Today in OpenGov: Ride the wave.


In today's edition, the DOJ makes it easier to access foreign lobbying data, the Texas legislature makes it easier to obscure their upcoming redistricting efforts, President Trump looks to delay the Census until he gets his way, and more. 

washington watch

A screenshot of the DOJ's new Foreign Agents Registration Act search tool.
  • This new tool from the Department of Justice should make it easier to tap into foreign lobbying data. "The Justice Department recently launched an online portal that helps people to find information on lobbyists who are working on behalf of foreign governments. The new search tool offers easy access to troves of public documents filed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, the 1938 law that requires lobbyists to disclose the foreign interests they represent and the finances around those relationships.  The portal includes a “full-text search” feature that allows users to find all documents where a specific word or phase appears, as well as more advanced search functions for finding specific documents. Most notably, the portal also includes bulk data files and an API the public can use to more broadly analyze foreign influence in the U.S." (NextGov)
  • The National Archives is struggling to keep up with electronic records according to new watchdog report… "The government’s full-time archivists need to up their game in performing the 21st-century task of preserving the increasing portion of federal agency records that exist only in electronic form, a watchdog found. Though the National Archives and Records Administration has made progress in strengthening and modernizing its handling of important agency documents, 'permanent electronic records are still at a significant risk of loss and destruction,' according to a June report from the agency’s inspector general." (Government Executive)
  • …Meanwhile, OMB released new guidance for agencies transitioning to purely digital record-keeping. "The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is set to stop accepting paper-based records at the end of 2022, and the White House Office of Management and Budget has a new guidance out to help agencies meet this deadline." (FedScoop)
  • Current and former Border Patrol agents share inappropriate jokes and sexist memes in private Facebook group. "Members of a secret Facebook group for current and former Border Patrol agents joked about the deaths of migrants, discussed throwing burritos at Latino members of Congress visiting a detention facility in Texas on Monday and posted a vulgar illustration depicting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez engaged in oral sex with a detained migrant, according to screenshots of their postings." (ProPublica)

states and cities

  • Cities hold a wealth of data about their residents, but how they share it sometimes remains unclear. Sunlight's Katya Abazajian explained, "As tech companies get more and more consent from people to collect data on how they live their lives, there are going to be more unexpected uses of that data to shape your access to consumer goods or any services…It's all about who is sharing the data with whom. And we just don't know that right now." (Axios)
  • New Texas law that makes it easier for legislators to avoid public scrutiny could conceal GOP redistricting strategy. "Texas has passed a new law that lets lawmakers conceal their emails and other communications from public scrutiny, as they prepare to redraw the state’s voting maps. The law’s Republican authors, North Texas’ Rep. Charlie Geren and Sen. Kelly Hancock, billed it as a housekeeping matter, a routine update to rules governing how lawmakers retain records and run debates. It passed easily with almost no discussion and little media attention…But transparency advocates warn that the new measure will dramatically expand what legislative documents can be kept secret, allowing the men and women who write laws to hide why they make the decisions they do and who is influencing them to act. The bill was passed ahead of the 2021 redistricting process, leading some to worry it was written specifically to help state lawmakers and legislative staffers responsible for redrawing the Texas’ political maps to hide their tracks." (Dallas Morning News via Election Law Blog)
  • Swing states are set up for a record breaking wave of political advertising in 2020. "Spending on political advertising is projected to smash all-time records in 2020 as President Donald Trump and his Democratic opponent battle for control of the White House. Advertising Analytics, a political ad-tracking firm, expects the total cost of TV and digital ads for the next election to hit over $6 billion — a 57 percent increase over the total in last year’s hotly contested and expensive midterm elections, driven by a huge jump in digital video advertising…Advertising Analytics projects presidential general election spending in two swing states alone — Florida and Pennsylvania — to top $600 million combined." (POLITICO)
  • California lawmakers want to know how police departments are leveraging license plate readers. "Lawmakers want to find out whether police departments are abusing Californians’ privacy rights and gathering information about undocumented immigrants with license plate readers. They asked California State Auditor Elaine Howle on Wednesday to open an investigation into how law enforcement agencies use the technology, focusing on Fresno, Los Angeles, and Sacramento County." (Government Technology)


Image via Mother Jones.
  • President Trump reiterated that he is considering delaying the census until he can convince the courts to let him add a citizenship question. "President Donald Trump said Monday his administration is 'looking at' delaying the 2020 census after the Supreme Court last week blocked the administration from adding a question about citizenship status on the decennial survey. His comments came as government attorneys on Monday evening asked a federal court in Maryland for another day to figure out their next steps, according to the plaintiffs in that case." (CNN)
  • The Trump Organization is working on a business deal with a company partly owned by the South Korean government. "While visiting South Korea over the weekend, President Donald Trump tried to strike a deal with President Moon Jae-in to get more companies to invest in the United States. But even as he pushed American interests, a partner of Trump’s namesake company is aggressively expanding plans to build luxury Trump-branded resorts in Indonesia — and the project involves a construction company partly owned by the South Korean government." (POLITICO)
  • The House Oversight Committee is pushing the White House to hand over communications from private accounts as part of record-keeping probe. "A top House Democrat demanded Monday that the White House turn over all communications sent by senior officials using private email and messaging services — including encrypted apps — by next week, citing a blanket refusal by the Trump administration to comply with earlier requests. House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings said his request, with a July 10 deadline, marks the start of a new review of the private email practices of Trump administration officials that appear to violate federal record-keeping laws." (POLITICO)


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