Today in OpenGov: Case reopened.


In today's edition, the House Ethics Committee reopens a few cases, former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly gets a new gig, a New Mexico city brings its public campaign financing system online, and more. 

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washington watch

Will Congress go back to feasting on metaphorical as well as literal pork? Image via former Senator Claire McCaskill.
  • The House Ethics Committee reauthorized investigations into three embattled Congressmen for the 116th Congress. "House Ethics Committee investigations into Republicans Chris Collins of New York, Duncan Hunter of California and David Schweikert of Arizona were reauthorized for the 116th Congress this week. The Ethics Committee voted unanimously to reauthorize investigative subcommittees looking into the three lawmakers, but the panel agreed to a Justice Department request to put its probes into Collins and Hunter on hold as they battle criminal indictments." (Roll Call)
  • GAO report on DATA Act standardization progress shows mixed results. "Continuing efforts by the Office of Management and Budget to streamline mandatory agency data collection show progress, but still fall short on evidence that they will ease reporting burdens on grantees and contractors. So said the Government Accountability Office in its latest review of White House compliance with agency data standardization requirements under the 2014 Digital Accountability and Transparency Act. OMB’s hopes for creating a centralized agency spending data portal that simplifies data submission appear more promising for grants than for contracts, the report found." (Government Executive)
  • Amid legislative gridlock, rumors of the return of earmarks continue to swirl. "…the reason behind the push for the return of the once-hated E-word: earmarks…So far this push has run into opposition from senior Republicans, who led the effort a decade ago to ban earmarks as both wasteful spending and part of a corrupt pay-to-play culture with lobbyists." (Washington Post)
  • Joe Biden plans to open fundraisers to press coverage. "Joe Biden plans to allow media access to all of his fundraising events, a show of transparency designed to address the Democratic base’s increasing discomfort with the role of big-money donors in politics…The media access provided by the campaign isn’t unlimited. TV cameras will not be allowed in and it’s unclear how much of the events print and wire reporters will be allowed to attend. When Biden attends a private fundraiser at the home of a South Carolina supporter this weekend during a brief swing through the state, only pooled print and wire reporters will be allowed inside." (POLITICO)


Mar-a-Lago Resort. Image credit: Christine Davis
  • The latest Trump administration conflict? Taxpayers footing the bill for a night of drinking at Mar-a-Lago. "This week, President Donald Trump and his company filed a lawsuit to stop the release of financial documents, news about foreign governments renting space in Trump World Tower raise more emolument concerns and details emerge about taxpayers footing the bill for a night of drinking at Mar-a-Lago." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has a new job on the board of a company that houses detained migrant children. "Former White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly has joined the board of the conglomerate that operates the largest facility for migrant children in the country, the company announced Friday. Caliburn International's CEO James Van Dusen confirmed the appointment of the former Trump cabinet member in a news release…An executive order on ethics issued by President Donald Trump in 2017 doesn't appear to prevent Kelly and other White House officials from joining boards, but it does ban lobbying activities." (Bloomberg)
  • President Trump award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to golfer and business ally Tiger Woods. "Ever since Tiger Woods arrived on the public stage as a golf phenom at the age of 21, Donald J. Trump has been cultivating him as a celebrity who could add a sheen to his properties around the globe…On Monday, Mr. Trump is set to once again seize Mr. Woods’s moment. At the White House, he will present Mr. Woods with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in honor of his Masters victory last month…But by honoring him, the president leaves the appearance of using his office to reward a business partner." (New York Times)
  • IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig earns as much as $1 million in rental income from properties in Trump-branded properties. "President Trump’s hand-picked IRS Commissioner, Charles Rettig, earns as much as $1 million in rental income from the Trump-branded properties he co-owns while facing demands from Congress to release Trump’s tax returns. The IRS has already missed more than one deadline set by the House Ways and Means Committee to turn over Trump’s tax returns. (Rettig has stated that he will decide whether or not to release the tax returns, under the supervision of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.) When Trump nominated Rettig to lead the IRS in February 2018, Rettig initially failed to disclose that the Hawaii real estate he owned was at a Trump-branded property. He bought a 50 percent interest in two units at Trump International Waikiki in 2006 ahead of the building’s completion in 2009." (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington)

states and cities

Downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico. Image credit: Debernardi.
  • Albuquerque looks to the Internet to boost its public campaign financing program. "Public campaign financing in the city of Albuquerque is going digital. City council and mayoral candidates seeking public dollars to fund their campaigns must first amass a series of $5 contributions to qualify – and under former regulations, candidates had to collect those donations in person. But a 2019 rules update allows registered voters to make an electronic contribution through a pilot 'Clean Campaign Portal' unveiled Wednesday." (Government Technology)
  • Lessons learned from the 2019 FOI Summit in Dallas, Texas. "The National Freedom of Information Coalition concluded its 2019 FOI Summit in Dallas recently. The annual two-day conference features presentations from open government experts and practitioners on trending open government issues in state and local public institutions. This year’s event also celebrated the 30-year anniversary of the summit and NFOIC. A diverse group of speakers and topics highlighted the sessions. Four new members were inducted into the State Open Government Hall of Fame. New features and formats were introduced, and selection of a new board president highlight the 2019 summit." (NFOIC)
  • This Vermont city is exploring if blockchain can be used to boost civic engagement. "How could mobile devices, blockchain, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence make local government more representative? Toronto-based AI company Consensus AI sees in these technologies the potential for local, virtual town halls, and it has enlisted the help of South Burlington, Vt., in a pilot project to create one." (Government Technology)


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