Today in OpenGov: Spreading the wealth
In today's edition, the devil is in the details federal website details, President Trump needs to find another nominee to lead national intelligence, military style surveillance may be hovering over your city, and more.
Screenshot from the new whistleblower reporting page on Oversight.gov.
- Federal Inspectors General rolled out a new online whistleblower reporting tool. "Federal whistleblowers have a little more guidance and direction now from the inspector general community to report the waste, fraud and abuse they see at their agencies. The Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) this week launched a new feature on Oversight.gov, the publicly searchable website of all reports and updates from agency inspectors general. The new page, which CIGIE launched on National Whistleblower Appreciation Day, includes resources for whistleblowers about their rights, as well as a detailed walk-through of the process for reporting waste, fraud and abuse at individual agencies. It also directs whistleblowers to the appropriate inspector general hotline — or the Office of Special Counsel’s disclosure unit and Government Accountability Office’s FraudNet portal." (Federal News Network)
- Thanks to online fundraising, there is more information than ever about small dollar presidential donors. "Small-dollar campaign fundraising is a notorious black box. The Federal Election Commission releases candidates’ fundraising data regularly, but campaigns are only required to reveal the names of donors who give more than $200. Data about presidential grassroots fundraising — the small-dollar donations that candidates are always bragging about — has long been much harder to come by. Not this year. ActBlue, the payment processor used by all the major Democratic presidential candidates, disclosed six months of fundraising data to the FEC this week. When combined with other FEC data, it’s now possible to track between 90 and 99 percent of individual donations made to most Democratic candidates." (Center for Public Integrity)
- Common Cause filed complaints with the DOJ and FEC over Krish Kobach's questionable fundraising pitch. "Today, Common Cause filed complaints with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging reason to believe that solicitations for campaign contributions to former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s Senate campaign distributed by We Build the Wall, Inc. violated multiple campaign finance laws. The email solicitation appears to violate the ban on corporate contributions to a federal candidate and the prohibition on candidates spending 'soft money' in connection with their election. The email also lacks the 'paid for by' disclaimer required by federal law when candidates solicit political contributions." (Common Cause)
- When it comes to federal websites, the Equifax settlement shows how much the details matter. "In 2016, the Office of Management and Budget admitted that federal agency websites 'are the primary means by which the public receives information from and interacts with the Federal Government.' If you had any lingering doubts about the importance of information on federal government websites, the events of the last week relating to the Equifax data breach settlement — the excitement that quickly turned to disillusionment — should well and truly dispel them…The Equifax case highlights the extent to which inaccurate, incomplete, or even slightly misleading information has real consequences. People assume — justifiably — that information on government websites is reliable and act on that information. Millions of people. And the natural response when such an assumption is proved wrong is disappointment, distrust, and disaffection." (Sunlight Foundation)
- President Trump's pick to head up national intelligence withdraws his name from consideration. "Just five days after he was tapped to lead the country’s intelligence agencies, John Ratcliffe is out. The Texas Republican lawmaker on Friday withdrew from consideration to become the next national intelligence director after several days marked by a series of unflattering media stories, muted support from GOP senators and intelligence veterans expressing concerns about his thin resume and partisan attitude about government investigators." (POLITICO)
- Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) reportedly held up a Trump nominee in an attempt to obtain information about a border-wall contract tied to one of his major donors. "A Republican senator held up the confirmation of a White House budget official this week in an attempt to obtain sensitive information about border wall contracts he has been trying to steer to a major donor, according to emails obtained by The Washington Post…In recent months, Cramer has touted his preferred construction firm, North Dakota-based Fisher Industries, and campaign finance records show the senator has received thousands of dollars in contributions from company chief executive Tommy Fisher and his family members." (Washington Post)
- White House decision to suspend Playboy reporter's press pass receives pushback from White House Correspondents Association. "The White House Correspondents‘ Association on Sunday said it is “closely monitoring” the White House press secretary’s decision to suspend the pass of reporter Brian Karem for 30 days…Karem, Playboy’s senior White House reporter, tweeted that he received an email Friday from the White House saying his pass would be suspended as of Monday afternoon. On July 11, Karem and Sebastian Gorka, a conservative radio talk show host who previously served in the Trump administration, got into a shouting match about bias in social media at a White House event." (POLITICO)
- Trump administration is increasingly treating government leakers like foreign spies. "Government whistleblowers are increasingly being charged under laws such as the Espionage Act, but they aren’t spies…for many whistleblowers, the decision to go public results from troubling insights into government activity, coupled with the belief that as long as that activity remains secret, the system will not change. While there are some protections for whistleblowers who raise their concerns internally or complain to Congress, there is also a long history of those same people being punished for speaking out. The growing use of the Espionage Act…shows how the system is rigged against whistleblowers. Government insiders charged under the law are not allowed to defend themselves by arguing that their decision to share what they know was prompted by an impulse to help Americans confront and end government abuses." (The Intercept)
states and cities
Image via Pixabay.
- Lack of airspace privacy laws leads to use of military style surveillance in US cities. "…the airspace over America falls into the same legal category as other public spaces, such as sidewalks, roads, parks, and beaches—and it isn’t illegal to take photographs of private property, or private citizens, from public space. As a result, we have no expectation of privacy from above…Capitalizing on this gap, as some might call it, in standing privacy law, wide-area-camera manufacturers and users often turn the all-seeing eye on peacetime populations in the United States and elsewhere without their knowledge." (The Atlantic)
- Groups go to court to block Florida law that would restrict voter backed ex-felon voting rights. "Advocacy groups are asking a Florida court to block a state law requiring people convicted of felonies to pay legal and financial fees and costs before voting. Lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Brennan Center for Justice filed a motion on Friday requesting a preliminary injunction to halt the law's implementation pending their case against it." (The Hill)
- This California town spends $8,000 a month to run a robot that scans faces, license plates, and smartphones. "Back in June, the Huntington Park Police Department in California announced the newest addition to the force: a 400 pound security robot dubbed 'HP RoboCop.'…The HPPD budgeted the operating costs for the K5 at $240,000 for the first three years, payable in $6,000 monthly installments (also noting that the cost could be deferred through grants and/or asset forfeiture funds)…However, according to invoices provided by HPPD, the agency is currently paying $8,000 a month." (MuckRock)
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