Transparency News 11/5/18



November 5, 2018


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state & local news stories


Liberty University leased an expansive list of university-owned student email addresses to Republican Corey Stewart’s campaign for U.S. Senate in a pair of rare transactions that campaign experts said represents a new front in the growing world of digital electioneering in federal races. The Stewart campaign paid the university a total of $9,754.80 in two separate payments, according to publicly available campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. It is unclear exactly how many email addresses are included in Liberty’s list but in a telephone interview University President Jerry Falwell Jr. hinted it could be in the tens of thousands. In 2017, the progressive political group NextGen Virginia obtained contact information of tens of thousands of Virginia public college and university students through a series of open records request, prompting lawmakers to amend the Virginia Freedom of Information Act earlier this year to explicitly prevent the release of student phone numbers and email addresses without written approval, according to The Richmond Times-Dispatch. Because private universities are not subject to FOIA requests, campaigns have been effectively barred from directly acquiring contact information from private university students unless an institution opts to make the data available for sale.
The News & Advance

In August, Virginia’s governor called lawmakers back to Richmond to change 11 racially gerrymandered districts. But legislators failed to do what Gov. Ralph Northam said he wanted when he called the special session — redraw district lines.  The failed special session came at a cost to taxpayers — almost $40,000 out of the state’s general fund. Data provided by the House of Delegates clerk’s office shows per diems paid to the 96 delegates who attended the Aug. 30 session cost $19,488. Mileage reimbursement, for those that asked for it, totaled $10,814. Twenty-two delegates met immediately after the special session ended on Aug. 30, but didn’t receive any extra cash allowances. When they met again on Sept. 27, the 22 Privileges and Elections Committee members each received a $300 per diem and $2,251 of mileage reimbursement.
Daily Press


national stories of interest

A judge on Friday signed an agreed-upon order saying Faulkner County Judge Jim Baker had violated the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. Baker had first refused to give public emails that he sent and received to a supporter of his re-election opponent but turned them over Thursday, a day after a lawsuit was filed over the matter. Faulkner County Circuit Judge Chris Carnahan signed the order after both parties in the case agreed on it. He ordered Baker to pay legal fees incurred by the plaintiff, Bob Gregory, totaling $187.50. Gregory is a supporter of Republican Damon Edwards, the county tax assessor who is challenging Democrat Baker’s re-election bid. County attorney David Hogue said Baker, not the county, would pay the fees.
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

A conservative watchdog group has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the State Department over access to records on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's security clearance status. Filed earlier this week by Judicial Watch, the lawsuit also seeks all records related to four of Clinton's top aides from her time leading the department.
Washington Examiner





editorials & columns


Amid the possibility of legislation to establish rules governing access to records by the court system, the Supreme Court announced in January that it would author those rules itself, adopting a Dec. 1 deadline that had been included in one proposed bill. The proposed rules, announced on Oct. 19, can be viewed here or at. The court will be accepting public comment on them through Dec. 3. Members of the public interested in contributing to this critical process should write to Patricia L. Harrington, Clerk, Supreme Court of Virginia, 100 N. Ninth St., 5th Floor, Richmond, VA 23219 or send an email to with the subject line "Comment on Access to Judicial Records."  The best hope of having a state judiciary that is transparent and accountable to the public is taking place now, and it’s vital that Virginians demand greater access to records from the court system.
The Virginian-Pilot

Some commentators new to privacy debate are quick to offer what they think is a clever idea: assign property rights over personal information to the user and let the marketplace decide what happens next. Whether this idea is meritorious has big implications for how we think about things like data portability and consent.  Turns out it’s wrong. Once it’s clear that individuals own their information, so the argument goes, others can pay them to use the information for various purposes. Privacy policy would need to do little more than assure that consumers have full information about what might be done with their information.  Under this rubric, the key to privacy becomes notice-and-consent mechanisms to provide people with full information and the opportunity to choose. Let’s take a look at the many ways privacy scholars have discredited this idea.
Mark McCarthy, Forbes