Today in OpenGov: Crowdsourced


In today's edition, crowdsourcing and crowdfunding, midterm money headlines, another strange turn in the Interior inspector general story, a global effort to defend digital human rights, and more. 

washington watch

  • Library of Congress looks to crowdsourcing as it boosts its digital strategy. "The Library of Congress says it will soon be launching a crowdsourcing program as a way to better engage with a host of public constituents. The concept, the library announced this week, is inspired by projects like Beyond Words, where the organization’s digital lab asked the public to find cartoons and illustrations from a collection of old American newspapers and digitally add a “caption” to allow the images to become searchable." (FedScoop)
  • The push to make evidence-based policymaking consistent across federal agencies. "Federal agency use of evidence in decision-making is a mixed bag, said Diana Epstein, who works on evidence-based policymaking at the Office of Management and Budget…In the absence of legislation, Hart said, guidance from OMB requiring learning agendas across agencies could be in the offing in late 2018 or early 2019…Some agencies — such as the Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Agency for International Development and the Small Business Administration — are on their way with implementing learning agendas." (Federal Computer Week)
  • This accused Russian agent is seeking help for her legal defense fund with a boost from the Russian Embassy. "A Russian woman accused by the U.S. of being a foreign agent is seeking donations to help pay for her legal defense as the Russian government renews demands that she be released from jail. Maria Butina, a gun-rights advocate who came to the U.S. on a student visa, is 'another victim of so-called ‘American justice’ and is in fact a political prisoner due to the Russophobic hysteria reigning in Washington,' the Russian embassy said Friday in a tweet. The post includes a website address for making donations to The Maria Butina Legal Expense Fund." (Bloomberg)
  • New report highlights effective uses for blockchain in government. "Among the many emerging technologies getting buzz, blockchain might be among the buzziest. Critics of the technology say it is more hype than substance, but a report from IDC offers eight examples of how governments are effectively using blockchain today." (NextGov)

midterm money madness

Image via Pixabay.
  • Why are American elections so expensive? This new elections newsletter, targeted at an international audience, might provide some insight or entertainment for Americans at home as well. This editions covers "the thorny topic of money. Why is there so much of it? What does it buy? What effect does it have? It is true that the midterm elections are awash in money, an obscene amount of it, a grand total of something like $1.5 billion with a B — and that’s before the homestretch. In contrast to the system in many other countries, where campaigns are financed mainly with public funds, candidates here can spend unlimited amounts on their campaigns — either their own funds, or money donated by individuals and political or interest groups." (New York Times)
  • Small dollar donations are showing their power in the Trump era. "An explosion of small-dollar donations has become an increasingly powerful force in campaign politics, reflecting the sharp partisan divide under President Trump. On the Democratic side, liberal fury with Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress has been reflected in the form of millions of low-dollar donations to Democratic candidates in House and Senate races…But Trump is backed by an army of small-dollar donors of his own. His campaign committees reported raising more than $18 million between July and September, bringing the total raised this year for his 2020 reelection bid to $106 million — much of that from small donors." (The Hill)
  • Both candidates in hotly contested Missouri Senate race face scrutiny over their private plane travel. "Josh Hawley has criticized Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill repeatedly for using a private plane to travel around Missouri. But the Republican Senate hopeful isn’t above taking a ride in a private plane himself. Hawley received an in-kind contribution of $5,225 for a charter flight in September on a plane owned by lobbyist Travis Brown and his wife, according to public records…Brown is a registered lobbyist in Missouri whose clients include the St. Louis Blues hockey team and wealthy businessman Rex Sinquefield, a Hawley donor who’s linked to a state-level effort to permit medical marijuana use." (POLITICO)
  • Outdoor apparel company Patagonia makes unusual move to directly endorse two Senate candidates. "In what campaign-finance experts say may be a first, outdoor clothing company Patagonia is endorsing two Senate candidates in the western United States, where protecting the public land in which its customers recreate is a key concern.  The Ventura, Calif.-based retailer announced Friday that it is backing two Democrats, incumbent Sen. Jon Tester who is running for reelection in Montana, and Rep. Jacky Rosen as she seeks to unseat Sen. Dean Heller (R) in Nevada." (Washington Post)


Illustration via ProPublica.
  • Some of President Trump's judicial nominees don't want to share their social media musings. "Several of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees have private, locked Twitter accounts that they didn’t share with the Senate Judiciary Committee, underscoring the lack of clear rules about what nominees are required to disclose about their online lives. Sitting judges are hesitant to join Twitter and Facebook, worried that even a well-intentioned tweet or “like” would violate ethics rules, but the new generation of younger nominees are bringing internet baggage with them to the bench." (BuzzFeed)
  • Housing appointee resigns as the White House, HUD, and the Interior Department spar over reports that she would lead Interior's OIG. "A top official at the Department of Housing and Urban Development who had been announced as a candidate for the Interior Department's top watchdog position has resigned from the Trump administration, HUD said Friday…The announcement closed a week of finger pointing by the White House, Interior and HUD on the choice of Tufts, a GOP operative with no experiencing investigating allegations of unethical behavior." (POLITICO)
  • White House Correspondents Association condemns Trump after he praises Congressman who body-slammed a reporter. "The White House Correspondents' Association condemned President Donald Trump Friday after he lauded a lawmaker from Montana a day earlier for body slamming a Guardian reporter." (POLITICO)
  • In Saturday evening Tweet, President Trump raises specter of voter fraud and promises "maximum penalties…" He wrote, "all levels of government and Law Enforcement are watching carefully for VOTER FRAUD, including during EARLY VOTING. Cheat at your own peril. Violators will be subject to maximum penalties, both civil and criminal!" (@realDonaldTrump)

around the world

Image via
  • New nonprofit aims to fight for digital human rights around the world. "Over 100 people from over 20 countries took part in the founding meeting of the MyData Global nonprofit organisation last Thursday, October 11. The purpose of MyData Global is to empower individuals by improving their right to self-determination regarding their personal data. The human-centric paradigm is aimed at a fair, sustainable, and prosperous digital society, where the sharing of personal data is based on trust as well as a balanced and fair relationship between individuals and organisations." (Open Knowledge)
  • Court ruling favors whistleblower, may weaken Swiss banking secrecy. "During his decade-long legal battle with the Swiss authorities, Rudolf Elmer, a bank whistleblower, has endured 48 prosecutorial interrogations, spent six months in solitary confinement and faced 70 court rulings. None, though, has been more important than the decision by Switzerland’s supreme court on October 10th, which set strict limits on the country’s famous bank-secrecy laws." (The Economist) The full Economist article is behind a paywall, but TechDirt has more details and analysis.
  • A look inside Saudi Arabia's Washington lobbying machine. Exploring "the power of a sophisticated Saudi influence machine that has shaped policy and perceptions in Washington for decades, batting back critiques of the oil-rich kingdom by doling out millions to lobbyists, blue-chip law firms, prominent think tanks and large defense contractors. In 2017, Saudi payments to lobbyists and consultants in Washington more than tripled over the previous year, public filings show…The strength of the Saudi operation is now being tested amid a global condemnation of the killing of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi earlier this month in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul — a death the kingdom belatedly acknowledged last week." (Washington Post)


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