Today in OpenGov: Referrals


In today's edition, corporate PACs look to boost their bad reputations, transparency comes out on top on election day, Ryan Zinke eyes the exits, Hong Kong turns away a journalist, and more. 

washington watch

The U.S. House of Representatives Chamber in Washington, DC.
  • The Office of Congressional Ethics referred four cases to the House Ethics Committee in the 3rd quarter. "The Office of Congressional Ethics sent four referrals to the House Ethics committee for further review in the third quarter of 2018, according to a report released Thursday. Although the report did not name names associated with the referrals, the Ethics Committee has announced actions on OCE referrals concerning current members between July and September." (Roll Call)
  • Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) will drop leadership bid after her husband is indicted on federal charges. "Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) on Thursday dropped out of the race to lead the House Democratic Caucus and faced questions about her political future following her husband’s indictment on federal criminal charges…James Sullivan, Sanchez’s husband, was charged with misusing federal funds to cover personal expenses. Those alleged improper expenses include two trips with Sanchez to the Kentucky Derby, as well as a trip to Key West, Florida." (POLITICO)
  • Corporate PACs, looking to boost their bad reputation, try to turn focus on super PACs and dark money. "Corporate PACs are scrambling to polish their image after more than 100 candidates vowed during the midterms to reject campaign cash from the industry-linked donor groups. The National Association of Business PACs — which lobbies for PACs — is finalizing a plan to convince lawmakers, candidates and the press that the real villain in politics is unchecked spending by super PACs and mystery donors, not the more-regulated fundraising committees attached to businesses and trade groups." (POLITICO)
  • Is the draft Federal Data Strategy too unwieldy to implement? These stakeholders think it might be. "The meat of the pending Federal Data Strategy—a draft list of actionable “practices” to help agencies utilize data as a strategic asset—is too difficult to understand and needs to take into account the end-users, according to data advocates, industry experts and federal employees. A public forum hosted Thursday by the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Data Coalition and the Office of Management and Budget brought together stakeholders from across the spectrum to weigh in on the data strategy. The federal data fellows—the people doing the heavy lifting on the strategy—were seated up front, listening attentively, and given first priority for questions throughout the event." (NextGov)

states and cities

Image via Pixabay.
  • Transparency initiatives in Nevada and San Francisco, CA were successful on election day. "Following a historic midterm election, two ballot measures in western states passed, granting each jurisdiction new laws governing transparency and access to records. Nevada voters passed Marsy’s Law Crime Victims Right Amendment, better known as Marsy’s Law in Nevada, to include victims rights in the state’s constitution. In San Francisco, California, the Personal Information Protection Policy Charter Amendment, or Privacy First measure, also won amending the city’s charter." (MuckRock)
  • Brian Kemp declares victory in Georgia gubernatorial race while stepping down as Secretary of State with potential recount looming. "Republican Brian Kemp has declared victory over Democrat Stacey Abrams in Georgia's bitterly-fought gubernatorial race. But Abrams has not conceded and wants all provisional and absentee ballots counted first. Kemp announced he was resigning his post as secretary of state, effective at 11:59 a.m. Thursday, after a lawsuit was filed calling it a conflict of interest for Kemp to oversee the vote count in a race he's involved in." (NPR)
  • Can civic technology help growing cities make good choices about infrastructure? "Rising levels of urbanization in the United States are putting demand on new and existing infrastructure. As cities grow and local demographics change, it is becoming more difficult for local governments to make timely decisions regarding the built environment. Infrastructure, including transportation, water/sanitation, energy, and civic projects, requires increasing local government attention. In the face of so many decisions, traditional engagement opportunities like public hearings cannot meaningfully capture citizen input…We expand on the eParticipation research by providing a deep dive look at one slice of the civic technology sector: civic technology for local infrastructure delivery (planning, design, construction, and operations/maintenance)." (Data-Smart City Solutions)


Screenshot from a video showing how footage shared by White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was likely doctored. Via the AP.
  • Did the White House share doctored footage to support its move to revoke CNN reporter Jim Acosta's press pass? "A video distributed by the Trump administration to support its argument for banning CNN reporter Jim Acosta from the White House appears to have been doctored to make Acosta look more aggressive than he was during an exchange with a White House intern, an independent expert said Thursday. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted the video, which shows Acosta asking President Donald Trump a question on Wednesday as the intern tries to take his microphone away. But a frame-by-frame comparison with an Associated Press video of the same incident shows that the one tweeted by Sanders appears to have been altered to speed up Acosta’s arm movement as he touches the intern’s arm, according to Abba Shapiro, an independent video producer who examined the footage at AP’s request." (Associated Press)
  • Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker was on the advisory board of a company that was fined $26 million for scamming customers. "Matthew G. Whitaker, the acting attorney general, served on the advisory board of a Florida company that a federal judge shut down last year and fined nearly $26 million after the government accused it of scamming customers. The company, World Patent Marketing, “bilked thousands of consumers out of millions of dollars” by promising inventors lucrative patent agreements, according to a complaint filed in Florida by the Federal Trade Commission." (New York Times)
  • Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke may be lining up his next job as President Trump teases further Cabinet shifts. "Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has been exploring potential roles with Fox News, the energy industry or other businesses amid growing signs that he will leave President Donald Trump's Cabinet as he faces investigations into his ethics, according to people knowledgeable about the discussions. The news comes just a day after Trump told reporters that word on Zinke's fate may come "in about a week" — and as the president is in the early stages of what could be a dramatic post-election house-cleaning of Cabinet officials and top aides, starting with Wednesday's ouster of Attorney General Jeff Sessions." (POLITICO)
  • What does Solicitor General Noel Francisco's unusual ethics waiver mean for the Mueller probe? "Days before President Trump shook up the Justice Department with the forced resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a watchdog group disclosed an ethics waiver granted to the solicitor general that may figure into the unfolding drama over the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections. Noel Francisco, confirmed as the Solicitor General in September 2017 after a career as a partner in Jones Day, in April 2018 was granted an unusual waiver signed by recently-departed White House Counsel Don McGahn. It allows Francisco to participate in decisions involving his former firm—which represents the Trump Presidential Campaign being probed by special counsel Robert Mueller." (Government Executive)

around the world

Image credit: Marco Verch.
  • New UN report is critical of Facebook's role in Myanmar amid genocide. "But is Facebook really doing all it can to try to halt the spread of violence? Not according to the United Nations’ Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, which released its own report on Tuesday looking into the causes of the genocide that has taken place against the Rohingya in that country…But the UN’s number one call is for transparency. The UN report recommends that Facebook and other social media platforms allow for “an independent and thorough examination” of how their networks have been used to spread hatred. But the report notes that despite Facebook’s promise to do better on these kinds of issues than it has in the past, it has refused to provide country-specific data about hate speech on its platform…" (Columbia Journalism Review)
  • A Financial Times journalist was denied entry into Hong Kong after his work visa was not renewed. "Financial Times journalist Victor Mallet was denied entry into Hong Kong on Thursday, weeks after the local authorities declined to extend his work visa, the newspaper said. Mallet attempted to enter Hong Kong as a visitor but was turned away at the border after several hours of questioning by immigration officers, the FT reported." (Bloomberg)
  • The EU will pursue a corruption investigation involving Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's son-in-law. "The EU will continue pursuing funds lost in an alleged corruption scheme involving Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s son-in-law, despite Hungary’s decision to drop an investigation into the case…Tiborcz, who is 32 and married to Orbán’s eldest daughter, has become one of Hungary’s most successful businessmen, raising questions about whether his connection to the prime minister plays a role in his access to both state and EU funding." (POLITICO)


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