers, phones and more (those simple, familiar items that everyone understands). The hope? The pilot will serve not only as a way to assess the usefulness of blockchain for this purpose, but also as an educational experience — a way to make a complex technology very 'tangible.'" (FedScoop)

around the world

  • The U.K.'s election regulator rejected a complaint about a pro-Brexit group's spending. "The U.K.’s elections regulator has rejected a complaint from a former Cabinet minister that the official Remain campaign may have breached spending rules during the EU referendum in June 2016." (POLITICO)
  • Despite high court ruling, lower court in Turkey refuses to release journalists. "A court in Istanbul refused to allow the release of two journalists, defying an order from Turkey’s top judiciary and further exposing fault-lines following the failed coup in 2016." (Bloomberg)
  • A Nigerian journalist and his brother were arrested over an article they didn't write. Daniel Elombah and his brother Timothy were arrested on New Years's Day. "Elombah told the Committee to Protect Journalists that police cited an article published in Opinion Nigeria as the reason for the arrest. The article, which was published on December 22, 2017 in Opinion Nigeria and was not written by either of the brothers, purported that Nigeria's Inspector General of Police was involved in an 'unending baggage of controversy.'" (Global Voices)
  • European governments are increasingly looking to impose limits on online speech. "In the battle over what limits should be imposed on online free speech, regulators worldwide are on the offensive. France has proposed banning so-called fake news during the country’s future elections, while in Germany, new hate speech rules impose fines of up to €50 million on social media companies that don’t delete harmful content within 24 hours of being notified. The growing push to control what can be published online will again take center stage this week when the European Commission publishes its biannual report Thursday on how Facebook, Google and Twitter are handling the hate speech lurking in social media’s darker nooks and crannies." (POLITICO)

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