Today in OpenGov: As the Revolving Door Turns


In today's edition, recently departed members of Congress waste no time walking through the revolving door, the latest trial over the Census citizenship question gets underway in California, an appeals court rules against a Virginia official for banning constituents on social media, protests continue in Hungary, and more. 

washington watch 

Image: Tiina Knuutila/Sunlight Foundation.
  • The revolving door between Capitol Hill, K Street, and news networks spins as Congress turns over. Former Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) returned to his K Street perch at Covington & Burling while former Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Lamar Smith (R-TX) signed on at Akin Gump. (POLITICO) Meanwhile, former Representatives Mia Love (R-UT) and Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL) will appear as talking heads on CNN. (Roll Call)
  • Policymakers are increasingly embracing Instagram Stories, raising transparency red flags. "Look no farther than the Instagram video that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez posted of herself dancing down a Capitol Hill hallway: A new generation of younger, tech-savvy lawmakers is bringing a different social media playbook to Washington.  But open government advocates are raising new concerns about how policymakers are using some of the more ephemeral features of social media — including “Stories” that expire after 24 hours on Instagram, Snap and even Facebook. Unlike traditional posts, these missives delete by default, which could leave no trace of political messages or policy stances." (Washington Post)
  • Updated House rules include a new Office of the Whistleblower Ombudsman. "During their first hours controlling the House in the 116th Congress, Democrats on Jan. 3 and Jan. 4 pushed through an array of single-chamber rules changes that included creation of a long-sought Office of the Whistleblower Ombudsman…Creation of the office—still unfunded—was spearheaded by Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., the co-chair of the bipartisan House Whistleblower Protection Caucus who in 2013 set up a whistleblower hotline to ease the way for agency employees who wish to disclose wrongdoing without jeopardizing their careers." (Government Executive)
  • The Interior Department wants to change how they handle FOIA and doesn't seem that interested in hearing your feedback on their plan. "The Department of the Interior wants to drastically change how it deals with Freedom of Information Act requests. To do that, it had to make a proposal, published in the Federal Register, that the public can comment on for 30 days. In theory, it has to consider this input before finalizing any changes to its FOIA regulations. That proposal was published on December 28th, 2018, which is 1) a Friday 2) in the middle of the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day 3) during a government shutdown. Any one of those is a tried-and-true way to slip something past the public, but all three simultaneously? That is the trifecta of bureaucratic underhandedness." (MuckRock)


President Trump.
  • Major news networks set to broadcast President Trump's address on border "crisis" despite debate. "Major broadcast and cable news networks have agreed to air President Donald Trump’s Tuesday night Oval Office address on what he has dubbed a 'crisis' on the southern border. Trump’s announcement Monday that he will deliver remarks in prime time prompted debate over whether the networks should provide the president a platform given his propensity for spreading falsehoods, especially in his fight with Democratic lawmakers to secure additional government funding for a border wall…And though Trump has dubbed the non-Fox networks the 'enemy of the people,' he still benefits from networks’ inclination to honor airtime requests for presidential addresses. But the networks haven’t always ceded valuable prime-time coverage to other presidents." (POLITICO)
  • President Trump renews attacks on the news media, adding "crazed lunatics," to his list of insults. "President Trump launched a fresh attack Monday on the news media, writing in tweets that it consists of many 'crazed lunatics,' and he again invoked the derogatory term 'enemy of the people.'…It was not clear what provoked Trump’s broadside. A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a question about what prompted the president’s tweets." (Washington Post)
  • Second trial over Census citizenship question gets underway in California. "California’s challenge of a citizenship question the Trump administration is adding to the 2020 census started in San Francisco, following a similar trial in New York. Lawyers for cities including Los Angeles and San Jose argue that the question — “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” — will cause an undercount in the nation’s most populous state, result in lost federal funds for schools, roads and public transportation, and possibly cost the state at least one congressional seat." (Bloomberg)

states and cities

Image via ProPublica. 
  • A federal appeals court ruled against a Virginia county official for blocking a constituent following social media criticism. "A federal appeals court in Virginia ruled unanimously Monday that a county official who blocked a citizen from accessing her official Facebook page is in violation of the First Amendment. The case—which was heard before the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals—found that Phyllis Randall, the chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, improperly blocked a man named Brian Davison on Facebook for 12 hours back in February 2016." (Ars Technica)
  • Following ballot measure, Florida law restoring voting rights to former felons set to take effect. "Tuesday is a historic day in Florida. Under an amendment passed by the voters in November, as many as 1.4 million former felons are regaining the right to vote. The referendum overturned a 150-year-old law that permanently disenfranchised people with felony convictions. Before the change, people who served their time could apply for clemency to a board headed by the governor. But the cumbersome process and a multiyear backlog meant that only a small percentage applied." (NPR)
  • Facing an uptick in violent crime, police in this Pennsylvania town are turning to data for help. Reading Police Department leaders Friday unveiled a crime-reduction strategy that embraces analytics with the vigor that many sports teams today use to get a step ahead of the competition. Deputy Chief Osborne Robinson III, the prime architect of the plan, said at a city hall news conference that he believes wholeheartedly in the use of data to maximize resources." (Government Technology)

around the world

Protests last year in Budapest, Hungary. Screenshot via YouTube. 
  • Amid sustained protests against President Viktor Orban, Hungarian union's contemplate a general strike. Bolstered by a wave of nationwide protests, Hungary’s labor unions are mulling whether to hold their first general strike since the 1989 fall of the Iron Curtain. Industrial workers were among the more than 10,000 people braved freezing weather in Budapest over the weekend to demand Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government repeal a new law allowing companies to ask them to work as much as six days a week." (Bloomberg)
  • Why did 14 major opposition parties sit out Togo's recent legislative elections? "On New Year’s Eve, Togo’s Constitutional Court proclaimed the official results of the country’s Dec. 20 legislative election. Twelve parties competed — plus 17 lists of independent candidates — but 14 major opposition parties (a coalition known as C14) that collectively won some 40 percent of the vote in the previous election sat out…In Togo’s previous two legislative elections (2007 and 2013), however, opposition parties competed — and held the ruling party to less than 50 percent of the vote. C14’s move in December effectively guaranteed the ruling party control of Togo’s legislature. But the opposition members believed they had little power to change that outcome, whether they competed or not." (Washington Post)
  • A Venezuelan Supreme Court justice has fled to the U.S. and denounced President Nicolás Maduro. "A Venezuelan Supreme Court judge who once supported President Nicolás Maduro has fled to the United States and publicly denounced Maduro's re-election days before the inauguration…Maduro won the May 2018 race amid widespread accusations of fraud. He will begin his second term on Thursday. Zerpa said he did not speak out against the election results months ago out of concerns for his family's safety." (NPR)


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