Today in OpenGov: Family Business

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In today's edition, Americans lack confidence in government and the tech industry to protect elections from foreign interference, an expansive idea to fix Congress, oil money floods two state ballot initiatives, President Trump and his three oldest children are sued over phony get-rich-quick schemes, and more. 

midterm madness

Image via Pixabay.
  • New survey finds that Americans lack confidence in government's ability to protect elections from foreign influence, trust tech companies even less. "U.S. adults are skeptical that government is prepared to protect the 2018 midterm elections against foreign hackers, but they’re even less confident that technology companies will prevent their tools from being misused to influence the election, a survey found. One-third of U.S. adults are very or somewhat confident that tech companies will protect their tools from being used in election influence operations, according to the Pew Research Center survey released Monday. That’s compared with 55 percent of U.S. adults who are very or somewhat confident the government is making serious efforts to protect election systems from hacking and other digital threats." (NextGov)
  • The healthcare industry has poured more than $45 million into the midterms, giving slightly more to Republicans than Democrats. "The health-care industry has given $46.7 million to candidates in the midterm elections this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, pouring money into a tightly fought battle between Democrats and Republicans over control of Congress. Of the money given by health-care political action committees — the official political arms of companies and industry or professional associations — 57 percent went to Republicans." (Bloomberg)
  • Women are breaking a lot of new barriers this election season, but many are still struggling when it comes to money. "Women have broken many barriers in this midterm election cycle: Record numbers have run for Congress and record numbers have won primaries, including a record number of women of color…Women are newly asserting themselves as donors, too, often helping female candidates; while donations from women to Republican men have dropped off a cliff since the election of President Trump, donations from women to Democratic women have shot up…But women who run for office are still struggling to raise as much as men, particularly if they are Republican, or challenging incumbents, or running in places where the opposing party has a big advantage — as is the case with many Democratic women this year. Men are still making the large majority of political contributions, and male candidates are still raising more money." (New York Times)
  • The GOP disavowed this racist House candidate, but that hasn't stopped some Trump megadonors from supporting him. "After the Republican nominee for New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District was exposed for having shared multiple articles from white nationalist websites, the National Republican Congressional Committee withdrew its support for House hopeful Seth Grossman in July…But while contributions to Grossman’s campaign slowed dramatically after the GOP dropped its support for him, he still has some patrons in high places. According to a recent campaign finance filing, poultry magnate and Trump donor Ronald Cameron of Arkansas gave the maximum contribution of $2,700 to Grossman’s campaign on Oct. 10. Other recent donors to Grossman include a member of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and an Islamophobic business executive, both of whom gave large sums to political groups supporting Donald Trump." (Sludge)

washington watch

Image credit: Amy Swan via Washington Monthly.
  • Want to fix Congress? Try making it bigger. Lee Drutman, a senior fellow at New America and former Sunlighter, argues "if keeping the House at 435 members was supposed to make it more effective, deliberative, and orderly, the cap has been a dismal failure. Eight decades later, it’s hard to imagine a more dysfunctional institution. Real debate is a thing of the past. All authority runs through party leadership. Members spend half their time fundraising, and too often put the interests of donors and lobbyists ahead of those of their constituents, whom many now refuse to meet face-to-face. Not coincidentally, economic inequality continues to rise, and faith in government continues to decline…The good news is that the 435 number is not set in stone; Congress could expand the House through simple legislation, as it used to every decade. Doing so might be the most effective way to make the House function as a real representative body again. Radically expanding the House could, in one stroke, address some of the biggest problems facing Congress and, by extension, the country." (Washington Monthly)
  • In wake of synagogue shooting, Justice Department announces new hate crime reporting portal to help bridge data gap. "Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced Monday that the Justice Department has launched a website consolidating information for reporting hate crimes. Rosenstein made the announcement during a roundtable discussion with law enforcement officials in Washington, D.C., following the deadly shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. The man arrested in connection with the shooting, in which 11 people died, appeared to have a history of using anti-Semitic rhetoric on social media and is being charged with federal hate crimes…The site is part of an ongoing effort within the Department of Justice to expand protections against hate crimes and to bridge gaps in hate crime reporting." (POLITICO)
  • New statistics show that the U.S. is granting asylum at the lowest rates in two decades. "Immigration courts under the Trump administration have approved asylum cases at the lowest rate in nearly two decades, according to an analysis of Department of Justice data. The new figures come after a year in which Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a series of steps to curtail when individuals can gain asylum…The Department of Justice released the asylum data Friday. According to Pierce’s analysis, the asylum approval rate is just over 33% for the 2018 fiscal year, which ended in September. Under the Obama administration, the rate hovered between 44% and 55%. The last time the rate dipped below 33% was in 1999, during the Bill Clinton administration, when it was 31%, according to Pierce’s analysis." (BuzzFeed)
  • Biofuel industry sees positive payoff from lobbying push. "Biofuel groups upped their spending on lobbying this year as they pressured lawmakers and the Trump administration on issues related to the Renewable Fuel Standard, which sets minimum volumes of biofuels to be used to power cars and trucks. Some of those efforts appear to be paying off for now, as the Trump administration has proposed to allow year-round sales of gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol, or E15, which is currently prohibited between June and September." (Roll Call)

states and cities

Image via Pixabay.
  • Oil money is flooding two state efforts to pass new environmental rules. "Oil and gas companies are spending millions to squash a pair of ballot initiatives this election cycle: a proposal for limiting the location of new oil and gas sites in Colorado, and a plan to charge climate polluters in Washington state. In both states, the stakes are high. And the battle lines are similar — with the energy industry arguing the proposals would hurt the economy, and environmental groups saying the proposals will protect human health. The fundraising, though, is dramatically lopsided, with way more money on the oil and gas side." (BuzzFeed)
  • Teachers lead the charge for more transparency at Washington, D.C. charter schools. "Five D.C. charter school teachers jump-started the movement for greater freedom of information in that sector as they gave personal testimonies at a workshop recently—new life for a moribund effort to align D.C. law to the nationwide norm of open meetings and open records at these publicly-supported schools. There are 123 charter schools run by 66 organizations in D.C. They enroll about half of District children and spend almost $750 million annually in local tax funds yet they need not hold open meetings or furnish documents to the public, parents or press. They answer only to the Public Charter School Board appointed by the mayor." (D.C. Open Government Coalition)
  • What's the limit on civic engagement? "In the 1950s, while doing research for a book on political participation, the social scientist James Q. Wilson found himself attending a lot of citizen engagement meetings on urban planning. Eventually he reached a conclusion that seemed obvious to him, but that public officials, and especially political reformers, didn’t talk much about. Wilson’s insight was that most citizens don’t attend meetings to endorse a policy, to give their blessing to a new project, or to sit back and learn. They show up to complain — to say no to what’s being proposed." (Governing)

trumpland

Trump family portrait via McCauleys-Corner.
  • President Trump and his three oldest children are sued for peddling get-rich-quick schemes. "A new lawsuit filed in federal court Monday accuses President Donald Trump and his children of convincing consumers to invest in get-rich-quick schemes, while also accepting 'large, secret payments' from the companies they were pitching. The complaint landed a week before a congressional midterm election that Trump has called a referendum on his presidency. It was filed on behalf of four unnamed plaintiffs by lawyers Roberta Kaplan and Andrew Celli, both donors to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, and is being funded by Tesseract Research Center, a progressive group led by Morris Pearl, former managing director of investment giant BlackRock." (POLITICO)
  • Trump administration takes efforts to delay trial over Census citizenship question to the Supreme Court. "The Trump administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt a scheduled trial on lawsuits that challenge the addition of a question about citizenship to the 2020 census. The request comes a week after the high court shielded Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross from having to answer questions under oath about his decision to add the question. Trial is currently set to begin Nov. 5. The challengers include New York and the American Civil Liberties Union." (Bloomberg)
  • Trump administration has hobbled programs aimed at countering violent extremism. "…his administration has hobbled the infrastructure designed to prevent such murders. In the waning days of Barack Obama’s administration, the Department of Homeland Security awarded a set of grants to organizations working to counter violent extremism, including among white supremacists…But soon after Trump took office, his administration canceled both of these grants. In its first budget, it requested no funding for any grants in this field. It’s part of a pattern of neglect. The grants were administered by the Office of Community Partnerships, which works intimately with local governments and community organizations to prevent jihadist and white-nationalist radicalization. In Obama’s last year, according to the former director, George Selim, the office boasted 16 full-time employees, roughly 25 contractors, and a budget of more than $21 million. The Trump administration has renamed it the Office of Terrorism Prevention Partnerships, and cut its staff to eight full-time employees and its budget to less than $3 million." (The Atlantic)

 

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