Today in OpenGov: Questions and Answers

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In today's edition, the Senate takes a small step into the future, the Mueller probe has some tough questions on information release to ask itself, D.C. considers a dangerous open government amendment, Mexico's elections face the threat of vote-buying, and more. 

washington watch

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Washington, D.C. Image via the National Parks Service.
  • The Senate just took an important step towards moving their political disclosure online and out of the past. "Senators have attached to an appropriations bill an update in the way candidates file their campaign finance reports. Instead of mailing or hand delivering paper copies to the secretary of the Senate, candidates would have to file electronically with the Federal Election Commission — just as House and presidential campaigns have been required to do since 2001…Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a well-known opponent of campaign finance regulations, has in the past held up the change, using it as a bargaining chip in debates on other matters…Last year, the same legislative branch appropriations bill also included the change. But e-filing did not make it into the year-end spending package." (Roll Call) Our take? We hope the Senate finally embraces this common sense change which will have the dual benefits of increasing transparency and saving taxpayers close to $900,000 every year
  • New bill aims to boost disclosure and limit the use of social media "bots" for politics. "Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced legislation June 25 to limit the online reach of social media bots during elections. The Bot Disclosure and Accountability Act would compel social media companies to institute policies that require users on their platform who operate automated software programs designed to mimic or impersonate human beings to disclose this fact on their account profiles…It would also ban the use of bot programs designed to impersonate humans by political campaigns, parties and authorized committees." (Federal Computer Week)
  • The government is working on a Federal Data Strategy and you can weigh in. Joel Gurin and Katarina Rebello explain how, "three months ago, the White House released the President’s Management Agenda with ambitious plans for upgrading the federal government’s technical and data capabilities and the workforce to support them. A key part of that agenda was the commitment to develop an integrated Federal Data Strategy…the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and its government partners took a significant step towards achieving that goal. They have launched a new website, strategy.data.gov, to encourage public comment on the Federal Data Strategy…" (FedScoop)
  • Congress passes bill expanding access to courts for federal whistleblowers. "Agency whistleblowers who previously had to file cases only in the Washington, D.C.-based appeals court will now have access to courts in their own region, based on a bill that cleared the House on Friday and is headed to President Trump’s desk. The All Circuit Review Act (H.R. 2229), pursued for years by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., would make permanent a pilot program allowing whistleblowers to file cases seeking review of Merit Systems Protection Board decisions where they live or work, rather than requiring them all to file in the Federal Court of Appeals in Washington." (Government Executive)

trumpland

President Trump.
  • The Mueller probe faces major questions over how much information to make public in its wake. "America has waited a year to hear what special counsel Robert Mueller concludes about the 2016 election, meddling by the Russians and — most of all — what Donald Trump did or didn’t do. But how much the nation will learn about Mueller’s findings is very much an open question. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein may end up wrestling with a dilemma similar to the one that tripped up fired FBI director James Comey: how much to reveal about Trump’s actions absent an indictment against the president." (Washington Post)
  • Conservative activists unsuccessfully pushed Scott Pruitt to replace a career EPA staffer in an effort to stymie a major climate change report. "Conservative allies of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt lobbied last year to remove a career agency staffer in hopes of stopping the release of a government-wide report on the science of climate change, newly released emails show. The attempt was unsuccessful, even after a member of President Donald Trump’s EPA landing team emailed Pruitt’s chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, in June. But the previously unreported effort showed how far some conservatives are willing to go to undermine accepted climate science, even as Pruitt went about dismantling the Obama administration’s biggest climate initiatives and persuaded Trump to withdraw from the 2015 Paris agreement." (POLITICO)
  • Judge encourages President Trump's foundation to settle in case over alleged self-dealing. "President Donald Trump’s personal charity should reach an agreement with New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood to dissolve, resolving much of a lawsuit alleging that the foundation willfully engaged in a decade-long pattern of self-dealing, a judge said. At a hearing in state court in Manhattan Tuesday, Judge Saliann Scarpulla told the two sides to work out issues by Aug. 15, including whether Trump’s children Ivanka, Eric and Donald Trump Jr. will agree not to serve on any New York charity board for a year without admitting fault. The rest of the case against Trump would continue, drawing the president into yet another legal battle in the months leading up to the mid-term election in November." (Bloomberg)

states and cities

The John A. Wilson Building in Washington, DC. Image credit: Andrew Wiseman.
  • Proposal to limit independence of the D.C. Office of Open Government will have ripple effects across city government, particularly in the area of education advocacy. Guest blogger Sandra Moscoso explains how, "as a parent raising children in a city whose education system is ruled by the scandal du jour, I worry about a proposed amendment which will further entrench us into a culture of darkness. The D.C. Council’s “BEGA Amendment Act of 2018” will end the independent nature of the Office of Open Government. D.C. residents risk losing an independent resource which has for the past five years supported government agencies and boards in compliance of Freedom of Information and Open Meetings acts." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • Hoping to head off a November ballot measure, California lawmakers are racing to pass major privacy legislation. "California legislators are racing to pass a major privacy bill and have it signed by the governor by close of business Thursday, in order to avert the California Consumer Privacy Act making it onto the November ballot. Authors of the ballot, Californians for Consumer Privacy, have agreed to withdraw their measure if AB 375 is signed into law by end of day June 28, the deadline for ballot proponents to withdraw their California initiatives." (Government Technology)

around the world

  • Vote buying and threats identified as major issues ahead of Mexican election this weekend. "A coalition of non-governmental groups monitoring Mexico’s election campaigns say vote-buying schemes and threats of cutting off social programs for those who vote wrong have targeted entire communities. The United Nations-sponsored Citizen Electoral Observation Network said Tuesday it has identified widespread schemes in the run-up to Sunday’s elections." (Washington Post)
  • Trinidad and Tobago is considering a new cybercrime law. What will it mean for media freedom? "Legislators in Trinidad and Tobago are taking aim at a spate of pernicious issues online — ranging from hate to phishing and fraud — with a draft cybercrime law, following in the footsteps of many governments around the world that have passed comprehensive legislation addressing online crimes. But both journalists and users of social media networks have raised concerns over specific sections of the recently amended bill that could have a chilling effect on journalism and online speech." (Global Voices)

 

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