Today in OpenGov: Who watches the watchdogs?


In today's edition, the FEC is having trouble finding a watchdog, North Carolina's GOP chair is charged with bribery, WhatsApp introduces fact-checking to fight fake news ahead of Indian elections, and more. 

washington watch

The Federal Election Commission.
  • The Federal Election Commission is struggling to fill its vacant inspector general job, helping render the internal watchdog nonfunctional.  "When Beverly Davis began disqualifying numerous applicants for the Federal Election Commission’s vacant inspector general job — including a long-time staff attorney for Commissioner Matthew Petersen — agency superiors protested…After being overruled, Davis closed the job opening for the position — the agency’s internal watchdog — and resigned from her job as a senior human resources specialist, forcing the FEC to restart its search. The position has now been open for more than two years. The May 2018 fracas, described in interviews and a series of internal emails obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, is but one of several stumbles that have helped render the FEC’s inspector general office effectively nonfunctional since November, when the lone deputy inspector general quit." (Center for Public Integrity)
  • Former national security officials are challenging the constitutionality of a system that limits what they can publish for the rest of their lives. "A newly filed lawsuit is challenging a censorship system the government uses to ensure that millions of former military and intelligence officials spill no secrets if they decide to write articles and books after they move on from public service. In an unusual constitutional complaint filed on Tuesday in Federal District Court in Maryland, a group of former officials declared that the prepublication review system, to which they are required to submit writing that relates to their former work for the rest of their lives, is “dysfunctional” and unjustifiably restricts their free-speech and due-process rights." (New York Times)
  • Whistleblowers tell Senate committee that FAA safety inspectors, including those involved in Boeing approvals, lacked proper training and certification… "Whistleblowers have told the Senate Commerce Committee that safety inspectors at the Federal Aviation Administration, including those involved with approvals for the Boeing Co. 737 Max, lacked proper training and certifications, according to the panel’s chairman." (Bloomberg)
  • …Meanwhile, Boeing is far from the only company that the government effectively lets regulate itself… "Ever since the Ethiopian Airlines crash three weeks ago, the Federal Aviation Administration has been under scrutiny. The agency had delegated to Boeing much of the testing of its 737 MAX jets. Critics say the FAA let the company basically certify its own plane. But as NPR's Brian Naylor reports, that sort of thing happens a lot." (NPR)
  • …Speaking of self-regulation, Mark Zuckerberg is facing backlash over his proposals for increased government oversight of the Internet. "Mark Zuckerberg’s call for stepped up government oversight of the Internet met a skeptical response from privacy advocates and other critics who are frustrated with Facebook Inc.’s repeated missteps and say that its billionaire chief executive officer shouldn’t get to make the rules." (Government Technology)

states and cities

  • The chair of the North Carolina GOP and a big money donor were charged in a bribery scheme. "The chairman of North Carolina’s Republican Party and a secretive big-money donor are facing federal bribery and wire fraud charges accusing them of trying to sway regulatory decisions in favor of the donor’s insurance companies, according to indictments unsealed Tuesday. State GOP Chairman Robin Hayes and investment firm founder Greg Lindberg are among four people charged with bribery and conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud. Hayes faces additional counts of making false statements. The four defendants appeared Tuesday before a federal magistrate." (POLITICO)
  • Local police departments in Colorado are increasingly encrypting their scanners citing privacy, but raising FOI concerns. "This week, the Denver Fire Department dispatch communications begun encrypting its radio channels. The department is following the move dozens of agencies across Colorado have already taken to restrict radio traffic as a safety and privacy precaution…While law enforcement agencies move toward encryption, media advocates are worried about the freedom of information implications." (ABC 7 Denver via NFOIC)
  • MuckRock is tracking algorithms and AI being used or regulated by state, local, and federal governments and they need your help. "Algorithms and artificial intelligence are playing an ever-increasing role in the lives of all Americans. Across departments, sectors, and industries, they are being used by government agencies to inform decisions in criminal justice, education, healthcare, housing, infrastructure, transportation, urban planning, and warfare. MuckRock, in collaboration with the the Rutgers Institute for Information Policy and Law (RIIPL), is building a catalogue of the algorithms and AI being considered, used, and regulated by local, state, and federal governments. Your help is vital to our effort and only needs to take a few minutes!" (MuckRock)

around the world

Image via Pixabay.
  • Facing widespread criticism and the spread of fake news, WhatsApp is introducing a new fact-checking service ahead of upcoming Indian elections. "WhatsApp on Tuesday launched a service for Indians to check the veracity of information, in the messaging platform’s latest attempt to combat fake news in India ahead of national elections beginning this month…The move comes as WhatsApp, with over 200 million users in India, battles criticism of its platform being used for the spread of misinformation, while social media companies across the board work to prevent the phenomenon – particularly during sensitive events such as elections." (Reuters)
  • If NATO members increase defense spending, which companies are set to benefit most? "The U.S. accounts for 70 percent of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's military expenditure. While other nations in the 29-member alliance have pledged to increase spending, Bloomberg's Emma Chandra looks at which defense companies are set to benefit" in this video. (Bloomberg)
  • Austria's prime minister is wants to strip the far right of its exclusive spy agency oversight. "Chancellor Sebastian Kurz wants Austria's intelligence services to report directly to him amid concerns over the far right’s influence in the country, local media reported Tuesday. The move would deprive the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), Kurz’s coalition partner in government, of its exclusive oversight of the country’s spy agencies." (POLITICO)


Tired of your boss/friend/intern/uncle forwarding you this email every morning? You can sign up here and have it delivered direct to your inbox! Please send questions, comments, tips, and concerns to We would love your feedback!