Today in OpenGov: Just Chaoing around.


In today's edition, the Transportation Secretary's business ties with China, the Texas legislature moves a handful of transparency bills, 2020 Democratic hopefuls hit up their rich friends for cash, and more. 


Elaine Chao and Mitch McConnell with President George W. Bush and Laura Bush while Chao was Secretary of Labor in 2002. Image via Wikimedia Commons.
  • Transportation Secretary Elayne Chao's business ties in China raise unique questions… "Ms. Chao’s office had made a series of unorthodox requests related to her first scheduled visit to China as a Trump cabinet member, according to people with knowledge of the email. Among them: asking federal officials to help coordinate travel arrangements for at least one family member and include relatives in meetings with government officials. In China, the Chaos are no ordinary family. They run an American shipping company with deep ties to the economic and political elite in China, where most of the company’s business is centered. The trip was abruptly canceled by Ms. Chao after the ethics question was referred to officials in the State and Transportation Departments and, separately, after The New York Times and others made inquiries about her itinerary and companions." (New York Times…and highlight her high level political connections there and in the United States. (New York Times)
  • As the White House press briefing room goes unused a driveway takes its place. "Sanders makes her comments to a group of journalists assembled on the White House’s north driveway, a stretch of asphalt that runs from Pennsylvania Avenue to the president’s home and office — about the length of a fast-food drive-through lane. For months, the driveway has become the informal locale for interviews with administration officials. While Trump prefers to engage reporters amid Marine One’s whirring helicopter blades on the White House’s South Lawn, the north driveway has become the only place to grab Sanders or officials such as White House counselor Kellyanne Conway for a few on-camera comments." (Washington Post)
  • President Trump is considering appointing a GOP donor and former ambassador to Estonia as ambassador to Canada. "The Trump administration is considering Republican donor Aldona Wos to be its next ambassador to Canada, according to two people familiar with the plans. Wos, a retired physician who served as U.S. ambassador to Estonia under George W. Bush, would succeed Kelly Craft, who has been nominated to be the envoy to the United Nations, said the people, speaking on condition of anonymity." (Bloomberg)
  • The latest Trump administration conflicts include Trump's financials, a new loan for the Kushner Cos., and more. "This week, Robert Mueller announces his resignation after finishing the Russia investigation, the latest in the fight for access to President Donald Trump’s financial records and Kushner Companies receives a new loan backed by the federal government." (Sunlight Foundation)

states and cities

The Texas State Capitol. Image credit: Kumar Appaiah.
  • Texas lawmakers advanced a number of transparency bills before the end of their legislative session last week. "Monday marked the end of the regular session for the state Legislature and along with major bills, some government transparency bills are headed to the Governors desk. Lawmakers approved a number of public information and open meeting initiatives." (News 4 San Antonio via NFOIC)
  • Chicago's new mayor is asking a long time alderman to step down amid corruption allegations. "The new mayor of Chicago who has promised to rid City Hall of corruption said Friday that her office would be sending a letter to a longtime alderman asking him to step down amid federal charges. Mayor Lori Lightfoot's comments followed her less formal request Thursday for Alderman Edward M. Burke to resign. She questions whether the 50-year veteran of the City Council, one of the most powerful and longest-serving aldermen in Chicago's history, can effectively represent his ward while under indictment on racketeering and other charges." (Bloomberg)
  • The FBI issued a wide ranging subpoena for information on Andrew Gillum's failed bid to be governor of Florida. "Federal authorities in Florida have issued an expansive subpoena seeking information related to Andrew Gillum, the former Tallahassee mayor, and the campaign for governor he narrowly lost last year, as well as some of his associates. In a statement on Thursday night, Mr. Gillum’s lawyer, Barry Richard, acknowledged the subpoena but denied that Mr. Gillum had done anything wrong." (New York Times)

washington watch

Image via Pixabay.
  • 2020 Democratic presidential contenders are increasingly embracing high dollar donors that they initially avoided. "Across the Democratic field, candidates are embracing the big donors they distanced themselves from early on — a sign of increasing doubt that the small, online donations the campaigns have been chasing will be sufficient to sustain two-dozen primary contenders." (Washington Post)
  • With Chief Data Officers coming to each federal agency, what can help them find success? "From as early as 1790 when the first U.S. census occurred, the United States government has pioneered the collection and distribution of data. This longitudinal dataset that spans from 1790 through 2010 is one of the longest standing datasets and is frequently used by both government and businesses to perform an incredibly wide array of analyses…To help ease the complexity of this issue, the coming Federal Data Strategy will guide agencies to meet a new mandate to bring on a chief data officer (CDO) whose role will be to help prioritize the dissemination of data to improve internal government use across agencies, as well as use of government data by the public. The Federal Data Strategy is an exciting prospect for CDOs and data scientists, but to ensure they are delivering the most value possible, there are several things these data strategists need to consider." (Federal Computer Week)
  • The top GOP member of the House Intelligence Committee called for public release of Mueller's "backup and source documentation." "Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, called Friday for the public release of all of special counsel Robert Mueller's "backup and source documentation," a call that goes even further than most Democrats' demands for more transparency around Mueller's report. Though most Republicans in Congress have lambasted Democrats for continuing to demand access to Mueller's underlying files, Nunes (R-Calif.) argued that accessing those documents — and making them public — would expose Mueller's effort as a "fraud." Democrats say they want the same materials because they'll aid investigations into Mueller's evidence that President Donald Trump repeatedly attempted to obstruct his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election." (POLITICO)
  • How can policymakers best approach the ethical challenges posed by AI and other emerging technologies? "Do we have the ethics to confront the big challenges of our time? No less than Elon Musk and Bill Gates have warned of the potential perils of artificial intelligence. And AI isn’t the only emerging technology worth worrying about. Yet policymakers have no central place to review and make sense of the promises and pitfalls of the application of new technologies, never mind the ethical dilemmas that come with them…We are working in and witness to a remarkable era of technological innovation and, in many cases, breakthroughs. The solutions to date are not seamless, the thinking through of wider implications is not complete. Absent bodies such as the OTA, it pushes responsibility for such work closer to the ground, including states and localities." (Government Technology)


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