Government & Communications

Attempts by governmental bodies to improve or impede communications with or between the citizenry.

Reporter Disputes Pai’s Description of Security Incident

CQ Roll Call reporter John Donnelly, who was allegedly manhandled at the May Federal Communications Commission open meeting, contested how FCC Chairman Ajit Pai described the incident in a letter to lawmakers.

"I appreciate that Chairman Pai has offered an apology, but his version of the facts is inaccurate. I never attempted to enter a restricted area. That is false. Even if the guards had somehow convinced themselves that I was trying to enter a restricted area, that does not excuse what they did," Donnelly said. "As for the supposedly 'inadvertent' physical contact with me: if it was an accident, then why didn't they say so then or apologize?" Donnelly said guards appeared to know he was a reporter and contends Pai's account denying that he was pinned against the wall is inaccurate.

Trump has changed American attitudes towards the media “for the worse”

President Donald Trump has changed American attitudes towards the media “for the worse,” 52 percent of voters say, while 22 percent say he has changed attitudes “for the better.” Only 10 percent of voters are “enthusiastic” about the media, while 30 percent are “satisfied.” Another 33 percent are “dissatisfied” and 26 percent of voters, including 46 percent of Republicans, are “angry.”

Limited ethics waivers reflect new freedom for former lobbyists to join government

Federal agencies issued just a handful of waivers exempting political appointees from conflict of interest rules in the first three months of the administration, a reflection in part of how President Donald Trump has made it easier for lobbyists to work in agencies they once sought to influence. Documents released by the Office of Government Ethics on June 7 show that through April 30, just 10 Trump appointees who work outside the White House received exemptions from aspects of federal ethics rules.

Although dozens of lobbyists have joined the Trump administration, only one received an ethics waiver addressing his previous lobbying work: Lance Leggitt, the chief of staff for the Department of Health and Human Services. That’s because an executive order that Trump signed in January did away with a rule laid down by former president Barack Obama banning lobbyists from joining agencies they had lobbied in the previous two years. Instead, Trump’s order allows former lobbyists to enter the administration, but prohibits them for two years from working on a specific issue that they lobbied on during the previous two years.

President Trump’s Not the Only One Blocking Constituents on Twitter

As President Donald Trump faces criticism for blocking users on his Twitter account, people across the country say they, too, have been cut off by elected officials at all levels of government after voicing dissent on social media. In Arizona, a disabled Army veteran grew so angry when her congressman blocked her and others from posting dissenting views on his Facebook page that she began delivering actual blocks to his office. A central Texas congressman has barred so many constituents on Twitter that a local activist group has begun selling T-shirts complaining about it. And in Kentucky, the Democratic Party is using a hashtag, #BevinBlocked, to track those who’ve been blocked on social media by Gov Matt Bevin (R-KY).

The growing combat over social media is igniting a new-age legal debate over whether losing this form of access to public officials violates constituents’ First Amendment rights to free speech and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Those who’ve been blocked say it’s akin to being thrown out of a town hall meeting for holding up a protest sign.

White House Staff, Congress Blindsided by FBI Pick Announcement

Apparently, President Donald Trump’s top communications staff, and much of his senior White House team, did not know the president was going to make the official announcement for nominating James Comey’s successor early on June 7 via a single tweet. Several observers noted that President Trump’s Christopher Wray announcement did not arrive with any fact sheet or official press release, as would be expected with news of this weight. And it’s just the latest instance of President Trump’s senior staffers, particularly his communications and press shop, being cut out of the loop, undermined, and frazzled by their unpredictable boss and his compulsive tweeting habit.

Intelligence officials Rogers and Coats said they won’t discuss specifics of private conversations with Trump

Two of the nation’s top intelligence officials said in a hearing they would not discuss specifics of private conversations with President Donald Trump, declining to say whether they had been asked to push back against an FBI probe into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government.

Testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats refused to say whether it was true that President Trump asked Coats if he could reach out to then-FBI Director James B. Comey and dissuade him from pursuing the Michael Flynn matter. “I don’t believe it’s appropriate for me to address that in a public session,’’ Coats said. “I don’t think this is the appropriate venue to do this in.’’ He added: “I have never felt pressure to intervene or interfere in any way … in an ongoing investigation.’’ Similarly, National Security Agency Director Michael S. Rogers declined to directly answer Sen Mark Warner’s (D-VA) question of whether President Trump sought his aid in downplaying the investigation.

The latest NSA leak is a reminder that your bosses can see your every move

It took just days for authorities to arrest and charge a federal contractor with leaking classified intelligence to the media. Court documents explain in detail how the 25-year-old woman suspected in the leak, Reality Leigh Winner, allegedly printed off a copy of a National Security Agency report on Russian tampering in the US elections and mailed it to a news outlet. What helped federal authorities link Winner to the leak were unrelated personal e-mails she had sent to the Intercept news site weeks before, which surfaced when investigators searched her computer. But how were officials able to gain access to her personal accounts? The answer, according to some former National Security Agency analysts, is that the agency routinely monitors many of its employees' computer activity. The case offers a reminder that virtually every American worker in today's economy can be tracked and reported — and you don't even have to be the NSA to pull it off.

Republican political operatives want to sell the dark arts of opposition research to tech companies

A team of veteran Republican operatives is taking its talent for under-the-radar political muckraking to an unlikely place: The liberal-leaning, Democratic-donating, Donald Trump-hating tech epicenter of Silicon Valley. The newest startup setting up shop in the Bay Area is Definers Public Affairs, a Washington (DC)-based outfit that seeks to apply the dark science of political opposition research to the business world. Their mission: To arm companies with ammunition to attack their corporate rivals, sway their government overseers and shape the public’s opinion on controversial issues.

To the GOP-led political venture, Silicon Valley is a natural target for their so-called “oppo” efforts. The tech industry is characteristically hyper-competitive, with boardroom squabbles, takeover attempts, and legal wars over employees and patents and regulations. Definers hopes to supply some of its future tech clients with the gossip, dirt and intel to win those fights. But the firm’s new Oakland-based operative — Tim Miller, who previously served as communications director to GOP presidential contender Jeb Bush — plans to do it with a decidedly Republican bent. The region’s tech heavyweights have long struggled to form relationships with GOP candidates and causes, so Miller and crew are pitching a way for those companies to leverage the power — or outrage — of the country’s most influential, vocal conservative groups to defeat their political or corporate enemies.

New Facebook tools aim to help connect lawmakers, constituents

Facebook released a new set of tools to help facilitate civic engagement and discourse between voters and their representatives. The new tools give both constituents and lawmakers more targeted means of interacting with another, and are a part of Facebook’s larger push to introduce civically focused features to the platform. Facebook’s three new targeted tools now give users the options to show lawmakers that they are a constituent from their district, show lawmakers what topics are trending among their own constituents and allow lawmakers to share posts targeted specifically to their voters. The “Constituent Badge,” feature will allow users to opt in to displaying a badge that they are a part of a lawmaker’s district, so that they lawmakers can know that they’re engaging with those they represent.

Request for Comments on the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ Implementation of a Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch

Executive Order 13781,
‘‘Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch,’’ signed into effect on March 13, 2017, directs the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to present the President with a plan that recommends ways to reorganize the executive branch and eliminate unnecessary agencies. As part of this process, the Broadcasting Board of Governors will be submitting a proposal for reorganization to OMB. This request for comments seeks public input on potential reforms at the BBG that would increase the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of the agency. These comments will also be considered in the development of the BBG’s 2018–2022 Strategic Plan. The BBG requests that respondents generally address the following overarching questions:
What are the most important or effective projects or programs that the BBG undertakes?
Do you think that there are any changes that BBG could make to increase the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of its media networks or the agency itself? If so, please describe those changes.
Would you propose reorganizing any parts or aspects of the BBG or its media networks to increase efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability? If so, how?
In today’s changing media landscape, how should the BBG adapt to best serve its mission to inform, engage, and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy?
Submit either electronic comments or information by June 30, 2017.