Today in OpenGov: Vouch for it.


In today's edition, lawmakers look to stop the revolving door between Capitol Hill and K Street, Seattle sends out another round of Democracy Vouchers, press freedom deteriorates in the EU, and more. 

washington watch

A hand labeled K Street shaking a hand labeled Capitol Hill in front of a graphic of the Capitol with a revolving door. Image via Sunlight Foundation.
  • GOP Representative introduces bill that would ban former members of Congress from lobbying… "Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (R-Ind.) introduced legislation this week that would ban former members of Congress from registering as lobbyists…The lifetime lobbying ban would also punish any former member or senator who 'knowingly makes, with the intent to influence' communication with a member on behalf of another person, in order to avoid members working as lobbyists without registering." (The Hill)
  • …Meanwhile, former members of Congress who have gone through the revolving door but avoided registering as lobbyists are facing renewed scrutiny. "Lawmakers who head to K Street are facing new scrutiny from critics who say former members are often taking on lobbying work even when they don’t officially register to lobby…Critics say former lawmakers have been the biggest offenders when it comes to working in the influence world without formally registering…The Lobbying Disclosure Act, enacted in 1995, states that a person must register to lobby if lobbying activities constitute at least 20 percent of their time working for a client.  That allows many former members who work for lobbying shops and big firms to handle policy issues but avoid crossing the line to require registering as a lobbyist." (The Hill) Our take? If former members of Congress want to enter the influence industry after their terms in office expire, they should be transparent about it instead of hiding behind the 20 percent loophole, which we believe should be closed.
  • The FBI needs to keep a closer watch on employee texts, according to new IG report. "The FBI needs to improve its ability to forensically examine and retrieve employee text messages sent on official devices, a watchdog recommended. The short memo from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s office was released on Tuesday as a follow-up to the IG's lengthy and politically sensitive investigation of the bureau’s handling of probes of both major-party candidates during the 2016 presidential campaign." (Government Executive)
  • The House Judiciary Committee added two high profile legal critics of President Trump to its investigative team. "Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee said on Tuesday that they had retained two elite white-collar litigators and prominent legal critics of President Trump to help begin inquiries into some of the most sensitive allegations involving the president, including ethics violations, corruption and possible obstruction of justice…the addition of the two lawyers, Norman L. Eisen and Barry H. Berke, indicates that the Democrats do not intend to wait for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, to finish his work to begin weighing issues that could ultimately be wrapped up in such a proceeding." (New York Times)

states and cities

An example of a "democracy voucher"A sample "democracy voucher."
  • Seattle is continuing its "democracy voucher" campaign finance program for upcoming city council elections. "Seattle is mailing out “democracy vouchers” for residents to donate to candidates in this year’s hotly contested City Council elections. Officials intend to send the vouchers to 463,000 residents Tuesday, weather permitting…It’s only the second election cycle for the first-in-the-nation voucher program, which voters approved in 2015 and which debuted in 2017. Eligible residents each receive four $25 vouchers that they can sign over to candidates who abide by special rules, such as limits on cash contributions and campaign spending." (Seattle Times)
  • Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) is subpoenaed in case against Governor's office. "Sen. Josh Hawley was already facing questions about his handling of Missouri’s Sunshine Law as attorney general. Now, he might have to provide answers under oath. The Cole County Circuit Court issued Hawley a subpoena related to his time as attorney general, but Hawley’s spokeswoman indicated the freshman GOP senator will seek to quash it. The subpoena was issued late Monday night as a part of a lawsuit brought against Gov. Mike Parson’s office by St. Louis attorney Elad Gross, a Democratic candidate for Missouri attorney general in 2020." (Kansas City Star)
  • Looking for a city contract in Los Angeles? You'll have to disclose your NRA ties. "The L.A. City Council passed an ordinance Tuesday requiring companies that have contracts with the city to disclose whether they have ties to the National Rifle Assn., already prompting threats of a lawsuit. The vote was 14 to 0. Councilman Jose Huizar was absent. Prospective contractors now must disclose under affidavit any contracts or sponsorships they or their subsidiaries have with the NRA. The city has similar policies about companies involved in the construction of President Trump’s proposed border wall and over the historic investment in or profits from slavery." (Los Angeles Times)
  • Is Dallas taking a step backwards on public records access? "But in recent months many of us have filed open records requests that have come back with large fees attached. No matter how small or simple the request. Even for police reports that USED to be posted on the website." (Robert Wilonsky and Cassandra Jaramillo)

around the world

Freedom of the Press.Image via Pixabay.
  • New report shows that press freedom is under attack in Europe. "European press freedom is more fragile than at any time since the end of the Cold War, according to a new report Tuesday…In an annual report, a dozen partner organisations to the Council of Europe Platform for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists — including the European Federation of Journalists and Reporters Without Borders — highlighted the deteriorating state of press freedom across Europe, and its causes. The report based its findings on 140 serious press freedom violations that were reported to the platform in 2018 that showed routine protection for those responsible for violent crimes against journalists, including 17 cases of impunity for journalists’ murders." (POLITICO)
  • Proposal to boost state control over the internet in Russia faces some criticism from lawmakers over censorship concerns. "Russian lawmakers criticized a draft law aimed at creating a 'sovereign internet,' warning that it risked handing the government extensive powers to censor online content. The proposal to establish control of Russian internet traffic so that it goes mostly via domestic routers and exchanges was passed at first reading in the lower house of parliament on Tuesday…State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said the draft proposals would need to be reworked before the second reading, and urged lawmakers to consult experts on the potential consequences, according to the legislature’s website." (Bloomberg)
  • EU Ombudsman wraps up probe into the hiring of the block's top civil servant. "The European Ombudsman on Tuesday closed an inquiry into the lightning-quick appointment of Martin Selmayr to the European Commission’s top civil service post. The investigation into the German's promotion from Jean-Claude Juncker's chief of staff to Commission secretary-general 'did not follow EU law, in letter or spirit, and did not follow the Commission's own rules,' the office of the ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly, said in a statement." (POLITICO)


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