Today in OpenGov: Make it a dozen.


In today's edition, unsurprising conclusions in a new report from the FEC watchdog, a dubious milestone for President Trump, censoring memories in China, and more. 

washington watch

The lobbyists are coming. 
  • In new report, the FEC IG sheds light on how disfunction at the commission has hobbled its internal watchdog. "A new report from the Office of Inspector General at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) provides new information about how the agency’s internal watchdog has been hamstrung for months — a concerning state of affairs that was also detailed in Issue One’s recent report 'Busted and Broke: Why the Federal Election Commission doesn’t work.' In short: The FEC’s Office of Inspector General has been unable, for many months, to complete audits, investigate criminal and administrative allegations, conduct peer reviews, evaluate personnel, approve budgetary decisions, and conduct mandatory professional trainings. This is further evidence that the agency suffers from systemic dysfunction." (Issue One)
  • Tech companies are boosting their, already significant, lobbying power in anticipation of a looming antitrust fight. "Faced with the growing possibility of antitrust actions and legislation to curb their power, four of the biggest technology companies are amassing an army of lobbyists as they prepare for what could be an epic fight over their futures. Initially slow to develop a presence in Washington, the tech giants — Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google — have rapidly built themselves into some of the largest players in the influence and access industry as they confront threats from the Trump administration and both parties on Capitol Hill." (New York Times)
  • Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, has big plans to boost President Trump in 2020. "Conservative activist Virginia “Ginni” Thomas plans to launch a new PAC and 501(c)(4) nonprofit, according to a report published in the Intercept this week. Dubbed “American D-Day,” the groups will be part of a broader project called Crowdsourcers, with the goal of protecting President Donald Trump. If Thomas’s name sounds familiar, it may be because she is married to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who has been on the bench for nearly three decades. But Ginni Thomas has long carved out her own place in conservative politics — sometimes to the chagrin of those who say her involvement poses a conflict of interest due to her husband’s role." (Open Secrets)
  • This representative wants to know more about why the Boy Scouts lobbied against stricter sexual abuse laws. "Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) is pressing the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) for more information about the organization's lobbying efforts against legislation to extend statutes of limitations for alleged sexual misconduct. Speier, who has been pushing for more information from the group for months, signaled she wanted more answers following the group's latest letter sent Monday that promised to provide information on its lobbying practices by June 17." (The Hill)


Air Force One and a Presidential Limousine in Uruguay. Image credit: Vince Alongi.
  • With stay at Irish golf course, President Trump has now visited an even dozen Trump branded properties as President… (Washington Post) …Meanwhile, his brief trip to Ireland is costing American taxpayers almost $1 million in limo rental fees. "They are, by all accounts, wheels to die for. JP Ward & Sons, an Irish funeral services home, rents out its fleet of Mercedes E-Class limousines not just to mourners but to anyone who wants to travel in style…The Trump administration paid the family-owned firm based in Bray, County Wicklow, $935,033 in four tranches, according to, an official portal that records federal government spending." (The Guardian)
  • Federal judge defers to Supreme Court on Census citizenship question while expressing concerns about "serious" nature of new information in the case. "A federal judge said the allegations that the Trump administration wants a citizenship question on the 2020 census because it would advantage Republicans and white people are “serious,” but cautioned that he wouldn’t interfere with the upcoming Supreme Court decision on the matter. Last week, newly released documents revealed that a Republican strategist known for redrawing electoral maps completed a study in 2015 that showed a census question “would be advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites.” Opponents of the citizenship question, who believe it will lead undocumented people to avoid answering the census and result in inaccurate data, contend this study formed the blueprint for the administration’s plan to add the question." (BuzzFeed)
  • House Oversight Committee postpones, but doesn't cancel, contempt vote after Commerce officials agree to discuss the Census. "The House Oversight Committee on Wednesday announced it would postpone voting on subpoenaing the Commerce Department after the agency agreed to allow several current and former officials to be interviewed about adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census. The committee stated that former Senior Adviser and Counsel to the Secretary James Uthmeier, General Counsel Peter Davidson, and Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of Policy Earl Comstock agreed to schedule voluntary interviews. The Commerce Department in a letter dated Monday to the committee stated it would make the officials available to the panel." (POLITICO)
  • CNN is suing the FBI over access to documents tied to 500 Mueller probe witnesses. "CNN sued the FBI for access to case files and other documents related to interviews with about 500 witnesses questioned during Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. The Federal Bureau of Investigation failed to respond to CNN’s Freedom of Information Act request for the documents, known as "302s," the news organization said in a suit filed Tuesday in Washington. CNN is seeking a court order forcing the FBI to hand the documents over." (Bloomberg)

around the world

2019 June 4 candlelight vigil at Victoria Park. via inmediahk + Global Voices.
  • Despite Chinese censorship efforts a record crowd commemorated the Tiananmen Massacre in Hong Kong on Tuesday. "Thousands of Hong Kongers attended a candlelight vigil to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre at Victoria Park on Tuesday night. This collective act of remembrance has turned into a ritual for the past 30 years, as many Hong Kongers keep honoring the spirit of China's democratization, as well as the high price some paid for it on June 4, 1989…Within China, the June 4 incident, as it is described, has been a political taboo for 30 years. The majority of the young generation has never heard about the military crackdown, as it has not been reported on in newspapers. Similarly, online discussions about the events have been and remain censored." (Global Voices) Read more on how Beijing uses intimidation to censor Tiananmen outside of China. (Global Voices)
  • How a Chinese artist has faced harassment for criticizing Google and Xi Jinping. "The Chinese dissident artist Badiucao had been busy preparing an exhibition in Hong Kong to celebrate Free Expression Week, a series of events organized by rights groups. His show was partly inspired by Google’s plan to build a censored search engine in China, and was set to include work that the artist had created skewering the U.S. tech giant for cooperating with the Communist Party regime’s suppression of internet freedom. But just days before the exhibition was set to launch last year, at a high-profile event featuring members of Russian punk-activist group Pussy Riot, it was canceled by organizers. Badiucao had received threats from the Chinese government and soon went into hiding." (The Intercept)
  • Nigel Farage rejected a request to appear before the EU Parliament to discuss undisclosed gifts. "Nigel Farage rejected a European Parliament committee request to appear in Brussels within 24 hours to testify about allegations that he failed to disclose gifts worth £450,000 from a British businessman. Farage, an MEP and leader of the Brexit Party, said he received a letter at 2:45 p.m. Tuesday from the Parliament's advisory committee on the conduct of MEPs, requesting that he testify in Brussels within a day's time." (POLITICO)


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