Neily Op-Ed at RedState

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

The Eyes Of Texas Are Upon You: The Franklin Center’s Amicus Brief In Hall V. McRaven

The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity filed an amicus brief in a case before the Texas Supreme Court. President Nicole Neily explains why at RedState:

For years, well-connected applicants to the University of Texas benefitted from a secret admissions process; hundreds of applicants who would otherwise have been denied admission to the school were accepted due to the influence of powerful legislators, friends, or family members. But thanks to strong-willed whistleblowers and dedicated journalists, the scandal was uncovered in 2013, culminating in the resignation of UT-Austin President Bill Powers.

The University’s official investigation initially discovered very little wrongdoing; a subsequent report by the independent firm Kroll Associates found more widespread abuse. Watchdog.org’s Jon Cassidy also investigated this scandal, discovering that at least 764 people were admitted to the University of Texas that would not have been under the admissions standards typically applied to applicants. “The Kroll investigation confirmed what had been common knowledge… students were getting into UT at extraordinary rates, despite bad grades,” Cassidy found.

The full extent of the malfeasance, however, remains unknown; many have hypothesized that the Kroll report may have publicly downplayed the scope of the scandal. Accordingly, Wallace Hall, a member of the UT Board of Regents, has repeatedly requested – and been denied – access to the full set of documents compiled by Kroll. Hall was forced to turn to the courts, filing suit against University Chancellor William McRaven in a case that will be heard by the Texas Supreme Court today.

The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, the publisher of Watchdog.org, filed an amicus brief in support of Hall, because of the implications that Hall’s case has for transparency and oversight of government boards throughout the state of Texas. We have requested some of the same information at issue in this case, and are currently in litigation with the University of Texas system in a Public Information Act case. 

In our brief, we assert that “release of the information at issue in this case is vital for proper government of UT, and the stated grounds for withholding it are symptomatic of institutional drift of governmental bodies in the Texas and the U.S. to insulate themselves from the public they are intended to serve.”

Read more at RedState.

Glass Op-Ed Published in the Washington Examiner

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

Conservatives may miss an opportunity in the battle against ‘fake news’

The term ‘fake news’ is thrown around a lot these days, but there’s a real problem with fabricated news designed to look real. Franklin Center’s Kevin Glass writes that while conservatives have been skeptical of efforts to crack down on ‘fake news,’ that doesn’t mean they should stand on the sidelines of this debate.

Not long after the conclusion of the 2016 election, leaders at Facebook and Google announced they would be trying to crack down on “fake news” that became common on their sites. They defined “fake news” as stories fabricated wholesale that appeared on legitimate-looking sites designed to trick people into thinking they were reading about something that happened.

Conservatives have been skeptical of these efforts, and rightfully so. Google, Facebook and other tech companies have not exactly engendered trust with conservatives recently. Just in the last year, Facebook was revealed to have been curating its “trending” stories section in an anti-conservative direction, and Google fielded complaints that their platform was biased against then-candidate Donald Trump.

In response, many conservatives claim the fight against “fake news” will end up as a witch-hunt that delegitimizes conservative voices across some of the biggest platforms on the Internet, and that these criticisms of “fake news” could just as easily be applied to what people consider to be mainstream media.

But those criticisms from conservatives miss the mark. Yes, the mainstream media is biased, because most people who work for mainstream outlets are liberals. Yes, the mainstream media gets stories wrong far too often. Yes, the mainstream media credulously reports things that should be more deeply reported. And yes, especially, the mainstream media needs to get their own house in order and rebuild their credibility before tut-tutting everyone else about the news media environment.

Read more in the Washington Examiner.

Neily Op-Ed Published in The Hill

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

US is losing the innovation war — to China

Franklin Center President Nicole Neily writes in The Hill about the decline in American innovation due to a weakening of intellectual property laws:

Over the last decade, government policies and legal rulings are pushing U.S. investment money overseas to China, while here in the United States, key industries that have potential to spur economic growth are paying the price.

This may sound like the sentiments of President-elect Donald Trump, but it’s actually the verdict that former U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Director David Kappos delivered during his closing remarks at a recent Inventing America conference.

“The U.S. no longer provides the kind of patent incentives that are necessary to invest in key industries like biotech and software,” Kappos lamented. “When investment incentives are reduced, you can expect investment to move elsewhere.”

Read more in The Hill.

Bicknell Op-Ed in National Review

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

Want to Fix Journalism? Start by Bringing Diversity of Thought to Newsrooms

If mainstream news organizations want to regain credibility with the public, they should begin by hiring young conservative journalists. That the message from John Bicknell, executive editor of Watchdog.org:

How can we fix the failures of journalism that were made so obvious by the election of 2016? We could start by doing something that might put me out of business, or at least make my job harder to do.

I hire reporters to cover state and local government. They are tasked with finding waste, fraud, and malfeasance, along with shining a light into corners where most news outlets don’t look and from a perspective — that of the free market — from which all too many reporters and editors are not familiar.

During my more than three decades as a journalist, I have sat through my share of diversity training sessions. I have been handed memo after memo and read study after study about how we needed to make our newsrooms look more like the communities we serve. The key word there is “look.”

Read more at National Review Online.

Glass Op-Ed Published in Townhall

Sunday, December 18th, 2016

Will Draining the Swamp Work in Florida?

Franklin Center Policy Director Kevin Glass takes a closer look at the anti-cronyist aspirations of Florida’s new Speaker of the House:

Incoming Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran cut his teeth on the Florida house appropriations committee, but he’s got bigger aspirations than merely appropriations as he assumes his leadership position: he wants to make the Florida legislature the most transparent in the country, and he’s willing to take on his own party to do it.

Legislators around the country could learn from Corcoran’s ambitious agenda.

While Florida has a reputation for a hard-partying coastal vacation destination, its state capitol’s politics may take more cues from the notorious “good ol’ boys’ network” that other more traditionally Southern states have. Reformers have targeted Tallahassee, claiming that handouts and corporate welfare permeate the way the state government does business.

Read more at Townhall. 


Glass Op-Ed Published in the Washington Examiner

Saturday, December 10th, 2016

Why the Constitution still matters at universities

Franklin Center Policy Director Kevin Glass takes to the Washington Examiner to weigh into the campus free speech debate:

Polling tends to find that millennials are the generation least friendly to free speech. They focus more on potential downsides and harm that words can cause than the upside of being able to speak their minds freely. Perhaps they never learned the axiom about sticks and stones.

Or perhaps it’s because the millennial generation has, largely, been through four years of a college education on a modern university campus (Remember, the millennial generation starts with those born in 1980. Most of them already have their bachelor’s degrees). With speech codes, speech zones, funding inequities and more, they’ve been educated in an environment that teaches that free speech can be tolerated if absolutely necessary, but never encouraged.

That this flies in the face of 200 years of American legal and normative precepts doesn’t much matter. But even the college campus might begin to find that the ivory tower is sometimes subject to antiquated notions like those contained in the U.S. Constitution.

It’s important to realize how dependent colleges and universities are on taxpayer money at both the state and local level, which is why they continue to run into issues that don’t affect private institutions. “Spending on higher education is the third-largest budget item for state legislatures, after Medicaid spending and public schools,” Casey Mattox of the Alliance Defending Freedom said at a Washington policy summit hosted by the American Legislative Exchange Council. “So you have quite a lot at stake.”

Read more in the Washington Examiner.

Glass Op-Ed Published in Townhall

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

2016 Highlights Battles Ahead for Choice Schooling

Franklin Center Policy Director Kevin Glass examines the election’s impact on education reform:

The biggest narrative coming out of the toplines of the 2016 election is that Americans voted for change. When it comes to traditional K-12 education, though, many voters showed they’re voting for some of the same status-quo policies that have left so many American parents and children behind.

In Massachusetts and Georgia, two major school reform measures were put directly to the voters – and rejected wholesale. Massachusetts’ measure would have increased the artificial cap on the number of charter schools allowed in the state, while Georgia’s would have given the state government flexibility to relax rigid rules on failing schools. The voters in those states turned them down, despite the track records of success that indicate that education outcomes would have improved.

Read the full piece at Townhall.com

Bicknell Op-Ed Published in the Huffington Post

Friday, November 18th, 2016

Brand logos pose no danger to national parks or public health

2016 marks the centennial of the National Park Service, and NPS has been celebrating all year with special events around the nation. One of the prime sponsors of the celebration: Anheuser Busch.

The brewer’s participation required Director Jon Jarvis to waive Park Service policies against partnering with alcoholic beverage companies.

By most accounts, the birthday party has been a success.

Now for the after-party cleanup.

A petition drive led by a coalition of environmental and other organizations has gathered about 200,000 signatures on a petition opposing revisions to what is knowns as Director’s Order 21, the order that was waived to allow the Anheuser Busch deal. Those revisions would permit the use of brand logos of alcoholic beverage companies on things such as vehicles, benches and along walkways.

The protesting groups want NPS to continue to limit corporate campaigns to those “conducted with high standards that maintain the integrity of the NPS and its partners.” In their interpretation, that means no cigarettes and no booze.

Their motivation, of course, is to do it for the children.

Read the full piece in the Huffington Post

Bicknell Op-Ed Published in the Huffington Post

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

What the Democrats of 2016 can learn from the Republicans of 1856

Many in the political world were shocked by the election results. Perhaps a little historical context is in order? Watchdog.org executive editor John Bicknell provides it in this Huffington Post op-ed:

The scene around the table at John C. Fremont’s New York home was a grim one.

While the first Republican presidential candidate, who had just lost to Democrat James Buchanan, maintained an air of calm, his teenage daughter was distraught. His closest advisor, Francis Blair, was enraged.

But out in the country, Republicans were not downcast.

“The Republicans here are full of grit,” Schuyler Colfax wrote from Indiana. “No give up — fuller of elasticity & zeal than any defeated party I ever saw.”

Lyman Trumbull of Illinois found his “Republican friends in great spirits for a defeated party. They are bold, confident and united, ready for another fight and feel that they will certainly win next time.”

The Rev. Henry Ward Beecher perhaps summed up the spirit best: “I shall sleep on it one night, and be up and at them again the next morning.”

Read the full piece in the Huffington Post.

Glass Op-Ed Published in Washington Examiner

Monday, November 7th, 2016

Plastic bag politics twist on the California ballot

Competing plastic bag ballot initiatives left retailers in a bind:

At the polls Tuesday, there will be two plastic bag initiatives on the ballot for Californians. One will overturn the bag ban entirely; the other will alter the way that the bag fee works by redirecting the revenue away from retailers into a government fund for environmental projects. The latter would be a shot across the bow of this environmentalist-corporatist alliance.

The big corporate retailers who were bought off by environmentalists with $300 million of plastic bag fees find themselves in a bind. They’d like to keep the plastic bag fees, but will find themselves at a massive loss if they lose the revenue.

Read the full piece in the Washington Examiner