Greater Greater Washington

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Brown criticizes GGW but still has no believable explanation

Kwame Brown criticized Greater Greater Washington to TBD, claiming we're wrong about his motivations for reshuffling committees. But his explanations continue to simply not hold water.


Image from TBD.

Brown claimed that the changes better unify subject areas in the same committee, like putting the environment with transportation and public works. There is indeed a lot of linkage, and those all were part of the same committee, under Jim Graham, before 2008.

But that's almost the only case where Brown's claim fits. He's keeping the Office of Zoning in the Committee of the Whole, while moving planning to Wells' committee. Planning and zoning go together like peas and carrots. In Montgomery County, they put planning and zoning together with the environment; that would have made even more sense and a great committee for Mary Cheh.

And what about alcohol licensing? Kwame Brown gave that to Jim Graham in January. It's widely agreed that this was compensation for taking away transportation. But it has little to do with human services. If rationalizing committees is so important, why isn't it in the same committee as other licensing bodies like DCRA?

I can think of no explanation other than that Brown didn't want to hurt Graham but did want to hurt Wells. Can you? And that's the problem. Brown keeps asserting that payback was not the motive, but almost all local reporters have pointed out that his explanation doesn't hold up.

Sadly, Mary Cheh has started parroting the same line:

CM Brown had to reshuffle things because newly elected Vincent Orange had to be assigned a committee and arrangements had to be made to account for Mr Thomas losing his committee. CM Brown reconfigured committees along better functional lines including placing transportation and public works under the comm on the environment.
No reshuffling had to happen with transportation, because the Thomas/Orange changes don't overlap at all with the Wells/Cheh/Bowser changes. And a transportation committee that has the environment but doesn't have WMATA is definitely not "better functional lines."

John Hendel wrote,

When questioning the Greater Greater Washington report, Brown also emphasized that he hadn't been able to weigh in properly, and that a proper news story needed to include all the different sides of a decision such as this. He told me that he likes the news site but that it has a lot of emotion, and that journalism needs to include multiple perspectives. Again, this sounds fair enough on paper but doesn't seem to harmonize with the increasingly loud sense of outrage over Wells' shift as well as what seems to be a growing consensus that yes, the SUV investigation may have played a role.
I'm sorry that Kwame Brown, citywide elected chairman of the Council of the District of Columbia, feels he isn't able to properly communicate with reporters who spend much of their time in his building. This underscores Alan Suderman's point yesterday that one of the clearest lessons from this saga is that Kwame Brown is bad at media relations. Or, maybe, the local press corps is just smarter and more penetrating than Brown would like.

If Brown is genuinely trying to improve the Council's function, Suderman makes another good suggestion: make committee staff more real professional staff rather than political hires of each councilmember.

When members switch committees, the expected convention in the council is that each member of the committee's staff just keeps working for the former chair in their new capacity. For example, in January Tommy Wells and Jim Graham swapped committees. But all the staff of Human Services kept working for Wells even though he didn't have human services oversight, and the staff of Public Works and Transportation kept working for Graham.

John DeTaeye, for example, had been handling DPW issues, and had become an expert on recycling and trash. He had some good ideas which he'd discussed with me for improving recycling rates. Suddenly, he couldn't implement those, and had to learn human services issues (though he also got promoted to committee director).

One uncommon exception was Jonathon Kass, the excellent transportation committee staffer who has a background in transportation. Graham let Wells hire Kass to be the new committee director. But will Mary Cheh do the same? Then what would happen to Jeremy Faust, the current Government Operations and the Environment committee director?

It's all crazy. This makes it less likely for councilmembers to hire people with deeper subject knowledge. As long as all staff are generalists, with backgrounds in law or public policy or something, they can generally shift, but still have to learn new policy areas from scratch, at great cost of productivity and institutional memory.

Kwame Brown shouldn't swap around committees lightly, with unbelievable explanations. Barring that, he should take steps to reduce the severe impacts that result when committees change hands.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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this seems like you just did that because Wells came out with about the CM Brown SUV

by Jerome on Jul 13, 2011 4:48 pm • linkreport

Good job David. Apparently CM Brown thinks that he is entitled to treat the local media corps as his own personal press megaphone. If CM Brown wants "multiple perspectives" on the motivation for these actions, maybe he should find a reliable source (other than himself and Cheh) willing to offer one.

Bueller? Bueller?

by Scoot on Jul 13, 2011 5:05 pm • linkreport

How this for an explanation:

Assume Kwame Brown wants to be mayor. It seems reasonable as it's the next stepping stone from Council Chair. Also assume he wants to do it rather quickly, which makes sense since Gray probably won't be Mayor for too long (if for no other reason than age). Wells might be his biggest challenger. Wells should do well in Wards 1, 2, 3, and (of course) 6. Brown's power base is Ward 7 where Wells was making inroads with his work on transportation. So to stop that, Brown removes Wells from Transportation, thus keeping his base for a Mayoral run in tact. Thoughts?

by Steven Yates on Jul 13, 2011 5:11 pm • linkreport

If this was just reshuffling for the sake of efficiency, why was it done
(a) suddenly
(b) without any evidence of study or recommendations
(c) contrary to practice in other jurisdictions
(d) contrary to DC practice (in changing chairmanship half way through)
(e) punishing someone who caused political pain.

Sorry, it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, even if you are calling it a horse.

As for "efficiency" what is the sense in having Wells trained in all the intracies of WMATA, then booting him. Metro oversight is one of the more important functions of the Council.

by SJE on Jul 13, 2011 5:35 pm • linkreport

So glad Suderman raised the issue of professional staff. This was one of the recommendations Appleseed made many years ago (late 1990s, early 2000s) as part of their analysis of the Council. The recommendations were largely non-starters then. Perhaps it's time for the report to be dusted off and re-read well in advance of the 2012 elections.

by Susie Cambria on Jul 13, 2011 6:02 pm • linkreport

....So to stop that, Brown removes Wells from Transportation, thus keeping his base for a Mayoral run in tact. Thoughts?

Either using your power to remove Wells for exposing a scandal, or using your power to dispose of him as an obstacle to your mayoral prospects? Six of one and half a dozen of the other on the scale of corruption, I'd say.

captcha: astorm appears

by Scoot on Jul 13, 2011 6:04 pm • linkreport

The post article gave a great ditty to use forevermore on the DC elected officials: free of ethical taint.

"DC Council, 20% free of ethical taint."

"Dc Government, now with a fee extra helping of ethical taint."

Bumper sticker time.

by greent on Jul 13, 2011 6:04 pm • linkreport

Yes CM Cheh no integrity whatsoever. Stab a colleague in the back and turn the knife. Not a decent human being on that whole council they couldn't even abstain from the vicious act of revenge for exposing "Fully Loaded Brown"

by danmac on Jul 13, 2011 6:14 pm • linkreport

With Chairman Brown -- he of the personal debt problems, apparent financial irregularities in his 2008 campaign, and assumption that there was no reason for a cash-strapped city not to get him the most tricked-out vehicle possible -- so ham-fistedly trying to consolidate his own power over municipal programs, why did the bulk of the council members decide to roll over and play dead?

by mophead on Jul 13, 2011 7:42 pm • linkreport

Okay, I've been arguing over and over that if the social media are going to step into the shoes of the traditional media, they are going to have to adopt at least some sense of unbiased 'reporting'. Yes, I acknowledge that they won't ever be completely unbiased, as the traditional media was never completely unbiased. BUT they still need to be regarded by everyone as 'an honest broker'. And watching this whole incident unfold, I'm starting to realize exactly what that means. I.e., The social media can't concurrently be seen to be making the news if they are also to be viewed as being able to fairly report the news. In this instance, GGW is very much making the news. And whether one agrees with GGW's advocacies or not, I think we can agree that going forward the level of trust by at least Chairman Brown in regards to GGW fairly reporting the news ... isn't going to be where it needs to be if GGW is to continue in its pivotal role. I understand it's quite a balancing act to both advocate for a position and be able to report on it, but without at least an attempt at reporting it with unbiasedness ... i.e. relating ALL sides to a discussion or argument ... it risks both being left out of the loop going forward AND losing its bully pulpit.

by Lance on Jul 13, 2011 8:07 pm • linkreport

Even if Brown thought he was rationalizing the committee structures (questionable enough), why couldn't he have kept the committee chairs intact (Cheh would stay with Government Operations, Wells with Transportation, Bowser with Parks). Brown could have met his purported goal without changing chairs.

by Observer on Jul 13, 2011 8:42 pm • linkreport

You know, the frickin' chairman of the city council has his own PR staff. He does not need GGW to serve as his mouthpiece to do his publicity work for him. If he doesn't want bad stories of him to appear, he shouldn't do bad stuff.

We would all be much worse off if David Alpert and the rest of the GGW contributors thought it was their job to cultivate access to Brown and felt they had to depend on him for quotes.

by Tyro on Jul 13, 2011 10:38 pm • linkreport

@Tyro, the don't have PR staffs. At least not professional ones.

by Lance on Jul 13, 2011 11:06 pm • linkreport

If Kwame Brown has a PR staff, they're clearly not doing a very good job.

by andrew on Jul 14, 2011 12:02 am • linkreport

@Lance - do you mean DC Council Members traditionally choose not to have anyone on staff who focuses on press or is there some reason they are prohibited from doing that?

If they don't devote anyone to media and constituent relationships they are very short sighted. If they are prevented from doing that, its something to revisit.

by Kate W. on Jul 14, 2011 12:23 am • linkreport

@Kate, Yes they have constituent services people. But I don't think that equals PR. From what I understand they mainly respond to constituents answers and assist constituents get through the District's buraucratic maze. I don't think they put together communications plans and perform the other pro-active functions that a PR person would.

by Lance on Jul 14, 2011 7:57 am • linkreport

@Lance,

I think you're right in your prediction. Politicians who are reported on negatively will respond in kind.

I think you're wrong in your inference. The appropriate role of media is not to report sounds bytes or context-less data points, but to analyze and contextualize the events in question. If to BS is to speak without regard for the truth, then to show when a politician's claim is BS is a valid and necessary function of the media. Here, David is doing that: because the proffered explanation (consolidation) does not hold up, there must be another motive. David infers from that it's a political motive, and finds that previous history supports that hypothesis.

I, for one, am grateful that there are local media outlets (new or old) of this quality.

by Bill on Jul 14, 2011 8:01 am • linkreport

@Bill, 'The appropriate role of media is not to report sounds bytes or context-less data points, but to analyze and contextualize the events in question.

Yes ... but that includes telling both sides of the story. Taking an accusatory tone, and thus becoming a part of the story, vs. reporting on it and analyzing it is what makes what happened here very very different from anything you'd see in the traditional media.

My actual prediction is that this is a nascent period for the social media and like the early days of newspapers where you'd have dozens in rivalry for readers (and lot of this unbiased reporting occuring), in the end only those that are able to walk the fine line of reporting (and analyzing) the news without becoming a part of the news will survive.

by Lance on Jul 14, 2011 8:37 am • linkreport

Karen Sibert, Brown's Deputy Chief of Staff, was formerly Director of Communications at the Downtown BID. Her name is on all his press releases, found on the media section of his web site. She is a PR person, and she works for Kwame.

by Urbanette on Jul 14, 2011 8:40 am • linkreport

@Lance

This blog is clearly and opinion/editorial site. If you're looking for something to just regurgitate what each side says and say "you decide," this isn't the place.

Furthermore, this piece right here DOES in fact report "both sides" of the story - "Brown claimed that the changes better unify subject areas in the same committee, like putting the environment with transportation and public works." The reality is that before Kwame came out to do damage control, the other side of the story didn't even exist.

by MLD on Jul 14, 2011 8:58 am • linkreport

Lance, we know both sides of the story. This story delves into both sides (revenge vs. routine) but clearly one needs more analysis than the other.

by Canaan on Jul 14, 2011 9:05 am • linkreport

@Lance

I don't understand your assertion that in their infancy newspapers were unbiased ("...and like the early days of newspapers where you'd have dozens in rivalry for readers (and lot of this unbiased reporting occuring"...)). Did you mean "unbiased" to be "biased?" Because early newspapers were nothing if not biased in favor of a political party, the King, or some power source.

by The Heights on Jul 14, 2011 9:30 am • linkreport

@MLD, Do you really believe CM Wells got pulled from the Transportation Committee only because he did an inquiry into Brown's ordering of the SUV? Just reading through the post a lot of other possible reasons are coming out. Maybe some newspaper will pick up on these and do a thorough analysis as to what led to Wells downfall.

by Lance on Jul 14, 2011 9:35 am • linkreport

@The Heights, Correct I mean "biased". thanks for catching the error.

by Lance on Jul 14, 2011 9:36 am • linkreport

@Lance

The fact that Kwame's explanation of the situation only consisted of "well we decided to rejigger things," when everyone is asking questions about Wells in particular, I think backs up the idea that it was meant as a bit of payback. Mary Cheh came out with basically the same lame explanation. Everyone was asking questions specifically about Wells and they avoided talking specifically about him.

by MLD on Jul 14, 2011 9:46 am • linkreport

@Lance

I'm intrigued by your argument, but I think it's only valid up to a point. I am personally alarmed by the polarization of the media in America and I believe that the ideological slants of Fox News and MSNBC make it very difficult for viewers to wiegh all the facts before coming to an intelligent conclusion. That of course, assumes that they want to weigh all of the facts in the first place, which seems doubtful for many Americans today. That being said, newspapers do make news sometimes. The Post made news through Woodward and Bernstein when they brought down a President. Investigative journalism is, by definition, "making news." I'm not sure any media observe a strict firewall between reporting the news and making it anymore.

by The Heights on Jul 14, 2011 9:47 am • linkreport

@BillHere, David is doing that: because the proffered explanation (consolidation) does not hold up, there must be another motive. David infers from that it's a political motive, and finds that previous history supports that hypothesis.

While I understand your point, you should be willing to consider that in this case, DAl as a "source" calls into question the biased angle of his reporting. The initial reporting didn't suggest that DAl offered his opinion after a fact-finding mission. The article itself didn't offer facts to support D's position. But, instead of doing the usually accepted journalistic practice of writing ...Brown strips Wells..for retribution over SUV Scandal?" DAl inserted himself into the story which will now call into question his own motives here. So sure, it's definately proper for D to write a story about Brown's nonexplanation. But now GGW is part of the story..and I'm not sure if that's a good thing.

On another note, can anyone name the politician who admits they did something for political gain? The only person I can think of is Obama who admitted that he voted against the Bush debt ceiling increase for political reasons. But that's an anomaly. Is anyone really expecting Brown or anyone else to own up to things like this? Does anyone really expect Wells to say that he reached out to GGW for support on this?

It's like screaming at a brick wall. No matter how loud you scream, it's not going to respond. Brown will never admit that politics had anything to do with it and I wouldn't believe him one bite. But I don't think that "well he led the SUV investigation" is THE reason and there has been no reports to suggest otherwise.

by HogWash on Jul 14, 2011 10:02 am • linkreport

It is now official. GGW has lost any and all influence with District officials. The Mayor and the Council Chair have given GGW the official middle finger, and the rest of the Council indirectly by all of them taking the clear action of voting against GGW favorite Wells.

Seriously, the city doesn't care what GGW has to say. No amount of email petitions is going to change that. Might as well pack up shop till the next Mayoral election, or until Gray is recalled.

And yes, all of this was as predictable as the sun rising tomorrow with the election of Gray and Brown.

by freely on Jul 14, 2011 10:02 am • linkreport

But, instead of doing the usually accepted journalistic practice of writing...Brown strips Wells..for retribution over SUV Scandal?" DAl inserted himself into the story which will now call into question his own motives here. So sure, it's definately proper for D to write a story about Brown's nonexplanation. But now GGW is part of the story..and I'm not sure if that's a good thing.

On another note, can anyone name the politician who admits they did something for political gain? The only person I can think of is Obama who admitted that he voted against the Bush debt ceiling increase for political reasons. But that's an anomaly. Is anyone really expecting Brown or anyone else to own up to things like this? Does anyone really expect Wells to say that he reached out to GGW for support on this?

It's like screaming at a brick wall. No matter how loud you scream, it's not going to respond. Brown will never admit that politics had anything to do with it and I wouldn't believe him one bit. But I don't think that "well he led the SUV investigation" is THE reason and there has been no reports to suggest otherwise. Not when Wells had ZERO support. Even in DC, that's odd.

@The Heights Investigative journalism is, by definition, "making news."

I agree. However in this case, there was no investigative journalism involved but news was definately made.

by HogWash on Jul 14, 2011 10:07 am • linkreport

@HogWash

I never stated that there was any investigation here. My reply was to Lance's larger point regarding the role of social media as a replacement for the traditional media. In this case, however, GGW was acting as a mouthpiece for a candidate, probably with information leaked to it by the candidate himself. Politicians leak information to newspapers to further their own purposes all the time. Whether that information is leaked to an editorial page, which GGW approximates, or to a news page is immaterial. Therefore, newspapers also passively make news as well as actively, through publishing leaked information, which could consist of views or opinions of newsmakers. For the record, I don't see GGW as an unbiased news site anyway. Clearly the writers and the readers share some core values which they all promote through the site.

by The Heights on Jul 14, 2011 10:23 am • linkreport

I am amused by the Brown apologists who are scuttling out of their holes to defend what even the mainstream press is labeling as outrageous. The DC Chamber of Commerce also condemned the move as the kind of thing that makes businesses question the stability of the government. Brown's approval rating is a Palin-esque 27%, so most of the city thinks he's incompetent. Can we get a preview of what your defense of him will be when he gets indicted? Or even better recalled?

by Awshux on Jul 14, 2011 10:38 am • linkreport

WRT Lance's comments, fwiw, in the history of newspapers, the so-called "early days," for the most part, newspapers were supported by and represented different interests, different political parties, etc. and were very much opinionated.

Certainly newspaper proprietors (Hearst, Pulitzer, McCormack, etc.) presented their viewpoints and beliefs and used their newspapers as forums which is why it was often called "yellow journalism".

As newspaper chains developed and newspapers consolidated and became more corporate businesses, and the field became "professionalized" this changed somewhat, at least in the bigger cities, although traditionally newspapers have still tended to align their interests with the local political and economic elites.

WRT "social media" of course the pieces represent the viewpoints of the authors. We can endeavor to be reasonably objective (I try to be) or not. You can agree with our analyses, or not.

This blog clearly espouses a pro-urban perspective, whether or not you agree with how this perspective is interpreted. That's the worldview and the lens within which events are interpreted.

So of course, it would analyze and communicate/report what happened the way it did.

Advocates walk a fine line. Of course we espouse a particular worldview. I try to link theory and practice in the positions I espouse. Trying to shape events in a positive direction is a tough slog and this is but one of many points on a continuum. But if you don't write about it and hone your position and your arguments and your communications methods you are destined to lose.

The biggest lesson for me is that this is but another example of the Gillette argument (from _Between Justice and Beauty_) about the different agendas within the city. It's complicated by the fact that what we might call the pro-urban or pro-city agenda (what Gillette calls beauty, with a soupcon of the progressive era's good government focus) is not coherent and consistent and has mostly devolved into more parochial neighborhood-protectionism, so that a coherent citywide agenda doesn't really exist.

This blog and others (BeyondDC, mine, City Block) work to build that coherent agenda. Given that amongst us we disagree on broad strategy as well as tactics and specific policies and programs shows how difficult it is to forge a broader movement.

Interestingly, I wrote many blog entries on New Year's Day and the first point I wrote about CM Wells and his then committee was this:

first, extend Councilmember Wells' efforts as Ward 6 Councilmember focused on placemaking and quality of life improvements in Ward 6 to the development of a citywide placemaking and quality of life improvement effort. (Note that DDOT's streetscape planning and construction efforts under Dan Tangherlini around 2000 are the foundation and first building block of this effort.)

from http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2011/01/new-years-post-5-dc-city-council.html

I don't know if he was going to do that--expand the livability agenda and movement citywide--but his work with bus service in W7 and W8 shows that maybe he was moving up to it, even if I wasn't satisfied with the pace or the failure of other elected officials to understand the importance or centrality (...back to that dichotomy between justice and beauty).

by Richard Layman on Jul 14, 2011 10:48 am • linkreport

@The Heights. Oh ok, I get your well-made point now. I see now that my quarrel is with "how" the news was made here not mere fact that it was made.

@Awwshucks, I don't think the mainstream is all things good. So the idea that their behind this story doesn't amount to much, especially if we're talking about the WPost or the Examiner. I also don't believe anyone is here to defend Brown. Pointing out how the story was out before the facts really isn't apologizing for anything.

by HogWash on Jul 14, 2011 11:15 am • linkreport

HogWash: I don't understand how you can say the story was out before the facts. A story gets the facts out. I talked to people in the council. I had some info. I reported it. Then, more people reported it and agreed with me. So it's not that my story preceded the facts, I was just the first one to say those facts.

by David Alpert on Jul 14, 2011 11:18 am • linkreport

hmm.

The story was posted at 7:06 AM. I know Alpert is a machine, but it would take at least 10-15 minutes to write something that long.

So let's say 6:55.

At that hour, who is emailing/twittering/talking? It was before any of the usual press breaks. Certainly before you have time to get the whole story, and before the 12-1 vote which shows how few friends Wells has in the council.

Waiting to hear the whole story usually has some value. There is value is being first -- and you were here -- but your spin (and wells spin) that this is about the SUV is a bit of a stretch.

What is funny about the SUV thing is is probably just alienated his fellow council members. Putting out hit jobs with people who need to vote for you isn't going to win point. Corrupt -- maybe. But I also somehow think Brown driving a SUV is about #153 of the problems DC faces. At best.

by charlie on Jul 14, 2011 11:30 am • linkreport

Lance said he believes the onus for credibility is upon GGW, vis a vis Kwame Brown. Laughable. Brown lied blatantly about the SUV scandal, as was later revealed by Tommy Wells' report (but no connection there!). Brown has proven he has zero credibility. BTW, has Kwame reimbursed the residents yet, as he promised earlier this year?

Lance also said he believes that a council chairman only has constituent services staffers, and none handling public relations. What does he think a communications director or press secretary are for?

by CDL on Jul 14, 2011 11:31 am • linkreport

that includes telling both sides of the story.

We all knew Brown's claim. It just wasn't credible and there was no reason for GGW to take it seriously. This is more about the fact that Brown has a fancy title and wears a tie, and you are hoping that the fact that you wear a tie means that your beliefs will be taken seriously and given "equal weight," even though we think they are wrong and deserve less consideration because you and Brown are not credible.

by JustMe on Jul 14, 2011 11:34 am • linkreport

DAl, I haven't read all the stories on this. But has anybody confirmed that the reason Brown did this was out of spite over the SUV scandal? I know I've seen this site and others "suggest" this is the case. But has it been confirmed and if so, doesn't it make sense to post that fact?

Maybe I should have said that the story was out and we've yet to get the facts. By concluding that this move proves that Brown isn't committed to progress, you've clouded your argument against brown. As the author, it's reasonable that you would have an opinion on this. But you threw at wild accusations against not just Brown but the entire council and I don't think you've substantiated those claims with facts. You've accused the entire council of being corrupt with no information to back that up. That is unless the council members you spoke to confirmed that they were indeed being corrupt. I haven't seen anything from you quoting what a councilmember said to you about this.

And again, I don't doubt that Brown did this for political reason. I just acknowledge that committee assignments are often done for political reasons. IMO, there's a benefit to Wells being on this committee, a practical and political one. At the same time, does anyone think that Wells wanted to serve on the committee not for political reasons? For instance, if it's true that he has sights on the Chairmanship or the Mayor's office, doesn't it stand to reason that he is positioning himself politically to win?

I guess that what saddens me about this and other recent stories about DC gov't is that what has now been standard practice around the country is now open to ridicule and people will use this is an example of a nonfunctioning DC gov't. Not because we don't think this sort of stuff happens. But that we KNOW it happens and only make issue of it when it happens to someone we like or don't like. Inevitably, the tables will turn and then what?

Imagine if a prominent blogger blogged that David Alpert excoriated the entire DC Council and accused them of being corrupt in an effort to appease his base of supporters upset with his endorsement of Vincent Gray. Sure, people can talk about that they believe it and offer details that make that seem likely. But that doesn't make it true.

by HogWash on Jul 14, 2011 12:08 pm • linkreport

On another note, can anyone name the politician who admits they did something for political gain?

In that case, why is it so important to have a quote from Kwame Brown before putting out the story?

by Keith Ivey on Jul 14, 2011 12:09 pm • linkreport

Are some commenters under the impression that GGW is not an advocacy organization? It is, and there's nothing wrong with that.

by Keith Ivey on Jul 14, 2011 12:11 pm • linkreport

Oh and I should add David, this is the Michelle Rhee argument in full effect. Then, it was argued that failing to support her as Chancellor meant that you aren't committed to education reform. That the only person who could solve the problem was Michelle Rhee.

Here, because Wells is longer on that committee, you present the similar argument that DC isn't committed to transit improvement. Sure, I think it's hyperbole. I also don't think you believe that.

by HogWash on Jul 14, 2011 12:13 pm • linkreport

In that case, why is it so important to have a quote from Kwame Brown before putting out the story?

I thought D did include a quote from Brown. Maybe I should go back and read.

by HogWash on Jul 14, 2011 12:14 pm • linkreport

"Are some commenters under the impression that GGW is not an advocacy organization? It is, and there's nothing wrong with that."

Gosh, I hope not. Because if it is, there are a host of lobbying and disclosure laws that might need to be met.

by charlie on Jul 14, 2011 12:20 pm • linkreport

@chalie -you jest, yes? (about the lobbying and disclosure laws?) 'cuz advocacy and professional lobbying are differentiated.

by Tina on Jul 14, 2011 12:31 pm • linkreport

@Tina; hmm, are they?

by charlie on Jul 14, 2011 12:40 pm • linkreport

@charlie, no gives money to GGW to advocate

by Tina on Jul 14, 2011 1:02 pm • linkreport

^"nobody"

by Tina on Jul 14, 2011 1:18 pm • linkreport

@ Tina; that's not the test. The test is money being expended. Hosting, transit fares to meetings, etc would count.

There is, of course, an exemption for newspapers of general record. But does a group blog, particularly one dedicated to advocacy -- as Mr. Ivey suggests -- qualify for that exemption?

Couple other clever tricks to get out of the dollar requirement. Perhaps you pro rate posts that are "advocacy" vs posts that are not. Or better yet, suggest that calling to council to complain about a committee restructuring isn't lobbying for registration.

Like most of these laws, it is overly broad and isn't enforced. Much like DC's SUV ban, in fact.....a VICIOUS Council Chair could ask DC to begin an investigation. Certainly there is a lack of transparency on how much GGW costs and who might be paying Alpert. I saw him on the Circulator once -- and I think it is high time he reveals who paid that $1 fare.

by charlie on Jul 14, 2011 1:20 pm • linkreport

"overly broad" seems an understatement. I advocate somewhat regularly by writting letters. I expend funds that allow me to do that including buying food so I can stay alive, and the education costs that gave me the ability to read and write, the cost of my laptop and electricity bill, etc. If thats the criterion then everyone who ever makes an effort to communicate with an elected representative is subject to this host of disclosure laws you speak of.

by Tina on Jul 14, 2011 1:37 pm • linkreport

@charlie - troll harder.

by Awshux on Jul 14, 2011 1:38 pm • linkreport

@ Tina; and a bit antiquated. Clearly the law was written to exempt some activities (writing a letter to your councilman) but include others (paying $250 to mimeograph a flyer and mail then to 100 of your neighbors on a regular basis). Sending a message to a listserv has the same effect, but the cost is essentially zero.

Larger point: much like security law, you have to start off by saying "everything is advocacy" then drill down exemptions.

by charlie on Jul 14, 2011 1:46 pm • linkreport

@Charlie: But does a group blog, particularly one dedicated to advocacy -- as Mr. Ivey suggests -- qualify for that exemption?

Yes. The FEC ruled on this in 2007 -- blogs, even those presenting themselves as sources of advocacy and opinion rather than news, are covered by the FEC's media exemption. Just like a newspaper or a printed opinion journal, their output and the expenditures associated with generating that output (like web hosting or bus fare) are not considered expenditures for political purposes.

by cminus on Jul 14, 2011 4:12 pm • linkreport

Why on earth would an elected official have to explain the why's of a decision they made to someones public diary (blog), when the person whose blog it is explains nothing of their own motivations?

quid pro ... I never did take latin.

Yay Gary!

by greent on Jul 14, 2011 4:46 pm • linkreport

@cminus; that might be more dispositive if

1) we were talking about the fec;
2) talking about campaign finance, not lobbyist registration
3) talking about the 1st amendment

by Charlie on Jul 14, 2011 5:01 pm • linkreport

@charlie, fair point.

However, DC law (1 D.C. Code 1105.03) exempts from registration "a publisher or working member of the press, radio, or television who in the ordinary course of business disseminates news or editorial comment to the general public". None of these terms are defined in the relevant chapter of the D.C. Code or associated regulations.

In 2008, the state of Washington was in a similar position, with an undefined exemption for editorial content, and decided to try to regulate bloggers as lobbyists. In the absence of a specific definition of press that excluded blogs, and in the presence of a national standard that included them, the state decided it needed to affirmatively adopt a rule classifying blogs as lobbying. (Which pretty much failed.)

Of course, DC is not Washington state, and your pal Kwame could indeed try to direct the BOEE to interpret blogs as subject to lobbying rules. I hope he doesn't, not because I'm afraid he'd win, but because I know he'd lose (anyone's guess whether the courts or Congress would settle his hash first), and the prospect of a Council Chair already under deep suspicion of unethical campaign finance behavior pushing through an interpretation of lobbying rules contrary to practice everywhere else in the country would pretty much be planting a giant "Control Board me!" sign on the District.

by cminus on Jul 14, 2011 8:35 pm • linkreport

GGW, before you develop your position and blog, do you actually interview your subjects? Especially those you suspect or disagree with?

by max on Jul 17, 2011 9:38 am • linkreport

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