Today in OpenGov: Droning on.


In today's edition, Boeing has friends in high places, Puerto Rico's governor won't run again, money flows from campaign donors to President Trump's wallet, and more. 

washington watch

A Boeing 737 Max.
  • Boeing will benefit from high level connections as it navigates federal investigations into 737 crashes. "The crashes of two Boeing Co. 737 Max jetliners have put the aerospace giant on a perilous course through multiple U.S. investigations. But as it faces off against the government, Boeing will be dealing with a lot of familiar faces. The myriad personal connections between the U.S. plane-maker and top officials were hinted at when Attorney General William Barr bowed out of a criminal investigation of the plane’s design and certification…Several other Trump administration officials have personal or professional ties to Boeing’s man at the center of the drama. He’s J. Michael Luttig, the longtime general counsel whom the company reassigned to lead its 737 response." (Bloomberg)
  • Is Congress catching on to Silicon Valley's well funded political strategy? "Over the last decade, Silicon Valley billionaires have planted seeds across Washington to grow both “soft” and “hard” power in Washington that helps shield them from full accountability for their misdeeds. This takes many forms, most obviously hiring lobbyists— Big Tech is now one of the largest employers of professional influencers in Washington—and makingcampaign contributions. But it shows up in more subtle ways, too. Look at the funding partners of most major tech and economic think tanks, and Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Apple pop up time and again. Look at the most prominent tech-oriented activist and advocacy groups, and you’ll see similar corporate backers." (Sludge)
  • The House is set to talk to Robert Mueller about the conclusions from his work as special counsel. "House Democrats are facing a daunting challenge this week — goading Robert Mueller into offering testimony that could irreparably damage Donald Trump’s presidency. In the three months since the conclusion of the former special counsel’s investigation, Democrats have struggled to use Mueller’s 448-page report to stoke a public outcry against the president's conduct, despite evidence that Trump sought to thwart the probe. And on Wednesday, they’ll be up against a witness who didn’t want to testify in the first place — he had to be subpoenaed — and one who, over more than a decade of regular Capitol Hill testimony, has mastered the art of the dodge." (POLITICO)
  • Latest GAO report on DATA Act compliance shows benefits, challenges in using shared service providers for reporting. "Federal Shared services providers (SSPs) give customer agencies an edge in making their spending data more transparent, but the services can come with headaches, according to the Government Accountability Office. A July 18 report shows how shared services are facilitating agencies' reporting spending data required by the Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act…Agencies said that SSPs had been helpful with details of filing the data and that the providers had given them timely, monthly data files that allowed time to correct any errors that cropped up. There was a downside too, according to the GAO. While 11 of the 27 agencies reported no challenges working with SSPs, 16 said they had run into complications that impacted their reporting capabilities." (Federal Computer Week)

states and cities

Image via Government Technology/SHUTTERSTOCK/SIRTRAVELALOT
  • Kansas City, Missouri's data driven approach to fighting blight. "In this month’s installment of the Innovation of the Month series, we explore the Abandoned to Vibrant project out of Kansas City, Mo., which is helping to address abandoned housing issues in the region. MetroLab’s Ben Levine and Stefania Di Mauro-Nava spoke with Jim DeLisle, director of Academic Real Estate Programs and associate professor of Real Estate at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), and Brent Never, associate professor of Public Affairs at UMKC, to learn more." (Government Technology)
  • Puerto Rico's embattled governor won't step down, but will decline to run for another term next year. "Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló announced Sunday he will not be seeking re-election in 2020 and will step down as head of his party. He did not, however, resign. Rosselló’s announcement came as thousands of protesting Puerto Ricans have been demanding his resignation after hundreds of pages of offensive text messages and chats were leaked." (POLITICO)
  • Does your local government use drones? This project aims to find out. "Five years ago, MuckRock teamed up with Motherboard to conduct a massive survey of drone use by local police departments. We want to update and expand that effort, and we need your help to do it. Let us know where you want us to look, and we’ll file a public records request to learn more about the municipality’s policies, agreements, and inventory of UAVs." (MuckRock)
  • Witnesses push for charter school transparency in Washington, DC. "The D.C. Council has wrapped up the Fiscal Year 2020 budget but held an eight-hour hearing June 26 on process details – how to allocate and track education dollars flowing to schools in the traditional system, especially special funds intended to help the neediest students, that the D.C. Auditor reported recently had likely been misspent for years…The truly big news was the fierce testimony of witness after witness asking for more transparency at the school level in the charter sector. The Coalition has urged this before without success…The dozens of pro-transparency witnesses now included charter teachers and parents. They support their charter schools and appreciate the creativity unleashed by charter autonomy — but still are disappointed at big decisions behind doors closed to staff and families, including the disruptive and controversial closings this year. They balk at being told salary schedules are secret." (D.C. Open Government Coalition)


  • Emoluments suit against President Trump faces setback in appeals court… "A federal appeals court delivered a setback on Friday to a lawsuit by congressional Democrats accusing President Trump of illegally benefiting from his business interests while in office, saying a lower court judge hearing the suit had not adequately considered questions about the separation of powers between the president and Congress. The order by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is a new sign that Mr. Trump will not be forced to produce evidence in lawsuits claiming that he has violated the anticorruption clauses of the Constitution until the novel legal questions raised in those cases are resolved." (New York Times)
  • …Meanwhile, money continues to flow from campaign donors directly into President Trump's businesses. "According to data compiled from Federal Election Commission reports by ProPublica, three campaign committees linked to Trump’s reelection — the Republican National Committee, Trump’s campaign committee and Trump Victory, a joint committee between the Trump campaign and the Republican Party — have spent over $700,000 at Trump properties this cycle. Over the past year, the total is nearly $1.4 million. The most spent in one day was at Mar-a-Lago in late March, when the RNC and Trump Victory spent over $400,000." (Washington Post)
  • Elsewhere in Trump administration conflicts, another investigation closes, Kellyanne Conway skips out on a Congressional hearing, and more. "This week, the investigation into whether Trump Organization executives violated campaign finance laws has come to an end, Kellyanne Conway skips another ethics hearing and the battle for President Donald Trump’s financial documents continues." (Sunlight Foundation)


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