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House committee bucks partisan norms

Members of the special House panel charged with reimagining the day-to-day of Congress are doing something unheard of Wednesday afternoon – sitting all together.

For many decades and without any apparent exception, Democrats and Republicans have sat on opposite sides of the dais at all committee meetings, one of the myriad symbolic signals of a Capitol where partisan tribalism is a first principal.

At this hearing, however, the six Republicans and six Democrats on the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress are breaking with longstanding tradition and bucking this partisan norm with a bipartisan game of "musical chairs," according to a spokeswoman for Georgia Republican Tom Graves, the committee's vice chairman. The seats for the 12 lawmakers were arranged on the rostrum alternating Democrats and Republicans, so that no lawmakers have to even "reach across the aisle" in search of bipartisan collaboration.

The committee ended its separate Twitter accounts for each party this week. The accounts were merged into one — @ModernizeCmte — "in the spirit of bipartisanship," Graves' office said in an email.

At Wednesday's hearing, the committee is hearing from six former House members in its search of ways to improve the rules, procedures and policies of the lower chamber. The panel has until year's end to come up with changes that can muster endorsement by at least two-thirds of its members.

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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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