Today in OpenGov: Mixing Business with Politics


In today's edition, exploring the special interest money covering the 2018 elections, celebrating New York's best government technology, learning about a new cybersecurity strategy, empowering emergency responders in Portugal with open data, and more. 

washington watch

The U.S. Capitol Building at night.
  • Supreme Court ruling on dark money appears to leave plenty of room for those that want to keep avoiding disclosure this year. "Some have trumpeted the ruling as somehow ending the role of dark money in elections.  It’s not that. To begin with, groups can run issue ads that don’t expressly advocate the election or defeat of a candidate to avoid this disclosure rule. Second, groups will use money funneled via other 501c(4)s, Super PACs, and LLCs to avoid some disclosure rules. If they do this, action from the FEC is years away at best. Third, the FEC has not (and won’t have time to) set up a new rule in time for the 2018 elections. So there may still be fighting about what exactly groups must do in 2018." (Election Law Blog)
  • Some notable numbers from the special interest cash covering the closing weeks of election season. "With fewer than 50 days remaining before Election Day 2018, political action committees and super PACs are raising and spending huge amounts of money in an effort to influence politicians and propel their preferred U.S. House and U.S. Senate candidates into office…Here are some notable numbers the Center for Public Integrity found Thursday in a new round of monthly campaign finance disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission…" (Center for Public Integrity)
  • Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL) sells stock in private prison companies days after report revealed her stake. "Four days after a TYT story…uncovered Democratic U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel’s investment in private prison giant CoreCivic, the House member sold her stock. Sludge was able to verify the transaction and its date from a recently released periodic transaction report for Frankel." (Sludge)
  • New research calls on all federal agencies to appoint Chief Data Officers or establish data management roles. "New research published by the IBM Center for the Business of Government has called on the heads of federal agencies to appoint a chief data officer or establish a data management position at their respective departments. The researcher, Jane Wiseman, a Senior Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, made the recommendation in a recently released report, noting the inability of government agencies to leverage data in decision-making due to sheer volume." (Government Executive)
  • Tech industry and consumer advocates gear up for a fight as Congress mulls a national data privacy law. "The tech industry and consumer groups are gearing up for a fight as lawmakers begin considering whether to draft a national privacy law. The push to get Congress to enact federal privacy standards is gaining new urgency after California passed what is seen as the nation’s toughest privacy law this June. The measure forces businesses to be more transparent about what they do with consumer data and gives users unprecedented control over their personal information." (The Hill)

states and cities

These "safe eight" governors are running for re-election but are expected to win handily. Via the Center for Public Integrity.
  • These governors are cruising towards reelection. So why are they raising so much money from special interests? "But though these safe governors — in Alabama, Arkansas, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, Texas and Vermont — may cruise easily to victory, together they have already amassed at least $135 million in donations, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis. Close to a third of it has come from groups such as trade associations, lobbying firms or corporations. Why give to someone who isn’t in a desperate crunch to buy mailers and TV ads? Experts say the answer is likely an effort to court power." (Center for Public Integrity)
  • Former top aide to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sentenced to 6 years in jail on bribery charges. "Joseph Percoco, a former top adviser and confidant to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, was sentenced to six years in prison on Thursday in a case that cast a long and unflattering shadow over the Cuomo administration. Mr. Percoco, 49, was convicted in March of soliciting and accepting more than $300,000 in bribes from executives of two companies with state business in return for taking official actions on the firms’ behalf." (New York Times)
  • Celebrating New York's best government technology. "The paths they took to their rewards were varied, but the Center for Digital Government’s* Best of New York 2018 award winners shared some key qualities in common, as did the projects they undertook. Perhaps most prominently, this year’s group of winners — comprising 13 winners across five categories — share a deep commitment to finding internal solutions to long-standing problems, ranging from efficiency in the sanitation department to updating legacy systems as vital to daily functions as telephones." (Government Technology)


Air Force One.
  • Watchdog wants more information on administration travel that mixes business and politics. "A legal nonprofit has sent letters to 18 major agencies seeking records on their officials’ 'mixed travel,' or trips that have an official purpose as well as political activity. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sent the Freedom of Information Act requests on Sept. 10 for relevant documents. It also sent the complaint to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Office of Special Counsel chief Henry Kerner, whose agency enforces the Hatch Act." (Government Executive)
  • John Bolton describes new, less restrictive, White House strategy on offensive cyber attacks, although documentation will remain secret. "President Trump has authorized new, classified orders for the Pentagon’s cyberwarriors to conduct offensive attacks against adversaries more freely and frequently, the White House said on Thursday, wiping away Obama-era restrictions that his advisers viewed as too slow and cumbersome…Mr. Bolton rewrote a draft of the strategy after joining the administration in April. Many of his remarks on Thursday focused on a secret order — which Mr. Trump signed in August but which has never been publicly described — that appears to give far more latitude for the newly elevated United States Cyber Command to act with minimal consultation from a number of other government agencies." (New York Times)
  • Canoe enthusiasts sue Coast Guard over river restrictions near President Trump's Virginia golf course. "President Donald Trump’s privately owned northern Virginia golf club has plenty of water hazards along its two courses, but none as bad — in the eyes of the government — as the nearby Potomac River, which is closed to canoe and kayak enthusiasts when he’s there. The U.S. Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security last year mandated a riverbank-to-riverbank blockade where the river flows past the Trump National Golf Club in Potomac Falls, establishing a security zone to prevent waterside threats while the president or other high-ranking officials are there." (Bloomberg)

around the world

Screenshot from via Open Knowledge. 
  • How open data is helping empower first responders in Portugal. "In Portugal, a free, open source project is making official fire data more accessible to firefighters, emergency workers, journalists, and the public. has gained significant traction, receiving as many as a million views a day and half a million unique users a month. We caught up with the creator, João Pina, to learn more." (Open Knowledge)
  • The Mayor of Brussels wants to keep his job in an upcoming election. His chances may depend on how well he's tackled corruption. "Philippe Close, the mayor of Brussels, has been cleaning house at city hall. Next month he’ll find out if voters in Europe’s political capital believe he has wiped away the stains of cronyism and corruption. Close, an affable, rugby-loving, heavy metal fan, took office last year after his predecessor, fellow socialist Yvan Mayeur, was forced out by a scandal over his many side jobs. The final straw that put an end to Mayeur’s tenure: He was pocketing as much as €1,400 a month on top of his mayoral salary as chair of a city-owned charity for the homeless." (POLITICO)
  • Singapore looks set to become latest government to tackle "fake news" through new laws. "Singapore will likely adopt strong laws empowering the government to swiftly disrupt the spread of fake news following the release of a parliamentary report today. Among the 22 recommendations contained in the nearly 300 page report was a call for legislation to halt the viral spread of fake news 'in a matter of hours'." (Bloomberg)


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