I like advocacy journalism as well as the next fellow — at least I consume a lot of it as a reader. That doesn’t mean the federal government should be funding it, thereby giving a boost to one side of environmental debates in the mid-Atlantic region. My new piece for the DC Examiner examines the Environmental Protection Agency’s longstanding subsidies for the influential Chesapeake Bay Journal.
- Federalist Society podcast with Wayne Crews and Devon Westhill on subregulatory guidance, agency memos, circulars, Dear Colleague letters, and other regulatory “dark matter”;
- Having announced end to practice of funneling litigation settlement cash to private advocacy groups, AG Sessions plans to investigate some actions of previous administration in this line [New York Post, earlier, related Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz testimony on Obama bank settlements]
- Update: jury acquits 4 Boston Teamsters on extortion charges in intimidation of “Top Chef” show and guest host Padma Lakshmi [Nate Raymond/Reuters (“smash your pretty little face”), more, Daily Mail (language, epithets); earlier]
- “Hunted becomes the hunter: How Cloudflare is turning the tables on a patent troll” [Connie Loisos, Techcrunch]
- Here’s a pro se sovereign citizen complaint if you can stand to look [@associatesmind thread on this N.D. Calif. filing]
- IP license withheld: “Spain’s Bright Blue ‘Smurf Village’ Is Being Forced to De-Smurf” [Cara Giaimo, Atlas Obscura; Júzcar, Spain]
My new piece at Cato begins:
In a memo dated June 5, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ended the practice by which the Department of Justice earmarks legal settlement funds for non-governmental third-party groups that were neither victims nor parties to the lawsuit. This is terrific news and a major step forward in respecting both the constitutional separation of powers and the private rights that litigation is meant to vindicate.
On the separation-of-powers aspects of these slush funds, I go on to recommend a vigorous dissent by Judge Janice Rogers Brown in the recent D.C. Circuit case of Keepseagle v. Perdue. Whole thing here.
George Will’s new column is on settlement slush funds, a favorite topic around here. A Wall Street Journal op-ed the other day by Andy Koenig observed that tens of millions of dollars from settlements with big banks by the Obama Department of Justice and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman are being directed to liberal political groups allied with Obama and Schneiderman, rather than to customers or taxpayers. Earlier here, here, here, here, here, etc.
Billboards in Washington state urging tougher environmental regulations on farmers were funded by (if this still comes as any shock) the federal taxpayers, through a grant program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. And that wasn’t disclosed, although by agency rule it was supposed to be. [Don Jenkins, Capital Press] A few months ago EPA got caught illegally expending tax money to stir up pressure on Congress to support a wider interpretation of its own powers on the “Waters of the United States” rule. More on advocacy funding here.
Related, from way back in 1999, “Smart Growth at the Federal Trough: EPA’s Financing of the Anti-Sprawl Movement” by Peter Samuel and Randal O’Toole, Cato Policy Analysis #361:
The federal government should not subsidize one side of a public policy debate; doing so undermines the very essence of democracy. Nor should government agencies fund nonprofit organizations that exist primarily to lobby other government agencies. Congress should shut down the federal government’s anti-sprawl lobbying activities and resist the temptation to engage in centralized social engineering.
Following the 2008 crash, government enforcement action extracted $110 billion from lenders and other players over a variety of alleged sins relating to the rise and collapse of the mortgage bubble. Where did it go? Governments held on to a lot of it, a lot went to the government-sponsored Fannie and Freddie mortgage enterprises, favored “housing-related community groups” got some, some went to homeowners with mortgage struggles or to new low-interest loans. In New York, money is going to rebuild the Tappan Zee bridge and “the annual state fair is using bank-settlement money to build a new horse barn and stables.” But no one has kept track of where a lot of the money went, there being no overall effort to account for it. [Christina Rexrode and Emily Glazer, WSJ]
My local paper, the Frederick News-Post, ran an editorial on Monday that 1) saw nothing especially wrong in the Environmental Protection Agency’s illegally expending tax money to stir up pressure on Congress to support a wider interpretation of EPA power; 2) claimed that the fuss over tax-paid lobbying was for lack of any substantive critique of EPA’s “WOTUS” (Waters of the United States) rule, although a majority of states have challenged that rule, the farm and rural landowner communities have been up in arms against it all year, and a federal appeals court has agreed to stay it.
So I wrote this letter in response, which ran today. There wasn’t space for me to dispute the FNP’s peculiar notion that to oppose the water rule as exceeding the EPA’s statutory authority is to encourage the “anti-science, climate change denial crowd,” which tends to reinforce my sense that “anti-science” and “climate denial” are turning into all-purpose epithets increasingly unhooked from any particular relationship to science or climate. (cross-posted at Free State Notes)
- Russian man sues developer of videogame Fallout 4, saying he lost wife and job due to addiction to playing it [BGR]
- “Indiana Briefly Considered Fining Bad Anthem Singers” [Lowering the Bar] Relatedly, if you’ve been wanting to do a dance remix of “Star-Spangled Banner,” Michigan law now permits it [Lowering the Bar]
- Is administrative law unlawful? Philip Hamburger vs. Adrian Vermeule [more, William Funk/Jotwell and David Bernstein; earlier here and here]
- Will Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell runoff loss end his office’s contracts-for-pals “Buddy System”? [Chris Butler/Louisiana Watchdog, Richard Miniter, American Media Institute/Louisiana Record, Eric Boehm/Louisiana Watchdog]
- “Let’s get rid of private housing.” The Nation never gives up, does it?
- Congress’s surrender of power of purse opened door to outrages like Department of Justice’s activist slush funds [Randal John Meyer]
- Gun-rights and marijuana advocates set themselves against liberty generally when they back discrimination-law coverage of employee “off-duty conduct.” [Ohio, Jon Hyman first (firearms) and second (pot) posts]
- Judge Posner cites a Cato amicus brief: Cook County sheriff can’t browbeat Visa and MasterCard into dropping business with sex ad site [Ilya Shapiro, Eugene Volokh] And Daniel Fisher speculates that Posner’s thoughts on how far law enforcers can push around private actors on First Amendment-related subject matter (but without filing charges against them) might carry over to Eric Schneiderman’s ExxonMobil climate-advocacy inquisition [Forbes]
- “How To Blog: A Primer (And Not A Boring Primer, Either)” [Jim Dedman, Abnormal Use]
- What the campus protests are about: power [Jonathan Last, Weekly Standard]
- Eric Turkewitz draws a connection between the debate on guns and my recent work on redistricting, and Ken White at Popehat has more on the debate on guns;
- Vibrations from “ridge-like” BMW motorcycle seat said to have had unwanted stimulative effect on male user [Marin Independent Journal]
- Why are Republicans not moving to block Department of Justice settlement slush funds “funneling more than half-a-billion dollars to liberal activist groups” that in some cases route dollars “back to programs that congressional Republicans deliberately stripped of funds”? [Kim Strassel, WSJ]
- What happens at CLE stays at CLE: doings get wild at a famous mass torts seminar in Las Vegas [Above the Law]
“The administration [of Mayor Bill de Blasio] is planning to select and pay four health-advocacy groups $9,000 apiece to pressure landlords and developers to prohibit smoking in their apartment complexes so neighboring tenants don’t inhale secondhand smoke.” [Carl Campanile/New York Post]