Posts tagged ‘Mark Tapscott’

Protecting Public Employees From Accountability

Mark Tapscott writes:

Legislators in the California Assembly have approved on a 68-0 vote a bill that would exempt multiple categories of state and local government employees from having their names disclosed in public property records, according to Steven Greenhut....

Greenhut, who is vice president of the Franklin Center for Government Public Integrity points out that such a measure has implications far beyond public safety concerns: "Public officials and their family members will be able to hide their identities, which will undermine the reliability of property transactions. Dirty officials will pull off real estate scams without scrutiny," he said.

As it turns out, Arizona has a prohibition from publishing the home addresses of government officials over the Internet.  Which Sheriff Joe Arpaio (who else) has used to try to thwart investigations of his real estate dealings

In 2004, during an election cycle, reporter John Dougherty found that Arpaio had over a million dollars of investments in commercial real estate parcels.  Dougherty asked the question, how does a lifetime public official making $78,000 a year have so much real estate?  Arpaio could have replied that his family was independently wealthy or that he had parlayed his real estate investment from rags to riches.  Instead, Arpaio used an obscure law aimed at protecting the home addresses of government officials to remove access to any public records of his commercial real estate transactions at the same time he removed his home address from these data bases.  Instead of explaining where the money came from, he used his power to cover his tracks.

If passed, this means that California officials can take bribes with impunity, as long as they take these bribes in the form of real estate.

Is This Right?

I am really reluctant to post stuff like this without some independent vetting, because so many groups out there will distort reality into pretzels.  That being said, anyone know if this is accurate?  Or maybe point us all to a better source and/or debunking in the comments?

    "Section 220 of S. 1, the lobbying reform bill currently before the Senate, would require grassroots causes, even bloggers, who communicate to 500 or more members of the public on policy matters, to register and report quarterly to Congress the same as the big K Street lobbyists. Section 220 would amend existing lobbying reporting law by creating the most expansive intrusion on First Amendment rights ever. For the first time in history, critics of Congress will need to register and report with Congress itself.

    "The bill would require reporting of 'paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying,' but defines 'paid' merely as communications to 500 or more members of the public, with no other qualifiers.

    "On January 9, the Senate passed Amendment 7 to S. 1, to create criminal penalties, including up to one year in jail, if someone 'knowingly and willingly fails to file or report.'

Mark Tapscott covered this issue here, but I am still not sure I have an accurate read on all this.

Update:  See comments.  As I feared, the above may distort the issue.  Brandon Berg thinks the law kicks in when you communicate to 500 or more members of the public on policy matters and get them to contact Congress.  It is not at all clear why I should have to register to perform such an activity, but this is narrower than implied in the press release above.

Update #2:  I am becomming increasingly convinced that Lieberman and McCain are the same guy.  Even down to their desire to protect incumbent politicians from political speech.

Update #3:  Jacob Sullum is also skeptical that the law is really as broad as advertised above.

Lobbying "Reform"

Via Instapundit, Mark Tapscott reports that Nancy Pelosi is cooking up a lobbying "reform" bill that  will be to lobbying what McCain-Feingold was to elections:  A figleaf labelled "reform" behind which politicians can hide while in effect making it more difficult for ordinary citizens to exercise their free speech.

Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has cooked up with Public
Citizen's Joan Claybrook a "lobbying reform" that actually protects
rich special interests and activists millionaires while clamping new
shackles on citizens' First Amendment rights to petition Congress and
speak their minds....

That
is bad news for the First Amendment and for preserving the kind of
healthy, open debate that is essential to holding politicians,
bureaucrats and special interests to account for their conduct of the
public business.

The key provision of the 2006 bill was its
redefinition of grassroots lobbying to include small citizens groups
whose messages about Congress and public policy issues are directed
toward the general public, according to attorneys for the Free Speech
Coalition.

All informational and educational materials produced
by such groups would have to be registered and reported on a quarterly
basis. Failure to report would result in severe civil penalties (likely
followed soon by criminal penalties as well).

In addition, the
2006 bill created a new statutory category of First Amendment activity
to be regulated by Congress. Known as "grassroots lobbying firms,"
these groups would be required to register with Congress and be subject
to penalties whenever they are paid $50,000 or more to communicate with
the general public during any three-month period.

In other words,
for the first time in American history, potentially millions of
concerned citizens involved in grassroots lobbying and representing
viewpoints from across the entire political spectrum would have to
register with Congress in order to exercise their First Amendment
rights.

There is even more bad news here, though, because the
Pelosi-Claybrook proposal includes loopholes big enough to protect Big
Labor, Big Corporations and Big Nonprofits, as well as guys with Big
Wallets like George Soros. Big Government, you see, always takes care
of its big friends.

The Pelosi-Claybrook proposal builds on the
restrictions on free speech created by campaign finance reform measures
like McCain-Feingold that bar criticism of congressional incumbents for
30 days prior to a primary and 60 days before a general election.

It should be no surprise that Common Cause, whose main cause is to champion unlimited government power, is behind both bills.

Interesting Demographic Data on the Army

Its always interesting when someone successfully challenges a widely-held assumption.  Like much of America, I have always accepted the notion that the all-volunteer army attracted a disproportionate number of poorer enlistees.  This made sense, since a large part of the recruiting message is one of education and opportunity, which should be powerful inducements to folks trying to get themselves out of poverty.  A few have argued that this is not true, that messages of duty, honor, and country resonate with all classes, but we have all been trained of late by the cynical media that those are dated and powerless concepts.  The main difference in perception about army demographics has been between those who thought the perceived demographic skew was bad and those who thought it just was.  A number folks of late have actually supported a draft due to this perception of a demographic bias.

So it was interesting to see this study by Tim Kane, as unearthed by Mark Tapscott, that tends to explode this myth.  Not having family income data for army enlistees, the study chose as a reasonable proxy the relative wealth of their home zip code.  Based on this methodology, we find that the all-volunteer army actually skews rich rather than poor:

Military_demographics

As with all studies like this, I caveat that I have not seen their methodology, etc. etc.  However, it is interesting in that it is completely opposite of public perception.  Since I didn't really find anything horrible about the old perceived skew, this study doesn't change any of my opinions on the army or the draft, but it will be interesting to see if Charlie Rangel reverses course and starts criticizing the army for being a rich kid's boondoggle.