Today in OpenGov: Changing Perceptions


In today's edition, we look at the results of the 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index, a House Committee discusses a major package of democratic reforms, Facebook extends its flawed approach to online ad transparency ahead of EU elections, Maryland's legislature embraces livestreaming, and more. 


Interactive map featuring data from Transparency International's 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). The United States dropped six spots from the 2017 CPI.Interactive map featuring data from Transparency International's 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). The United States dropped six spots from the 2017 CPI.
  • 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index reveals a "crisis in democracy" and lack of progress against corruption… "It reveals that the continued failure of most countries to significantly control corruption is contributing to a crisis in democracy around the world. While there are exceptions, the data shows that despite some progress, most countries are failing to make serious inroads against corruption." (Transparency International)
  • …with the United States dropping six spots amid "erosion of ethical norms" in Trump administration. "The U.S. plunged in an annual global corruption index as a surge in support for populist leaders and the erosion of democracy hobbled efforts to tackle graft around the world. The U.S. under President Donald Trump dropped six places to 22nd globally in the 2018 corruption-perception index published by the Berlin-based Transparency International…The U.S. registered its lowest score on the annual index in seven years." (Bloomberg)
  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders started her first televised briefing of 2019 with a joke about how long it had been since her last appearance at the podium. "Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday began the White House's first press televised briefing of 2019 by telling the press she missed them…Her appearance in the briefing room marked the first on-camera press briefing in more than a month. Sanders conducted two briefings in October, and one each in November and December. Before Monday, the most recent White House press briefing was held on Dec. 18, marking the longest gap during the Trump presidency." (The Hill)
  • Michael Cohen will testify at a closed session of the House Intelligence Committee. "President Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen has agreed to testify before the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors in February, according to Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). Schiff announced Monday evening that Cohen, who has been cooperating in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, would appear for 'closed testimony' before the committee on Feb. 8…The news comes days after Cohen postponed scheduled testimony before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, citing “ongoing threats” from Trump and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani." (The Hill)

washington watch

House Democrats introduce H.R. 1, the "For the People Act of 2019," via Representative Zoe Lofgren.House Democrats introduce H.R. 1, the "For the People Act of 2019," via Representative Zoe Lofgren.
  • The House Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing on H.R. 1, the "For the People Act of 2019," the Democratic majority's package of democracy reforms. The hearing will take place this morning at 10:00am. Election Law Blog has more details including a witness list. The Judiciary Committee's page for the hearing can be found here
  • The Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act has been reintroduced in the House and Senate. The bipartisan legislation would create a searchable, central repository to provide public access to reports from the executive branch that are mandated by Congress. The bill, which Sunlight has supported for many years, was introduced in the House by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) and in the Senate by Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)
  • President Obama spoke for Boeing executives shortly after the company cut a big check to his presidential library. "Obama dropped in on the leadership sessions while traveling back to the mainland from his year-end holiday in Hawaii, and Arizona’s top-notch golf courses were part of the allure. The former president waived his speaking fee for the informal address, said Katie Hill, Obama’s spokeswoman. Boeing has emerged as one of the major corporate donors helping fund Obama’s library and museum in Chicago. The aerospace giant gave $10 million to the project ahead of Obama’s address to managers at a five-star Scottsdale resort in early January, according to the people, who aren’t authorized to speak publicly." (Bloomberg)
  • Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schulz is contemplating an independent presidential bid targeting moderates. He has some history as a Democratic donor. "Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who announced he is a preparing a presidential bid Sunday, has a long history as a Democratic political donor…Schultz, whose projected net worth is $3.4 billion, and his wife Sherri, have contributed around $193,000 combined to Democratic candidates and organizations since the early 1990s. The bulk of those donations, $116,200 since 1996, went to the Democratic National Committee. Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell of Washington, the original home and headquarters of Starbucks, were the two highest candidate recipients of Schultz’s campaign cash in his limited history as a donor." (Open Secrets)

One step forward two steps back

A selection of political ads linked to Russian sources pulled from Facebook and Instagram. Via the Senate Intelligence Committee.A selection of political ads linked to Russian sources pulled from Facebook and Instagram. Via the Senate Intelligence Committee.
  • Facebook is rolling out new ad transparency rules, based on existing efforts in the U.S., ahead of EU elections… "Facebook will implement tools to make political advertising more transparent during the upcoming European Parliament election, including so-called issue ads, the company announced Monday…Facebook's tools will be largely modeled after those implemented during the U.S. midterm election." (POLITICO)
  • …while at the same time blocking outside efforts to shed light on advertising on their platform. "A number of organizations, including ProPublica, have developed tools to let the public see exactly how Facebook users are being targeted by advertisers. Now, Facebook has quietly made changes to its site that stop those efforts. ProPublica, Mozilla and Who Targets Me have all noticed their tools stopped working this month after Facebook inserted code in its website that blocks them." (ProPublica)
As we've argued before, self-regulation is not enough for political ad transparency on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Facebook's move to shut down independent transparency efforts while extending their flawed transparency tools to new territories is just further evidence of that. 

states and cities

The John A. Wilson Building in Washington, D.C.The John A. Wilson Building in Washington, D.C.
  • A member of the Washington, D.C. city council has quietly rejected two mayoral nominees to the city's ethics board. "Councilmember Charles Allen rejected Mayor Muriel Bowser's two picks to sit on the D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability (BEGA) earlier this month. The five-member board responsible for investigating alleged ethics violations of government employees, and for generally keeping everybody in line, is bleeding members…Allen, who chairs the Council's Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety and has oversight of BEGA, let the nominations expire at the end of 2018—a kind of passive but intentional thanks-but-no-thanks move. In a letter explaining his rationale, Allen says he's looking for people with more ethics and open government expertise." (Washington City Paper)
  • The Maryland House and Senate will be livestreaming their sessions by 2021. "Maryland House of Delegates Speaker Michael Busch said his chamber would begin livestreaming its sessions next year on the General Assembly’s website, and state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said the Senate would follow suit in 2021. Busch’s announcement of the House plan came a day after a bipartisan pair of delegates introduced a bill that would require the streaming." (Government Technology)
  • Across the country, state lawmakers are looking to expand ballot access and reform outdated election laws. "In the nearly three months since elections dogged by accusations of voter suppression, state lawmakers across the country have either filed or pre-filed at least 230 bills that would expand access to the ballot for millions of Americans. Bipartisan efforts aim to bring automatic voter registration, vote-by-mail, or the restoration of voting rights for ex-felons to more than 30 states." (Governing)


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