Today in OpenGov: Maxed out.


In today's edition, more from Wednesday's FOIA hearing in the House, charges in the murder of a Slovakian journalist, questions about Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's ethics, and more. 

washington watch

Rep. Ayanna Pressly (D-MA).Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) asking questions at the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's Sunshine Week hearing. Screengrab via YouTube/The House Oversight Committee.
  • House FOIA hearing brings up tough questions from both sides of the aisle… Lauren Harper explored what went down at this year's House Oversight Committee Sunshine Week hearing, writing that there "was a strong showing of bipartisan support for FOIA and a desire to address the shortcomings in its administration." (National Security Archive)
  • …while findings from a Sunlight Web Integrity Project report featured heavily in one Representative's line of questioning. "Rep. Ayanna Pressley, a newly elected Massachusetts Democrat, cited website removals documented by the Web Integrity Project (WIP) at a hearing held by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform examining the state of the Freedom of Information Act under the Trump administration…The congresswoman was pointed in her questioning about the removal of resources related to stalking and domestic violence from the website of the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women…" (Sunlight Foundation)
  • The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution demanding a full release of the final Mueller report. "House Republicans joined Democrats on Thursday to demand that the Justice Department publicly release the full findings of the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and the possible involvement of President Trump’s campaign. Though the resolution is nonbinding, Democrats who put it on the House floor are trying to build public pressure on Attorney General William P. Barr before the investigation’s anticipated conclusion. Far from standing in the way, Republicans joined Democrats en masse. On the 420-to-0 vote, four Republicans voted present." (New York Times)
  • Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan expressed support for potential IG investigation into his relationship with his former employer. "Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Thursday he hasn’t discussed the embattled Boeing 737 Max airliner after two deadly crashes. And the former Boeing executive, who’s been dogged by questions of potential conflicts of interest, said he’d support a Pentagon inspector general's investigation into whether he has promoted his former employer in the Pentagon, where he first served as deputy secretary under President Donald Trump." (POLITICO) Meanwhile, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed an ethics complaint against Shanahan over his Boeing ties. (via @CREWcrew)
  • A public policy group launched by Bernie Sanders' wife and son will suspend operations during the Senator's presidential bid. "The Sanders Institute, a public policy group started by the wife and son of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, said on Thursday that it would suspend operations amid Mr. Sanders’s presidential campaign…the board had acted in late February at the urging of their son, David Driscoll, the institute’s executive director. The news was first reported by The Associated Press. The institute, begun in 2017, was envisioned as a wellspring of progressive policy that would build on Mr. Sanders’s agenda. The couple drew criticism over the involvement of Mr. Driscoll, who had previously served as an executive at Burton Snowboards and Nike. Last year, Mr. Driscoll was paid about $100,000, and the institute raised $730,000, Ms. Sanders said." (New York Times)
  • Recapping the first hearing of the committee aimed at modernizing Congress. "Earlier this week, the bipartisan Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress (or modernizing committee for short) held its first public hearing that solicited testimony from sitting members of Congress. Committee Chair Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Vice Chair Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA), and other members of the committee heard proposals from 35 of their Republican and Democratic House colleagues about how to improve the functioning of Congress." (Issue One)

around the world

A memorial for Ján Kuciak and Martina KušnírováA memorial for Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová.
  • Charges filed against businessman in murder of Slovakian journalist and fiancée. "Police in Slovakia said Thursday they have charged businessman Marian Kočner with ordering the murder of investigative reporter Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová, local media reported. The country's prosecutor's office said a press conference would be held later Thursday. Kočner is already in custody in the city of Banská Bystrica over alleged fraud…Kuciak also investigated fraud cases involving businessmen with Slovak political ties." (POLITICO)
  • Venezuelan journalist released from detention, charged with "instigating crimes." "At roughly midnight on March 12, in Caracas, the National Press Workers’ Syndicate of Venezuela confirmed that journalist and human rights defender Luis Carlos Díaz was released by Venezuelan authorities after being held for approximately 24 hours. He has been charged with “instigating crimes” (instigación a delinquir) and released on the conditions that he will report to intelligence authorities (SEBIN) every eight days, and remain within Venezuelan territory. He has also been forbidden from speaking about his experience in detention." (Global Voices)
  • Banks are becoming increasingly wary of financing French election campaigns, providing a boost to incumbent President Macron's party. "The money has always followed the power in French politics, as the party in office has built-in advantages for financing campaigns. Now, that gap is widening, with banks becoming more reluctant to make up the shortfall…It wasn’t always this way. Only one major party, Marine Le Pen’s National Front, was turned down for a loan during the 2017 presidential campaign. Now, in the run-up to the May 26 EU vote, no party has secured bank financing." (Bloomberg)


Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and his wife Louise Linton.Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and his wife Louise Linton. Image credit: U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.
  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin faces ethics questions over film industry ties as he helps negotiate a trade deal with China… "'Wonder Woman,' the 2017 film that Steven Mnuchin helped produce before becoming Treasury secretary, hauled in about $90 million at the box office in China. It was the film’s most successful international market and a roaring success for an American superhero export. But because of China’s strict laws for foreign films, the studio behind the movie, Warner Bros., received just a small fraction of those revenues. Now, as Treasury secretary and one of the lead negotiators in trade talks with China, Mr. Mnuchin has been personally pushing Beijing to give the American film industry greater access to its markets — a change that could be highly lucrative to his former industry." (New York Times)
  • …Meanwhile, Mnuchin claims that he's compliant with ethics rules, despite his disclosure forms haven't been certified for more than a year. "Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said he’s been told by ethics officials in his department that he’s in compliance with government ethics requirements even though his forms haven’t been certified by the top federal watchdog…The Office of Government Ethics hasn’t certified the secretary’s disclosure forms, though it has had them for more than a year. The office typically doesn’t certify reports when a filer is either under investigation, not in compliance with ethics laws, or has filed a report that OGE can’t verify." (Bloomberg)
  • New York's attorney general is arguing that President Trump misused his charity to help his campaign. "Insider testimony, emails and other evidence show President Donald Trump turned his charitable foundation into a wing of his White House campaign, New York’s attorney general said in a new court filing Thursday. State Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, detailed her case against the foundation in a 37-page court filing in a lawsuit that seeks $2.8 million in restitution and an order banning Trump and his three eldest children from running any New York charities for 10 years." (Associated Press)
  • Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross defended the Census citizenship question at a Congressional hearing yesterday… "As a legal battle over the addition of a citizenship question heads to the Supreme Court, the ultimate boss of the Census Bureau faced questions on Capitol Hill about how and why the question came to be added to the basic 2020 population survey." (Federal Computer Week)…meanwhile, GovTrack addressed some of Secretary Ross' misleading statements in this helpful Twitter thread.


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