Commission on Hope, Growth & Opportunity

Recently, the OMT Blog has invited several organization theory scholars to contribute their thoughts related to the theme of the organization of political campaigns and campaign finance. This week, Ed Walker commented on research opportunities in the post-Citizens United era.

In that spirit, tonight as I was driving my kids home from an after school appointment, I caught a segment on National Public Radio (NPR) about the Commission on Hope, Growth & Opportunity. According to NPR:

“They’ve probably run some of the more entertaining ads this cycle,” says Evan Tracey, who tracks political ads for a living at the Campaign Media Analysis Group. “They don’t look like a lot of the ads that are being shown over and over and over, by candidates and the parties and the other groups in a lot of these races.”

Although many of the ads being run by the Commission sound like political ads, according to a copy of the group’s official Internal Revenue Service (IRS) filing obtained by NPR, when asked by the IRS if the organization planned “to spend any money to influence elections. It answered no.” Despite the group’s claims however:

“There’s not a whole lot of gray area as to whether these are about issues,” Tracey says. “They’re strictly about politics and elections.”

NPR also reports that the Commission on Hope, Growth & Opportunity appears to be skirting the reporting rules established by the Federal Election Commission as well as the Federal Communications Commission.

At the NPR website there is also an elaborate interactive network map which traces some of the people, money, organizations, and network ties involved.

Climate Change Timeline

The New York Times has a nice timeline of the science and politics of climate change — from Fournier’s 1824 theorization about the way in which the earth’s atmosphere retains heat radiation to Callender’s 1938 measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations to Plass’s 1956 calculations that a doubling of carbon dioxide levels would lead to a 3.6 degree Celsius increase in surface temperatures.

Too Much Transparency?

In a recent New York Times column on “The Power Elite,” David Brooks argues:

As we’ve made our institutions more meritocratic, their public standing has plummeted. We’ve increased the diversity and talent level of people at the top of society, yet trust in elites has never been lower.

He then offers five contributing factors. Here I want to zero in on his fifth factor: transparency.

Fifth, society is too transparent. Since Watergate, we have tried to make government as open as possible. But as William Galston of the Brookings Institution jokes, government should sometimes be shrouded for the same reason that middle-aged people should be clothed. This isn’t Galston’s point, but I’d observe that the more government has become transparent, the less people are inclined to trust it.

Lately, I too have been contemplating the affordances and the advantages, as well as the limitations and the liabilities of transparency. While I agree that transparency can devolve into a panopticon (to borrow Foucault’s insight), it is not without its virtues. Thus, my only conclusion so far is that transparency must been seen as a complex and multifaceted concept. As such, singular characterizations of transparency as either on the side of angels or demons strike me as too simplistic.

Perhaps the explanation for why people are less inclined to trust the government is much simpler: having pulled back the curtain, they do not like what they see.

U.S. Energy Subsidies

Today I found this visual comparison of U.S. federal government subsidies to fossil fuels versus renewable energy. The underlying data came from a study by the Environmental Law Institute and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars which reviewed fossil fuel and renewable energy subsidies for Fiscal Years 2002-2008. The study concluded that “the lion’s share of energy subsidies supported energy sources that emit high levels of greenhouse gases.” A PDF of the graphic is available here.

U.S. Federal Government Energy Subsidies
U.S. Federal Government Energy Subsidies

The Global Subsidies Initiative recently published a report that looks specifically at The Politics of Fossil Fuel Subsidies, but on a global basis.

Unanimous Consent

In Sunday’s New York Times economics Nobel laureate Paul Krugman argued that although “America Is Not Yet Lost… the Senate is working on it.”

His commentary focused on the Senate’s tradition of relying on “unanimous consent.” In one telling vignette Krugman writes:

Last week, after nine months, the Senate finally approved Martha Johnson to head the General Services Administration, which runs government buildings and purchases supplies. It’s an essentially nonpolitical position, and nobody questioned Ms. Johnson’s qualifications: she was approved by a vote of 94 to 2. But Senator Christopher Bond, Republican of Missouri, had put a “hold” on her appointment to pressure the government into approving a building project in Kansas City.

In other words, the Senate is now “paralyzed by procedure.” As a result, “Rules that used to be workable have become crippling now that one of the nation’s major political parties has descended into nihilism, seeing no harm — in fact, political dividends — in making the nation ungovernable.”