Today in OpenGov: The Once and Future Lobbyist


In today's edition, Rick Scott's successful Senate bid broke a self-funding record, it sure looks like President Trump broke campaign finance laws, public records law might be broken in Oregon, and more. 

washington watch

  • Citing privacy concerns, the Census will limit release of widely used microdata. "The US Census Bureau is concerned about privacy. Maybe a little too concerned. As a data-focused journalist who writes about economic and demographic trends, I use census data a lot. Specifically, I rely on the individual-level microdata that is released by the bureau and turned into an easily usable format by the Minnesota Population Center. I am among tens of of thousands (pdf) of data analysts who rely on this data to study American poverty, health, and population patterns. The US Census announced this week that, because of privacy concerns, this microdata will no longer be made widely available." (Quartz)
  • To super PAC or not to super PAC? That is the question facing 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls. "It is one of the most potent and feared weapons in the arsenal of modern American politics: the super PAC. But as three dozen Democrats ponder presidential runs in 2020 and begin to design their campaign infrastructures, some leading names beyond Senator Bernie Sanders are expected to forgo or disavow super PACs — and with it the ability for allies to raise unlimited sums from wealthy backers — in hopes that grass-roots donors and progressive activists would reward them more handsomely in the primary for rejecting such funds." (New York Times)
  • Florida Governor Rick Scott spent a record $64 million of his own money on his successful Senate bid. "Florida Gov. Rick Scott will become the most junior member of the Senate next month after the 116th Congress is sworn in after defeating three-term Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. But that victory won without a steep price tag. Scott spent a record $63.6 million of his own money on his campaign to oust Nelson and turn the Florida Senate delegation all red, according to his most recent Federal Elections Commission report. That’s more than three quarters of his entire fundraising haul for the cycle of nearly $85 million." (Roll Call)
  • The Senate will vote on a resolution aimed at rolling back a Treasury Department expansion of dark money. "The Senate will vote Tuesday on a resolution to block a Treasury Department policy that reduces the donor-disclosure requirements for nonprofits, according to Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas)…Introduced in September by Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the resolution overturns a Treasury Department change to Schedule B of IRS Form 990, which provides the public financial information about a nonprofit organization. The policy change allows political nonprofits to withhold names of major donors from the Internal Revenue Service." (POLITICO)
  • The strange — and ethically questionable — story of Senator Jon Kyl, the once and future lobbyist. "Few have paid much attention to Kyl, who is wrapping up one of the strangest and — to his critics — one of the most corrupt tenures in the modern history of the Senate. Kyl was a registered lobbyist at a powerhouse D.C. law firm, who lived and worked in Washington for five and a half years before taking a four-month gig as a senator. His only floor speeches have involved matters at least glancingly tied to his lobbying. His entire term of office seems like a calculated attempt to refresh his contacts and gain clout from the inside, only to spin back out to influence the institution. He’s supposed to represent Arizona, but increasingly it appears that he only represents K Street." (The Intercept)


President Trump.
  • President Trump directed "hush-money" payments ahead of the 2016 election. He says it was "a simple private transaction," but it sure looks like a campaign finance violation. "President Trump defended himself on Monday against prosecutors’ accusation that he directed illegal payments ahead of the 2016 election to two women to stay silent about alleged extramarital affairs with him, insisting that the payments were “a simple private transaction” — not election-related spending subject to campaign-finance laws." (New York Times
  • The Trump campaign and a former staffer are fighting over her violation of a nondisclosure agreement. "Jessica Denson, a former staffer for President Donald Trump’s campaign, is fighting an order to pay nearly $25,000 for violating a nondisclosure agreement, according to court papers. The award to the Trump campaign came out of arbitration — nonpublic proceedings the campaign pursued against Denson after she filed two lawsuits against it. Denson was ordered to pay $25,000 to the campaign in October, but the award wasn’t made public until Denson’s lawyers included it in court filings in New York County Supreme Court in late November. The documents obtained by BuzzFeed News this week were not filed electronically." (BuzzFeed)
  • Facing sanctions, foreign governments, individuals, and companies are increasingly turning to Trump-tied lobbyists for Washington support. "In fact, the reception was part of an aggressive $8 million lobbying and public relations campaign that used lobbyists with ties to the Trump administration to try to ease concerns about the Congolese president, Joseph Kabila, whose government was facing threats of additional sanctions from the Trump administration for human rights abuses and corruption. The lavish cocktail party was one example of a lucrative and expanding niche within Washington’s influence industry. As President Trump’s administration has increasingly turned to sanctions, travel restrictions and tariffs to punish foreign governments as well as people and companies from abroad, targets of those measures have turned for assistance to Washington’s K Street corridor of law, lobbying and public relations firms." (New York Times)

states and cities

Image via Pixabay.
  • A judge ruled that Arizona's recent move to deregulate campaign finance was illegal. "A judge has ruled that Arizona lawmakers violated the state Constitution on multiple fronts when they passed a sweeping overhaul of campaign-finance laws in 2016. Those changes illegally limit the power of the voter-approved Citizens Clean Elections Commission to police campaign-finance laws and illegally create loopholes for spending limits, the ruling states. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge David Palmer ruled that the changes are unconstitutional and cannot be enforced." (AZ Central)
  • Support seems to grow for campaign finance overhaul in New York State. "In January, when the state Senate Democratic conference takes control, all three of Albany's most powerful politicians will have authored some form of the "Fair Elections Act," a dramatic overhaul of New York's campaign finance system. The Senate GOP, which had controlled the chamber by a sliver of a majority, historically has blocked campaign finance reforms. These include closure of the LLC loophole, which allows companies to pour virtually unlimited funds into campaign accounts, and publicly financed elections to mitigate the influence of moneyed interests on the electoral system." (Times Union)
  • Across the country requesters struggle to access police records. "Public records advocates have always fought for stronger laws that allow for better oversight and accountability. Despite these efforts, law enforcement agencies are still finding loopholes to allow for the retention of information. While new police transparency bills in California and a recent public records overhaul in Massachusetts are huge victories for access, requesters still face serious barriers when trying to peek past the thin blue line." (MuckRock)
  • High fees, long waits stand in the way of public records access in Oregon. "That it is hard to keep an eye on government in Oregon is the major takeaway from the first report from Oregon's new public records advocate. Across Oregon, people struggle to get information about police, schools and the most powerful public officials in the state, the advocate found…Today, the public often faces high fees and long delays when trying to access information about their government, Oregon public records advocate Ginger McCall wrote in her report. The exemptions that were intended to be limited now number more than 550. These problems are often caused or exacerbated by the fact that many state and local government agencies underfund records staffing, the report says." (Government Technology)

around the world

A July 24 demonstration against arrests over online posts in Lebanon. Photo by Hasan Shaaban via Global Voices
  • This journalist covered the alleged abuse of a migrant worker in Lebanon. Now he's facing trial. "Timour Azhari, a journalist at the Lebanese DailyStar newspaper, is facing trial for covering the alleged abuse of an Ethiopian migrant worker at the hands of her employers in Lebanon. Azhari has also written for Global Voices…After reporting on Lelisa's story, Azhari was charged with defamation over an article published in the DailyStar's online and print editions on March 28, describing Lelisa's allegations against her employers. The case against Azhari also covers journalistic tweets that he posted while covering a protest in front of her employers’ home and workplace for his newspaper." (Global Voices)
  • Opposition journalists face 15 year prison terms in Turkey. "Turkey’s state-run news agency says prosecutors are seeking maximum 15-year prison terms for five journalists of an opposition newspaper, intensifying concerns over authorities’ crackdown on news coverage critical of the government. Anadolu Agency reported Monday that prosecutors are accusing Sozcu newspaper columnists Emin Colasan and Necati Dogru as well as three editors of aiding a network led by U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, without being a member of his movement." (Associated Press)
  • Anti-corruption innovations in Latin America are applicable around the world. "…International Anti-Corruption Day, an annual commemoration of passage of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption fifteen years ago. In honor of the occasion, the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) has published an important, practical and prescriptive report with recommendations for every sector of society from government to individuals on innovative and effective approaches to combatting corruption. While focused on Latin America, the report’s proposals, especially those on the application of new technology in the fight against corruption, are relevant around the world." (Forbes)
  • Canada to prioritize open source for government software. "The Government of Canada has issued an information technology directive on business, information, application, technology and security architectures that includes a mandate to prioritize open source software." (GovFresh)


Tired of your boss/friend/intern/uncle forwarding you this email every morning? You can sign up here and have it delivered direct to your inbox! Please send questions, comments, tips, and concerns to We would love your feedback!