In today's edition, open contracting is providing better food for Philadelphia, the House Democrats' internal party rules might be too secret, President Trump's 2020 campaign has already kicked its spending into high gear, and more.
states and cities
- How Philadelphia is leveraging open contracting to provide better meals for its neediest residents. "At any given time, hundreds of thousands of people living in cities may rely on their municipal government for meals. The City of Philadelphia spends up to $25 million every year on food and food services for residents, whether through providing lunches for children at summer camp, or feeding people experiencing homelessness and living in a shelter. Indeed, about 14.5 million meals are prepared annually for people living in public institutions, such as shelters or prisons, and to children in summer, recreational, or after-school programs…The City recently passed an update to its procurement policy, shifting to Best Value procurement. Best Value allows City buyers to evaluate potential business partners — in this case, food vendors — in terms of the quality of their product, instead of requiring the City to always award the contract to the lowest bidder…The Sunlight Foundation’s Open Cities team and the Open Contracting Partnership are excited to announce a project with the City of Philadelphia’s Chief Administrative Officer and Open Data teams to bring better quality food to Philadelphia’s residents." (Sunlight Foundation)
- The indictment of this Pennsylvania political boss is rocking the state's Democratic politics. "The indictment of one of Pennsylvania’s most powerful behind-the-scenes political players is rattling Democrats in a state that’s expected to be a key 2020 battleground. The bombshell charges announced Wednesday against building trades leader John "Johnny Doc" Dougherty — a Philadelphia labor kingpin whose union is the single biggest independent source of campaign funding in the state — threaten to sap statehouse and congressional Democrats of a mega-donor, slow the party’s momentum in the Philadelphia suburbs, and sideline the man who orchestrated the Democratic takeover of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court." (POLITICO)
- Can data journalism and automation turn around the decline of local news? "The most recent wave of layoffs hitting the news industry offers a harsh reminder: digital media still hasn’t found a sustainable economic equilibrium. The future of local journalism looks particularly bleak, with some communities now considered “news deserts” as local papers disappear or are reduced to husks of their former selves. But amid these declines a new concept is being tested: data journalism, along with some cleverly applied automation, could be part of the antidote." (Columbia Journalism Review)
- Momentum is building to bring some much needed transparency to Washington D.C.'s charter schools. "In just the last few days, an amazing cascade of events suggests the sunshine of open government may be coming to the District of Columbia's 123 charter schools, a world with some areas of serious darkness…The Coalition plans to feature the topic at its March public summit during Sunshine Week and looks forward to joining this new movement in renewed advocacy for real transparency about schools serving about half D.C. of students and supported (this year) with almost $900 million in local tax dollars." (D.C. Open Government Coalition)
- House Democrats are facing pressure to bring some transparency to their internal party rules. "House Democratic leaders are under pressure to publish their internal party rules — a deceptively dry set of policies that can determine how power is distributed among members, how the party responds to scandal, and what issues the party will prioritize on the chamber floor. Those guidelines 'have a significant impact on the legislative process,' according to 11 progressive and civil rights groups, who wrote a letter to party leaders Thursday asking for the rules to be published on the internet." (Roll Call)
- Arizona Sen. Martha McSally (R) was flagged by the FEC for accepting excessive campaign contributions. "Arizona Sen. Martha McSally, whose fundraising practices have drawn scrutiny in the past, appears to have accepted more than $270,000 in excessive campaign contributions during the recent midterm campaign, according to the Federal Election Commission…the federal agency flagged dozens of contributions to McSally from more than 60 donors that appear to exceed those limits, including one who cut a $10,000 check during the general election alone, according to an analysis of FEC records. The agency said in a letter on Monday that McSally has until early March to correct any record-keeping issues, or refund the money." (Associated Press)
- Argument between FCC, net neutrality defenders head to court in Washington today. "Oral arguments will begin tomorrow for one of the most important cases in internet law history. The case will be heard in a Washington, DC courtroom, as a group of net neutrality defenders squares off with the Federal Communications Commission in a legal battle to decide the rules of the web. When the FCC, led by a Republican majority, moved in late 2017 to repeal Obama-era net neutrality rules, it kicked off a fight on several fronts…But what may be the most likely shot at restoring net neutrality regulations will come from a petition against the FCC filed by several supporters of the dismantled rules." (The Verge)
- Reintroduced bill takes aim at dark money in politics. "Sens. Ron Wyden and Jon Tester on Thursday reintroduced the Spotlight Act, a bill they said would shine a light on dark money political donors and hold the Trump Administration accountable to enforce our nation’s campaign finance laws…Wyden and Tester first introduced the Spotlight Act last July after the Treasury Department announced it would no longer require non-profit organizations engaged in political activity to disclose basic information about their donors." (KTVZ News)
- The Census is preparing to fight misinformation campaigns aimed at suppressing response rates to the 2020 count. "The Census Bureau expects bad actors to target the 2020 count with the same online misinformation tactics that plagued the 2016 election, and it’s building a plan to fight back, said the bureau’s second-in-command. Misinformation is one of officials’ biggest concerns in the run-up to the decennial count, according to Census Deputy Director Ron Jarmin. By spreading false information through social media, he said, adversaries could suppress participation in the 2020 count, just as they did in the last presidential race." (NextGov)
- President Trump's re-election campaign is already raising, spending significant sums. "That brings Trump’s re-election fundraising haul up to $67.5 million — an unprecedented effort for a first-term president during his first two years in office…Trump’s fundraising prowess meant the president had $19.3 million in his campaign warchest going into 2019. That number would have been larger had the president’s campaign not burned through existing reserves — it spent more than $23 million from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31." (Center for Public Integrity)
- The Trump re-election bid owes the Treasury more than $1 million for travel expenses, according to new FEC documents. "The Trump campaign owes the Treasury Department over $1 million in travel expenses, according to a new filing released by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) Thursday. The filing revealed that the campaign owed the government an estimated $1,006,954 and was still indebted to other organizations for smaller amounts regarding event staging, video production services and other miscellaneous expenses. It owes a total of $1,035,597.62." (The Hill)
- The Adelsons gave $500,000 to a legal defense fund for Trump aides in October. "Billionaire Republican donors Sheldon and Miriam Adelson gave $500,000 to a legal defense fund set up to help aides to President Donald Trump that are involved in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. The Adelsons each contributed $250,000 on Oct. 1 to the Patriot Legal Expense Fund Trust, which was set up last year to help campaign aides pay for legal bills related to the investigation." (POLITICO)
- The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight will discuss legislation aimed at getting Trump's tax returns next week. "A House panel next week will be the first to wade into Democrats' efforts to ensure that President Donald Trump and his successors release their tax returns, setting the stage for possible political and legal battles to come. The House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee specifically called next Thursday’s hearing to discuss a legislative proposal that would require presidents, vice presidents and major party nominees for those offices to release a decade’s worth of tax returns." (POLITICO)
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