Category Archives: Elected Officials

How to Rebuild the Labor Movement, State by State – What progressives can learn from conservative anti-union advocacy

Source: Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, American Prospect, Spring 2019

Last year’s strikes and direct action by workers, especially red-state public school teachers, have rightly been celebrated for injecting new energy into the American labor movement. Yet these mobilizations should not distract progressives from the magnitude of the challenges facing unions and their supporters in the Democratic Party. The next time Democrats regain control of Congress and the White House, they will need to put major reforms of federal labor law front and center. In the meantime, they ought to learn from conservative anti-union efforts about pursuing change through the states and developing a politically minded strategy for labor reform.

In particular, Democrats need to think about labor law reform not just as yet another area of public policy, but rather as conservatives do: as a set of reforms that can build durable political power that enables further policy wins on other issues. Before spelling out the specific lessons that the left can take from the right’s victories, it is helpful to step back to see just how differently Democrats and Republicans think about unions.

All-Out Republican Opposition versus Democratic Ambivalence

Over the past four decades, conservative political activists and donors, often bolstered by private-sector businesses, have fruitfully used public policy as a political weapon to weaken unions, especially public-sector unions. Crucially, these cross-state conservative coalitions, above all the conservative “troika” of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the State Policy Network, and Americans for Prosperity, have never seen their anti-labor efforts as simply an end in themselves. Instead, right-wing advocacy against unions recognizes the inherently political role that the labor movement plays—and thus that efforts to weaken unions will eventually redound to conservatives’ long-term political victories. …..

2020 and the Democrats’ Theory of Change

Source: Paul Starr, American Prospect, March 21, 2019

The Democrats can and must think big, but they have to frame their ideas around the realities of a coalition party that includes suburban moderates.

Related:
Getting Serious About Power
Source: Caroline Fredrickson, American Prospect, April 17, 2019

Can we learn something about the right’s strategic coherence without emulating either their ideas or their contempt for democracy?

Secrecy versus sunshine: Efforts to hide government records never stop

Source: Brent Walth, The Conversation, May 15, 2019

….All 50 states give the public the right to see government records and documents, but many state legislatures are weighing changes in their open-records laws.

These changes rarely end up making our government more transparent. Instead, lawmakers often try to conceal public records from the people who own them – that is, you and me.

Public records laws exist to allow us to see into the decision-making of our government. When bureaucrats make efforts to obscure our view into their actions, it serves only to undermine government officials’ accountability.

It also diminishes the public’s understanding of, and faith in, democracy. ….

Women in Congress 1917-2019: Service Dates and Committee Assignments by Member, and Lists by State and Congress

Source: Jennifer E. Manning, Ida A. Brudnick, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report, RL30261, Updated April 9, 2019

In total 365 women have been elected or appointed to Congress, 247 Democrats and 118 Republicans. These figures include six nonvoting Delegates, one each from Guam, Hawaii, the District of Columbia, and American Samoa, and two from the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as one Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico. Of these 365 women, there have been
– 309 (211 Democrats, 98 Republicans) women elected only to the House of Representatives;
– 40 (25 Democrats, 15 Republicans) women elected or appointed only to the Senate; and
– 16 (11 Democrats, 5 Republicans) women who have served in both houses.

A record 131 women currently serve in the 116th Congress. Of these 131 women, there are
– 25 in the Senate (17 Democrats and 8 Republicans);
– 102 Representatives in the House (89 Democrats and 13 Republicans); and
– 4 women in the House (2 Democrats and 2 Republicans) who serve as Delegates or Resident Commissioner, representing the District of Columbia, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.

This report includes brief biographical information, committee assignments, dates of service, district information, and listings by Congress and state, and (for Representatives) congressional districts of the 365 women who have been elected or appointed to Congress. It will be updated when there are relevant changes in the makeup of Congress

Fundraising for Favors? Linking Lobbyist-Hosted Fundraisers to Legislative Benefits

Source: Amy Melissa McKay, Political Research Quarterly, Online First, April 24, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Do legislators and lobbyists trade favors? This study uses uncommon data sources and plagiarism software to detect a rarely observed relationship between interest group lobbyists and sitting Members of Congress. Comparison of letters to a Senate committee written by lobby groups to legislative amendments introduced by committee members reveals similar and even identical language, providing compelling evidence that groups persuaded legislators to introduce amendments valued by the group. Moreover, the analysis suggests that these language matches are more likely when the requesting lobby group hosts a fundraising event for the senator. The results hold while controlling for ideological agreement between the senator and the group, the group’s campaign contributions to the senator, and the group’s lobbying expenditures, annual revenue, and home-state connections.

The shutdown: Drowning government in the bathtub

Source: William E. Nelson, The Conversation, February 12, 2019

…. Shuttering the government for the third time since Trump took office remains possible, but is less likely now, given Monday’s progress towards a deal in Congressional talks over securing the border. Meanwhile, bipartisan support, including among prominent Republicans like Sens. Chuck Grassley, Lisa Murkowski, Lamar Alexander and Rob Portman, is rising for bills that would prohibit shutdowns.

The president’s observable objective in this political conflict is getting money from Congress to build the border wall.

As legal scholars who have spent much of our careers analyzing the interaction between government and society, including the economy, we believe that intentionally or not, the shutdown also was consistent with a goal long sought by a subset of the Republican Party – not to be confused with traditional, moderate Republicans – that wants to dismantle the government.

Starve the beast

These advocates of limiting government’s size have a traffic cop theory of the state, featuring a minimalist state focused on safety and security.

Many believe that government is at best superfluous and at worst a drag on a free market. It has long been their aim to cut taxes to “starve the beast.” ….

Executive Branch Ethics and Financial Conflicts of Interest: Disqualification

Source: Cynthia Brown, Congressional Research Service, CRS Legal Sidebar, LSB10250, January 31, 2019

Newly proposed legislation in the 116thCongress concerns government ethics reform, including conflicts of interest among executive branch officials.Federal officials have a basic duty not to allow private gain to influence their government service, which includes “not hold[ing] financial interests that conflict with the conscientious performance of duty.” Federal statutes, as well as a code of conduct for executive branch employees, make this principle part of a federal regulatory scheme intended to prevent officials from benefiting personally from their offices. The current federal statutory scheme regulating conflicts between an official’s personal financial interests and his or her official duties has three prongs: disclosure, disqualification, and divestiture (i.e., a 3-D system). This discussion of the disqualification requirement, also known as recusal,is the second in a three-part series examining conflicts of interest in the executive branch…..

Presidential Travel: Secret Service and DOD Need to Ensure That Expenditure Reports Are Prepared and Submitted to Congress

Source: U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), GAO-19-178: Published: Jan 17, 2019. Publicly Released: Feb 5, 2019.

From the summary:
We were asked to examine the cost of 4 trips to the Mar-a-Lago resort by the President and 3 international trips by Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump between January and March 2017.

We estimate
– that federal agencies spent about $13.6 million for the Mar-a-Lago trips. The Departments of Defense and Homeland Security incurred most of the costs—about $8.5 million and $5.1 million, respectively. This excludes certain classified cost information.
– the Secret Service spent about $396,000 protecting the President’s sons and their spouses on 3 international trips.

We recommended that agencies comply with reporting requirements for protection costs.

Conquerors of the Courts

Source: David Montgomery, Washington Post Magazine, January 2, 2019

Forget Trump’s Supreme Court picks. The Federalist Society’s impact on the law goes much deeper.

…. The conservative and libertarian society for law and public policy studies has reached an unprecedented peak of power and influence. Brett Kavanaugh, whose membership in the society dates to his Yale Law School days, has just been elevated to the Supreme Court; he is the second of President Trump’s appointees, following Neil Gorsuch, another justice closely associated with the society. They join Justice Clarence Thomas (who said last spring he’s “been a part of the Federalist Society now since meeting with them … in the 1980s”), Chief Justice John Roberts (listed as a member in 1997-98) and Justice Samuel Alito (a periodic speaker at society events). The newly solidified conservative majority on the court will inevitably decide more cases in line with the society’s ideals — which include checking federal power, protecting individual liberty and interpreting the Constitution according to its original meaning. In practice, this could mean fewer regulations of the environment and health care, more businesses allowed to refuse service to customers on religious grounds, and denial of protections claimed by newly vocal classes of minorities, such as transgender people.

But having allies on the highest court of the land is just the top layer of the Federalist Society’s expanding sway. For one thing, there is the judicial nomination process itself. When Trump was campaigning in 2016, he made the shrewd and un­or­tho­dox move of publicizing a list of 11 conservative legal stars that he promised to draw from if he got a chance to pick a Supreme Court justice. Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society, played a key role in suggesting the names, along with Trump’s future White House counsel, Don McGahn (also a society member), and the conservative Heritage Foundation. The list was expanded twice to include Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and others. Leo took a leave from his job at the Federalist Society to advise the White House on the confirmation process for Gorsuch and Kavanaugh — reprising a role he played for the George W. Bush White House in putting Roberts and Alito on the court.

The next most important segment of the judiciary — the federal appeals courts — is also filling up with Federalist Society members: Twenty-five of the 30 appeals court judges Trump has appointed are or were members of the society ….