Transparency News 6/7/13


Friday, June 7, 2013     State and Local Stories


The Virginia Board of Elections has fined Republican lieutenant gubernatorial candidate E.W. Jackson for failing to disclose a $25,000 loan to his campaign in a timely fashion. The loan was reported in the 61-year-old Chesapeake minister’s latest campaign finance disclosure on Monday, but Jackson should have reported it nearly a month earlier. State law requires that candidates report contributions or loans of $5,000 or more by 5 p.m. the following day in the 12 days prior to a nominating event.
Washington Post

Virginia Beach has unveiled a new smartphone app - Parkmobile - to help drivers pay on-street parking meters without coins.  The new meters at the Oceanfront accept coins, credit cards and payments by Parkmobile, according to a city release. To use, install the app on your phone, enter your credit card number, and you're ready to go. Parkmobile will send a reminder when your parking session is about to expire, the release said. Remember: There's a three-hour limit on metered parking.

Broadcast companies Media General and New Young Broadcasting say they are combining to create a company that will operate 30 TV stations in 27 markets. The companies say that by combining, the stations will be more geographically diverse and will be in more markets that have strong ad revenue from political campaigns.
Roanoke Times

The Augusta County Electoral Board responded to a U.S. Department of Justice request to inspect county polling places next week by telling the federal agency Wednesday not to do it. The decision followed a called meeting of the electoral board at the Augusta County Government Center.
News Virginian

A federal judge has expressed shock that an assistant Virginia attorney general has been assisting two natural gas companies that are being sued by landowners who allege the companies bilked them out of natural gas royalties. U.S. Magistrate Judge Pamela Meade Sargent said in a filed court opinion that the relationship was revealed in emails provided to the court by the plaintiffs in the case against EQT Production Co. and CNX Gas Co., two Pittsburgh-area energy companies.
Herald Courier

Loudoun supervisors say they are not yet convinced that dropping the requirement that proposed public school sites undergo special exception review is the best approach, but want to consider the change as a way to save money and time during the construction process. A small group of county residents—most veterans of previous battles to block plans to build schools on western Loudoun farmland—say they are sure dropping the special exception requirement is bad idea.
Leesburg Today

Republican nominee for lieutenant governor E.W. Jackson told the National Review this week that his running mate Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli "has a lot to teach me." Jackson told the National Review that he and Cuccinelli, the GOP nominee for governor, talk every two or three days. Both men are Tea Party favorites and have been blasted by opponents for controversial statements on abortion and homosexuality. "In fact, we were just texting this morning," Jackson said. In response to that statement American Bridge, a Democratic super PAC that focuses on opposition research, filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the attorney general's office Wednesday to make sure Cuccinelli hasn't been using his government issued phone in to text with Jackson.
Daily Press

National Stories

The White House is defending the decision to collect the telephone records of U.S. citizensby labeling it an anti-terrorist measure. The move by the National Security Agency to gather the phone records of Verizon customers was revealed on Wednesday by U.K. newspaper The Guardian. A court's top-secret order forced Verizon to hand over information about domestic and overseas calls "on an ongoing daily basis."

Public disclosure of the federal government's effort to track terrorists through the telephone records of average citizens has reinvigorated a national debate over the balancing act between security and liberty. A day that began Thursday with an uproar over the government trolling through Americans' phone records ended with a new report about the government traipsing over their travels on the Internet. Taken together, they seemed sure to refocus Congress and its constituents on a debate that has waned since Sept. 11, 2001 — but never ended.
USA Today

The New York Post is facing a defamation lawsuit from a teenager and man who say they werefalsely identified on the tabloid’s front page as suspects in the Boston bombing, according to The Boston Globe. Salaheddin Barhoum, 16, and Yassine Zaimi, 24, say they were the two people featured in a large photograph on an April cover of the New York Post under the headline, “Bag Men.” They claim the paper incorrectly implied they were suspects pursued by the FBI in the attacks, according to the Globe report.

The state of Alaska last week released a batch of documents regarding the controversial actions of state workers involved in a dust-up during an April anti-abortion protest in Juneau. The employees were engaged in an incident described in the Press as the “attempted censorship” of a protest by the Center for Bioethical Reform, a group that deploys signs with graphic pictures of aborted fetuses during demonstrations. The state workers parked state-owned vehicles on the street in front of the sidewalk, apparently to block a view of the graphic images from the front steps of the state Capitol building. A Capitol security officer got in a scuffle with one demonstrator. That scene was recorded on video and posted online, sparking a controversy over speech rights on the Capitol steps.
Anchorage Press

Fresh off a series of legislative victories across the nation, the National Rifle Association has launched a new effort starting in gun-friendly Kansas seeking to clamp down on the use of government money to lobby on gun-control issues. While it’s not clear how the law would be enforced considering it includes no penalties for violators, critics argue the measure threatens to stifle debate and give the state government far more control over a local government’s message.
Lawrence Journal-World

The U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday fired back at six lobbyists who are in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit challenging the Obama administration ban on federal lobbyists serving on agency boards and commissions. The D.C. Circuit should uphold the ban that a Washington federal trial judge, Amy Berman Jackson, found constitutional last year, Michael Raab, an assistant director of the DOJ Civil Division appellate staff, wrote yesterday in the government's  opening brief in the appellate court.
Blog of LegalTimes

Metadata mining isn't the ultimate in Big Brother watching you. But it's close. Revelations that the National Security Administration has been secretly collecting communications records of millions of Americans showcases metadata mining — a little-known term that may mean little to all but techno-geeks. Until today. Metadata, essentially, is data about data. Data mining programs use computer algorithms to search large collections of data for patterns. As it pertained to the NSA's information-gathering role, it involves collecting communications records of millions of Verizon customers.
USA Today

A Florida judge denied a defense request Thursday to let a handful of witnesses testify confidentially during George Zimmerman's trial for fatally shooting Trayvon Martin. Defense attorney Mark O'Mara asked that the witnesses be allowed to testify out of the public eye because of concerns for their safety about testifying at the trial, which starts next week. He said their testimony could impact the jury's decision.
Fox News

The new owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers must make public a single document that reveals their financial arrangement with previous owner Frank McCourt, under a ruling made on Wednesday by a judge in Los Angeles.
National Law Journal


Times-Dispatch: Ron Wyden and Mark Udall were right. The Democratic senators said most Americans“would be stunned” if they knew the contents of secret court orders regarding federal surveillance of routine telephone communications. Americans have been.

Roanoke Times: Gov. Bob McDonnell can’t blame poor staff work for any trouble that comes from his relationship with Star Scientific Inc. and its CEO, Jonnie Williams Sr. That much became clear this week when The Washington Post published emails documenting red flags that McDonnell’s aides raised before an Aug. 30, 2011, luncheon at the Executive Mansion. Star Scientific used the event, attended by researchers and health care providers, to announce the launch of its new dietary supplement. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, attended the luncheon, where the company also awarded research grants to state universities. The first lady’s office organized the event.But these latest disclosures do nothing to dampen the perception of a too-chummy relationship between McDonnell and Williams.

Daily Progress: Finally, Albemarle will spared further tumult and humiliation.
Christopher J.   Dumler, Board of Supervisors member from the Scottsville District, finally resigned Wednesday — as he should have done upon accepting a January plea deal convicting him of misdemeanor sexual battery. Regardless of why he pleaded guilty (and speculation is rampant, both positive and negative), he should have known he would be unable to give the Scottsville District the kind of leadership it deserved and that, instead, he would become a lightning rod for controversy and a disruption to the board’s work. He should have resigned at the time and spared the county — and perhaps himself — the strain of months of upheaval. Perhaps now governance can get back to normal.

Michael Paul Williams, Times-Dispatch: Herbert DeGroft isn’t standing in the schoolhouse door in defiance. But the Isle of Wight County School Board member refuses to be moved from his seat, despite a rebuke from his colleagues. Meanwhile, Isle of Wight Supervisor Byron B. Bailey — who along with DeGroft circulated racially charged emails about first lady Michelle Obama — is the object of a petition drive to remove him from office. The state NAACP and its Isle of Wight branch are calling for the resignations of both men.Elected officials in Isle of Wight need to be concerned about a work environment poisoned by the actions of Bailey and DeGroft. Worthwhile applicants — especially minorities and women — would be wise to be leery about taking the helm in Smithfield.

Charles Cooper, CNET News: So what did you expect? It's been more than 24 hours since the enterprising Glenn Greenwald revealed that the National Security Agency has been gathering the phone records of millions of Verizon customers. The idea is to match calls against a larger database of numbers used by suspected jihadists. After turning up relevant calling patterns, the NSA could then uncover the identities of the callers. But the Verizon-NSA story was not a one-off. The news was followed by another revelation about the NSA on Thursday -- this one disclosing that the agency has been accessing confidential user data held by Silicon Valley firms through secret backdoor access as part of a program, code-named PRISM. Even the most hard-boiled cynic about the rise of the Big Brother state has to wonder what's going on here. For the folks who had prophesied that the passage of the Patriot Act set the U.S. on a slippery slope of unchecked government surveillance, these revelations are a predictable vindication of their warnings. But if past is prologue, the crazy thing is how little any of this this will matter to most people.

Stephanie Meeks, Los Angeles Times: The Manhattan Project, the secret research mission to develop an atomic weapon ahead of Germany and bring an end to World War II, was one of the 20th century's most ambitious feats of science and engineering. And one of its darkest moments. In many respects, the Manhattan Project ushered in the modern era. The creation and use of these early weapons of mass destruction raised profound ethical questions, which remain just as challenging and urgent today as in 1945. As a nation, we have a responsibility to grapple openly and objectively with the Manhattan Project's complex legacy. To do that, we need a place for reflection. Legislation before Congress would establish the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, an assembly of three locations central to the development of the atomic bomb: Hanford, Wash., site of the first full-scale nuclear reactor; Oak Ridge, Tenn., home to the first uranium enrichment plant; and the laboratory and related sites at Los Alamos, N.M.