Today in OpenGov: Restricted access


In today's edition, analyzing donors to the 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls, supporting sound financial stewardship in cities with transparency, restricting press access in El Paso and Dayton, targeting Hong Kong's airport with a sit in, and more. 

washington watch

Map visualization via OpenSecrets.
  • These Washington, DC bars and restaurants make the most from political campaigns. "There’s no such thing as a free lunch, especially in Washington where a hosted lunch date or happy hour is liable to turn into a plea for contributions to a political party or campaign. Using public data from the Federal Elections Commission, OpenSecrets ranked the top recipients of campaign expenditures for events in Washington, D.C., and surrounding suburbs for both parties and picked out the top 10 restaurants, bars and hotels for each. Candidates and committees spent more than $12 million wining and dining at 17 venues, each of the party’s top 10, in the D.C. metro area’s eateries during the 2018 campaign cycle." (Center for Responsive Politics)
  • Want to learn more about federal political appointees? Here's how FOIA can help. "Every four years, following the United States Presidential election, the Senate and the House of Representatives alternate publishing the so-called Plum Book, a collection of all the positions that may be filled by presidential appointment in the federal government. These positions number in the thousands and aren’t generally subject to the competition of other federal positions. However, as discussed in a report by the Government Accountability Office released earlier this year, there isn’t a sufficient centralized location to learn about the individuals that are actually appointed…Despite the shortcomings of the existing ethical system, the Freedom of Information Act offers a means to learn more about these appointees at each federal agency." (MuckRock)
  • GOP groups cancel Twitter ad spending after the social media site locked Mitch McConnell's account for posting video of threats by protesters outside his house. "Twitter is locked in an escalating feud with the Republican Party after locking the campaign Twitter account of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Republicans accused Twitter of anti-conservative bias and vowed to stop spending ad money on Twitter until the company relented and restored the @team_mitch Twitter account. The controversy began after the McConnell campaign posted a video on Twitter showing protestors shouting violent threats at a Monday rally outside the McConnell family home." (Ars Technica)
  • What do big Democratic presidential donors look like? They're wealthy, white, and over 50 according to new analysis. "As dozens of Democrats compete to become their party’s nominee for president of the United States, Sludge and Data for Progress have analyzed the individuals who made campaign contributions totaling over $200 to the candidates in the first half of 2019 to create demographic profiles of the candidates’ donor bases…Our analysis found that of the money raised from itemized donors by the 19 candidates, 63.5% percent came from donors with incomes of $100,000 or more, 92.2% came from white donors, and 72.5% came from donors 50 or older." (Sludge)

states and cities

Jackson, MS. Photo Credit: Frederick Olson.
  • How transparency is supporting sound financial stewardship in cities of all sizes. "Cities are responsible for the allocation of public funds to improve infrastructure, provide key services to residents, and attract businesses and tourists. To do so effectively, governments must practice good financial stewardship of these funds to the benefit of residents. But in small cities, seemingly small oversights in the distribution of funds can have far-reaching consequences for constituents. With rising suburban poverty and increasingly sparse federal funds for rural communities, cities depend on fiscal transparency and accountability to invest in residents’ quality of life." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • California Supreme Court fast tracks state level suit against new tax transparency law. "A law signed last week by Governor Gavin Newsom — Senate Bill 27, the Presidential Tax Transparency and Accountability Act — has spawned a host of lawsuits attacking it.  Most of the challenges against the new legislation, which would bar presidential and gubernatorial candidates from the state’s primary ballot if they did not make public their tax returns from the last 5 years, are in federal court, but one was filed directly in the California Supreme Court.  (Malcolm Maclachan reported about all of the lawsuits in today’s Daily Journal.)  And the Supreme Court has quickly called for briefing in the matter." (At the Lectern via Election Law Blog)
  • Puerto Rico might soon have it's 4th governor…this week. "Just a day after Puerto Rico got its third governor in less than a week, the ruling party’s leaders are attempting to maneuver a new one into place. But No. 3 may not cede office easily to No. 4. Former Governor Ricardo Rossello was forced to resign Friday after massive street protests over leaked text messages that disparaged regular Puerto Ricans. Then, his chosen successor, Pedro Pierluisi, was removed by the island’s Supreme Court because the local Senate didn’t act on his confirmation. And then Justice Secretary Wanda Vazquez — next in the line of succession — was sworn in as the rightful governor. At a Thursday press conference at Puerto Rico’s legislature following closed-door negotiations, leaders of the ruling New Progressive Party called for the commonwealth’s nonvoting representative in the U.S. Congress, Jenniffer Gonzalez, to assume the governorship and for Vasquez to resign." (Bloomberg)


  • How President Trump has used secret arbitration proceedings to keep potential damaging or embarrassing claims out of the public eye. "Of the thousands of lawsuits filed by or against Trump and his companies over the years — a USA Today investigation identified at least 3,500 cases — the vast majority have played out in court. But in a small number of cases in which Trump, his 2016 campaign, or his businesses have been accused of discrimination, shady business practices, and other bad acts, the president and his lawyers have invoked clauses in contracts that give them the power to force these disputes behind closed doors. Unlike in court, the public and the media don’t have a right to observe arbitration hearings or to see documents." (BuzzFeed)
  • The White House restricted press access during Trump's visits to El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. "President Trump spent yesterday visiting with people affected by the mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso. But if you wanted to see pictures of what it was like when he stopped by hospitals in each of those cities, you had to rely on the White House because the traveling press wasn't allowed to photograph those meetings. And yet the White House released its own video chronicling the visit…" (NPR)
  • How Ivanka Trump's worker training initiative has opened doors at the White House for big companies. "Ivanka Trump has opened the White House doors and her father’s administration to companies that participate in a worker-training initiative she’s led, even as the president adopts policies that labor unions say would weaken apprenticeships…Participating in the program may score the companies goodwill and even face-time with a president who sometimes considers policies that would hurt them." (Bloomberg)

around the world

The MyData 2019 conference is coming up next month in Helsinki, Finland.
  • The MyData movement looks to empower a human-centric paradigm for personal data. "The MyData movement, which has since gathered momentum and grown into an international community of hundreds of people and organisations, shares many of its most fundamental values with the open movement from which it has spun off. Openness and transparency in collection, processing, and use of personal data; ethical and socially beneficial use of data; cross-sectoral collaboration; and democratic values are all legacies of the open roots of MyData and hard-wired into the movement itself." (OpenKnowledge)
  • The speaker of Poland's parliament has resigned amid a travel scandal. "Poland's speaker of parliament was forced to quit Thursday as the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party scrambled to contain a growing political crisis ahead of an October 13 election. Marek KuchciƄski, a senior PiS member, announced that he will resign as speaker of Poland’s lower chamber of parliament after the opposition accused him of taking more than 100 flights on a government jet — mainly to his home town of Rzeszów — often accompanied by family members, other politicians, friends and officials." (POLITICO)
  • Ongoing Hong Kong protests set to disrupt the city's airport all weekend. "Hong Kong’s airport bolstered security as protesters began a three-day sit-in at the arrivals hall of its main terminal, kicking off a 10th straight weekend of anti-China demonstrations. Only departing passengers with tickets or boarding passes and valid travel documents will be allowed to enter the check-in area at Terminal 1 until Sunday night, the Hong Kong Airport Authority said in a statement Friday, and security personnel have been deployed to assist passengers and airport staff. The sit-in will serve as a backdrop for a flurry of weekend protests across the city, including separate rallies by senior citizens and families." (Bloomberg)


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