Today in OpenGov: You better watch out.


In today's edition, Elaine Chao helped guide nearly $80 million in federal grant money to Mitch McConnell's Kentucky, federal watchdogs prepare to track their own job openings, protests rage on in Hong Kong, and more. 

washington watch

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 Elaine Chao created a special pathway to help funnel grants to favored projects in her husband Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's home state. "The Transportation Department under Secretary Elaine Chao designated a special liaison to help with grant applications and other priorities from her husband Mitch McConnell’s state of Kentucky, paving the way for grants totaling at least $78 million for favored projects as McConnell prepared to campaign for reelection. Chao’s aide Todd Inman, who stated in an email to McConnell’s Senate office that Chao had personally asked him to serve as an intermediary, helped advise the senator and local Kentucky officials on grants with special significance for McConnell — including a highway-improvement project in a McConnell political stronghold that had been twice rejected for previous grant applications." (POLITICO)
  • Speaking of Mitch McConnell, he's holding up election security bills while cashing checks from the voting machine industry. "…security experts warn that not enough has been done to address vulnerabilities in the U.S. election system…Several Democratic and Republican members of Congress have submitted legislation to shore up election security…But all the bills have hit a roadblock. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has reportedly told his colleagues that he will not allow the Senate to vote on election security legislation this session…Several of the lobbyists working for ES&S and Dominion Voting Systems have recently made contributions to McConnell’s campaign and joint fundraising committee. " (Sludge)
  • New report explores blockchain's potential to foster trust and transparency around certain federal data programs. "The emergence of blockchain holds promise for the federal government to foster trust and greater transparency about certain data activities; but the technology is not a panacea. Blockchain must be used responsibly and under the right circumstances. Some conditions are well-established for when blockchain technology might improve trust, but program administrators must weigh other relevant points about how and when to consider applying the approach. Bringing Blockchain Into Government: A Path Forward for Creating Effective Federal Blockchain Initiatives considers seven blockchain projects underway in government in 2018-2019, including the project goals and the role blockchain plays. The examples clearly illustrate a range of potential use cases for blockchain technology in government, from health care to procurement actions." (Data Foundation)
  • The Department of Justice agreed to turn over key evidence from the Mueller probe to the House. "The Justice Department, after weeks of tense negotiations, has agreed to provide Congress with key evidence collected by Robert S. Mueller III that Democrats believe could shed light on possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power by President Trump." (New York Times)
  • Senators introduce bipartisan bill to improve foreign lobbying disclosure. "Senators are making a bipartisan push to improve the foreign lobbying disclosure process. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Monday introduced legislation that would give the Justice Department more tools to investigate possible violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), a 1938 statute that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have characterized as outdated and weak." (The Hill)

watch out!

  • The Inspector General's Council announced improvements to that include an IG vacancy tracker. "With 11 of 74 federal inspectors general slots vacant, the chairman of the watchdogs’ council on Friday announced an array of coming improvements to the group’s website, including a vacancy tracker. Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department IG who doubles as chairman of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, described the new resources in a Friday speech to the Congressional Transparency Caucus." (Government Executive)
  • The Social Security Administration IG has a new job as acting Interior Department IG. "President Trump has quietly appointed his Social Security Administration (SSA) inspector general to also oversee a much different agency: the Interior Department.  On May 28, Gail Ennis began her second job overseeing the Interior Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG), a role she will keep for the foreseeable future, the OIG confirmed to The Hill…Ennis was sworn into the SSA role just five months ago, her first time serving as an inspector general. Her professional background is in securities litigation, working previously as a partner at the Washington, D.C.-based law firm WilmerHale, where she reportedly earned $2 million a year." (The Hill)
  • The DHS IG opted for early retirement after his office was forced to redact overly positive audits of disaster response efforts. (Washington Post)

around the world

Protesters took to the streets in Hong Kong on Sunday. Image via + Global Voices.
  • Mass protests erupted in Hong Kong over the weekend as the government considers amendments that would ease extradition to China… "Hundreds of thousands of people in Hong Kong took to the streets on Sunday, 9 June 2019, to stop the government from passing amendments to the existing extradition laws – the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance…Protesters said the proposed amendments would make it easier for mainland China to cause the arrest of critics, dissidents, and even journalists in Hong Kong." (Global Voices)
  • …The proposed law received pushback from the United States as activists plan further protests and call for strikes. "The U.S. expressed 'grave concern' over Hong Kong legislation that would for the first time allow extraditions to mainland China, raising pressure on Beijing as the city braces for new protests and potential strikes amid a showdown over the proposal." (Bloomberg)
  • The Atlantic shared a collection of photos highlighting the scope of the protests.
  • Judges threw out an effort to prosecute Boris Johnson over false claims during original Brexit campaign. "An effort to prosecute Boris Johnson over his claim that the U.K. pays £350 million per week to the EU was thrown out by a London court today. Two High Court judges took just five minutes to quash a decision by a lower court to allow the case to proceed to criminal trial, the Evening Standard reported. The former foreign secretary was accused of misconduct in public office." (POLITICO)


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