Today in OpenGov: Dark days


In today's edition, a dark day in Annapolis, the potential for movement around online ad transparency, a probe at the Department of Interior, the "Bad Boys of Brexit," and more. 

states and cities

Staff of the Capital Gazette published an issue this morning, memorializing five of their colleagues were murdered in their offices on Thursday. 
5 dead in attack on newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland.
"Five people were killed in a shooting inside the newsroom at the Capital Gazette newspaper office in Annapolis, Maryland, one of America's oldest newspapers…Jarrod Warren Ramos has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder, according to court records…Ramos has a connection to the paper…sources said. He filed a defamation claim in 2012 against the paper but the case was dismissed. They believe he had some interaction with an executive at the newspaper previously, one of the sources said. Threats of violence were made over social media to the newspaper, some as recently as Thursday…" (CNN)
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), previously "seven journalists have been killed in relation to their work in the United States since CPJ began keeping records in 1992…"
This is an unthinkable tragedy. We stand with CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon, who stated "We are appalled by the shooting in the Capital Gazette newsroom. Newspapers like the Gazette do vital work, and our thoughts are with them amid this unconscionable tragedy…Violence against journalists is unacceptable, and we welcome the thorough investigation into the motivations behind the shooting."
  • Pulling back the curtain on smart cities to ask where we stand. "Smart cities integrate information and communication technology into public infrastructure, which allows city service providers to better understand how residents are moving around and engaging with the city. As a result, smart technologies increase connectivity, monitor public spaces and resources, use and process massive amounts of data, and enable real-time analysis of city life. Despite the fact that this new integrated data system of governance promises more efficiency, the prospect of massive data collection, constant monitoring, and opaque algorithms should present serious concerns for city officials and residents." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • California passes internet privacy law that contains provisions opposed by ISPs, tech companies. "California is imposing a privacy law giving consumers more control over how their personal data is collected, used, and sold by corporations. Broadband providers, tech companies, and advertising groups had been fighting against a ballot initiative that contained consumer protections similar to what's in the new law. The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 was approved unanimously by the state Senate and Assembly today and was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown." (Ars Technica)

washington watch

A visual explanation of Facebook's new ad transparency measures. 
  • Facebook announces new ad transparency measures. "Facebook will now allow users to see all of the ads bought by any account on the platform, a change that is part of its effort to improve transparency. The changes announced Thursday would allow users to see what ads an account is running across Facebook even if the user is not actually targeted by any of those advertisements. Facebook already allows users to see all of the ads run by a political page." (The Hill) As Facebook's Rob Leathern and Emma Rodgers explained in a blogpost published yesterday, "we’re making significant steps to bring more transparency to ads and Pages on Facebook. Giving people more information about any organization and the ads it’s currently running will mean increased accountability for advertisers, helping to prevent abuse on Facebook."
  • Meanwhile, the FEC wrapped up two days of hearings around online political ad regulation with little hope for changes ahead of the midterm elections. "In the aftermath of a 2016 election marred by Russian online meddling, federal officials responsible for enforcing campaign finance rules have grappled with how to strengthen internet political advertising rules to enhance transparency and defend against foreign interference. But on Thursday, at the end of a two-day public hearing the Federal Election Commission convened on internet political ads, it’s still unclear what concrete changes will occur — if any at all." (Center for Public Integrity)
  • House Ethics Committee to launch full-scale probe into allegations against Rep. Dave Schweikert and his chief of staff. "The House Ethics Committee has launched a wide-ranging investigation into GOP Rep. David Schweikert and his chief of staff, Oliver Schwab, over allegations the Arizona Republican misspent official funds and received illegal campaign contributions from Schwab and other employees, according to a statement from the secretive panel. The probe follows a recommendation from the Office of Congressional Ethics — the independent ethics watchdog — that the Ethics Committee further explore Schweikert and Schwab’s activities." (POLITICO)
  • Government plans to push FOIA lawsuits against the FBI until at least 2021. Jason Leopold first shared the news that "The govt has indicated that it will begin to file Open America stays in all FOIA lawsuits against FBI going fwd. That means, according to govt, that even if you sue FBI, the bureau won't process it until 2021." Over at the NSArchive, Lauren Harper shared a little bit more about the "Open America" stays, which courts can grant "when an agency demonstrates that 'exceptional circumstances' exist and an agency can show that it 'is deluged with a volume of requests for information vastly in excess of that anticipated by Congress [and] when the existing resources are inadequate to deal with the volume of such requests within the time limits of subsection.'"


Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with President Trump at a previous meeting.
  • Ahead of meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Trump is appearing to side with Russia over election meddling claims. "Just weeks before his back-to-back summits with nato members in Belgium and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Finland, President Trump is legitimizing Russia’s claim that it did not interfere in the 2016 election, contradicting the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies." (The Atlantic)
  • Interior Department Inspector General set to probe ties between Secretary Ryan Zinke and a land deal involving the chairman of Halliburton. "The Interior Department’s inspector general will review Secretary Ryan Zinke’s involvement in a land deal with a property development group backed by Halliburton Co.Chairman David J. Lesar, the IG said in a letter released by House Democrats. The watchdog office agreed to look into the matter after the Democratic lawmakers asked them to investigate whether Zinke used his office for personal financial gain, and released internal emails that showed Zinke met with Lesar, Lesar’s son John, and Montana developer Casey Malmquist in his office in August." (Bloomberg)
  • Taxpayer giveaways questioned as Foxconn prepares to break ground on new Wisconsin plant. "President Trump and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) will be on hand Thursday when the high-tech manufacturer Foxconn breaks ground at a mammoth new factory, a deal expected to bring thousands of high-paying jobs to suburban Milwaukee. But those jobs come at a steep cost to the state, which gave massive tax breaks and incentives to the Taiwanese firm in order to lure them to Wisconsin. Some watching the deal say the state will take a generation to make back the money it gave away, and they worry that the Foxconn deal could mark the beginning of a new round of taxpayer giveaways to big corporations." (The Hill)

around the world

  • How the "Bad Boys of Brexit" got close to Russia, Trump, and investigations in the US and Britain. Arron "Banks’s journey from a lavish meal with a Russian diplomat in London to the raucous heart of Trump country was part of an unusual intercontinental charm offensive by the wealthy British donor and his associates, a hard-partying lot who dubbed themselves the “Bad Boys of Brexit.” Their efforts to simultaneously cultivate ties to Russian officials and Trump’s campaign have captured the interest of investigators in the United Kingdom and the United States, including special counsel Robert S. Mueller III." (Washington Post)
  • Australia passes legislation cracking down on foreign interference in government, media, and universities. "Australian lawmakers overwhelmingly passed bills to crack down on foreign interference, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull saying they’re needed to stop reported meddling by China and other nations in the nation’s government, media and universities. The legislation toughens penalties for espionage and requires people or organizations acting in the interest of overseas powers to register and disclose their ties." (Bloomberg)
  • Ahead of elections, Pakistani journalists face increase risk of assault and abduction. "With national elections less than one month away, Pakistani journalists and activists are seeing a rise in attacks and intimidation of themselves and their loved ones. This election will mark the second time a democratic transition of power will occur in the country's history…Prior to 2008, no democratic government had completed its five years in office. Against this backdrop, attacks on journalists and activists demonstrate the will of powerful forces — of which there are various in Pakistan — to keep power in the hands of certain actors, and to prevent independent voices from holding power to account." (Global Voices)


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