Today in OpenGov: That’s what friends are for


In today's edition, our Web Integrity Project gets a boost, ethics complaints against Brett Kavanaugh get moved, out of state donations flood into local elections, President Trump and Sheldon Adelson get closer, and more. 

Sunlight HQ

Announcing a generous boost in funding for the Web Integrity Project. Yesterday, we announced that that Mike Klein, Sunlight Foundation’s Co-Founder and Chairman of the board, has generously contributed $400,000 to the Sunlight Foundation for the Web Integrity Project.

We’re proud of what the program has achieved since its launch in February 2018, spotlighting numerous instances of unjustified removals of resources from federal websites relating to health, immigration, and criminal justice, and sparking national dialogue about transparency and protecting public information that we all depend on.

This funding will enable us to continue our work of monitoring and reporting on changes to federal websites, and expand our focus to additional portions of the federal government’s Web presence, pertaining to topics such as foreign relations and civil rights. We will also be able to strengthen our efforts to research and advocate for better Web governance policy.

You can read the full statement, including details on the contributions that the WIP has already made, on the Sunlight Foundation blog.

washington watch

The E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse, home of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. Via GSA.
  • The various ethics complaints against Brett Kavanaugh will be transferred out of the DC Circuit to avoid conflicts of interest. "Ethics complaints filed against Justice Brett Kavanaugh in the weeks leading up to his confirmation to the US Supreme Court are still live, and they're being transferred to another judicial circuit, according to a letter made public Wednesday from Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. More than a dozen ethics complaints were filed against Kavanaugh in his former court, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. DC Circuit Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson and the Circuit Judicial Council — Chief Judge Merrick Garland recused himself — had asked Roberts to transfer the complaints to another circuit, a request that's in line with how federal courts in recent years have dealt with high-profile ethics cases; judges who previously asked for transfers cited a desire to avoid conflict-of-interest issues." (BuzzFeed)
  • In break from tradition, negative political ads air in Florida as major hurricane hits. "It had once been considered taboo in Florida to run negative campaign attack ads as a hurricane batters the state. But no more. As Hurricane Michael bore down Wednesday on the Panhandle with Category 4 winds, the Republican Party of Florida broke with that tradition and continued to air two ads bashing Ron DeSantis’ Democratic rival in the race for governor, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, over his city’s response to a hurricane in 2016. And in the U.S. Senate race, the Democratic super PAC backing Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla) began running a negative commercial in strike-zone markets calling his opponent Gov. Rick Scott a dishonest 'shady millionaire who doesn’t look out for you.'" (POLITICO)
  • The FEC is questioning the campaign of embattled Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) for failing to list certain donor information. "Rep. Duncan Hunter’s campaign finances are under the Federal Election Commission microscope again — this time for failing to list the occupations of at least 16 donors last filing quarter, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. In a letter to the California Republican’s campaign treasurer this week, the FEC notified Hunter’s campaign that “information requested per best efforts” is not an adequate occupation or employer title for each of the individual contributors." (Roll Call)
  • This North Carolina investor is the target of a federal investigation involving money laundering and drug crimes. How did he become a top political donor in Florida? "A North Carolina investor targeted in a federal investigation of “drug offenses, crimes against financial institutions, or money laundering crimes” has emerged as one of Florida’s largest individual Republican political donors this election cycle, giving to a range of officials and sending $350,000 to committees supporting Senate candidate Gov. Rick Scott. Businessman Greg Lindberg, whose companies are at the center of the federal probe, gave campaign cash to dozens of Florida politicians and political committees over an eight-month span…Lindberg’s sudden interest in Florida politics coincides with increased scrutiny from Florida insurance regulators after years of wrangling with Lindberg companies, some of which are tied to the federal probe." (POLITICO)

states and cities

  • Reporting on the out-of-state money being pumped into state level campaigns in 2018. "Control of state governments — and with it influence in the legislative redistricting following the 2020 census — is up for grabs in dozens of executive mansions and state legislative chambers across the country in this fall’s elections. Already people, PACs, corporations and unions have contributed more than $173 million in out-of-state money to gubernatorial, state house and state senate candidates.And that’s just money sent directly to candidates…To better understand the extent of out-of-state giving — where it’s going, how it compares with previous cycles, and which party has an advantage — Center for Public Integrity reporters Rui Kaneya and Joe Yerardi did extensive data analysis and on-the-ground reporting." (Center for Public Integrity)
  • Hurricane Michael, technical glitches combine to fuel requests to extend Florida's voter registration deadline. "A hurricane and apparent technical glitches on Tuesday fueled two separate requests for an extension to the state’s voter registration deadline — one of those by Palm Beach County’s election supervisor, Susan Bucher. As Hurricane Michael took aim at the state’s panhandle, the Florida Democratic Party asked the state to extend the voter registration deadline by at least one week. In Palm Beach County, Bucher also asked for an extension because, she said, the state’s website had technical issues that she suspects prevented potential voters from registering online." (Government Technology)
  • In Georgia, 53,000 voter registrations are on hold in the Secretary of State Brian Kemp's office. Kemp also happens to be the GOP candidate for governor. "…Appling-Nunez’s application is one of over 53,000 sitting on hold with Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office. And unlike Appling-Nunez, many people on that list — which is predominantly black, according to an analysis by The Associated Press — may not even know their voter registration has been held up…Kemp, who’s also the Republican candidate for governor, is in charge of elections and voter registration in Georgia. His Democratic opponent, former state Rep. Stacey Abrams, and voting rights advocacy groups charge that Kemp is systematically using his office to suppress votes and tilt the election, and that his policies disproportionately affect black and minority voters." (Washington Post)
  • This Rhode Island city won't share its mayor's Twitter block list because the account, @MayorFung, "is not associated with the city." "Back in September, MuckRock user Lindsay Crudele filed a Rhode Island Access to Public Records Act request to the city of Cranston for the Twitter block list of the account associated with Mayor Allan Fung. Crudele, whose mother resides in Cranston, had herself been blocked by the @MayorFung account after using the platform to inquiring about Fung’s healthcare policies…the city responded: There were no records, as 'this Twitter account is not associated with the City of Cranston.'" (MuckRock)


Among other Trump administration efforts to boost Sheldon Adelson, then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt pushed the agency to ink a research deal with a company owned by Adelson’s friend. Via ProPublica.
  • How has the Trump administration helped boost the business prospects of mega-donor Sheldon Adleson? ProPublica counted the ways. "Adelson had a potent ally in his quest: the new president of the United States. Following the business breakfast, Abe had a meeting with Trump before boarding Air Force One for a weekend at Mar-a-Lago. The two heads of state dined with Patriots owner Bob Kraft and golfed at Trump National Jupiter Golf Club with the South African golfer Ernie Els. During a meeting at Mar-a-Lago that weekend, Trump raised Adelson’s casino bid to Abe, according to two people briefed on the meeting. The Japanese side was surprised." (ProPublica)
  • Did the EPA just stack this scientific advisory panel on air quality with skeptical political appointees? "The Environmental Protection Agency has installed new members on a scientific advisory panel that guides the agency on air pollution — and only one of them is an independent, academic scientist…environmentalists raised concerns with the makeup of the panel. Most of the members now hail from state agencies that have been critical of stringent national ambient air quality standards for ozone and other material." (Bloomberg)


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