There’s one issue, perhaps the only one, that Republicans and Democrats seem to agree on: reducing the population of the nation’s crowded and expensive prisons, partly through reducing sentences for low-level and nonviolent offenders.
One person who would be expected to be at the table for high-level strategizing on the issue is the chairman of the U.S. Parole Commission, former D.C. police chief Isaac Fulwood Jr. But Fulwood, who’s leaving the post this week after nearly six years as chairman, has yet to meet President Obama or have a one-on-one meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder, whose centerpiece initiative has been “smart on crime” prison reform, our colleague Sari Horwitz reports. (Oh, yes: The Parole Commission is part of the Justice Department.)
“It is with bittersweet sorrow that I have decided to retire,” Fulwood wrote to Obama on Jan. 8. “I have made this decision based on personal health challenges and the fact that the department has not been as supportive over the years as they should have been,” citing staffing, funding and attention to issues of prison reform.
In 2013, well before Ferguson, Cleveland, Staten Island and other troubling law enforcement incidents, Fulwood wrote to Obama suggesting that the Justice Department “lead a dialogue with law enforcement about racial profiling,” an issue he has long been concerned with during his decades of work in law enforcement. He got no response, we wrote at the time. Not even a robo-signed “Thanks for your letter.”
In an interview, Fulwood said that the exploding prison population is “what everyone is talking about, and we need to make sure that the Parole Commission is doing what Holder and Obama want us to do. But nobody talks to us, so we don’t know.”
The lack of communication even extended to a small personal request Fulwood made on Dec. 5 “to bring my family to the White House to get a photo with the president.” He hasn’t heard back.
Well, he’s around till Friday.
Seemed for a time that President Obama was in line to make a little bit of history as the president who issued the fewest vetoes of any president, including one-termers, since James Garfield — who had no vetoes because he was shot by an assassin after four months in office in 1881.
Obama hasn’t had a lot of veto opportunities up to this point, but that’s almost certain to change with the GOP in control of the Senate for the first time in his administration.
Those low veto numbers, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell grumbled Sunday on “60 Minutes,” are a function of Democratic control of either the Senate or the House for the past six years.
“The reason was the Senate never sent him anything that caused him any discomfort,” McConnell said. Boehner added: “Over the last few years, we sent 400 bills over to the Senate that never received action.”
In his State of the Union address last week, the president promised to veto any effort to repeal Obamacare, gut the Dodd-Frank rules on Wall Street, undo his executive action on immigration, or threaten more Iran sanctions if the talks fail. He has also said he would veto approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Assuming Congress does act on those matters, that alone would bring Obama’s veto total to seven, surpassing President Warren Harding, who died of a heart attack in 1923 after less than three years in office and only six vetoes.
And,with the GOP in charge on the Hill, we can probably expect a slew of other bills to pass even though Republicans know full well that the White House will veto them. (So there won’t be any Harry Truman-esque charges of a “do-nothing Congress.”)
If Obama gets veto-happy, George W. Bush, with 12 vetoes (and a GOP House for his first six years), might end up with the lowest total for any two-term president since Andrew Jackson. Jackson also vetoed 12 measures between 1829 and 1837.
Should the Federal Election Commission require more disclosure of political contributions? Further regulate political speech? What about on the Internet?
The public had until Jan. 15 to weigh in on those money-in-politics issues as the FEC considers new rules ahead of the 2016 campaign. And, according to commissioner Ellen Weintraub, the agency received a whopping 32,000 comments.
Public comments, especially when drafted by interest groups, can often be a little dry. But thousands of passionate folks let the FEC know exactly what they thought. Weintraub said about 24,000, or 75 percent, favored more regulation by the FEC. About 5,000 comments weighed in on regulating political speech on the Internet, though there is nothing specific on the table before the FEC.
“What I think is most interesting is the level of passion we’re seeing from the general public on these issues,” Weintraub, a Democrat, told the Loop. “People really do care about this — that they’re getting a raw deal and that their democracy is taken away from them by people who are more wealthy.”
A quick read of several comments showed many folks want more information about who is paying for elections, while others don’t want the government regulating Internet speech. Here are a few samples:
On more disclosure:
“I want to know who is buying our democracy.”
“The Citizen United ruling basically legalized Bribery. I think that the people of the united states at least deserve to know who is doing the Bribery. Every donation should be public. . . . I want my country back.”
“You congressmen should be a shame of trying not to let people know how much and from who the gangsters money is coming from. . . . You have not worked for the people in 6 years and need to be impeached.”
On Internet regulation:
“Keep your elitist thinking little self serving rules and regulations off all Americans’ Rights to Free Speech in regard to “regulating the internet.” Do not touch! It regulates itself very well, Thank you. What I and my Fellow Americans care to say, without slandering each other (established law regulates slander), is none of your little governmental bureaucratic business!
Twitter: @KamenInTheLoop, @ColbyItkowitz