Transparency News 11/13/17

Monday, November 13, 2017

State and Local Stories

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Shelly Simonds, the Democrat who is running behind Del. David Yancey, R-Newport News, by 13 votes in the 94th District House of Delegates race, received the names of roughly 25 absentee voters whose ballots were rejected for Tuesday’s election after she asked for an emergency court order for the information. Thursday’s request for an injunction stemmed from a Freedom of Information Act request that Anna Scanlon, Simonds’ campaign manager and spokeswoman, submitted to the Registrar’s Office but was told it couldn’t be fulfilled until next week, according to a declaration Scanlon made in Thursday’s court filings.
Daily Press

Questions are swirling around two close elections in the Fredericksburg region that appear destined for recounts. In a conference call Friday, House Democratic Caucus Executive Director Trent Armitage said that 55 military ballots delivered to the Stafford County registrar’s post office box on Tuesday—Election Day—went uncounted because they were not picked up until Wednesday. Democrats said they had no way of knowing which candidates the 55 votes went for, but the ballots arrived on time and came from active-duty military personnel. “We are concerned by the apparent refusal of the Registrar, allegedly with the support of the Local Electoral Board, to make available for review and copying the provisional ballot logs that each precinct is required to keep,” ACLU Virginia said in an email statement to The Free Lance–Star Friday. “We believe that these are public documents under the state’s Freedom of Information Act, and that the Registrar’s decision not to make them available is wrong. Moreover, the Registrar’s failure to be forthcoming about this and other issues that voters have raised about the election and the vote count undercuts people’s faith in the integrity of the election itself,” the ACLU statement continued.
Free Lance-Star
Stafford County registrar Greg Riddlemoser denied in a statement late Saturday that his office improperly disqualified a batch of absentee ballots. The American Civil Liberties Union in Virginia said that the registrar, with the support of the electoral board, would not make available “for review and copying” provisional ballot logs and called on them to do so. Voters who show up to the polls without a valid ID can cast a provisional ballot that will be counted only if the voter brings a copy of his or her ID to the electoral board before the vote is certified.
Free Lance-Star

Local journalism makes all journalism and, eventually, movies about journalism possible. That was the message of Wyatt Andrews, a University of Virginia professor and former CBS News correspondent, and Jim Lehrer, former executive editor and anchor for PBS’s “NewsHour,” after Sunday’s viewing of the 1987 movie “Broadcast News” at the Virginia Film Festival. The workplace drama in “Broadcast News,” from getting a story filed at the last moment to addressing a staged shot, provides a useful template for handling today’s media environment, and help viewers appreciate the amount of work it takes to create credible news, according to the panelists.
Daily Progress

National Stories

The statement was simple. Factual. A Kansas spokesperson was acknowledging that the state highway department didn’t have the money to rebuild a dangerous stretch of Interstate 70 that had been the scene of multiple wrecks and a grisly motorcycle fatality caught on video. “KDOT has lost a lot of money over the last few years,” the spokesperson said. “There’s just no funding at this point.” Simple, yes. But in Gov. Sam Brownback’s cash-strapped administration, those were fighting words. Days later, the spokesperson was fired. “Your article was the nail in my coffin for being the face of KDOT,” the spokesperson said in an email to The Kansas City Star. The terminated employee, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, had learned what it meant to cross the line — the one where the state of Kansas doesn’t discuss public business with Kansans. Kansas runs one of the most secretive state governments in the nation, and its secrecy permeates nearly every aspect of service, The Star found in a months-long investigation. From the governor’s office to state agencies, from police departments to business relationships to health care, on the floors of the House and Senate, a veil has descended over the years and through administrations on both sides of the political aisle.

An Arkansas judge is refusing to dismiss a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit connected to corruption charges against a former state senator, a private college president and a consultant. The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that the judge on Thursday rejected the request by Ecclesia College to dismiss the lawsuit seeking documents related to how state funds were used by the college in Springdale. The college argued that receiving state money doesn't subject it to the FOIA and that, as a church and a nonprofit corporation, it's doesn't have to release the documents.
U.S. News & World Report

Documents obtained by the Observer offer new insights into the Trump administration’s plans for a border wall in portions of the Rio Grande Valley. A map produced in May by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shows where the administration expects to build 33 miles of wall in 15 different segments, including portions that would tear through three wildlife areas. The documents also reveal a rating system the administration is using to rank the difficulty of building each segment, based on the topography and the legal difficulty of taking over the land.
Texas Observer

A gun-control group led by former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has sued the Trump administration, alleging it has failed to turn over documents that could show how the gun lobby is influencing the administration’s firearms policy. The lawsuit, filed by the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, accuses the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives of failing to produce public records that might reveal whether ATF officials “spoke to or were otherwise influenced by individuals affiliated with the Washington gun lobby” in the aftermath of a shooting at a Las Vegas music festival that killed 58 people. “[The National Shooting Sports Foundation] is not going to comment on the Giffords lawsuit against ATF other than to say that we do not read any political motive into ATF’s delay in responding to their FOIA request,” Lawrence G. Keane, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said in a statement. “In the past, NSSF had to file a lawsuit against ATF in order to receive records that were the subject of a FOIA request we had served on ATF. Not all things are politically motivated, sometimes it is just government bureaucracy.”
Washington Post

Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap has filed a federal lawsuit against President Trump's voter fraud commission in an effort to obtain information and correspondence about the commission's work. Dunlap, one of four Democrats on the 11-member Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, filed the lawsuit Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, more than three weeks after requesting the information. Despite the fact that he is a member of the commission, Dunlap says he has been kept in the dark about what it is doing. The suit alleges that the commission's chairman, Vice President Mike Pence, and vice chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, are in violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which prohibits the body from excluding commissioners from deliberations and information. The Executive Office of the President is also a named defendant, as the office is staffing the commission and maintaining its records.

Former Trump campaign aides Michael Caputo and Roger Stone both say they’re at a loss as to why the testimony of fellow aide Carter Page was released by the House Intelligence Committee, but their testimonies continue to be withheld, even though both men have asked for their transcripts to be made public. All three testified as part of the committee's probe into Russia's possible influence on the Trump campaign, and Caputo and Stone have specific reasons for wanting their testimony released. But so far, only Page's was given to the public.
Fox News


They’re endlessly entertaining, aren’t they? Virginia Beach City Council members. Just watch as the 11 imps vote, wobble, threaten, back down, close doors, open doors, say one thing, take it back and then say something else in that wacky way of theirs. In recent days, we’ve witnessed a splendid smorgasbord of equivocation and vacillation from some of these pols as they shook their tiny fists and declared the latest deadline on the Oceanfront arena deal to be the final one. And once the clock expired, they began to squeak that they didn’t really mean it.
Kerry Dougherty, The Virginian-Pilot