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First POST: Ownership

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, April 23 2015


  • Taking a page from the Obama '08 and '12 campaign handbooks, Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign is launching a broad organizing effort aimed at signing up volunteers in all fifty states. It's being led by Marlon Marshall, the deputy national field director of Obama '12 and a founding partner in the 270 Strategies consulting firm. As in the Obama campaigns, the Clinton team is promising that volunteers will "own a piece of this campaign" by getting involved. If their role is anything like that of volunteers for Obama, the piece they own will be sort of like the tail-light of the car, nothing near the steering wheel or dashboard. (For more on Marshall, see this profile by Juliet Eilperin in the Washington Post from January.)

  • Affirming the shrinking role of public participation on presidential campaign websites, the Clinton campaign site doesn't have a blog or anywhere for visitors to leave comments. Neither does Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio or Rand Paul, though Paul's site does invite visitors to join his bloggers network. "Tell Us More About Your Bog (sic)" the site asks would-be members. (Screenshot here.)

  • Want to work on Clinton's tech team? Track down Nathanial Koloc, the campaign's talent acquisition director, reports Kim Velsey for the New York Observer.

  • A new confidential briefing document from Americans for Prosperity, a keystone piece of the Koch brothers political machine, obtained by Ken Vogel of Politico, details the group's extensive field and data program. It brags of a "closed-loop data system" (a fancy way of describing collecting data from door-knocking), a mobile canvassing app, "predictive dialing technology," and reports knocking on more than 2.4 million doors in 2014 plus more than 7 million phone calls coordinated by a professional field team of 539 staffers in key states.

  • Four donations totaling $2.35 million from the chairman multinational mining company Uranium One to the Clinton Foundation, not previously disclosed by the Clintons, were made at the same time that the Russian atomic energy agency was acquiring the company, report Jo Becker and Mike McIntire for The New York Times. A committee of US government agencies, including the State Department then headed by Hillary Rodham Clinton, had to sign off on the deal. During the same period, former president Bill Clinton also received a half million dollar speaking fee from a Russian investment bank that was promoting the company's stock. A Clinton campaign spokesman, Brian Fallon, said no one "has ever produced a shred of evidence supporting the theory that Hillary Clinton ever took action as secretary of state to support the interests of donors to the Clinton Foundation.”

  • Reuters' Jonathan Allen reports that the Clinton Foundation is refiling at least five annual tax returns to correct errors in how it reported donations from foreign governments.

  • Digital rights and civil liberties groups are banding together under the hashtag #CyberFail in an effort to block five cybersecurity bills currently being considered by Congress, Dell Cameron reports for the Daily Dot.

  • Legislation known as "Aaron's Law," aiming to reform the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, to fix abuses that contributed to the heavy-handed prosecution of the late democracy activist Aaron Swartz, has been reintroduced in both chambers of Congress, James Jacobs reports for Free Gov Info.

  • The Comcast-TimeWarner merge "appears to be on life support," Amy Schatz reports for Re/Code, as the FCC staff is seen as likely to send the matter to an administrative judge for a hearing.

  • Free Press policy director Matt Wood applauded the news: "If the news from the FCC is true, it would mean that Internet users can breathe a sigh of relief….Giving so much control over our communications system to one company — especially one with a track record of spiraling prices, terrible customer service and blocking Internet content — would be a terrible mistake."

  • "Will the coders listen to the coded? Or is the independent contractor economy leading to a codependent contracting relationship, where the little guys with their smartphones are stuck in a cycle of abuse with their cash-rich task masters?" That's the question at the heart of this spectacularly well-reported look at the gig economy, and how a software upgrade becomes an income downgrade, by Julia Carrie Wong in the SF Weekly. She writes:

    In another time and under another employment structure, Postmates workers might have been able to bargain collectively over changes in working conditions that materially impacted their compensation. But in the world of codependent contracting, the smartphone has replaced the shop floor, and workers are unlikely to ever meet another co-worker, let alone organize a rebellion together.

  • Talk about using robots to fine-tune one's news! Bowling Green State University criminologist Philip Stinson has built the country's best data set on police misconduct, Carl Bialik reports for FiveThirtyEight, by using Google Alerts. He writes, "The whole data-collecting operation is powered by 48 Google Alerts that Stinson set up in 2005, along with individual Google Alerts for each of nearly 6,000 arrests of officers. He has set up 10 Gmail addresses to collect all the alert emails, which feed articles into a database that also contains court records and videos." He is tracking almost 11,000 cases involving about 9,000 officers, but admits it's not an exhaustive list.

  • Apparently you can use open data from NYC's 311 system to discover who has the loudest sex in the city (at least according to their annoyed neighbors), reports James Fanelli for DNAinfo. (Also, for those of you who open First POST early in the day, I had the wrong link here — to the Clinton tech team story above. So sorry.)

  • An Xioa Mina explores the idea that Internet access is like water, abundant and flowing in First World countries, or semi-reliable and spread by foot (or "sneakernet") in countries with weaker infrastructures.

  • Someone flew a small drone with possible traces of radiation on it onto the roof of the Japanese prime minister's office yesterday, the AP reports.

  • The Women Who Tech Telesummit, an annual all-day virtual teach-in led by Allyson Kapin of Rad Campaign, is next Wednesday April 29. The focus is start-ups, and speakers include Mary Hodder of, Lynne d Johnson formerly of Fast Company, Lisa Stone and Elisa Camahort Page, the co-founders of BlogHer. Register here.

  • Editor's note: Some of my esteemed readers have written to ask that I stop referring to Jeb Bush by his legal, given name of John Ellis Bush, arguing that I should use the name he wants to be known by, instead of trying to remind you of his patrician roots. OK, I give in, in the name of Respect and Civility! Any other suggestions? Send 'em to me at msifry-at-gmail-dot-com.