Sunrise (3/8/11)

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SUPREME COURT ELIMINATES FOIA EXEMPTION, EXPANDS TRANSPARENCY

Politico: “The Supreme Court struck a major blow for government transparency Monday by rejecting a three-decade-old legal interpretation that federal agencies use tens of thousands of times each year to withhold records sought under the Freedom of Information Act. … The court ruled, 8-1, that the Navy could not use an exemption for records “related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency” in order to reject a request for data about a weapons and explosives depot in Puget Sound. The data and related maps show where damage could be expected if the explosives detonated, either accidentally or in the event of some wrongdoing. … Writing for the majority, Justice Elena Kagan said the courts had converted an exemption that appears to apply to lunch hours, vacation and parking issues into one covering far more substantive issues–all without any explicit direction from Congress in the statute. … “These data and maps calculate and visually portray the magnitude of hypothetical detonations. By no stretch of imagination do they relate to ‘personnel rules and practices,'” Kagan wrote. “They concern the physical rules governing explosives, not the workplace rules governing sailors.”

CONGRESSMAN INVITES DONORS TO TESTIFY AT HEARING

Roll Call: “Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) praised the panel of witnesses at a recent Transportation and Infrastructure Committee field hearing in his district, saying, “The best ideas come from individuals who see and breathe the issues not just from Washington.” … Among the panel of four private-sector witnesses at the hearing held at Oklahoma City Community College in February, three were donors to the freshman lawmaker’s campaign last cycle. … The fourth private-sector witness did not donate, although employees of his small business did. The two remaining witnesses were state government officials. … There are no rules prohibiting campaign donors from appearing before Congressional committees, and several government reform advocates acknowledged that it is not uncommon for a witness to have given funds to a Member.”

FAA OPENS UP PRIVATE PLANE FLIGHTS

ProPublica: “The Federal Aviation Administration is proposing rules [1] that would prevent private plane owners from keeping their flight records secret unless they can provide a valid security concern. … The FAA said the practice of blocking flights from real-time tracking data had created a transparency issue and cited a federal court ruling involving a Freedom of Information Act request that had been filed by ProPublica. … In recent months, blocked flights have prevented the public from learning details about a plane suspected of being used for gold smuggling, a prominent minister accused of sexual abuse involving private jet trips and the travels of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg during a major snowstorm.”

HODES BECOMES CONSULTANT

Union Leader: “Four months after losing a bid for the U.S. Senate, Paul Hodes has reemerged as a consultant, but not, he says, as a lobbyist. … Hodes and his former chief of staff, Matt Robison, are the principals of Northern Connection LLC, based for now in Hodes’ Concord home but soon to be housed in an office in the area, and possibly one in Washington as well. … “We’re focusing on consulting, not lobbying,” he said, referring to himself and Robison. “We haven’t registered as federal lobbyists and certainly at this time don’t plan to. … “There’s a lot of important work to do that doesn’t need to meet the test of lobbying. And until next January 3, I’m prohibited personally from talking to any member of Congress or their staff with the intent to influence any policy.”

FUNDRAISING PARTIES TODAY

–Rep. Tom Reed hosts a fundraiser at the Bucks vs. Wizards game, Sen. Max Baucus raises money at the Williams & Jensen Townhouse, and more fundraisers today.

INFLUENCE EXPLORER

–Sen. John Ensign is retiring from the Senate to spend more time with his chief of staff’s family. Those rumored to be running for his seat include Republican Rep. Dean Heller and Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley. Follow their links to see their campaign donors and more.

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