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Balance of Power

Government watchdogs over-emphasize waste but under-stress mission accomplishment, think tank says

Those involved with oversight of the executive branch should do more than simply investigate waste, fraud and abuse, one of the most prominent "good government" think tanks has concluded.

In a report released Tuesday, the Bipartisan Policy Center examined how executive branch agencies review their own operations and how Congress puts fresh eyes on the bureaucracy, analyzed the effectiveness of current practices, and offered recommendations to improve processes.

The report was produced by a collection of former federal officials assembled last fall to offer recommendations on improving the practices of both internal and external oversight.

The report is a follow-up from a study last year hailing the success of the inspector general's pursuit of uncovering abuse and fraud. The new report concludes that while such investigations are a necessary part of executive branch oversight, government watchdogs should also seek to broaden their focus to account for the performance of the agencies.

"While the compliance aspect of these investigative activities has surely been beneficial, the fact remains that most of the government is spending too much time complying with reporting requirements and not enough time accomplishing their missions," the new report concludes. "By shifting the emphasis of oversight to improved performance rather than compliance for compliance's sake, there may be meaningful program improvements that benefit both the federal government and the public."

The report's recommendations include bodies that provide external oversight increasing their focus on an agency's performance goals and more collaboration among both internal and external oversight bodies, in general.

"Effective oversight is multidimensional and entails more than just a compliance component," said Dan Blair, a senior counselor at BPC and former deputy director of the Office of Personnel Management. "It requires a framework that evaluates risk and assesses agency and program performance."

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Open Government
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FEC Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub

The struggle is real: FEC stalled on regulations for online political ads

The Federal Election Commission has once again punted on establishing rules for identifying who is sponsoring online political advertisements. Thursday marked the fourth consecutive meeting in which the topic fell to the wayside without a clear path forward.

FEC Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub revived debate on the topic in June when she introduced a proposal on how to regulate online political ads. In her proposal, she said the growing threat of misinformation meant that requiring transparency for political ads was "a small but necessary step."

Vice Chairman Matthew Petersen and Commissioner Caroline Hunter put forth their own proposal soon after Weintraub, but the commissioners have failed to find any middle ground. At Thursday's meeting, a decision on the agenda item was pushed off to a later date.

Weintraub's proposal says the funding source should be clearly visible on the face of the ad, with some allowance for abbreviations. But Petersen and Hunter want to allow more flexibility for tiny ads that cannot accommodate these disclaimers due to space.

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Open Government
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California's Supreme Court is expediting President Trump's challenge to a new state law that would require him to release five years of tax returns in order to get on the state ballot for the 2020 election.

California court expedites Trump challenge to new tax returns requirement

The California Supreme Court is fast-tracking its review of a challenge to a new law that would require President Trump to make public his tax returns in order to get on the state's ballot for the 2020 election.

A lawsuit seeking to block implementation of the law was filed August 6 by the California Republican Party against Secretary of State Alex Padilla. It claims the law violates California's constitution.

Two other challenges, one filed by Trump's personal lawyers, are pending in federal court.

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