Today in OpenGov: Shell games.


In today's edition, website changes are foreshadowing policy changes at the federal level, President Trump's campaign plays shell games, two states launch new transparency portals, and more. 

washington watch

  • Changes on the Office of Refugee Resettlement's website appear to have foreshadowed shifts in federal policy towards unaccompanied migrant children. "Changes made to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) website before May 23, 2019, foreshadowed policy changes relating to unaccompanied migrant children that were not communicated, even to ORR grantees, until May 30, 2019. ORR, an office within the Administration of Children and Families (ACF), a part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), provides services to refugees, asylees, and other new populations. ORR is responsible for the care of unaccompanied migrant children. As documented in our latest report, ORR’s parent agency, HHS, recently announced two policy changes regarding the care of unaccompanied migrant children." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • Supreme Court justices regularly take trips paid for by private money. "Supreme Court justices continue to take trips across the globe on the dime of private individuals and other entities, raising questions about whether those sponsoring the trips could have influence over those serving on the high court. The Supreme Court’s nine justices disclosed taking a combined 64 trips in 2018 in which various aspects such as transportation, food and lodging were reimbursed by others, according to annual financial disclosures released Thursday by the Office of Government Ethics. Since 2004, when OpenSecrets first began tracking Supreme Court financial disclosure data, justices have disclosed taking 1,306 trips reimbursed by others." (OpenSecrets)
  • Revelations about his former chief of staff's misuse of funds cast cloud over Rep. David Schweikert's re-election bid. "Rep. David Schweikert’s former chief of staff used official funds on a six-day trip to Arizona in which he attended Super Bowl XLIX; separately, he made impermissible contributions to his boss and received income beyond the House’s outside earned income limit for his position, according to a report made public Wednesday by the Office of Congressional Ethics. Many of the allegations into the former chief of staff, Richard Oliver Schwab, Jr., relate to Schweikert, who is under the scrutiny of a House Ethics Committee investigative subcommittee." (Roll Call)
  • House Committee moves forward with beneficial ownership bill, but fails to secure support of key GOP representative. "After holding an anti-money laundering bill for a month in the hopes of winning over the committee’s top ranking Republican, the House Financial Services Committee advanced it without him on Wednesday, in a move that could ultimately undermine the odds of passing it through the Senate. The legislation would require corporations and limited liability companies to report who actually owns them to the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, in the hopes of curbing the use of anonymous shell companies for hiding illicit assets from criminal investigators and tax officials." (Roll Call)


FEC Chair Ellen Weintraub took to Twitter in response to President Trump's admission that he would probably accept dirt on a 2020 opponent from a foreign government if it was offered. 
  • The Office of Special Counsel recommended firing Kellyanne Conway over repeated Hatch Act violations… "A federal watchdog agency released a report Thursday recommending that senior White House counselor Kellyanne Conway be removed from office for using her position to engage in prohibited political activity. The Office of Special Counsel — which is not the same as the office of former special counsel Robert Mueller — found that Conway repeatedly used her platform as a White House official to attack Democrats running for president in the 2020 election and to promote President Donald Trump’s candidacy." (BuzzFeed)…and the House Oversight Committee announced that it would hold a hearing in response. (The Hill)
  • President Trump's reelection funneled money to a shell company tied to an alleged illegal coordination scheme as recently as May. "The Trump 2020 campaign funneled money to a shell company tied to ad buyers at the center of an alleged illegal coordination scheme with the National Rifle Association (NRA) as recently as May 2019, according to new government records analyzed by OpenSecrets. The previously unreported ad buys for Trump’s re-election campaign routed through a secretive limited-liability company known as Harris Sikes Media LLC were revealed in Federal Communications Commission (FCC) records in OpenSecrets’ political ad database." (OpenSecrets)
  • Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao sold her stock in highway construction supply company shortly after reports raised conflict of interest concerns. "Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has sold the stock she owned in one of the nation’s biggest manufacturers of highway construction materials, just days after the holding raised questions over a potential conflict of interest. Ms. Chao sold the shares, worth $250,000 to $500,000, last Monday, according to a letter the Transportation Department released Thursday." (New York Times)

states and cities

  • Seattle's Democracy Voucher program has helped candidates raise $1.6 million, boost local participation. "Across Seattle, the taxpayer-funded democracy vouchers mailed in February to registered voters and other eligible residents are changing how races are run: 42 of 55 candidates for the council’s seven district seats have signed up and together have collected nearly $1.6 million in vouchers…The program, unlike any other in the country, is meant to involve more people in the electoral process, help grassroots candidates compete and encourage them to interact with regular voters rather than dialing for dollars from wealthy donors. Participating candidates must abide by special spending and contribution limits." (Seattle Times)
  • Idaho launched a new transparency portal focused on government spending data… "Nine months ago, Idaho embarked on a mission to create a user-friendly, searchable government expenditure database for residents. Transparent Idaho, designed by OpenGov, launched last week and features visual representations of agency spending, the ability to share findings on social media, a new desktop and mobile interface, and data that is updated nightly." (Government Technology)
  • …as did Oklahoma. "Oklahoma residents can now see if their state is balancing its checkbook using a newly launched online transparency tool. Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Oklahoma Checkbook on Wednesday, an OpenGov-designed portal that provides near real-time data on the state’s expenses. The platform is the result of a partnership between the Stitt administration, the Office of the State Treasurer and the new Office of Digital Transformation and Administration, according to a press release." (Government Technology)


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