Today in OpenGov: Trying times.


In today's edition, the FEC chair is still trying to regulate online political ads, a DC official who tried to woo Amazon's HQ2 heads through the revolving door, the GOP is set to funnel more money into President Trump's pockets via golf club fundraisers, and more.

washington watch

Online political ads. 
  • FEC Chair Ellen Weintraub is pushing to add disclaimer rules to some online political ads… "Federal Election Commission Chair Ellen Weintraub is proposing rules that would require some online political ads to attach a disclaimer describing who is paying for them. The proposed rules — similar to measures introduced by the FEC last year — would subject paid online ads to similar disclaimer rules as print, television and radio ads. Increasingly popular social media ads, including those engaging in electioneering communications that mention a candidate shortly before an election, are currently exempt from including disclaimers under federal law." (OpenSecrets)
  • …Meanwhile, drugmakers are suing over a rule that will require them to include pricing information in their advertisements. "Drug manufacturers Amgen, Merck and Eli Lilly teamed up with the Association of National Advertisers to challenge the rule making drugmakers put list prices in ads. The suit was filed Friday in federal court against the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services…The move to sue was widely expected after drugmakers warned that the rule violated their First Amendment rights when the proposal was unveiled in October. They also note that almost no one pays the list price, which functions as a starting point for negotiations with health insurers." (Roll Call)
  • Sunlight signed on to a letter supporting a bipartisan amendment aimed at reigning in warrantless surveillance of Americans. "The undersigned 47 groups write to urge your support for the Amash-Lofgren amendment (Division C, amendment #24) to H.R. 2740, the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Defense, State, Foreign Operations, and Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act of 2020. We represent a cross-partisan coalition of civil liberties, transparency, and government oversight organizations committed to reining in the warrantless surveillance of people in the United States. The Amash-Lofgren amendment would accomplish this by limiting the warrantless surveillance conducted pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act." Read the entire letter via Open the Government.
  • A recent hackathon used open data from the Department of Agriculture to uncover water management solutions. "Participants in the 2019 Internet of Things World Conference’s Hackathon used the Agriculture Department’s open datasets to help unearth real-world solutions around water management. The two-day event challenged eight teams of technical experts and information technology professionals to use USDA’s soil, geospatial and water forecasting data to develop innovative new products that confront issues around water access use and to support the viability of agriculture." (NextGov)

states and cities

An Amazon warehouse. Image credit: Elliot Brown.
  • Washington, DC official who helped lead the District's efforts to woo Amazon's HQ2 will take up a new post at the Internet giant. "One of the DC government’s top economic development officials, who tried to charm Amazon into building its second headquarters in the District, will be stepping down to work for the tech giant in the coming weeks. Brian Kenner, DC’s deputy mayor for planning and economic development, helped lead the Mayor Muriel Bowser administration’s “Obviously DC” campaign. The campaign was aimed at tempting Amazon to locate a new headquarters in the DC metro area, using a combination of tax credits and other incentives" (The Verge)
  • California company jumps into lobbying game after court decision preventing them from fracking for oil at two new sites. "As the Trump administration pushes to dramatically expand fossil fuel production nationwide, a little-known California company looking to drill off the Los Angeles coast has found a new voice in Washington. DCOR LLC, an oil company operating seven offshore drills in Southern California, recently inked a contract with Chris Jones of Baker & Hostetler, a prominent legal and lobbying firm, entering the influence scene for the first time in the company’s 20-year history." (OpenSecrets)
  • New York's participatory budgeting program is serving double duty as a civic education tool. "In April, the New York City Council completed its eighth annual cycle of participatory budgeting, a process through which city residents vote directly on how they would like to see a designated portion of the city's discretionary spending divvied out to community projects…But the success of the program cannot be measured in dollars or voter headcounts alone. Participatory budgeting, and programs like it around the country and the globe, have the capacity to enliven democracy and engender more-engaged electorates. In this sense, participatory budgeting is not just a mechanism for rationing out dollars but also for educating and empowering voters." (Governing)


President Trump golfing with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday, May 26, 2019, at the Mobara Country Club in Chiba, Japan. Image credit: Shealah Craighead/The White House.
  • RNC schedules high dollar fundraiser at President Trump's Doral, Florida golf course, funneling upwards of $200,000 into his pockets at the same time. "The Republican National Committee is funneling yet more money into President Donald Trump’s pocket, with a fundraiser at his Doral, Florida, golf course that will likely incur hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses. Trump is appearing there for a Wednesday lunch with a six-figure ticket price that is expected to bring in several million dollars for the party and his campaign. The party has already paid his golf resort $84,822 in advance, and will likely pay at least that much afterward." (HuffPost)
  • The Interior Department held back FOIA'd documents after political appointee intervention. "Documents sought under the Freedom of Information Act were withheld by the Interior Department under a practice that allowed political appointees to review the requests, internal emails and memos show. The policy allowed high-ranking officials to screen documents sought by news organizations, advocacy groups and whistleblowers, including files set to be released under court deadlines. In some cases, the documents’ release was merely delayed. In other cases, documents were withheld after the reviews." (Roll Call)
  • Why is President Trump so eager for veterans to have access to this controversial ketamine-like drug? "Personal interest from Donald Trump appears to have put a controversial anti-depressant on a fast track at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that shoved aside usual protocols, even though experts inside and outside the government have serious concerns the drug is effective and say it may be dangerous…Questions have also been raised about a trio of Trump friends who have been working on veterans issues and interacting with Johnson & Johnson regarding programs for troubled vets…The stakes are high for the drug’s owner, pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson, because the drug could be a blockbuster. One analysis estimates Spravato could earn $600m for the company by 2022. The drug was developed by J&J subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals. While it was under development, J&J’s and Janssen’s relationships at the VA deepened." (The Guardian + Center for Public Integrity)


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