Transparency News 4/30/14

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

State and Local Stories

Legislation sponsored by U.S. Sen. Mark Warner that requires federal agencies to provide clearer information online about federal spending was approved by the House in a voice vote Monday. The measure, which unanimously passed the Senate this month, becomes law if signed by President Barack Obama. If approved, the government's website,, would be expanded within three years to make available details of how most federal agencies use taxpayer money.

Fredericksburg Planning Commissioner Edward Whelan III submitted his resignation to fellow commissioners, the mayor and the City Council on Tuesday. His action follows public questioning of his conduct by two members of the City Council on April 22 and subsequent calls by Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw and City Attorney Kathleen Dooley for hisresignation related to a conflict of interests. Whelan is manager of the Inn at the Olde Silk Mill and registered agent for the limited liability company that just bought the former Virginia Electric and Power Co.’s Embrey Power Station property. In December, as a planning commissioner, he initiated an effort to rezone the Mill District of the Princess Anne Corridor, which impacts both properties.
Free Lance-Star

National Stories

Former President George W. Bush has instructed the National Archives to release nine categories of documents from his presidency to the public, a much broader directive than expected. POLITICO reported last week that Bush signed a letter to the Archives three years ago allowing the keeper of presidential records to release, among other things, informational and factual memoranda, talking points on policy decisions, and recommendations about whether to sign legislation. POLITICO obtained the letter through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Professors and staff members from state universities across Kansas came together over the weekend to criticize a policy the Board of Regents plans to put in place soon that would allow university chiefs to fire employees for social media posts. Roughly 50 attended a forum on the University of Kansas campus Sunday to discuss the policy, which was announced by the regents in December in response to a tweet three months earlier by Kansas journalism professor David Guth, the Lawrence Journal-World reported.
Kansas City Star

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken criticized as "misguided" a plan being considered by the FCC's head to let companies pay for preferential access to ISPs, warning that it would "destroy" the concept of an open Internet. In a letter sent to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler on Tuesday, Franken said that the idea would constitute "an affront to Net neutrality and have no place in an online marketplace that values competition and openness." A federal appeals court decision in January essentially assigned the Federal Communications Commission to write new Open Internet rules. Wheeler has since drafted rules that would let Internet service providers charge companies varying rates for faster connection speeds. Franken blasted that idea, predicting that it would create a "fast lane" that would shut out small businesses and jack up consumer costs.

Republicans say e-mails released Tuesday on the attack in Benghazi, Libya, include "the smoking gun" that shows a White House official urged that the assault on the U.S. consulate be blamed on a protest that never happened. The e-mails, obtained by conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch through a Freedom of Information Act request, include one in which White House official Ben Rhodes lists "goals" for then-U.N. ambassador Susan Rice to meet in explaining the attack and protests occurring across the Middle East that week to the American public.
USA Today

Despite criticism from both insurers and hospitals, Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler adopted a new rule Monday that spells out what health insurers must do to make sure their networks of hospitals and doctors can provide covered benefits to patients. Kreidler’s office published the rule Monday, and it will take effect May 26. The rule will apply to individual or small-group health plans in 2015 — essentially all state-regulated health plans offered inside or outside Washington Healthplanfinder, the state’s online insurance exchange. For patients, the general thrust of the rule, which affects plans offered for coverage in 2015, is “no surprises.” It requires insurers to spell out how their benefit arrangements affect patients’ pocketbooks, clearly explain referral and authorization practices, tell policyholders whether emergency-room doctors in an in-network hospital’s emergency room are also in-network, and update directories of in-network providers monthly.
Seattle Times


Spring is here, which can mean only one thing: torture. You might know it by its more familiar name, the public-radio pledge drive. The pledge drive resembles Chinese water torture. It starts out as a minor irritant. But it continues, hour after hour and day after day, growing first uncomfortable and then agonizing. By the end of it even hardened commandos are reduced to blubbering, mucus-snuffling wrecks begging someone to make it stop, please just make it stop.
A. Barton Hinkle, Times Dispatch