Today in OpenGov: Kicking and screaming


In today's edition, the FEC struggles to modernize political ad disclosure rules, New York launches a new Freedom of Information portal, Trump properties continue to benefit from political and taxpayer dollars, and more. 

washington watch

Federal Election Commission commisioners on June 27, 2018, conducted a public hearing on online political ad disclaimers. Image credit: Ashley Balcerzak/Center for Public Integrity.
  • At public hearing, FEC struggles to drag political ad rules into the 21st century. "…the federal government agency tasked with protecting U.S. elections from foreign meddling struggled on Wednesday to even agree on narrow rules governing the size and format of certain disclaimers on digital political ads. It may never agree: During a daylong public hearing in Washington, D.C., the Federal Election Commission’s four remaining commissioners — two seats are vacant because President Donald Trump hasn’t appointed anyone to fill them — couldn’t find consensus on how to best drag federal political ad regulations into an Internet age that commenced last century." (Center for Public Integrity)
  • Democrats are increasingly rejecting corporate political money…"Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made rejecting corporate donations a centerpiece of her winning campaign to unseat a top House Democrat. But the message isn’t just resonating in liberal areas like New York City…Last cycle, three of the 41 Democratic candidates in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Red to Blue program for strong challengers pledged not to accept corporate money. This cycle, 31 of the 54 candidates have made the same promise." (Roll Call)…and hoping to make "dark money" a major midterm election issue. "Congressional Democrats are taking another run at regulating so-called dark money in politics with a bill that would require groups that spend money to influence elections to disclose the source of their funds — an issue the lawmakers plan to take beyond Capitol Hill and into the fall campaign" (Bloomberg)
  • How to help the public navigate the growing maze of government information. "What do citizens do when they need to find information about government programs? They Google it. But what happens when that search query returns a flood of confusing options? Information is a good thing; but what about when there’s too much of a good thing? The challenge for government is that the private sector has set an extremely high bar for the customer experience. Instead of comparing the level of customer service between agencies, citizens are comparing an agency’s level of customer service to that of Amazon or Zappos. The government recognizes this, and as a result, has placed improving the customer experience high on the list of cross-agency priority goals from the president’s management agenda." (Government Executive)
  • Top open data advocacy group is on the hunt for a new leader. "Data Coalition founder and Executive Director Hudson Hollister has decided to step down from daily leadership in order to pursue 'new challenges,' the open-data advocacy group announced Wednesday. His final day will be Oct. 1…the Coalition has launched a search for a new executive director to helm the organization in this new era." (FedScoop)

states and cities

New York State's new Open FOIL NY freedom of information portal.
  • Check out New York State's new Freedom of Information portal. "Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled a new website that he says will make it easier for the public and the press to access records from various state entities under New York's Freedom of Information Law. The website, called Open Foil NY, offers a centralized online location to file FOIL requests with 59 state agencies and public authorities and was lauded by Cuomo as offering, for the first time, a uniform method to submit requests for government records through a single website." (Government Technology)
  • Study finds a connection between newspaper closures and increased borrowing costs for local governments. Dermot Murphy explains how he and his co-authors "…conducted a systematic study of newspaper closures and government borrowing costs in the United States, for the period ranging from 1996 to 2015…We found that local government borrowing costs significantly increased for counties that have experienced a newspaper closure compared to geographically adjacent counties with similar demographic and economic characteristics without newspaper closures. Our evidence indicates that a lack of local newspaper coverage has serious financial consequences for local governments, and that alternative news sources are not necessarily filling the gaps." (Columbia Journalism Review)
  • Do you care about open, equitable, and accountable smart cities? Consider the Open Cities Summit. As Sunlight's Open Cities team asked, "Care about a future of #smartcities that's open, equitable and accountable? Check out the Open Cities Summit  and join us in Buenos Aires on 9/24!? 


The Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. 
  • Trump properties have raked in at least $16.1 million from political groups and taxpayers  since he launched his Presidential campaign. "Since Donald Trump declared his candidacy for president in late 2015, at least $16.1 million has poured into Trump Organization-managed and branded hotels, golf courses and restaurants from his campaign, Republican organizations, and government agencies. Because Trump’s business empire is overseen by a trust of which he is the sole beneficiary, he profits from these hotel stays, banquet hall rentals and meals." The bulk of that money has been funneled through President Trump's campaign committee. (ProPublica)
  • President Trump's pick to head the IRS owns property at a Trump resort that he didn't initially disclose. "President Donald Trump’s pick to run the IRS, tax lawyer Chuck Rettig, owns properties at the Trump International Hotel Waikiki and Tower. He’d previously disclosed his 50 percent stake in a pair of Honolulu rental units, but not their specific location. That detail was discussed later, at a June 21 meeting with congressional staff, according to a memo obtained by POLITICO." (POLITICO)
  • The HUD official who raised initial concerns over Ben Carson's costly office redecoration resigns in protest after demotion, retaliation. "The Housing and Urban Development official who first raised concerns about Secretary Ben Carson’s push to redecorate his office alleged Wednesday that she has been forced to resign. Helen Foster, in a sharply worded letter to Carson and HUD Deputy Secretary Pam Patenaude, said she was demoted as chief administrative officer and called a liar by the secretary on social media after criticizing his redecorating expenses and saying that more than $10 million in taxpayer funds had been 'grossly mismanaged.'" (Washington Post)
  • Federal court denies President Trump's attempt to hide records from "voter fraud" commission. "A federal judge has turned down the Trump administration's bid to lift an order requiring officials to disclose internal records of a now-defunct commission set up to pursue President Donald Trump's own unsubstantiated allegations of widespread voter fraud." (POLITICO)
  • Private prison operators — who double as Trump donors — stand to profit from administration's immigration crackdown. "The biggest private prison operators, which have poured money into Republican coffers, stand to make a windfall from President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration that has pushed thousands of undocumented immigrants into detention…GEO Group and CoreCivic are active political donors. Each contributed $250,000 to Trump’s inaugural committee. GEO Group also gave $275,000 to the Trump aligned super-PAC, Rebuilding America Now, in 2016 and another $170,000 to Trump Victory, which supported his campaign and Republican party committees. Ahead of the midterms, the company has given $200,000 to the Congressional Leadership Fund, which supports the House GOP, and $100,000 to the Senate Leadership Fund." (Bloomberg)


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