Today in OpenGov: Cracks in the Foundation


In today's edition, the Trump Foundation cracks, researchers try to cope with the disappearance of an HHS database, find out where to give back this holiday season with this national Toys for Tots map, and more. 


The Trump Foundation will be dissolved shortly. Image via Wikimedia.
  • Trump Foundation agrees to shut down amid ongoing investigation, assertions that it was "little more than a checkbook" for President Trump's business and political interests. "The Donald J. Trump Foundation, once billed as the charitable arm of the president’s financial empire, agreed to dissolve on Tuesday and give away all its remaining assets under court supervision as part of an ongoing investigation and lawsuit by the New York attorney general. The foundation was accused by the attorney general, Barbara Underwood, of 'functioning as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests,' and of engaging in 'a shocking pattern of illegality' that included unlawfully coordinating with Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. In addition to shuttering the charity, her office has pursued a lawsuit that could bar President Trump and his three oldest children from the boards of other New York charities, as well as force the payment of millions in restitution and penalties." (New York Times)
  • Judge blocks watchdog's attempt to obtain President Trump's tax returns via FOIA… "President Donald Trump’s tax returns, which he has refused to make public, can’t be obtained by a non-profit organization using the Freedom of Information Act, the federal appeals court in Washington ruled. The information is shielded by a taxpayer privacy law passed after President Richard Nixon tried to use the Internal Revenue Service to harass his political enemies, Circuit Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson said in an opinion Tuesday, upholding a lower-court ruling against a FOIA request by the Electronic Privacy Information Center." (Bloomberg)
  • …Meanwhile, House Democrats are formulating their strategy to gain access to the documents. "Of the dozens of potential investigations that House Democrats may pursue in 2019, few have received as much coverage as the possibility of examining President Trump’s tax returns. Trump repeatedly promised — then refused — to release his returns in 2016. Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee now plan to formally request them from the treasury secretary during the 116th Congress." (Washington Post)
  • President Trump is taking a unique and all-powerful approach to his 2020 campaign organization. "President Donald Trump is planning to roll out an unprecedented structure for his 2020 reelection, a streamlined organization that incorporates the Republican National Committee and the president’s campaign into a single entity. It’s a stark expression of Trump’s stranglehold over the Republican Party: Traditionally, a presidential reelection committee has worked in tandem with the national party committee, not subsumed it." (POLITICO)

washington watch

Chart via Issue One.
  • Super PACs and dark money groups outspent candidates in a record number of races in 2018. "As Democrats and Republicans battled for dominance in both the House of Representatives and the Senate in 2018, super PACs and dark money groups collectively outspent the candidates’ own campaigns in a record-breaking 16 races, according to data provided to Issue One by the Center for Responsive Politics. Control of the House and Senate for the next two years was determined by a small number of elections in 2018. Super PACs and dark money groups focused most of their spending in these races." (Issue One)
  • Researchers try to cope without HHS public medical guideline database five months after its takedown. "When the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research (AHRQ) shut down its National Guideline Clearinghouse (NGC) in July, medical professionals who relied on the database, hosted at, reacted with alarm. For nearly 20 years, AHRQ’s repository of medical guidelines had served as the gold standard for clinicians, helping guide day to day care by keeping medical professionals informed of the most current research in virtually every field, and helping them evaluate the quality of guidelines published by a range of organizations. The vast archive of guidelines that the NGC once held — and the concise summaries of sometimes lengthy documents that made it a critical resource — is, for all practical purposes, inaccessible. AHRQ has not allowed any organization to take control of the materials, and has not allocated the resources required to maintain even a static archive of the records created over the past two decades." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • 83 ethics complaints filed against Brett Kavanaugh have been dismissed now that he's a confirmed Supreme Court Justice. "All of the ethics complaints filed against Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation proceedings were dismissed on Tuesday after a panel of federal judges concluded that Kavanaugh is no longer covered by the judiciary's disciplinary process. While Kavanaugh's nomination was pending over the summer and into the fall, dozens of ethics complaints were filed against him, including allegations that he hadn't been truthful when he testified before the Senate during his confirmation hearings, and that his fiery criticism of Democrats and his other detractors at a hearing on the sexual assault and harassment allegations against him in September showed bias and a lack of judicial temperament." (BuzzFeed)
  • In commercialization push, the Department of Defense is starting to declassify space traffic data. "Not many people need direct access to what the U.S. military calls “space situational awareness,” a fancy term for knowing what man-made objects are in space, and where. But those with an eye on Earth’s orbit now have access to a trove of never-before-seen data about space objects that before now the government has kept secret. The declassification effort, announced in October, yielded another release of data last week." (Popular Mechanics)

states and cities

  • Looking to give back this holiday season? Check out this map of all the Toys for Tots drop off locations around the United States. "Spoiled by a constant flow of information and trivia, when some bit of information is not quickly available on the Internet — heaven forbid — we get mad. Well, some of us. Others take action. Just look at John Kramlich, who noticed that the charity organization Toys for Tots didn’t have an easily searchable map of places where folks could drop off donations in his community. It was Christmastime last year, and Kramlich set out to change this during a meeting of OpenSTL, which is the civic tech group where he lives in St. Louis, Mo." (Government Technology)
  • Maine Representative isn't happy voters approved the rank-choiced voting system that resulted in his defeat. Plans to appeal judge's ruling upholding the system. "Rep. Bruce Poliquin is appealing a recent federal judge’s rejection of his lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of ranked-choice voting. Poliquin and three other residents of Maine’s 2nd Congressional District filed a notice of appeal Monday, four days after a U.S. District Court judge dismissed his constitutional arguments and refused to order a new election. Attorneys for Poliquin said they plan to file a brief Tuesday with the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston. The two-term Republican lost the 2nd District election to Democratic Rep.-elect Jared Golden in the nation’s first use of ranked-choice voting to decide a congressional race." (Press Herald)
  • Is your city turning into a "heat island"? Check out this data driven approach to cool it down. "City governments face critical challenges as more and more people move into urban areas, including rising housing costs, traffic congestion and waste generation. For fast-growing cities, particularly those in warmer climates, there is growing awareness of another environmental issue that impacts public health: heat islands…rowing rapidly in the Sun Belt, Dallas is warming faster than all but two large U.S. cities, Louisville and Phoenix, according to one study. Knowing they had to act to stave off a public health crisis, Dallas officials and environmental groups partnered with the Trust for Public Land (TPL), the Texas Tree Foundation (TTF) and several other organizations to develop Smart Growth for Dallas, an initiative to improve the city's social, economic and environmental resilience." (Governing)

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