In today's edition, fundraising pressure pushes another member of Congress out of Washington, a feature on state FOIA, foreshadowing in Trump administration website changes, and more.
- Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) cited incessant fundraising demands as part of his decision to not pursue a third term… "It is quite a testament to the current state of the Senate that a successful veteran lawmaker of two decades believes he can accomplish more by quitting than by trying to stick it out another six years…In assessing his political future, Mr. Udall said he had become convinced that he could do more to advance his progressive ideas on climate change, war powers and a comprehensive electoral overhaul by skipping another two years of relentless re-election fund-raising. " (New York Times) Our friends at Issue One shared some thoughts on what that means for democracy.
- …Some politicians, buoyed by strong personal financial situations, may feel the demands of fundraising less than others as this breakdown of 2020 candidates' finances helps illustrate. "Recently filed financial documents reveal a primary field of multi-millionaires and debtors alike, shining a light on the vastly different amounts of candidates’ fortunes. The twelve personal financial disclosures thus far filed with the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) reveal the median average net worth of Democratic candidates is around $1.4 million, with a remarkable median range of -$55,496 at the lowest to over $168 million at the highest." (Open Secrets)
- International anti-corruption group criticizes Congress for ignoring revolving door to K Street. "An international anti-corruption group is hitting Congress for what it considers an ongoing failure to restrict the revolving door between K Street and Capitol Hill. In a report released Wednesday, the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO), an offshoot of the Council of Europe of which the United States is a participant, charged that while Congress has taken steps to restrict influence peddling by sitting lawmakers, it has failed to put similar restrictions on those who migrate to the lobbying world upon leaving office." (The Hill)
- Internet Services Providers spent at least $80 million lobbying in 2018. "Internet service providers in the United States have spent more than $1.2 billion on lobbying since 1998, and 2018 was the biggest year so far with a total spend of more than $80 million. Comparitech researchers compiled and analyzed 51 ISPs’ lobbying expenses from the US Senate’s Lobbying Disclosure Act database, which dates back to 1998." (Comparitech)
states and cities
- Surveying the state of state public records laws. "Over the last nine months, our FOIA Fellow Jessie Gomez has been looking at public records law across the nation through our State of State Public Records Law project. Today, we’ll be exploring the major takeaways from her reporting. Primarily, our coverage has dealt with ambiguities within records law, barriers to access, legislative efforts to reform state records law, and the notable players that have made transparency a reality. Our series will take a look at all of these components and their contributions to your state’s law." (MuckRock)
- Ohio just advanced coal and nuclear subsidies under pressure from a Trump campaign official. "The Ohio House approved a bill Wednesday to gut clean energy standards and subsidize at-risk nuclear and coal plants after a last-minute push from a Trump reelection official to secure its passage. Bob Paduchik, a senior adviser to the Trump reelection campaign, made calls Tuesday night to at least five members of the Ohio House of Representatives, pressuring them to vote ‘yes’ on the bill, five people familiar with the outreach told POLITICO." (POLITICO)
- A major test for Chicago's Civilian Office of Police Accountability. "The political earthquake precipitated by the 2014 police murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald left a crater at the center of Chicago’s civic life. In the years since, that space has been the site of efforts to rebuild, amid the ruins of discredited institutions, a sound police accountability infrastructure. A key structural component of that ongoing project is the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, or COPA…it is hard to overstate the centrality of COPA to the emerging edifice of police reform. It is foundational…What then are we to make of COPA’s handling of the August 13, 2017, shooting of 19-year-old Ricardo Hayes by Sgt. Khalil Muhammad — a case which, on its facts, invites comparison to the McDonald incident?" (The Intercept)
- Changes to HHS civil rights website foreshadow Trump administration rollback of transgender protections. "New regulations rolling back protections for transgender and gender nonconforming patients in healthcare settings, announced last Friday, appear to have been foreshadowed by changes documented by the Web Integrity Project last year. The new rules reinterpret Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act to exclude “gender identity” as a prohibited basis for discrimination. In the Spring of 2017, the Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services quietly changed information on its website related to Section 1557 and discrimination against transgender and gender nonconforming people in healthcare settings." (Sunlight Foundation)
- Department of Transportation says that Secretary Elaine Chao's retention of construction company stock was approved by ethics officials. "The Transportation Department has come down hard on news reports accusing Secretary Elaine Chao of unethically retaining shares in a building materials company on whose board she once served…The reporter’s interpretation of the ethics agreement she signed in 2017 was that she had promised to cash out shares and sever ties to the company upon her confirmation by the Senate to join President Trump’s Cabinet…The Transportation Department stressed that Chao had no control over the form of the payout she announced in advance, and that the language is now being clarified by ethics officials who approved her approach." (Government Executive)
- In first, and possibly only, public statement on his report Robert Mueller declined to clear the President of obstructing justice… "Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, declined on Wednesday to clear President Trump of obstruction of justice in his first public characterization of his two-year investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election." (New York Times)…while stressing the report's central findings that Russia made "multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in" the 2016 election. (Quartz)
- President Trump, once critical of President Obama for the practice, has used Air Force One for political trips. "Trump's trip to Pennsylvania was only the latest example in which he has relied on Air Force One for campaigning, raising long-standing questions about how taxpayer money is allocated for political travel. The plane, usually a Boeing 747, has carried Trump to rallies, fundraisers and events billed as official business in states such as Pennsylvania and Florida that are crucial to his hopes for reelection in 2020…Trump's campaign reimburses the government for a portion of the travel but in a mystery that has frustrated watchdog groups for decades, there is secrecy around how the White House accounts for Air Force One and other travel expenses…Such trips are not unique to Trump. His predecessors, including President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush, also logged many hours on Air Force One for trips focused on official business, campaigning or a mix of both. Trump criticized Obama for the practice in 2016. " (USA Today)
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