Friday Grab Bag

Friday Grab Bag

Washington is focused on the Nunes memo today, but there’s plenty of other things going on.

Washington is focused on the Nunes memo and what it means for the future of the FBI director, the deputy attorney general, and of course the president. But there’s plenty of other things going on.

Packing their bags

A new post on takes a hard look at why so many members of Congress – 55 at last count – are deciding to retire rather than face the voters one more time this November.

“Being a member of Congress in 2018 is a miserable job, and it’s not likely to get much better in 2019,” writes reporter Lee Drutman. The roll call of departing members includes 38 Republicans and 17 Democrats, a sign that GOP lawmakers sense that a rising Democratic wave in the electorate.

There are plenty of other reasons for the exodus, but for those of us working to break the power of big money in politics, this observation by Drutman especially rings true:

“In the post-Citizens United campaign finance environment of unlimited outside spending, not only do members running for reelection have to commit seemingly endless hours in the unpleasant uphill battle of begging rich people for money, but their efforts can instantly be dwarfed by outside spending (from even richer people) that will then shape the contours of the race by running ads “independent” of the candidates.

“Hardly an enticing proposition.”


Regaining their rights

A federal judge in Florida has told Florida Gov. Rick Scott that the Sunshine State places “nonsensical” obstacles in the way of ex-offenders seeking the restoration of their voting rights.

“Florida strips the right to vote from every man and woman who commits a felony,” U.S. District Judge Mark Walker wrote in an opinion released Thursday. “To vote again, disenfranchised citizens must kowtow before a panel of high-level government officials over which Florida’s governor has absolute veto authority. No standards guide the panel. Its members alone must be satisfied that these citizens deserve restoration … The question now is whether such a system passes constitutional muster. It does not.”

Like most states, Florida revokes the voting rights of people who are convicted of felonies. But it is one of just a handful that give the governor essentially unfettered discretion in making decisions about restoring the rights of those who’ve completed their sentences and returned to their communities. Common Cause has been instrumental in several states in advancing restoration of rights initiatives.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that Gov. Scott “was the principal architect of the current system that requires all felons to wait at least five years after they complete their sentences, serve probation and pay all restitution, to apply for right to vote and other civil rights.”

Because Scott and a clemency board that considers restorations meet just four times a year and generally consider fewer than 100 cases at each meeting, some applications languish for more than a decade and that state has a backlog of more than 10,000 cases,” the Times said.


No see, no hear, no speak

The Associated Press reports today that Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, took personal charge last year of efforts to scrub references to climate change from the EPA’s website.

Pruitt was particularly fixated on wiping out references to former President Barack Obama’s initiative to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, the AP said.

The wire service story is based on email messages unearthed through a Freedom of Information Act request. Among the website edits ordered by Pruitt was a modification in search engine results for “Clean Power Plan” to route users to a “featuring a photo of the president posing with smiling coal miners, Pruitt and other members of his cabinet,” AP reported.