Today in OpenGov: Perking Up


In today's edition, when members of Congress lose their seats they keep the perks, subpoenas are set to fly in a Trump emoluments lawsuit, freedom of expression is at a 10 year low, and more. 


The U.S. Capitol building. Image via the Project on Government Oversight.
  • The National Republican Congressional Committee was hacked sometime early this year. "The House GOP campaign arm suffered a major hack during the 2018 midterm campaigns, exposing thousands of sensitive emails to an outside intruder, according to three senior party officials. The email accounts of four senior aides at the National Republican Congressional Committee were surveilled for several months, the party officials said. The intrusion was detected in April by an NRCC vendor, who alerted the committee and its cybersecurity contractor. An internal investigation was initiated, and the FBI was alerted to the attack, said the officials, who requested anonymity to discuss the incident." (POLITICO)
  • Departing members of Congress can keep the perks, unless they take up as lobbyists. "Don’t worry, outgoing members can still snag prime Hill parking spots. Following the lame-duck session, lawmakers exiting Congress in January will retain some member privileges, fitness center access, some postage rights, and parking among them. But there are limitations, especially for former lawmakers that take lobbying gigs. Former lawmakers have continued access to the floor of the chamber where they served, and senators who have not served in the House are traditionally granted House access as well. However, that access is revoked if the former member becomes a lobbyist or an “agent of foreign principal,” meaning someone who advocates on behalf of foreign governments, political parties or organizations." (Roll Call) Of course, plenty of former members of Congress head to K street without being formally registered as lobbyists. 
  • Google CEO Sundar Pichai will testify to Congress next week over conservative censorship concerns. "Google chief executive Sundar Pichai is slated to testify to Congress on Dec. 11, after lawmakers rescheduled their original hearing in light of former president George H.W. Bush’s death. The new hearing — confirmed by the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday — will see Pichai field questions from Congress for the first time in response to Republicans' concerns that Google’s search algorithm, and services it owns including YouTube, unfairly censor conservative-leaning users." (Washington Post)
  • Former Rep. John Dingell has some ideas about how to reform Congress after nearly 60 years in it. He writes, "in my six decades in public service, I’ve seen many changes in our nation and its institutions. Yet the most profound change I’ve witnessed is also the saddest. It is the complete collapse in respect for virtually every institution of government and an unprecedented cynicism about the nobility of public service itself…As an armchair activist, I now have the luxury of saying what I believe should happen, not what I think can get voted out of committee." (The Atlantic)


The Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC. 
  • The Attorneys General of Maryland and Washington, DC will subpoena the Trump Organization, numerous related companies in emoluments lawsuit. "The attorney general offices in Washington, DC, and Maryland are planning to subpoena the Trump Organization and an array of other Trump companies and federal agencies in a lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump's refusal to divest from his businesses. The DC attorney general's office on Tuesday released a list of entities that it and Maryland are preparing to subpoena now that a federal judge in Maryland signed off on a schedule for the exchange of evidence in the case. Besides the Trump Organization, the subpoena list includes various LLCs set up under Trump's name and companies set up specifically for the Trump International Hotel in Washington — the business that's at the heart of the lawsuit." (BuzzFeed)
  • Donald Trump Jr. invested heavily in a friend's hydroponic lettuce company. That same friend, a major Trump fundraiser, has sought federal funds for other businesses. "Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, took a stake last year in a startup whose co-chairman is a major Trump campaign fundraiser who has sought financial support from the federal government for his other business interests, according to records obtained by ProPublica. The fundraiser, Texas money manager Gentry Beach, and Trump Jr. attended college together, are godfather to one of each other’s sons and have collaborated on investments — and on the Trump presidential campaign. Since Trump’s election, Beach has attempted to obtain federal assistance for projects in Asia, the Caribbean and South America, and he has met or corresponded with top officials in the National Security Council, Interior Department and Overseas Private Investment Corporation." (ProPublica)
  • Senate Democrats push for detail on potential conflicts of interest for acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and Assistant AG Brian Benczkowski. "Senate Democrats asked the Justice Department on Tuesday to explain what they described as conflicts of interest involving acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker and Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski. The letter focuses on more than $1.2 million in compensation Whitaker — President Donald Trump's choice to temporarily replace ousted Attorney General Jeff Sessions — received as executive director of an organization that has sued Democratic lawmakers several times in the past, and on Benczkowski's history working on behalf of a Russian bank." (POLITICO)

around the world

Image via Pixabay.
  • Freedom of expression is at a 10 year low according to this report. "Freedom of expression and information has hit the lowest point in a decade worldwide, with Poland, Croatia, Romania, Russia and Hungary among the offenders, according to a report published Wednesday. Rights organization Article 19, which published the report…highlighted the fact that 78 journalists and 312 rights defenders were killed around the world in 2017, and 326 journalists jailed." (POLITICO)
  • Panama Papers probe leads to four arrests by U.S. authorities. "U.S. authorities charged four people with stashing millions of dollars in offshore shell companies and bank accounts to avoid U.S. taxes with the help of Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca & Co., in the first U.S. criminal prosecution to emerge from the so-called Panama Papers case. Among those charged by federal prosecutors in New York were a lawyer at the now-defunct firm, an investment adviser at an affiliated asset management company, a client and his accountant. The charges include tax evasion, money laundering and wire fraud, among others. Three of the four have been arrested, U.S. authorities said." (Bloomberg)
  • Parliament votes to hold the U.K. government "in contempt" over refusal to release Brexit legal advice. "MPs in Westminster have voted to hold the U.K. government 'in contempt of parliament' for refusing to release key legal advice on Brexit. The House of Commons voted 311 to 293 in favor of the contempt motion, which was put forward by opposition parties after the government refused a parliamentary request to publish the full legal advice relating to the Withdrawal Agreement and the backstop legal guarantee for avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland." (POLITICO)


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