Today in OpenGov: Dark money season
Editor's note: We'll be off traveling for the next two weeks and will return to your inbox on July 30th. While we're away, you can keep up with all the latest @SunFoundation, @SunlightCities, @SunWebIntegrity, and on our blog.
Meanwhile, in today's edition, HHS is planning to shut down a go-to medical guideline database, Wilbur Ross is finally going to divest his stock holdings, a tough news day for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and more.
- HHS is going to shut down a key public medical guideline database next week. "The Trump Administration is planning to eliminate a vast trove of medical guidelines that for nearly 20 years has been a critical resource for doctors, researchers and others in the medical community. Maintained by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), part of the Department of Health and Human Services, the database is known as the National Guideline Clearinghouse (NGC), and it’s scheduled to 'go dark,' in the words of an official there, on July 16. Medical guidelines like those compiled by AHRQ aren’t something laypeople spend much time thinking about, but experts like Valerie King, a professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Director of Research at the Center for Evidence-based Policy at Oregon Health & Science University, said the NGC is perhaps the most important repository of evidence-based research available." The shutdown reportedly comes in response to budget cuts. (Sunlight Foundation/Daily Beast)
- Dark money is making up more than 40% of outside spending on this year's congressional elections. "Secret donors financed more than four out of every 10 television ads that outside groups broadcast this year to influence November’s high-stakes congressional elections, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Kantar Media data. Leading the way: organizations affiliated with billionaire industrialist Charles Koch, whose conservative donor network plows hundreds of millions of dollars into politics and policy debates each election cycle." (USA Today)
- Listen up! A new documentary explores the origins of the dark money phenomenon. "Filmmaker Kimberly Reed grew up in Montana with little anticipation her home state would be ground zero for a massive fight over money in politics. But her new documentary, 'Dark Money,' tells a tale worthy of any Western, as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle fight for their own prerogatives in the face of out-of-state interests gunning for them." (Roll Call)
- The Library of Congress is spending $1.5 million on a new website to help make Congressional Research Service reports public, advocates have some suggestions to make it better. "When President Donald Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 into law, he put a legislative mandate behind a decades-old transparency initiative. Buried in the bill’s 2,232 pages is a section that directs the Library of Congress to build and maintain a new website — a public-facing home for the taxpayer-funded reports written by the Congressional Research Service. In response, the library has crafted a plan for development, a schedule for deployment and an estimated price tag for the build. Fans of the CRS’s work, however, are wondering whether it’s all worth it." (FedScoop)
- Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross says that he will officially divest from all his stocks following criticism from Office of Government Ethics. "Billionaire Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Thursday he was selling all his stock holdings after being criticized by the Office of Government Ethics for some of his financial transactions…Ross received a letter from OGE general counsel and acting Director David Apol that admonished him for failing to divest from some stocks by Jan 15, 2017, as he had indicated and more recently engaging in stock market activity that appeared aimed at belatedly correcting that error." (POLITICO)
- ACLU pushes Trump administration for more information on migrant children separated from parents. "The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) asked a federal court on Thursday to require the Trump administration to hand over information about the detained migrant children under the age of 5 who have not yet been reunited with their parents. The ACLU said in a court filing that they 'have no independent verification that these 58 parents have in fact been reunited with their children' and that they 'have not yet received any specific information about most of the 23 individuals' who the government claim are ineligible for reunification." (The Hill)
- House committees hold contentious public hearing with FBI agent at center of text-message controversy. "For the first time in a public forum, FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok delivered an impassioned defense against claims from House Republicans that he held biases against candidate Donald Trump that affected his official agency decisions as he helped lead an investigation into ties between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia…The hearing often descended into partisan bickering over points of parliamentary order and whether or not Strzok could be compelled to answer questions pertaining to ongoing FBI investigations." (Roll Call)
- DHS is investigating a CPB agent for computer misuse after he used a reporter's confidential travel records for leverage. "A Border Patrol agent who obtained the confidential travel records of a Washington journalist and used them to press her about her sources last year is under investigation for misuse of government computer systems, according to an official briefed on the inquiry…Now the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general and investigators from the border agency are examining whether Mr. Rambo used the travel data improperly or illegally and whether anyone else was involved. Press advocates have expressed alarm that a government official would use sensitive private information in what they say amounted to a blackmail attempt against a journalist." (New York Times)
states and cities
The Michigan House of Representatives, seen in session on July 24, 2008. Credit: Steve & Christine/Creative Commons.
- A group of Michigan lawmakers are voluntarily disclosing financial their information in push for stronger transparency requirements. "A band of 23 state legislators in Michigan pledged to make their personal finances public Thursday to promote a package of bills that would require all state elected officials to do the same. The action by House Democrats was designed to call attention to the fact that Michigan is the only state with a full-time legislature that does not require lawmakers to fill out annual disclosure forms." (Center for Public Integrity)
- Architect of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's signature economic development initiative found guilty in bid-rigging scheme. "Alain E. Kaloyeros, a principal architect of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s signature economic development initiative, was convicted on Thursday in a bid-rigging scheme that steered hundreds of millions of dollars in state contracts to favored companies in Buffalo and Syracuse. Dr. Kaloyeros, 62, was found guilty of wire fraud and conspiracy in the fourth week of a federal trial in Manhattan that invited harsh scrutiny of Mr. Cuomo’s ambitious plan to revitalize upstate and western New York, known as the Buffalo Billion." (New York Times)
- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo receives significant financial support from companies who profit from ICE and CPB. "Andrew Cuomo has a glaring conflict of interest when it comes to the politics of abolishing ICE. Luxury landlords across the state collect millions in rent from the agency — money they have turned around and funneled to Cuomo’s political campaigns, according to a new report by the New York-based watchdog group Public Accountability Initiative…Looking largely at publicly available data from the General Services external lease database, PAI researchers have documented extensive financial ties from Cuomo donors and members of his inner circle to ICE and Customs and Border Protection…" (The Intercept)
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