Today in OpenGov: Unprecedented


In today's edition, dark money rises early in a key Senate race, President Trump wages an unprecedented war against oversight, Virginia expands its anti-opioid data-sharing platform, and more. 

washington watch

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  • Tom Steyer is spending millions to question money in politics and try to buy a spot in the Democratic 2020 presidential debates. "Mr. Steyer has spent $12 million on digital and television ads in only six weeks — more than any other Democratic presidential candidate has spent all year. Whether Mr. Steyer can become something more than the billionaire buying the ads about how 'our democracy has been purchased' is an open question." (New York Times)
  • The Pentagon doesn't see any major problems with two of the largest defense contractors merging. "The Pentagon appears unlikely to object to the blockbuster merger of Raytheon and United Technologies, a top U.S. defense official said Monday…President Donald Trump in June appeared less than supportive of the merger, causing some speculation of its fate before Pentagon regulators.  The Pentagon could object to the merger or acquisition if officials believe the deal would give a firm a corner on the market…Wall Street analysts see few areas of overlap between Raytheon’s defense-heavy portfolio and United Technologies, which has more commercial business. Combined, the new firm Raytheon Technologies would become the second largest U.S. defense and aerospace firm behind Boeing." (Government Executive)
  • Researchers studying Facebook's impact on democracy threaten to quit, saying that the social network has refused to share promised data. "A group of philanthropies working with Facebook Inc…to study the social network’s impact on democracy threatened on Tuesday to quit, saying the company had failed to make data available to researchers as pledged. The funders said in a statement that Facebook had granted the 83 scholars selected for the project access to 'only a portion of what they were told they could expect,' which made it impossible for some to carry out their research. They have given Facebook until Sept. 30 to provide the data." (Reuters)
  • Dark money is already influencing a key Iowa Senate race. "First-term Sen. Joni Ernst‘s (R-Iowa) 2020 re-election bid and Iowa’s congressional races are a million-dollar battleground for anonymously funded political groups. Groups aligned with Democrats and Republicans, but not run by particular candidates’ campaigns, have already spent more than $600,000 apiece in Iowa to sway voters’ opinions of Ernst, a Republican, or attack “Medicare for All,” the health care plan championed by some Democrats…The ad campaigns come more than a year before the general election and are airing when the state’s political bandwidth is otherwise consumed by the Democratic presidential caucus race. The onslaught could be a precursor to a flood of cash as Republicans work to maintain their majority in the Senate in 2020, and Democrats aim to flip it." (OpenSecrets)


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  • President Trump's unprecedented efforts to withhold information from oversight. "President Donald Trump’s administration has declared war on congressional oversight, and the House of Representatives is fighting back—by suing in federal court to enforce its subpoenas…in the space of just seven months, this president and his administration have defied, or obstructed compliance with, House-committee subpoenas in more than half a dozen different matters—resulting in at least five lawsuits to date, with more likely to follow." (Government Executive)
  • A judge heard arguments in the fight over the White House's decision to revoke a Playboy reporter's press pass. "A federal judge in Washington heard nearly two hours of arguments Tuesday about whether to restore the press pass taken from Playboy White House correspondent Brian Karem following a high-profile altercation with former White House aide Seb Gorka in the Rose Garden last month…U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras sounded disapproving of Karem’s conduct and disbelieving of the journalist’s claim…However, the judge also expressed concern that the White House was using unduly 'murky' standards for 'professionalism' and “decorum” that might have violated Karem’s constitutional rights." (POLITICO)
  • Attorney General William Barr is hosting a $30,000 holiday party at President Trump's DC hotel. "Attorney General William P. Barr is planning a holiday treat for his boss. Last month, Barr booked President Trump’s D.C. hotel for a 200-person holiday party in December that is likely to deliver Trump’s business more than $30,000 in revenue. Barr signed a contract, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, for a “Family Holiday Party” in the hotel’s Presidential Ballroom Dec. 8. The party will feature a buffet and a four-hour open bar for about 200 people. Barr is paying for the event himself and chose the venue only after other hotels, including the Willard and the Mayflower, were booked, according to a Justice Department official." (Washington Post)
  • Trump has publicly mentioned his properties at least 70 times in his capacity as President. "As president, Trump has averaged two weekly visits to Trump Organization properties and has mentioned the names of four of those properties — Bedminster, Mar-a-Lago, Turnberry and Doral — at least 70 total times in White House speeches, interviews and tweets, according to a Fix review of transcripts." (Washington Post)

states and cities

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  • Virginia is expanding a data-sharing platform aimed at fighting opioid addiction. "Virginia is expanding its Framework for Addiction Analysis and Community Transformation [FAACT], a data-sharing platform meant to aid in the fight against the opioid epidemic, Gov. Ralph Northam has announced. Initially launched as a pilot in 2018, FAACT shares data between government, and public and private entities. The program combines separate data points from law enforcement, state, county and local agencies, courts, health-care and social services entities, and others, according to a press release from the governor’s office." (Government Technology)
  • This policy hackathon in San Francisco will tackle urban problems from the US and Europe. "A policy hackathon will be held in San Francisco on September 24 to “tackle problems brought by cities from the U.S. and Europe.” The event is part of Startup Europe Comes to Silicon Valley." (GovFresh)
  • The New York State Police has no plans to equip its officers with body or dashboard cameras. "According to a recent Associated Press survey, New York is one of five states in the country where the primary law enforcement agency isn’t equipped with dashboard or body cameras. Body cameras can provide transparency between the community and law enforcement and corroborating evidence for arrests and prosecutions, according to the National Institute of Justice’s website. Dashboard cameras help by providing documentation of traffic violations and citizen behavior, according to the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s website." (Government Technology)


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