Today in OpenGov: Old habits die hard.


In today's edition, gridlock continues to reign at the FEC, San Francisco sheds some sunlight on its own police department, President Trump's assault on the rule of law, and more. 

washington watch

Image via the Center for Public Integrity.
  • The FEC deadlocked on yet another complaint, leaving intact a loophole that allows individual contribution limits to be circumvented. "On Friday, [the Federal Election Commission] announced the commission deadlocked 2-2 in complaints against the joint fundraising committees (JFCs) that aided Hillary Clinton & Donald Trump in 2016…Chairwoman [Ellen Weintraub] wrote that this use of joint fundraising committees resulted in 'the systematic circumvention of individual contribution limits"'." (Michael Beckel)
  • The GSA is struggling to comply with controls on improper payments, according to new IG report. "Financial controls designed to minimize agency payments to undeserving parties are not being fully followed by the government’s landlord, the General Services Administration, according to a watchdog report released on Friday. GSA in fiscal 2018 failed to comply with two of six requirements in the amended Improper Payments Act, said the agency’s inspector general." (Government Executive)
  • Whistleblower, Department of Veterans Administration disagree on existence of secret waiting list for care. "Jereme P. Whiteman rose quickly through the Department of Veterans Affairs, reaching the top grade on the main employee classification scale in only seven years. But his future within VA appears stymied. He’s become a rebel within the department’s establishment — a whistleblower who says the scandals that shamed the department during the Obama administration haven’t stopped. Whiteman, VA’s national director of clinic practice management and a onetime Marine, has accused the department under President Trump of having “a secret VA wait list” for veterans seeking health care." (Washington Post)
  • Joe Biden pledges to reject fossil fuel industry donations as he announces climate plan. "Former Vice President Joe Biden laid out a climate change plan on Tuesday that would pour $1.7 trillion of federal money into clean energy spending over a decade to bring U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050…Biden also said his campaign would refuse donations from fossil fuel executives and corporations, a marker that greens have used as a measure of how serious candidates are in combating the industry's efforts to slow climate policy." (POLITICO)

states and cities

The Tennessee State Capitol building. Image Credit: Ken Lund.
  • Crunching the data on state Chief Information Officers. "No, not governors — we're talking about state chief information officers, who have vast influence over gov tech in the U.S. They also find themselves in the somewhat unique position of being treated like political appointees, despite their work being (mostly) nonpolitical in nature. To learn more about who these people are, the work they do and their backgrounds, Government Technology put together a list of as many state CIOs as we could find information for: what amounted to 206 state CIO terms in all 50 states going all the way back to 1994 (with more complete records for some states than others)." (Government Technology)
  • Tennessee's public records law has almost 600 exemptions. A new law might make it harder to add new ones. "There are nearly 600 exemptions to the Tennessee Public Records Act, and the list keeps growing. However, a new state law could slow the adoption of new exemptions because it requires the Tennessee House’s Government Operations Committee to review any legislation that creates an exception to the TPRA, which requires government records to be open to public inspection. The committee would then make a recommendation as to whether the exemption should be adopted. No further action could be taken on the legislation until the committee completes its review." (MuckRock)
  • The San Fransisco District Attorney is bringing some transparency to the city's police department via an open arrest and conviction record keeping tool. "A horrifically stupid and likely-illegal raid of a journalist's house notwithstanding, San Francisco's move towards greater law enforcement accountability and transparency has been monumental. Granted, this increase's momentousness is relative. Most cities do nothing at all to increase law enforcement accountability and transparency, so any forward momentum becomes noteworthy for even existing…The DA's office — the same one that issued pretty harsh words about the SFPD's raid of journalist Bryan Carmody's home — has released a first-of-its-kind transparency tool to keep the public apprised about arrests and convictions. This open-access recordkeeping is a significant improvement over the DA's office former record keeping process, which was apparently nonexistent." (TechDirt)


President Trump. Image credit: Gage Skidmore.
  • The dangers posed by President Trump's dismissive approach to the rule of law. "President Donald Trump has repeatedly said that his administration is the 'most transparent in history,' and that it has 'cooperated totally' with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, or words to that effect. But the truth is quite the opposite. No prior administration has pushed the envelope of the law to deflect outside scrutiny to the same degree as this one. In a recent letter from the White House to the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, the president, in effect, rejected the entire notion of congressional oversight as illegitimately political…"(The Atlantic)
  • House Democrats are threatening a contempt vote as Trump administration officials continue to refuse to testify on the Census citizenship question… "House Oversight and Reform Democrats threatened to vote on holding Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress, accusing the pair Monday of rebuffing investigations into the addition of the citizenship question to the 2020 census. Chairman Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., accused the administration of “one of the most unprecedented cover-ups since Watergate,” in a letter Monday to Barr and another to Ross. He gave them until Thursday to answer several subpoenas issued earlier this year." (Roll Call
  • …Meanwhile, the Justice Department rejected new evidence casting doubt on their stated reasons for wanting the citizenship question included in the 2020 Census… "The Justice Department on Monday responded to allegations that it had hidden the government’s true motives for adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, saying they border on 'frivolous.'" (Washington Post)
  • …The citizenship question and other challenges could result in bad data quality, including a significant undercounting of black and Latinx people according to new report. "Challenges threatening the upcoming 2020 census could risk more than 4 million people to be missing from next year's national head count, according to new projections by the Urban Institute. The nonpartisan think tank found that the danger of an inaccurate census could hit some of the country's most difficult-to-count populations the hardest. Based on the Urban Institute's analysis, the 2020 census could lead to the worst undercount of black and Latinx people in the U.S. since 1990." (NPR)


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