Today in OpenGov: Just say no to dark money


In today's edition, ruling against dark money, luring amazon, taking questionable meetings, censoring speech around the world, and more. 

washington watch

Image via Pixabay.
  • District Court invalidates FEC regulation that allows dark money donors to stay anonymous. "A U.S. District Court judge on Friday issued a ruling invalidating a Federal Election Commission regulation that has allowed donors to so-called dark-money groups to remain anonymous, the latest development in a years-long legal battle that could have major implications for campaign finance. Judge Beryl A. Howell ruled the FEC's current regulation of such groups, including 501(c) 4 non-profits, fails to uphold the standard Congress intended when it required the disclosure of politically related spending." (POLITICO)
  • The FCC and the Justice Department want the Supreme Court to reverse an appeals court's pro-net neutrality 2016 decision. "The Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission today requested that the Supreme Court vacate an appeals court decision upholding net neutrality in 2016. If the court decides to grant the motion, the previous decision to support the rules would be removed, clearing the path for re-litigation in the future when it comes to classifying broadband." (The Verge)
  • Paul Manafort's fate is still up in the air, but his trial has already brought some transparency to the murky world of foreign influence. "It will be months before we know the full extent of Paul Manafort’s impact on the culture of Washington influence peddling. But as Manafort’s trial continues this week, this much is already clear: the former Trump aide’s legal woes have made the world of D.C. lobbyists who work for foreign governments slightly less murky. Dozens of lobbyists, law firms, and consultants have declared their work as foreign agents to the U.S. government since the news first broke in 2016 that investigators were probing the millions of undisclosed payments Manafort had received from the Ukrainian government." (Roll Call)

states and cities

  • With the federal government looking unlikely to act, states are moving to strengthen online political ad rules ahead of the midterm elections. "U.S. states are tightening rules for online political advertising ahead of the November midterm elections as prospects dim that federal rules will be in place to prevent a repeat of the Russian interference seen in 2016. As political campaigns dump millions of advertising dollars into Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, states including Maryland, Washington and New York are putting more pressure on tech companies to keep tabs." (Bloomberg)
  • As cities go all out to try and lure Amazon's second headquarters, many elected officials — let alone citizens — don't know what they offered. "Jared Evans, a member of the Indianapolis City-County Council, is proud that the city is among 20 finalists for one of the most coveted prizes in the country: the planned second headquarters of Amazon. He does, however, have one small question: What financial incentives did his city dangle in front of Amazon?…Across the country, the search for HQ2, as the project has been nicknamed, is shrouded in secrecy. Even civic leaders can’t find out what sort of tax credits and other inducements have been promised to Amazon. And there is a growing legal push to find out, because taxpayers could get saddled with a huge bill and have little chance to stop it." (New York Times)
  • Kris Kobach, Kansas gubernatorial candidate, has made a killing convincing towns to pass anti-immigration ordinances and then (mostly unsuccessfully) defending them. "Kris Kobach likes to tout his work for Valley Park, Missouri. He has boasted on cable TV about crafting and defending the town’s hardline anti-immigration ordinance. He discussed his 'victory' there at length on his old radio show. He still lists it on his resume. But 'victory' isn’t the word most Valley Park residents would use to describe the results of Kobach’s work. With his help, the town of 7,000 passed an ordinance in 2006 that punished employers for hiring illegal immigrants and landlords for renting to them. But after two years of litigation and nearly $300,000 in expenses, the ordinance was largely gutted." Kobach's work in Valley Park is not an isolated incident. (ProPublica)
  • Balancing accountability and privacy when it comes to police body cameras. "Police departments from Bakersfield, Calif., to Scranton, Pa., and beyond are piloting and deploying body-worn cameras (BWC) in increasing numbers, a movement happening just as privacy issues gain greater attention across the nation. While many hold out hope that BWCs will bring greater accountability and transparency of police actions, the technology also has the potential to cut into citizens’ privacy." (Government Technology)


Image Credit: DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro.
  • New documents from President Trump's "voter fraud" commission cast doubt on his claims. "In May of 2017, President Donald Trump established a presidential commission to explore the threat of voter fraud — staffing it with multiple Republicans who had theorized that fraud was a substantial problem in American democracy. The commission, widely called the voter fraud commission, was immediately criticized as a political creation aimed at a phony problem…In January, when Trump abruptly dissolved the commission, he claimed that it had 'substantial evidence of voter fraud' and that the commission’s 'initial findings' would be turned over to the Department of Homeland Security. But the documents released today show there was nothing to support these claims." (ProPublica) Matthew Dunlop (D), Maine's Secretary of State and a former member of the commission who has since emerged as one of its most vocal critics, posted a trove of related documents online
  • Two steel manufacturers with close ties to the Trump administration have successfully blocked tariff relief for hundreds of American companies. "Two of America’s biggest steel manufacturers — both with deep ties to administration officials — have successfully objected to hundreds of requests by American companies that buy foreign steel to exempt themselves from President Trump’s stiff metal tariffs. They have argued that the imported products are readily available from American steel manufacturers. Charlotte-based Nucor, which financed a documentary film made by a top trade adviser to Mr. Trump, and Pittsburgh-based United States Steel, which has previously employed several top administration officials, have objected to 1,600 exemption requests filed with the Commerce Department over the past several months." (New York Times)
  • President Trump acknowledges that a 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer was to "get information on an opponent," says there's nothing wrong with that. "President Trump on Sunday offered his most definitive and clear public acknowledgment that his oldest son met with a Kremlin-aligned lawyer at Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign to 'get information on an opponent,' defending the meeting as 'totally legal and done all the time in politics.' It is, however, against the law for U.S. campaigns to receive ­donations or items of value from foreigners, and that June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and Natalia Veselnitskaya is now a subject of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation." (Washington Post)
  • This week in conflicts? Expanding in Scotland, replacing Ivanka's brand, and golfing with the President. Lynn Walsh checked in with her regular roundup of Trump administration conflicts of interest. This week including "the Trump Organization has submitted plans to build a multi-million dollar residential community at its Scottish resort, Ivanka Trump’s only storefront has been replaced and the Washington Post is asking for help identifying individuals who have golfed with President Donald Trump." (Sunlight Foundation)

around the world

Graphic by Omar Momani for 7iber via Global Voices.
  • Quietly censoring speech on social media across the Middle East. "Turkey is notorious for the number of requests it makes to internet companies to remove content for violating its local laws, but it is not the only government in the Middle East to resort to such tactic to silence critical voices. While a number of the region’s governments sometimes make direct requests for content removal — along with exerting “soft” pressure through other means — the failures of tech giants in moderating content in the region is a much bigger and more complex problem. Across the region, social media platform “flagging” mechanisms are often abused to silence government critics, minority groups or views and forms of expression deemed not to be in line with the majority’s beliefs on society, religion and politics." (Global Voices
  • Does Angola's new president really want to tackle corruption and improve electoral processes? "Angola’s President João Lourenço has been making a great show lately of advocating for free and fair elections in nearby countries…So, is Angola a model of electoral democracy? Hardly. Lourenço helms a government with a record of political repression and electoral fraudulence…As his ruling party faces a legitimacy crisis, Lourenço has an opportunity to introduce greater levels of fairness and transparency into his country’s electoral practices." (Washington Post)
  • A club for foreign journalists in Hong Kong is facing pressure from China over its decision to invite an independence activist to speak. "Hong Kong’s top foreign journalists’ club has found itself at the center of a battle over Beijing’s encroachment on the city’s freedoms, as Chinese officials pressed the group to cancel a speech by an independence activist. The spat follows the Foreign Correspondents’ Club decision to invite activist Andy Chan to give a talk on Aug. 14 entitled 'Hong Kong Nationalism: A Politically Incorrect Guide to Hong Kong Under Chinese Rule.' The speech was expected to be closely watched, since it comes in the middle of an unprecedented effort by the Beijing-backed local government to ban Chan’s pro-independence National Party. (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!