Today in OpenGov: The Good, The Bad, and The Money

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In today's edition, NPR and the Center for Public Integrity check in on the midterm money race, the Illinois gubernatorial primaries get expensive, the FEC looks at Russian money flowing to the NRA, a former French president is detained, and more. 

washington watch

 
  • Following the midterm money race. "The special congressional election in Pennsylvania last week attracted a lot of outside money, specifically from big donors. With the fall midterms creeping ever closer, a lot more funding will soon be pouring into races around the country. But both the Democratic and Republican parties are divided. So who are the big donors backing? Incumbents? Insurgents?" To answer those questions, NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro spoke with the Center for Public Integrity's Carrie Levine. (NPR)
  • Supreme Court declines to hear case that would have temporarily frozen new Pennsylvania Congressional districts. After a federal appeals court ruled against a challenge to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's previous redistricting decision, the Supreme Court declined the Pennsylvania GOP's request for a stay. More on the Election Law Blog.
  • Former Rep. Steve Stockman's corruption trial is about to begin. "The corruption trial for former Texas Rep. Steve Stockman, accused of using charitable donations for campaign and personal use, is set to begin on Monday…The joint team of prosecutors say that Stockman and two aides used $1.25 million meant for charitable groups and used it for campaign and personal expenses without paying taxes." (Roll Call
  • Department of Health and Human Services outlines open data hurdles and roadmap. "The Department of Health and Human Services’ CTO sees the open data movement as a 'baton' in a relay race…Bruce Greenstein…stressed the importance of sharing data during a panel discussion, he and a colleague also didn’t mince words when describing the stumbling blocks the department faces in negotiating the sharing of data within government or outside of it." (FedScoop)

states and cities

Image via the Long Island Press.
  • A year after being graded for Sunshine Week, some Long Island localities improve their grades on transparency. "A year ago this week, the Long Island Press and the Press Club of Long Island co-published an unprecedented report card grading nearly 200 localities responsiveness to identical public records requests. The cumulative grade was a C. Since then, some municipalities and agencies that scored poorly made improvements in how they handle Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests, while others did not." (Long Island Press)
  • In 2019, advocates hope to roll back Texas Supreme Court decision that limited transparency. "Open government advocates are spending the year ahead of the 2019 legislative session rallying allies to restore access to public information lost after a 2015 Texas Supreme Court ruling. That year, the court ruled in Boeing v. Paxton that information that could help a business’ competitor cannot be made public, even if that company enters into an agreement with a governmental entity that involves taxpayer money. Local government officials have broadly used the ruling to block from the public access to contracts and information about people seeking publicly funded jobs." (Austin American-Statesman)
  • Wealthy favorites forced to spend big in primary to face-off for Illinois Governor's Mansion. "Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrat J.B. Pritzker, both billionaire businessmen seeking their party’s nomination in Tuesday’s Illinois gubernatorial primary, are fighting insurgencies that their combined campaign spending of $127 million hasn’t been able to tamp down." (Washington Post)
  • Framingham, Massachusetts is behind schedule on a promised financial transparency portal. "After pledging to create new financial transparency tools for the public, Framingham has yet to launch a resource that will allow residents to look up salaries, spending records and other city data online. As part of a two-year agreement with the state, Framingham established a plan in February 2016 to adopt new high-tech tools to give residents more insight into municipal finances." (Government Technology)

trumpland


 
  • The FEC is looking into allegations that Russia funneled money aimed at boosting President Trump's campaign to the NRA. "The Federal Election Commission has launched a preliminary investigation into whether Russian entities gave illegal contributions to the National Rifle Association that were intended to benefit the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election, according to people who were notified of the probe." (POLITICO)
  • Reports that President Trump required senior staff to sign non-disclosure agreements slammed as unconstitutional. "President Donald Trump had senior administration officials sign agreements muzzling them from discussing confidential information even after leaving the White House, the Washington Post reported Sunday. Transparency watchdogs and civil liberties groups are criticizing the reported NDAs as unconstitutional." We were joined by former government officials including ex-head of the Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub and Ian Bassin, who served in the White House Counsel's office under President Obama, in expressing skepticism over the legality of the agreements. (CNBC)
  • Trump campaign fundraises off of controversial Census citizenship question. "As part of a fundraising effort, the Trump-Pence reelection campaign is pushing for the addition of question on the 2020 Census that would ask respondents whether or not they are U.S. citizens…Some critics took the fundraising email as a sign the decision has not only been made, but done so primarily for political purposes." (Federal Computer Week)
  • Chris Liddell, top White House technology adviser, promoted to deputy chief of staff. "One of the Office of American Innovation leaders is taking a new role within the White House. Chris Liddell, a former Microsoft executive, will work under White House Chief of Staff John Kelly as deputy chief of staff for policy coordination and with Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Joe Hagin, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said…As White House director of strategic initiatives, Liddell was one of the more visible members of the tech-focused office and as the director of the American Technology Council, he co-authored the Federal IT Modernization Report." (NextGov)
  • Trump's pick for number 2 spot at the EPA is a former coal lobbyist. "President Trump's nominee for deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Andrew Wheeler, has spent much of his career working for less oversight from the agency. A longtime aide to Sen. James Inhofe, known for his climate-denying antics on the floor of the Senate, Wheeler worked on environmental legislation for more than 15 years in various roles on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. He helped to defeat a 2008 climate bill before leaving to be a private consultant and lobbyist." (NPR)

around the world

Cambridge Analytica's chief executive officer Alexander Nix.Image by: Patricia De Melo Moreira.
  • Cambridge Analytica CEO caught on tape in Britain boasting about dirty electoral tricks. "The CEO of Cambridge Analytica, the data firm used by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, boasted to an undercover reporter about the company’s use of honey traps and secretive campaigning tactics to influence elections around the world…The fresh allegations intensify pressure on the data company, already in the spotlight following reports in the New York Times and the Observer that the company illegally collected Facebook data from roughly 50 million American voters" (POLITICO)
  • Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy held for questioning in campaign finance case. "Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was placed in police custody on Tuesday, as part of an investigation into illegal financing of his 2007 election campaign. Sarkozy is being questioned by police in Nanterre and could be held up to 48 hours before being presented to the Magistrates Court for indictment if police seek charges…" The story was originally reported (in French) by Le Monde. (POLITICO)
  • China set to merge three major state run broadcasters, boosting global propaganda reach. "China has approved the creation of one of the world’s largest propaganda machines as it looks to improve its global image, according to a person familiar with the matter. The new broadcaster will be called “Voice of China,” the person said, mimicking the U.S. government-funded Voice of America that started up during World War II to advance American interests. Bloomberg News had previously reported the new entity would be created through merging China Central Television, China Radio International and China National Radio." (Bloomberg)

 

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