Today in OpenGov: A broken model?


Editor's note: We're back from our educational hiatus with a slightly different format than usual as we catch up on a long Memorial Day weekend's worth of headlines. 

In today's edition, Elaine Chao fails to divest, the GAO eyes some savings, cracks appear in one of Africa's model democracies, Texas' Secretary of State resigns, and much more. 

Hot off the presses

Image credit: Max Pixel.
  • Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said she would sell her shares in a highway construction company but never quite managed to do so. "Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao failed last year to cash out her stock options in one of the nation’s largest suppliers of highway construction materials, despite a promise she had made to do so in a signed ethics agreement when she joined the Trump administration…a financial disclosure report released this month by her husband, Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican who is the Senate majority leader, showed that Ms. Chao had somewhere between $250,000 and $500,000 worth of Vulcan stock. She owned this stock because in April 2018 Vulcan paid her for her stock options in the company’s stock instead of cash, the company said in a statement." (New York Times)
  • Judges rule that Trump administration doesn't have to comply with Presidential Records Act when it comes to self-deleting communications apps. "Even if Trump White House personnel are using self-deleting message applications in violation of a records-preservation law, a Washington appeals court concluded that it lacks the authority to enforce day-to-day compliance. The trio of judges — all selected by Democratic presidents — on Tuesday unanimously upheld a 2018 trial court ruling rejecting a bid by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (or CREW) for an order compelling President Donald Trump and his staff to strictly comply with the 1978 Presidential Records Act." (Bloomberg)
  • Trimming duplicative government programs could save billions according to GAO. "Once again, federal agencies have been found to be duplicating efforts and missing opportunities to cut costs in areas as diverse as disaster response, military health care and U.S. currency manufacturing. That’s according to the ninth installment in a series of mandatory Government Accountability Office round-ups that flag potential opportunities for billions of dollars in savings." (Government Executive)
  • Freshman Representative questions ethics rules that prevented her from promoting nonprofit bone marrow drives. "When a seriously ill constituent asked if Rep. Katie Porter could raise awareness of potentially life-saving bone marrow drives in her Southern California district this month, a simple constituent service turned into a sticky House ethics issue. Now Porter is questioning whether rules designed to prevent misuse of taxpayer dollars need to be reviewed…House rules include a blanket prohibition on lawmakers promoting events held by private entities, including nonprofits. That includes DKMS, an international organization that advocates for more people to register as blood stem cell donors." (Roll Call)
  • Cracks appear in Benin's democracy, once seen as one of Africa's strongest. "The recipe is not a good one: a brazen businessman, a contentious election, and a hint of criminality. Those troubling ingredients were brought to a boil in Benin this month as one of the world’s strongest democracies saw opposition parties barred from running for office, protesters taking to the streets, and an unknown number of arrests and deaths. As demonstrations grew over April’s parliamentary elections, President Patrice Talon also blocked access to the internet and unleashed the police. The story might seem routine in other parts of the developing world, but it’s an anomaly in Benin, which sparked a wave of African democratization in the 1990s and has remained resistant to breakdown and backsliding ever since." (The Atlantic)
  • Texas Secretary of State resigns in wake of botched attempt to purge 100,000 "noncitizen" voters. "Texas’s acting secretary of state, David Whitley (R), resigned Monday just months after leading the botched voter purge of nearly 100,000 suspected noncitizens that erroneously also targeted U.S. citizens, efforts that drew rebukes from a federal judge and numerous voter rights groups. Whitley’s departure came as the Texas Senate failed to confirm him to the position by a two-thirds majority on the last day of the legislative session." (Washington Post)

in case you missed it

  • Looking at some of the outlandish spending by Leadership PACs during the final three months of 2018. (Issue One and the Campaign Legal Center)
  • Elizabeth Warren has staked out a strong position against big money in politics, but her campaign treasurer may have other ideas. (Center for Public Integrity)
  • Exploring the dark money behind the Federalist Society's push for a conservative federal court system. (Washington Post)
  • The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress focused on transparency in its first official recommendations. (FedScoop)
  • The FEC approved a proposal to allow campaigns to take advantage of reduced rates for cybersecurity services. (Issue One)
  • The Senate GOP voted to permanently ban earmarks, throwing water on persistent rumors of the return of pork barrel spending. (POLITICO)
  • Exploring the differences and similarities between misinformation and disinformation. (Sunlight Foundation)
  • Sunlight's Web Integrity Project briefed lawmakers on the Trump Administration's web censorship of Affordable Care Act information. (Sunlight Foundation
  • A Chicago banker was indicted on charges that he arranged $16 million in loans to Paul Manafort in an effort to obtain a post in the Trump administration. (New York Times)
  • President Trump claimed to be the "most transparent president" ever. Sunlight's John Wonderlich shared some thoughts on the topic. (POLITICO)
  • Ghana has a new Right to Information Law, but the devil remains in the implementation. (Global Voices)
  • Austria's chancellor lost a no-confidence vote after less than 2 years in office amid a bribery scandal involving his – also ousted – vice-chancellor (POLITICO)…who, no joke, won a seat in the European Parliament over the weekend. (POLITICO)
  • Code for America is in the market for a new Executive Director. (Government Technology)
  • Comcast says it does so much lobbying that it would be too hard to disclose it all. (Ars Technica)
  • Texas lawmakers voted to bring more transparency to public contracting records. (Houston Chronicle)

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