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October 23, 2019 | The American Prospect
Moderate Democrats Back a Privacy Bill, Minus the Privacy
“We need to start thinking not just about ticky-tack privacy rules, but what’s the reason why companies invade our privacy? And one of those reasons is the behavioral advertising model … it’s often manipulative. So we have to think about how these businesses are incentivized and structured if we want to get to the root cause of massive surveillance in our economy today.”
So declared FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra at a hearing on online platforms and market power last week. Chopra, who’s earned a reputation as a crusader in his short term thus far, was opening the door to a far deeper conversation about Big Tech than one usually hears in Washington, even in the midst of the so-called “techlash.”
October 19, 2019 | Washington Monthly
House Democrats Are Failing to Protect Farmers from Trump
Times are tough for American farmers. Everything from corporate consolidation to falling commodity prices is making it harder to get by. Strange, then, that the person most responsible for safeguarding their wellbeing, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, brought the following message to a gathering of Wisconsin dairy farmers: “In America, the big get bigger and the small go out. I don’t think in America we, for any small business, we have a guaranteed income or guaranteed profitability.” In other words, he was telling the farmers: you’re probably screwed and there’s nothing you can do about it.
October 07, 2019 | The American Prospect
Freddie Mac Using Shady AI Company for Mortgage Loans
The Wall Street Journal reported recently that Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage giant, is testing underwriting software from fintech firm ZestFinance. A creation of ex-Google executive Douglas Merrill, ZestFinance claims to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to spot trends in a borrower’s record that traditional lending models miss. This supposedly allows more credit to flow to borrowers who need and can afford it, allowing Freddie to issue more mortgages.
October 03, 2019 | The American Prospect
The DNC’s Debate Gambit Prevents Donor Accountability
Late last week, the Democratic National Committee announced that it would hold only one October debate (on the 15th, rather than the 15th and 16th), packing the 12 qualifying candidates onto a single stage. As others have highlighted, the overcrowding will likely mean even less substance and more quibbling. There is, however, another important and overlooked consequence of the DNC’s decision: The single debate will slip in hours before the Federal Election Commission’s (FEC) third-quarter fundraising filing deadline, delivering an undeserved blessing to candidates who don’t wish to answer questions about their unsavory fundraising ties.
October 02, 2019 | The Daily Beast
Don’t Stop With Donald Trump, Democrats: Impeach Attorney General Bill Barr
It’s beyond redundant to say that Donald Trump must be impeached over the Ukraine scandal. The so-called transcript of his July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelevsky released last week — really a collection of notes — was already damning evidence of the president manipulating foreign policy for his personal political goals. Then the actual whistleblower complaint reconfirmed and solidified the case. Trump’s White House counsel, Donald McGahn, even wrote a memo cautioning him that using law enforcement powers to target a political adversary would be illegal and clearly impeachable.
But if Democrats are going to uncover more information through aggressive hearings and ultimately impeach the president, they need to recognize their most powerful adversary: Attorney General William Barr.
September 27, 2019 | Talking Points Memo
Now That The Impeachment Probe Is Official, House Dems Must Ramp Up Other Oversight
In soliciting election interference from Ukraine’s president, Trump did what had long seemed impossible; he committed an offense that even the most impeachment-phobic lawmakers couldn’t ignore. You don’t have to agree that this behavior is materially worse than other known misconduct — we certainly don’t — to celebrate that this particularly flagrant misstep sent the Democratic caucus over the edge. And since House Democrats are no longer paralyzed by a fear of falling into an unwanted impeachment inquiry, it is our hope that the Democratic caucus will finally begin to act like the opposition party it was elected to be.
September 25, 2019 | The American Prospect
The Little Agency That Could (Block All Good Regulations)
The next Democratic president will, like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama before them, inherit an executive branch that in critical respects was shaped by Ronald Reagan. The administrative procedures and bottlenecks are designed to frustrate effective action. Most important, the next president will immediately face a seemingly uneventful decision whose earth-shattering significance is only apparent to corporate lobbyists. Previous generations of progressive activists have tragically ignored it. That decision is: Who should run the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)?
September 23, 2019 | Common Dreams
Why Are House Democrats Afraid to Wield Their Subpoena Power?
Does the Democratic leadership even want to wield power?
It’s hard to tell. Nine months into their House majority, Democratic committee chairs don’t seem to realize they have any powers at all besides the occasional sarcastic clap.
To be clear, Democratic House leaders possess a major power that Republicans can do nothing to block, obstruct, or impede: the power to issue and enforce subpoenas.
September 19, 2019 | Washington Monthly
The Kitchen-Table Case for Impeaching Trump
After months of waiting, the House Judiciary Committee has finally voted to open an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. With that tedious “will-they-or-won’t-they” question out of the way, the logical next question is: can impeachment succeed? The answer is a resounding yes. But getting there will require a strategic reorientation away from a sluggish and legalistic examination of Trump’s offenses via recalcitrant witnesses and toward a broader consideration of how his systemic abuses of power have materially hurt regular people.
September 18, 2019 | The American Prospect
Surprisingly Good News at the Consumer Product Safety Commission
Despite the fact that this administration has generally shown nothing but contempt for the public interest, revelations earlier this year about the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s failure to take action to protect the lives of infants and children still stood out. Last week, however, one of its members set herself apart for a different reason: Outgoing Acting Chair Ann Marie Buerkle appears to have been afflicted by a rare case of a conscience. In a highly unusual move, she voted for a Democratic commissioner to succeed her as acting chair.
September 11, 2019 | The Daily Beast
Trump’s Going to Manipulate the Government to Stay in Power
The power of an incumbent president to aid re-election by abusing the executive branch has in the past been limited by a few powerful forces: Presidential integrity; the fear of a scandal emerging in the media; and the prospect of aggressive congressional oversight.
Due to forces outside their control, the Democratic nominee won’t be saved by the first two “norms based” options. And as a result of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s strategy of not “focusing on Trump,” the president has every reason to scoff at the prospect of aggressive congressional oversight, up to and including a genuine “go big” effort at impeachment.
September 10, 2019 | The American Prospect
Google Is Like Facebook — But a Lot Smarter
Big Tech is facing an overdue crisis, but not all Big Tech companies are created equal. It’s useful to compare and contrast two of the biggest players at the center of these investigations: Facebook and Google.
Both have received constant negative press for the last few years, ranging from the stories on the Cambridge Analytica bombshell to Google’s non-stop internal chaos. Both received slaps on the wrist from the Federal Trade Commission, but both are now facing federal and state-level antitrust investigations.
Yet only one has become a full-blown bad guy to the Democratic party.
August 29, 2019 | The Daily Beast
2020 Dems Must Use Trump’s Incompetence Against Him
We tend to forget this as we watch the daily madness of the Trump presidency, but a president’s principal role is to run the executive branch. Above all, that consists of appointing personnel to thousands of roles across the administration and laying out a vision that inspires and drives that army of appointees towards common ends.
Thus, when Donald Trump assails Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell (his own pick) as incompetent and/or malevolent in executing his critical role in helping manage the United States economy, he is unquestionably attacking his own judgment and fitness for office.
July 30, 2019 | BuzzFeed News
Mayor Pete Is Silicon Valley's Hottest New Startup
You might think Big Tech is facing an existential reckoning in Washington, based on recent congressional hearings with Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google. Add in Facebook’s $5 billion Federal Trade Commission settlement and the Trump administration pursuing antitrust inquiries into Big Tech while “looking into” Peter Thiel’s accusation that Google has been treasonously collaborating with China and it begins to sound consequential.
But if you look elsewhere — to the fundraising totals released by presidential candidates this month, and perhaps even to this week’s presidential debates — you can glimpse the seeds of the industry’s political revival.
July 28, 2019 | The Daily Beast
Facebook and Equifax Scammed Customers — and Revolving-Door Corporate Lawyers Made Sure They Got Off Easy
Last week, the Federal Trade Commission made clear that dishonestly undermining Americans’ privacy can remain a part of a successful corporation’s business plan. The commission closed its investigations into the two most prominent corporate data breaches in recent memory. The Equifax hack and Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal investigations have yielded back-to-back out-of-court settlements that are all bark, no bite.