Today in OpenGov: Bye M’Friend, Goodbye


Editor's note: Due to a staffing change, this will be the last edition of the Today in OpenGov newsletter for a little while as we take some time to reorient and consider format tweaks. Thank you for your continued readership and stay tuned for more soon!

In today's edition, the marijuana industry grows campaign cash, Ben Carson is cleared in furniture purchase scandal, Sen. Ben Sasse is left speechless following a Presidential endorsement, and more. Today's edition is brought to you by Maserati

washington watch

I challenge you to a duel! Image credit: Gideon Algernon Mantell via Wikimedia Commons.
  • Last night's Democratic debate featured dueling ads on surprise medical bills. "As patients get slapped with unexpected pricey bills for medical services provided by out-of-network physicians, Congress is considering bipartisan legislation to ban the practice. The bills are stalled, however, amid a tug of war between two vying forces: physician and hospital-backed groups and a secretive dark money organization launched multi-million dollar ad campaigns attacking insurers, while the well-financed insurance industry countered with its own lobbying and ad campaigns. The fight stretches into Thursday night as two groups pour in tens of thousands to air head-to-head ads during the Democratic presidential debate." (OpenSecrets)
  • Prosecutors recommend indictment for Andrew McCabe over "lack of candor" during IG investigation. "Federal prosecutors have recommended indicting former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe over his alleged “lack of candor” during an internal watchdog probe in 2017, according to a person familiar with the matter. It is still not clear what specific charges prosecutors have recommended be brought against McCabe, who was fired in March 2018 after the Justice Department’s inspector general concluded that McCabe had leaked information to the media without permission and then made false or misleading statements to officials when asked about it." (POLITICO)
  • The Marijuana industry is a growing source of campaign cash. "Political contributions to lawmakers from marijuana industry groups and related companies this year have already exceeded totals from 2018, a new study finds. The marijuana industry gave $305,675 to members of Congress in the first half of 2019, compared with $248,504 for all of last year, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission filings by Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), a group that opposes legalization." (The Hill)
  • Senate bill would require the Pentagon to publicly report on how it handles extremism in the military. "The Pentagon will be required to submit an unclassified report to Congress detailing how it handles extremist ideologies — including white supremacy and neo-Nazism — among U.S. troops, according to a proposal making its way through the Senate. Under the provision, part of a draft report accompanying the proposed fiscal year 2020 defense spending bill in the Senate, the Defense Department would have to detail its efforts to identify and handle such affiliations as well as disclosing how many violations of military policy that officials have identified over the past 12 months." (Bloomberg)


Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson. Image credit: Gage Skidmore.
  • HUD Secretary Ben Carson cleared of wrongdoing related to expensive furniture purchase. "Federal investigators have cleared Ben Carson of any wrongdoing related to excessive spending for new furniture to redecorate his office, according to a new report, though they did find his department violated spending law.  The Housing and Urban Development Department secretary did not exert “improper influence” on any HUD employee, the agency’s inspector general said in its findings. Carson had come under fire after his office attempted to buy $31,000 worth of new furniture. The department subsequently canceled the order before actually spending the money." (Government Executive)
  • Regular Trump critic Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) at a loss for words after unsolicited presidential endorsement. "Senator Ben Sasse is the rare Republican who has never been shy about criticizing President Trump. An erudite author, professor and former university president with a doctorate in American history from Yale, he once compared Mr. Trump to the white supremacist David Duke. Now the president has endorsed Mr. Sasse for re-election — a surprise move that rendered the usually outspoken Nebraska senator mum, and demonstrated yet again how much the Republican Party has become the party of Trump." (New York Times)
  • The Air Force has sent crews to President Trump's Scottish resort up to 40 times since 2015. "The U.S. Air Force has lodged crews at President Donald Trump’s Scotland resort up to 40 times since 2015, a figure that is far higher than previously known. The tally represents the preliminary results of an Air Force review launched after POLITICO reported last week that an Air National Guard crew stayed at Turnberry in March. Congressional Democrats have also been investigating military stays at the property, but have yet to receive any information from the Pentagon. The figure does not indicate how many of the stays have occurred since Trump became president. But the Air Force has significantly ramped up its overnight stops in Scotland under Trump after signing a contract with the Prestwick Airport — situated 20-plus miles from Turnberry — in the waning months of the Obama administration." (POLITICO)
  • The Trump administration will share the name of a Saudi official involved in 9/11 following lobbying by victims families. "The Trump administration agreed to reveal the identity of one official in Saudi Arabia accused of being involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks following a lobbying campaign by victims’ families. The families urged the administration for months to publicize information regarding suspected Saudi involvement in the attacks, sending a letter to President Trump recently that said it would help them 'finally learn the full truth and obtain justice from Saudi Arabia.' The FBI, noting to The Hill the 'exceptional nature of the case,' agreed to provide the name of one Saudi official the group had most wanted but declined to release any other details at this time." (The Hill)


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