Today in OpenGov: Advocates


In today's edition, the Federalist Society's claims that they don't advocate ring hollow, a Nigerian journalist is charged with treason over corruption reporting, this Trump tax break that was supposed to help poor communities has been a windfall for his rich friends, and more. 

washington watch

Image via the National Parks Service.
  • The Federalist Society claims that it's not an advocacy organization. These documents show otherwise. "Despite what appears to be an obvious political valence, the Federalist Society and its high-profile members have long insisted the nonprofit organization does not endorse any political party 'or engage in other forms of political advocacy,”'as its website says. The society does not deny an ideology—it calls itself a 'group of conservatives and libertarians'—but it maintains that it is simply 'about ideas,' not legislation, politicians or policy positions. Federalist Society documents that one of us recently unearthed, however, make this position untenable going forward. The documents, made public here for the first time, show that the society not only has held explicit ideological goals since its infancy in the early 1980s, but sought to apply those ideological goals to legal policy and political issues through the group’s roundtables, symposia and conferences." (POLITICO)
  • American universities face increased federal pressure over foreign financial influence. "The Education Department has begun cracking down on universities that fail to disclose donations and contracts from foreign governments, hoping to give far more scrutiny to funding that has washed into the United States’ higher education institutions from countries often at odds with American policies but eager to tap the country’s brightest minds. The department announced this summer that it was investigatingwhether Georgetown, Texas A&M, Cornell and Rutgers universities were fully complying with a federal law that requires colleges to report all gifts and contracts from foreign sources that exceed $250,000." (New York Times)
  • Andrew Yang gave a number of paid speeches after announcing his presidential bid, raising some campaign finance questions. "Months after announcing his bid for the presidency as a Democrat, entrepreneur and author Andrew Yang was paid for a number of speaking engagements, bringing in $94,000 between April 2018 and February 2019, his financial disclosure report shows…Yang described the speaking engagements to ABC News as speeches about the subject matter of his book…But a PowerPoint presentation given to ABC News by the Yang campaign titled, "The Impact of Technology on the U.S. Workforce," shows his 2020 campaign logo on the opening slide of the PowerPoint and an abbreviated campaign symbol on most of the other 30 slides…While campaign finance laws allow candidates to be compensated for work independent of their campaigns, payments to candidates may be considered campaign contributions and subject to federal rules..It's unclear whether Yang's speaking engagements would in fact be considered campaign-related activities and subject to FEC regulations, experts said." (ABCNews)

around the world

Image via Pixabay.
  • The World Bank is investigating if a loan to China went to funding Muslim detention camps. "The World Bank is investigating whether a $50 million loan it granted in 2015 for an education project in China’s Xinjiang region has been used to fund Muslim detention camps. The review comes amid growing global concern that China has detained one million or more Muslim Uighurs and placed them in “re-education” camps where they are forced to renounce their religious beliefs and embrace the ideology of the Communist Party." (New York Times)
  • This Nigerian journalist was charged with treason after accusing a state governor of corruption. "Agba Jalingo, the publisher of CrossRiverWatch, an online newspaper, was arrested in his residence in Lagos, Nigeria, at around 2 p.m. local time by the Federal Special Anti Robbery Squad (FSARS) of the Nigerian police on August 22…On August 23, police transferred Jalingo to Calabar, the capital of Cross River State in Nigeria's Niger Delta region, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Jalingo's transfer to Calabar was allegedly on the request of Ben Ayade, governor of Cross River State…On July 17, Jalingo wrote a critical story about an alleged diversion of 500 million naira (about $1.4 million United States dollars) meant for the establishment of Cross River state Micro-Finance Bank." (Global Voices)
  • Ukraine revokes lawmakers' immunity in anti-graft push. "Ukraine revoked the immunity from prosecution long enjoyed by lawmakers, part of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s efforts to stamp out corruption. Parliament voted Tuesday for a constitutional amendment placing its members on the same legal footing as other citizens, starting Jan. 1." (Bloomberg)
  • Using FOI to learn more about Brexit and the Irish border issue. "At the time of writing, a No Deal Brexit seems ever more likely. What exactly will that mean for the UK? Attempts to answer this question have filled many column inches, hours of broadcast and endless tweets. There is certainly no lack of opinions. But opinions are best based on facts, and it was in this spirit that WhatDoTheyKnow user Jon Rush set out to request vital information about the key Brexit sticking point, and the main reason that a deal is so hard to agree — the Irish border." (mySociety)


President Trump. Image credit: Gage Skidmore.
  • This week's Trump administration conflicts include Indonesian business, emoluments updates, and more. "This week, a report breaks down President Donald Trump’s conflicts of interest, Donald Trump Jr. dismisses the possibility of a conflict of interest as the Trump Organization continues with its plan for developments in Indonesia and the President is allowed to appeal one of the emoluments lawsuits against him." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • This Trump tax break was supposed to help poor communities. It has become a windfall for his rich allies. "President Trump has portrayed America’s cities as wastelands, ravaged by crime and homelessness, infested by rats. But the Trump administration’s signature plan to lift them — a multibillion-dollar tax break that is supposed to help low-income areas — has fueled a wave of developments financed by and built for the wealthiest Americans. Among the early beneficiaries of the tax incentive are billionaire financiers like Leon Cooperman and business magnates like Sidney Kohl — and Mr. Trump’s family members and advisers." (New York Times)
  • This Pro-Trump super PAC has paid nearly $1 million to a firm started by his campaign manager's wife. "A top pro-Trump super PAC paid thousands of dollars to a company owned by the wife of Brad Parscale, President Trump’s campaign manager.  Federal Election Commission (FEC) files show America First Action, which was founded in 2017 to support the president and Republican candidates across the country, gave $910,000 to Red State Data and Digital, which was founded by Candice Parscale. While super PACs are permitted to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to support certain causes or candidates, they are prohibited from coordinating their spending with a campaign." (The Hill)


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