Today in OpenGov: Super starts


In today's edition, we explore open contracting impacts in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, super PACs start planning for 2020, Whistleblower Appreciation Day was this week, but Hill staff still lack protections, and more. 

states and cities

Fresh vegetables at a local farmer’s market. Credit: Thomas Leth-Olsen
  • How open contracting reform can lead to better food options for Philadelphians. "The City of Philadelphia pays up to $3.7 billion annually to contractors hired to provide a variety of important services, including feeding some of the City’s most vulnerable residents. Members of the local government were eager to use open contracting to ensure funds dedicated to feeding Philadelphians were used effectively: balancing priorities of providing quality food and minding the budget. With this in mind, the City partnered with the Sunlight Foundation  and the Open Contracting Partnership (OCP) to evaluate their current contracting processes and discover where there might be opportunities for more transparency or participation.  The Open Cities team and OCP set out together to evaluate the City’s processes, quickly learning that City procurement staff wanted to bring to light some of the City’s high quality contracting data and find new opportunities to improve food quality. But before pursuing any potential solutions, Sunlight and OCP wanted to reach out to the community for input." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • How open contracting is powering underrepresented businesses in Los Angeles. "A 2019 study reported the City of Los Angeles as one of the top 25 most diverse cities in the United States. A  city of entrepreneurial spirit, Los Angeles is home to a dynamic business community, the strength of which rests on the many women-, minority-, and veteran-owned businesses working in everything from construction to leadership development…The City had previously expressed a clear priority to do more business with small, local, and underrepresented businesses. But an early hurdle of the work was the lack of complete data on City vendors. Recognizing the importance of understanding how vendors navigate through the City’s contracting system compelled the City to partner with the Sunlight Foundation and Open Contracting Partnership (OCP). In collaboration, the team sought to understand and improve how underrepresented businesses compete for contracting opportunities." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • A record number of candidates are running for office in Seattle thanks to campaign finance reforms, population boom. "More than 700 people are running for local offices in Seattle and surrounding King County this year. That includes 55 candidates for seven seats on the city council — not including 17 who filed for those races and then withdrew. There are several reasons for Seattle’s explosion of candidates. For one thing, this is only the second election since the city shifted most of its council from at-large to district seats. That’s led to more interest from challengers, and four of the seven incumbents decided not to run. And Seattle itself is experiencing a time of flux. Its growing economy has driven strong population gains…Candidates also have a newly minted ability to gather the resources they need for their campaigns." (Governing)

washington watch

Image via Pixabay.
  • This significant GOP super PAC got a dark money jump start this year. "A powerful Republican super PAC received nearly half of its contributions during the first half of 2019 from a dark money group that shares its Washington, D.C., office. The Congressional Leadership Fund raised $7.6 million during the first two quarters of 2019, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. More than $3.5 million of that total came from the American Action Network, a conservative 501(c)(4) nonprofit established in 2010." (Open Secrets)
  • George Soros launches 2020 focused super PAC with a $5 million boost. "Democratic megadonor George Soros is creating a super PAC, called Democracy PAC, to serve as a hub for his 2020 election spending. Soros has so far put $5.1 million into the PAC, according to paperwork filed with the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday. His $5.1 million contribution was the single biggest check any megadonor has cut so far during the 2020 election cycle." (POLITICO)
  • A federal judge struck down an IRS rule that made it easier to hide the source of political cash. "A federal judge in Montana overturned an Internal Revenue Service rule that would allow many political non-profit groups to keep their donor lists private. The ruling upends a change the IRS made last year that permitted so-called Section 501(c)4 groups, known as “social-welfare” organizations, to keep their donor lists private. A federal judge said the IRS didn’t follow proper procedure in writing the rule and needs to allow the public to weigh in on the change before altering the tax code." (Bloomberg)
  • Former Mitch McConnell staffers lobbied for controversial Russia-backed aluminum mill in Kentucky. "Two former top staffers to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have lobbied Congress and the Treasury Department on the development of a new Kentucky aluminum mill backed by the Russian aluminum giant Rusal, according to a new lobbying disclosure. The disclosure comes as Democrats are pushing the Trump administration to review Rusal’s $200 million investment in the Kentucky project — concerned that the mill will supply the Defense Department — and as McConnell weathers criticism for helping block a congressional effort to stop the investment." (POLITICO)
  • Despite declaring July 30th National Whistleblower Appreciation Day,  Capitol Hill still fails to extend protections to its own staff.  "The Senate had declared July 30 as “National Whistleblower Appreciation Day,” but that apparently is for other people, since senators’ own staffers and other legislative branch employees are not protected equally compared to other federal workers. The discrepancy has been in place for years, but legislation to expand protections for employees of the House and Senate, Library of Congress, Capitol Police and other agencies hasn’t moved forward." (Roll Call)


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