Today in OpenGov: Off to the races.


Editor's note: We'll be off at a conference for the next couple of days, but back in your inbox as usual on Thursday morning. 

In today's edition, the FEC fined Ted Cruz, the D.C. Council closed a controversial meeting, a novice candidate with a focus on fighting corruption emerged as the frontrunner in Slovakia's presidential race, the White House is making it hard for the GAO to review Trump appointees' ethics disclosures, and more. 

washington watch

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), the year after his successful 2012 run for Senate. Image credit: Jamelle Bouie.
  • The FEC fined Sen. Ted Cruz's 2012 campaign for misreporting more than $1 million worth of loans from Goldman Sachs and Citibank. "The Federal Election Commission has fined the 2012 Senate campaign of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) $35,000 for inaccurately reporting the source of more than $1 million in loans that came from Goldman Sachs and Citibank, according to records made public Friday. Cruz’s campaign committee had reported to the FEC that the candidate loaned himself just over $1 million in “personal funds.” But the funds actually came from Goldman Sachs — his wife’s employer — and Citibank, the FEC concluded, according to a legally binding conciliatory agreement." (Washington Post)
  • Digging into Google's evolving DC influence operation. "…insight into how Google, a shrewd Washington player, has shifted into overdrive and adapted its approach as calls to regulate Big Tech have grown louder…Google is very active in shaping public policy. Last year, the company reported spending $21 million on federal lobbying, more than any other company in America. Google was also the highest-spending corporate lobbyist in 2017. Over the past year or so, the network of academics, think tanks, trade organizations, and advocacy groups funded by Google has repeatedly come to its defense at key moments…" (Wired)
  • House Democrats push DHS for information about the list it keeps of journalists and activists working at the southern border. "A group of House Democrats is asking the Department of Homeland Security why the agency is compiling a list of lawyers, activists, and journalists to be questioned at the southern border. In a letter obtained by BuzzFeed News, Rep. Joaquin Castro and more than a dozen other House Democrats asked DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen why the list, which was first uncovered by NBC's San Diego affiliate, is being compiled, what specific information it's recording, and why specific people are being targeted." (BuzzFeed)
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand officially joins the 2020 presidential race, pledges to eschew donations from the fossil fuel industry. "Democratic presidential contender Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has agreed not to accept campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry, according to an environmental group and a video posted on her Facebook page. Gillibrand signed a pledge not to accept funding from the oil, gas and coal industries while campaigning in New Hampshire today, environmental group Oil Change International said in a statement." (Bloomberg)
  • Beto O'Rourke raised $6.1 million online in the first 24 hours after announcing his presidential bid…"Beto O’Rourke raised more than $6 million online in the first 24 hours after announcing his presidential campaign last week, according to his campaign, outpacing his rivals for the Democratic nomination and making an emphatic statement about his grass-roots financial strength." (New York Times)…he also stated that he has no plans to hold high dollar fundraisers, but didn't rule them out entirely. "Beto O'Rourke said Saturday he does not have any plans to hold large-dollar fundraisers for his presidential campaign, but declined to rule out the possibility of such events in the future. (The Hill)

states and cities

The Wilson Building in Washington, DC. The Wilson Building in Washington, D.C. 
  • New bill would bring some needed transparency to Washington, D.C. charter schools. Last Wednesday, "…Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen led a press conference for a bill he will introduce [this] week, the Public School Transparency Amendment Act of 2019. This bill would bring D.C. charter schools under the same transparency requirements as traditional public schools, and comes on the heels of the DC Public Charter School Board proposing its own transparency reforms for the charter school sector. Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, and At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman have joined Allen in co-sponsoring the legislation." (Washington City Paper)
  • During Sunshine Week, the D.C. Council met behind closed doors for more than an hour to discuss a federal investigation of its longest serving member. "D.C. Council member Jack ­Evans (D-Ward 2) privately told fellow lawmakers Tuesday that he plans to end the consulting business that has made him the target of an expanding federal investigation, according to several people in the room. Evans made those comments during a controversial closed-door meeting of the D.C. Council to discuss a growing scandal that has reached city hall." (Washington Post)
  • An Arizona lawmaker is pushing for a state investigation into one city's effort to ban political dark money. "Republican Sen. Vince Leach wants the attorney general to investigate if a Tempe ordinance designed to shed a light on anonymous campaign spending conflicts with state law. Whether the ordinance stands or is found in conflict may hinge on the role Tempe voters had in approving it. The ordinance, which requires any organization that spends more than $1,000 in a city election cycle to disclose the source of its funding, was approved by a 9-to-1 margin in March 2018. Technically, the Tempe City Council also approved the ordinance. The council voted to adopt the anti-dark money measure in November 2017, but its enactment was conditional on the approval of the city’s voters." (AZ Capitol Times)
  • This Montana county just lost an unknown number of email records thanks to a "glitch." "A 'technical glitch' erased an unknown amount of email from some Missoula County elected officials, department heads and other employees. The emails that were purged were at least three years old, according to Jason Emery, the county’s director of technology. The county’s system automatically permanently deletes lower-level employees’ emails after three years, but it’s not sure if that system is related to the purge." (Government Technology)

around the world

Participants in SAFIGI Outreach Foundation's Open Data Day event. via Open Knowledge.
  • Using open data to help build healthier communities in Africa. "Two female-led and focused organizations in the Africa region leveraged Open Data Day 2019 to showcase how open data is crucial to improving the socio-economic conditions of women in developing communities. Women Economic and Leadership Transformation Initiative (WELTI) in Nigeria and Safety First for Girls Outreach Foundation (SAFIGI) in Zambia, both use open data as a response tool on issues affecting their respective communities." (Open Knowledge)
  • Europe sees a focus on ethics as its key to catching up in the global AI race. "As American and Chinese companies dominate the AI battlefield, the EU has pinned its hopes on becoming a world leader in what it calls “trustworthy” artificial intelligence. By ensuring AI applications follow ethical guidelines and base decisions on transparent criteria, policymakers believe they can boost consumer confidence in European AI, providing the bloc with a silver bullet against competitors in Silicon Valley and Shenzhen." (POLITICO)
  • Indonesia's anti-graft agency detained a key ally of the current president with elections weeks away. "Indonesia’s anti-corruption agency detained the chief of a political party backing President Joko Widodo’s bid for a second term, just weeks before the nation goes to the polls. The Corruption Eradication Commission, known as the KPK, detained United Development Party Chairman Muhammad Romahurmuziy in Surabaya on Friday, Kompas news portal reported, citing the commission’s chairman Agus Rahardjo." (Bloomberg)
  • Novice candidate heads into second round of Slovakia's presidential race as the frontrunner with a focus on fighting corruption. "Lawyer Zuzana Čaputová won the largest share of votes in Slovakia’s presidential ballot Saturday, making her the front-runner ahead of a second round later this month. Čaputová, a newcomer to politics who has run a campaign focused on tackling corruption, won 40.6 percent of the vote, ahead of government candidate and European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič on 18.7 percent, according to the national statistics office." (POLITICO)


Image via Pixabay.
  • The White House hasn't done much to help the GAO review Trump appointee ethics disclosures. "Citing little help from the White House, a congressional watchdog on Friday criticized a shortage of public information about precisely who is serving in presidentially appointed positions and their possible financial conflicts. The Government Accountability Office, after examining ethics office records at the Interior Department, the Health and Human Services Department and the Small Business Administration, said in a report that, 'There is no single source of publicly available, comprehensive, and timely data on appointees.'" (Government Executive)
  • Trump tied lobbying firms are cashing in with foreign governments. "Ballard Partners and two other lobbying firms led by Trump campaign veterans have lobbied for nine foreign governments and four foreign political parties since Trump’s inauguration, according to a POLITICO analysis of Justice Department disclosures. Sonoran Policy Group, another firm that has played up its administration connections and hired Trump campaign alumni, has lobbied for nine other foreign governments and one additional foreign political party. Ballard and the others aren’t the first presidential campaign veterans to lobby for foreign governments. Tim Glassco, for instance, joined the Podesta Group after working on Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and went on to lobby for the governments of Albania, Cyprus, Egypt and Georgia while Obama was in office, according to disclosure filings. But the number of countries that have turned to lobbyists with Trump campaign connections is striking." (POLITICO)
  • Supreme Court will expand its consideration of the Census citizenship question, adding a constitutional issue to the mix. "The U.S. Supreme Court said it will expand its scheduled showdown over the 2020 census to consider whether the Constitution lets the Trump administration add a question asking whether people are American citizens. Agreeing to a government request, the court said it will broaden its April 23 argument to account for a new lower court ruling that said the Constitution bars the inclusion of a citizenship question. The court has been planning to hear arguments on a narrower ruling in a different case." (Bloomberg)
  • Washington State Senate passes bill that would keep President Trump off the 2020 ballot unless he releases his tax returns. "A proposal inspired by President Donald Trump's refusal to release his tax returns advanced Tuesday in Washington state. A bill in the state Legislature would require candidates to release five years of returns before they could appear on either the primary or general election ballot in the state. Senators approved the bill on a 28-21 vote Tuesday, sending it to the House." (CBS News)


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