City Council holding a meeting on Home Rule – Monday June 1st

I wrote a post not long ago about some of the challenges to voting rights for the District. You can see that here. At the end of that post you will notice that I had to make a correction; these issues are complex.

I just received the following from someone at the D.C. City Council. I plan on attending, and encourage anyone interested in local politics/advocacy to attend as well. These issues are complex, and it is important to try and spread our opinions and ideas professionally, with as much understanding as possible.

In a democracy being a part of the solution = being willing to be a part of the process, in whatever way.


Dc Seal

Council of the District of Columbia

Special Committee on Statehood and Self-Determination

Councilmember Michael A. Brown, Chair


Public Hearing




Monday, June 1, 2009 – 6:30pm

John A. Wilson Building, Council Chambers (Room 500)

1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW


Panel One: Framing the Discussion

The Honorable Reverend Walter Fauntroy, Former DC Delegate to U.S. House of Representatives; Pioneer of DC Statehood & Home Rule Movements
The Honorable Jamin Raskin, Maryland State Senator; Constitutional Law Professor, American University’s Washington College of Law

Panel Two: The Impact of Voting Rights, Statehood, and Similar Measures to the Home Rule Charter and Structure of the District of Columbia

Brian Flowers, Counsel to the Council of the District of Columbia
Peter J. Nickles, Attorney General for the District of Columbia

Panel Three: The Constitutionality of the DC House Voting Rights Act of 2009

The Honorable Patricia Wald, Former Chief Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
Jonathan R. Siegel, Professor of Law, George Washington University Law School
Walter Smith, Executive Director, DC Appleseed Center; District of Columbia Bar, The District of Columbia Affairs Section

Panel Four: Beyond the DC Voting Rights Act: Additional Pathways to Full Democracy

Manus Cooney, Constitutional Lawyer, TCH Group; Former Staff Director for Senate Judiciary Committee and Counsel to U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Richard (Rick) Dykema, Chief of Staff to U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)
Stephen Pershing, Constitutional Lawyer, Center for Constitutional Litigation, P.C.; Adjunct Professor George Washington University Law School
The Honorable John Capozzi, Former “Shadow” U.S. Representative for the District of Columbia
Johnny Barnes, Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area

Panel Five: Voting Rights, Statehood and Full Self-Determination for the District of Columbia: A Political Analysis

The Honorable Tom Davis, Former U.S. Congressman from Virginia

Panel Six: Perspectives from Future Legal Scholars and Political Leaders

Edneka Haynes, 3rd Year Student, Howard University School of Law
Jackie Ouidia, Student Body and BLSA President

DC Flag

Entangling Alliances 2.0

Like many, when I started reading recently about Sovereign Wealth Funds, I was stimulated. Now I KEEP reading about them – they seem to be everywhere in the news. I don’t know why they stick out in my mind, but I tried to figure out why by writing something. This is draft two…. in which I basically compare SWF investment to the secret alliances that caused World War I.

There have been a number of articles recently about Sovereign Wealth Funds. A Sovereign Wealth Fund is an investment fund owned by a sovereign nation. National investment itself is not new. The only thing thats new about Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) investment is that now countries are directly investing in businesses, not other nations.

Kuwait established the first SWF in 1953. The UAEs fund was established in 1976 and is the largest, capitalized at over 800 billion. Chinas fund, which was established in 2007, is now capitalized at over 300 billion dollars. Theres no complete list, but somewhere between 30 and 50 nations now run SWFs.

From a pure market perspective, we are very happy that these funds exist. Craig Hakkio of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City wrote in the Economic Review (Third Quarter, 1995) that, “Because the United States is dependent on a steady flow of foreign capital to finance its current account deficit, a shift in market sentiment by private investors poses a risk to the U.S. economy. If private investors become reluctant to acquire dollar securities, foreign monetary authorities [can] take up the slack and increase their holdings of dollar reserves.” Extrapolating back to the market, foreign investment exerts a stabilizing influence. When our economy takes a downturn its really great for us that global investors (including sovereign nations) still see the United States as a good bet. Its great that China purchased 10% of Morgan Stanley last week. But some people get worried about China owning Morgan Stanley (just as an example.)

There are some genuinely scary overtones. Satoshi Kamoyashi in his May 24th piece in The Economist, quipped, “the last time governments were this involved in sinking money into private assets, the process tended to be called nationalisation.” However, with US GDP at 12 trillion, total value of traded securities at 50 trillion, and global value of traded securities at 165 trillion, the 3 trillion total of all sovereign wealth funds is not economically significant. Their impact, while symbolically great, is nothing to be afraid of.

George Will (in his Post column on February 3rd, 2008) argued just that, writing, “Remember the patriotic ruckus in 1989 when private Japanese investors bought Rockefeller Center? Remember the frenzied opposition two years ago to the attempt by a company owned by the government of Dubai to become the operator of some U.S. ports?…. Calmness, combined with vigilance, is sensible.” But there are potential political ramifications that go far beyond “Perror” (patriotic-terror) when foreign investment extends into the nations boardrooms.

The last ten years have shown us that individuals and small groups can bring down national institutions. Enron, Worldcom, Barings, and now Societe Generale have all been hit. What happens when some crook does something, or doesnt do something, that really hurts our nation? How would we have responded if Ken Lay had been Chinese or Arab? What if the impact is worse than what Lay did? Our fear should not be investor abuse of power, but our own xenophobia.

I believe there is no cause for actual concern that bad things happening will be caused by foreign governments, but bad things WILL happen. And at the wrong time, in the wrong place, you can bet that the right foreign nation will take the blame. All of this foreign investment does grant these nations influence in corporate governance which, over time, will impact personnel.

There is probably nothing to fear from foreign nationals owning or running our companies. But we should fear our own rage. When trauma – even of relatively insubstantial size – hits a sweet spot, history shows that the results are catastrophic.