Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Plouffe, Uber, The Revolving Door, and Federalism

As a strategist for Barack Obama  David Plouffe denounced special interests.

  • "[T]he influence of lobbyists and special interests, who control too much of the agenda in Washington, must be reduced and the voices of the American people must be heard again." -- campaign memo, 11/13/2007
  • “The 500,000 new donors to the Obama campaign demonstrate just how strongly the American people are looking to kick the special interests out and change Washington.”  -- statement, 9/14/2008
  • "Instead of a government that works for the entitled and special interests, a government that looks out for Wall Street, they wanted a government that works better for them, a government that plays the role it should to help foster the security of the middle class." -- op-ed, 1/24/2010

 Uber CEO Travis Kalanick yesterday announced:
So today we are pleased to announce that David Plouffe will be joining Uber as our Senior Vice President of Policy and Strategy. Starting in late September, David will be managing all global policy and political activities, communications, and Uber branding efforts. I will look to him as a strategic partner on all matters as Uber grows around the world. David’s background needs little introduction. He is a proven field general and strategist who built the startup that elected a President.
I couldn’t be more excited about Uber’s new leader who will be bringing the expertise, wisdom, and strategic mindset to the next phase of the Uber movement, shepherding us well beyond the challenges of the Big Taxi cartel, and into the brave new world of software-powered transportation.
The Washington Post explains:
Uber is the latest Silicon Valley heavyweight to discover that tech disruption requires overcoming political and regulatory barriers. The past 20 years have been littered with examples of companies, from Microsoft to Apple to Facebook, learning, often late, that they must play in politics to continue to grow.
Uber, however, faces some unusually complex policy problems. Unlike other Internet startups that operate solely in cyberspace, Uber’s challenges exist in the taxi-line at airports, along busy downtown streets and on highways.
While tech companies have had to fight over privacy laws and patent rules in Washington, Uber faces a dizzying array of local laws developed by city councils, taxicab commissions and state governments. What’s more, the level of consumer support for Uber — and the intensity of the opposition — varies greatly.
Regulators increasingly have to decide who can provide transportation to the public, how drivers’ cars should be inspected, and what levels of insurance they should carry. Officials also have to weigh whether to allow an upstart to upend a long-running business model that has provided jobs and income to many communities.
This highly fragmented environment is where Plouffe, who is credited with shaping Obama’s highly successful 2008 fifty-state ground game, will be especially valuable, people close to him say.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The National Guard, Armed Forces, and Civil Disorder

Events in Ferguson raise the question of the role of the armed force in domestic unrest.  From Charles Doyle and Jennifer Elsea, "The Posse Comitatus Act and Related Matters: The Use of the Military to Execute Civilian Law," Congressional Research Service, August 16, 2012:
Section 333 of Title 10 permits the President to use the Armed Forces to suppress any “insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy” if law enforcement is hindered within a state, and local law enforcement is unable to protect individuals, or if the unlawful action “obstructs the execution of the laws of the United States or impedes the course of justice under those laws.” This section was enacted to implement the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee for equal protection. It does not require the request or even the permission of the governor of the affected state.

The provision lay dormant after the end of Reconstruction until 1957, when President Eisenhower ordered a battle group of the 101st Airborne Division into Little Rock 246 and federalized the entire Arkansas National Guard 247 in order to enforce a court order permitting nine black students to attend a previously white high school. The proclamation to disperse cited both Sections 332 and 333 of Title 10, U.S. Code.248 By federalizing the Arkansas Guard, the President effectively deprived the governor of forces that had several days previously been used to enforce the governor’s view of law and order.249

Presidents Kennedy and Johnson followed the Little Rock precedent to deal with resistance to court-ordered desegregation in a number of Southern states. In 1962, after the governor of Mississippi attempted to prevent black student James H. Meredith from registering at the University of Mississippi at Oxford, President Kennedy sought to enforce the court order  with federal marshals.250 When marshals met with resistance from state forces and later a  riotous mob, President Kennedy federalized the Mississippi National Guard and ordered active Army troops  already gathered in the area to take action.251 The President’s proclamation to disperse named the governor and other state officials as forming the unlawful assemblies obstructing the enforcement of the court order, citing as authority both Sections 332 and 333.252 President Kennedy followed a similar course of action to confront state resistance to court ordered desegregation in Alabama twice in 1963.253 President Johnson cited the same authority in 1965 to deploy troops, both regular Army and federalized National Guard, to Alabama to protect civil rights marchers as they made their way from Selma, AL, to Montgomery.254


  • 247 Exec. Ord. No. 10,730, 22 Fed. Reg. 7628 (Sept. 24, 1957).  

  • 248 Proclamation No. 3204, 22 Fed. Reg. 7628 (Sept. 24, 1957).  

  • 249 Robert W. Coakley, Federal Use of Militia and the National Guard in Civil Disturbances, in BAYONETS IN THE  STREETS, 17, 30 (Robin Higham, ed. 1989). The governor had ordered the National Guard to enforce segregation by  preventing students from entering any high school that had previously been used exclusively for students of another  race, in defiance of a federal court order. See SCHEIPS, supra footnote 246, at 34.  

  • 250 See SCHEIPS, supra footnote 246, at 86-87.  

  • 251 Id. at 87-93; Exec. Ord. No. 11053, 27 Fed. Reg. 9693 (Oct. 2, 1962).  

  • 252 Proclamation No. 3497, 27 Fed. Reg. 9681 (Oct. 2, 1962).  

  • 253 Proclamation 3542, 28 Fed. Reg. 5705 (June 12, 1963); Exec. Order No. 11,111, 28 Fed. Reg. 5709 (June 12, 1963); Proclamation 3554, 28 Fed. Reg. 9861 (Sept. 11, 1963); Exec. Order 11,118, 28 Fed. Reg. 9863 (Sept. 11, 1963).  

  • 254 Proclamation No. 3645, 30 Fed. Reg. 3739 (Mar. 20, 1965); Exec. Ord. No. 11,207, 30 Fed. Reg. 3743. The governor was enjoined by court order from interfering with the march, and he refused to call out the Alabama National Guard to protect the marchers on the grounds that he did not want the state to foot the bill. See SCHEIPS, supra footnote 246, at 162-63. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Law Enforcement Data

Philip Bump writes at The Washington Post:
It's not easy to figure out how many people have been killed by the police in the United States. The FBI compiles a wealth of information on crime and law enforcement each year as part of its Uniform Crime Reports system. But it only collects two points of data on people killed by law enforcement: The number of people killed by police in justifiable action, and the weapon used in the homicides. (Unjustified homicides are counted, too, of course: as crimes.)
What's more, as USA Today notes in its look at the data on Friday, only 750 of the nation's 17,000-plus law enforcement agencies contribute data to the FBI's justifiable homicide database. That's a huge caveat, particularly given that we can't ascertain how representative the pool of agencies might be. (We reached out the FBI for more information and didn't hear back.)
In 2012, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported:
In September 2008, federal agencies employed approximately 120,000 full-time law enforcement officers who were authorized to make arrests and carry firearms in the United States. This was the equivalent of 40 officers per 100,000 residents. The number of federal officers in the United States increased by about 15,000, or 14%, between 2004 and 2008. Federal agencies also employed nearly 1,600 officers in the U.S. territories in 2008, primarily in Puerto Rico.

Excluding offices of inspectors general, 24 federal agencies employed 250 or more full-time personnel with arrest and firearm authority in the United States (table 1). These agencies employed 96% of all federal officers. The four largest agencies, two in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and two in the Department of Justice (DOJ), employed about two-thirds of all officers. Overall, DHS and DOJ agencies employed about 4 in 5 federal officers.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Wheelchair Scam

At The Washington Post, David A. Farenthold writes about a scam that hit Medicare:
The wheelchair scam was designed to exploit blind spots in Medicare, which often pays insurance claims without checking them first. Criminals disguised themselves as medical-supply companies. They ginned up bogus bills, saying they’d provided expensive wheelchairs to Medicare patients — who, in reality, didn’t need wheelchairs at all. Then the scammers asked Medicare to pay them back, so they could pocket the huge markup that the government paid on each chair.
A lot of the time, Medicare was fooled. The government paid.
Since 1999, Medicare has spent $8.2 billion to procure power wheelchairs and “scooters” for 2.7 million people. Today, the government cannot even guess at how much of that money was paid out to scammers.
Now, the golden age of the wheelchair scam is probably over.
But, while it lasted, the scam illuminated a critical failure point in the federal bureaucracy: Medicare’s weak defenses against fraud. The government knew how the wheelchair scheme worked in 1998. But it wasn’t until 15 years later that officials finally did enough to significantly curb the practice.
Today, even while the wheelchair scam is in decline, that same “pay and chase” system is allowing other variants of the Medicare equipment scam to thrive.
They aren’t perfect. But they work. In Brooklyn, for instance, the next big thing is shoe inserts. Scammers bill Medicare for a $500 custom-made orthotic, according to investigators. They give the patient a $30 Dr. Scholl’s.
In Puerto Rico, the next big thing seems to be arms and legs.
In one case there, two dozen companies billed Medicare for $5.3 million in prosthetic legs inside of a year. In many cases, their “patients” had no record of amputations in their medical history. Many of them didn’t even live in Puerto Rico. But Medicare paid for the legs.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

NCAA Lobbying

Previous posts have described lobbying and political activity by sports organizations.  At Open Secrets, Lalita Clozel writes:
Facing an onslaught of challenges to its long-held rules enforcing student amateurism, the National Collegiate Athletic Association is going pro in the lobbying arena. After hiring an outside firm, the NCAA has been doling out record amounts on K Street this year.

The association is responding to a string of cases that have placed student athlete compensation back on the table. On Monday, the association said it would appeal its latest defeat in a suit brought by retired professional basketball player and former college hoops star Ed O’Bannon. A federal court in Oakland ruled Friday that the NCAA couldn’t bar certain student athletes from receiving compensation for the promotional use of their names and images. In March, the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago inflicted the first major blow to the NCAA by ruling that Northwestern University football players had the right to unionize.
Soon after that, the association enlisted an all-star team to step up its advocacy efforts in Congress. In April, it hired outside lobbyists for the first time since 1998, recruiting Elizabeth Gore, Marc Lampkin and five other mainstays at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.
Some data: 


Friday, August 15, 2014

"Certified Innocent"

The New York Times reports:
Gov. Rick Perry of Texas was indicted on two felony counts on Friday by a state grand jury examining his handling of a local district attorney’s drunken driving arrest and the state financing for a public corruption unit under the lawyer’s control.
The indictment was returned late Friday in Austin.
The investigation centered on Mr. Perry’s veto power as governor. His critics asserted that he used that power as leverage to try to get an elected official and influential Democrat — Rosemary Lehmberg, the district attorney in Travis County — to step down after her arrest for drunken driving last year. Ms. Lehmberg is Austin’s top prosecutor and oversees a powerful public corruption unit that investigates state, local and federal officials; its work led to the 2005 indictment of a former Republican congressman, Tom DeLay on charges of violating campaign finance laws.
If the case goes to trial, and if the jury clears Perry, he can find a precedent for a presidential race.

In 1974, a grand jury indicted John Connally, former Texas governor and Treasury Secretary for accepting a $10,000 bribe from milk producers.  A jury acquitted him. He sought the 1980 GOP nomination, saying that he was the only candidate who was "certified innocent."

That's the good news.

The bad news is that, after spending $11 million on the campaign, he got a total of one delegate.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

"Punch You in the Face"

The New York Daily News reports:
Teachers union honcho Michael Mulgrew unleashed a venomous screed directed at anyone who would dare threaten his beloved Common Core agenda.
“If someone takes something from me, I’m going to grab it right back out of their cold, twisted, sick hands and say it is mine! You do not take what is mine!” the head of the United Federation of Teachers shouted in a speech at a convention last month in Los Angeles.
The rant was posted Thursday to the Ed Notes Online blog.
“And I’m going to punch you in the face and push you in the dirt because this is the teachers’!” added Mulgrew.
“These are our tools and you sick people need to deal with us and the children that we teach.
Thank you very much!”
The remarks came during a heated debate on a resolution regarding the American Federation of Teachers’ continued support of Common Core despite the union’s disappointment in how it was rolled out nationwide.
“I’ve heard the stories about how Eli Broad, Bill Gates, Joel Klein and a flying saucer full of Martians designed these things to brainwash us all,” said Mulgrew, mocking critics who deride Common Core as being imposed by billionaires and corporate bigwigs.
The bellicose tone spooked at least one audience member who asked to remain anonymous to avoid Mulgrew’s wrath.
“It was scary,” said the source. “People were saying that he shouldn’t be around children.”