Save the Date: Second Congressional Hackathon Oct. 23

The Second Congressional Hackathon will take place at the U.S. Capitol on October 23 from 10–5. Hosted by Majority Leader McCarthy and Democratic Whip Hoyer, the hackathon is intended to explore how we can modernize Congress–from open data to updating constituent engagement.

To RSVP, go here.

The First Congressional Hackathon–#InHackWeTrust–was a great event, with tons of information about the ongoing work of the House and, equally as important, it presented a fantastic opportunity for real conversations between staff, technologists, and advocates. I wrote about it here.

With the same offices behind this hackathon, we have high hopes. Since the first congressional hackathon, there has been a series of public meetings and conferenceshosted by the Clerk of the House, the launch of new pro-transparency congressional policies and tools, the creation of the open source caucus, and a civil society-organized congressional hackathon entitled #Hack4Congress. With so many new resources available (and more coming soon), and a spirit of cooperation between congressional staff and the public, I cannot wait to see what can be accomplished.

We will post more information as it becomes available.

Cross-posted from the Congressional Data Coalition.

Save the Date: Second Congressional Hackathon ← P R E V I O U S

Paid Policy Internship at Demand Progress

We are looking for a policy intern for the rest of the year. The position is 15–20 hours a week; in addition to academic credit, we pay (modestly: $10/hour); and you don’t have to be in DC (although it’s great if you are).

Interested? Drop me a line at [email protected] More below.

UPDATE: The job has been filled for the fall.


Demand Progress is seeking a paid intern for fall 2015. We are a national grassroots non-profit organization with more than two million affiliated activists who fight for basic rights and freedoms needed for a modern democracy. Our policy agenda encompasses government transparency and reform, the intersection of national security and civil liberties, net neutrality, money in politics, and civil rights.

The policy intern will research legislation and regulations; monitor key issues; and to a lesser extent draft blogposts; assist with position papers; and attend hearings, briefings, and meetings. He or she will report to the Policy Director, although may assist other team members from time to time.

The ideal candidate is open to a progressive vision of government reform. He or she has policy-related Hill experience and/or experience writing about policy issues. Additionally, the candidate is detail-oriented, able to multitask, and capable of working independently. Familiarity with blogging, wikis, and social media is a plus. The candidate must have completed at least two years of college; enrollment or completion of graduate school will be viewed favorably, as will comparable work experience.

This position pays $10/hour in addition to academic credit. Interns are expected to work for 15–20 hours per week for at least 12 weeks, although hours are flexible. We have a distributed workplace where there is no central office; you may work from where you are, although on occasion you may be required to travel to downtown or Capitol Hill.

We believe in a true internship, where we mentor you, teach you valuable skills, and provide opportunities for new experiences.

Demand Progress is an equal opportunity employer. Qualified applicants are considered for employment without regard to age, race, color, religion, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or veteran status. We are a non-partisan organization.

To apply, please sendyour resume, a statement of interest, a relevant writing sample, and two references to Daniel Schuman at [email protected], with the word “policy intern” in the subject line. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until the position is filled. No phone calls, please.

Presidential Libraries: The Billion Dollar Cash Grab

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Photo credit: The National Archives

President Obama intends to raise at least $800 million from private donors — with hopes for $1 billion — for his presidential library, which will include a library, museum, office space, activity space, and probably a gift shop, too. It will be twice as costly as the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, with fundraising efforts almost entirely untouched by federal laws that impose limitations and transparency requirements on donations to campaigns for political office.

Historically this blind spot has proven dangerous,
with outgoing presidents concerned about raising enough money,
while still in office, to ensure their legacy.

The last three outgoing administrations ran into library fundraising-related scandals, including allegations of trading a presidential pardon for money. That is why we and a coalition of 15 organizations are urging the House and Senate to enact reform legislation, the Presidential Library Donation Reform Act.

{ Read the letters to the House and Senate}

The legislation brings potential conflicts of interest to light by providing a reliable, timely way to see donations by foreign governments, corporations, lobbyists, and wealthy benefactors. It requires fundraising organizations (e.g., the Barack Obama Foundation) to submit report quarterly to the National Archives on each person or entity that contributed more than $200; and for the Archives to publish those reports in a database within 30 days of receipt. It makes it a crime to “intentionally and willfully” submit wrong information. And once the president is no longer in office and the National Archives takes control over the library, the reporting requirements end.

To his credit, President Obama voluntarily adopted limits — “for the remainder of his term” — on donations from foreign nationals, currently registered federal lobbyists or foreign agents, and corporations that are not charitable organizations.

But the limits do not extend to corporate titans,
former lobbyists or their superiors,
and individuals with business before the government.

President Obama is voluntarily disclosing donors and donations over $200, but without indicating exactly how much was given. No governmental entity oversees the reporting to ensure it is accurate, timely, or complete, and the president can change his mind on disclosure at any time.

Generally speaking, past presidents have not voluntarily engaged in significant disclosure, although Senator Clinton mentioned her co-sponsorship of an earlier version of this legislation during a primary debatewith Barack Obama in 2007, while deferring questions on transparency of the Clinton Foundation’s finances to her husband.

Presidential libraries are not just archives,
but provide the base for a former president’s efforts
to shape his or her legacy, fund-raise,
hobnob, and remain influential.

Spearheaded by Rep. John Duncan (R-TX), the Presidential Library Donation Reform Act has been introduced every Congress since 2001, most recently winning bipartisan support from the committees of jurisdiction in the House and Senate. We urge the House and Senate to speedily take up this legislation before another presidency passes them by.

Lessons from 9/11 ← P R E V I O U S
N E X T → 
Save the Date: Second Congressional Hackathon

— Written by Daniel Schuman

Lessons from 9/11

Select Recommendations from the 9/11 Commission Report

On the fourteen anniversary of 9/11, we must remember not just the day, but the lessons we must — but still have failed — to learn. Here are select recommendations from the 9/11 Commission Report.

Limited, Transparent Government

The burden of proof for retaining a particular governmental power should be on the executive, to explain (a) that the power actually materially enhances security and (b) that there is adequate supervision of the executive’s use of the powers to ensure protection of civil liberties. If the power is granted, there must be adequate guidelines and oversight to properly confine its use.

• • •

As the President determines the guidelines for information sharing among government agencies and by those agencies with the private sector, he should safeguard the privacy of individuals about whom information is shared.

• • •

Finally, to combat the secrecy and complexity we have described, the overall amounts of money being appropriated for national intelligence and to its component agencies should no longer be kept secret. Congress should pass a separate appropriations act for intelligence, defending the broad allocation of how these tens of billions of dollars have been assigned among the varieties of intelligence work.

Just Policies

The U.S. government must define what the message is, what it stands for. We should offer an example of moral leadership in the world, committed to treat people humanely, abide by the rule of law, and be generous and caring to our neighbors.

• • •

A comprehensive U.S. strategy to counter terrorism should include economic policies that encourage development, more open societies, and opportunities for people to improve the lives of their families and to enhance prospects for their children’s future.

• • •

The United States should engage its friends to develop a common coalition approach toward the detention and humane treatment of captured terrorists. New principles might draw upon Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions on the law of armed conflict.

System of Checks and Balances

Congressional oversight for intelligence — and counterterrorism — is now dysfunctional. Congress should address this problem.

{ Like this? You may also like Sunsetting the Politics of Terror and What Our Mass Surveillance Debate Gets Wrong}

— Written by Daniel Schuman