Opinion

Stories I’d like to see

Presidential aloofness, a patent rush, and disclosing Washington corruption

Steven Brill
Mar 19, 2013 10:08 UTC

1.   A scorecard on presidential aloofness:

Mark Knoller is the award-winning, long time CBS News White House correspondent famous for keeping count of everything that goes on in the White House, such as presidential press conferences, speeches, visits to various states and even golf outings. Memo to Mark or anyone else who wants to put some meat on the bones of all the reports about how President Obama — whose charm offensive on Capitol Hill has dominated last two weeks’ headlines  — has until now been so unusually disengaged with Congress: Can you do a comparison of how many times before his recent flurry of congressional encounters President Obama has met with members of the House and Senate? It could include a sub-category of one-on-one sessions, and compare Obama’s record, if possible, with the stats for presidents going as far back as you can. (Maybe Bob Caro can help you even get the LBJ numbers.)

A tally of one-on-one phone calls would be great, too.

2.   Black Friday at the patent office?

Saturday morning at 12:01 marked a key deadline in the world of intellectual property. Under a change in patent law passed in September 2011 and scheduled to take effect on Saturday, March 16, 2013, rules governing new applications for seemingly the same inventions will shift from giving priority to whoever first invented a claimed invention to whoever first filed a patent application for it. It’s complicated, but this is a drastic change in patent law and means that anyone claiming a patent who is worried about competing claims would have a huge leg up by filing the application as soon as possible beginning on March 16.

Patent law has become a multi-billion dollar legal sweepstakes. So was the patent office flooded over the weekend? Was there a run up to March 16 equivalent for patent lawyers to the black Friday holiday rush for retailers?

3.   Dealing with D.C. corruption:

On Friday, the Washington Post  reported that a grand jury had been convened to hear federal prosecutors’ evidence against New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, who is under a cloud following reports that he interceded on behalf of an ophthalmologist friend who gave him plane rides to and lodging at the doctor’s vacation home in the Dominican Republic and contributed $700,000 to a campaign fund for senate Democrats that Menendez ran. Menendez is charged with interceding with State Department officials to protect a security contract a company owned by the doctor had with a Dominican port agency, and with prodding senior Department of Health and Human Services officials to cut off an investigation regarding hundreds of thousands of dollars the doctor allegedly overbilled Medicare.

Here’s what’s more disturbing about the article than the senator’s possible misconduct: The Post accurately reported that, “Federal bribery laws require proof that a politician received something of value with the express purpose and understanding that it was to influence his or her official action.” As Stewart Brand, a lawyer who specializes in defending politicians on corruption charges explained to the Post, “You must show an absolutely direct nexus between the thing of value and the intent and the official act….Unless you have a wiretap or direct evidence of an official saying, ‘I’ll do this for that,’ it’s too hard to show that.”

A hidden Gulf economy, Romney’s old taxes, and patent wars

Steven Brill
Mar 6, 2012 13:15 UTC

1. An underground economy in the Gulf?

I was interested to read these paragraphs in a recent New York Times story about the processing of claims being made by victims of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico; pay special attention to the part I have underlined:

Glenn Poche, a shrimper, said he had lost 90 percent of his retail business. Despite official assurances that seafood pulled from the Gulf of Mexico is safe, many of his customers “want to wait a couple more years” to be sure….

Diane Poche, Glenn Poche’s wife, said she had received $30,000 from the fund — “just a little drop in the bucket of what we’ve lost” — but her claims for more had been refused, she said, her voice rising. “I sent in paperwork over two inches thick!”

  •