Today in OpenGov: Kept in the dark


In today's edition, the Supreme Court keeps us in the dark on political money, state attorneys general want to know if President Trump talked up his hotel to foreign officials, criticizing the UK's surveillance programs, and more. 

washington watch

The U.S. Supreme Court building. 
  • Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts temporarily blocks ruling that would shed light on dark money. "Starting tomorrow, donors to political 'dark money' groups were no longer going to be able to remain anonymous thanks to a longstanding Federal Election Commission practice being invalidated by the D.C. District Court. But on Saturday Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts granted an emergency motion on behalf of Karl Rove’s 501(c)4 non-profit, Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, that halts the lower court’s ruling." (Sludge) As Rick Hasen pointed out, "stay looks to be an administrative one, pending further action of the Court." (Election Law Blog)
  • The top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee wants to bring back earmarks. "The top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee would like to bring earmarks back to the appropriations process, restoring a practice banned in 2011 after several years of scandals and negative publicity." (Roll Call)
  • Watchdogs set to file complaint following reports of illegal coordination between the NRA and a Montana Senate candidate. "Campaign finance watchdog groups are planning to file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) asking it to investigate whether Montana GOP Senate nominee Matt Rosendale and the National Rifle Association (NRA) were illegally coordinating. The Campaign Legal Center and Giffords, the nonprofit political arm of former Rep. Gabby Giffords’s (D-Ariz.) organization, said it is filing the complaint on Friday or Monday." (The Hill)


The Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC. 
  • As emolument suit moves forward, two state attorneys general want to know if President Trump talked up his Washington hotel to foreign or state officials. "The attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia want the legal authority to get any communications between President Trump and officials of foreign or U.S. state governments pertaining to his Trump International Hotel near the White House. The proposal is one of several for 'document discovery' in the historic civil suit against the president. As plaintiffs, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh can seek documents to bolster their complaints." (NPR)
  • Paul Manafort strikes a deal over federal charges, will cooperate with Mueller probe. "Former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort reached a plea deal that includes an agreement to cooperate with federal prosecutors, a dramatic reversal after he spent the past year fighting the charges filed by special counsel Robert Mueller's office at every turn. Manafort appeared in federal court in Washington, DC, midday on Friday to enter his guilty plea. He acknowledged to the judge that he understood that he was agreeing to cooperate with Mueller's office, and to delay sentencing while he works with prosecutors." (BuzzFeed) The deal puts renewed scrutiny on lobbying firms that Manafort used — including the Podesta Group and Mercury Public Affairs — to obscure his work for pro-Russian Ukrainian interests. (New York Times)  
  • The latest Trump administration conflicts include Hatch Act violations, an expensive campaign event, and a threat to a Trump hotel liquor license. Lynn Walsh checked in with her latest look at Trump administration conflicts. This week "President Donald Trump throws a campaign event at his Washington D.C. hotel, an ethics groups files more Hatch Act complaints and a group of citizens files a complaint challenging the president’s “good character,” questioning his ability to maintain a liquor license in Washington D.C." (Sunlight Foundation)

around the world

Image via Pixabay.
  • How social media taxes are silencing citizens in sub-Saharan Africa. "In the wake of Tanzania’s “blogger tax” and the social media tax recently implemented in UgandaZambia’s cabinet approved a similarly-styled tax social media users and internet-based communication platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Viber and the like in mid-August. The government of Benin also approved a similar tax amendment that targets standard telephony-based mobile messaging and calls, and then puts an additional tax on the use of internet-based communication apps." (Global Voices)
  • EU human rights court agrees that UK surveillance violated privacy rights. "The European Court of Human Rights said that some U.K. surveillance programs, including the bulk interception of communications exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden, violate rules that protect privacy and family life. The seven judges at the Strasbourg, France-based court said in a 5-2 ruling that such interceptions violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which also deals with the privacy of communications." (Bloomberg)
  • Will this physical symbol of freedom of speech survive novel threats? "Speakers’ Corner, as the meeting place is formally known, isn’t some relic of a bygone era. For more than a century, this shaded park corner has attracted hundreds, if not thousands, of people each week to debate, listen, and learn from the people speaking there. Its continued pull despite the advent of social media (and the deep political polarization that is often associated with it) is a testament to the enduring value of real-life debate—the kind that doesn’t involve trolls and ad hominem attacks, but instead relies on a sometimes-shifting community of people committed to engaging with each other week after week…But for all Speakers’ Corner might have in common with social media, it’s hasn’t been replaced by it. If social media provides reach Speaker’s Corner can’t, real-life debate has its advantages over virtual…Yet Speakers’ Corner has been affected." (The Atlantic)


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