Today in OpenGov: The Dark Money Detective Agency


In today's edition, Montana's dark money detective, K Street's shutdown anxiety, New York's move towards election reform, and more. 

states and cities

  • Profiling Montana's "dark money detective." "With a long history of anti-corporate populism and intimate electoral campaigns, Montana is the sort of place where you might bump into your senator at a coffee shop or spot your legislator on a dating site. It's the sort of place where you can run for office without a war chest and still stand a chance. It's a place with just a million people and little tolerance for big money meddling. And that's where Motl has made his mark. As the former commissioner of political practices here, he has spent four years serving as the state's primary campaign finance watchdog." (Pacific Standard)
  • Judge allows FOI suit seeking police video of a D.C. councilmember's traffic stop to continue. "D.C. Superior Court Judge Hiram Puig-Lugo declined Tueday (7) to dismiss the Post's case seeking police video a traffic stop of D.C. Councilmember Trayon White Sr. in 2017.  Attorneys for the District of Columbia asked the case be tossed out, stressing White's privacy should be protected as the public had no valid interest in the video…The court noted the privacy exemptions in the public records law prevail "only where a personal privacy interest is present and where that interest outweighs the public interest in disclosure" and disagreed with the District's view on both." (D.C. Open Government Coalition)
  • Reform appears to be on the way for New York State's antiquated election laws. "For years, the ways in which voters in New York have been stymied by the state’s antiquated voting laws have stood in stark contrast to the state’s liberal reputation…Legislative leaders said they intend to pass a voting reform package on Monday to overhaul the state’s voting laws, among the more restrictive in the nation." (New York Times)
  • California Governor Gavin Newsom proposes a new state Office of Digital Innovation. "California Governor Gavin Newsom has proposed a new Office of Digital Innovation as part of the state’s 2019-20 budget with initial start-up costs of $36.2 million and 50 positions. The proposal also includes an innovation academy and $20 million innovation fund." (GovFresh)

washington watch

Image credit: Ben Schumin.
  • K Street, unions look for an end to the government shutdown. "Lobbying groups and unions are stepping up their campaigns aimed at ending the partial government shutdown, making clear their mounting frustration as the financial pressures hit businesses and furloughed workers alike…Already this week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s biggest business lobby, sent a letter to lawmakers and the White House, calling for an end to the shutdown. The Airports Council International-North America also urged President Donald Trump and congressional leaders to resolve the standoff." (Roll Call)
  • The government shutdown has delayed the release of key economic data. "The partial shutdown of the U.S. government is making it harder for Federal Reserve officials, investors, trade negotiators and others to read the economy at a critical moment." (Wall Street Journal)
  • Russian troll or super PAC? It's not always easy to tell the difference. "What's the difference between a political operative and an internet troll? The answer isn't as clear as you might think…the truth is, there's a thin line between trolls and some political pros. Political campaigns and independent expenditure groups have adopted a variety of shady strategies and tactics that involve targeting voters with trollish behavior, and Russia’s intervention in US elections is merely part of a much larger problem." (BuzzFeed)
  • Senator-lobbyist-senator-lobbyist Jon Kyl voted for legislation that is likely to boost profits at companies that employed him before his brief return to the Senate last year. "After Sen. John McCain’s death in August 2018, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey appointed former Republican Senator Jon Kyl to replace him—despite Kyl having spent years lobbying his former colleagues for an array of defense, utility, nuclear, tech, and social media companies that have business before the chamber. Government watchdogs warned of potential ethics issues, but Kyl was allowed to step aside from his K Street job and work on legislation without acknowledging conflicts of interest or recusing himself…A Sludge investigation has found that Kyl voted for legislation that will likely increase profits for several companies that employed him right up until the moment he joined the Senate—two of his former defense industry lobbying clients and a nuclear weapons company where he was a paid board member." (Sludge)


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