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Spouse of Ring exec among lawmakers trying to weaken California privacy law (arstechnica.com)
208 points by close04 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 36 comments

In today's "team based" politics, politicians have figured out that perceived conflicts of interest no longer matter to their chances for reelection.

Her opponent can run ads that say "She proposed laws that made her husband's company richer" and it would probably barely affect her outcomes, as long as she has the D next to her name.

Amusing side note, she is my parent's representative, and I'm sure they would not care one bit about this as long as she's a Democrat.

She only won 95k out of 162k while spending an outrageous (if trends from 14 & 16 hold) amount against a poorly funded republican opponent, that’s quite embarrassing and open to another D from what I can see.

> I'm sure they would not care one bit about this as long as she's a Democrat.

California uses a jungle primary to solve this exact problem.

That's true but in her district it's pretty evenly split R and D, and in most cases, that means you'll get an R and D in final matchup, and the incumbent will almost always be one of those two.

Then you are getting exactly what the demographics supports.

You seem to be complaining that the demographic makeup is insufficiently Democratic to cause a D vs D main election. A jungle primary isn't supposed to oppose the local demographics.

Alternatively, you can try to find some candidates with (R) next to their name that don't suck. A Republican that believes in actual fiscal responsibility, promoting small business, not being a bigoted jerk, and not hanging out with Russian spies would actually get some support from the middle of the spectrum.

> candidates with (R) next to their name that don't suck

California used to have a bunch of those, but they are all gone, long gone.

Not just California. That's a national issue.

That's what primaries are for?

I would think that primaries would vastly favor incumbents, to a greater degree than a general.

Yes, but that's a different issue from partisanship.

Primaries can be just as "team based", just using different parameters than the (R) or (D) next to someone's name

> they would not care one bit about this as long as X is in their party.

Is using your political office to benefit your spouse's business a criminal offense in California? If not, it damned well should be. This is pretty blatant corruption.

> No public official at any level of state or local government shall make, participate in making or in any way attempt to use his official position to influence a governmental decision in which he knows or has reason to know he has a financial interest. [1]

A government official has a financial interest in the employment of their spouse (who in this case, also more than likely has stock/stock options/RSUs from his employer)

Edit to add: my spouse was a small time elected official in California, and there are lots of rules and required disclosures. Complying with the gift policy can be tricky -- if you meet your friends at their cabin for a ski trip it's allowed, but if you plan to meet them, but they were unable to make it, you can't stay there without them, it's not allowed to stay in their cabin without them.

[1] https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySectio...

As written, that seems awfully broad. For example, if a person who owns a farm in Merced county were elected to the legislature and then were to support any legislation that benefits farmers in general they would have run afoul of that law.

I assume that it is interpreted more narrowly than that. So, say, a farmer in the legislator trying to get, for example, a new aqueduct project approved to lower water costs for farmers in a large region would be OK even if they themselves would benefit from lower water costs, but that same legislator trying to get the state to pick their spouse's excavating company when awarding the construction contracts for the project would not be OK.

I don't see any problem with that scenario at all.

There's plenty of politicians, and we're better off when the ones that have an interrest or benefits just backs out and don't participate in that particular cause.

>As written, that seems awfully broad

That's a feature not a bug. It provides cover when "good people" do it and an opportunity to use the courts to get your way when "bad people" do it.

Section 87102.5 goes on to say:

> (a) The remedies provided in Chapter 3 (commencing with Section 83100) shall apply to any Member of the Legislature who makes, participates in making, or in any way attempts to use his or her official position to influence any of the following governmental decisions in which he or she knows or has reason to know that he or she has a financial interest:


> (3) Introduction as a lead author of any legislation that the member knows or has reason to know is nongeneral legislation.

> (4) Any vote in a legislative committee or subcommittee on what the member knows or has reason to know is nongeneral legislation.

> (5) Any rollcall vote on the Senate or Assembly floor on an item which the member knows is nongeneral legislation.

Non general legislation is defined [2] as:

> (a) “Nongeneral legislation” means legislation as to which both of the following apply:

> (1) It is reasonably foreseeable that the legislation will have direct and significant financial impact on one or more identifiable persons, or one or more identifiable pieces of real property.

> (2) It is not reasonably foreseeable that the legislation will have a similar impact on the public generally or on a significant segment of the public.

> (b) For purposes of this section and Section 87102.5, all of the following apply:

> (1) “Legislation” means a bill, resolution, or constitutional amendment.

> (2) “Public generally” includes an industry, trade, or profession.

> (3) Any recognized subgroup or specialty of the industry, trade, or profession constitutes a significant segment of the public.

> (4) A legislative district, county, city, or special district constitutes a significant segment of the public.

> (5) More than a small number of persons or pieces of real property is a significant segment of the public.

> (6) Legislation, administrative action, or other governmental action impacts in a similar manner all members of the public, or all members of a significant segment of the public, on which it has a direct financial effect, whether or not the financial effect on individual members of the public or the significant segment of the public is the same as the impact on the other members of the public or the significant segment of the public.

So --- it's not quite as broad as the earlier quote. But, I guess the question becomes is companies that like to retain more information than they need to do their job a recognized subgroup of the industry?

The point of the conflict of interest rules, though, is to make it crystal clear that any sort of appearance of conflict is to be avoided, which includes conflicts by virtue of marriage. Based on the definition of nongeneral legislation, I'm guessing this is probably fine (but is worth a look by the commission), but if it is OK, the legislator should say as much, and not claim independence from the spouse -- because the law does not allow for such independence.

[1] https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySectio...

[2] https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySectio....

> Is using your political office to benefit your spouse's business a criminal offense in California? If not, it damned well should be. This is pretty blatant corruption.

Receiving bribes and 'integrating' them into economy, through a network of relatives, is not that uncommon, unfortunately.

More sophisticated forms take 250K per hour speech fees, book+documentary 'deals', and buying expensive property much cheaper than market price (from the willing 'donors').

To find info on links between a politician and his/her bribe loundering network, you have to use non-google/non-yahoo search engine. And plugin the names of the relatives.

As examples, Pick federal Congress representatives from your district that have not changed for, say, 7-10 terms or more, and that live 4mln+ homes. And do the search.

Politicians who sit on the committees dispensing money (eg aid), or government contracts tend to be more corrupt (proportional to how much money they oversee being dispensed out).

>As examples, Pick federal Congress representatives from your district that have not changed for, say, 7-10 terms or more, and that live 4mln+ homes. And do the search.

How about an example? Your claims are extraordinary..

Dianne Feinstein is a good example; I only know about this from living in Berkeley for 20 years, and hearing about her corruption as it relates to her husband's real estate business (which impacted a lot of Berkeley landmarks).

The claims are reality. American politics is absurdly, laughably corrupt and has been for a long time. I've said this for years: everything we accuse the Russians (our evil doppelgangers) of has been true here for a long, long time.

The purple states are much better since all the politicians are on thin ice at all times.

True enough, and one of the reasons I moved to one after Berzerks. At this point, I'll probably continue my migration out of the country entirely if I can pull it off.

How is Feinstein corrupt?

Why such a search engine? Defamation take downs?

Usually when having any kind of public function you are covered by an ethics framework that expects you to come forward whenever you are involved in taking any decision that can look like a conflict of interest. Even if it is not a crime it should still be reason for dismissal. If nothing is done it incentivizes any person in a position with power of decision to try to benefit from it by simply hiding behind the feeble and unprovable claim that "it's totally unrelated".

One of the more interesting features announced by Apple at WWDC was HomeKit Secure Video. The basic idea is that home security footage could be stored in iCloud in encrypted form, preventing 3rd party access. Has any camera manufacturer announced support for this feature yet?

It would be nice if apple let you have a personal iCloud on hardware you owned or a server you administered without uploading to apple in the first place.

This would be a way to have usable services without your videos on machines with privacy policies you might not agree with. Even encrypted videos and "differential privacy" are compromises.

I'm not sure which is worse: this being a conflict of interest, or her personally believing that we should weaken data privacy laws.

The conflict of interest itself would have a far less impact on the regular person than the weakening of privacy laws. In this case I think the issues amplify each other.

Not distancing herself from the action/decision that favors her husband and the company he's involved with is the very definition of a conflict of interest.

Her inner intention is less important because it is hard to provide clear evidence for or against it (absent some sort of recorded evidence). It creates a situation of uncertainty and to avoid this you are usually required to disclose any detail that could cause even the appearance of a conflict of interest (you are married to the person who benefits from your action), and remove yourself from the decision making position.

So for example using public money to buy the very best available product on the market from your spouse's company is still a conflict of interest. You are expected to withdraw and let an impartial person take over. If the product is good then the evaluation will have the same result but there will be no suspicion that you tried to influence the result in your interest.

Anyone know what kind of ethics framework these guys adhere or commit to as part of having that public function?

Since the technology name rang a bell (pun unintended) it should be noted that the old GNU Ring softphone (now called Jami) is a privacy sensitive decentralized Skype-Like software which has absolutely nothing to do with this thing.


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