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First POST: Transparency Matters

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, April 1 2015

Transparency Matters

  • The 2016 presidential campaign is looking more and more like a return to pre-Watergate days of money in politics, with several candidates--John Ellis (Jeb) Bush, Scott Walker, Rick Santorum and Martin O'Malley--deliberately delaying even the announcement of their "testing the waters" phase of campaigning (which comes with contribution limits and disclosure requirements), even though they are obviously already swimming deep in the waters, drawing a formal legal complaint filed at the FEC by two campaign finance watchdog groups, as Eric Lichtblau reports for the New York Times.

  • Now, as Ed O'Keefe and Matea Gold report for the Washington Post, Bush endorsing the creation of a new group that will collect unlimited amounts of money in secret on his behalf even after he declares his candidacy. So much for Bush's tweet about "transparency matters."

  • Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and Hillary Clinton are quietly jousting over how his committee, which is still(!) investigating the Benghazi incident, will take her testimony on her handling of her State Department emails, Michael Schmidt reports for the New York Times. She wants to testify in public; he wants to hold the interview in private. More about our Clinton coverage below.

  • With the battle over net neutrality continuing in Congress, Politico's Tony Romm reports that some Members of Congress have noticed a flood of incoming messages urging the defunding of the FCC's new regulations that don't appear to have been sent by their constituents. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA)'s office tried to reply to some senders and some replied "that they had never signed up to send emails criticizing net neutrality," he reports. Fingers are being pointed at American Commitment, which claimed on Monday to have directed 1.6 million emails to Congress with that message, but its director Phil Kerpen denied the accusation.

  • Those crazy kids at 18F are now offering a "ghostwriting service" to help government agencies write better "Request for Proposals." The next thing you know they'll be offering to rewrite legislative proposals and the tax code in plain English.

  • Politically active tech investors Ron Conway and Sean Parker are helping launch a new bipartisan advocacy organization, the Economic Innovation Group, to research and press for policy changes to help poor communities, reports Joe Garofoli for the San Francisco Chronicle. He notes, "Though the group is directing is efforts at distressed communities, its early advisory board members and executive team do not include any people of color," but its founding leaders, John Lettieri and Steve Glickman, say that will change as the group begins hiring. (h/t Aaron Ginn)

  • Comedy technician (or is it technocomedian?) Baratunde Thurston offers some funny/serious ideas for how cities can improve themselves, in Fast Company.

  • Next week on April 8, 11am EST, Allen Gunn of Aspiration will be giving a free online talk via Google Hangout on "Security Culture: A people-centered approach to privacy technologies," co-sponsored by Greenpeace's MobLab.

  • X-Lab is going independent, one year after its founding inside New America's Open Technology Institute. Kudos to its founder and director, Sascha Meinrath.

  • The California College of the Arts in San Francisco is offering a new MBA in Civic Innovation, described here in GovTech by Will Semmes, who is managing its development.

  • This is civic tech: With the British elections formally under way, is crowdsourcing the collecting and analysis of the leaflets people are getting on their doorsteps.

  • The Open Government Partnership has been used numerous times by civil society groups for leverage to get their countries to improve some policies, writes Paul Maassen, and he argues they should do more to "replicate the most successful reforms from one OGP country to another."

  • India's Supreme Court has struck down a provision in the country's Information Technology Act, Section 66A, that had made it legal to arrest people for posting "offensive," "annoying" and even "inconvenient" content on a website.

  • Bob Fertik, the longtime director of (and PDM friend), takes aim at yours truly for allegedly "obsessing" over Hillary Clinton because we've run several items at the top of this email digest in the last week covering the controversy around her private email set-up. A few words of response are in order. First, most of the time I put news about the major presidential contenders at the top of First POST since they are (alas) big news. And for the last week, the controversy about Clinton's private email has been all over the news; noting it here hardly means I'm obsessed with her or a "Hillary hater." And finally, in my view, questions about her fidelity to government transparency rules, as well as the still unresolved issue of her email security, are relevant subjects, not partisan bugaboos. Do you agree/disagree? Let me know at msifry-at-gmail-dot-com (and send me other feedback/tips/complaints as well).