Today in OpenGov: Enhancements


In today's edition, Democrats stop burning oil industry cash, President Trump claims he'll release personal financial details, Oregon's public records czar abruptly resigns, and more. 

washington watch

Image via OpenSecrets.
  • 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls' rejection of fossil fuel money marks break from the past. "The oil and gas industry has always favored Republican candidates over their Democratic opponents. Now, Democrats are pledging to break away from fossil fuel money for good…Despite the differences, the sweeping consensus among them stands in contrast to past Democratic candidates’ acceptance of oil and gas contributions. All 20 Democrats running for the 2020 cycle have combined to raise $348,262 from the oil and gas industry for their campaigns…Democrats in previous election cycles were often hesitant to turn down big money from the fossil fuel industry. In his presidential bid against John McCain in 2008, Barack Obama accepted $1.1 million from the industry. Both Obama and Hillary Clinton raised almost $1 million for the 2012 and 2016 presidential races." (OpenSecrets)
  • Will the Interior Departments push to "enhance" ethics actually legitimize bad behavior? "A productive response to a steady stream of “lapses in ethical behavior” at the top levels of a federal department would be to address the underlying conditions that allowed those lapses to occur. An unproductive response might look something like shuffling agency ethics personnel around so they all report to an office whose mission is to protect the agency from legal liability. Guess which approach the Interior Department is taking?" (Government Executive)
  • An appeals court ruled that scraping public websites without approval from their owner doesn't violate the law. "Scraping a public website without the approval of the website's owner isn't a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, an appeals court ruled on Monday. The ruling comes in a legal battle that pits Microsoft-owned LinkedIn against a small data-analytics company called hiQ Labs. HiQ scrapes data from the public profiles of LinkedIn users, then uses the data to help companies better understand their own workforces. After tolerating hiQ's scraping activities for several years, LinkedIn sent the company a cease-and-desist letter in 2017 demanding that hiQ stop harvesting data from LinkedIn profiles. Among other things, LinkedIn argued that hiQ was violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, America's main anti-hacking law…A trial court sided with hiQ in 2017. On Monday, the 9th Circuit Appeals Court agreed with the lower court, holding that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act simply doesn't apply to information that's available to the general public." (Ars Technica)


Image credit: m01229.
  • Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross reportedly threatened firings at NOAA after the agency contradicted President Trump's claims about Hurricane Dorian. "The Secretary of Commerce threatened to fire top employees at the federal scientific agency responsible for weather forecasts last Friday after the agency’s Birmingham office contradicted President Trump’s claim that Hurricane Dorian might hit Alabama, according to three people familiar with the discussion. That threat led to an unusual, unsigned statement later that Friday by the agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, disavowing the National Weather Service’s position that Alabama was not at risk." (New York Times)
  • President Trump claimed that he plans to release "extremely complete" details on his personal finances. "President Donald Trump on Monday claimed he plans on releasing an "extremely complete" report of his financial record, but he offered no specifics and a murky timeline. Speaking to reporters as he departed the White House, Trump suggested that the promised release would dispel the notion that his real estate empire is in need of the taxpayer money and business driven there throughout his presidency." (POLITICO)
  • The Trump Organization made a a deal with a local Scottish airport to increase traffic and tourism. "Back in 2014, soon after acquiring a golf resort in Scotland, Donald J. Trump entered a partnership with a struggling local airport there to increase air traffic and boost tourism in the region. The next year, as Mr. Trump began running for president, the Pentagon decided to ramp up its use of that same airport to refuel Air Force flights and gave the local airport authority the job of helping to find accommodations for flight crews who had to remain overnight. Those two separate arrangements have now intersected in ways that provide the latest evidence of how Mr. Trump’s continued ownership of his business produces regular ethical questions." (New York Times)

states and cities

Ginger McCall, Via Willamette Week.
  • Oregon's public records czar, former Sunlighter Ginger McCall, abruptly resigned citing "abuse of authority" by Governor's staff. "The state's first public records czar abruptly resigned this morning, 18 months after assuming her role. Ginger McCall, the state's first-ever public records advocate, resigned in a letter that she sent today to the Public Records Advisory Council, which she chairs and which supports her work…In a separate letter to Brown, McCall was more forthcoming about the reason for her surprise resignation, highlighting her disagreements with Brown's general counsel, Misha Isaak." (Willamette Week)
  • This new report highlights the most blatant partisan gerrymanders around the country. "Which U.S. states have the worst state legislative partisan gerrymanders? Partisan gerrymandering is defined as a political party in a legislature or partisan institution redrawing legislative district lines in order to favor their own party in the subsequent election rounds. We examine all U.S. state legislatures that held elections in 2017 or 2018 to determine the top 10 worst state legislative gerrymanders in the country. This ranking of the worst gerrymanders is determined by examining state legislatures with minority rule, which means the party with the majority of seats in the legislature received a minority of the statewide vote in the previous election; and by examining those states with extreme levels of disproportionality between the percentage of legislative seats and the statewide vote in 2018." (Schwarzeneggar Institute via Election Law Blog)
  • New Jersey town set to vote on water system privatization following local outcry after secret negotiations became public. "Tomorrow, residents of Edison, New Jersey will be facing a vote to decide whether to retain community ownership and maintenance of the city’s drinking water and sewer treatment systems or transfer operations to private companies. The special election on September 10 is the culmination of a community effort to block a deal negotiated between the office of Edison’s Mayor Thomas Lankey and Edison Environmental Partners, a joint venture between private water company Suez and KKR, an investment company. Nearly 5,000 residents signed the petition forcing the vote…Negotiations on the Suez deal had been ongoing for years, though many residents were only made aware in February that the township was in talks about the future of the city’s water services." (MuckRock)


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