Policy Update for August-October 2020

The following post was originally set as an email newsletter to our friends and supporters.

Re: Lincoln Policy Team Activities for August-October 2020

Dear friend of Lincoln:

Next week we look forward to the 2020 election. I already voted early here in DC. On that Friday, November 6, we are kicking off our annual Reboot conference, and continuing it on Monday and Tuesday of the following week.

Over the past few months, our team has been working tirelessly on both the conference and election integrity, in addition to continuing our other work. In this update, I’m going to go over everything we’ve been working on here at Lincoln over the past few months. Thank you for your interest and support during this busy and eventful season.

Reboot Conference: The Future of Governance, Tech, and Media

Reboot is going all virtual this year. Registration is FREE, and still open. Details and the full agenda are available at www.rebootconference.org.

The conference will include three days of virtual programming on November 6, 9, and 10. Day One will discuss the future of tech policy after the election. Day Two will focus on how Silicon Valley has been upended by COVID-19 and the backlash against tech’s impact on society. Day Three will explore what the future holds for the news industry amidst ongoing technological change.

Speakers include Tyler Cowen, Joe Lonsdale, Tiffany Moore, Tom Kalil, Saagar Enjeti, Trae Stephens, Mignon Clyburn, Parker Thompson, Riva Tez, Nadia Eghbal, Katherine Boyle, and many more!

Register for one, two, or all three days. It promises to be an engaging conversation about how COVID-19 has forced Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C. to confront the challenges of the 2020s.

The Realignment Podcast 

As we announced last update, Lincoln’s Marshall Kosloff and The Hill‘s Saagar Enjeti are teaming up with us to host The Realignment podcast, and producing two new episodes each week. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts!

This season they have had conversations with Sen. Marco Rubio, Andrew Yang, Matt Yglesias, Joe Lonsdale, Keith Rabois, Oren Cass, Balaji Srinivasan, Jane Coaston, Krystal Ball, and many more. We invite you to subscribe and ask you to help us promote it by giving the show a five-star rating on iTunes.

Lincoln Podcast

In addition to The Realignment, we recently soft-launched a new podcast hosted by our chief technologist Sean Roberts. The podcast explores the intersection of technical and policy questions in a short, digestible format with subject matter experts in different technology and policy areas. Guests have included EFF’s Cory DoctorowChris Riley, Brennan Center’s Larry Norden, WA Sec. of State Kim Wyman, technologist Peter Rysavy, Microsoft’s Ginny Badanes, and more. It also features a series of interviews with election officials from across the country.


We’re excited to have Peter Blair (author of what I think is the best book on OTA) as the final entry in Lincoln’s Technology Assessment Symposium, with the paper “Effective Science and Technology Advice for Congress: Comparing Options.” It also comes with an infographic. For a contrasting view, I also recommend reading Tim Persons in Issues in Science and Technology. We also have some other great contributions to the series, with authors such as CMU’s Jon Peha and M. Granger Morgan, JHU’s Kathryn Wagner Hill, UCL’s Chris Tyler, and others.

Dan Lips published an excellent white paper that explains how Congress can leverage the Government Accountability Office to understand and improve how they promote savings and cut waste, fraud, and abuse. He writes:

As a former Congressional staffer and customer of its work, I know firsthand how the hardworking auditors at GAO conduct oversight on behalf of Congress and the public improve the federal government’s performance. Reviewing its cost-savings estimates since 1999 shows why funding GAO is one of the best investments Congress makes, but it also highlights how much more taxpayer savings and improvements could be made if Congress leveraged GAO’s nonpartisan oversight to have a greater impact.

Our election policy team created an interactive map that presents and contextualizes information about each state’s laws regarding ballot collection. This is based on Lincoln Network’s review of relevant state laws and a plain reading of the relevant statute and the policy paper by Alexiaa Jordan and Sean Roberts published earlier this year.

Also keep an eye out for my forthcoming paper on the techlash, in final edits, which will be published with GMU. We also have another big paper on tech platforms in the works, as well as one on congressional funding (expanding on what I talk about here at FedSoc).

We’re also pleased to be cited, and see recommendations we’ve helped push for, in the final report of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress.

Letters, Testimony, Briefs, and Regulatory Comments

In recent months, revoking or substantially changing Sec. 230 has been a favorite talking point for both Republican and Democratic politicians. While there are some serious, good faith proposals for reform (such as from Klon Kitchen at Heritage or Ben Wittes and Danielle Citron at UMD Law), much of this discussion has been too politicized, and grounded too little in how changing the statute would shape outcomes in the real world.

In an effort to chart a path forward on Sec. 230, Garrett Johnson and I submitted comments to the FCC on the NTIA’s petition, arguing that this is a job the next Congress must tackle. We write:

The ultimate responsibility for updating and reforming Section 230 must fall on Congress, including granting any new regulatory authority to the Commission. Lincoln believes the best path forward to achieve informed consensus on Section 230 reform is for Congress to undertake the creation of a nonpartisan Congressional Commission—providing a forum to weigh the policy objectives sought by NTIA and the White House, as well as a broad range of other stakeholders.

I also joined a group of 43 center-right organizations, think tanks, and policy experts in a coalition letter led by Americans for Tax Reform on how policymakers shouldn’t approach 5G. We’re also pleased to see our work on broadband policy cited several times recently by the Commission.

We joined a coalition calling for video broadcast of appropriations committee markups in the Senate (those who follow these know how annoying this is). We also teamed up to submit a letter offering recommendations for the House Appropriations Committee to improve its operations, which may gain traction with a new incoming chair.


In The Hill, Garrett Johnson writes that Americans must help the country avoid an “1876 scenario,” looking back at a period when the nation was on the brink of a second civil war. He writes:

2020 has proven to be one of the most challenging years in modern American history. The United States could be in for worse if the results of the presidential election are close and contested in November. Short of a landslide for either candidate, a large percentage of the country is likely to see the result as illegitimate if their side doesn’t win.

Also in The Hill Elise Bean and Dan Lips write that Inspector General independence must be a bipartisan priority in 2020. They write:

Republicans who, under the Trump administration, have resisted investigating executive branch actions may feel differently about a Biden administration. Democrats who have led recent oversight inquiries into the current administration may want to give a Biden administration a honeymoon period.

But in these months leading up to the presidential election, it’s the right time for lawmakers from both parties to step back and recognize the importance and long-term value of independent oversight no matter who is in office. Restoring public confidence in American governance requires a renewed focus on transparency and nonpartisan oversight to curb wrongdoing and increase accountability.

Some of our other writings include:


Lincoln has been hosting regular virtual events relevant to our work throughout the summer and fall. Recent public events include:

We also organized several invitation only events, with topics such as tech platforms and election integrity.

Final Thoughts

Thank you again for your ongoing interest and support of our work. Please email me at any time with suggestions or questions. We are always eager to receive input from you regarding our research, writing, and programs.


Zach Graves
Head of Policy, Lincoln Network
[email protected]


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