Today in OpenGov: Bid pro quo.
In today's edition, 2020 Democrats try to stick to their pledges against lobbyist money, the D.C. government tries to sneak some troubling FOIA provisions into law, President Trump tries to rebuff House requests for information, and more.
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- Did Amazon offer jobs to DoD staffers in exchange for help securing a $10 billion cloud contract? "At least two Pentagon employees were offered jobs at Amazon.com Inc. while working on the Defense Department’s $10 billion cloud contract, a lawsuit filed by Oracle Corp. alleges. The amended complaint, made public on Tuesday, claims Deap Ubhi, a former employee at a high-level Defense Department technology unit, helped design the cloud contract in a way that was favorable to Amazon after receiving “significant” job and bonus offers from the e-commerce giant." (Bloomberg)
- Lobbyists trying to donate to 2020 Democratic presidential contenders' campaigns are mostly rebuffed. "One of the biggest focuses of the Democratic presidential primary so far has been on the candidates and how their campaigns raise money. A subject of contention is candidates accepting money from lobbyists, a move that can draw quick ire from the leftward moving party base. Despite that, lobbyists are still contributing…During the first quarter of the 2020 cycle, registered lobbyists contributed $40,100 to presidential campaigns, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP). This number only refers to itemized contributions, those over $200, which are the only type publicly accessible from the FEC. While not a large amount, candidates still stuck to their pledges and refunded nearly all of it." (Open Secrets)
- Is disfunction at the FEC becoming a real threat to democracy? "Of all the Federal Election Commission’s many chronic breakdowns in recent years, its failure to take the slightest action to either stave off or respond to Russian meddling in the 2016 election is the most damaging to American democracy. The FEC repeatedly considered but never approved straightforward new rules to require internet advertisers to better identify themselves, a move that could have helped deter Russian disinformation on social media. And now that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has concluded that the Russian government interfered in the election “in sweeping and systematic fashion,” the FEC remains missing in action." (Sludge)
- The House Oversight Committee threatens the salaries of Interior Department officials who block oversight attempts. "The House Oversight Committee on Tuesday threatened to withhold the salaries of Interior Department officials who have blocked lawmakers from interviewing agency employees about whether Secretary David Bernhardt was complying with recordkeeping laws. The committee’s threat ratchets up the pressure on Interior in the latest skirmish between House Democrats and the Trump administration over the lawmakers' complaints that agencies are withholding documents and ignoring requests to send senior officials to testify before Congress." (POLITICO)
states and cities
Image credit: OpenSource.com
- The Washington, D.C. Council is trying to sneak concerning changes to the city's FOIA into law. "A pair of proposed changes to D.C.’s Freedom of Information law is drawing opposition from open-government advocates, who say they could potentially make it tougher for the press and public to request and obtain government emails and other documents. The changes are included at the end of a 160-page budget document published by D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson late last week." (WAMU) We find these proposed changes to D.C.’s FOIA law to be questionable, as their presence in a budget bill means they will not be subject to a public hearing. We strongly feel D.C. residents are entitled to a public hearing to consider changes to a law fundamental to upholding our democratic values of transparency and accountability.
- Controversial California transparency bill tabled amid pushback from advocates. "After stern opposition from transparency groups, Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) has decided to halt AB 700 for this year’s legislative session in California. The bill would have exempted information relating to a researcher or their research at a state university or community college. According to Friedman, the goal for AB 700 was to “preserve transparency while guarding against harassment from corporations and profiteers.” Her fear of records law abuse was what prompted the creation of the bill in the first place." (MuckRock)
- Despite clear conflicts of interest, lawmakers in New Hampshire rarely recuse themselves from votes. "New Hampshire is home to the largest citizen legislature in the country — 424 members in all. And it's built around the idea that citizens who serve will bring their everyday experiences to their roles as elected officials. As a result, it's not unusual to see landlords sponsoring bills on evictions, retirees voting on changes to the state retirement system or business owners setting the rates for the very same business taxes they pay. This blending of public and private interests is common among lawmakers of all ranks. And if you ask legislative leaders, it is a strength, not a weakness, of New Hampshire's political system." (NPR)
Image credit: Mike Licht.
- New York lawmakers moved a step closer to requiring the release of President Trump's state tax returns… (New York Times) …and Congressional Democrats appeared ready to take their case for access to his federal tax returns straight to court…(POLITICO) …Meanwhile, A decade worth of his personal tax returns show massive losses in the 80's and 90's."Newly obtained tax information reveals that from 1985 to 1994, Donald J. Trump’s businesses were in far bleaker condition than was previously known." (New York Times)
- Battle between Justice Department and the House of Representatives heats up over evidence behind Mueller report, threat to hold Attorney General Barr in contempt. "The Justice Department threatened late Tuesday to ask President Trump to invoke executive privilege over the hidden portions of Robert S. Mueller III’s report and all of the evidence behind it if Democrats proceeded Wednesday with a vote to hold Attorney General William P. Barr in contempt of Congress. In a letter to the House Judiciary Committee, the department accused Democrats of being unreasonable in subpoenaing that material…The new threat came only hours after the White House stepped in to stop Donald F. McGahn II, the former White House counsel and a key witness for Mr. Mueller, the special counsel, from handing over documents subpoenaed by House investigators because Mr. Trump may want to assert executive privilege." (New York Times)
- Ex-regulatory chiefs criticize OIRA for failure to cooperate with watchdogs. "The latest in the ongoing clash over the Trump administration’s habit of ignoring queries from oversight watchdogs unfolded at a cordial Senate subcommittee hearing on Tuesday held to discuss two coming bipartisan regulatory reform bills. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., elicited negative reactions toward the current White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs from two previous leaders of that office…The dispute emerged last week, Carper said at a hearing of a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs panel, when the acting inspector general for the Environmental Protection Agency, Charles Sheehan, made a rare complaint in a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney." (Government Executive)
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