Today in OpenGov: Good news and bad news


In today's edition, President Trump accepts Scott Pruitt's resignation, K Street stocks up on Democrats ahead of the midterm elections, California moves forward with its net neutrality plan, and more. 

Goodbye, hello

President Trump announced Scott Pruitt's resignation on Twitter yesterday. 
  • After months of mounting scandal, President Trump officially accepted EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's resignation yesterday. "Scott Pruitt, one of President Donald Trump’s most controversial and effective cabinet secretaries, is resigning from the Environmental Protection Agency after months of unending ethical scandals…Pruitt has faced heavy scrutiny for potential ethical lapses tied to his spending, housing, treatment of staff, relationships with energy leaders, and travel on the job." (BuzzFeed)
  • Around the time of Pruitt's resignation, a new scandal involving deleted meeting details was breaking. "Before he resigned on Thursday, Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, was facing new questions about whether aides deleted sensitive information about his meetings from his public schedule and potentially violated the law in doing so. Last summer one of his senior schedulers, Madeline G. Morris, was fired by Mr. Pruitt’s former deputy chief of staff, Kevin Chmielewski, who said he let her go because she was questioning the practice of retroactively deleting meetings from the calendar. Mr. Chmielewski has emerged as a harsh critic of Mr. Pruitt after a bitter falling out that led to his departure from the agency as well." (New York Times)
  • The man who will — at least temporarily — replace Pruitt is a former coal lobbyist who is likely to continue Pruitt's policy approach. "It seems unlikely that Pruitt’s departure will change the policy direction of the agency. Senior EPA officials hired under Pruitt, some of whom are former industry lobbyists, have a history of advocating for many of the same regulatory rollbacks he executed. That includes Andrew Wheeler, now acting head of the EPA. Coal giant Murray Energy Corporation is one of his previous clients." (Center for Public Integrity)

washington watch

  • As midterms approach, K Street is restocking its Democratic shelf. "Corporate America couldn’t hire Republican lobbyists fast enough after President Donald Trump’s election gave the GOP unified control of Washington. Now there are signs that Democrats are back in demand. Companies and trade groups are trying to hire congressional staffers with ties to influential House Democrats four months ahead of the midterm elections, in which Democrats are expected to pick up seats and potentially retake control of the House." (POLITICO)
  • Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross made millions while he put off divesting some of his stock holdings. "Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross appears to have earned seven figures from his failure to divest stock holdings until months after he was required to do so, a Center for Public Integrity analysis found. Ross was supposed to sell his Invesco Ltd. stock, valued at between $10 and $50 million, within 90 days of his Senate confirmation, according to his ethics agreement. He was confirmed on Feb. 27, 2017, which meant he was required to divest before the end of May 2017. But in filings publicly released last month, Ross acknowledged he failed to sell his stock in Invesco until December 2017. By that time, his stock’s value had increased by between approximately $1.2 million to $6 million over its value at the end of May, depending on Ross’ actual number of shares, a figure that hasn’t previously been reported." (Center for Public Integrity)
  • Exploring HHS' data driven approach to the opioid crisis and other major issues. "…many unscrupulous health care providers [have been] put behind bars thanks to the data analytics experts in the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Inspector General. The office has been bringing lawbreakers to justice for years, but it’s recently transformed the way it uses data to uncover fraud, waste and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid by adopting sophisticated analytics tools that tap into troves of information stored across the agency. Data analysis has always factored into investigations in some respect, but the scale of those efforts ramped up dramatically in recent years, and HHS plans to use the office’s success to set the bar for open data efforts across the entire federal government." (NextGov)
  • Takes: Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, makes the case against a constitutional convention to fix campaign finance. He writes, "as someone who has advocated to strengthen campaign finance laws for more than 45 years, I cede to no one in the depth of my concerns about our current destructive campaign finance system. The fight over calling a constitutional convention, however, is not a fight about any single amendment or fundamental issue. It is a battle to preserve the whole Constitution — our foundational charter. More than 225 national, state, and local organizations, including Democracy 21, are opposing this effort. We believe that calling a new constitutional convention under Article V of the U.S. Constitution is a threat to every American’s constitutional rights and civil liberties and a descent into entirely new, scary territory for our nation." (The Hill)

states and cities

A Philadelphia City Council Meeting. Photo Credit: Jared Piper, via GovFresh.
  • Building software to improve public meetings. "Traditional government meetings software, used to publish agendas, minutes, and livestream and archive videos, are in dire need of a modern, affordable upgrade. There’s a particular need to serve smaller municipalities at scale, something no current government technology vendor does effectively. Open.Media, powered by the Open Media Foundation, works to change both the public-facing user experience and internal administrative management and innovate an aspect of civic engagement critical to effective public awareness." (GovFresh)
  • New emails appear to show coordination between ex-Missouri governor's campaign, official office, and dark money group. "Emails obtained by The Star show former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens' top campaign fundraiser working to set up a meeting in February 2017 between a government official and one of the state's most prolific donors, all while seeking a contribution to Greitens' dark-money nonprofit. The emails appear to be evidence of coordination between the governor's office, his campaign and A New Missouri Inc., said Rep. Gina Mitten, a St. Louis County Democrat who served on a House committee that investigated Greitens as a precursor to impeachment. The committee's work ended after Greitens' June 1 resignation." (Kansas City Star)
  • Net neutrality makes a come back in California as legislators agree on compromise language. "A California net neutrality bill that could impose the toughest rules in the country is being resurrected. The bill was approved in its strongest form by the California Senate, but it was then gutted by the State Assembly's Communications Committee, which approved the bill only after eliminating provisions opposed by AT&T and cable lobbyists. Bill author Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) has been negotiating with Communications Committee Chairman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) and other lawmakers since then, and he announced the results today. Wiener said the agreement with Santiago and other lawmakers resulted in 'legislation implementing the strongest net neutrality protections in the nation.'" (Ars Technica)
  • A new law in Connecticut will allow state agencies to deny "vexatious" FOIA requesters. "Connecticut has passed a law giving agencies a way to deny 'vexatious requesters' access to public records. House Bill 5175 was signed into law by Gov. Dannel Malloy on June 7, 2018. Under the law, a public agency can petition the state's Freedom of Information Commission 'for relief from a requester that the public agency alleges is a vexatious requester.' From there, a hearing may be held and if the requester is determined to be 'vexatious,' the agency can deny future requests for up to one year." (SPLC)


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