Dear friend of Lincoln:
I’d like to share with you some of our team’s recent activities, including new research from Lincoln Policy, project updates from Lincoln Studio, and other developments across Lincoln Network. Take a look at what the Lincoln team has been working on over the last few months.
Our policy team had a busy quarter, working to strengthen national security, improve American governance, and keep America at the forefront of technological dynamism. As a recent write-up of our efforts in Campaigns & Elections noted, we’re “in a prime position to influence the tech policy fights on Capitol Hill.”
In particular, we’ve been working to ensure that the rules governing the 118th Congress facilitate an effective and accountable legislative branch. In November, we published our recommendations for reforming “the People’s House.” We were pleased to see that the new House rules package included some of our suggestions, including requiring House committees to develop a plan for addressing expired authorizations of appropriations. Congress spent $461 billion on these so-called “zombie programs” last year, so it’s encouraging that the new House majority is focusing committees’ attention on them. The new House leadership has also improved the availability of legislative data in machine-readable formats, opened up floor proceedings, and established a subcommittee on congressional modernization within the Committee on House Administration, among other reforms.
In a letter to Speaker McCarthy, Matt Lira and I offered additional recommendations for modernizing the House. And in another letter to Speaker McCarthy and members of the House Republican Conference, I joined the National Taxpayers Union’s Andrew Lautz, Due Process Institute’s Jason Pye, and the American Enterprise Institute’s Kevin Kosar in offering recommendations to strengthen the legislative branch and its policymaking and oversight capacity.
The Policy team continues to grow: this quarter, we brought on Ryan Khurana as a Senior Advisor, Satya Thallam as a Senior Fellow, and Samuel Hammond as Senior Economist. Ryan is Chief of Staff at WOMBO Studios, a generative AI startup; Satya is a former biotechnology executive and a former senior policy advisor in the White House and Congress; and Sam was previously Director of Social Policy at the Niskanen Center.
Additionally, Head of Policy Dan Lips and Senior Fellow Geoff Cain, both previously Visiting Fellows at the National Security Institute at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, were recently promoted to Fellows. We’re also excited to be working with NSI and the Silverado Policy Accelerator on a new working group on strategic competition with China.
Many policies that our scholars have worked for saw progress this quarter.
Concerns about the Chinese app TikTok grow more widespread by the day, and with good reason, as Geoff has shown in his congressional testimony and writing. Recognizing TikTok’s ties to the Chinese Communist Party, a majority of states have banned TikTok on government devices. A number of bills have been introduced that would facilitate a national ban on the app, and the White House recently threatened to ban TikTok unless the app’s owners sell their stakes. In advance of the recent House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing with TikTok’s CEO, Geoff briefed the Committee extensively, and he was quoted in several articles before and after the hearing.
In March, the Government Accountability Office issued a new report on federal improper payments, which is the first in a series of quarterly reports required by the House Appropriations Committee on this $247 billion annual problem. We have encouraged the Committee to focus more attention on improving payment integrity over the past few years.
While we have growing concerns about the direction of the Federal Trade Commission under its current leadership, as well as the lack of a full set of commissioners, we are nevertheless pleased to see the announcement of expanded technical capacity through the FTC's new Office of Technology. For years, we have advocated for more nonpartisan technical staff, so that the FTC can address today’s competition challenges.
Geoff and Policy Technologist Lars Erik Schönander have warned about Chinese state-owned companies owning U.S. farmland and called for greater oversight of land acquisitions by foreign entities. We’re excited to see bipartisan efforts on this front. Senators Tom Cotton and Tommy Tuberville have introduced legislation prohibiting members of the Chinese Communist Party from purchasing U.S. land. In the House, Representatives Ronny Jackson, Pete Sessions, Abigail Spanberger, and Vicente Gonzalez have introduced legislation with the same goal. Senator Josh Hawley has introduced legislation banning CCP-affiliated corporations and people from owning U.S. farmland. Finally, Senators Mike Braun and Jon Tester have introduced legislation stopping anyone affiliated with adversarial foreign governments, including China’s, from buying U.S. agricultural land.
As Geoff and Lars have noted, Chinese ownership of U.S. farmland is especially alarming when the land is near U.S. military bases, as is the case in North Dakota. We were pleased to see that North Dakota is halting the development of a Chinese-owned corn mill in response to concerns over its proximity to an Air Force base. In Florida, legislators are considering restricting the purchase by CCP-affiliated groups of property near military bases and other strategic assets.
Lars has written about the dangers of the U.S. government purchasing drones from DJI, a company with close ties to the CCP. Texas governor Greg Abbott has taken the important step of banning the state government’s use of DJI drones, and a bipartisan group of senators recently sent a letter to the Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency within the Department of Homeland Security, calling for the agency to study DJI’s security risks.
The Open Technology Fund, which Dan has studied and recognized as an essential program to counter digital authoritarianism, announced a new project, the Free and Open Source Software Sustainability Fund. The Fund will support the long-term maintenance and sustainability of open source software projects, as we discussed in a blog post, “Countering Digital Authoritarianism Will Require Support from Governments and Philanthropists.”
In our work on modernizing the House of Representatives, we’ve advocated for reforming Truth in Testimony disclosure requirements to ensure that witnesses reveal any compromising payments or incentives. The new House China Select Committee’s adoption of stricter disclosure requirements, aiming to reveal any ties witnesses have to the CCP, is a much-needed action, and we hope other committees follow suit and adopt more stringent requirements.
Other publications included:
- Dan Lips and Robert Bellafiore, “4,800 Ways to Improve Government,” in The Hill
- Jonathon Hauenschild, “As FTC Oversteps its Authority on Non-Competes, Congress Should Step In,” in The Hill
- Lars Erik Schönander, “These Are Not Your Drones,” in the American Mind
- Lars Erik Schönander, “Between Sovereignty and the IMF,” in Commonweal
- Lars Erik Schönander, “The U.S. Government Is Funding Chinese Spy Technology in America’s Backyard,” in Tablet
- Luke Hogg, “Tech Legislation Presents Opportunity for Republican Unity,” in the Deseret News
- Richard Reisman, “From Freedom of Speech and Reach to Freedom of Expression and Impression,” in Tech Policy Press
- Alex Dubin, “As a New Space Age Dawns, the Artemis Accords Should Take Center Stage,” in the National Interest
- Satya Thallam, “When ‘Follow the Science’ Meets Data Nationalism,” in The Hill
- Luke Hogg, “Artificial Intelligence Could Democratize Government,” in Tech Policy Press
- Jimmy Soni, “Harming Students in the Name of Fairness,” The Dispatch
- Jonathon Hauenschild, “Biden Administration Tries to Criminalize Speech,” in the Washington Times
- Luke Hogg, “Congressional Privacy Proposals Could Kill Scores of Blockchain Projects,” in Cointelegraph
- Lars Erik Schönander, “Congress Should Act on Bill to Protect US Farms from Foreign Interference,” in The Hill
- Roslyn Layton, “Doltish Regulators Use SVB To Attack Crypto In Nonsequitous Fashion,” in RealClearMarkets
- Alex Dubin, “What a Successful Artemis 1 Mission Means in 2023 and Beyond”
- Lars Erik Schönander, “Who Owns the Farm in the U.K.?”
- Dan Lips, “Recommendation for the Next Federal STEM Strategic Plan: Improve Public Reporting on Federal Education R&D Activities”
- Dan Lips, “Five Recommendations if Congress and GAO Are Serious about Addressing the Nation’s Unsustainable Fiscal Path”
Highlights among our media hits include the following:
- Lars co-hosted two episodes of the ChinaTalk podcast with Jordan Schneider, in which they interviewed historian Nick Mulder on the history of economic warfare.
- I joined Tech Policy Pressto discuss how ChatGPT and other generative AI tools could affect the ways lawmakers engage with constituents and craft legislation.
- Director of Outreach Luke Hogg spoke on the Pretty Good Policy for Crypto podcast about data privacy laws, decentralized technologies, and privacy-preserving technologies.
- Lars spoke to Sinso News, a Japanese outlet, about Chinese investors buying property near U.S. military bases.
Reports, Comments, & Testimony
Appropriations season is back in full swing, and our team has been hard at work reaching out to committees, building new relationships, and submitting testimonies.
Luke and Nonresident Senior Fellow Antonio García Martínez published a report, “To Be a Stranger Among Strangers: AdTech, Web 3, and Data Privacy,” on the challenges that Web 3’s targeted advertising models pose for current privacy laws. As new decentralized technologies begin to take hold, policymakers must rethink how we operationalize privacy. Luke and Antonio offer a framework for reconciling notions of attribution and data privacy with decentralizing technologies, and proposes a path forward for policymakers seeking to protect individuals’ privacy while fostering technological innovation.
Lars published an essay in American Affairs, “Tracking Benign and Malign Foreign Investment in the United States.” The paper surveys the history of efforts to monitor foreign investment in the U.S., and shows how our inadequate data collection systems have made it difficult to identify who owns what in sectors such as agriculture and energy. Lars offers a slate of recommendations to modernize our data collection on foreign investment and protect the U.S. from malign foreign actors.
Policy Counsel Jonathon Hauenschild submitted two comments to the Federal Communications Commission. In the first, he considers Congress’s order requiring the FCC to propose rules to ensure that everyone can subscribe to broadband services. Jonathon argues that those rules should include some form of disparate treatment test, designed to prevent intentional discrimination, and warns that the proposed rules likely run afoul of the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in West Virginia v. EPA.
In the second comment, Jonathon argues that the FCC lacks congressional authority to expand its current notification regime to include “accidental” or “inadvertent breaches.” He notes that the statute that the FCC cites for the authority to establish data breach notification rules lacks any reference to the security of data, and emphasizes the difficulty of inferring security standards from a privacy statute.
Lars submitted a public comment to the Economic Development Administration within the Department of Commerce regarding its proposed rules for the implementation of the Regional Technology and Innovation Hub Program. He argues that the program risks being ineffective as the result of factors beyond the Administration’s control, including legal, regulatory, and economic barriers. He also warns that the program risks suffering from poor metrics and data collection procedures.
In an environment of fiscal constraints, AI could be a key tool for expanding congressional capacity by freeing up resources for more important purposes. In an essay for Tech Policy Press, “Bots in Congress: The Risks and Benefits of Emerging AI Tools in the Legislative Branch,” Demand Progress’s Daniel Schuman, POPVOX’s Marci Harris, and I consider how AI could help address congressional dysfunction. We ask what AI could mean for communications and lobbying, and we recommend that Congress take a deliberate approach to test and learn how these technologies can be applied.
We’ve recently submitted several congressional testimonies, and we plan to submit more in the coming months.
- Lars submitted written testimony to the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, encouraging the Subcommittee to protect U.S. postsecondary institutions from malign foreign influence by directing the Department of Education to enforce compliance with Section 117 of the Higher Education Act.
- In written testimony to the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch, Dan advocated for funding the Government Accountability Office, a congressional watchdog agency that provides substantial taxpayer savings.
- In my written testimony to the same subcommittee, I offered recommendations to advance capacity and modernization in the Fiscal Year 2024 legislative branch appropriations bill.
- Finally, in written testimony to the House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, Dan urged the Subcommittee to prioritize the Department of Education’s R&D programs, and to reduce spending on programs that are unlikely to improve student learning or national competitiveness.
We have many research projects in the works, and look forward to publishing reports on Internet freedom, interoperability, congressional regulatory oversight capacity, and more in the coming months.
In March, we hosted our third cohort of the Policy Hackers Fellowship at our D.C. summit. Policy Hackers is a nonresident fellowship program for tech professionals looking to build expertise in the theory and practice of public policy. Over the year-long program, we teach Fellows the fundamentals of policy entrepreneurship and innovation policy and introduce them to scholars, government policymakers, and public relations experts. At our summit, we held sessions with top Senate staffers, convened a salon dinner with FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, hosted a reception with our friends at TechCongress featuring Representative Darrell Issa, and went bowling at the White House.
The Studio team has continued its momentum from 2022 into the first quarter of 2023. At Studio, we bring technology and creative partnerships to bear in solving critical, high-stakes problems facing our country. We’re pleased to report on our products’ success.
Schoolahoop, Lincoln’s platform for school choice, had a great quarter. As Head of Studio Brandon Detweiler and Research Manager Robert Bellafiore recently explained for ReImaginED, our goal is to complement public policy by using technology to give parents the best options for their children. In January, Schoolahoop launched across Wisconsin, giving more parents the ability to discover and compare local schools. Our team’s traction and adoption strategies continue to show strong results: traffic is up 308 percent this quarter compared to Q4 2022, and thanks to a recent SEO update, organic search traffic has risen 114 percent over the last two months.
Another new feature is dedicated landing pages for every state that Schoolahoop is available in, which will allow parents to discover both available schools and “boots-on-the-ground” partners who can help them pick the right one. Schoolahoop is also expanding its Scholarship Discovery feature to help parents find scholarships for their children.
We’re already working on more features to add. We hope to add Spanish as a language option this year, and we’re eager to partner with donors interested in supporting this work. We’re also exploring a new feature to show “seats available,” so that parents can easily determine a school’s availability and don’t spend time pursuing full schools. Finally, we’re continuing to develop Schoolahoop’s new internal school editing interphase, which will help reduce data inaccuracies and speed up the process of expanding Schoolahoop into new states.
We’re always considering additional states to roll out Schoolahoop in, and West Virginia is at the top of our list.
BIPbounty.org is the first platform for crowdsourcing tax-deductible bug bounties for Bitcoin Improvement Proposals (BIPs). So far, the bounty program for BIP-119 has received more than 1.3 BTC in donations, and we’re working now to award our first contributor. We plan to expand the project in the coming months to support more bounty programs for even more BIPs.
Project Nickel is Lincoln’s platform for parents, journalists, and policymakers who want to see what public schools spend and where that money goes. Toward the end of last year, we released a major SEO update and added new features and data points on K-12 school spending. Now, we’re focused on keeping our spending data up to date, and we’re working on adding a return-on-investment feature so that users can make comparisons between spending per pupil and educational outcomes.
In January, we welcomed our new Operations Manager, Maggie Tynan, who has helped Lincoln host events with some of our favorite organizations and thinkers.
In January, we had a sold-out attendance at Realignment Live, a conference of the podcast The Realignment, which is sponsored by Lincoln. One hundred fifty policymakers and wonks came to discuss the future of U.S. technology and politics. Speakers included The Heritage Foundation’s Kevin Roberts, the American Enterprise Institute’s Yuval Levin, and The Marathon Initiative’s Elbridge Colby. In a write-up of the conference, Politico called us “one of the Washington policy outfits most laser-focused on the intersection of future tech and political ideology.”
Geoff was a member of a German Marshall Fund delegation to Taiwan, where over two weeks he met with leaders from politics, civil society, the military, and academia to discuss the country’s geopolitical and economic prospects. Highlights included rare meetings with Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu and with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Chairman Mark Liu and his top executives.
We also held a salon dinner in Washington, D.C. with the German Marshall Fund’s Alliance for Securing Democracy, at which Geoff and others discussed the U.S.-China strategic competition.
Other highlights among the events our scholars spoke at included:
- Luke joined Young Voices to moderate a panel discussion featuring Nonresident Senior Fellow Jon Askonas on “The World with ChatGPT: Will Humanity Fit In?”
- Lars spoke to the American Legislative Exchange Council’s working group about Chinese purchases of U.S. agricultural land, and what policies can be enacted to prevent malign foreign investments.
- Geoff spoke on a panel with the National Security Institute about digital authoritarianism in China. The event was part of NSI’s ongoing series, “A Spotlight on China’s Global Repression.”
- Robert spoke at a listening session on STEM research and innovation capacity convened by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, where he offered recommendations for improving federal education R&D programs.
- Antonio joined CoinDesk for a panel discussion on the “Role of Web3 in Disaster Response and Relief.”
We recently launched our podcast,The Dynamist, hosted by Senior Advisor Evan Swarztrauber. The podcast highlights our research and work and explores the emerging movement for dynamism. In some of our first episodes, we’ve spoken with Julius Krein from American Affairs, Alec Stapp from the Institute for Progress, and Gabriela Rodriguez from American Compass.
Saagar Enjeti and Marshall Kosloff have continued hosting The Realignment. They’ve had conversations in recent months with figures such as Congressman Mike Gallagher, Chairman of the House China Select Committee; Vivek Ramaswamy, 2024 presidential candidate; and Bradley Tusk, CEO and co-founder of Tusk Ventures. You can also listen to every session from Realignment Live on episodes 336, 337, and 345.
Antonio has launched a new podcast, Moment of Zen, with Dan Romero of Farcaster and Erik Torenberg of Village Global and On Deck. The weekly podcast covers “what's happening in technology, business, politics, and beyond.” I recommend in particular their discussions of AI in episodes 6, 10, and 12.
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