Today in OpenGov: Questions and answers?


In today's edition, Senate candidates will finally have to e-file their campaign finance reports, Sheldon Adelson warms to President Trump and opens his wallet, Washington State considers how to apply FOIA to its legislature, and more.

washington watch

Error-prone, handwritten Senate campaign finance filings will soon be a thing of the past. Image via the Center for Public Integrity.
  • President Trump signs legislation that requires Senate candidates to electronically file their campaign finance reports. "For the first time, U.S. Senate candidates must file campaign finance reports electronically, giving the public more immediate access to information about the candidates' campaign donors and spending. President Donald Trump signed the measure into law today while visiting Las Vegas. It takes effect immediately. Until now, Senate candidates — unlike candidates for the U.S. House or presidency — filed campaign finance disclosures on paper, and their reports often ran for thousands of pages." (Center for Public Integrity) Our take? We've been waiting for this day for a long time! This move will reduce costs, improve data quality, and boost transparency. 
  • In wake of Supreme Court decision that would limit dark money, political nonprofits scramble to find loopholes, adjust their approaches. "As politically active nonprofits scramble to figure out the implications of a recent court decision requiring them to disclose some of their donors, experts said one thing is clear: There will be ways around the new rules. Groups could accept money through shell corporations, said campaign finance lawyers and advocates of more regulation of money in politics. They could shift money to allied super PACs. They could adjust their ads so they come right up against the line that would trigger disclosure." (Washington Post)
  • The New York times is suing the FCC over its refusal to release records that might shed light on Russian interference in net neutrality repeal. "The New York Times has sued the Federal Communications Commission over the agency's refusal to release records that the Times believes might shed light on Russian interference in the net neutrality repeal proceeding. The Times made a Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) request in June 2017 for FCC server logs related to the system for accepting public comments on FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's repeal of net neutrality rules. The FCC refused to provide the records, telling the Times that doing so would jeopardize the privacy of commenters and the effectiveness of the agency's IT security practices and that fulfilling the records request would be overly burdensome." (Ars Technica)
  • Members of Congress are asking agencies if the civil rights impacts of artificial intelligence are being properly considered. "Seven members of the US Congress have sent letters to the Federal Trade Commission (pdf), Federal Bureau of Investigation (pdf), and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (pdf) asking whether the agencies have vetted the potential biases of artificial intelligence algorithms being used for commerce, surveillance, and hiring." (Quartz)


Image via Pixabay.
  • Jared Kushner has become the Trump team's go-to liaison to big money GOP donors… "Jared Kushner huddled behind closed doors with some of the Republican Party’s most powerful donors at a midtown Manhattan hotel earlier this month. The mission: convince them that the Trump White House isn’t a mess…The appearance before the secretive American Opportunity Alliance donor conference, previously unreported, sheds light on the latest addition to Kushner’s expansive portfolio: ambassador to the GOP money set, a contingent that remains wary of the administration and its never-ending tumult. The 37-year-old Trump senior adviser has attended at least four donor gatherings since August, and those close to him say he may soon appear at more. He has been in regular contact with Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, one of the GOP’s most prolific benefactors and a staunch pro-Israel figure." (POLITICO)
  • …meanwhile, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson — once skeptical of President Trump — has emerged as a key GOP donor and Trump ally this election season. "The return on investment for many of the Republican Party’s biggest political patrons has been less than impressive this year. But not for Sheldon Adelson. Mr. Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate, and his wife, Miriam, a physician, have emerged as the biggest and potentially most influential contributors to Republicans in the midterm season. Despite initially harboring qualms about President Trump’s leadership, the Adelsons have found much to like in a Republican-controlled government that has aligned with their most cherished priorities: unflinchingly pro-Israel, unaccommodating to Middle Eastern adversaries and dedicated to deregulation and lower taxes." (New York Times)
  • FEMA Administrator Brock Long will reimburse government for personal vehicle use, following IG investigation. "FEMA Administrator Brock Long has been forced to reimburse the government for improper personal use of federal government vehicles and acknowledged 'mistakes' that he and FEMA made in using those vehicles. A DHS Inspector General investigation found there was 'inappropriate use' of the vehicles, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said in a statement released Friday night." (POLITICO)
  • Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross ordered to give deposition in lawsuit over Census citizenship question. "Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross must sit for a deposition in a lawsuit challenging the department’s decision to ask U.S. residents about their citizenship status as part of the census, a federal judge in New York ruled, saying his "intent and credibility are directly at issue." Advocacy groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and more than a dozen states, cities and counties sued the department in April over Ross’s decision to add the citizenship question to the 2020 census." (Bloomberg)

states and cities

MuckRock's interactive map explores how FOI laws differ across jurisdictions. 
  • A Washington State task force is set to explore ways to apply FOIA to its legislature. "Each state and jurisdiction has the discretion to implement FOIA and public record laws differently. Depending on the type of document your searching for, accessing that same record in one state may not be so public in another. In Washington state, the Public Records Act is not clear on whether the legislative branch is exempt or not. However, a new Legislative Task Force on Public Records met for the first time early this month to tackle the PRA as it pertains to their legislature and find solutions to issues of transperancy." (MuckRock)
  • Police in this California town used self-destructing messaging apps to hide potentially incriminating information. "Al Jazeera's Investigative Unit has discovered that a self-deleting messaging app called Tiger Text has been adopted by at least one US police department, which may have used it to share sensitive and potentially incriminating information that they wouldn't want to be disclosed to a court. Current and former officers from the Long Beach Police Department in Southern California have told Al Jazeera that their police-issued phones had Tiger Text installed on them." (Al Jazeera)
  • California's new effort to fight election disinformation. "California election officials are launching a new effort to fight the kind of disinformation campaigns that plagued the 2016 elections — an effort that comes with thorny legal and political questions. The state's new Office of Elections Cybersecurity will focus on combating social media campaigns that try to confuse voters or discourage them from casting ballots." (NPR)


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