Today in OpenGov: What’s going on?


In today's edition, a senator questions an outrageous FOIA fee, South Side Civic scopes out a project, Jared Kushner uses WhatsApp for public business, and more. 

washington watch

A Boeing 737 Max, similar to two that have been involved in recent deadly crashes. 
  • Boeing's D.C. influence is under pressure amid the fallout from two deadly crashes… "Boeing's crisis management team is facing its toughest test in decades amid scrutiny over the safety of its 737 Max aircraft following two deadly crashes. The aerospace giant has long been a powerful voice in Washington, backed by a large lobbying team and close ties with lawmakers whose districts and states are home to Boeing workers. But with Boeing's 737 Max plane grounded around the globe and investigators and lawmakers in the U.S. demanding answers, that political clout is being tested." (The Hill) …Meanwhile, the federal watchdog looking into the cozy relationship between Boeing and the FAA will testify to Congress next week… "The U.S. Transportation Department’s internal watchdog, who’s investigating the Federal Aviation Administration’s certification of Boeing Co. 737 Max jets, will testify next week to a Senate panel evaluating the U.S. government’s oversight of commercial aviation." (Bloomberg)
  • New report explores the effect of race and gender on campaign fundraising in the US. "The Center for Responsive Politics is pleased to announce the publication of “Race, Gender, and Money in Politics: Campaign Finance and Federal Candidates in the 2018 Midterms.” Written by Sarah Bryner, the Center’s research director, and Grace Haley, the Center’s gender and race researcher, this paper looks at the future of money in politics and the changing demographic shifts in Congress and America." (Open Secrets)
  • Senator questions the Army's $300,000 fee for records related to water contamination on military bases. "The Army is trying to charge a FOIA requester $300,000 to release the results of water tests at military installations for a dangerous contaminant that is linked to cancers and other illnesses. The news of the outrageous fee comes after deputy assistant Defense secretary Maureen Sullivan testified before the House that the DOD recently identified 401 military sites where the contaminants were used. The FOIA request was filed by the Environmental Working Group and sought records of testing done at 154 specific installations. The Army justified the fee by saying the request was too broad and would take 6,400 hours of work to complete…Senator Patrick Leahy…blasted the Army’s response, calling it absurd…" (National Security Archive)
  • Will this federal court ruling make it easier to set up a scam PAC? "The world of political fundraising is about to get a lot more complicated and confusing thanks to a federal court ruling that could lead to the rise of more groups that seek to raise money off of a candidate's name, even if the group has nothing to do with that candidate. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan struck down the Federal Election Commission's rules that prohibited unauthorized political committees from using a candidate's name." (NPR)

states and cities

Participants in the South Side Civic scope-a-thon.Participants in the South Side Civic scope-a-thon.
  • Running a scope-a-thon for maximum project impact. "One of the more challenging parts of using data to solve problems is at the outset: defining the problem to solve. Project scoping is the process through which various partners build a common definition of the problem and begin to imagine a feasible solution. The event in which groups collaborate to practice project scoping is known as a “scope-a-thon.” As part of South Side Civic, we envision scope-a-thons providing two main benefits. First, civic organizations take a challenge they’re facing and reformulate it as a problem data can address. Second, participants develop skills and methods to incorporate data into their work in new ways. Data champions and others looking to plan and run an impactful scope-a-thon should keep four key ideas in mind." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • The Texas legislature is considering an "election integrity" bill that looks more like an assault on voting rights. "A coalition of civil rights groups is warning that a new GOP bill winding its way through the Texas Legislature imposes substantial and unnecessary burdens on voters. Among other provisions, Senate Bill 9, an omnibus “election integrity” bill filed by state Senator Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, would raise criminal penalties for certain election-related offenses; establish tighter rules for assisting disabled, elderly or absentee voters; and increase the likelihood that people who mistakenly violate election laws face criminal prosecution." (Texas Observer)
  • After losing FOIA fight in court, the NYPD now says it doesn't have records related to a 2014 march. "The New York Police Department says it has no record of cell phone surveillance or interference conducted on protestors at the 2014 Millions March NYC. Compelled by a recent New York Supreme Court decision in Millions March NYC v. NYPD, NYPD made the claim after more than a year asserting it “can neither confirm nor deny” possession of such materials in response to a 2017 Freedom of Information Law request from the organization Millions March. Millions March is a Black Lives Matter-affiliated protest group that was involved in a 25,000-person police brutality protest following the murder of Eric Garner by a Staten Island police officer in 2014. During the demonstration, members experienced suspicious issues with their phones, some of which were shutting off at random or receiving messages indicating possible interference with Signal, an encrypted messenger app." (MuckRock)


Jared Kushner, Senior Advisor to President Donald J. Trump, sits in on a meeting with Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of StaffJared Kushner, Senior Advisor to President Donald J. Trump, sits in on a meeting with Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Image via the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  • Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump have used private accounts for public business, possibly in violation of federal records laws… "The chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee revealed information on Thursday that he said showed Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner used private messaging services for official White House business in a way that may have violated federal records laws. The chairman, Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, said that a lawyer for Ms. Trump, President Trump’s daughter, and Mr. Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, told the committee late last year that in addition to a private email account, Mr. Kushner uses an unofficial encrypted messaging service, WhatsApp, for official White House business, including with foreign contacts." (New York Times) …at least five additional Trump administration officials have also reportedly used private accounts for official business. "…former deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland and former adviser Stephen K. Bannon had also, at times, used personal email accounts for official business…other Trump administration officials, including adviser Stephen Miller, former chief of staff Reince Priebus and former National Economic Council director Gary Cohn had all used personal email accounts to conduct official business." (Washington Post)
  • President Trump is set to name a permanent chief technology officer for the first time. "For the first time in two years—and for the first time under President Trump—the U.S. is set to have a chief technology officer. On March 21 the president will nominate for the post Michael Kratsios, a former venture capitalist who now serves as deputy CTO, a White House official tells Bloomberg Businessweek."(Bloomberg)
  • The Trump re-election campaign has moved at least $1.3 million worth of donor money into Trump businesses. "Donald Trump has charged his own reelection campaign $1.3 million for rent, food, lodging and other expenses since taking office, according to a Forbesanalysis of the latest campaign filings. And although outsiders have contributed more than $50 million to the campaign, the billionaire president hasn’t handed over any of his own cash. The net effect: $1.3 million of donor money has turned into $1.3 million of Trump money." (Forbes)
  • New tool helps track Congressional oversight efforts in the Trump era. "Developed by Governance Studies, Brookings’s House Oversight Tracker monitors the actions being taken by House committees to conduct oversight of administration actions and policies since the 2016 election. Search hearings or letters by clicking on the numbered icons below, or view all activity in a specific policy area by selecting one of the relevant boxes underneath. Click on any row to view additional information about each hearing/letter." (Brookings)


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