Today in OpenGov: Down a dark path.


In today's edition, Democrats rely on dark money even as they push to get rid of it, the Treasury Department declines to share President Trump's tax returns, two reporters are released in Myanmar, and more. 

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washington watch

  • Democrats want to end dark money, but until then they'll probably keep using it. "Reform-minded Democrats have long held up "dark money" — political money that can't be traced back to its source — as a symptom of what's wrong with politics in Washington. But while House Democrats this winter passed a bill to end the secrecy shielding donors behind unregulated dark money contributions, liberal activist groups now deploy those funds to boost the party's candidates in the 2020 elections. A recent study by the government reform group Issue One found that in the 2018 midterm elections, politically active tax-exempt groups spent about $150 million in secret money, and Democratic-leaning groups accounted for 54 percent of it." (NPR)
  • Privacy and security concerns arise as the government moves towards digital record-keeping. "Information that was once kept in paper format and stored in folders and boxes is now being uploaded and integrated into the digital space. While this simplifies organizing and storing data, it also creates potential risks of private data being breached and leaked into the public sphere. To discuss all things pertaining to data management and cyber hygiene, participants attended DC Live ’19 Federal Records Conference last month at the the National Press Club." ( DC)
  • New report finds that anti-Muslim groups received funding from mainstream charities. "Politically active organizations known for stoking anti-Muslim animus and advocating policies that restrict the civil liberties of Muslims have gotten millions in contributions from mainstream philanthropic institutions, according to a new report from a Muslim civil rights organization. The Council on American-Islamic Relations tracked contributions over a two year period to 39 organizations it identifies as anti-Muslim hate groups and uncovered donations from pillars of U.S. philanthropy." (Roll Call)


Image credit: Mike Licht.
  • The Trump administration changed an IRS rule requiring some nonprofits to disclose their donors. New York and New Jersey want to know why. "New York and New Jersey have sued to find out why President Donald Trump’s administration scrapped an Internal Revenue Service rule requiring some tax-exempt organizations to disclose their donors. The change, announced in July 2018, eliminates from federal and state filings a category of information the states rely on to identify potential self-dealing transactions, criminal conduct and other risks in the nonprofit sector, New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement Monday." (Bloomberg)
  • The Treasury Department officially declined to share President Trump's tax returns with Congress. "The Treasury Department said on Monday that it would not release President Trump’s tax returns to Congress, defying a request from House Democrats and setting up a legal battle likely to be resolved by the Supreme Court. Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, wrote in a letter to Representative Richard E. Neal, Democrat of Massachusetts and the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, that Mr. Neal’s request for the tax returns 'lacks a legitimate legislative purpose' and that he was not authorized to disclose them." (New York Times)
  • Justice Department releases second — still heavily redacted — version of the Mueller report in response to FOIA lawsuits. "The Department of Justice on Monday released a second redacted version of the Mueller report, but the document doesn’t appear to make public new details about the special counsel’s investigation and findings. This redacted version of the report was released in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits filed by the privacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and BuzzFeed News reporter Jason Leopold." (The Hill)
  • President Trump embraces campaign fundraising strategies he once dismissed. "It is the kind of traditional campaign fund-raising apparatus that Mr. Trump thumbed his nose at during his 2016 run. And it involves some donors who only grudgingly accepted him once he was the Republican presidential nominee…The tiered bundler system that Mr. Trump’s campaign has built — modeled after President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign and complete with super PACs supporting it from the outside — is the most tangible example yet of Mr. Trump’s ceding to the reality of his second presidential race." (New York Times)

around the world

Popular singer and MP Bobi Wine speaks at a protest against Uganda's social media tax on July 11, 2018. Image via Global Voices.
  • Ugandan regulators order media outlets to suspend staff over coverage of opposition politician. "The Ugandan Communications Commission (UCC) has directed 13 media houses to suspend 39 employees including producers, heads of news and heads of programming. The media outlets affected by the directive include six TV stations and seven radio stations. This directive comes following the arrest of parliamentarian and pop music icon Robert Kyagulanyi, popularly known as Bobi Wine, on April 29. Public protests mounted after the MP was arrested as he made his way to a police station to record a statement about utterances he made during a press conference following a canceled concert by authorities." (Global Voices)
  • Myanmar frees two Reuters reporters who had been imprisoned for reporting on abuses against Rohingya Muslims. "Two Reuters journalists who were imprisoned for breaking Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act over reporting on security forces’ abuses of Rohingya Muslims were pardoned and released Tuesday, the prison chief and witnesses said. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were freed after President Win Myint issued a blanket pardon for 6,520 prisoners, said Zaw Zaw, chief of Yangon’s Insein Prison. Myanmar’s Supreme Court on April 23 rejected the journalists’ final appeal against their seven-year prison terms. Their convictions were related to reporting on security forces’ abuses of the Muslim Rohingya minority." (POLITICO)
  • Turkish election authorities order new election in Istanbul, raising questions of democratic legitimacy. "Turkey’s electoral authorities wiped away a crushing defeat for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday, ordering a rerun of the race for mayor of Istanbul won by the opposition and heightening the prospect of social unrest and a new economic crisis. The decision by the High Election Council was immediately condemned by the opposition party as a capitulation to Mr. Erdogan and a blow to the democratic foundations of the country, which have drifted closer to authoritarianism under his 18 years in power." (New York Times)

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