PolitiHacks Digest – 3 June 2013

These folks want your support:


  1. Tech helping Sacramento—Requesting proposals for how tech could drive innovation in government
  2. Lincoln Labs—Local to the Bay Area? Check out this politically-themed hackathon
  3. FixTheDMCA—Own your cellphone by patching the law that restricts you to borrowing your cellphone from AT&T or another service provider

Got a cause you want to share? Tell me.

Reading List—Theme: Assorted


  1. WSJ: What Immigration Reform means to Social Security— Author argues that immigration keeps the US young, which in turn keeps Social Security solvent
  2. Feld Thoughts: UP Global = Startup Weekend + Startup America—The two groups have merged to promote entrepreneurship in both local communities and nationally
  3. Venture Beat: National Day of Civic Hacking—This weekend, 83 cities held hackathons with open data provided by local governments supported by DC. We’ll track what comes of the events.
  4. TheAtlantic: Liberty Reserve—Haven’t been following this one, but any accusation of $6B money laundering should be tracked, especially possible implications on other digital currencies, such as Bitcoin or Ripple
  5. Wired: Rand Paul visits Silicon Valley—Talks about broadening Republican appeal, issues like education reform, privacy

Political issues affecting startups: 


Japan joins trade treaty negotiations, China may soon follow—IP implications
Two weeks back, Japan announced that it would be joining the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) treaty negotiations. Recently, China announced that it was considering also joining.

TPP is a wide ranging trade treaty, but it is the section on intellectual property (IP) that matters most to startups. International treaties have been used in recent years by the content industry to enact rules about copyrighted material that are then used to force Congress to comply. Most recently, Central European activists defeated a similar treaty, called ACTA.

Generally, these trade treaties are a net economic positive, but their IP provisions promise such a negative impact for the startup community that we’ve generally ended up strongly opposing them. From a political perspective, we need to do more to make it clear to DC that we will oppose any trade treaty that advances the maximalist approach to copyright, which can be used to suppress disruptive startups.

If you want to learn more, the US International Trade Administration Committee 15handles these negotiations, which are kept secret within the committee.


Sen. Rand Paul introduces expansive data privacy bill
Sen. Paul’s bill says that private information stored online does not waive privacy protections, which is currently how storing email on Gmail, files on Dropbox, or any other use of cloud-based Internet storage is handled by the relevant law, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA).

Called the “Third Party Doctrine,” law enforcement and other federal agencies (e.g. the Internal Revenue Service or the Securities and Exchange Commission) legally consider such storage to be abandoned, which is surprising and upsetting. Sen. Paul’s bill seeks to entirely undo that interpretation of the law, which was written in 1986.

However, being such a blanket fix, Politico argues that the bill will see significant opposition from law enforcement. That said, it’s a clear improvement over the status quo, even if we’re likely to see another solution adopted.

(Full disclosure: PolitiHacks consults on the Leahy-Lee ECPA reform bill)


Senate Immigration bill to begin debate leading up to final vote around June 10
Talking Points Memo adds another data point that the immigration bill will begin final debate the week of June 10, with a final vote expected by July 4th.

Right now, the bill is being scored, where the policy is being translated into dollars and cents. That process began a week and a half ago and will likely be done by the end of this week. Following scoring, the bill must be entered into the Senate schedule by the Senate Majority Leader.

Once that’s done, debate will begin on the bill, with amendments of all kinds being acceptable, unless subject to a rule that every Senator is willing to agree upon, which is unlikely in the modern Senate.

At that point, debate will continue until the Senate leadership is ready for a final vote. Debate is expected to no longer than just before the July 4th vacation.

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