Category Archives: Elected Officials

Facebook’s new ‘Town Hall’ feature helps you find and contact your government reps

Source: Sarah Perez, TechCrunch, March 14, 2017

In Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s nearly 6,000-word manifesto published last month, he laid out a number of global ambitions he had for the social network in the days ahead — including one where its users became more “civically-engaged” and voted more often. Now it seems Facebook has taken its first steps toward making that possible, through a new feature it’s calling “Town Hall.”

This latest addition has just popped up on the “More” menu in Facebook’s mobile app, and offers a simple way for users to find and connect with their government representatives on a local, state and federal level…..

The Paradox of Community Power: Cultural Processes and Elite Authority in Participatory Governance

Source: Jeremy R. Levine, Social Forces, Vol. 95 no. 3, March 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
From town halls to public forums, disadvantaged neighborhoods appear more “participatory” than ever. Yet increased participation has not necessarily resulted in increased influence. This article, drawing on a four-year ethnographic study of redevelopment politics in Boston, presents an explanation for the decoupling of participation from the promise of democratic decision-making. I find that poor urban residents gain the appearance of power and status by invoking and policing membership in “the community”—a boundary sometimes, though not always, implicitly defined by race. But this appearance of power is largely an illusion. In public meetings, government officials can reinforce their authority and disempower residents by exploiting the fact that the boundary demarcating “the community” lacks a standardized definition. When officials laud “the community” as an abstract ideal rather than a specific group of people, they reduce “the community process” to a bureaucratic procedure. Residents appear empowered, while officials retain ultimate decision-making authority. I use the tools of cultural sociology to make sense of these findings and conclude with implications for the study of participatory governance and urban inequality.

The Role of Constituency, Party, and Industry in Pennsylvania’s Act 13

Source: Bradford H. Bishop, Mark R. Dudley, State Politics & Policy Quarterly, OnlineFirst, First Published December 1, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
While a large body of research exists regarding the role of industry money on roll-call voting in the U.S. Congress, there is surprisingly little scholarship pertaining to industry influence on state politics. This study fills this void in an analysis of campaign donations and voting during passage of Act 13 in Pennsylvania during 2011 and 2012. After collecting information about natural gas production in state legislative districts, we estimate a series of multivariate models aimed at uncovering whether campaign donations contributed to a more favorable policy outcome for industry. Our findings indicate that campaign donations played a small but systematic role in consideration of the controversial legislation, which represented one of the first and most important state-level regulatory reforms for the hydraulic fracturing industry.

The D.C. Think Tank Behind Donald Trump

Source: Alex Shephard, New Republic, February 22, 2017

How the Heritage Foundation is shaping the president’s playbook. …. The Heritage-Trump alliance is one of the more improbable developments in an election season that was full of them. A year ago, Heritage’s political arm dismissed Trump as a distraction, with no track record of allegiance to conservative causes. Today the group’s fingerprints are on virtually every policy Trump advocates, from his economic agenda to his Supreme Court nominees. According to Politico, Heritage employees acted as a “shadow transition team,” vetting potential Trump staffers to make sure the administration is well stocked with conservative appointees. …..

How ‘voter fraud’ crusades undermine voting rights

Source: Jesse Rhodes, The Conversation, February 1, 2017

….Put bluntly, there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud by impersonation in the United States. “Impersonation” is what we call the deliberate misrepresentation of identity by individuals in order to manipulate election outcomes.

Research suggests allegations of voter fraud and the calls for stringent election rules are motivated by the desire to suppress voting by citizens of color.

Because stringent election rules suppress minority voting, Trump’s call for an attack on nonexistent voter fraud should be met with serious concern by all Americans. The last thing the United States needs is more measures that make it harder to vote. ….

Missing Members of Congress Action Plan

Source: Indivisible, February 2017

From the summary:
Former congressional staff explain how to make your Members of Congress more accessible

Where on earth has your Member of Congress gone? Something strange has been happening in the last month or so: Members of Congress (MoCs) from all over the country are going missing. They’re still turning up for votes on Capitol Hill, and they’re still meeting with lobbyists and friendly audiences back home—but their public event schedules are mysteriously blank. Odd.

This is happening for a very simple reason: MoCs do not want to look weak or unpopular—and they know that Trump’s agenda is very, very unpopular. Remember: Every MoC wakes up every morning thinking, “How can I convince my constituents that they should reelect me?” That means MoCs are enormously sensitive to their local image, and they will work very hard to avoid signs of public disapproval from constituents. Some MoCs have clearly made the calculation that they can lay low, avoid their constituents, and hope the current storm blows over. It’s your job to change that calculus.

This toolkit describes how local groups can make missing MoCs more accessible. MoCs are gambling that out of sight means out of mind. It will take some work, but their constituents have power win at this game. It means getting active, standing together indivisible, and getting local press attention on your MoC’s cowardly behavior. This works–and this brief describes the nuts and bolts of getting it done…..

Related:
How to Have a Successful Town Hall
The week of February 17-26 is the first district work period (“recess”) of the new Congress. Members of Congress (MoCs) will be back home holding public events and meeting with constituents. These meetings are a great opportunity for your group to remind your MoCs that they need to stand up for you—and that means standing up against the Trump agenda.

“I Object!”—Withholding Consent and Filibustering
Democrats may be in the minority, but that doesn’t mean that your Democratic senator is powerless to resist Trump’s agenda. The Senate is a peculiar legislative body, with lots of arcane rules designed to protect the minority from being trampled by an irresponsible majority.

Congressional Cheat Sheet
We want to make sure you’re well armed to combat the Trump agenda where the fight is happening—at the grassroots level. Even though Capitol Hill might seem like a strange, esoteric, and ego-driven little bubble (and it is!), there are easy ways to stay on top of what’s happening in Washington, DC. Here are some resources Capitol Hill staff use all the time to help them keep abreast of what’s going on.

Emergency Call: Stand Against the Muslim and Refugee Ban
To explain how you can resist, the Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Indivisible, International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), and National Immigration Law Center (NILC-IJF) hosted a planning call that explains WHAT the Executive Orders are, WHY they’re unconstitutional and illegal, HOW you can push your Senators to restore justice, and answer your questions.

Attention, State Government Watchdogs: You Might Need This

Source: Linda Poon, CityLab, February 9, 2017

A new search engine called Digital Democracy can comb through videos, transcripts, and records of what goes on in America’s statehouses. … Some of this kind of information is recorded, but little is released in a timely manner or can be easily accessed by the public. Blakeslee aims to change that with Digital Democracy, an online tool that archives every state hearing in California—and now, New York—since 2015 through videos, transcripts, and records of who said what. The tool also keeps track of elected officials and their financial ties to lobbyists and big corporations—all searchable by name, issue, bill number, etc. Think of it as Google for state government. … First launched in 2015 in California with cofounder and California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, the tool is now being taken across the country to New York via a partnership with NAACP. Digital Democracy now has information on some 15,000 individuals involved in policymaking in those two states. Eventually, Florida and Texas will get their own platforms, expanding Digital Democracy’s reach to roughly a third of all U.S. citizens….