Today in OpenGov: Midterm madness


In today's edition, North Carolina lawmakers try to limit information about their proposed edits to the state constitution, Facebook uncovers some midterm election meddling, President Trump finally picks a leader for the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Belgium looks to charge journalists for access, and more. 

states and cities

Image via Pixabay.
  • State chief data officers weigh in on the Federal Data Strategy. "The federal government recently published an initial draft of a data strategy, and, in response, the State Chief Data Officer (CDO) Network has now offered a set of recommendations for continuing to develop that strategy moving forward. Connecticut CDO Tyler Kleykamp is the chair and spokesman for the fledgling State CDO Network, which formally coalesced earlier this year and consists of top data execs from 14 different states, ranging from Alabama to Vermont. Kleykamp said the group was independently developing a series of general recommendations for how the federal government should approach data when the draft for the strategy came out." (Government Technology)
  • North Carolina lawmakers want voters to change the state's constitution, but don't want them to have basic information about the proposed changes. "North Carolina lawmakers rushed back to the state capital with less than 24 hours notice last week because Republicans called for a special session to block voters from receiving more information about a wide range of proposed changes to the state constitution during this fall’s election. The proposed changes to the constitution deal with a range of important subjects that can affect voter access to the polls and impact the trajectory of state courts…Current state law requires a bipartisan commission to write a short caption to appear on the ballot summarizing those amendments, but Republicans passed a bill during the July 23 emergency session that blocked those captions from appearing on the ballot. Gov Roy Cooper (D) vetoed the bill on Friday, but Republicans have a supermajority in the legislature and are expected to override it in a vote on Saturday." (Huffington Post)
  • MuckRock is tracking reports of police-involved domestic violence across the country and they need your help. "Tracking the number of police officers accused of domestic violence is vital to public safety, particularly for women, as these public servants are tasked with responding to calls from victims of domestic violence, and victims have a right to be secure in the knowledge that the people they count on to protect them in a time of crisis don’t possess an inordinate amount of sympathy for their batterers. To that end, we’ve launched a project that will hopefully shed more light on the subject, and with the help of our readers, have crowdsourced a number of police departments from which we’ve requested information on officer-involved domestic violence incidents." (MuckRock)

washington watch

  • Facebook identifies "coordinated political influence campaign" targeting the midterm elections, deletes 32 pages and accounts. "Facebook said it has once again been the target of coordinated political influence campaigns with activity that was consistent with, but not definitively tied to, Russian state–sponsored actors. In a series of blog posts Tuesday, the company announced that it had removed 32 pages and accounts from Facebook and Instagram that were engaged in 'coordinated inauthentic behavior' — including the creation and promotion of a protest event scheduled for Washington, DC, later this month. Facebook said the accounts identified and eliminated were not engaged in any direct electioneering or pushing of candidates ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, but sought to sow discord by posting about divisive social issues." (BuzzFeed)
  • Robert Mueller has referred several foreign agent inquiries to New York federal prosecutors. "Special counsel Robert Mueller has referred a collection of cases to New York federal prosecutors concerning whether several high-profile American lobbyists and operatives failed to register their work as foreign agents, according to people familiar with the matter…Since the spring, Mueller has referred matters to SDNY involving longtime Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta and his work for his former firm, the Podesta Group, and former Minnesota Republican Rep. Vin Weber and his work for Mercury Public Affairs, the sources said. One source said that former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig, a former partner at law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, is also part of the inquiry." (CNN)
  • Liberal Billionaire Tom Steyer set to spend more than $100 million building his political organization over coming months. "Tom Steyer plans to spend at least $110 million in 2018, making the billionaire investor the largest single source of campaign cash on the left and placing him on a path to create a parallel party infrastructure with polling, analytics and staffing capabilities that stand to shape and define the issues the party runs on in November…Steyer’s oversize role…stands to position him squarely against Democratic Party leadership, which has shown little appetite for pursuing one of his signature causes: impeachment." (POLITICO)


Image via JustGrimes.
  • President Trump is finally expected to announce his pick to head the Office of Science and Technology Policy. "President Donald Trump intends to announce his pick for an official leader of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, FedScoop learned Tuesday. Dr. Kelvin K. Droegemeier, a weather prediction expert from the University of Oklahoma, is set to be nominated as the new director of the White House science and tech advisory office." (FedScoop)
  • Senate fight over access to documents from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's time in the Bush White House comes to a head. "Efforts to strike a deal on access to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s records neared implosion on Tuesday as Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats sent their own wide-ranging request for documents on President Donald Trump's high court pick. The two parties have jostled over Kavanaugh's records for weeks, with Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) unilaterally making his own documents request after attempted bipartisan talks to seek records from the years the conservative judge spent in George W. Bush's White House counsel's office." (POLITICO)
  • Kavanaugh's campaign finance opinions haven't received much attention, but they're worth a look. "Compared with the issue of abortion, campaign finance law has gotten relatively little attention in the run-up to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings. But as NPR's Peter Overby reports, this is something that's pretty relevant to Kavanaugh's nomination. In fact, the current campaign finance laws are something Kavanaugh helped to build." (NPR)
  • The Washington Post has been tracking all of the false or misleading claims made by President Trump. Their latest update? 4,229 false or misleading claims in 558 days in office. 

around the world

Orkhan Dzhemal, 51, one of the three Russain journalists killed in the Central African Republic on July 31. Image via Global Voices.
  • Three Russian journalists were killed in the Central African Republic on Monday. "Three Russian journalists were killed in an ambush outside the town of Sibut in Central African Republic, officials in both countries said Tuesday…The Russian Foreign Ministry identified the slain journalists as Kirill Radchenko, Alexander Rastorguyev and Orkhan Dzhemal…The three had been working on a film in a partnership with an investigative media outlet run by exiled Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Russian media reported they were reporting on a private Russian security company operating in Central African Republic." (Bloomberg)
  • European politicians continue to spend on Facebook advertising, even as they increase they increase their scrutiny of the platform. "Lawmakers just can’t seem to quit Facebook. Despite widespread criticism of the social network’s handling of a series of recent data scandals, European politicians and political groups continue to buy advertising on its global platform, according to a review of advertising spending on Facebook by POLITICO." (POLITICO)
  • Taking a holistic look at information environments around elections and working towards information integrity. "Last fall, NDI piloted its first in-depth examination of the information environment as part of its international election observation mission to Georgia’s 2017 local elections. The mission looked at all aspects of the online ecosystem, ranging from civil society organizations, the national media, potential disinformation campaigns and searched for instances of the use of coordinated networks of bots and trolls. NDI staff coordinated research and analysis, and adapted a tool called Politifilter to track Facebook groups from across the political spectrum. This project is being replicated in other contexts where NDI supports election observation missions, adapting applications like Politifilter and developing new research and analytical methods to comprehensively monitor traditional and social media during an election campaign." (NDI DemocracyWorks Blog)
  • Journalists living in Belgium will have to pay 50 Euros for security screenings, access to EU summits. From an update on Media accreditation for the European Council of 18 October 2018: "Only for media representatives of Belgian nationality or residing in Belgium: please note that since 1 June 2018, a new Belgian law foresees a 50€ fee to be paid by employers of any individual undergoing security screening. The screening has currently a validity of 6 months. An invoice will be sent to your employer (or to you in case contact details were missing) by Belgian authorities at a later stage. Security screening is compulsory for all media representatives." Over at Politico's Brussels PlaybookFlorian Eder and Zoya Sheftalovich are understandably upset, noting that "the country is demanding reporters pay for being allowed to do our jobs."


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