Today in OpenGov: Call in the replacements.


In today's edition, Puerto Rico's governor faces pressure to resign, the government unveils its DUNS number replacement, President Trump backs down on the Census citizenship question and considers firing his Commerce chief, and more. 

states and cities

This free repository of state and local financial audits is still a work in progress. Via Sunlight Foundation.
  • How California and Florida are pushing forward on local government fiscal transparency.  In a guest blog, Marc Joffe explains that, "in May, the California State Senate passed SB 598, the Open Financial Statements Act.  The vote was an important milestone on the way toward opening up state and local government audited financial statements to more thorough analysis and comparison, but transparency advocates working in this space still have a long way to go. About a third of the nation’s state and local governments produce audited financial statements, documents that provide actual government-wide revenues, expenditures, and debt levels verified by an independent public accounting firm. This contrasts with budgets, which, as forward-looking documents, only offer projected spending amounts rather than audited actuals…" (Sunlight Foundation)
  • Puerto Rico's governor, already under pressure, is facing calls to resign amid high profile arrests and leak of profane text messages. "Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló is being asked to resign after the high-profile arrest of several individuals linked to numerous corruption cases. A leaked Telegram chat also revealed how the governor and some of his Cabinet members used profane language to ridicule the opposition. The latest scandal involves the July 10, 2019 arrest of six people closely linked to his administration, two of the most notable being former Health Insurance Administration Director Ángela Ávila Marrero and former Department of Education Director Julia Keleher." (Global Voices)
  • California is considering a proposal to bring transparency to online "issue advertisements," outside of election season. "Now, California legislators are considering a proposal by Assemblyman Kevin Mullin that would require groups buying such “issue advocacy ads” about legislation to identify themselves and major funders in the same sort of disclaimers required in election campaign commercials…Proponents say the measure would be the first in the U.S. to address what they see as a burgeoning issue in the world of influence peddling as interest groups seize on the anonymity afforded by the internet and social media advertising." (Associated Press)
  • Has Connecticut's government become less transparent in the past year? "Open government proponents in Connecticut, citing major new barriers to access public records, are concerned that state and local politicians have weakened the Freedom of Information Act significantly over the last year. A billionaire’s donation with strings attached, union contracts that allow personnel information to be secret, and the use of a stipulation in the FOI law to raise revenue for municipalities are among the growing barriers to citizen access of public records." (CT Mirror via NFOIC)
  • Lessons in taming your data from Topeka, Kansas. "Imagine doing an inventory of your city’s datasets and finding 1,400 pieces of information: application copies, old documents, Excel sheets, and digital records from 800 different databases. Sound daunting? That’s the exact position Sherry Schoonover, the Deputy IT Director for the City of Topeka, found herself in when she initiated the city’s data governance policy. Inundated with information and disparite practices, Schoonover knew that improving the city’s data guidance and data quality was crucial." (Data-Smart City Solutions)

washington watch

FEC headquarters in Washington, DC. 
  • The FEC finally has a new internal watchdog after a tumultuous search. "The Federal Election Commission has a new inspector general — ending a tumultuous, 28-month period that included the de facto neutering of its office charged with investigating and defending against agency waste, fraud and abuse. Christopher Skinner will begin work as the FEC’s inspector general on Aug. 5, the FEC today announced. Skinner served as deputy inspector general for the Office of Naval Research for six years, including one year as acting inspector general. Before that, he served as assistant chief of inspections for the Naval Facilities Engineering Command." (Center for Public Integrity
  • The FEC approved a Silicon Valley company's request to provide discount cybersecurity help to 2020 campaigns. "The Federal Election Commission said on Thursday that a Silicon Valley security company could immediately start helping 2020 presidential candidates defend their campaigns from the kinds of malicious email attacks that Russian hackers exploited in the 2016 election. The F.E.C. made its advisory opinion one month after lawyers for the commission advised it to block a request by the company, Area 1 Security, which had sought to provide services to 2020 presidential candidates at a discount." (New York Times)
  • The General Services Agency is teasing its upcoming DUNS Number replacement for federal entity identification. "By December 2020, every organization—vendors, grantees, coops—doing business with federal agencies will have a new, 12-character identifier, as the government moves away from the proprietary DUNS number. The DUNS, created by Dun & Bradstreet in 1962, has been the official entity verification number since it was codified in the Federal Acquisition Regulation in 1998. The General Services Administration, which administers the program, opened the contract to new vendors last year. GSA awarded the new contract in March to Ernst & Young, which will administer the new ID number, including managing the transition from Dun & Bradstreet." (NextGov)
  • An ethics complaint was filed against the top Republican on the House Ethics Committee. "The top Republican on the House Ethics Committee was hit with an ethics complaint this week concerning what may be almost 20 impermissible reimbursements from his campaign account to some of his House staffers. The complaint, first obtained by The Dallas Morning News on Wednesday, alleges that Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Texas) reimbursed congressional staffers for food and office supplies with funds from his campaign. Federal Election Commission and House rules bar staffers from contributing to their employers' campaign." (The Hill)
  • The House Oversight Committee wants documents from the for-profit operators of immigrant detention centers. "The House Oversight Committee is seeking documents related to contracts awarded to for-profit contractors in relation to running migrant detention centers as it investigates reports of unsafe and unsanitary conditions at the facilities. The committee sent letters to three firms seeming to make massive profits under the Trump administration’s policies, as well as two federal departments, asking for contracts and all correspondence between the officials and firms." (The Hill)


Image credit: Quinn Dombrowski.
  • President Trump backs down on Census citizenship question, will direct federal agencies to provide the Commerce department with citizenship data instead… "President Donald Trump announced Thursday that his administration will drop efforts to put a citizenship question on the 2020 Census, a dramatic concession…Flanked by Attorney General Bill Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in the Rose Garden at the White House, Trump said that because of the time it would take to continue litigating over the question, the administration would pursue a different option — to collect citizenship data from federal agencies. The Census Bureau had originally recommended this plan to Ross, but he rejected it in favor of adding the citizenship question." (BuzzFeed
  • …Meanwhile, Trump is reportedly considering firing Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. "President Donald Trump has told aides and allies that he is considering removing Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross after a stinging Supreme Court defeat on adding a citizenship question to the census, according to multiple people familiar with the conversations…some White House officials expect Ross to be the next Cabinet secretary to depart, possibly as soon as this summer, according to advisers and officials." (NBC News)
  • Acting Secretary of Labor Patrick Pizzella has a history of lobbying for Russia, working with Jack Abramoff. "Patrick Pizzella will take the reins at the Department of Labor as acting secretary next week after Alex Acosta announced his resignation due to criticism for his light prosecution of sex offender Jeffrey Epstein more than a decade ago. But Pizzella’s record as a lobbyist is likely to come under scrutiny. In the late 1990s, his clients included a Russian front group, the government of the Marshall Islands and a trade association fighting against the minimum wage in a U.S. commonwealth. For these and other clients, he worked with Jack Abramoff, who was at the forefront of a corruption scandal in the 2000s that ultimately resulted in 21 convictions and major reforms to lobbying laws. Pizzella was never accused of any wrongdoing." (OpenSecrets)
  • Does the Hatch Act need a Trump-era update? "Hatch Act clashes in recent years have singed both Republican and Democraticadministration appointees. Measured in numbers of violations reported, investigated and acted upon, the Trump administration has produced a small uptick. In fiscal 2018, 67 employees—including federal, state and local employees—violated the Hatch Act, up from 51 employees in 2017, OSC reported to Government Executive. Those tallies are similar to those during President Obama’s second term. For the first two quarters of fiscal 2019, OSC has submitted 23 warning letters and produced three corrective and two disciplinary actions…But the defiance by the Trump team may be unprecedented." (Government Executive)
  • Recent Trump administration conflicts include the President's state tax returns, subpoenas for Jared Kushner, and more. "This week, House Democrats authorized subpoenas for President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, one of the emoluments lawsuits was dismissed and New York’s governor signed bill allowing some access to the president’s New York state tax returns." (Sunlight Foundation)


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