Today in OpenGov: Let’s Make A Deal


In today's edition, Congress has a plan to end secret sexual harassment settlements, New York City lawmakers express annoyance at Amazon over secret negotiations, Michael Cohen gets his sentence, and more. 

washington watch

The United States Capitol building. 
  • The Senate voted to overturn an IRS rule limiting donor disclosure for political nonprofits, but the House is unlikely to consider it. "The Senate passed legislation Wednesday to reverse a Trump administration policy limiting donor disclosure requirements for political nonprofits in a rare rebuke to the White House. In a 50-49 vote, the Senate approved a resolution from Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) that would block the recent Treasury Department change to IRS forms allowing political nonprofits to avoid listing some donors. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) joined every Democrat in support of the measure, which required only a simple majority to pass under the Congressional Review Act." (POLITICO)
  • Congress appears to have a bipartisan deal to end secret sexual harassment settlements, make other reforms around harassment on Capitol Hill. "The Senate and House announced a bipartisan deal on Wednesday that would overhaul how sexual harassment is handled on Capitol Hill, after months of stalling. The deal, lawmakers announced, would take a variety of steps to change how Congress deals with sexual harassment, including publicly naming members who are personally liable. It will also, once passed, ease the process of reporting harassment claims, which came under scrutiny when the #MeToo movement reached Congress more than a year ago." (BuzzFeed)
  • Congress passes bill that sets standards for accessibility, security, and ease of use for government websites. "Federal agencies will soon be required by law to provide better digital experiences for citizens. Wednesday, the Senate passed the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act, or 21st Century IDEA, which sets minimum standards for accessibility, ease of use and security of government websites. The bill now heads to the president’s desk to be signed into law. The legislation gives agencies 180 days before all new websites or “digital services”—web-based form, app and the like—must meet eight specific criteria…" (NextGov)
  • Democratic megadonor Tom Steyer appears to show presidential aspirations with LinkedIn job postings. "Billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer is putting out feelers on the professional networking website LinkedIn for several high-level campaign staffers in three crucial early-voting states. The posting, which seeks applications for state director jobs in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, was posted last week under an anonymous account. But the job listing provides one hint that it came from Steyer: it describes "a high profile campaign based on the West Coast." Steyer lives in California. A spokesperson for Steyer confirmed to The Hill on Wednesday that the post came from the Democratic donor's team." (The Hill)
  • Thomas Dodd, former staffer to disgraced Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX), sentenced in fraud case. "Former Capitol Hill staffer, Thomas Dodd, was sentenced Wednesday for participating in an extensive scheme that involved defrauding charitable donors by laundering funds to pay personal and campaign expenses. Dodd, 40, was an aide to former Rep. Steve Stockman. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison, ordered to pay $800,000 in restitution and ordered to forfeit $153,044.28 in illicit gains." (Roll Call)

states and cities

The cover image on New York's proposal for Amazon's "HQ2," which was initially marked "PRIVATE & CONFIDENTIAL" before being released in the wake of the public announcement that Amazon would build half of their second headquarters in New York City. 
  • New York City Council members aren't happy with the secrecy around the deal to bring part of Amazon's second headquarters to the Big Apple. "New York City Council members denounced Inc. executives and a city economic development official over its deal that will provide the company with $3 billion of incentives for building a satellite headquarters in Long Island City…The council has few, if any, tools to block the deal, although lawyers for the legislative body may file a lawsuit to challenge the authority of the mayor and governor and slow the project’s process, according to Johnson and Jimmy Van Bramer, the council member who represents the area…Council members are considering a law that would bar city officials from negotiating non-disclosure agreements with companies that receive public funds as incentives to locate in the city." (Bloomberg)
  • Unprecedented lawsuit by the Massachusetts Attorney General leads order for agency records release. "After a two-year legal battle, a Suffolk County District Judge has ordered three District Attorneys in Massachusetts to release records to The Boston Globe following a lawsuit spearheaded by the state’s Attorney General, Maura Healey. The 2016 lawsuit is an unprecedented move – as the Globe reports, this is the first time the state AG has sued another agency for failing to release records." (MuckRock)
  • Cincinnati, Ohio's data program turns two. "Cincinnati’s prolific data operation, CincyInsights, recently turned two years old. The anniversary created occasion to take stock of all the program has achieved, where it’s headed, and the lessons leadership has learned along the way. Government Technology recently spoke with Leigh Tami, the city's chief performance officer and director of data analytics, about the program." (Government Technology)
  • New York Civil Liberties Union sues Immigration and Customs Enforcement over changes to algorithm. "The New York Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against US Immigration and Customs Enforcement over changes to the agency’s Risk Classification Assessment (RCA) software, which is used when ICE detains someone for deportation proceedings. The tool provides an algorithm-based recommendation on whether an immigrant should be detained in jail until they can see a judge — or whether they can instead be released on bond in the interim. But the NYCLU claims that in 2017, ICE altered the RCA so that it overwhelmingly started to favor detention over release. It became the default, guaranteed recommendation even for people with little or no criminal history." (The Verge)


The Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago. 
  • Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in jail for various crimes related to his work for President Trump… "President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday, just days after directly implicating Trump in a felony stemming from hush-money payments to two women made just weeks before the 2016 election. The sentencing marked the culmination of a months-long saga that began in April with a dramatic FBI raid on Cohen’s home and office and ended with Trump’s most loyal lieutenant and fixer—who once said he would take a bullet for his boss—turning against the president and implicating him directly in criminal misconduct." (The Atlantic)
  • …Meanwhile, the publisher of the National Inquirer cut a deal with prosecutors, admitting that it paid to suppress a damaging story about President Trump ahead of the 2016 election. "The National Enquirer’s parent company acknowledged paying hush money to a woman who alleged an affair with Donald Trump to 'suppress the woman’s story' and 'prevent it from influencing the election.' The admission came as federal prosecutors announced Wednesday that they would not prosecute the company, American Media Inc. (AMI), for its role in a scheme to tilt the presidential race in favor of Trump. In the agreement, AMI said it would cooperate with prosecutors and admitted it paid $150,000 to Karen McDougal before the 2016 election to silence her allegations of an affair with Trump." (Washington Post)
  • Rudy Giuliani is President Trump's personal lawyer. He's also still courting governments around the world for his security business. "The special counsel’s investigation was grinding relentlessly onward, with President Trump’s former national security adviser pleading for leniency in his case and his former fixer about to be sentenced for his crimes. But Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, was in Manama, Bahrain, on Tuesday, meeting with the king and the interior minister of an important United States ally in the Middle East…The trip was part of a concerted push Mr. Giuliani has undertaken in the last few weeks to win business from governments around the world — including in Africa and South America — for a firm he owns called Giuliani Security and Safety. In his role representing Mr. Trump in the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, Mr. Giuliani is not a government employee, and is not subject to government ethics rules, including prohibitions on outside work. But as his visit to Bahrain showed, Mr. Giuliani’s various interests can lead to confusion over the nature of his role." (New York Times)


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