Today in OpenGov: Toxic
Before digging into today's edition: Sunlight's board is conducting a review, led by board members Katherine Maher and Zoe Reiter, of Sunlight’s past, as part of our effort to address our history and build a staff culture that prioritizes inclusion and respect. Are you a former Sunlight Foundation staffer, contractor, or collaborator? If so, the board would be interested in hearing from you about your time working with Sunlight. Learn more about the effort and how to participate here.
Now, on to today's edition, which includes an indicted West Virginia Supreme Court justice, a big midterm investment, a long delayed report on toxic water, and much more.
states and cities
- West Virginia Supreme Court Justice who literally wrote a book on political corruption indicted on 22 federal corruption counts. "A West Virginia Supreme Court justice was indicted on 22 federal counts of fraud, witness tampering and making false statements on Wednesday. The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that Allen Loughry, who wrote a book on political corruption, was indicted on two counts of fraud by wire, radio or television, 16 counts of frauds and swindles, one count of witness tampering and three counts of making false statements." (The Hill)
- How open data is maturing in Asheville, North Carolina and other cities around the United States. Stephanie Kanowitz explains how, "in the evolution of open data — from simply making datasets public to ensuring that they’re usable by people who aren’t data scientists — the next step is using data to drive government change." Sunlight's Stephen Larrick explained how data sharing can help government officials communicate more effectively with constituents by saying "these are the figures we’re using. You’re welcome to interpret them to help inform or challenge a decision we’ve made, but this is how we used them to come to a decision…Having that kind of transparency to open up a process, make it more feedback-driven and interactive, we see as a key part of how local governments should function in the 21stcentury." (GCN)
- St. Paul Minnesota publishes review of its police body camera program rollout. "St. Paul police officers recorded more than 19,000 hours of body camera footage in the first three months of the year, according to information the department released Tuesday. A review of some of the footage showed room for improvement in terms of officer compliance, but overall results were encouraging, police Chief Todd Axtell said about the department's use of the devices, which it started rolling out late last year." (Government Technology)
- California state assemblyman with close ties to AT&T tried to gut net neutrality proposals. "A Democratic state lawmaker from California attempted to gut the nation’s toughest net neutrality bill by railroading through standard procedure and forcing a vote on a set of amendments removing the stricter regulations…Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, chair of the Communications and Conveyance Committee, proposed his own amendments to the bill…" that critics say would gut the original proposals most important provisions. "AT&T is one of Assemblyman Santiago’s top donors, according to advocacy group Fight for the Future." (The Verge)
- Michael Bloomberg set to spend $80 million to support House Democrats in the midterms. "Michael R. Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City, has decided to throw his political clout and personal fortune behind the Democratic campaign to take control of the House of Representatives this year, directing aides to spend tens of millions of dollars in an effort to expel Republicans from power." (New York Times)
- How did Amazon rise to the ranks of Washington's most powerful players? Brody Mullins, Laura Stevens, and John D. McKinnon explore how Amazon and founder Jeff Bezos, once famously averse to all things related to the government, became deeply entwined in the federal government and increasingly powerful in Washington. (Wall Street Journal)
- The Federal Trade Commission is set to reevaluate how it regulates and conducts enforcement against tech companies. "The new head of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) wants to review how the consumer protection and antitrust agency polices companies like major tech platforms, promising 'vigorous enforcement' of Silicon Valley. Joseph Simons, who was sworn in as FTC chairman last month, on Wednesday announced that he would convene a series of public hearings later this year to examine whether changes in the economy prompted by the rise of tech giants might necessitate changes in how regulators carry out enforcement." (The Hill)
- Potential whistleblowers fear retaliation at the Department of Veterans Affairs. "More than 30 current and former VA employees spoke to NPR. They include doctors, nurses and administrators — many of them veterans themselves. All describe an entrenched management culture that uses fear and intimidation to prevent potential whistleblowers from talking." (NPR)
- EPA report on water contamination finally released following politically motivated delay, controversy. "The Trump administration finally released a delayed report on toxic water contamination on Wednesday, months after White House officials expressed fears it would spark a 'public relations nightmare' if released. As expected, the report by the Department of Health and Human Services shows that toxic nonstick chemicals that have leaked into communities’ drinking water supplies endanger human health at levels the EPA had previously deemed safe." (POLITICO)
- Trump administration pulls out of U.N. Human Rights Council, blaming human rights watchdog groups on its way out the door. "The Trump administration rebuked human rights watchdog organizations on Wednesday, blaming them in part for its decision this week to withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council. In a scathing letter, Nikki R. Haley, the American ambassador to the United Nations, criticized the organizations for opposing her failed push last month for a General Assembly vote on changes to the council, the world’s most important human rights body." (New York Times)
- President Trump wooed super PAC donors at his Washington Hotel with a speech on immigration as family separation crisis roiled Washington. "After spending the first half of Tuesday evening with House Republicans amid a public outcry over his administration separating families apprehended after crossing the U.S. border, Trump rode twelve blocks west to the Trump International Hotel, where immigration was one of the cornerstones of his hour-long remarks, according to two people who attended the event. Trump spoke to about 150 donors gathered for a two-day retreat of the America First Action super PAC, each of whom spent a minimum of $100,000 to attend the event and $250,000 minimum for VIP status." (POLITICO)
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