Today in OpenGov: Can this blind trust really see?


In today's edition, Congress sends Senate e-filing to the President's desk, this Florida Senate candidate's blind trust might be able to see, the U.N. ambassador gets tangled up in some expensive curtains, and more. 

washington watch

Sen. John Tester (D-MT) discussed his efforts on Senate e-filing at an event sponsored by Sunlight at the OpenGovHub. 
  • Congress sends first appropriations bills, including a provision for Senate campaign finance e-filing, to President Trump's desk. "Congress on Thursday passed legislation requiring Senate candidates to file their campaign finance forms electronically, something that’s already required for candidates for the House of Representatives and the presidency…The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and included in an appropriations bill to fund Congress and other parts of the government. The final bill passed in the House on Thursday by a vote of 377-20 after having passed the Senate a day earlier by a vote of 92-5." (Sludge) Our take? We've been calling for Senate e-filing for years and are thrilled to see Congress finally act to pull the upper chamber into the 21st century. We hope President Trump will sign this measure into law. 
  • Political intelligence "king" heads to jail following insider trading conviction. "A one-time "King of Political Intelligence" got a year in prison for insider trading — a sentence that sends a warning to Washington consultants that profiting from government secrets can be as risky as trading on confidential company information. David Blaszczak, 42, a Washington consultant who was convicted of giving two hedge funds advance word on changes to Medicare reimbursement rates, was also ordered to forfeit $727,500 and to spend another 12 months under house arrest. A federal jury in May found that he provided the clients with tips he picked up from ex-colleagues still in the government." (Bloomberg)
  • Democrats start placing big bets on anti-corruption message. "National Democrats are beginning to spend their midterm war chest on ads that highlight what they are calling a “culture of corruption” in Republican-controlled Washington, in a sign that they believe those issues are going to move voters. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the House Majority PAC, the top Democratic super PAC engaged in House races, had focused virtually all of their national messaging on health care and economic fairness in a belief that voters are most interested in “kitchen table” issues. But a spate of corruption allegations against Republican incumbents has started to affect individual House races — and, in turn, national Democrats' spending decisions." (Washington Post)
  • Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) sees bipartisan support for social media regulation. "The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), said that he believes many Republicans would be willing to help pass digital privacy regulations for consumers…Warner cautioned on taking the regulations as far as Europe, which is known for having some of most stringent in the world in terms of consumer protection, but said American legislation could take the best aspects of European rules." (The Hill)

states and cities

Florida Governor and United States Senate Candidate Rick Scott (R). Image credit: Gage Skidmore.
  • Florida Governor Rick Scott's blind trust mirrors tens of millions of dollars of his wife's investments. Begging the question, how blind is it really? "Gov. Rick Scott’s blind trust, set up by the multi-millionaire to avoid perceived conflicts of interest, includes tens of millions of dollars in investments in the exact same companies as his wife, Ann. The holdings give the appearance of what one ethics attorney calls a 'common investment strategy' that could undercut the intended independence of Scott’s trust, a POLITICO analysis of financial disclosure reports filed as part of Scott’s Senate campaign shows." (POLITICO)
  • New Mexico's attorney general is suing a group of tech companies for allegedly illegally tracking children online. "New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas is suing a group of tech companies he says are illegally tracking children online. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in New Mexico, alleges that gaming apps designed by Tiny Lab Productions and marketed by Google in its Play Store are targeted at children and contain illegal tracking software. According to the suit, the software allows the defendants to to track, profile, and target children, which is illegal for children under 13 without parental consent. Named in the suit are Google, Twitter, Tiny Lab Producions, MoPub, AerServ, InMobi PTE, AppLovin and IronSource." (Government Technology)
  • Austin, Texas is using a blockchain powered ID to help the homeless. "What do you do, for instance, if your only bag is stolen, or if your Social Security Card gets wet and falls apart? The answer is as obvious as it is frustrating: reapply, reapply, reapply. For many people experiencing homelessness, this process of losing and reapplying for important documents becomes a damaging cycle, each iteration chipping away at their patience and trust for the very services that aim to help them. The city of Austin, Texas believes there is a better way. Over the past year, the MyPass Initiative—a partnership between the city of Austin, Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services, and Dell Medical School at the University of Texas—has been working to develop a blockchain-powered ID system for people experiencing homelessness." (Data-Smart City Solutions)
  • Atlanta is moving forward with legislation to create a Transparency Officer position, fulfilling its new mayor's promise. "Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ promise to create a new Transparency Officer is a step closer to going before the Atlanta City Council for a vote. Legislation that represented a collaboration between the Mayor, the City Council and local media outlets was approved unanimously by the Finance/Executive Committee…The new Transparency Officer will ensure that the City of Atlanta is actively meeting the requirements of the Georgia Open Records Act (GORA,) as well as establish and implement a mandatory training program regarding open records requests. The City will also create and maintain a website dedicated to open records compliance." (Atlanta Daily World)


The White House at night.
  • The DHS inspector general is investigating the head of FEMA over reports that he misused government vehicles. "Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long is the target of an ongoing Department of Homeland Security inspector general investigation into whether he misused government vehicles during his commutes to North Carolina from Washington, according to three people familiar with the matter, including current and former administration officials. The actions by Long, the U.S. government’s lead disaster official as the country braces for Hurricane Florence, have been called into question by the inspector general over whether taxpayers have inappropriately footed the bill for his travel, an issue that has tripped up a number of current and former top Trump administration officials." (POLITICO)
  • Amid budget cuts, the State Department spent more than $50,000 on new curtains for U.N. Ambassador's official residence in New York. "The State Department spent $52,701 last year buying customized and mechanized curtains for the picture windows in Nikki R. Haley’s official residence as ambassador to the United Nations, just as the department was undergoing deep budget cuts and had frozen hiring. The residence, in a new building on First Avenue, has spectacular views, and Ms. Haley is the first ambassador to live in it. For decades, her predecessors lived in the Waldorf Astoria hotel…A spokesman for Ms. Haley said plans to buy the curtains were made in 2016, during the Obama administration. Ms. Haley had no say in the purchase, he said." (New York Times)
  • As President Trump looks for a new White House counsel he tries to balance legal acumen with personal loyalty. "President Donald Trump and his allies are debating the value of political loyalty versus legal credentials in their search for a new White House counsel, a crucial decision ahead of a potential onslaught of congressional scrutiny following the midterm elections. Trump is 'counting down the days' until the departure of his current lead White House lawyer, Don McGahn, with whom he has clashed, according to a former White House official." (POLITICO)
  • Officials anticipated legal challenges to Census citizenship question long before announcing its addition to the 2020 count. "Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and his staff prepared to embark on a legal fight that would take them to the highest court in the U.S. long before announcing the controversial decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census." (NPR)


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