Today in OpenGov: What we have here is a failure to certify.


In today's edition, a bipartisan group looks to fix the FEC, a federal ethics office refuses to certify Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross' financial disclosures, a reporter is detained in and expelled from Egypt, and more. 

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washington watch

Graphic explaining the Restoring Integrity to America's Elections Act. Graphic via Issue One.
  • This bipartisan effort is aiming to fix the Federal Election Commission. "Last week, Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Scott Peters (D-CA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), and Julia Brownley (D-CA) re-introduced bipartisan legislation to overhaul the dysfunctional Federal Election Commission (FEC) and to ensure effective and consistent enforcement of the nation’s election laws. The Restoring Integrity to America’s Elections Act (H.R. 1272makes structural changes to the FEC to better equip the unbiased cop on the beat of our nation’s campaign finance system." (Issue One)
  • Internal efforts to modernize the House of Representatives are getting plenty of outside attention. "Congress’ “This Old House” committee, a brand-new panel tasked with helping to update the legislative branch for the modern era, is already sparking attention off of Capitol Hill. Outside interests — from government overhaul groups and think tanks to tech industry players — are mobilizing to influence the new House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. The year-long, 12-lawmaker panel will offer recommendations for rehabilitating Congress in such areas as technology and cybersecurity, procedures and scheduling, staff retention and executive branch oversight." (Roll Call
  • Two former Representatives are joining forces at a powerful K Street firm. "Former Reps. Joe Crowley and Bill Shuster are heading to K Street, making them one of the rare bipartisan pairs of former lawmakers to team up as lobbyists after leaving office. Crowley, a New York Democrat, and Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican, are joining Squire Patton Boggs, one of the largest law and lobbying firms in Washington." (POLITICO)
  • The Capitol Police could use a transparency boost. "Transparency advocates are calling on the U.S. Capitol Police to do a better job of releasing basic public information. The U.S. Capitol Police department is one of the largest law enforcement departments in the country, with a force that rivals the size of Atlanta’s police department. The agency also has a big budget: it receives $450 million a year to protect Congress, lawmakers and staff, and the 25,000 or so people who work and live on Capitol Hill. The department largely operates out of public view — its oversight is conducted by a handful of federal lawmakers — and because the police agency is considered part of the legislative branch, it’s exempt from Freedom of Information Act requests." (WAMU)

around the world

China and the United States, pointing fingers. Image via Pixabay.
  • Censorship on China's most popular social media service increased alongside trade tensions with the United States. "The most censored topic in the 2018 WeChatscope dataset was the China-US trade war. This high-profile conflict has triggered heated public discussions on Chinese social media, with state-affiliated media outlets covering the news extensively and accusing the US of preaching unilateralism and protectionism. Many of these outlets publish directly to WeChat. As such, thousands of stories about the China-US trade conflict posted on WeChat public accounts are removed by WeChat operators shortly after publication. These trends indicate that the channeling of public opinion and censoring of independent expression go hand-in-hand." (Global Voices)
  • 5Star Movement, Italy's ruling populist party has pioneered digital democracy, but not without some bugs. "When Gianroberto Casaleggio, the idealogue behind Italy’s governing 5Star Movement, died in 2016, he left a final gift for his followers — a pioneering internet platform with the grand aim of bringing direct democracy to the masses. The populist movement, which grew out of a blog, has been a pioneer in digital democracy, consulting its online base on candidates, policies and partnerships via Casaleggio’s trailblazing software system, Rousseau, named after the godfather of the French revolution. But on Monday, during a vote that threatened to bring down the government, the Rousseau system experienced multiple technical failures, leaving many members struggling to vote. Critics of the system don’t just question its reliability — they also charge that it’s not secure or transparent, and that it is open to manipulation." (POLITICO)
  • In France, a nationwide "great debate" is being used in an effort to counter street protests and growing political unrest. "In a political variant of the Tour de France, a nationwide series of “great debates”are taking place across the country. Unlike the Tour de France, the ones performing are life’s spectators. Threatened by the Yellow Jacket movement’s ever-mutating anger and demands, French President Emmanuel Macron dreamed up the “Great National Debate” in desperation last December. The goal? To allow the French to air their grievances and discuss what has gone wrong in France. To take people away from their internet anger factories and reconnect them to democratic institutions. It has taken off like nothing else in his 21 months in office." (POLITICO)
  • Egypt detained and then expelled a New York Times journalist trying to enter the country at Cairo's international airport. "Egyptian authorities have detained and expelled a New York Times journalist upon his arrival at Cairo international airport, the latest move in the country's crackdown on free speech and the media. The newspaper reports Wednesday that security officials held former Cairo bureau chief David Kirkpatrick for seven hours without food or water after confiscating his mobile phone, before sending him back on a flight to London on Tuesday." (Bloomberg)


U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. 
  • The Office of Government Ethics refused to certify Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross' 2018 financial disclosure. "The executive branch’s internal ethics watchdog refused to certify U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ 2018 personal financial disclosure report — a rare rebuke of a Cabinet-level official. In explaining the rejection, Office of Government Ethics Director Emory Rounds said Ross failed to divest a stock holding when he said he would…Ross’…stock snafu was the latest in a series of inaccurate statements and omissions in Ross’ personal financial statements since President Donald Trump tapped him as Commerce secretary in late 2016." (Center for Public Integrity)
  • CREW sues the Justice Department over failure to produce records related to President Trump's emergency declaration aimed at building a border wall. "Also on Friday, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sued the Justice Department, accusing it of failing to provide documents — including legal opinions and communications — related to the president’s decision to declare a national emergency." (Washington Post)
  • Did the Trump administration try to improperly influence an IG probe into Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos? "Congressional Democrats said Tuesday they have uncovered evidence that the Trump administration tried to influence an internal watchdog's investigation of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Five top House and Senate Democrats said that the Trump administration sought to remove the Education Department’s acting inspector general last month after she pushed back on a request to “reconsider” her investigation into DeVos’ move to reinstate a controversial accreditor of for-profit colleges." (POLITICO)


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