Today in OpenGov: Probing questions


In today's edition, Betsy DeVos' billions, the National Archives' Kavanaugh problem, Poland's judicial crackdown, and more. 


  • Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her family are major political donors. Their agenda is showing up all over the news in recent weeks. "From the policy of separating immigrant families, to limiting the power of labor unions, to naming the next justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, this summer the DeVos family name has been all over the news. Over the years, the parents, in-laws and husband of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have given hundreds of millions of dollars to conservative causes. And many of those causes are front and center of policy initiatives and goals of the Trump administration right now." (NPR)
  • War of words between Trump administration, media heats up as Sarah Huckabee Sanders refuses to disavow "enemy of the people" rhetoric. "White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Thursday refused to say the press isn’t 'the enemy of the people,' a phrase President Donald Trump has repeatedly used to attack the media. CNN’s Jim Acosta told Sanders during a press briefing that it would be a 'good thing if you were to state' that the press is not 'the enemy of the people.' But Sanders didn’t acknowledge his request." (HuffPost)
  • Ties between Ryan Zinke and Halliburton around land and brewery deal to be probed by Interior department watchdog. "As first reported by Politico, three House Democrats in June asked Interior Department acting inspector general Mary Kendall to investigate reports that Zinke was cooperating with Halliburton Chairman David Lesar on a shared parking lot in Flathead, Mont. That facility might eventually include a craft brewery allegedly sought by Zinke on land owned by the Zinke family’s Great Northern Veterans Peace Park Foundation. Reps. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., Donald McEachin, D-Va., and Jared Huffman, D-Calif., received a reply on July 18—which Government Executive on Thursday confirmed—agreeing to undertake an investigation of the possible 'use of taxpayer resources to advance land developments' in the Montana town, and to assure 'that decisions that affect the nation’s welfare are not compromised by individual self-enrichment.'" (Government Executive)
  • Another legal challenge to the Mueller probe has been rejected. "A federal judge on Thursday rejected the latest challenge to special counsel Robert Mueller's authority, marking another legal win for Mueller as he defends his right to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election. Andrew Miller, a longtime aide to Trump confidant Roger Stone, had brought the challenge that was rejected on Thursday." (POLITICO)
  • Watchdog files complaints against 10 Trump administration officials for violating Hatch act. "Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed complaints with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) on Thursday against White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney and deputy press secretaries Raj Shah and Hogan Gidley, along with six others. CREW’s complaint details how all 10 Trump officials posted tweets that support President Trump as a candidate for the Republican Party in 2020 — a direct violation of the Hatch Act, according to the watchdog's executive director, Noah Bookbinder." (The Hill)

washington watch

  • Corporate money in politics is emerging as a significant midterm issue for Democratic politicians. "Long considered a peripheral issue in midterm elections, money in politics is emerging as a new litmus test for Democratic candidates. In ads, stump speeches and debates, scores of politicians are pledging to reject corporate PAC donations. Their ranks include a handful of Democrats, including Harris, who are widely rumored to be exploring presidential bids: New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Joining them is Vermont’s independent senator, Bernie Sanders. In total, more than federal 170 candidates have said they’re not accepting corporate PAC donations, according to a tally by the group End Citizens United, a political action committee dedicated to campaign finance reform." (Associated Press)
  • The National Archives is having trouble complying with requests for documents related to Brett Kavanaugh fast enough for Senate Republicans. "The National Archives and Records Administration said Thursday it will need until the end of October to process documents Senate Republicans requested on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, which could derail plans for a speedy confirmation process where Democrats had already complained they weren’t seeing enough information. Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley, in a July 27 letter, had asked to get records by Aug. 15 from the George W. Bush Presidential Library about Kavanaugh’s work in the White House counsel’s office." (Roll Call) Our take? Adequate access to these documents should take precedence over a quick confirmation process. 
  • Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) set to hold up top Treasury nominee over stymied oversight efforts. "Sen. Ron Wyden said Wednesday he will place a hold on President Donald Trump’s nominee for a top Treasury Department post because Democrats have been stymied by the department in their oversight efforts…Wyden said Treasury has refused his requests for information about Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, as well as two individuals, Alexander Torshin and Maria Butina, suspected of using their connections to the National Rifle Association to influence U.S. politics on behalf of the Russian government." (Roll Call)
  • A major lobbying battle is riding the wake of the Supreme Court decision allowing sports gambling. "A major lobbying fight over the future of gambling on professional sports is poised to break out as powerful interests line up to influence Congress and states plotting to grab a piece of the billion-dollar pie. In the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in May that handed states the freedom to legalize and regulate sports gambling, dozens of states are preparing legislation that would give their citizens the right to wager on professional baseball, basketball and football games." (The Hill)

around the world

Image via Govlab.
  • Technology is helping governments crowdsource policy around the world. "Enter CrowdLaw, the simple but powerful idea that public institutions work better when they encourage citizen engagement by leveraging new technologies. Tapping into diverse sources of opinions and expertise at each stage of the law and policymaking cycle can improve the quality and effectiveness of the resulting laws and policies. Around the world, there are already many examples of local legislatures and national parliaments turning to the internet to involve the public in legislative drafting and decision-making." (The GovLab)
  • The battle for control of Poland's judiciary will shift to the EU as Supreme Court suspends key law. "The battle for control over Poland’s judiciary intensified as the Supreme Court ruled to suspend a law that would force out two-fifths of its justices and asked the European Union’s top tribunal to decide if the measure adheres to the bloc’s rules. The decision by a seven-member panel escalates the struggle for control of the judiciary in the ex-communist country of 38 million people, where the ruling Law & Justice party has clashed with the EU over sweeping measures that give politicians more control over courts." (Bloomberg)
  • 13 former Argentinian officials arrested as trove of secret documents comes to light. "Six months after receiving a treasure trove of secret documents, journalists at La Nacion newspaper published Wednesday the findings of an investigation into more than a decade of alleged corruption under former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her late husband.The probe triggered the arrest of 13 former government officials and business leaders, some of them even before the newspaper hit the streets. The judge overseeing the case, Claudio Bonadio, also requested the removal of Kirchner’s congressional immunity. Kirchner is expected in court on Aug. 13 for questioning." (Bloomberg)


Tired of your boss/friend/intern/uncle forwarding you this email every morning? You can sign up here and have it delivered direct to your inbox! Please send questions, comments, tips, and concerns to We would love your feedback!