Today in OpenGov: Take a look


In today's edition, the FEC may be without a quorum for the foreseeable future, military personnel stayed at President Trump's Scottish property while waiting for their plane to refuel, Connecticut's CDO stepped down, and more. 

washington watch

  • Federal court reverses course, expands power to push government agencies to post information online. "In a decision that will expand the power of courts to make government agencies post information online, the Ninth Circuit this week reversed the dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the removal of animal welfare compliance data from a U.S. Department of Agriculture website…ALDF and three other groups sued the USDA in 2017 after it abruptly pulled animal welfare compliance data offline, a move the plaintiffs say frustrates their missions to fight animal cruelty and monitor government enforcement. U.S. District Judge William Orrick III dismissed the suit in August 2017, finding courts lack power to force government agencies to make documents available to the public at large, as opposed to individual requesters, under the Freedom of Information Act. A three-judge Ninth Circuit panel overruled Orrick’s decision Thursday, finding the law authorizes courts to make agencies stop holding back records which they have a duty to make available in 'virtual reading rooms' online. (Courthouse News Service)
  • The FEC could remain without a quorum for the foreseeable future as Congress squabbles over how proceed. "The Federal Election Commission’s paralysis on key campaign-finance matters could be extended indefinitely as leaders in Congress skirmish over how to appoint new commissioners. Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), want to install six new commissioners. The move would fill vacancies and replace current commissioners, including Ellen Weintraub, the FEC’s Democratic chairwoman, who has frequently criticized President Donald Trump. A clean slate of members will go a long way toward fixing some of the perceived dysfunction at the commission, said a Senate Republican aide, who asked not to be named. Democrats, meanwhile, say the Senate should move quickly to fill existing vacancies, restoring a quorum and allowing the commission to function fully. Democrats aren’t calling for immediate replacement of the current commissioners." (Bloomberg Government via  Election Law Blog)
  • How Elizabeth Warren was for big money donations before she was against them. "On the highest floor of the tallest building in Boston, Senator Elizabeth Warren was busy collecting big checks from some of the city’s politically connected insiders. It was April 2018 and Ms. Warren, up for re-election, was at a breakfast fund-raiser hosted for her by John M. Connors Jr., one of the old-guard power brokers of Massachusetts…Then, early this year, Ms. Warren made a bold bet that would delight the left: She announced she was quitting this big-money circuit in the 2020 presidential primary, vowing not to attend private fund-raisers or dial up rich donors anymore. Admirers and activists praised her stand — but few noted the fact that she had built a financial cushion by pocketing big checks the years before." (New York Times)


The Trump Turnberry Hotel. Image credit: Mary and Angus Hogg.
  • US military personnel stayed at President Trump's Scottish resort when their plane stopped to refuel in the country… "United States military personnel stayed at the Trump Turnberry golf resort in Scotland in March when an Air Force plane stopped at a nearby airport to refuel on the way to Kuwait from the United States, an Air Force spokesman and a Trump Organization representative confirmed Saturday, while defending the decision as a routine matter." (New York Times)
  • …The Air Force responded by ordering a review of how it chooses overnight accommodations. "The U.S. Air Force has ordered a world-wide review of how it chooses overnight accommodations on long flights following revelations that air crews had occasionally stayed at President Donald Trump's Scotland resort while refueling at a small commercial airport nearby. The review comes as additional instances of military personnel staying at Trump properties have been uncovered. The C-17 crew’s overnight stay at Trump’s Turnberry resort in Scotland earlier this year, first reported by POLITICO on Friday, was not an isolated incident." (POLITICO)
  • GAO raises specter of fines, jail time for future instances of illegal spending during government shut downs. "Two federal agencies illegally spent money during the record-setting partial government shutdown earlier this year, an oversight body has ruled, warning that future violations could result in penalties including fines and jail time. The Government Accountability Office’s review followed an unusual decision by the Trump administration instructing agencies to continue funding a variety of functions typically suspended during a lapse in appropriations. As the shutdown dragged on and agencies were increasingly strained by a lack of resources, the administration diverted funds from their normal purposes to mitigate its impact." (Government Executive)
  • President Trump suggests two Washington Post reporters shouldn't be allowed in White House after critical story. "President Donald Trump on Saturday took aim at two Washington Post reporters, saying they 'shouldn’t even be allowed' at the White House following a story critical of the administration’s record…The tweet linked to an op-ed by White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham and Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley rebutting a Washington Post story published earlier this week that highlighted the president’s missteps amid the administration’s policy stumbles over the summer. But the White House op-ed inaccurately claimed the Washington Post didn’t report stories that it actually did cover." (POLITICO)

states and cities

Former Connecticut state Chief Data Officer Tyler Kleykamp, via Government Technology.
  • Connecticut's CDO stepped down to try and apply lessons learned across the country. "Connecticut’s first chief data officer (CDO), Tyler Kleykamp, has decided to step down from the position he helped mold for a job in the academic sector. Kleykamp announced his departure late Thursday night on Twitter where he expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to serve the state as CDO since 2014. He told Government Technology that the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management is working to fill his position quickly and it will remain vacant until a new CDO is hired…He said in his new role, which he starts next week, he will be working with state leaders throughout the country to enhance the capabilities of data." (Government Technology)
  • North Carolina election re-do among most expensive in terms of outside spending. "Only one House special election in U.S. history has seen more outside spending than North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, where groups are spending more than $10.7 million to blitz the airwaves with ads.Outside spending significantly favors Republican Dan Bishop over Democrat Dan McCready, according to figures from OpenSecrets. That offsets what had been McCready’s fundraising advantage. The spending eclipses the nearly $9 million spent in Florida’s 13th District in 2014, though it’s far behind the record-shattering $27 million spent in Georgia’s nationally watched 2017 congressional race between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel." (Open Secrets)
  • This algorithm was supposed to make Kentucky's courts more fair. What went wrong? "Kentucky lawmakers thought requiring that judges consult an algorithm when deciding whether to hold a defendant in jail before trial would make the state’s justice system cheaper and fairer by setting more people free. That’s not how it turned out.Before the 2011 law took effect, there was little difference between the proportion of black and white defendants granted release to await trial at home without cash bail. After being mandated to consider a score predicting the risk a person would reoffend or skip court, the state’s judges began offering no-bail release to white defendants much more often than to blacks." (Wired)
  • Oklahoma school districts hire lobbyist, raising open records concerns. "During the 2018-2019 school year, four public school districts in Oklahoma hired contract lobbyists. In addition to raising concerns about government accountability and indirect funneling of taxpayer dollars to political campaigns, schools’ use of contract lobbyists may also reduce government transparency and sidestep open-records laws. Under Oklahoma law, most written communications sent to lawmakers by public school officials are open records that can be viewed by the public. However, because the Legislature exempts itself from open-records requirements, critics worry that written communication sent to lawmakers by a lobbyist who is not a direct employee of a school, but a contract worker, may effectively evade open-records requirements." (The City Sentinel via NFOIC)

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