Quarterly Activities Update

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.

Policy

Our policy research team had a busy quarter, working on projects to strengthen national security, improve American governance, and make the future happen sooner.

Commentary

The recently enacted National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2023 includes the Improving Government for America’s Taxpayers Act, based on Head of Policy Dan Lips’s research and my own testimony before the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. This law has the potential to spur tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer savings by focusing congressional attention on the Government Accountability Office’s nonpartisan recommendations for reforming government. We were also excited to see the inclusion of a provision creating a new national R&D strategy for distributed ledger technologies, which Director of Outreach Luke Hogg has advocated for as an aspect of winning the tech competition with China. 

Technologist Lars Erik Schönander had an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, discussing the federal government’s dangerous purchases of Chinese DJI drones. As he argues, “Federal agencies shouldn’t be allowed to buy products from companies that threaten America’s security.” The piece was promoted by, among others, Federal Communications Commission member Brendan Carr.

Other policies that our scholars have advocated for saw progress within Congress this quarter.

  • The omnibus appropriations package for FY 2023 included several policies that our team has supported. First, the package included a provision to ban the use of the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok on government devices, a move that Senior Fellow Geoffrey Cain advocated for in his testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee earlier this year. Second, the Open Technology Fund, which Dan Lips and Senior Fellow Deepesh Chaudhari urged Congress to support as an essential program for countering digital authoritarianism, received a nearly 50 percent increase in funding. Third, the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice Antitrust Division saw significant funding increases, in line with testimony submitted by Luke Hogg and Policy Counsel Jonathon Hauenschild. This funding increase will allow them to hire more technologists and strengthen their capacity to tackle anticompetitive conduct by large tech companies. Fourth, the Government Accountability Office, which Dan Lips and I have argued deserves greater resources, saw an 11 percent funding increase. Finally, the law included the Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act, which I’ve supported as a way to build state capacity at the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice.
  • Since the publication of Lars’s report on the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act, and his accompanying Wall Street Journal op-ed with Geoff, policymakers have given growing attention to Chinese Communist Party-affiliated investments in U.S. farmland. Members of Congress requested that the Government Accountability Office conduct a study on this issue, Rep. Mark Pocan introduced an amendment to the law to require additional reporting, and Reps. Elise Stefanik and Rick Crawford introduced legislation to improve transparency.

Geoff signed an open letter calling on Congress to close loopholes in our financial institutions that facilitate terrorism, drug trafficking, and other harmful behavior. He and his cosigners write, “[W]hile U.S. banks are required to implement strong safeguards against money laundering and sanctions evasion, there are currently no such protections for lawyers, financial advisors, and other professionals involved in handling funds for foreign clients.” The letter received a write-up in the Washington Post

Other publications included:

Research

Lars and Dan published a report, “Foreign Influence in American Higher Education: The Case for Additional Transparency and Enforcement.” The paper discusses American higher education’s vulnerability to foreign influence and exploitation, especially from China. Lars and Dan analyze the Department of Education’s data on foreign contributions to U.S. colleges and universities and recommend greater enforcement of Section 117 of the Higher Education Act to protect our schools from harmful foreign influence. Lars also created an online dashboard that serves as a “minimum viable product” example of how the Department of Education could publicly report these disclosures.

Luke Hogg published a paper for Competition Policy International’s TechREG Chronicle, “Tearing Down Walled Gardens: Encouraging Adversarial Interoperability to Promote Competition.” The report discusses how some online platforms have abused the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to discourage competition and adversarial interoperability. Luke proposes reforms to the Act that would encourage upstart companies to adversarially interoperate with dominant platforms, leading to a more open Internet and more competitive digital markets.

Geoff Cain wrote an essay for American Affairs, “The Purges That Upended China’s Semiconductor Industry,” in which he asks why China’s industrial policies have failed to deliver a strong position in advanced semiconductors. As America navigates its own renewal of industrial planning, Geoff argues, it must learn from China’s errors, and should “dust off and update the Cold War infrastructure that supported technological innovation for past generations.”

Members of the Lincoln team have been working to ensure that the rules governing the 118th Congress facilitate an effective and accountable legislative branch. In two reports, we outlined a series of recommendations for reforming the rules for the House of Representatives. Having met with House leadership to discuss these proposals, we are optimistic that many of our recommendations will be included in the upcoming House rules package, to be released soon.

  • In the first report, “Modernizing the People’s House: Reform Proposals for the 118th Congress,” we offered recommendations for enacting impactful legislation, conducting effective oversight, improving constituent services, and ensuring wise stewardship of taxpayer dollars. The report received a write-up in Politico, which noted that our proposal was “rooted in institutional reform, Congressional capacity and modernization and was developed with bipartisan consultation and an eye for making the chamber work more effectively, rather than strengthening power of certain players.”
  • In the second report, “Bipartisan Recommendations to Reform the House Rules,” Demand Progress’s Daniel Schuman and I offered more detailed reform proposals for an effective House rules package. As I explained in an accompanying press release, “It’s important to democratize the House so more rank-and-file members have a say in the legislation that gets considered and so that committees don’t have their roles usurped by leadership.”

Alex Dubin, our Endless Frontier Fellow, published an essay in the New Atlantis on why “The Long Delay Is Nearly Over,” considering the reasons that we haven’t been back to the Moon since 1972. He discusses the prospects of the new Artemis program and offers recommendations for what NASA and U.S. human space exploration should do next.

Jonathon Hauenschild’s report, “Federal and State Efforts to Close the Digital Divide,” considers how public policy and new technologies can connect more Americans to broadband. Federal and state governments have been working for decades to close the digital divide—the gap between those who have access to broadband and those who do not—with limited success. Jonathon provides a slate of recommendations for how state and federal governments can make progress through coordinated and technology-neutral efforts.

Fellowships

We hosted our third cohort for the Policy Hacker Fellowship at our Reboot conference in Miami. Policy Hackers is a non-resident fellowship program for tech professionals interested in building expertise in the theory and practice of public policy. Over the year-long program, we teach our Fellows the fundamentals of policy entrepreneurship and innovation policy and introduce them to top lobbyists, scholars, public relations specialists, and government policymakers. We’ve held a series of virtual seminars with Fellows in recent months and are looking forward to the next summit in Washington, D.C., this March.

This fall, we co-hosted Round 1 of the ML Model Attribution Challenge, a competition designed to encourage research into AI attribution techniques. The competition launched at the annual DEFCON conference in partnership with Schmidt Futures, Robust Intelligence, MITRE, Microsoft Azure Security, and Hugging Face. Thanks to Senior Fellow Deepesh Chaudhari, the competition was a success: the results showed the potential for AI forensics to mitigate the malicious use of large language models and solve the challenges associated with machine learning model attribution. Deepesh discussed the findings in his blog post, “The Unmasking of Manipulative AI.”

Nonresident Senior Fellow Jimmy Soni’s book The Founders: The Story of Paypal and the Entrepreneurs Who Shaped Silicon Valley was selected as a finalist for the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing’s annual Best in Business Book Awards

Studio

It’s been an exciting Q4 for the Lincoln Studio team. Our goal at Studio is to bring technology and creative partnerships to bear in solving critical, high-stakes problems facing our country. We’re pleased to report on the success that our products are seeing.

Schoolahoop 

Schoolahoop, Lincoln’s platform for school choice, has seen great success this quarter. Schoolahoop’s embeddable school finder app is now live on our “boots on the ground” partner’s website in Wisconsin, School Choice Wisconsin. This feature will allow us to grow Schoolahoop’s usage, and we’re working with three other partners in Wisconsin to expand adoption. 

We’re already working on the next features to release. We hope to offer Spanish as a language option in 2023, and we’d like to add “seats available” data to school profiles, so that parents don’t have to spend time pursuing a school that’s already full.

We’re always considering additional states to roll out Schoolahoop in, and West Virginia is at the top of our list at the moment. If you’re interested in partnering with Lincoln Studio, please reach out to our Head of Product, Brandon Detweiler, at [email protected].

BIPbounty

BIPbounty.org is the first platform for crowdsourcing tax-deductible bug bounties for Bitcoin Improvement Proposals (BIPs). As Senior Advisor Ariel Deschapell explained in a recent piece for Bitcoin Magazine, our goal with this project is to “sustainably accelerate research and development deliverables and discourse across BIPs” and ultimately “supercharge the Bitcoin network.” We plan to expand the project in the coming months to support more bounty programs for even more BIPs.

Project Nickel 

We released a major SEO update for Project Nickel, Lincoln’s platform for parents, journalists, and policymakers who want to see what public schools spend and where that money goes. We’re confident that this update will increase our rankings and traffic from organic searches, helping more people to understand per-student spending at the district, state, and national level.

Events

Reboot, our annual conference to discuss technology, culture, and politics, was a big success. The conference, held on October 13 in Miami, convened roughly 200 technologists, founders, journalists, and politicos for a day of debates and discussions. Speakers included Miami’s mayor, Francis Suarez, Craft Ventures’s David Sacks, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Cory Doctorow. In a great write-up of the conference, Politico called our style “‘builder’ politics,” explaining, “What they were actually up to was hashing out something that looked awfully close to a new kind of American politics.”

In Washington, D.C., we partnered with the Digital Progress Institute for a discussion on “Tech Regulation in the New Congress: Digital Markets, Interop & User Choice.” We heard from Richard Reisman of Teleshuttle, Joel Thayer of the Digital Progress Institute, Will Rinehart of the Center for Growth and Opportunity, and Jamie Susskind of the Office of Sen. Marsha Blackburn as we considered a pro-competition agenda for the next Congress.

We also hosted an event in D.C. on “Fixing the People’s House: Opportunities for Reform and Modernization.” We discussed the potential for the 118th Congress to leverage new technologies and modernize operations with Rep. William Timmons, the Conservative Partnership Institute’s Ed Corrigan, former Special Assistant to the President for Innovation Policy Matt Lira, Demand Progress’s Daniel Schuman, and the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress’s Betsy Hawkings. 

Other events that our scholars spoke at included the following:

Finally, we’re looking forward to Realignment Live, the annual conference of the podcast The Realignment, which is sponsored by Lincoln. Held on January 25 in Washington, D.C., the conference will host some of the most important thinkers and doers on the right for a conversation on the future of conservatism. Speakers will include the American Enterprise Institute’s Yuval Levin, Echelon Insights’s Kristen Soltis Anderson, American Affairs’s Julius Krein, and the American Economic Liberties Project’s Matt Stoller. You can purchase your ticket here. Early bird tickets are available until the end of the year!

Podcasts

Saagar Enjeti and Marshall Kosloff have continued hosting The Realignment. They’ve held fascinating conversations in recent months with figures such as 1517 Fund’s Michael Gibson, the Brookings Institution’s Shadi Hamid, and the Financial Times’s Rana Foroohar. In his recent “What I’ve Been Up To Lately” update, Marc Andreessen of Andreessen Horowitz highlighted his own episode on The Realignment, covering “Building, Web3, Collapsing Trust, and Realignments.” 


Thank you for following our work. We appreciate your continued interest in Lincoln Network and our mission and welcome any questions or feedback.

If you’re interested in supporting our mission, you can donate here

Sincerely,
Zach Graves
Executive Director, Lincoln Network

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Dan Lips
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Executive Director
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Marshall Kosloff
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Luke Hogg
Director of Outreach