Today in OpenGov: Take a stand.


In today's edition, Ted Cruz vs. the FEC, the Mayor of Baltimore, Maryland takes a leave of absence amid a growing scandal, a whistleblower identifies significant security clearance issues at the Trump White House, and more. 

washington watch

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks at a committee hearing.Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks at a committee hearing. Image credit: U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
  • Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is suing the FEC over limits on how much candidates can raise to reimburse themselves. "Sen. Ted Cruz is suing the Federal Election Commission over rules that limit how much money he can reimburse himself for his 2018 race against Democrat Beto O’Rourke. Cruz put $260,000 of his own money into his successful Senate reelection campaign and is now fighting a law that says his campaign can only raise up to $250,000 to reimburse him. In a lawsuit filed Monday in federal court in Washington, DC, Cruz is arguing that the $250,000 cap on postelection fundraising to repay candidates for personal loans violates the First Amendment." (BuzzFeed) What's the potential upshot? Increased influence for special interests and wealthy donors, according to the folks at OpenSecrets.
  • Bipartisan bill would require most nonprofits to electronically file their tax information, boost open data. "New legislation overhauling the Internal Revenue Service would require all but the smallest nonprofits to electronically file their tax information, a change sought for years by charity watchdogs." (Chronicle of Philanthropy) You can read the full bill here
  • Charting how 2020 candidates will approach campaign finance during their campaigns. "As we enter the 2020 presidential race, Sludge is tracking the various campaign finance pledges and promises made by the many candidates, as well as any broken promises that may ensue. We will continue to update this page throughout the race…Sludge reached out to the current 2020 contenders with a campaign finance questionnaire. We haven’t heard back from most candidates yet, so we are relying on existing statements, social media posts, and news reports to fill in the gaps." (Sludge)
  • Can policy makers do more to support the news industry? "A nightmare. A wasteland. A place of confusion and half-truth. Ask Americans these days for their impressions of the news media and they are likely to produce such grim descriptions. These sentiments boil and fester as political and regulatory communities, whether motivated to tackle information monopolies or address data-privacy concerns, seem poised to get serious about new laws that could fundamentally alter the media ecosystem. But much of this energy is focused on the big tech companies, when the crisis, as the public perceives it, is deeper. Policy makers could do more, much more, to help the collapsing news industry, which is pulling down America’s civic culture with it." (The Atlantic)

states and cities

Baltimore, Maryland Mayor Catherine Pugh at a 2017 march. Baltimore, Maryland Mayor Catherine Pugh at a 2017 march. Image credit: Elvert Barnes.
  • The mayor of Baltimore, Maryland announced a health-related leave of absence amidst a growing scandal over profits from self-published children's books. "Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh announced she is dealing with health challenges and will take an 'indefinite leave of absence' at the same time her office is engulfed in a scandal involving the profits from her self-published children's books…For weeks, Pugh, a Democrat, has been the focus of criticism surrounding her Healthy Holly children's book series about a black girl who promotes nutrition and exercise. Just before she announced her leave of absence, The Baltimore Sun reported that health care giant Kaiser Permanente was seeking a contract to provide coverage to city employees and paid $114,000 to purchase some 20,000 copies of the books between 2015 to 2018." (NPR)
  • This Arkansas county is making its tax information more accessible online. "Faulkner County Tax Collector Sherry Koonce announced that county tax roll information can be instantly accessed for free online after partnering with Data Scout, LLC. Data Scout is a web-based data solutions provider and database management firm that will host and maintain the website and the records, Koonce said." (Government Technology)
  • Multiple California cities destroyed police misconduct records ahead of new transparency law. "California law enforcement agencies knew the reckoning was coming. A new law took effectat the beginning of this year, opening up records of police misconduct and use of force to the public for the first time. Some decided to engage in preemptive legal challenges. Some quietly complied. Some decided to ignore the law's author and pretend it didn't apply to any record created before 2019. A couple of law enforcement agencies got really proactive and just started destroying records before the public could get its hands on them." (TechDirt)
  • What did Open Data Delaware learn from hosting an Open Data Day event? "Open Data Day presents an amazing opportunity for people around the world to celebrate civic technology and the benefits that it can have for our communities. At Code for Columbus and Open Data Delaware we each used the opportunity to build solutions to problems that would make a difference for our local communities. Throughout the process of hosting an Open Data Day event, we walked away with 5 lessons that we could apply more broadly to solving civic technology challenges." (Open Knowledge)


The White House. The White House. Image credit: Baseball Watcher/Wikimedia Commons.
  • The Trump White House granted security clearances to at least 25 individuals whose applications had been denied by career staff, according to whistleblower. "A whistle-blower working inside the White House has told a House committee that senior Trump administration officials granted security clearances to at least 25 individuals whose applications had been denied by career employees for 'disqualifying issues' that could put national security at risk, the committee’s Democratic staff said Monday. The whistle-blower, Tricia Newbold, a manager in the White House’s Personnel Security Office, told the House Committee on Oversight and Reform in a private interview last month that the 25 applicants included two current senior White House officials, in addition to contractors and other employees working for the office of the president, the staff said in a memo it released publicly." (New York Times)
  • Linda McMahon is leaving her position as head of the Small Business Administration to run a prominent pro-Trump super PAC. "Linda McMahon, currently the head of the Small Business Administration (SBA), is resigning from her position on April 12 to become the chair of America First Action, one of the primary pro-Trump super PACs. McMahon and her husband Vince, owner and CEO of the WWE and founder of the XFL football league, have a history as friends and financial supporters of Donald Trump, who is a member of the WWE Hall of Fame." (Open Secrets)
  • Press group asks judge to lift grand jury secrecy tied to Mueller report. "A group advocating for journalists and First Amendment rights is asking a judge to clear away one of the key obstacles the Justice Department is citing as grounds for withholding portions of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report: the presence of information gathered through the secret actions of a grand jury. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed a petition Monday with Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court in Washington, asking her to rule that officials need not withhold from the Congress — or the public — any grand jury material in Mueller’s report on his probe into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia." (POLITICO)


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