Today in OpenGov: In-Kind


In today's edition, the Senate takes a small step towards the present, state Supreme Court justices face increasing partisan pressure, danger grows for Afghan journalists, and more. 

washington watch

Federal Election Commission headquarters in Washington, DC.
  • FEC ruling allowing campaigns to accept free cybersecurity services could open loophole for in-kind corporate contributions. "Federal campaigns and national party committees can accept free security services from the Microsoft Corporation after a recent Federal Election Commission ruling. But one watchdog group called it an unprecedented opening for corporations looking to influence lawmakers and skirt campaign finance laws…Federal election law prohibits companies from providing free services to lawmakers. But the FEC would make an exception in this case, it ruled, because Microsoft would be acting out of business interests and not trying to curry favor." (Roll Call)
  • Is the Senate finally going to start electronically filing campaign finance reports? "Lawmakers are on the cusp of reforming an antiquated campaign finance process that’s led to millions of dollars in misreported spending on Senate races. A one-line provision tucked away in the 2019 Legislative Branch funding bill would require Senate candidates to electronically file campaign spending reports with the Federal Election Commission. If passed, the measure would do away with the current paper-based filing system that frequently jumbles data and costs nearly $1 million to operate every year." (NextGov) Our take? This is a huge step towards more transparent, accurate, and cost effective campaign finance information from the Senate. We hope that Congress approves this legislation quickly and President Trump signs it into law. 
  • Rep. Mia Love will return some donations following FEC notice that her campaign illegally raised money for a nonexistent primary challenge. "Rep. Mia Love's campaign has informed the Federal Election Commission that it will refund or redesignate less than half of what the government says was more than a million dollars improperly raised for a primary that was never expected to happen, according to documents reviewed by CNN. The commission sent Love a letter in August saying the Utah Republican's campaign had violated federal guidelines about money for primaries. In Utah, candidates are not allowed to raise such funds if they have no primary, according to the FEC and experts specializing in election law. On Friday, Love's campaign responded to regulators, telling the FEC they would refund or redesignate some, but not all, of that money." (CNN)
  • Did the NFL game the FCC's online filing system to help maintain a broadcast blackout rule? "In 2014, the Federal Communications Commission received thousands of letters from NFL fans asking for it to keep a sports blackout rule intact — a policy that allowed the NFL to block TV stations from airing games that weren’t sold out. The Wall Street Journal reports today that many of the letters appear to be fake: some signatures used fake names like The Hobbit’s Bilbo Baggins, and others used real email addresses but owners denied ever writing those letters." (The Verge)

states and cities

The West Virginia State Capitol.
  • State Supreme Courts are under increasingly partisan pressure. "Attacks on judicial independence are becoming more frequent and more partisan. The current effort to impeach the entire West Virginia Supreme Court, while not unprecedented, is taking place against a backdrop of political attacks against judges elsewhere." (Governing)
  • Outside spending hits Democratic primary for New York Attorney General in the form of $100,000 digital ad campaign from real estate developer. "An independent political committee entirely funded by a real estate developer supporting Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney’s bid for New York attorney general is spending six figures to oppose Maloney’s opponent Zephyr Teachout.  Until recently, there had been no outside spending in the tight Democratic primary, but that changed late last week, when an independent expenditure committee called Committee for Justice and Fairness PAC dropped $100,000 on a one-week digital ad campaign against Teachout, a law professor and anti-corruption activist." (Sludge)
  • Clashes between journalists and former employers over control of social media accounts are becoming more common. "The claims are serious. Misappropriation under the Defend Trade Secrets Act and the Virginia Uniform Trade Secrets Act. Violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the Stored Communications Act, and the Virginia Computer Crimes Act. Conversion and breach of fiduciary duty. All because a sports reporter took his Twitter account with him when he left his newspaper." (Columbia Journalism Review)

around the world

  • The Danish government is looking to increase punishment for money laundering amid major scandal. "Denmark, whose largest bank is embroiled in the biggest money laundering scandal in the country’s history, is planning new legislation that will increase fines related to the crime by about eightfold. A new bill proposes that perpetrators have to pay fines according to 'the gravity and circumference of the offense' as well as their financial wealth, according to a draft published by Danish Financial Supervisory Authority." (Bloomberg)
  • Journalists under threat as violence in Afghanistan increases. "A recent double suicide bombing that killed nearly two dozen people near a sports club in the Dasht-e-Barchi suburb of Kabul, has highlighted the plight faced by two of Afghanistan's most threatened groups: journalists and Shia Muslims…Among those that died in the second explosion were a reporter and a cameraman from Tolonews, the country's leading private broadcaster…Their deaths mean that at least eleven journalists have been killed in suicide bombing attacks since the beginning of the year. On April 30, nine journalists died during an attack in central Kabul." (Global Voices)
  • Tracking links between Facebook and political violence around the world. "Facebook representatives have been hauled before Congress three times in the past year—including testimony this week from Sheryl Sandberg—to answer uncomfortable questions about technology’s role in the spread of misinformation and its threat to U.S. democracy. But those questions aren’t the extent of the company’s public-relations problems. Facebook has also been accused of playing a role in political strife and even violence around the world, from reportedly enabling arms dealing in Libya and the propagation of conspiracy theories in the Philippines to allegedly helping fuel anti-immigrant violence on the streets of Germany. The case against the world’s biggest social media platform is rapidly gaining momentum. But just how much concern is warranted?" (The Atlantic)


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