Today in OpenGov: It’s personal


In today's edition, prominent Democrats and other liberal figures are targeted with mail bombs, President Trump won't quit his iPhone even though it's insecure, NASA couldn't keep track of some of its most precious space dust, securing digital rights in the age of "smart cities," and more. 

Mail bombs target liberal figures

Image via CNN.

Mail bombs sent to CNN, Hillary Clinton, former President Barack Obama, Eric Holder, George Soros, and others. "One suspicious package went to George Soros, the billionaire investor and liberal philanthropist who is a perpetual target of conservative conspiracy theories and smears…Another went to John O. Brennan, the former C.I.A. director often maligned by conservatives as a leading conspirator in a “deep state” plot to undermine President Trump. Hillary Clinton was also sent one, as were President Barack Obama and his attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. — all of them subjects of fantastical, far-flung rumors and misinformation campaigns." (New York Times)

After initially decrying "political violence" (POLITICO), President Trump quickly shifted to a more familiar refrain by attacking the media for "endless hostility and constant negative and oftentimes false attacks” on him. (Bloomberg) He kept it up this morning, Tweeting that "Mainstream Media must clean up its act, FAST!" (realDonaldTrump)

  • Meanwhile, Trump's 2020 presidential campaign apologized for an email attacking CNN after the networks headquarters had been evacuated due to the bomb scare. "Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale on Wednesday apologized for an email sent by the campaign earlier that day criticizing CNN. The email, which was sent after CNN had been evacuated due to a suspicious package, attacked the network…" (The Hill)


President Trump. 
  • When President Trump uses his personal iPhones Russian and Chinese spies regularly listen in. He still won't give them up.  "When President Trump calls old friends on one of his iPhones to gossip, gripe or solicit their latest take on how he is doing, American intelligence reports indicate that Chinese spies are often listening — and putting to use invaluable insights into how to best work the president and affect administration policy, current and former American officials said. Mr. Trump’s aides have repeatedly warned him that his cellphone calls are not secure, and they have told him that Russian spies are routinely eavesdropping on the calls, as well. But aides say the voluble president, who has been pressured into using his secure White House landline more often these days, has still refused to give up his iPhones." (New York Times)
  • The Trump administration is making another push to stop a trial over the Census citizenship question. "U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is trying again to derail a trial over the legality of asking people in the 2020 census about their citizenship. After 14 judges at various levels rejected the government’s efforts to stop lawsuits over the citizenship question, the administration submitted a seventh request to postpone the trial, this time citing a Supreme Court decision Monday that halted plaintiffs’ attempts to question Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross about his decision to include the question in the census." (Bloomberg)
  • These Senators are concerned that President Trump might be spending taxpayer money as he travels the country ahead of the midterm elections. "As President Trump criss-crosses the country on Air Force One during the final days of the midterm campaign, a trio of Democratic senators are demanding information about whether the White House is properly reimbursing taxpayers for campaign-related travel.   Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) argue there have been multiple instances throughout Trump’s presidency when he traveled out of town for an official event but engaged directly in political activity, such as calling for the election of a certain candidate." (Washington Post)
  • The White House wants tech companies to let their employees take time off for a "civic tour of duty" in government. "Civic service leave got the official White House summit treatment this week. On Monday, the executive branch convened around 150 tech leaders, including representatives of Amazon, Apple, Adobe and more, in order to 'explore ways for more people to take a civic tour of duty,' as Chris Liddell, White House deputy chief of staff for policy coordination, put it in a statement. The summit is the biggest push to date for this relatively nascent concept, a process by which private sector tech employees may take a leave of absence from the hallowed halls of places like Google or Microsoft for a short-term appointment in government." (FedScoop)

washington watch

Image via the National Parks Service.
  • Environmental groups boosted their lobbying activity this year. "Environmental groups that focus on land conservation ramped up spending in 2018 to back major public land bills that moved out of committee in October and September. The increases show heightened bipartisan attention on two public lands initiatives pending on the House and Senate floors, including bills to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund program, and to use fees for mining and drilling for energy resources on federal lands to attack the Interior Department’s $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog at the nation’s national parks." (Roll Call)
  • Embattled veterans nonprofit gets hit with new whistleblower complaint. "A former staffer at a Virginia-based charity alleges in a new whistleblower complaint that his former employer is bilking donors out of millions of dollars — money intended to help homeless veterans. The staffer, James C. Edgar of Virginia, formally asked the IRS to revoke the not-for-profit status of the Circle of Friends for American Veterans and the Center for American Homeless Veterans, two nonprofits run by retired Army Maj. Brian Arthur Hampton in Falls Church, Virginia." (Center for Public Integrity)
  • NASA hasn't done a great job keeping track of its most historical artifacts, according to a new OIG report. "NASA, as one of government’s most storied pioneer agencies, needs to better archive its historical artifacts, according to a watchdog’s latest audit. A jarring example, according to a report released on Tuesday: 'Poor recordkeeping contributed to NASA losing possession of an Apollo 11 lunar collection bag that contained lunar dust particles.' According to court records, in 2003 the bag was seized by the FBI from the home of the CEO for the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center during a criminal investigation." (Government Executive)

states and cities

  • Securing digital rights in the era of smart city technology and rampant data collection. "…now tech giants like Google’s Alphabet are turning their focus toward urban data collection, enabling sensor-laden cityscapes to collect data on large swathes of cities’ residents.  Cities don’t control private entities and how their tech developments shape cities, but they do control public spaces, public infrastructure, and democratic decision-making, and they must leverage that power to ensure residents have an active say in how technology shapes public life. Especially because new smart cities will enable the collection of unprecedented amounts of public data, officials will need to decide how they’ll protect residents’ digital rights. If cities do not address these questions head on, they risk ceding civic space and decision-making to tech companies who are already setting the stage for mass data collection on the built environment of city life." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • Former New York State Senate Leader gets four years in prison on corruption charges. "Former New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was sentenced on Wednesday to four years and three months in prison on federal corruption charges, including soliciting bribes and defrauding the public." (Reuters)
  • Why are two Democrats running for a nonpartisan position in California spending so much money to beat each other? "One of the loudest and most expensive state races in the country is between two Democrats vying to win the nonpartisan position of superintendent of public instruction in California. More money is being spent on the race — for a position that has no independent policymaking power — than in most U.S. Senate campaigns. The fight — the costliest in the state’s history for this post, with more than $43 million in campaign contributions, according to EdSource — is between state legislator Tony Thurmond and Marshall Tuck, a former charter school network president." (Washington Post)


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