Today in OpenGov: The Fast Track


In today's edition, the House Ethics Committee hands down some sanctions, the Supreme Court will fast track a hearing in the Census citizenship question case, a high profile dismissal in New York City, a suspect in the murder of a Maltese journalist, and more. 

washington watch

Washington, DC. Via the National Parks Service.
  • More than 50 former members of Congress are asking the FEC to close a loophole that turns leadership PACs into slush funds. "Today a bipartisan group of 58 members of Issue One’s ReFormers Caucus signed on to comments submitted to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) calling on the agency to open a rulemaking to close the personal use loophole for leadership PACs…Leadership PACs were originally ushered into existence so that officeholders could make contributions to their colleagues as they climbed the leadership ladder in the House and Senate, and many of these former lawmakers had leadership PACs while serving. However, over the past five years, a majority of leadership PAC funds controlled by members of Congress have been used for expenses that could constitute personal use, such as meals, stays at five-star resorts, and tickets to highly coveted events or golf memberships, according to research by Issue One and the Campaign Legal Center."  (Issue One)
  • The House Ethics Committee sanctions two members in sexual-harassment-related cases. "The House Ethics Committee formally sanctioned Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen (Nev.) and Republican Rep. Mark Meadows (N.C.) for offenses related to sexual harassment. Kihuen, whose term is up this year, was accused by three women of improper touching, though he denied the charges. Meadows was sanctioned for not taking proper action against a chief of staff who was accused of sexual harassment by six women, and for continuing to pay him after he’d stopped working for Meadows." (Washington Post)
  • The rosy relationship between Silicon Valley and Democrats in Washington, DC is falling apart amid recent revelations. "The alliance between Democrats and Silicon Valley has buckled and bent this year… But those tensions burst into open warfare this past week after revelations that Facebook executives had withheld evidence of Russian activity on the platform for far longer than previously disclosed, while employing a Republican-linked opposition research firm to discredit critics and the billionaire George Soros, a major Democratic Party patron. Democrats now face a painful reckoning with longtime friends in the tech industry, relationships girded by mutual interest in issues like immigration and cemented with millions of dollars in campaign contributions." (New York Times)
  • Should US Park Police and other federal law enforcement officials wear body cameras? These lawmakers think so. "Two Democratic members of Congress have introduced a new bill that would mandate body cameras and dashboard-mounted cameras for uniformed federal law enforcement. The law is meant to prevent situations like the November 2017 death of an unarmed Virginia man, Bijan Ghaisar, who died at the hands of United States Park Police officers in Fairfax County, Virginia. The 25-year-old had fled a car crash, but it remains unclear exactly why federal officers opened fire." (Ars Technica)


The White House.
  • A judge forced the White House to return CNN correspondent Jim Acosta's credentials, at least for now. "First Amendment advocates hailed Friday’s ruling by a federal-court judge that will result in at least a temporary return of CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta’s press credentials, which were yanked more than a week ago, following a news-conference dustup between Acosta and President Donald Trump. Since then, Fox News and more than a dozen other news organizations have joined ranks with CNN to argue that Trump can’t revoke a reporter’s press credentials simply because he didn’t like a question the reporter asked, which appeared to be the case with Acosta…In a hearing in D.C. federal court, Kelly ruled that the government violated Acosta’s Fifth Amendment right to due process when it rescinded his White House press credentials following Trump’s contentious news conference the day after the midterm elections…Kelly explicitly did not rule on Acosta’s claim that his First Amendment rights had been violated." (The Atlantic)
  • The Supreme Court will hear arguments related to the Census citizenship question early next year. "The Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments early next year on lawsuits challenging the addition of a question about citizenship to the 2020 census, acting with unusual speed in a politically charged case. The justices will consider the Trump administration’s bid to limit the evidence that can be used in the challenge, which has been the subject of a trial in federal court in New York. The Supreme Court will hear arguments Feb. 19." (Bloomberg)
  • President Trump will nominate Andrew Wheeler to lead the EPA permanently. "President Trump announced Friday that he would nominate acting Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler to be the agency’s leader on a permanent basis…Wheeler was named acting EPA administrator in July, following the resignation of Scott Pruitt, who left the administration amid a number of ethics scandals. Wheeler initially had been nominated to be deputy EPA administrator, and was confirmed in April by a vote of 53-45. He served at EPA more than two decades ago, before becoming an adviser to Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla. In recent years, he was a lobbyist at Faegre Baker Daniels, and among his clients was the coal mining company Murray Energy." (Government Executive)
  • A watchdog group is pushing for the release of Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker's financial disclosures. "Watchdog group American Oversight is calling for Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker's financial disclosures to be made public…'Transparency is a critical component of the government ethics program,' wrote the group's executive director, Austin Evers, in a letter on Friday to Emory Rounds in the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE). Evers pointed to the financial disclosure provisions of the Ethics in Government Act, which he said 'facilitate transparency regarding potential financial conflicts of interest' by requiring the public financial disclosure of senior government officials within 30 days of them assuming office, in most cases…" (The Hill)

states and cities

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Image credit: Kevin Case.
  • New York Mayor Bill de Blasio fired the city's investigations commissioner in wake of high profile probes, whistleblower complaint. "New York Mayor Bill de Blasio fired investigations commissioner Mark Peters, once one of his closest political allies, after his work grew into federal probes of city public-housing management and de Blasio’s fundraising practices. Peters’ appointment to lead the city Department of Investigations had been attacked by critics who questioned his independence from the mayor because of their close relationship, including his role as treasurer in de Blasio’s 2013 campaign. In the past two years that relationship turned frosty as Peters’ probes uncovered lead paint contamination in public housing and the administration’s permit for a mayoral political donor to convert a nursing home into luxury condominiums." (Bloomberg)
  • Groups sue Boston Police Department for release of "gang" database. "Fourteen organizations have joined in on a public records lawsuit calling for the release of the Boston Police Department’s “gang” database, which the group claims labels, tracks, and shares information about young people it alleges to be involved in gangs. The lawsuit points to the fact that not much is known about the database, but groups like the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, who are spearheading the lawsuit, worry about the misrepresentations a “gang” database would have on minorities." (MuckRock)
  • Kentucky adds a combination chief data and technology officer in boost for state data. "Kentucky is working to elevate the status of state data and taking steps to develop its inventory and use, with a new leader under the state’s new chief information officer. Krishna Mohan Mupparaju, a 20-year state employee whose career has seen him rise from enterprise systems architect to chief enterprise architect and executive director of the office of project management, was named as the state's chief data officer and chief technology officer on Aug. 1." (Government Technology)
  • Wyoming, historically averse to transparency, dips its toe in with a financial transparency effort. "Wyoming’s lack of transparency in state government is legendary. The Center for Public Integrity labeled it the worst in the nation in 2015, and the Legislature has done nothing since to improve that rating. Now there is some movement on one aspect of this vital issue, with newly elected Gov. Mark Gordon and State Auditor Kristi Racines forming a financial transparency working group." (WyoFile via NFOIC)

around the world

A memorial to murdered Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Image Credit: Ethan Doyle White.
  • Investigators have identified suspects in the 2017 murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. "Criminal investigators in Malta say they have identified a group of Maltese nationals suspected of planning the murder of anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, the Sunday Times of Malta reported. The investigation into who commissioned the car bomb that killed Caruana Galizia is at a 'very advanced stage,' with the main suspects having been identified, according to officers conducting the probe." (POLITICO)
  • Czech prime minister vows not to resign as fraud probe heats up. "The Czech Republic’s billionaire prime minister rejected intensifying calls for him step down as he tries to save his hard-won coalition from collapsing amid public outcry over an investigation into whether he committed fraud. The fraud probe has imperiled the political career of Andrej Babis since his upstart ANO party defeated its traditional mainstream rivals in elections a year ago." (Bloomberg)
  • Leaders of Hong Kong's pro-democracy "Umbrella Movement" to stand trial this week. "The three founders of Hong Kong's ‘Occupy Central’ movement, more popularly known as the ‘Umbrella Movement’ will stand trial on Monday, November 19, 2018 for the charges of conspiracy to commit public nuisance, and incitement to commit public nuisance. If found guilty, sociology professor Chan Kin Man, law professor Benny Tai, Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, along with six other pro-democracy activists could face a maximum of seven-year jail sentence." (Global Voices)


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