Today in OpenGov: Insider out


In today's edition, we join a group calling for more transparency around a Supreme Court nominee's records, a U.S. Representative gets hit with insider trading charges, a West Virginia House Committee votes to impeach the entire state Supreme Court, and more. 

keeping up with Kavanaugh

  • We joined a coalition calling for greater transparency and full access to records on Supreme Court nominee. Yesterday, Sunlight joined "a nonpartisan coalition of government openness, accountability, and human rights groups [calling] for comprehensive disclosure of documents relating to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. In a letter to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the coalition raised concerns that records currently under review exclude information that would shed light on Judge Kavanaugh’s qualifications to be a Supreme Court Justice." Read more and the full letter via Open the Government.
  • Meanwhile, Senate Democrats submitted FOIA requests to several federal agencies for Kavanaugh documents. "Senate Democrats filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests on Wednesday to try to force the Trump administration to hand over documents from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's time working in the White House…Democrats submitted the FOIA requests to the CIA, the National Archives, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security for documents tied to Kavanaugh's three-year period as staff secretary for President George W. Bush." (The Hill)
  • What we already know about Kavanaugh's past indicates that he would be likely to further weaken campaign finance regulations. Peter Overby explains, "Kavanaugh has been on the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia, a frequent destination for cases involving the Federal Election Commission. His decisions have effectively pulled the campaign finance system rightward, letting in more money with less regulation." (NPR) Meanwhile, Daniel I. Weiner writes that "as Judge Brett Kavanaugh gets set to answer questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee, a look at his record offers cause for deep concern.  In his 12 years as a federal appeals court judge, Kavanaugh has cast doubt on the constitutionality of fundraising limits; suggested a way to get around disclosure laws; and even gone out of his way to limit the reach of the foreign spending ban." (Brennan Center for Justice)

washington watch

Chart via OpenSecrets.
  • New data shows that foreign interests have spent more $530 million influencing U.S. policy and public opinion since 2017. "Foreign lobbyists and agents acting on behalf of foreign interests have reported hundreds of millions of dollars in payments since January 2017, an analysis of OpenSecrets’ exclusive new Foreign Lobby Watch data reveals. Today we’re making available, for the first time, a searchable database of foreign interests spending on lobbying and influence in the United States." (OpenSecrets) We are thrilled to see this project, which was initially started at the Sunlight Foundation, flourishing thanks to the hard work and dedication of the team at the Center for Responsive Politics! 
  • New York Congressman charged with insider trading. "New York Congressman Christopher Collins was charged with insider trading and lying to the FBI, federal prosecutors in Manhattan announced Wednesday. Collins, a Republican, was one of the earliest supporters of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. He is charged along with his son, Cameron Collins, and Stephen Zarsky, the father of Cameron’s fiancé, in a scheme related to the stock of an Australian biotechnology company. During a brief press conference Wednesday evening, Collins vowed to fight the charges against him, and said he would continue to run for reelection in November as his case makes its way through the courts." (BuzzFeed) The charges highlight the lack of limits on how members of Congress manage their investments and participation in boards. (Bloomberg)
  • Members of Congress are increasingly embracing and relying on social media. What does that mean for the rest of the government? "…real-time input from social media sites plays an increasingly central role to congressional business, and it is changing how political leaders govern…Today, most every member of Congress has a social media account. According to a 2016 CRS study, 98 percent of representatives had a Facebook page, 97 percent had a Twitter account and 91 percent were on YouTube. On the Senate side, 88 percent were on Facebook, 93 percent on Twitter and 86 percent on YouTube." (Federal Computer Week)

states and cities

The West Virginia State Capitol. Credit: David Wilson.
  • The West Virginia House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach the entire state Supreme Court. "The West Virginia House Judiciary Committee approved 14 articles of impeachment against the four sitting justices of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals on Tuesday…Those articles will now advance to the full House of Delegates for consideration. Speaker Pro Tempore John Overington, R-Berkeley, said Tuesday he called for the House to reconvene at 10 a.m. Monday…The articles of impeachment charge Chief Justice Margaret Workman and Justices Robin Davis, Allen Loughry and Beth Walker with maladministration, corruption, incompetency, neglect of duty and certain high crimes. In total, Loughry is the subject of eight articles of impeachment. Workman and Davis each are the subject of four and Walker is the subject of two." (Charleston Gazette-Mail)
  • Experts criticize West Virginia plan to allow residents serving overseas to vote via phone. Earlier this week we shared that West Virginia would allow military voters serving overseas to vote via smartphone. It's worth following up to note that election security experts don't seem to think too highly of the plan. Ars Technica has more. 
  • The National Governors Association is working with 8 states on a health care data sharing project. "Eight states are in the early stages of a collaboration with the National Governors Association that could enhance their ability to use and share health-care data enterprise-wide, ultimately improving operations and services to residents." (Government Technology)
  • A journalist in Milwaukee was arrested for taking pictures of police squad cars in their parking lot. "A Milwaukee journalist working on a story about police response times was arrested over the weekend after taking photographs of squad cars in a Milwaukee Police Department parking lot. Edgar Mendez, a reporter with the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, was issued a $181 ticket for trespassing — but only after being handcuffed, fingerprinted and questioned at the police station at 245 W. Lincoln Ave." (Journal Sentinel)


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