Category Archives: Elected Officials

IssueVoter

Source: IssueVoter, 2017

How it Works
1. Receive alerts before bills pass
Choose the issues you care about & get alerts about relevant new bills. IssueVoter summarizes them, and offers pros, cons, and related news for context, keeping you informed year-round.
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2. Send your opinion directly to your rep
With 1-click, IssueVoter lets your Rep know how you want them to vote on bills, without you having to pick up the phone or mail a letter.

3. Track your rep’s votes and bill outcomes
Your private IssueVoter profile tracks how often your elected officials vote your way, keeping politicians accountable and helping you make an informed decision at election time.

Before IssueVoter

  • Bills are hard to research and understand
  • Contacting your rep requires snail mail, picking up the phone, or filling out long forms online
  • Petitions don’t work and you never discover the outcome
  • Issues you care about are scattered across multiple single-issue organizations
  • After IssueVoter

  • Bills are summarized, along with pros, cons, and recent news
  • IssueVoter tracks your rep’s votes, bill outcomes, and how often you agree
  • Send your opinion directly to your rep in just 1-click
  • Act on all the issues you care about in one place
  • More Machine Learning About Congress’ Priorities

    Source: Jeremy B. Merrill November 20, 2017

    We keep training machine learning models on Congress. Find out what this one learned about lawmakers’ top issues.

    Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is a tax wonk ― and most observers of Congress know that. But knowing what interests the other 434 members of Congress is harder.

    To make it easier to know what issues each lawmaker really focuses on, we’re launching a new feature in our Represent database called Policy Priorities. We had two goals in creating it: To help researchers and journalists understand what drives particular members of Congress and to enable regular citizens to compare their representatives’ priorities to their own and their communities.

    We created Policy Priorities using some sophisticated computer algorithms (more on this in a second) to calculate interest based on what each congressperson talks ― and brags ― about in their press releases…..

    Presidential obstruction of justice: The case of Donald J. Trump

    Source: Barry H. Berke, Noah Bookbinder, and Norman Eisen, Brookings Institution, October 10, 2017

    From the introduction:
    In this paper, we break down and analyze the question of whether President Trump may have obstructed justice and explain the criminal and congressional actions that could follow from an obstruction investigation. Addressing the possibility of criminal behavior by President Trump and the complicated issues it raises is not a task that we take lightly. Dissecting allegations of criminality leveled against an individual who has been duly elected president and who has sworn to preserve, protect, and defend our Constitution is an inherently solemn task. But it is our hope that by presenting a rigorous legal analysis of the potential case against the president, we will help the American people and their representatives understand the contours of the issues, regardless of whether it is eventually litigated in a court of law, the halls of Congress, or the court of public opinion.

    Our paper proceeds in four parts. In Section I, we summarize the relevant facts and allegations that can be gleaned from witness testimony and credible media reports. In Section II, we explain the law governing obstruction of justice and how it applies to the apparent facts and allegations as currently known. In Section III, we lay out the options available after Special Counsel Mueller has completed his investigation. These options include referral of the case to Congress, indictment of the president, holding the case pending removal of the president, and closing the case without indictment. Finally, in Section IV, we discuss the actions that Congress could take concurrently with or in addition to Mueller’s investigation. We explain that although Congress’s decision to take those steps is ultimately governed by both political and legal standards, there is precedent for impeaching a president on grounds that he has obstructed justice, obstructed a congressional investigation, or been convicted of a crime, should those circumstances arise.

    We also have appended a number of documents that form the factual and legal basis for this white paper. Appendix A contains a factual chronology with the sources we relied on as well as a copy of former FBI Director James Comey’s statement for the record before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Appendix B contains copies of the federal obstruction laws and other relevant criminal statutes. Appendix C contains the authorities governing Special Counsel Mueller, including the Department of Justice’s special counsel regulations and the order defining his jurisdiction. Appendix D contains the articles of impeachment we discuss, official versions of which can be difficult to locate.

    Finally, one crucial caveat that is important to note: the publication of this paper comes at a time when our understanding of the facts is still developing and without the benefit of the investigative tools that a prosecutor (or even a defense attorney) might employ. While we fully expect that our understanding of the facts relevant to this case will improve in the weeks and months ahead, we believe that the analysis we provide and the precedents we have collected will be relevant to the discussion regardless of what the investigations by Special Counsel Mueller and by Congress uncover…..

    Related:
    Appendix

    Deregulating For Dollars: How Trump’s Anti-Regulation Agenda Could Boost His Own Pocketbook

    Source: David N. Cicilline and Rick Claypool, Public Citizen, October 11, 2017

    From the introduction:
    …. This report highlights six examples of cases in which President Trump’s business interests could benefit from his administration’s plans to dismantle public protections. Gutting these protections – the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Rule and ban on brain-damaging pesticide chlorpyrifos, the Department of Labor’s overtime rule, the National Labor Relations Board’s “joint employer” rule, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s pay transparency rule and the Department of Homeland Security’s cap on H-2B visa workers — could benefit the Trump Organization. At the same time, these rollbacks would harm low- and middle-income Americans, many of whom supported his candidacy.

    The report also provides nine additional examples off anti-corruption restrictions, consumer protections and worker protections that could be rolled back under Trump, to the potential benefit of his companies. It also notes Trump’s potential conflicts of interest relating to an affordable housing program from which he and his family profit and details how Trump could benefit from restrictions on class action lawsuits and tax cuts to benefit corporations and the rich.

    At issue are not only the direct monetary gains that Trump may garner from deregulatory moves. His ongoing ownership of a wide range of business interests can’t help but color his approach to regulatory policy, as it relates both to specific rules and broad policy considerations.

    The stakes are high. Trump’s deregulatory agenda will result in more workers facing injuries and discrimination, more consumers ripped off and more pollution accelerating climate change and poisoning our air and water. The more Trump’s deregulatory agenda is realized, the more the costs will be borne by the American public. ….

    MapLight – Data

    Source: Maplight.org, 2017

    MapLight tracks several data sets that you can search for evidence of money’s influence on politics.

    CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS
    Top contributions from major donors to congressional politicians.

    CONGRESSIONAL BILLS
    Bills paired with contributions, positions taken by special interests, and vote results.

    LEGISLATORS
    Profiles of elected officials with campaign finance statistics.

    LOBBYING
    See how much money companies and interest groups spend trying to influence lawmakers.

    BULK DATA SETS + APIS
    Use MapLight’s data for your own research or software project.

    A New Study Shows Just How Many Americans Were Blocked From Voting in Wisconsin Last Year

    Source: Ari Berman, Mother Jones, September 25, 2017

    Trump won the state by 22,748 votes. ….

    …..Even though Brinkman was already registered in Wisconsin and had other forms of ID, poll workers only allowed her to cast a provisional ballot. It was never counted. “I was very frustrated,” she said. “This past election was kind of a big one.” She described herself as “liberal” and said she didn’t vote for Donald Trump, who carried the state by just 22,000 votes.

    A comprehensive study released today suggests how many missing votes can be attributed to the new law. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison surveyed registered voters who didn’t cast a 2016 ballot in the state’s two biggest counties—Milwaukee and Dane, which is home to Madison. More than 1 out of 10 nonvoters (11.2 percent) said they lacked acceptable voter ID and cited the law as a reason why they didn’t vote; 6.4 percent of respondents said the voter ID law was the “main reason” they didn’t vote.

    The study’s lead author, University of Wisconsin political scientist Kenneth Mayer, says between roughly 9,000 and 23,000 registered voters in the reliably Democratic counties were deterred from voting by the ID law. Extrapolating statewide, he says the data suggests as many as 45,000 voters sat out the election, though he cautioned that it was difficult to produce an estimate from just two counties.*….

    Related:
    Elections Center Affiliates Release Initial Results from Voter ID Study
    Source: Professor Kenneth R. Mayer (Principal Investigator) and Ph.D. candidate Michael G. DeCrescenzo, September 25, 2017

    Initial findings from a new study on the effects of Wisconsin’s voter ID requirement.

  • Press Release
  • Background Study and Technical Documentation
  • Questions and Answers
  • Survey Instrument (Questionnaire)
  • CourtListener

    Source: Free Law Project, 2017

    CourtListener is a free legal research website containing millions of legal opinions from federal and state courts. With CourtListener, lawyers, journalists, academics, and the public can research an important case, stay up to date with new opinions as they are filed, or do deep analysis using our raw data.

    At Free Law Project, we have gathered millions of court documents over the years, but it’s with distinct pride that we announce that we have now completed our biggest crawl ever. After nearly a year of work, and with support from the U.S. Department of Labor and Georgia State University, we have collected every free written order and opinion that is available in PACER. To accomplish this we used PACER’s “Written Opinion Report,” which provides many opinions for free.

    This collection contains approximately 3.4 million orders and opinions from approximately 1.5 million federal district and bankruptcy court cases dating back to 1960. More than four hundred thousand of these documents were scanned and required OCR, amounting to nearly two million pages of text extraction that we completed for this project.

    All of the documents amassed are available for search in the RECAP Archive of PACER documents and via our APIs. New opinions will be downloaded every night to keep the collection up to date.

    Related:
    Free Law Project and Princeton/Columbia Researchers Launch First-of-its-Kind Judicial Database
    Source: Free Law Project, Press Release, April 19, 2016

    Today we’re extremely proud and excited to be launching a comprehensive database of judges and the judiciary, to be linked to Courtlistener’s corpus of legal opinions authored by those judges. We hope that this database, its APIs, and its bulk data will become a valuable tool for attorneys and researchers across the country. This new database has been developed with support from the National Science Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, in conjunction with Elliott Ash of Princeton University and Bentley MacLeod of Columbia University.

    At launch, the database has nearly 8,500 judges from federal and state courts, all of which are available via our APIs, in bulk data, and via a new judicial search interface that we’ve created.

    The database is aimed to be comprehensive, including as many facts about as many judges as possible. At the outset, we are collecting the following kinds of information about the judges:
    • Biographical information including their full name, race, gender, birth and death dates and locations, and any aliases or nicknames that a judge may have.
    • Their educational information including which schools they went to, when they went, and what degrees they were awarded.
    • The judicial positions they have held. The core of this data is a list of courts and dates for each judge, but it also includes details about their specific position, how they were nominated or elected, what the voting outcome was, who appointed them, the clerks they supervised, and nearly a dozen dates about the timing of their nomination process.
    • The non-judicial positions they have held. The database aims to include comprehensive timelines of a judge’s full career both before before and after being a judge. This includes work in other branches of government, in private practice, and in academia.
    • Any ratings that a judge has been given by the American Bar Association.
    • Finally, we are gathering the political affiliation of judges. This information is coming from a few sources such as ballots (for elected judges) and appointers (for appointed judges).

    We have collected all available public datasets and added a large amount of data ourselves. But there are many actors in the U.S. legal system and the database is far from complete. We hope that interested researchers will collaborate with us in contributing more data. Our goal is to put down a foundation of solid data that can be built on by the community and that can grow into the future.

    In conjunction with this database, we’re also launching a project to gather and curate judicial portraits. At launch, we have gathered about 250 judicial portraits, mostly of federal judges. This is a small fraction of the number of judges in the database, and we’re looking for help gathering many more portraits. We’re hopeful that with community support we’ll be able to build a comprehensive database of judicial portraits. If you’re interested in helping or have ideas for where we might get more images of judges, please get in touch.