Archive for the ‘Government ICT policy’ Category

Jersey Democrat, Justice Integrity Project Urge ‘No’ on Kagan, Citing Rights Concerns

July 19, 2010

Louis M. Manzo

The Senate should reject Democrat Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court nomination based on her shabby civil rights record that’s apparent from her Department of Justice work, according to a Democratic former New Jersey legislator and Jersey City mayoral candidate.

Louis M. Manzo, drawing on his experience fighting one of the nation’s most explosive political prosecutions, said the Senate should reject Kagan because of “her indefensible support of restrictions on constitutional freedoms and her failures to defend due process.”

My bipartisan Justice Integrity Project (JIP) today released Manzo’s statement by video to illustrate the project’s objections to Kagan on similar executive power grounds. We announced our objections on June 28, just before the Supreme Court thwarted Kagan’s effort to block a hearing for former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. Manzo complemented our views with his first-hand experience, available before Senate voting at JIP’s website http://www.justice-integrity.org, which links to Manzo’s video and descriptions of his case, Siegelman’s and others, plus Kagan’s background.

“While serving as Solicitor General arguing against certiorari in Siegelman v. United States, Kagan ignored constitutional protections provided by due process,” Manzo said, continuing:

Also troubling is the manner by which Kagan feigned ignorance to what is frightfully apparent in Siegelman’s case – prosecutorial misconduct. Instead of questioning the bizarre prosecution tactics employed against Siegelman, Kagan blindly supported positions taken by prosecutors with obvious personal and political agendas.

“What all cases involving wrongful prosecutions share in common,” said Manzo, a target in the Bid Rig III case in New Jersey that helped propel Republican U.S. Attorney Chris Christie to New Jersey’s governorship last fall, “is the necessity of a fair judicial system.” In Bid Rig III, DOJ gave a felon large sums to donate to New Jersey campaigns such as Manzo’s, with Democrats overwhelmingly indicted. Manzo won a major victory this spring when his trial judge dismissed the most serious charges.

Expanding on Manzo’s themes, I cited compelling evidence that Siegelman, 64, was framed by DOJ, which seeks to imprison him for 20 more years.

The gist is that Kagan acted selfishly to advance her technocrat career, combining bad legal judgment with a monstrous cover-up. This opens a window to her other failings, which don’t receive the attention they deserve. Senate confirmation these days is largely kabuki-style theater for the public, fostered by a bipartisan, back-scratching elite. Here, a president’s loyalists seek to install one of their cronies over timid, partisan objections about a few special-interest topics. But we are skipping big issues about due process and our other basic liberties, which would inflame the public if ever fully aired.


Louis M. Manzo Statement*
Opposing Confirmation of Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court

As a case study of the Justice Integrity Project, I am speaking today to urge defeat of Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

What all cases involving wrongful prosecutions share in common is the necessity of a fair judicial system where redress can be attained in the courts of our land.

While serving as Solicitor General, arguing against certiorari in Siegelman v. United States, Kagan ignored Constitutional protections provided by due process. She argued a position that supported the “standard-less sweep [of the law], which allows policemen, prosecutors and juries to pursue their personal predilections” – something previous courts had guarded against.

Her position was an assault on due process.

Despite concerns raised in the opposing argument – the danger posed by vague interpretations of criminal statutes, which infringe on the protections of free speech as provided by the First Amendment – Kagan ignored the sound opinion of the unprecedented position taken by 42 former United States State Attorneys General** and a United States Attorney General who filed an amicus brief in support of Siegelman’s argument.***

Kagan defended a position that would restrict Constitutional freedoms.

Also troubling is the manner by which Kagan feigned ignorance to what is frightfully apparent in Siegelman’s case – prosecutorial misconduct. Instead of questioning the bizarre prosecution tactics employed against Siegelman, Kagan blindly supported positions taken by prosecutors with obvious personal and political agendas.

These are attributes which are ill-suited for members of the highest Court in our land. Due process is the examination of the means used to justify the end. Her nomination would pose a grave threat to victims of due process violations, whose only redress is the courts.

For her indefensible support of restrictions on Constitutional freedoms and her failures to defend due process, Elena Kagan should be denied confirmation as a Supreme Court nominee. ###
_____________________________________________
*Democratic former New Jersey State Assemblyman and Jersey City candidate for mayor
** The number of former chief law enforcers of their states signing the petition rose to 91, from more than 40 states
*** Republican Former U.S. Attorney Gen. Dick Thornburgh criticized what he described as politicized DOJ decision-making during his 2007 testimony to the House Judiciary Committee

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Jan. 7: DC Radio Hosts Ken Auletta On His Best-Seller ‘Googled’

January 7, 2010

New Yorker media columnist Ken Auletta discussed his latest best-seller Googled: The End of the World As We Know It on the Jan. 7 DC Update edition of My Technology Lawyer Radio.  

Listeners can access the show nationwide via the link at www.MyTechnologyLawyer.com/update, which also contains archives of previous shows.

In the show’s first guest segment beginning 18 minutes into the hour, Auletta discussed how, “Google has morphed from a search into a media company…that bestrides the world.”  He further described how Google in the process has become both “beloved” by some and “feared” by others.  

The book lives up to its advance billing:  Using Google as a proxy for the larger digital revolution, Auletta shares the secrets of Google’s success and describes why that success threatens traditional media.  The author enjoyed unprecedented access to Google’s founders and executives, but brings to bear an independent expert outlook. 

The book has hit the bestseller lists, with publishers in 12 nations.  Netscape founder Marc Andreessen describes Googled as, “A uniquely incisive account of the new Internet revolution, powered by Ken Auletta’s unparalleled access.  A great book.”

The radio show is co-hosted by business radio pioneer Scott Draughon and by Washington commentator Andrew Kreig.  The hosts begin with an overview of Washington policy news affecting the nation’s business, politics and quality of life.  As a listener advisory: Mac computer users need the tool “Parallels” to hear Windows Media Player.

About Ken Auletta and Googled

Ken Auletta has written the “Annals of Communications” column for The New Yorker since 1992. He is the author of 10 books, including four national bestsellers. These include Three Blind Mice: How the TV Networks Lost Their Way, Greed and Glory on Wall Street: The Fall of the House of Lehman, and World War 3.0: Microsoft and Its Enemies. In naming him America’s premier media critic, the Columbia Journalism Review said, “No other reporter has covered the new communications revolution as thoroughly.”  For details, visit his website here. Googled is available via Amazon.com here, with 32 reader reviews averaging a four-star rating out of a possible five.    

About Scott Draughon and My Technology Lawyer Radio Show

Richard Scott Draughon is host and producer of the My Technology Lawyer Radio Show, which is affiliated with MyTechnologyLawyer.com ─ an on-demand legal service that he leads.  Draughon is author of the pioneering book The Art of the Business Radio Show.  For details, visit the website: http://www.mytechnologylawyer.com

About Andrew Kreig

Andrew Kreig is an investigative reporter, author and attorney who reports frequently about official corruption on such new media sites as Huffington Post, Connecticut Watchdog, Nieman Watchdog and OpEd News. Kreig is finishing a year as senior fellow with the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University and is a research fellow with the Information Economy Project at George Mason University School of Law. Earlier, he was president of the Wireless Communications Association International from 1996 to last summer and authored the 1987 book, Spiked: How Chain Management Corrupted America’s Oldest Newspaper.

 

 

 

DC Regulators Host Unique Debate On News Industry’s Future

December 3, 2009

Washington, DC ─ More than 70 communications experts this week debated how consumers can protect their interests despite the decline of traditional newspapers and broadcasters.

Increased government support for news-gathering was the key topic in the path-breaking two-day conference entitled, “How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age?” hosted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Dec. 1 and 2.  Industry speakers ranged in clout from News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch to web-based start-ups much like Connecticut Watchdog.

“It’s good that we can have an honest discussion” of the relationship between law and business opportunities said Reed Hundt, a 1990s chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  The Democrat said that long-standing fears of government meddling with the news media would have made such a conference “unthinkable” previously during his decades in Washington since he left Yale Law School in 1974.

Some tension is inevitable.  “The news media is here in part to make life miserable for public officials,” said Steven Waldman, an FCC official just three days on the job as a senior advisor to its chairman Julius Genachowski after a career as an Internet entrepreneur and reporter for such publications as Newsweek and the online edition of the Wall Street Journal.

The FTC conference speakers and their videos are on the workshop section of the FTC website: www.ftc.gov.

Many speakers noted that traditional media are reacting to declines in their advertising by cutting coverage of vital public affairs. 

“We cannot risk the loss of an informed public and all that means because of this market failure,” said U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-California), who added that any proposed solutions through his committee would require bipartisan support.

Murdoch complained that Internet-based rivals infringe the copyrights of traditional media, hurting the public.  Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post (for which I write also) responded that every news operation uses content from others under longstanding, court-enforced “fair use” standards, and that innovation is helping the public.  

Aneesh Chopra, assistant to President Obama for technology, said the new administration is relying on technology and inputs from the public in unprecedented ways.  He cited as examples communication on such consumer needs as health care options and such public affairs concerns as lobbying for federal contracts.

National Public Radio President and CEO Vivian Schiller said her network’ success provides a model for public/private funding.  Even so, the network’s local coverage should be enhanced by more federal money, she said in arguing that funding doesn’t mean government control. 

Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press, countered that improper political interference in public broadcasting has been documented in recent years.  Even so, he advocated more federal funding for news organizations and infrastructure, along with more “firewall” protections for journalistic independence. 

Historians noted that federal policies on infrastructure development, copyright, taxation and antitrust have long assisted the news media.

The conference’s final panel included the founders of two web-based start-ups from Connecticut.  Branford Eagle editor Marcia Chambers, who is also journalist-in-residence at Yale, began her news site as a column four years ago.  She plans to work with others to “reinvigorate state coverage.” 

Paul Bass, editor of the New Haven Independent, said he started with $80,000 in funding after leaving his longstanding job at the Advocate, and now has an annual budget of close to a half million dollars.  Bass, also executive director of the Online Journalism Project, said that interactive journalism enables community “conversations” never previously possible.

The 30-year-veteran of the news business concluded, “This is the best time to be a journalist.”

Nov. 12: DC Radio Hosts Spectrum Expert Lazarus On FCC, Alabama Writer Shuler On Scandal

November 12, 2009
Mitchell Lazarus

Mitchell Lazarus

Washington attorney and author Mitchell Lazarus proposed on the Nov. 12 DC Update edition of My Technology Lawyer Radio ways that the new Obama FCC can foster economic growth.  The radio show is available via the Listen Live! link here, which includes an archive of past shows.

Also, Alabama legal journalist Roger Shuler provided an update on the state’s reaction to explosive statements by Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Johnson that current Gov. Bob Riley received millions of dollars in campaign funds from Mississippi gambling interests in 2002.  The payments were reputedly via lobbyist Jack Abramoff, helping narrowly defeat Democratic incumbent Don Siegelman, who was later convicted on corruption charges in a controversial case.  The new stories are here and here.

Regarding regulatory delays and the economy, Lazarus published an article in the prestigious IEEE Spectrum Magazine and filed comments with the FCC this fall suggesting ways that the Commission’s oversight of new technologies could be quickened to enable new technologies and job growth. 

Lazarus drew from his 25 years of practice before the Commission in making his proposals.  The suggestions were in his regulatory filing here and his Sept. 30 Spectrum article here, entitled, “Radio’s Regulatory Roadblocks: How the FCC Slows New Wireless Technologies – and What To Do About It.”  Also, Lazarus publishes on a wide range of competitive and regulatory topics on his law firm’s CommLawBlog, which is available here.

The FCC, with three of its five members newly confirmed after nomination by President Obama, requested suggestions this fall for improving its regulatory practices.  The filing by Lazarus argued:

Requests to approve a benign technology should be granted quickly.  They are not. Nowadays a rulemaking typically takes 2-5 years, and a waiver, about two years, even for harmless technologies.  These delays are an obstacle to innovation.  Often a radically new technology comes from a small, privately-funded start-up.  Its only product may be the one awaiting Commission approval.  These companies may lack the resources to survive a lengthy FCC proceeding.

Update is co-hosted by the show’s founder and business radio pioneer Scott Draughon and by Washington commentator Andrew Kreig, who co-chairs with Lazarus the Fixed Wireless Communications Coalition.  The hosts begin the show with an update on Washington policy news affecting the nation’s business, politics and quality of life.  Update radio listeners can call in questions by email: radio@MyTechnologyLawyer.com.  As listener advisories: Mac computer users need the tool “Parallels” to hear a Windows Media Player.

About Mitchell Lazarus

Mitchell Lazarus, a partner at Fletcher, Heald and Hildreth, specializes in the regulation of new telecommunications technologies, and has helped many manufacturers and service providers obtain FCC approval for innovative products and services. Recent work has included extensive regulatory involvement in unlicensed radio technologies, including ultra-wideband and various forms of Wi-Fi, along with radio-based security systems, software-defined and cognitive radios, millimeter-wave technologies, and broadband-over-power-line. Lazarus holds a law degree magna cum laude from Georgetown University Law Center, a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from McGill University and MIT, respectively, and a Ph.D. in experimental psychology from MIT. He has published five books and monographs and dozens of shorter works on educational issues, in addition to many articles on telecom. Contact: lazarus@fhhlaw.com.  Founded in 1936, Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth provides comprehensive legal services in the field of telecommunications. Details: www.fhh-telcomlaw.com.

About the Roger Shuler and Legal Schnauzer

Roger Shuler is editor and publisher of the law-oriented Alabama website Legal Schnauzer.  Roger Shuler graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in journalism, and joined the Birmingham Post Herald, where he worked for 11 years.  Later, he worked at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in various editorial positions for 19 years until May 2008.  In June 2007 as a personal project, he created the Legal Schnauzer to be an independent web-based publication focusing on Alabama and national news.  Shuler has written extensively about the Don Siegelman case in Alabama and the Paul Minor case in Mississippi.  Details: http://legalschnauzer.blogspot.com/.

Oct. 22: DC Radio Hosts Sports Law Expert Kevin Goldberg On Access Restrictions To Coverage

October 22, 2009
Kevin Goldberg

Kevin Goldberg

Press freedom and sports law expert Kevin Goldberg described major new requirements by sports teams on media coverage on the Oct. 22 DC Update edition of My Technology Lawyer Radio. The show is available via the link, which includes past shows.

Goldberg this fall delivered a compelling lecture at the National Press Club here entitled, “The Price of Admission Gets Higher: Leagues Asking for More in Exchange for Access.” He explains why this is important to the public: “Sports are no longer just sports. In many communities, they are the news. These restrictive credentials have been adopted by all facets of the entertainment industry, at all levels.”

Update is co-hosted by the show’s founder and business radio pioneer Scott Draughon and by Washington commentator Andrew Kreig. The hosts begin the show with an update on Washington policy news affecting the nation’s business, politics and quality of life.

Goldberg, a leader in the field, described how the sports industry has learned from other segments of the entertainment industry to restrict media coverage to enhance profits and image. This greatly affects public understanding of sports teams at the professional and college level ─ with the new restrictions spreading even to high school or lower level games in some locales. Among his examples:

• Publications must agree that te league, venue or event own all copyright and other interest in the photographs, audio or video taken at the game, with the newspaper getting a license to use the work for narrowly defined news purposes only.

• Leagues and events require removal of photos, audio and video from a website.
Example 1: The National Football League imposed a daily limit of 45 seconds of audio or video interviews with players or coaches. It bans live and post-24-hour coverage.
Example 2: Major League Baseball bans live coverage and pictures after 72 hours unless linked to a specific game being covered.

• Little League World Series claimed ownership of all regional playoff photos, banning free ones.

• Louisiana High School Athletic Association barred credentials to girls playoffs photographers unless “newsprint.”

Also, Goldberg described potential solutions in specific situations for sports writers and generally.

About Kevin Goldberg
Kevin M. Goldberg is Special Counsel with Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, PLC. His expertise is in First Amendment, Copyright and Trademark issues, especially those relating to newspaper and Internet publishing. He regularly advocates issues involving freedom of speech on behalf of press organizations. Kevin also consults regularly with these organizations concerning the continued freedom of speech on the Internet, focusing on issues such as regulation and voluntary implementation of blocking software. Kevin assists newspapers and television and radio stations in prepublication review of stories for possible legal problems. In 2006, he was inducted into the National Freedom of Information Hall of Fame as one of 56 members for his service in pursuit of open government. Contact.

About Fletcher, Heald and Hildreth
Founded in 1936, Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth provides comprehensive legal services in the field of telecommunications. Details.

Sept. 3 DC Radio: Should Feds Get Emergency Power To Run The Internet Under Senate Bill?

September 3, 2009

The controversial new Senate bill that would enable the President to take control of the Internet in case of emergency was today’s featured topic on the DC Update edition of My Technology Lawyer Radio. The show is available via the Listen Live! archive.

Senate Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) says the Cybersecurity Act of 2009 reintroduced last month is needed to protect the nation’s infrastructure and businesses from hackers. Experts who analyzed the benefits and dangers of the proposal are:

• Illena Armstrong is editor in chief of SC Magazine, the leading business magazine for the information security industry. She manages editorial staff in New York and Michigan, and oversees the award-winning monthly publication and its other editorial offerings, including scmagazineus.com, several eConferences, countless webcasts, weekly and monthly newsletters, and the annual SC World Congress conference and exposition.

• Eric Green is program director of the SC World Congress, being held October 13-14 in New York City. For over a decade, he has been closely involved in creating marketing strategies for many security and FORTUNE 1000 companies by leveraging his expertise and network of high-level contacts in the public and private sectors. He’ll summarize highlights on the Rockefeller proposal from the perspective of leading companies at the Congress, which is described below.

• Brian Cute is vice president for discovery services at Afilias, Inc., with over 12 years experience in the Internet and communications industry. He provides secure and selective visibility services to global supply chain participants. Also, he is active in the Internet Society chapter being created in Washington, DC. Its first free event will feature prominent Internet experts describing the Internet’s future on Sept. 14 in Washington, DC. Details are below.

Update is co-hosted by the show’s founder and business radio pioneer Scott Draughon and by Washington commentator Andrew Kreig. Co-hosts begin the show with an update on Washington policy news affecting businesses nationally.

Rockefeller, chair of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, praised his proposal here. But a news report today raising related concerns is: “Obama White House Has Secret Plan To Harvest Personal Data From Social Networking Websites.”

Radio listeners can call in questions at 866-685-7469 or by email: radio@MyTechnologyLawyer.com. Update focuses on Washington policy that impacts the nation’s business, politics and quality of life. As listener advisories: Mac computer users need the tool “Parallels” to hear a Windows Media Player, and some companies block radio programs from computers.

About SC Magazine and SC World Congress
SC Magazine is the leading monthly title and the largest dedicated information-security publication for IT security professionals in the U.S. Its reach extends to Europe and Australia through independently managed operations. It works to build relationships with all sectors of the information security industry, including chief information security officers and other executives in various markets – from government to finance, as well as product and service providers, software developers, consultants, system resellers and others. Details.

From October 13 – 14, the publication will hold its second annual SC World Congress at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers in New York City, which gathers together the leading voices in the information security arena for two days of pertinent conference session examining topics ranging from data theft and compliance to establishing partnerships between government and private sectors. Also, the industry’s top vendors will assemble on the expo floor to show off scores of solutions. Keynotes include Heartland Payment Systems’ Robert Carr and the Federal Trade Commission’s William Kovacic. For additional details, visit here.

About Afilias & The Internet Society

Afilias is the world’s leading provider of Internet infrastructure solutions that connect people to their data. In providing such connection services as domain name, the DNS, or RFID data, the company promises connection in a reliable, secure, stable, and globally available manner. Details. As Vice President, Brian Cute’s work in the Domain Name System includes registrar and registry experience leading initiatives on Wait List Service, private domain registrations, the elimination of BulkWHOIS, the .net RFP, the .com contract approval, as well as representing the private sector in the U.N. World Summit on the Information Society.

As a personal initiative, he is helping re-launch the greater Washington, DC chapter of the Internet Society Including Maryland and Virginia. New members are welcome, with no cost to join. Its first event is a discussion of the Internet’s future, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 14 at the National Visitor’s Center at the Capitol in Washington. For details on the event and chapter membership, visit here: www.isoc-dc.org.
# # #

Tech Radio April 2 Topics: Law Firm Upgrades, Rural Fiber & New Disputes On Lobbying Rules

April 2, 2009

Advocates of new concepts in law firm efficiency and fiber deployment to rural areas engaged in a vigorous debate April 2 on My Technology Lawyer Radio.

The weekly webcast radio show that I co-host with Scott Draughon probed recent lobbying restrictions on those seeking $787 billion in federal stimulus spending. The rules announced March 20 require registered lobbyists to put in writing any advocacy to relevant government officials so that the request can be posted on the website http://www.recovery.gov. The purpose is to keep the public informed. Funding lobbyists have been joined by several public interest groups in opposing the new rules. The public interest groups claim the rules won’t be effective because the truly powerful tend not to be registered lobbyists themselves, but to hire them. Challenges have also been raised on constitutional grounds.

A link via http://www.MyTechnologyLawyer.com/wireless connects to the radio stream or archived past shows. Guests were:
• Jerry Baxley, principal at Optical Networks Inc. He is working on the deployment of a fiber and wireless network throughout Alabama, and serves also as Executive Director of the Family Law Association of Alabama.
• Geoff Daily is a technology journalist who writes a blog called App-Rising.com and is executive director in the newly formed Rural Fiber Alliance.

Tech Radio: Federal Grant Update & Alabama Whistleblower Challenges Judge

March 21, 2009

 

WASHINGTON, DC (March 12, 2009) – Today’s wireless edition of My Technology Lawyer Radio will focus on the hot topics of federal applications for stimulus spending grants (partly in such broadband areas as wireless), plus major new developments in the controversial federal prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman on corruption charges.

This week’s guests for the weekly show webcast at 12 noon (Eastern) by co-hosts Andrew Kreig and Scott Draughon will be:

 

Drew Clark, executive director of Broadband Census.com.  It charts broadband deployments and policy throughout the U.S, and focuses on how both incumbent service providers and new market entrants seek a piece of the $7.2 billion federal stimulus funds for broadband.   He’ll describe the federal government’s seminar this week on how to obtain such funds and preview his group’s webinar March 19 on how the money will be allocated.  Also, he’ll comment on the March 11Washington Post story headlined, “Stimulus Applications Could Overwhelm Grants.gov.”

Priscilla Black Duncan, an attorney who represents Alabama attorney and whistleblower Dana Jill Simpson.  Duncan will discuss a federal appeals court decision last Friday confirming most of corruption charges against former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman despite Simpson’s claims that Siegelman was framed. 

 

My Technology Lawyer Radio will continue with its cutting-edge coverage of Siegelman’s prosecution in Alabama, one of the nation’s most controversial in recent years.  A witness in 2007 before staff of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, Simpson filed an affidavit nearly two years ago claiming irregularities in the prosecution.  So did a group of 54 former attorneys generals in a friend of the court brief last May urging the appeals court to reverse Siegelman’s conviction. 

Targets have denied the claims, as did the appeals court last week in affirming most of the charges against Siegelman stemming from 1999 when he was Alabama’s last Democratic governor. “This is an extraordinary case,” the Siegelman appeals court judges wrote.  “It involves allegations of corruption at the highest levels of Alabama state government.”

 

Today’s show begins with a round-up of news related to wireless technology law and policy, addressing such issues as  “Obama Signs Spending Bill, Vowing to Battle Earmarks”.

 

A Listen Live! link connects to today’s radio stream, plus archived past shows.  Radio listeners can call-in questions at 866-685-7469 or by email: radio@MyTechnologyLawyer.com. 

 

About Broadband Census.com

BroadbandCensus.com provides news and information about broadband access and deployment.  Founded in January, 2008, it aims to publish the most timely and topical news on broadband, from the broadband stimulus package to proposals for a universal broadband fund.  It provides comprehensive public and transparent collection of data about local broadband speeds, prices, availability, reliability and competition.  Help fill the broadband data gap by “Taking the Broadband Census.”  Details: www.broadbandcensus.com.

About Priscilla Black Duncan

Priscilla Black Duncan is principal at the firm P.B. Duncan & Associates, L.L.C. based in Montgomery, AL.  Before undertaking a practice in criminal and civil law, she was the consumer affairs director for the office of Alabama’s Attorney General, and was an editor and investigative reporter for daily newspapers.

 

About My Technology Lawyer Radio Show

Richard Scott Draughon is host and producer of the My Technology Lawyer Radio Show, which is affiliated with MyTechnologyLawyer.com — an on-demand legal service.  For details, visit: http://www.mytechnologylawyer.com.  Among other projects, he will be organizing cutting-edge sessions at the Technosium on March 26 in San Francisco.  Details: www.technosium.com. 

About Andrew Kreig

Andrew Kreig draws on work in business, law, government and journalism.  Former president of the Wireless Communications Association International from 1996 to last summer, he is an attorney, author and journalist who is a leader in several technology-related public affairs organizations.

 

 

Probe the Past To Protect the Future

March 5, 2009

To build the public confidence needed for economic recovery, Congressional leaders need to be much tougher in overseeing such high-level decision-making as the $30 billion more in bailouts for American International Group (AIG) that the Obama Administration announced on Monday (March 2).

After so much savings and job loss the public deserves far more assurance that investigations will get to the bottom of past and present decisions by Democrat and Republican alike. Vast questions remain about the last decade’s federal deficits, even as the government fast-tracks $787 billion in new stimulus spending and proposes a $3.6 trillion annual federal budget that includes a $1.75 trillion deficit. Fears are growing that oversight won’t be effective. Congressional committees must become better watchdogs, especially because of cutbacks by the traditional news media and foot-dragging by Executive Branch officials who fear accountability.

Wrong-doers and their apologists insist that the country should look forward for the betterment of all, and that any future problems will be dealt with fairly. Nonsense. As always, justice starts by a review of the evidence. “Sunshine is the best disinfectant,” Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously said. But pest control is useful too. Either way, strong measures are required to build public confidence for legitimate initiatives on such complex questions as which companies are “too big to fail,” and which ones should pay the price for their terrible decisions.

Congress is taking well-publicized steps for increased oversight. Yet vigorous public pressure is required to ensure that their “investigations” are not merely for show. For example:

• Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) is holding a hearing today on “Truth” to examine Bush Administration policies that led to torture, rendition and imprisonment without trial. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) is among those who fear that the Senate probe might foreclose further inquiry, including potential liability.

• House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Michigan) again subpoenaed former Presidential advisor Karl Rove to respond Feb. 23 to allegations that the White House helped fire federal prosecutors for political reasons, including tolerating corrupt contracts and targeting such Democratic politicians as Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. But Rove again ignored the subpoena. In doing so, he continued his defiance enabled by the Bush Justice Department during the nearly two years since contracts attorney and Republican political operative Jill Simpson stepped forward with allegations against Rove and federal authorities prosecuting Siegelman.

• The House Energy and Commerce Committee concluded its year-long investigation of Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin in December with a majority report entitled “Deception and Distrust,” finding that he had abused his power. But the Committee could not persuade Martin or three of his top appointees (including his Chief of Staff and the FCC Inspector General) to appear before them to answer the allegations – even though the FCC was created in the 1930s as an agency independent of the Executive Branch, and subject to oversight.

As usual, pressure for government contracts and favorable law is the basic problem. Back in the 1800s, the word “lobbyist” was coined to describe those operating from the lobby of the Willard Hotel near the White House. Today’s Willard is replicated by thousands other venues that breed the kind of scandals that have blighted every U.S. Presidency of any duration, especially during war. During the Civil War, for example, a much-smaller Washington and its adjoining suburbs hosted between 7,500 and 15,000 prostitutes, with the heaviest concentrations near the Army encampment of Gen. Joseph Hooker between Congress and the White House.

Republican President Dwight Eisenhower warned in his 1961 “Farewell Address to the Nation” against a vast “military-industrial complex” that threatened democracy. As the former World War II hero feared, those dangers are now undermining not simply the contracting process, but also such institutional protections as Congress, the courts and news media.

For those searching for protections in the U.S. Constitution, the most explicit reside in Congress. But protection is dwindling from there when Executive Branch officials refuse to testify by citing “Executive Privilege,” a Constitutional myth that was initiated in 1958 and much-expanded since Watergate.

As an advocate for business in Washington civic affairs for nearly two decades, I’m convinced that these problems require our full attention. Regarding the news media, their income stream is increasingly dependent on affiliated businesses and not on serving subscribers. The major TV networks, for instance, make virtually nothing from direct customer billings via cable and satellite, although many in the public naively assume that they’re being served via a “marketplace of ideas.” In fact, traditional and new media alike depend heavily on the goodwill of government officials, plus advertising. The financial reports of the Washington Post, for instance, show that since 2007 it has been making more than ten times its revenue from its education industry affiliates as from its Post subscriptions. Although new media are more entrepreneurial and increasingly broader-based in consumer appeal, many of their roots are in fairly recent federal Internet research and privatization policy — and many of their futures are highly dependent on favorable regulation, merger approval and stimulus spending.

Congress and many other government officials face strong temptation to go through the motions of vigorous oversight, but to defer quietly at critical junctures to special interests that can help with campaign contributions, plus investment tips and jobs for friends. In terms of self-policing, forget about it. The U.S. Senate Ethics Committee recently reported for the second year in a row that it took no disciplinary action against anyone.

To illustrate how the House of Representatives sometimes works, let me reconstruct a conversation I had with Democratic U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro a decade ago when I sat next to her on a flight from Washington to her home district in New Haven, Connecticut. I was near the beginning of a long run as president of the Wireless Communications Association International, and took the opportunity to describe unrelated problems that I had observed in the justice system and relevant news media.

“You’ve got to do something!” I recall her responding.

“Me? I’m in business, and you’re in Congress.”

“Yes, but we can’t do much.”

At least she was trying, unlike many who quickly disintegrate from their Mr. Smith Goes to Washington idealism. But the upshot is that we all, in effect, passed the buck for years, and it’s now a fine mess that we’re in. The three examples of Congressional investigations cited above each illustrate important problems.

Regarding today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on U.S. government-run torture, should the goal of such a review simply be to fact-finding and promises not to torture others? We already had that during the Church Committee hearings in the 1970s. And if the Senate process isn’t done correctly, clever defense attorneys are adept at using a legislative investigation to eliminate more serious liability down the road. Who’s reporting to the public on those fine points?

In the Siegelman case, Alabama’s leading Democrat was convicted in 2006 of re-appointing an industry executive to a state advisory board in return for $500,000 for a state ballot referendum campaign. Siegelman was promptly shackled after sentencing and shipped to prison to begin a seven-year sentence. Supposedly, this helps ensure good government. But if Siegelman were framed to get him out of the way, what’s the public interest in that? Perhaps even more important, why can’t Congress get answers so long after the underlying events that go back to the late 1990s?

In case you’re wondering how you’ll know what’s going on, consider the results of the year-long House Commerce Committee probe of abuse of power allegations against the Bush FCC Chairman Kevin Martin. The still-boyish looking Martin might have seemed overmatched in defying longtime Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Michigan), now the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history after succeeding his father in 1955. The white-haired, cane-carrying, tough-talking Dingell ostensibly wielded vast oversight power over the FCC. But his power base was declining, in part because of his strong support for the embattled U.S. auto industry.

Martin, by contrast, could rely upon his tight bonds with the White House and his confidence that most in the financially stricken news media had other priorities than scrutinizing someone with so much power over their companies. To be sure, there were a few critics such as the iconoclastic conservative editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal worried about arbitrary interventions disrupting free markets. Martin also had to endure some adverse headlines from the Commerce Committee report in December. But Martin, as a former member of Independent Prosecutor Ken Starr’s team pursuing President Bill Clinton, knew better than most the dangers of answering questions under oath. So, he issued his own statements, including a summary for posterity on the FCC website summarizing his accomplishments: “Driving Investment and Innovation While Protecting Consumers.”

No small-timer, Martin’s previous job before becoming an FCC Commissioner had been leading the 2000 Bush-Cheney Florida vote recount that enabled the Bush Presidency. Martin’s wife Cathie Martin then went to work in the Bush Administration as communications director for Karl Rove before promotion to the same post for Vice President Dick Cheney. In other words, her job was to influence the communications industry, and her husband’s was to regulate it. Rather convenient, yes?

If you already knew these things, I’ll plead guilty right now to wasting your valuable time. But if not, let’s consider what’s necessary to make our government the public’s servant instead of its master. One key test for the Obama Administration will be whether the land-rush for stimulus spending dollars proceeds in a transparent and otherwise effective manner, or whether it becomes a black box of unknowable criteria, as sometimes seems the case in such financial bailouts as that for the insurer AIG. Another promising sign would be whether Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder enforces Congressional subpoenas, and otherwise takes the steps to foster a non-political and transparent justice system. Or will the Obama Administration itself try to benefit from expanding Executive Privilege, and otherwise limit effective oversight by a compliant Congress?

In shoring up the public will to dig deep, we can learn from former CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite. He was steeled as a World War II correspondent, and then recognized in1970s public opinion surveys as, “The most trusted man in America.” This is what he said in 2002 looking back at all that he’d seen: “Not only do we have a right to know, we have a duty to know what our Government is doing in our name.”

Agenda & News Coverage of Feb. 19 Broadband Stimulus Forum

February 24, 2009

$6 billion or more of the overall economic stimulus package will be allocated towards the deployment and use of broadband communications services. The bill, directed the FCC, NTIA, and the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utility Service (RUS) to adopt quickly the rules and regulations that will govern how the money will be spent.