Today in OpenGov: Ties that bind


In today's edition, the Trump administration looks to limit protest in DC, leadership PACs spend big at Washington's baseball stadium, Illinois has some FOI struggles, and more. 


A 2017 protest in Washington, D.C. Image credit: Ted Eytan.
  • Trump administration proposals could limit ability to protest in Washington, DC. "Donald Trump’s presidency has inspired massive protests, with hundreds of thousands of women marching on the National Mall and scientists swarming the White House fence. But now the Trump administration is seeking to restrict protests by effectively blocking them along the north sidewalk of the White House and making it easier for police to shut them down. A National Park Service proposal also opens the door to charging organizers for the cost of putting up barricades or re-seeding grass." (Bloomberg)
  • President Trump's close business ties with Saudi Arabia complicate efforts to find answers about missing Saudi journalist. "For President Trump, Saudi Arabia is not just a political ally. It has also been a customer. Trump’s business relationships with the Saudi government — and rich Saudi business executives — go back to at least the 1990s. In Trump’s hard times, a Saudi prince bought a superyacht and hotel from him. The Saudi government paid him $4.5 million for an apartment near the United Nations…Now, Trump’s administration is trying to get answers from Saudi leaders about the disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi — a critic of the Saudi regime who was allegedly abducted, and possibly killed, inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last week. The crisis has brought scrutiny to Trump’s business ties with the Saudis — and the complexity they add to an already complicated U.S. relationship with the kingdom." (Washington Post)
  • The Federal Reserve works to stay apolitical as Trump increases pressure. "This week, President Donald Trump took aim at the Federal Reserve. Again…It is all a bit rich coming from the guy running an unrestrained campaign of pro-cyclical stimulus, pouring gas on a hot fire, in economic terms, and racking up trillion-dollar deficits while doing so. And it is all a bit worrisome given the value of a truly independent central bank. But in some strange way, Trump’s criticism of the central bank has underscored its independence, rather than undercut it. With the courts a partisan battleground, polarization increasing, and the Trump administration remaking the government, the Fed just might be the last apolitical agency in Washington." (The Atlantic)
  • Wilbur Ross admits to speaking with Steve Bannon about Census citizenship question, contradicting what he previously told Congress. "Wilbur Ross spoke with Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, before including on the 2020 census a question about people’s citizenship, the Justice Department said in a court document that appears to contradict what the commerce secretary told Congress. The disclosure came in a lawsuit by more than a dozen states, cities and advocacy groups seeking to block the U.S. from asking the question, claiming it’s discriminatory and designed to reduce the accuracy of the count by cutting participation." (Bloomberg)

washington watch

Prime seats at National's Park in Washington, DC. Image credit: Famartin.
  • Leadership PACs spend big at Washington Nationals baseball games. "For the Washington Nationals baseball club, the 2018 season just over was a stinging disappointment. But the D.C. franchise led the country in one area: selling tickets and ballpark fare to the fundraising committees and leadership PACs of members of Congress and other politicians. These political committees spent more on Nationals tickets than any other sports teams in the MLB, NFL and NBA, a Sludge analysis of Federal Election Commission data on political committee spending from January 2017 to mid-2018, encompassing 185 committees and 154 politicians, found." (Sludge)
  • Sheldon Adelson gives tens of millions to GOP committees in late push to prop up House majority. "Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson is pumping tens of millions of dollars more into Republican Party coffers in an 11th-hour push to save their congressional majorities, according to two senior Republicans familiar with the donation. The contributions were made to a pair of GOP super PACs tied to congressional Republicans, Senate Leadership Fund and Congressional Leadership Fund. They are expected to be reported in public filings with the Federal Election Commission by Oct. 15." (POLITICO)
  • Defense Innovation Board will explore how ethics and AI interact in war. "As artificial intelligence mature, the Defense Department wants to make sure it is deploying the technology effectively and ethically. To ensure this, the department is looking to one of its public liaisons: the Defense Innovation Board. During its quarterly public meeting on Oct. 10, the advisory board—made of up representatives from the defense industry and academia that works directly with the Defense Department—discussed the latest advances in AI and moved to formalize a review of how the military can and should use the technology." (NextGov)

states and cities

  • Is the Illinois Freedom of Information Act living up to its name? "When Larry Young started requesting records from police, he just wanted to find out what had happened to his daughter, Molly. More than six years after the 21-year-old was found shot to death in her ex-boyfriend’s Carbondale apartment, Young is still fighting law enforcement agencies for records under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA. Young’s battle has become a long, often painful example of both the promise and weakness of government-transparency laws in Illinois, including an overwhelmed and inconsistent enforcement system overseen by outgoing Attorney General Lisa Madigan." (ProPublica Illinois)
  • Civil rights groups sue Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp over alleged voting rights violations. From the press release: "Today, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and its partners filed a major lawsuit against Secretary of State Brian Kemp over the state of Georgia’s discriminatory and unlawful “exact match” voter suppression scheme. The suit alleges that Georgia’s ‘no match, no vote’ voter registration scheme violates the Voting Rights Act, the National Voter Registration Act, and the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution." Via Election Law Blog. You can read the full complaint here.
  • High stakes school planning process in Washington, DC marred by lack of transparency, delays. "This week D.C. will hold its third and final round of public meetings for a little-known planning process that could reshape the city’s balance between neighborhood schools and charters…The stakes are high. Though D.C. has one of the largest charter school sectors in the country—educating nearly half of all city students—most families assume they could still send their child to their local neighborhood school, a District of Columbia Public School, if they wanted…the Council held hearings and drafted new legislation—the Planning Actively for Comprehensive Education (PACE) Facilities Act—to bring order, equity, and transparency to the school planning process. Bowser signed it into law at the end of 2016. Yet in the nearly two years since the PACE Act’s passage, a number of glaring obstacles to comprehensive school facility planning have emerged. The mayor’s office has blown many months of deadlines and worked actively to conceal information about charter facility conditions and costs. Elected officials, reluctant to confront tough politics, have worked to reinterpret or simply ignore the intent of the law that they themselves authorized." (Washington City Paper) The D.C. Open Government Coalition has more on how their FOIA request helped inform the story. 


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