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2Day in #OpenGov 7/26/2011

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Policy intern Eric Dunn contributed to this roundup. Here are Tuesday’s transparency-related news items, congressional committee hearings, transparency-related bills introduced in Congress, and transparency-related events. News Roundup: Government

  • The current debt ceiling talks have been secretive and un-transparent, despite modern political rhetoric favoring open government. (Politico)
  • The Congressional Management Foundation reported that Congress has adapted new social media tools faster than it has picked up on technology in the past; Facebook is more popular than Twitter among Hill offices. (The Washington Post)(The National Journal)
  • Opinion: The U.S. Department of Transportation lags far behind other agencies in social media utilization. (Gov Fresh)
Lobbying
  • Lobbyists are hard at work trying to convince legislators to come to a debt-ceiling agreement, but are having little success. (Washington Times)
  • Opinion: Lobbyists should support the Lobbyist Disclosure and Enhancement Act. (Sunlight Blog) (Sunlight Foundation consultant Lisa Rosenberg wrote this in response to a piece by Howard Marlowe, president of the American League of Lobbyists.)
Ethics
  • Roll Call responded to an inquiry regarding whether or not ethics training is required for lobbyists. (Roll Call)
  • Rep. David Wu declared that he did “nothing illegal” in his sexual encounter with a teenage family friend last Thanksgiving. (Politico)
Campaign Finance
  • A Congressional Quarterly study revealed that House lawmakers have made their spouses among the high-paying employees of their election campaigns. (Roll Call)
Technology
  • The Joint Committee on Printing redirected its website to the House Administration Committee following a Sunlight report that criticized the website. (Roll Call)
  • The director of the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team resigned after recent breaches in cybersecurity on government networks. (Tech Daily Dose)
State and Local
  • Alex Tourk, a former lobbyist who ran into trouble with the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, has signed on to Bevan Duff’s campaign for mayor. (Huffington Post)
  • Over a hundred people participated in a training session in Topeka, KS that focused on explaining the state’s transparency related laws. (The Topeka Capital-Journal)
  • State disclosure laws are finding it hard to keep up with the money being spent by lobbyists to influence health care legislation in Vermont. (Forbes)
  • Opinion: A local group advocated for public officials in Florida to sign an open government pledge. (TC Palm)
International
  • A watchdog group determined that an agency in Ottawa, Canada gave preferential treatment to certain employees for a public advisory committee. (CTV News)
  • Hopes are high that a new member of the Public Health Foundation of India, Narayana Murthy, will bring greater transparency to the publicly funded organization. (MoneyLife)
  • A look at the progress the UK has made since Prime Minister David Cameron unveiled a pledge to make government data more transparent. (Tails Consulting)

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2Day in #OpenGov 7/25/2011

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Here is Monday's look at the week’s transparency-related news items, congressional committee hearings, transparency-related bills introduced in Congress, and transparency-related events. News Roundup: Lobbying

  • The National Journal reported that, contrary to a recent report by Politico, lobbying groups have been successfully gaining revenue. (The National Journal)
  • The new trade deals under consideration are strong supported by multinational corporations who are lobbying Congress. (HuffPost)
  • A new lawsuit challenges how the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act defines “foreign official,” and the Chamber of Commerce is lining up against broad enforcement of the law. (Washington Post)
  • Opinion: A new third party must be launched to combat the money and corporate influence in government. (HuffPost)
Ethics
  • Many of the members of Congress who voted to undercut OCE’s funding were previously probed in ethics investigations. (Sunlight Blog)
  • Newly published reports from the inspector general at the SEC reveal evidence of unethical behavior by staff members. (POGO)
  • Nancy Pelosi asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate Rep. David Wu (D-OR) over allegations he had an “unwanted sexual encounter” with a woman. (Roll Call)
  • Opinion: The congressional ethics process is in urgent need of reform. (The Hill)
  • Opinion: Congress should enhance the powers of the Office of Congressional Ethics in light of the Rep. Maxine Waters scandal. (The New York Times)
Campaign Finance
  • A new ad by Citizens United promoting a film about Michelle Bauchman has stirred controversy about whether the buy is an independent expenditure, a political message, or neither. (Politico)
Technology
  • IBM has released cloud-based tools for government agencies in an effort to improve government services and transparency. (GovTech)
  • A new blogpost series on the Sunlight Blog evaluates congressional committee websites. (Sunlight Blog)
  • Opinion: “Gov 2.0 is more about people than it is about technology.” (Gov In the Lab)
Access to Information
  • Gawker is suing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for access to public records of conversations the governor allegedly had with Fox News chief Roger Ailes. (National Journal)
State and Local
  • Virginia companies donate money almost exclusively to incumbent candidates’ campaigns. (Washington Post)
  • South Carolina beefed up its ethics rules for lobbyist registration among other things. (The TANDD)
  • Stateline released its evaluation of state Governors and how they use social media (techPresident)
  • An Ohio county executive has kept his promise of open government under his purview, PolitiFact reports. (The Plain Dealer)
  • Opinion: “Local municipalities should be open about money paid, benefits received through federal government.” (TC Palm)
  • Opinion: Greater transparency will restore faith in Pennsylvania’s state government. (Patch)
International
  • A local station in Georgia reported last week that members of Georgia’s ethics panel have made political contributions while serving on the panel; one serves as a registered lobbyist. (WSBTV)
  • Egyptian bloggers acknowledged that Internet and social media were not the only tools behind the Egyptian Revolution (Yahoo!)

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2Day in #OpenGov 7/22/2011

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Here are Friday's transparency-related news items, congressional committee hearings, transparency-related bills introduced in Congress, and transparency-related events. News Roundup: Government

  • The federal government plans to close more than forty percent of its data centers by 2015. (ExecutiveGov)
  • Design has played an important factor in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's efforts to enhance open government.. (GovFresh)
  • One of Rep. Darrell Issa's top staffers on the House Oversight Committee maintains a “financial relationship” with a lobbying firm. (ThinkProgress)
Ethics
  • The House of Representatives defeated an amendment to slash funding for the Office of Congressional Ethics, but over one hundred representatives voted for it. (Sunlight Blog)
  • A former whistleblower comments on his experience and what he has learned about the nature of whistleblowers in the finance industry. (Forbes)
Campaign Finance
  • The Department of Justice's case against two unregistered Pakistani agents demonstrates the presence of foreign money in our elections. (POGO)
  • Opinion: Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer argues that campaign finance reform is an urgent matter that must be addressed. (Boston Review)
Lobbying
  • Wall Street's seven biggest banks have spent a combined $20 million on lobbying the federal government this year. (OpenSecrets)
  • Narrow issues often involve the highest amounts spent on lobbying the federal government. (Roll Call)
  • Both Google and Facebook spent record amounts of money on lobbying last quarter. (Tech Crunch)
  • Opinion: The airline industry's stated commitment to reducing its environmental impact has been negated by its lobbyists' fight to cripple environmental regulations. (Reuters)
Technology
  • Stateline released an evaluation of how many of the nation's governors are taking advantage of social media tools. (Stateline)
State and Local
  • Pennsylvania prosecutors are investigating whether a private email chain conducted through smartphones during a public meeting should have been on the public record. (techPresident)
  • County officials in Martin County, Florida said that hiring a lobbyist is necessary for procuring federal funding. (Dredging Today)
  • Opinion: The next mayor of San Francisco must be committed to open government. (HuffPost)
  • Opinion: Ohio Gov. Kasich signing a bill to cap fines for destroying public records could keep “controversial public records in the dark.” (Sunlight Blog)
  • Opinion: California's move to shut down its Recovery Act website is not good for transparency. (Clawback)

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2Day in #OpenGov 7/21/2011

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Here are Thursday's transparency-related news items, congressional committee hearings, transparency-related bills introduced in Congress, and transparency-related events. News Roundup: Government

  • The Legislative Branch Appropriations Act of 2012, which includes amendments addressing opening CRS reports and funding for the GPO, was reported to the House on Wednesday. (THOMAS)  (We wrote about this legislation here)
  • A new environmental de-regulation bill that the House passed last week bears a “striking resemblance” to model legislation authored by the conservative action group ALEC. (TPM)
  • Opinion: The SEC is ineffective as a bloated, centralized bureaucracy, and should be localized and shrunk. (Forbes)
Ethics
  • The House Ethics Committee has hired outside counsel to probe whether or not the committee's investigation of Rep. Maxine Waters may continue. (Roll Call $)
Campaign Finance
  • Finance industry leaders represent the top corporate donors for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, as Romney continues to criticize Obama's record of financial regulation. (The Washington Post)
Lobbying
  • Lobbying groups are facing a slump in revenue, which they blame on legislative gridlock. (Politico)
  • The Chamber of Commerce was a top spender in the second quarter, but its lobbying efforts have not reached levels of the health care debate. (Roll Call $)
  • Newly released House records shed light on how much the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spends lobbying for amendments to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Lobbyists have slowed the implementation of financial regulations, according to our own Bill Allison. (Marketplace)
  • The recent arrest of two foreign agents allegedly working for Pakistan has raised questions about how foreign influences may lobby the U.S. government. (The National Interest) Lawmakers have denied that their actions and decisions were influenced by these agents. (The New York Times)
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce attacked FINRA for being “out of touch” with the financial firms it regulates. (Thomson Reuters)
  • Lobbyists and interest groups fear what the Gang of Six's proposed tax code overhaul could do for their clients and constituencies. (The Hill)
Technology
  • House Majority Leader Eric Cantor took comments on Quora for a question about the debt crisis; Cantor's staff said it plans to continue experimenting with the forum tool. (techPresident)
  • USA.gov has organized a hackathon for citizens to engage with federal data from its new URL shortener. (Governing People)
State and Local
  • Ohio watchdog groups met at the statehouse on Wednesday to advocate for greater transparency in the congressional re-districting process. (Daily Journal)

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2Day in #OpenGov 7/20/2011

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Here is Wednesday's look at transparency-related news items, congressional committee hearings, transparency-related bills introduced in Congress, and transparency-related events. News Roundup: Government

  • Despite India's withdrawal from the Open Government Partnership, the country is still involved with open government initiatives, according to the State Department. (techPresident)
  • The OMB will require federal agencies to report detailed information about their IT investments as part of the Obama administration's push for open government. (Information Week)
  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau faces opposition to its regulatory power, and its newly nominated Director will face serious obstacles in his confirmation. (MSNBC)
Ethics
  • Rep. Maxine Waters formally requested that the House Ethics Committee drop its investigation into her activities after committee staffers may have compromised the integrity of the investigation. (The New York Times)
  • A State Department contract specialist participated in awarding more than $52 million worth of contracts to a company owned by her husband and daughter from a previous marriage, according to the Daily Caller. (Daily Caller)
Campaign Finance
  • President Obama was the top recipient of campaign donations from people affiliated with News Corporations. (The National Journal) (The National Journal's article is based on a story by our reporting team on Tuesday.)
  • None of the 2012 Republican presidential candidates will reveal their top campaign fundraisers or bundlers. (ABC News)
  • The Campaign Finance Institute reported that three of the top four fundraisers in the campaign for the presidency have relied mainly on small donors. (CFI)
  • President Obama's reelection campaign has publicly stated that it has not accepted cash from lobbyists, but some of its top fundraisers are in the business of influencing government. (TIME)
  • Sen. Claire McCaskill amended her FEC filings that date back to 2006 after her involvement in a campaign finance scandal. The new records show that her campaign committee did not declare 143 contributions in the 2006 election cycle. (Politico)
  • The FEC may charge former presidential candidate John Edwards nearly $2.3 million due to penalties and primary matching funds. (Roll Call)
Lobbying
  • The Justice Department charged two individuals with acting as unregistered foreign lobbyists for Pakistan; the Pakistani government denied knowing about the case. (The Hill)
  • The Hill published its weekly roundup of high-profile lobbyist hirings. (The Hill)
  • Goldman Sachs lobbyists have met with financial regulators nearly 100 times, iWatchNews reported. (iWatchNews) (The story uses our new Dodd-Frank meeting log, a lobbyist tracking database.)
  • Opinion: “News Corp is not a news company at all, but a global media empire that employs its newspapers – and in the US, Fox News – as a lobbying arm.” (Guardian)
Technology
  • Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz was indicted in Boston on charges that he stole millions of documents from MIT and JSTOR. (The New York Times)
  • The Office of Management and Budget has joined Twitter, seeking to bring attention to budget-related issues through social media. (Federal Computer Week)
State and Local
  • The American Lung Association in California released a study on how big tobacco money influences California politics. (Mercury News)
  • Opinion: A Maine State Senator should not be allowed to take up a high-profile lobbyist position and keep his Senate seat. (Morning Sentinel)
International
  • The government of British Columbia launched an open data website on Tuesday, making over 2,500 sets of public data available for download. The website has received mostly – though not all – positive reviews. (Vancouver Sun)(The Globe and Mail)
  • Opinion: Defense secrecy in South Africa is a prime example of the lack of transparency and corruption plaguing the country. (The Daily Maverick)

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2Day in #OpenGov 7/19/2011

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Here are Tuesday's transparency-related news items, congressional committee hearings, transparency-related bills introduced in Congress, and transparency-related events. News Roundup: Government

  • The Department of Health and Human Services released a progress report regarding its compliance with President Obama's Open Government Directive. (RegBlog)
  • The Commodity Futures Trading Commission decided not to finalize a whistleblower provision at its Tuesday meeting. (Reuters)
  • A whistleblower on army psychological operations filed a lawsuit for investigation results he previously requested through FOIA. (POGO)
  • Opinion: A new bill by Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) would eviscerate certain whistleblower programs at the SEC and CFTC that were created as a result of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul. (POGO)
Ethics
  • Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) called for an investigation into the House Ethics committee following a report of secretive, unethical actions taken in the committee. (Politico)
Campaign Finance
  • Foreign entities spend millions of dollars to influence Washington elections every year, according to a Huffington Post report. (HuffPost) (The report cites our work on this issue from last December.)
  • D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray accepted campaign contributions above the legal limit, the Washington Post reports. (The Washington Post)
Technology
  • A Commons co-founder described in an interview what's next in the technological push for open government. (GovFresh)
State and Local
  • The Pew Research Center released a comprehensive review on Monday of 39 non-profit websites, including a section ranking the best state watchdog groups. (Pew)
  • New Jersey Gov. Christie signed legislation that will provide greater oversight of spending for programs in urban cities and poor municipalities. (MoreMonmouthMusings)
  • The Democratic Party of New Mexico criticized Secretary of State Duran for failing to follow through on Gov. Martinez's pledge to open government and transparency. (NMDemocrats)
  • Opinion: The Minnesotan Capitol should be open to the public during the government shutdown. (TC Daily Planet)
International
  • Watchdog groups have given Kenyan's open data initiative mixed reviews. (VOA News)
  • The Brookings Institution suggested that Brazil is not fit to lead the Open Government Partnership. (Brookings)
  • The Canadian Information Commissioner said that Canada could take a leadership role in the international open government initiative. (MetroTube)
  • Opinion: Given the recent corruption, the UK should implement open government standards similar to those of Sweden. (Telegraph)
  • Opinion: Ottawa's town hall should institute a lobby registry to enhance transparency. (Ottawa Citizen)

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2Day in #OpenGov 7/18/2011

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Here is Monday's look at the week's transparency-related news items, congressional committee hearings, transparency-related bills introduced in Congress, and transparency-related events. News Roundup: Government

  • Members of the bipartisan Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission leaked confidential information to partisan allies at think tanks and lobbying firms. (Huffington Post via POGO)
  • Former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray will be nominated by President Obama to become the first Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (Politico)(Huffington Post)
  • GovTech speculated on the agenda of the next CIO, following Vivek Kundra's departure from the position. (GovTech)
  • An N.S.A. whistleblower will not face jail time for releasing information about the agency's Trailblazer program. (The New York Times)
Lobbying
  • Lobbyists are not always required to disclose donations made in the form of honorary contributions to lawmakers' favorite charities. (Huffington Post)
Ethics
  • Key staffers on the House Ethics committee may have compromised the extensive investigations of Democratic Reps. Maxine Waters and Charles Rangel by engaging in inappropriate ex parte communications. (Politico)
Campaign Finance
  • Only a few U.S. senators have filed their second quarter fund-raising numbers electronically. (OpenSecrets)
  • Nearly half of Obama's campaign cash has come from bundlers, or well-connected individuals who raise money through their networks of wealthy friends. (The Washington Times)
  • After the Obama campaign released its list of fundraising bundlers, we ran the list through our influence tracking tools and published the results online. (Sunlight Blog)
  • Rep. Jeff Landry (R-LA) released a statement on Friday afternoon saying he would not release his second quarter fund-raising numbers before the midnight deadline. (National Journal)
Access to Information
  • Government transparency adviser Tim Kelsey said that releasing open data will generate “vast markets.” (Information Age)
  • Opinion: Releasing troves of data is not equivalent to transparency, especially when individuals do not know how to utilize that data. (Wired)
State and Local
  • The Koch brothers have spread their message of no unions, low taxes, and minimal government regulation to more states, beyond their well-publicized involvement with movements in Wisconsin and Ohio. (Bloomberg)
  • A Tennessee legislator worked with a lobbyist on legislation but says he was unaware that the legislation was identical to a model drafted by ALEC. (Knoxnews)
  • A Texas county defended its hiring of a legislative lobbyist to work on environmental review process issues. (Statesman)
International
  • The Prime Minister of India has placed a live webcam in his office as an anti-corruption tool. (New York Times).
  • Opinion: Russian transparency lags behind the rest of the EU. (Epsiplatform)

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2Day in #OpenGov 7/15/11

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TGIF! Here is Friday's look at transparency-related news items, congressional committee hearings, transparency-related bills introduced in Congress, and transparency-related events. News Roundup: Government

  • House Oversight Chair Darrell Issa questioned CFPB head Elizabeth Warren on an “inadequate” repsonse to FOIA requests in a heated hearing yesterday. (The Washington Examiner)
  • CIO Vivek Kundra unveiled a seventeen-member task force charged with eliminating unnecessary government websites and determining how to prevent future “bloating of government URLs.” (GovTech)
  • The House Appropriations Committee will require the GAO to investigate and report what steps have been taken to prevent mistakes after the Office recently released an error-ridden report on for-profit colleges. (The Daily Caller)
  • The GAO is encouraging tipsters to come forward with knowledge about government waste. (ExecutiveGov)
Revolving Door
  • Opinion: the new rule proposed by FINRA designed to protect against the revolving door does not go far enough. (POGO)
Lobbying
  • Wall Street lobbyists have put their influence tools into full gear, seeking to ease the impact of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul on their investment bank clients (The New York Times).
  • Opinion: the current legislative standstill in Congress should make issue groups re-examine the value of their influence and lobbyist efforts. (The Hill)
Campaign Finance
  • It is still up in the air whether presidential candidates in 2012 will reveal the names of their top "bundlers," individuals who reach their maximum donation levels and turn to their networks for other contributions, submitting all the checks in one bundle. (OpenSecrets)
Ethics
  • Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) stepped down from the House Ethics Committee yesterday due to her upcoming senatorial election campaign, noting that the non-partisan role of the Ethics committee could conflict with her bid. (Roll Call)
Technology
  • In a House Oversight hearing on federal information technology yesterday, CIO Vivek Kundra identified what he considers the ten principles of federal transparency. (Sunlight Blog)
    Access to Information
    • A University of Michigan professor is demanding that the FBI and CIA respond to his FOIA requests for information about the government secretly investigating him due to his outspoken criticism of President Bush. (Courthouse News)
    State and Local
    • Dozens of state legislatures adopted anti-environmental regulation bills that were authored by the American Legislative Exchange Council. (The LA Times)

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