Editor's note: We'll be publishing on a bit of an inconsistent schedule for the next month or so due to travel and other obligations. To start, we'll be off as of this Wednesday for about two weeks. We hope to be back to a regular schedule, sharing the best roundup of OpenGov news that we can by the end of May. You can help us ensure that we are providing you the most useful product possible by taking a few minutes to fill out our reader survey.
In today's edition, celebrating the Whistleblower Protection Act, creating a public database of animal abusers in Louisville, Kentucky, President Trump's first quarter fundraising haul, and more.
- Appeals court ruling may pave the way for $1.7 million dark money donor to be revealed after 7 year fight. "An anonymous individual who secretly funneled $1.7 million to a super PAC in 2012 will soon be revealed after a lengthy legal fight — if a new appeals court decision in Washington is not put off for further review by the court. The person’s identity has remained a secret for years as the Federal Election Commission investigated a complaint into how the money was routed through intermediaries to a Missouri-based super PAC, Now or Never PAC." (POLITICO)
- Corporate political spending via super PACs accounted for only a small portion of 2018 campaign cash, but wealthy executives boosted their personal giving. "Amid the hectic, historically expensive 2018 election cycle, one group of wealthy donors was surprisingly quiet — corporations. Thanks to the landmark 2010 Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision and subsequent rulings, corporations can give unlimited funds to super PACs, which can spend unlimited sums on ads and other literature to influence elections. But five elections later, most corporations aren’t taking advantage of their potential political influence. Corporations contributed $71.5 million to super PACs and hybrid PACs in the 2018 election cycle, accounting for less than 5 percent of contributions to the powerful outside groups." (Open Secrets)
- Greg Craig, a former White House counsel under President Obama, pled not guilty to charges related to his foreign lobbying… "Former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig has pleaded not guilty to charges of making false statements and concealing information in a federal foreign lobbying investigation spun off from the Russia probe. Craig entered the plea Friday in federal court in Washington a day after he was accused of hiding the details of his work for the Ukrainian government from the Justice Department." (POLITICO) …Meanwhile, lobbyist Samuel Patten was sentenced to three years probation after pleading guilty in a similar case. "An American lobbyist was sentenced Friday to three years of probation and a $5,000 fine for failing to register as a foreign agent for a Russia-friendly political party in Ukraine and for helping a Ukrainian billionaire illegally purchase tickets to President Trump’s inauguration." (New York Times)
- 30 years after its passage, the Whistleblower Protection Act enjoys bipartisan support. "Civil servant Tricia Newbold recently became a whistleblower, approaching a federal government watchdog and Congress to report senior officials overturning security clearance denials for White House staff. She is protected from retaliation under the Whistleblower Protection Act, which marks its 30th anniversary this week. Since the law was enacted the number of people exposing government wrongdoing has gone up — and so has bipartisan support for protecting those who speak out." (NPR)
states and cities
- A new study draws a connection between shrinking newsrooms and local politics. "A study in Urban Affairs Review found shrinking newsrooms can potentially impact the number of candidates who run for mayor. NPR's Scott Simon talks to professor Meghan Rubado, co-author of the study." (NPR)
- A new ordinance in Louisville, Kentucky will create a public registry of animal abuse offenders. "Louisville's animal abuse offenders will be listed on a registry similar to public lists of sex offenders under a newly approved city rule meant to prevent abusers from owning future pets. Councilman Brandon Coan, D-8th District, who sponsored the ordinance approved Thursday, said such registries are a law enforcement tool growing in popularity, and that Louisville's will help address Kentucky's worst-in-the-nation animal protection laws." (Louisville Courier Journal)
- The Texas attorney general denied a request from a U.S. House committee for records related to the state's botched attempt to remove suspected non-citizens from voter roles. "Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Thursday denied a demand from a U.S. House committee for documents regarding a botched effort in Texas to purge thousands of suspected non-citizens from voter rolls. On April 1, the House Oversight and Reform Committee launched an investigation into the voter purge effort, which was halted in February by a federal judge in San Antonio who said it created a "mess" that intimidated naturalized citizens." (Houston Chronicle)
- The National Archives is joining an investigation into allegations that the newly confirmed head of the Interior Department has been destroying his calendars. "The National Archives and Records Administration gave the Interior Department until late April to address Democrats’ allegations that newly confirmed Secretary David Bernhardt may have been destroying his official calendars, according to a letter POLITICO obtained Friday. The letter adds new pressure to a department that is facing investigations by House Democrats who question whether Bernhardt has violated federal record-keeping laws. Bernhardt's existing daily schedule shows that the former fossil fuel and agriculture lobbyist has met with representatives of former clients who stood to gain from Interior’s decisions, but the department has released few details about his activities during about one-third of his days in office." (POLITICO)
- President Trump's campaign raised more than $30 million in the first quarter of the year, much of it from small donors. "President Donald Trump raised more than $30 million for his re-election effort, according to figures released by his campaign, and has $40.8 million in the bank, more than any of the active Democratic candidates have reported so far…Trump’s base has continued to support his campaign. Almost 99 percent of its donations were in amounts of $200 or less, with an average donation of around $34, according to the campaign, which first released the information to the Associated Press." (Bloomberg)
- A House Committee renewed pressure on IRS to share President Trump's tax returns, making a legal showdown more likely. "House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal re-upped his demand for President Donald Trump’s tax returns on Saturday, telling IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig he has until April 23 to turn over the documents…A subpoena likely would come next from Neal, who told Rettig the IRS has "an unambiguous legal obligation" to turn over the six years of Trump's personal tax returns and some business returns that Neal has asked for." (POLITICO)
- A Federal investigation found a culture of harassment, retaliation at AccuWeather under President Trump's pick to head NOAA. "A federal workplace investigation found rampant sexual harassment and retaliation at AccuWeather, a federal contractor, including groping, touching and kissing of subordinates without consent. AccuWeather’s chief executive at the time of the allegations and investigation, Barry Myers, was tapped by President Trump to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The detailed results of the investigation, not previously reported, were compiled last year by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and obtained by The Washington Post. It determined that AccuWeather, under Myers, fostered a culture ripe for sexual harassment, turned a blind eye to allegations of egregious conduct and retaliated against those who complained." (Washington Post)
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