Today in OpenGov: Countdown


In today's edition, only 12 days until the midterm elections and so much money left to spend, privacy is on the ballot in these states, federal advisory committees won't be getting more transparent this year, removing the press in Paris, and more. 

midterm madness

Image via Pixabay.
  • The top four super PACs are sitting on more than $110 million for final midterm push. "The top four super political action committees in the fight for control of Congress started mid-October with $113.4 million in the bank for the final wave of advertising and get-out-the-vote drives leading up to the Nov. 6 elections. The Congressional Leadership Fund and Senate Leadership Fund on the Republican side, and the House Majority PAC and the Senate Majority PAC on the Democratic side, are some of the biggest spenders in what is likely to be the costliest midterm campaign ever." (Bloomberg)
  • Indicted Congressman see donations dry up. "August indictments against incumbent House candidates Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) and Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) heavily disrupted their campaigns — specifically in the area of campaign contributions — as donors appeared to lose enthusiasm after their candidates were charged with federal crimes." (Open Secrets)
  • As Democratic candidates experience fundraising boom, ActBlue is playing a bigger role than ever. "An analysis of campaign finance data by the Center for Public Integrity and FiveThirtyEight shows that ActBlue is handling more political contributions than ever before. Between January 2017 and Sept. 30, 2018 — the most recent date for which Federal Election Commission data is available — nearly $564 million, or about 55 percent of all contributions from individual donors to Democratic congressional candidates, passed through the platform, compared to about 19 percent at this point in the 2014 election…Donors are using the platform to reshape the map of competitive races, becoming a powerful force that could sway Democratic politics beyond November’s election." (Center for Public Integrity)
  • When it comes to Google ads Republicans are outspending Democrats. "Republican groups are investing more in Google political ads than Democratic groups are, according to a new analysis of publicly available Google ad data. In an exclusive, Sludge has partnered with progressive think tank Data for Progress to present one of this election cycle’s first comprehensive analyses of Google political ad data, which the company began making public in May." (Sludge)
  • This new dark money group is spending heavily to help Democrats in their fight for the Senate. "While dark money has mostly been on the side of Republicans in recent election cycles, a relatively new liberal outside group has dominated dark money spending during the 2018 midterms, effectively injecting millions into crucial U.S. Senate races. Majority Forward — a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that does not disclose its donors — has spent $32 million in opposition of Republican Senate candidates during the 2018 election. In total, the group has dished out more than $40 million to help Democratic candidates, by far the most of any dark money group this cycle" (Open Secrets)

states and cities

Image via Pixabay.
  • Most states are struggling to figure out how to regulate cryptocurrency in their elections. "In an era of Russian hackers, super PACs and shell corporations being used by foreign entities to influence voting, officials tasked with maintaining the integrity of state and local elections have one more thing to worry about: crypto-candidates. The Center for Public Integrity found 20 crypto-candidates of various political stripes, seeking all levels of office, who have been requesting or have received cryptocurrency to fund their efforts. At least three were candidates in a state that has since banned such donations. Another was accepting cryptocurrencies marketed as untraceable. The confusion over campaign cryptocurrency is widespread, and the implications are far from isolated. But the effort to establish uniform rules is lagging behind." (Center for Public Integrity)
  • Privacy is on the ballot in the "Live Free or Die" state this November. "Question 2 aims to protect Granite State residents' privacy rights in the digital age. If approved by voters, the measure would amend the state constitution to say: 'An individual's right to live free from governmental intrusion in private or personal information is natural, essential and inherent.' The goal is to ensure that governments get permission before snooping through citizens’ private social media accounts, internet search histories, emails and text messages…10 states — including Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Montana and Washington — already have similar privacy protections in their constitutions." (Governing)
  • Billionaire J.B. Pritzker is breaking self-funding records in his bid to become governor of Illinois. "There's a new record in campaign finance. Democratic billionaire J.B. Pritzker has given his own campaign for Illinois governor more than any other self-financed candidate in U.S. history. An heir to the Hyatt franchise, Pritzker has given his campaign $161.5 million. This is not adjusted for inflation, but he is closing in on that, too…Campaign finance records show Pritzker has spent about $80 million on digital and TV advertising so far, ranging from casting Republican incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner as a failed governor to declaring his love of puppies." (NPR)

washington watch 

Image via POGO.
  • Bipartisan federal advisory committee transparency legislation struggles amid opposition from Trump administration. "A wave of opposition from the Trump administration looks poised to sink the chances of a bill aimed at bringing greater transparency to roughly 1,000 committees that advise the federal government. The legislation aimed at closing perceived loopholes in the 46-year-old Federal Advisory Committee Act appeared to be sailing toward passage before encountering resistance earlier this year from the National Institutes of Health. In recent months, the broader Trump administration has taken an active role behind the scenes mounting broad-ranging opposition to the bill, a person familiar with the discussions told POLITICO this week." (POLITICO)
  • Confusion over rumored leadership change at Department of Interior OIG highlights need for reform. "There is a silver lining to the recent confusion caused by Secretary Carson’s announcement about a replacement for the Department of the Interior’s acting inspector general: the vulnerabilities of the system for appointing inspectors general under current law have been highlighted. Congress should take note and improve the relevant statutes to ensure strong and effective oversight by our federal watchdogs." (Project on Government Oversight)
  • The ACLU wants DHS to share details on its use of facial recognition technology. "The American Civil Liberties Union has called on the Homeland Security Department to disclose its use of facial recognition technology. The move follows a report that came out Tuesday and revealed the extent to which tech companies Amazon and Palantir supported the Homeland Security Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement with biometric and surveillance tech. The American Civil Liberties Union released an official statement on Wednesday, detailing their concern with the agencies' use of Amazon's facial recognition technology, Rekognition." (NextGov)

around the world

Palais de l'Elysée in Paris, France. Image credit: Maryam Alavi.
  • Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy moves one step closer to facing trial for alleged campaign finance violations. "Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has lost an appeal against an earlier decision to send him to trial over charges of illegal campaign financing, and his lawyer said he would challenge the decision in France’s highest appeals court… The so-called 'Bygmalion' campaign financing affair centers on accusations that Sarkozy’s party, then known as the UMP, connived with a friendly public relations firm to hide the true cost of his 2012 presidential election campaign. France sets limits on campaign spending, and prosecutors allege that the firm Bygmalion invoiced Sarkozy’s party rather than the campaign, allowing the UMP to spend almost double the amount permitted." (Reuters)
  • Current French President Emmanuel Macron moves forward with controversial plan to push press out of Presidential palace. "French leader Emmanuel Macron is following through with his plan to evict journalists covering the presidency from the Elysee Palace, despite criticisms that it might restrict media access to information. Macron’s office announced in an emailed statement on Wednesday that the press room — which was first established inside the courtyard of the 18th-century building in the mid-1970s — is to be moved to a nearby street by the end of the year." (Bloomberg)
  • Ukraine is outsourcing its local law enforcement to private contractors, raising human rights issues. "A series of incidents involving Ukraine's municipal guards are adding up one after another, with ever more citizens demanding they be outright banned. After the Euromaidan revolution in 2014, Ukraine's abolished its national police and attempted to create a new law enforcement agency, but that never left the paper. As that process dragged on, local authorities began to outsource their law enforcement to private security companies, which are commonly called 'municipal guards'. Technically, they are not public law enforcement. Their mandates are based solely on contracts signed between them and the city — which vary a lot from city to city — and mechanisms of accountability are virtually nonexistent." (Global Voices)
  • The EU's highest court is pushing back against Poland's attempt to purge its own Supreme Court. "On Friday, the European Union’s highest court ordered the Polish government to immediately halt its ongoing purge of Poland’s Supreme Court. The Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice (ECJ) ordered Polish authorities to suspend implementing its April 2018 “Law on the Supreme Court”; to reinstate all of the Supreme Court judges who were forced to retire under the law; and to refrain from any further attempt to replace them — including the Supreme Court’s chief justice." (Washington Post)


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