In today's edition, FEC commissioner's expiration dates, Mike Pompeo's public relations approach, the power of open data for local economies, whistleblower rights in Europe, and more.
Federal Election Commission Vice Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub (left), Chairwoman Caroline Hunter (center) and Commissioner Matthew Petersen debate during a public meeting on April 26, 2018, in Washington, D.C. Credit: Dave Levinthal / Center for Public Integrity.
- The Federal Election Commission's four remaining members are serving terms that expired years ago. "As of April 30, the FEC's current four commissioners have been on the commission for a total of 32 years longer than they should have been. Vice Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub’s six-year term expired 11 years ago, when George W. Bush occupied the White House, the 'Great Recession' had yet to occur and the most momentous campaign finance decision of the century, Citizens United v. FEC, was still two-and-a-half years hence. Commissioner Steve Walther (nine years), Commissioner Matthew Petersen (seven years) and Chairwoman Caroline Hunter (five years) have also stayed aboard long after they should have been out of a job. Beyond the holdovers, there are two vacant spots on the commission." (Center for Public Integrity)
- How this small HUD office became the focus of an intense industry lobbying campaign. "For most of its existence, the Office of Manufactured Housing has been an unassuming office within a federal department not known for its glitz and glamour. But the little-known agency in the Department of Housing and Urban Development has been thrust into the spotlight as trade groups mount an unusually intense lobbying effort, seeking to scale back regulations that they say are hampering an industry that could provide a market-based solution to the affordable housing crisis." (The Washington Post)
- Senate Democrats plan to force a vote on net neutrality repeal. "Senate Democrats are preparing to force a floor vote next month on restoring net neutrality rules repealed by President Donald Trump's Federal Communications Commission, creating a public clash they hope will help them in the midterm elections. Democrats are planning to take the procedural step May 9 to compel the vote, a Senate Democratic aide told POLITICO. That could set up the vote as soon as the following week. Senate Democrats have 50 votes lined up — more than enough to force a vote under the Congressional Review Act, but one shy of the 51 required for passage." (POLITICO)
- A wide range of groups, Sunlight included, are monitoring changes to government websites in the Trump era. Charles S. Clark explores how "an army of nonprofit transparency groups and policy advocacy organizations have been monitoring the administration’s changes to websites across government…The clash between the Trump administration and transparency advocates began just after Trump’s surprise election victory in 2016." The article highlights efforts by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, and Sunlight's Web Integrity Project, among others. (Government Executive)
- The Trump campaign is paying some of Michael Cohen's legal bills. "The Trump campaign has spent nearly $228,000 to cover some of the legal expenses for President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen, sources familiar with the payments tell ABC News, raising questions about whether the Trump campaign may have violated campaign finance laws." (ABC News)
- Newly minted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's approach to engagement diverges significantly to that of his predecessor. "Mike Pompeo, the new secretary of state, is leaning hard into the side of the job his predecessor seemed to hate the most: public relations. Within hours of being confirmed last week, Pompeo took along several journalists on a trip to Europe and the Middle East, answering their questions in public and private, and appearing Sunday on ABC News’ 'This Week.' He’s planning a town hall meeting with State Department staff soon. And he may even start tweeting." (POLITICO) Our view? We regularly criticized former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for his opacity and unwillingness to engage with the press. We hope that Pompeo's more open approach is more than just an initial charm offensive.
- Watchdog files complaint over the way that Mick Mulvaney characterized certain real estate dealings during his Senate confirmation hearing. "An ethics watchdog on Monday called for an investigation into Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget chief and acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), alleging he misled a Senate panel during his confirmation last year. The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint to Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), ranking member Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and the Federal Reserve’s inspector general, Mark Bialek.
- President Trump has made 3,001 false or misleading claims in his 466 days in office. "In the 466 days since he took the oath of office, President Trump has made 3,001 false or misleading claims, according to The Fact Checker’s database that analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement uttered by the president." (Washington Post)
states and cities
- New research highlights open data as a key factor for strong, local digital economies. A new report, "Here They Come: A Look at the Future of Cities in the Internet Age, published by the National League of Cities and Internet Association…[shows] that strong, local digital economies have underlying strengths that help them thrive, ranging from robust partnerships to a focus on economic inclusion. Throughout our research, eight key lessons surfaced again and again to guide city investment in the tech economy." Open data is one of those key lessons. (TechCrunch)
- Cities are increasingly embracing open data. Here are 90 that have done so. "Local governments don’t necessarily have the same information sharing obligations as federal agencies. They’re governed by state and local laws, and although they’re often required to share information on request, not every local government has the resources or motivation to make it easy. But it’s getting better. In the past decade, dozens of American cities have established open data portals, making it easier for the public to obtain information about government activity." (Forbes)
- Libraries look to serve as the public hub for government data. "News organizations and public-interest groups are skilled at sussing out difficult-to-navigate government data when they need it, but freedom-of-information laws aren't as friendly to the public in general. Two states, though, are figuring out ways to deliver information sets to regular citizens who want to find things for themselves. In parts of California and Washington, that service is being delivered at public libraries as part of growing program that trains librarians to handle open data requests from their patrons. The program, Data Equity for Main Street, is aimed at making local libraries — especially those in small towns and rural areas — hubs for where people can learn more about how they're being served." (StateScoop)
- After initially agreeing that the governor's social media accounts were private, Missouri Attorney General launches a new investigation. "Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley is launching another Sunshine Law investigation into fellow Republican Gov. Eric Greitens, this one centered on the governor’s use of social media. Hawley’s office had previously agreed with Greitens that his social media accounts were private, telling the Star in February that it would not require Greitens to turn over private messages, names of users who were blocked or emails used to create his social accounts. But newly revealed emails cast doubt on whether Greitens can withhold such information from the public." (Kansas City Star)
around the world
- The European Commission is looking into expanding whistleblower protections. "Some good news is on the way for European whistleblowers, as Pirate Party member Julia Reda reports. A legal proposal to strengthen and unify whistleblower protections has been published by the European Commission. It does far more than restate existing protections. It expands them to cover the private sector and does away with some (but not all) of the barriers standing in the way of exposing fraud, abuse, and misconduct." (Techdirt)
- Reflecting on the power of open data amid larger debates over privacy. As part of a larger discussion Nigel Shadbolt and Roger Hampson write "On the face of it, open data is an idea too simple and right to fail. Assuming that the correct safeguards around private and personal information are in place, then the vast information hoards held by central and local government, quangos, and universities should form a resource for entrepreneurs who wish to start new businesses; private suppliers of goods and services who believe they can undercut the prices of existing contractors; journalists and campaigners who wish to hold power to account." (The Guardian)
- How is media censorship affecting a minority rights movement in Pakistan? "The Pashtuns (or Pathans) are an ethnic minority group who mostly live in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Discrimination and violence are constant threats for Pashtuns, half a million of whom have been internally displaced due to conflict between the army and the Taliban militant group. In 2016, Pashtuns were given official clearance to return to their home in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, but landmines planted there mean many can't can't safely return. The Pashtun Tahafuz (Protection) Movement, known as PTM for short, has become a rallying point for thousands to speak up about these injustices. But their challenges are many. Members have faced legal harassment, with repeated arrests. Local human rights defenders say the Pakistani mainstream media, especially TV channels, are ignoring the movement altogether. And in one case, a digital outlet that covered the movement from a critical angle experienced disruptions to their website, in what some editors feared was a targeted technical attack." (Global Voices)
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