Today in OpenGov: Transportation costs


In today's edition, charities and PACs can make fundraisers rich, gun rights groups try to fill the spending gap left by a weakened NRA, Vice President Pence spent almost $600,000 for ground transportation on his Ireland trip, and more. 

washington watch

Image credit: USDA/Lance Cheung.
  • The EPA won't edit a blog post because they claim it's not public information. "The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) won’t tweak a recent blog post environmentalists say is inaccurate because the agency argues its blog is not considered public information. The tension stemmed from a June post on the agency’s blog that included apparent praise for EPA action on pesticides considered harmful to bees…The Center for Biological Diversity filed a complaint under the Information Quality Act, which can be used to demand a correction of inaccurate information from government sources…But the EPA rejected the complaint late last week." (The Hill)
  • A new investigation shows how charities and PACs can make some fundraisers rich. Here are five takeaways. "Here are five things to know about the Center for Public Integrity’s investigation — written by Sarah Kleiner and Chris Zubak-Skees and 15 months in the making — into charities and political committees connected through a Las Vegas telemarketer." (Center for Public Integrity)
  • The GAO launched its new strategic foresight center with a conference. "The Government Accountability Office was set up to advise the legislative branch on ongoing issues at federal agencies, including management, policy, money and tech. But now, a new center will help GAO warn Congress about the future and head off incoming problems before they arrive. The new Center for Strategic Foresight, part of the agency’s Office of Strategic Planning and External Liaison, held its first meeting back in January and launched its first foray into the future at a conference Tuesday." (Government Executive)
  • Other gun rights groups are trying to step into the influence vacuum left by a diminished NRA. "Gun control groups are investing heavily on ad campaigns and lobbying as gun control legislation moves forward with bipartisan support in Congress. With the traditional powerhouse National Rifle Association appearing to lack its usual influence, other gun rights groups are stepping in to fill the vacuum. In the wake of multiple mass shootings that shook the nation this summer, most Americans are calling for tighter gun laws. Gun control legislation such as expanded background checks has long stalled in Congress as lawmakers split along party lines…Gun rights groups have spent $5.5 million on lobbying this year, almost four times what the gun control groups collectively spent. However, the first-half figure represents a downturn from the $15 million pro-gun groups spent in 2013 to defeat a similar gun control measure. Without the NRA’s strong presence, pro-gun organizations are also falling short in digital ad-buying compared to their rivals, and the messages they send via political ads seem rather split." (Open Secrets)
  • The State Department routinely misses deadlines for submitting foreign assistance budget documents to Congress. "The State Department routinely fails to submit to Congress on time key budget documents on foreign assistance, the department’s watchdog reported. Staffing shortages following the federal hiring freeze imposed by former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson contributed to the delays in 2018, but State’s complex review process and weaknesses in data collection have also been factors since 2015." (Government Executive)


Then Vice-President Joe Biden's limo, 2010. Image credit: U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Mark R. W. Orders-Woempner.
  • Vice President Pence's stay at President Trump's Irish resort cost almost $600,000 for ground transportation alone. "Vice President Pence’s trip to President Trump’s Doonbeg, Ireland, resort cost taxpayers nearly $600,000 in ground transportation fees, according to State Department receipts.  The receipts, first noticed by the left-leaning watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, totaled over $599,000 during the course of Pence’s stay, which required him to bounce back and forth between Doonbeg and Dublin for his official meetings." (The Hill)
  • President Trump pressed top aides to intervene with NOAA over Hurricane Dorian forecast rebuke. "President Trump, seeking to justify his claim of a hurricane threat to Alabama, pressed aides to intervene with a federal scientific agency, leading to a highly unusual public rebuke of the forecasters who contradicted him, according to people familiar with the events. In response to the president’s request, Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, told Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, to have the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration publicly correct the forecasters, who had insisted that Alabama was not actually at risk from Hurricane Dorian." (New York Times)
  • The GAO is looking into President Trump's efforts to acquire private land through eminent domain for his border wall. "The Government Accountability Office (GAO) told Senate Democrats it will probe the Trump administration’s efforts to use eminent domain to acquire land to build the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico…The GAO noted that they would check with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) watchdog to make sure they weren’t doubling up. Senate Democrats sent a letter to the GAO in August requesting the probe and asking for details on the policies of eminent domain, how much land has been acquired and the challenges to acquiring private land." (The Hill)
  • New York prosecutors interviewed Michael Cohen in Trump hush money probe. "Prosecutors with the New York district attorney's office interviewed Donald Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen in recent weeks as part of their investigation of the Trump Organization's handling of hush money payments, according to people familiar with the matter. Officials from the district attorney's office, led by Cyrus Vance, interviewed Cohen at the federal prison in Otisville, New York, where he is serving a three-year sentence after pleading guilty to multiple crimes including campaign finance violations tied to payments to two women alleging affairs with Trump a decade ago. Trump has denied having affairs with the women." (CNN)


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