Today in OpenGov: It’s a record!


In today's edition, early 2020 fundraising is setting records, state lawmakers are copying and pasting legislative language from corporations, diplomats are talking differently in the age of leaks, and more. 

washington watch

  • 2020 campaign fundraising is already setting records. "Reports filed with the Federal Election Commission covering campaign activity through June 30 show that the combined fundraising of all presidential candidates is currently $331 million, easily surpassing the previous high of $267 million reached at this comparable point in the 2007 cycle. The large field of Democrats combined to raise $211 million. In comparison, the 2007 Democrats, led by strong fundraising from both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, had raised only $161 million. President Trump, leveraging his incumbency and breaking with past tradition, started fundraising for 2020 immediately after the 2016 election. This has enabled the president to raise more at this point — $118.7 million — than any field of Republicans were able to in each of the last three elections." (
  • Democratic presidential candidates have sworn off lobbyist money, but it depends on how you define lobbyist. "Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and other leading Democratic presidential candidates have sworn off contributions from Washington lobbyists as a way to insulate themselves from those who might try to shape their agendas if elected. But they’re hardly walling themselves off from K Street." (POLITICO)
  • Attorney General William Barr is a long time GOP donor, but his rate of giving spiked shortly before his confirmation. "In between stints as US attorney general for George HW Bush in the early 90s and now for Donald Trump, while making millions as an executive at Verizon and a lawyer at Kirkland & Ellis, William Barr sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to various Republicans and their causes. Most of those donations made between 1993 and 2019 were occasional at best. But in the lead up to his Senate confirmation hearings for attorney general earlier this year, his giving habits suddenly changed. Barr’s donations became far more frequent, notable for their size, recipients, and possible utility to him." (Quartz)
  • The Trump administration reportedly blocked release of a major climate change response plan. "The Agriculture Department quashed the release of a sweeping plan on how to respond to climate change that was finalized in the early days of the Trump administration, according to a USDA employee with knowledge of the decision. Staff members across several USDA agencies drafted the multiyear plan that outlines how the department should help agriculture understand, adapt to and minimize the effects of climate change." (POLITICO)

states and cities

Screenshot via the Center for Public Integrity.
  • State lawmakers often introduce pre-written legislation from corporations, lobbyists, and other special interests. "When state legislators introduce laws, it’s often not their work. The USA TODAY Network identified 10,000 times when lawmakers introduced a copycat bill handed to them by a company or lobbyist.  As part of our two-year investigation into model legislation with the Arizona Republic and the Center for Public Integrity, we reached out to dozens of lawmakers who sponsored at least one fill-in-the-blank bill for a special interest group…Most who did speak were upfront about where they got their inspiration. They knew the name of the organization that wrote the bill and had no qualms about copying it." (Center for Public Integrity)
  • Illinois is expanding a public health map to include maternal and child health data. "The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has added maternal and child health data to its existing Illinois Public Health Community Map, the agency announced in a recent press release.  That map was first designed to disseminate information about access to health care throughout Illinois, while highlighting socioeconomic, geographic, and racial and ethnic disparities, the press release noted. The new data categories — maternal and child health — examine a range of factors, including low birth weight, breastfeeding, prenatal care during the first trimester of pregnancy, smoking during pregnancy, teen birth rate and more." (Government Technology)
  • Are lawmakers in Minnesota serious about wanting more transparency? "Is the Minnesota Legislature serious about giving the public more insight into how lawmakers decide how to spend their tax money? State Rep. Gene Pelowski hopes so. The Winona Democrat is leading a House special committee while the Legislature is out of session to explore ways to make lawmakers’ work more transparent to the public. The set of hearings comes after a notably secretive and messy end to the last legislative session in May. Lawmakers needed overtime to complete their work and even then much of the final decision making about how to spend nearly $50 billion in taxpayer money over the next two years was done behind closed doors." (Via NFOIC)

around the world

Image via Pixabay.
  • Diplomats are adjusting the way they talk for the age of leaks. "Today, in the era of WikiLeaks and hostile-state cyberwarfare, the diplomatic cable’s primacy is being threatened, replaced by informal emails and telephone briefings, as well as by an array of ad hoc forms of communication, some official, some unofficial, that are changing the way diplomacy is being conducted. And according to more than a dozen senior current and former Western diplomats who spoke with The Atlantic—the majority of whom requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of their remarks—while the Darroch affair, where the British envoy to the United States had to quit after critical remarks about President Donald Trump were leaked to a newspaper, has drawn attention to these shifts, they have been under way for years." (Government Executive)
  • It's been a very violent year for Hong Kong's journalists. "Violence against journalists by the police during protests in Hong Kong is becoming a grim feature of life there. The Hong Kong Journalists Association reported more than two-dozen accounts of police abuse against journalists to the Independent Police Complaints Council on June 17. Journalists, according to the HKJA, were tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed, and beaten with batons." (Columbia Journalism Review)
  • South African President Cyril Ramaphosa broke ethics code, according to ombudsman. "South Africa’s anti-graft ombudsman ruled that President Cyril Ramaphosa violated the constitution and executive ethics code when he misled lawmakers about a campaign donation from a company implicated in paying bribes to senior government officials. The rand fell. The ruling by the Public Protector against a sitting president is unprecedented, and starkly illustrates the challenges Ramaphosa has faced in bedding down political control since he succeeded Jacob Zuma as leader of the deeply divided ruling African National Congress in 2017." (Bloomberg)


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