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Archive for April, 2013

Supreme Court Rules Against Nationwide Access to State Information Via FOIA

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that states can restrict Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to non-residents. While at first glance you might not see a problem with this unanimous decision. This ruling strikes a blow to any researcher or journalist that might try to use a FOIA request in order to obtain information.

The opinion released by the Supreme Court stated that “Virginia’s FOIA exists to provide a mechanism for Virginia citizens to obtain an accounting from their public officials; noncitizens have no comparable need. Moreover, the distinction between citizens and noncitizens recognizes that citizens alone foot the bill for the fixed costs underlying recordkeeping in the Commonwealth [of Virginia].”

Obviously the taxpayers of the state are the ones that foot the bill. There are definitely costs involved with the labor hours required by workers to research the information that is requested. The unfortunate byproduct of this ruling is the decreased transparency that might have been produced by investigative work by nonresident researchers. What do you think? Is there a way to grant access to state information without unfairly costing the citizens of the state? Should the state be required to grant access to the information, but be allowed to charge an appropriate fee for the time required to research the information?

Background:

The case was brought about by two petitioners Mark J. McBurney of Rhode Island and Roger W. Hurlbert of California. Both petitioners had requested documents under Virginia’s FOIA. McBurney is a former Virginia resident whose ex-wife was defaulting on her child support payments. McBurney requested Virginia’s Division of Child Support Enforcement to file a petition for child support on his behalf. The agency complied with his request, but took 9 months to do so. McBurney claimed that the delay was caused by agency error and caused him to lose 9 months of child support. He wanted to inquire the reason for the 9 month delay, so he filed a FOIA request to obtain “all emails, notes, files, memos, reports, letters, policies, [and] opinions” pertaining to his family. The agency denied his request because he moved out of state. He later requested the same information under Virginia’s Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act. He was able to get the information that pertained to his case, but not to policy information on how the agency handles such requests.

Hulbert is the sole proprietor of Sage Information Services. His company requests real estate tax records for clients from state and local governments nationwide. Hulbert was hired in 2008 to obtain real estate tax records for property in Henrico County, VA. His request to Virginia was likewise denied because he is a non-resident. His portion of the case argued that under the Privileges and Immunities Clause that he be granted access to the information. This clause roughly states that noncitizens must be placed on equal footing with citizens and have “the ability to own and transfer property.” The court ruled that the clause does not apply because Hulbert did not provide evidence “that the challenged provision of the Virginia FOIA was enacted in order to provide a competitive economic advantage for Virginia Citizens.”

According to an article by Ars Technica: “Several other states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Tennessee, impose similar geographic restrictions.”

Sources:
U.S. Supreme Court
Ars Technica

Baltimore Prisoner Impregnates 4 Prison Guards; 13 Guards Indicted

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

13 correctional officers were among 25 Black Guerilla Family gang members indicted on federal racketeering charges. The officers with the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services helped gang members smuggle in cell phones, drugs, and launder money. Four of the female guards were impregnated by Tavon White, the leader of the Black Guerilla Family game according to the FBI press release.

Tavon White (Source: Anne Arundel County Police Department)

Roughly 170 federal agents and state and local police officers were involved in the arrests of 25 people allegedly involved. Of the 25, 7 were inmates, 13 were female correction officers, and the remaining 5 were “outside suppliers.” Tavon White allegedly had long-term sexual relationships with four of the guards, and all four became pregnant at least once. Two of the guards tattooed “Tavon” on their neck and wrist. White allegedly gave gifts to the correctional officers including diamond rings and luxury cars.

Gary D. Maynard, who is Secretary of Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services reportedly helped bring in over 30 known ‘clean’ correctional officers to conduct a cell by cell raid of the Baltimore City Detention Center. FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen E. Vogt was quoted in the FBI release as saying “Such corruption causes the FBI to divert crucial investigative resources away from addressing violence on the streets of Baltimore. In this case, the inmates literally took over ‘the asylum,’ and the detention centers became safe havens for the BGF. Such a situation cannot be tolerated. Law enforcement should not have to concern itself with criminal subjects who have already been arrested and relegated to detention centers.”

Sources: FBI Press Release: Thirteen Correctional Officers Among 25 Black Guerilla Family Gang Members and Associates Indicted on Federal Racketeering Charges
Maryland Dept. of Public Safety and Correctional Services

Will You Help Me In ‘Turning Maryland’?

Monday, April 29th, 2013

Let me first start by introducing myself. My first political memories are of President Reagan in the 80′s. As a young boy I remember being upset that Reagan would interrupt my prime-time television shows. Of course back then, there were only a handful of stations available via roof-top antenna. So being captive to the President’s prime-time speeches, I couldn’t help but be taken by the President’s warm personal demeanor and his ability to explain complicated matters simply to the general public in a way that even if you didn’t agree with him, you couldn’t help but to understand his thinking and where we were headed as a country.

My parents told me to always question everything and everyone. They told me to not just take what information was given to you, but to probe further into the details and to draw my own conclusions. They never told me to be a Republican, but in the search for the truth I couldn’t help but be drawn to conservative principles. The more I learned about democrat/liberal thinking, the more I realized that most of them are well meaning, but good intentions end up hurting those they intend to help.

I have been fighting for conservative principles on the national level for over 5 years at a conservative non-profit. For a while, I ignored Maryland politics because it would be too hard to change the status quo. The last 5 years of Governor Martin O’Malley’s administration have signaled a disastrous liberal turn in policies. O’Malley is hell bent on raising taxes, increasing spending, and gun grabbing. Ultimately Marylanders will pay the price as he attempts a run for President of the United States. If the general public knew what the Maryland state leadership was doing, they would be outraged.

No longer can we sit on the sidelines and be spectators while O’Malley, Senator Mike Miller, and House Speaker Michael E. Busch tax and spend away our money. One of my skills has always been to take a complex issue and break it down into simple, easy to understand information that even my liberal friends can’t argue with. I intend to provide you, the reader, with the same.

Will you help me to turn Maryland?

2016 Elections

Primary - 4/5/2016
General - 11/8/2016

Races to Watch

U.S. Senate

Barbara Mikulski (D) is retiring.

Top (D) Candidates
Donna Edwards
Chris Van Hollen

All 8 House Seats are up for election.

Current Representatives
1st - Andy Harris (R)

2nd - Dutch Reppersberger (D)

3rd - John Sarbanes (D)
Top candidates Dr. Mark Plaster (R).

4th - Donna Edwards (D) - running for Senate
Top candidates Anthony Brown (D), Glenn Ivey (D), George McDermott (?)

5th - Steny Hoyer (D)

6th - John Delaney (D) - may run for Senate
Top (R) candidates David Vogt (R), Kathy Afzali (R), Neil Parrott (R), Mike McKay (R).

7th - Elijah Cummings (D) - may run for Senate
Top candidates Calvin Ball (D), Corrogan Vaughn (R).

8th - Chris Van Hollen (D) - running for Senate
Top (D) candidates Kumar Barve, Valerie Ervin, Kathleen Mattews, Jamie Raskin
Top (R) candidates Frank Howard - potential