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Saturday, October 19, 2019

Shadow Lobbying 2018

Karl Evers-Hillstrom and Dan Auble at Open Secrets:
Political operatives and lobbyists continue to take spins through the revolving door between government and the private sector ... And without action from Congress to change lobbying rules, undisclosed lobbying activities are still running rampant, an OpenSecrets analysis indicates.
When an individual engages in advocacy to influence public policy but does not register as a lobbyist, it's typically referred to as "shadow lobbying."
It's common, for example, that a top government affairs employee oversees lobbying activity but never actually registers under the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) by exploiting its various loopholes.
This phenomenon extends to former members of Congress who advise lobbying firms but don't register, or heads of trade associations who run multi-million dollar lobbying operations but don't register. This can leave a portion or, in some cases, all of a lobbying operation's details hidden from the public. Also not disclosed in public lobbying filings are the millions of dollars corporations and trade associations spend on public relations and ad campaigns to influence policymakers.
In this report, OpenSecrets looks into several aspects of unreported lobbying and advocacy. Click the links below to navigate the report:

Friday, October 18, 2019

China's Troll Mob

LeBron James wasn’t the only Twitter user who thought Daryl Morey’s tweet supporting Hong Kong’s protesters was misinformed. There was a whole army of pro-China troll accounts that happened to agree.

A review of nearly 170,000 tweets, plus analysis from expert information warfare researchers, shows that Morey was the target of what appears to be a coordinated harassment campaign after his tweet on Oct. 4 set off an international furor and threatened the NBA’s future in the world’s most populous country.

In the 12 hours immediately after Morey’s tweet, the Houston Rockets general manager’s account was flooded with comments from pro-Chinese-government accounts that mentioned him more than 16,000 times, according to an analysis by Ben Nimmo, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab.

“It looks like there were humans at the keyboard for many of these posts,” Nimmo said. “This wasn’t primarily a bot swarm. It was a troll mob. Which is a lot harder to deal with.”
 The Wall Street Journal’s analysis was based on 168,907 tweets at Morey between Oct. 4 and Oct. 10 captured by Clemson University researchers Darren Linvill and Patrick Warren.
It shows that 22% came from accounts with 0 followers at some point last week and 50% were from accounts with fewer than 13 followers. There were 4,855 total users in all who had never tweeted until they replied to Morey, and 3,677 accounts didn’t exist until his tweet.
“I’m not saying this is a state-affiliated operation,” Linvill said. “But I’ve only seen so many brand-new accounts used at one time when it was a state-affiliated operation."

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Democratic Doctors

Until the 1960s, Janet Adamy and Paul Overberg write at The Wall Street Journal, doctors tended toe be Republicans.
In the decades that followed, medical schools started accepting greater numbers of women, who are more likely to be Democrats (women today account for nearly half of U.S. medical students). Consolidation and the cost of new technology made it harder to own a small practice. Older physicians sold theirs, and new ones didn’t want to hang their own shingle, so they became employees of health systems. The result is fewer business-owner physicians who back the GOP for its pro-employer policies.
In addition, many doctors today start their careers with hundreds of thousands of dollars in student debt and little hope of earning the outsize incomes their predecessors did a generation ago.
The result is a fundamental leftward realignment of a politically powerful professional group, one that has been accelerated by recent politics, including doctor opposition to repealing the Affordable Care Act and unease some doctors express about President Trump. This phenomenon is changing where physicians choose to live and work, how they treat patients and how they influence the 2020 presidential race. It’s part of a larger turn among white-collar Americans toward the Democratic Party.
In 1990, 61% of national political campaign contributions by physicians went to Republicans, while 38% went to Democrats, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics. By last year, those numbers had essentially flipped, with nearly two-thirds of physician campaign contributions going to Democrats while one-third went to Republicans.
A 2016 Gallup poll found that 35% of doctors considered themselves Democrats while 27% were Republicans and 36% identified as independents.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

American and European Attitudes

Laura Silver at Pew:
Americans (47%) say religion is very important in their daily lives, which is significantly higher than the median of 22% of Western Europeans or 19% of Central and Eastern Europeans who say the same. Outside of Greece (50%), no public comes close to Americans in terms of the importance they place on religion in their daily lives; rather, a quarter or fewer in every other EU member state surveyed say religion is very important to them. Americans stand out once again when it comes to how important people say it is to be able to practice religion freely in their country. Nearly nine-in-ten Americans (86%) see free religious expression as very important for the country, which is much higher than almost any European public surveyed, though around three-quarters or more Greeks (83%), Britons (75%) and Germans (72%) do say the same.
In every EU member state surveyed, roughly four-in-ten or more say that success in life is pretty much determined by forces outside their control. A median of 53% in Western Europe and 58% in Central and Eastern Europe say this, but only 31% of Americans agree.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Early Decision and College Inequality

With colleges and universities enrolling more and more early-decision applicants, a panel of experts at the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s national conference last month convened to answer the question of who, exactly, is benefiting.
Panelists didn’t disagree -- the privileged are benefiting. That includes students privileged enough to be thinking about college early in their high school careers and privileged enough to able to pledge to accept admission to a college without seeing its financial aid offer first. It also includes colleges that are privileged enough to attract students willing to enroll under early-decision terms.
The panelists spent most of their time discussing related questions: what to do about early decision and whether an admissions mechanism catering to the interests of the best-off institutions and students can be harnessed to serve a greater good.
“We think schools benefit,” said Kirk Brennan, director of admission at the University of Southern California, which does not offer an early-decision option to applicants. “The privileged also benefit. We hope to focus on learning, focus on education for its own sake. High school is not just a way to get into college. It’s a way to grow and become a strong, educated citizen.”
Early decision is a binding admissions option under which students commit to a college or university that they consider to be their first choice. Students agree to enroll in that college if admitted and withdraw applications to any other colleges. Application deadlines and deadlines by which students decide to enroll come earlier under early decision than they do under standard admission. At its national conference, NACAC relaxed rules for incentivizing early-admission applications under pressure from a U.S. Department of Justice antitrust investigation.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Columbus Day/Indigenous People's Day

Mike Allen at Axios:
Many of you aren't working right now because of Columbus Day, the federal holiday that's instead being celebrated as Indigenous Peoples Day in Washington, D.C.
The big picture: Roughly 10 states and 100+ U.S. cities observe some version of Indigenous Peoples Day this month.
From today: Columbus statues in San Francisco and Providence, Rhode Island, were vandalized with red paint, CNN reports.
  • "Vandals had chained a sign to the base of the statue that said 'Stop Celebrating Genocide' and spray painted the word 'Genocide' on the monument."

Sunday, October 13, 2019

China Bullying: "Discourse Power"

E. John Gregory at The National Interest:
Being able to control what comes out of foreigners’ mouths is fundamental to the Party’s current multibillion-dollar push for what it has coined its international “discourse power (huayu quan),” an effort the Chinese State Council has identified as a multifaceted strategic imperative. Translating this Foucauldian-sounding neologism huayu quan as “discourse power” reflects the Party’s internationalization of its domestic discourse-practice.
The threats to international liberal-democratic norms from the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) push for “discourse power” are vastly underestimated because foreigners generally fail to understand the fundamental place of deliberate, persistent discourse construction within the grand Chinese political project. This starts with dismissing the mind-numbingly jingoistic official Chinese domestic political and social discourse as “propaganda” without the least appreciation of its comprehensive and centrally-coordinated workings as well as its long-term effectiveness. Those committed to liberal-democracy must understand the functioning of discourse construction within the Chinese political project (Part I); the tragedy of the Party’s largely-successful zombification of Chinese civil society to host its discourse (Part II); and how China has now turned to enlisting major purveyors of U.S. soft power—the American IT industry, media powerhouses and educational institutions—as its new host organism for its international discourse power efforts (Part III). Americans have been rightfully proud that U.S. soft power has contributed to the universalization of liberal-democratic values. Now, the Party is attempting to turn this same soft power into its host organism and enabler to de-universalize the norm of free expression itself as well as to weaken other liberal-democratic norms.
Isaac Stone Fish at WP:
In January 2018, Marriott sent guests an online survey that listed Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet and Macao as countries, and a U.S.-based employee of the hotel chain liked a Twitter post about the nationhood of Tibet, a Chinese region where some citizens want independence. Beijing decided to make an example of Marriott — a company thriving in China, with more than 300 hotels there: It required Marriott to shut down all of its Chinese websites and apps for seven days. Sounding like a Chinese propaganda organ, the company announced that it didn’t support “separatist groups that subvert the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China.” Then, to amplify the positive, Marriott announced an “eight-point rectification plan” to “regain confidence and trust.” Part of the plan, according to the Hong Kong Free Press, included “expanding employee education globally” — i.e., educating its staff on Chinese propaganda. A Versace statement this year was even more groveling. In August, after an outcry over a T-shirt that implied Hong Kong was independent, the luxury clothing brand affirmed that “we love China and resolutely respect the sovereignty of its territory.”

Chinese Chairman Xi Jinping calls this “discourse power” — the ability to shape the narrative and “tell China’s story well.” And foreign companies and their employees are excellent proxies for evangelizing China’s position. In other words, while the United States excels in soft power, China wins in what we could call proxy power. When retired Chinese basketball star Yao Ming praises China, Americans expect it. When Houston Rockets star James Harden apologizes for his team and professes that “we love China” and “everything there about them,” that feels more heartfelt. Though Harden’s sentiments may be sincere, his contrition advances Beijing’s propaganda goals.