Today in OpenGov: Testify!


In today's edition, Robert Mueller will appear before Congress, a Google subsidiary's controversial smart city plan may expand, the EPA wants to give political appointees more power over FOIA requests, and more. 

washington watch

Robert Mueller. Image via Wikimedia Commons.
  • Robert Mueller will testify publicly before Congress on July 17th. "Special Counsel Robert Mueller has agreed to testify in public before two congressional committees after a subpoena issued Tuesday evening, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said…Mueller agreed to testify before both the House Judiciary and the House Intelligence committees on July 17, Nadler said. The surprise announcement comes months after Mueller concluded his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. On May 29, during his first and only public comments about the investigation, Mueller said he did not believe he could provide any more information to Congress or the public beyond what was already contained in his published report." (BuzzFeed)
  • Embattled Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) may have used campaign funds to pursue affairs. "Federal prosecutors have accused Rep. Duncan Hunter of improperly using campaign funds to pursue numerous romantic affairs with congressional aides and lobbyists, according to a new court filing late Monday night. The Justice Department alleged that Hunter (R-Calif.) and his wife Margaret Hunter illegally diverted $250,000 in campaign funds for personal use, including to fund lavish vacations and their children’s school tuition. Monday’s court filings also spell out allegations that Hunter routinely used campaign funds to pay for Ubers, bar tabs, hotel rooms and other expenses to fund at least five extramarital relationships." (POLITICO)
  • The CIA said their emails about Wikileaks don't warrant release under FOIA. This lawsuit says otherwise. "Exactly one year ago, I sent the Central Intelligence Agency a FOIA request for emails on WikiLeaks. In response, the Agency has repeatedly attempted to stonewall the request, most recently by simply ignoring the matter. In the face of the CIA’s determination not to fulfill the request, we will be filing a lawsuit against the Agency to compel the release of the files and full fee waiver. While Kel McClanahan of National Security Counselors – who represented MuckRock in the lawsuit which established the precedent making this FOIA possible – has agreed to work on the case and recover his fees from the CIA afterward, we still need to cover the actual costs associated with the request, such as filing fees, travel and other expenses. Here’s how you can help." (MuckRock)
  • VA whistleblowers told the House that retaliation is still rampant at the agency despite efforts to change. "The Veterans Affairs Department continues to punish employees who speak out against dangerous or improper practices at the agency despite targeted efforts in recent years to reverse its retaliatory culture, several high-profile whistleblowers told a House committee on Tuesday.  Reprisal through intimidation, harassment and discipline continue to plague the department, the whistleblowers and outside watchdog groups told the House Veterans' Affairs Committee panel on oversight and investigations. They cited the newly formed Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection—which President Trump created by executive order and later codified when he signed the 2017 VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act into law—for exacerbating the systemic problems at the department, citing a host of problems with the office’s structure and processes." (Government Executive)

states and cities

  • Master plan outlines potential expansion for controversial smart city project in Toronto. "What happens when a group of high-profile urban thinkers, capitalized by the vast wealth of a tech goliath, snags a parcel of public waterfront in a major North American city as a sandbox for their ideas? One outcome just became clearer. Sidewalk Labs, the smart-city startup from Google parent company Alphabet, has released its master innovation and development plan to turn a sizable swath of Toronto’s Lake Ontario shoreline into 'the most innovative district in the entire world,' its chief executive, Dan Doctoroff, said in a press call on Monday. After more than a year and a half of controversial public engagement in Toronto, the 1,524-page proposal details numerous facets of a high-tech urban utopia that Sidewalk Labs would oversee as a developer." (CityLab)
  • Former Arkansas state senator pleads guilty to bribery, tax fraud. "Former Arkansas Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson pleaded guilty to accepting bribes and falsifying tax records, affirming during a Tuesday court hearing that he received thousands of dollars from lobbyists seeking to influence state policy. Hutchinson changed his plea in U.S. District Court in Little Rock stemming from a federal corruption probe into his financial dealings while in office. He is also expected to enter a guilty plea to a separate charge filed in a western Missouri federal court on July 8." (Arkansas Democrat Gazette)
  • This pilot in Washington, DC will collect data on how curbside space is used in the city. "The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) announced that it is partnering with San Francisco-based curbFlow, a company that curates a curbside management system to collect data and share it through an app…DDOT launched a curbside pickup-dropoff (PUDO) program in October 2017 to improve the safety of pickup and dropoff activity for passengers throughout the District. The goal of the program is to eventually regulate and designate space on the curb for PUDO activity. Starting August 1, curbFlow will pilot its curbside management system at nine locations in D.C. During the pilot, parking will be removed for 12 weeks at these locations to create curbFlow loading zones for commercial activities…" ( DC)
  • A new program aims to train recent college grads to work on major, state level problems. "Sunday, June 9, marked the beginning of the inaugural Govern for America (GfA) Summer Institute. Govern for America is a nonprofit organization which 'builds the pipeline into public service by connecting high-potential recent graduates to high-impact roles in state governments through a two-year fellowship program.' The Fellowship recruits recent college graduates to, upon completion of training, work with state partners to address the country’s most challenging problems. In Summer 2019, the class of 15 GfA Fellows are beginning the program by participating in 'an intensive training institute where they learn innovative approaches to solving public problems and public sector entrepreneurship from former White House officials, current and former state and local government leaders, NYU Governance Lab, and the GfA League of Innovators.'" (GovLab)


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  • A new EPA rule will give political appointees more say in how the agency responds to FOIA requests. "More political appointees at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could soon have the authority to weigh in on public information requests. The rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register as early as Wednesday and will not allow for a public comment period. According to the new language in the FOIA rule signed by EPA chief Andrew Wheeler last week, the administrator and other officials would be allowed to review all materials that fit a FOIA request criteria, known as responsive documents…" (The Hill)
  • President Trump lost his latest attempt to end Congressional Democrats' emoluments suit against him. "A federal judge refused on Tuesday to halt a lawsuit by congressional Democrats alleging that President Trump has illegally profited from his business while in office, and ordered evidence gathering to begin on Friday. The Justice Department said it would appeal the ruling by Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Many legal experts predict that the extraordinary contest over whether Mr. Trump has violated the so-called emoluments clauses of the Constitution will eventually reach the Supreme Court." (New York Times)
  • The Justice Department is suing former White House aide and reality star Omarosa for failing to file a required financial disclosure. "The Justice Department is suing Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former aide in the Trump White House, for failing to file a legally required personal financial disclosure report after she was fired in 2017. The lawsuit says Manigault Newman never filed the report required from departing senior staffers and largely ignored numerous requests from White House lawyers to submit the report following her acrimonious departure from her post as communications director in the Office of Public Liaison." (POLITICO)


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