Today in OpenGov: Guess who’s going to Disney World?


In today's edition, Joe Biden's lobbyist friends, state lawmakers' Disney vacation, President Trump's oil and gas fundraising, and more. 

washington watch

Image via Pixabay.
  • Joe Biden has been fundraising from lobbyists despite a pledge not to. "Joe Biden entered the Democratic primary promising “from day one” to reject campaign cash from lobbyists…Yet hours after his April campaign kickoff, the former vice president went to a fundraiser at the home of a lobbying executive. And in the months since, he’s done it again and again. It’s difficult to quantify how much Biden has raised from the multibillion-dollar influence industry, but the roughly $200,000 he accepted from employees of major lobbying firms is far more than any of his rivals has received, according to a review of campaign finance data by The Associated Press." Sunlight's John Wonderlich weighed in, noting that while accepting lobbyist cash "doesn’t mean your positions are up for sale…[but it] can certainly change what issues seem the most salient and whose voice gets heard." (PBS News Hour)
  • Former Obama White House Counsel Greg Craig acquitted of lying to DOJ about foreign lobbying. "Gregory B. Craig, one of Washington’s most prominent Democratic lawyers, was acquitted on Wednesday of a felony charge that he lied to federal authorities about work he did seven years ago for the Ukrainian government. The jury returned the verdict after fewer than five hours of deliberation. It was a blow to the Justice Department’s effort to more aggressively crack down on undisclosed foreign influence in Washington as well as a vindication of Mr. Craig’s high-risk decision to face a jury and testify in his own defense." (New York Times)
  • Corruption charges against former Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill) were dismissed after he struck a deal with prosecutors. "Corruption charges against former Rep. Aaron Schock have been dismissed under a deal struck with prosecutors in March. U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kennelly ordered an indictment against Schock dismissed on Wednesday…Under the deal, Schock agreed to repay his campaign committees nearly $68,000 and work with the Internal Revenue Service to determine how much he owes in taxes for income he didn’t report between 2010 and 2015." (POLITICO)
  • Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) is suing an ethics watchdog over its complaints against him. "Republican Congressman Devin Nunes of California has filed a lawsuit claiming a left-leaning transparency nonprofit conspired with a research firm to damage his reputation…In the federal suit, Nunes says ethics complaints filed by the Campaign for Accountability are retaliation for his work on the House Intelligence Committee, in which he has repeatedly impugned the integrity of the firm Fusion GPS and the credibility of a dossier a researcher hired by the firm compiled on President Trump’s alleged connections to Russia…CfA has filed three ethics complaints against Nunes: one alleging the congressman failed to list business interests on his financial disclosure forms and two accusing him of leaking confidential information to the press." (Washington Post)

states and cities

Advocates displayed information on SNAP and new work requirements at the West Virginia State Capitol in Charleston in January 2019. Image credit: Jared Bennett/Center for Public Integrity.
  • These lawmakers went on paid trips to Disney World. Now they're fighting against anti-poverty programs. "In December, the Foundation for Government Accountability hosted public officials from across the country in Orlando. The scene: Walt Disney World’s Swan and Dolphin Resort, an ocean-themed oasis with palatial fountains next to a lake lined with palm trees. The FGA, a right-leaning think tank based in Naples, Florida, paid travel and lodging expenses for many of the conservative leaders in attendance, including Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin and three White House aides…The FGA aimed to send decision-makers back to their respective states, or the nation’s capital, with fresh zeal to restrict access to public assistance programs designed for low-income people, including Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program." (Center for Public Integrity)
  • This Utah county is testing blockchain voting technology through a live audit. "Utah County, Utah, showcased live on Facebook today how anyone can audit the authenticity of 24 municipal election votes that were cast overseas by eligible voters through the blockchain-based Voatz app. The demonstration, which can be viewed here, describes publicly available electronic documents and tools that one can use to confirm the validity of overseas votes." (Government Technology)
  • Nevada bills bring mixed news for access to public information in the state. "Two bills were passed in the final days of the legislative session which change the way the public can access information we are entitled to as taxpayers. They are Senate Bills (SB) 224 and 287. Ostensibly, both bills were intended to grant easier access and provide consequences for not providing that information. And, for the most part, that’s what they do. However, an amendment to Senate Bill 224 made a simple, yet important change which, in some ways, makes accessing complete information even more difficult…Now for the bad news, SB 224. Called the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) secrecy bill, the amendment to SB 224 called to make the names of those receiving tax-funded pensions public…While the names will be disclosed, public agencies can now withhold information such as last employer, years of service credit, retirement date and whether the benefit is a disability or service retirement. That is all vital public information that can now be hidden." (Nevada Business via NFOIC)


Image via Pixabay.
  • Trump administration blocks Obama-era lightbulb efficiency standards, marking victory for industry. "The Department of Energy finalized a rule Thursday that will prevent Obama-era efficiency standards for commonly used light bulbs from being implemented.  The decision was cheered by lighting manufacturers that have spent the last two years lobbying Congress and the DOE to reverse new energy efficiency standards that would have affected billions of light bulbs sold in the U.S. The stricter standards were set to go into effect in January 2020." (Open Secrets)
  • President Trump is raking in oil and gas industry cash while Democratic hopefuls skirt their pledges to avoid fossil fuel funds. "Against the backdrop of intensifying global heat waves, a burning Amazon forest, and melting arctic ice caps, the question of how to respond to the global climate crisis, and a candidate’s relationship to the fossil fuel industry, are assuming center stage in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. At one end, you have Donald Trump, the near-certain Republican nominee, who has taken huge amounts of money from the fossil fuel industry…Democratic candidates have been compelled to take more aggressive stances towards addressing the climate crisis, and to make gestures at distancing themselves from the influence of the fossil fuel industry…This article profiles some examples of fossil fuel industry donations to 2020 candidates. Oil, gas, and coal interests are clearly lining up behind Donald Trump, having already donated significant sums towards reelecting him. While nowhere near the level of the Trump campaign, some Democrats, too, have accepted donations from oil and gas interests – including some signers of the No Fossil Fuel Pledge." (Sludge)
  • PACs or government agencies have spent money at Trump properties on 7 out of every 10 days of Trump's presidency. "Data on government spending at Trump properties is limited, as it generally involves submitting Freedom of Information Act requests for data. That said, groups such as ProPublica have compiled existing data focused on the beginning of 2017 to determine where and when government agencies and political action committees have spent money at Trump properties. On nearly 500 days of Trump’s 958-days-old presidency, political action committees or government agencies including the departments of Defense and State have spent money at Trump Organization properties." (Washington Post)


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