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CLARK: Standing Up for Small Businesses

Once again, Big Liquor is knocking on Congress’s door, asking for a handout paid for by hardworking American taxpayers. The latest ploy comes in the form of two bills in Congress — S.1781 and H.R. 4073 – which are disguised as innocuous trade and tax policy reforms, but in reality, are special interest gifts to an industry with big lobbyist muscle.

Essentially, these bills would create a zero percent effective tax rate for multi-national liquor companies importing certain foreign-produced spirits products. This isn’t just a loophole; it’s a cavernous gap in our tax system, quietly pushed by the hard liquor special interest lobby in hopes of slipping through unnoticed in an omnibus package. That’s often how lobbyists get special gifts for their clients; they sneak special carveouts and loopholes into larger “must pass” bills. No one notices, but clients get rich … often at our expense.

Opposition to S.1781 and H.R. 4073 isn’t just about fiscal responsibility; it’s about fairness. While Big Liquor stands to gain billions in tax breaks, American small businesses are left behind. Current rules prevent most commodities from being offset unless their Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) codes match. American bourbon and Irish whiskey, with their distinct HTS codes, can’t offset each other, yet Big Liquor wants to change the rules to benefit themselves.

Confusion is the lobbyist’s best friend. By exploiting the convoluted U.S. tax code, the Big Liquor Lobby aims to shift the burden of their taxes onto hardworking Americans. It’s a cynical game that we can’t afford to let them win.

And let’s not forget, this isn’t Big Liquor’s first rodeo. In 2020, they scored a generous tax break with the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, while loopholes like the rum cover-over, which provides a tax break for Big Liquor companies that produce products in the Caribbean, and the 5010-flavor credit, which gives them a tax incentive to dilute hard liquor with wine or flavorings, continue to line their pockets at the expense of taxpayers and U.S. territories.

Now, with S.1781 and H.R. 4073, Big Liquor is once again angling for special treatment. But these bills aren’t just special treatment; they’re earmarks, plain and simple. By definition, earmarks benefit a select few at the expense of the many, and these bills would line the pockets of a handful of global liquor giants.

Enough is enough. Congress must stand firm against these blatant attempts to rig the system in favor of Big Liquor. Taxpayers shouldn’t foot the bill for corporate greed, and American small businesses deserve a level playing field. It’s time to put an end to these kinds of games and ensure that Big Liquor pays its fair share.

Big Liquor companies have taken advantage of the U.S. tax system for far too long. It’s time for Congress to say no to another handout and yes to fairness and fiscal responsibility. Pennsylvania’s federal delegation, especially Rep. Lloyd Smucker (PA-11), should take the lead in shutting down this Big Liquor special interest payoff.

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AYANIAN: The Bad, the Ugly, and the Worst of the Spending Package

Congress is at it again, spending heaps of taxpayer dollars on special interests and expanding the size of government with the recently signed $1.2 trillion spending package. The package was passed just in time to avoid a partial government shutdown.

The Associated Press described the events as “long overdue,” and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer characterized passing the bill as “complet(ing) the job” and insisted that doing so was “good for the country.” Some Democrats and Republicans have been able to tout their “victories” in the bill to their bases. Spectators who view Congress’ productivity in bills passed or speed of action will similarly see this as a win.

But don’t be fooled. The package’s contents and the way in which it was passed illustrate, once again, that our governing processes are broken and that our politicians flippantly waste citizens’ money. Let’s look at the bad, the ugly, and the worst of this process.

First, the bad: the actual contents of the bill. It is always the case that people spend their own money more wisely than they spend others’, but congressional spending is the epitome of that reality. In the spending package, the federal government sent millions in taxpayer dollars to special interests — for example, $850,000 to a New Jersey housing development for LGBTQ+ seniors and $400,000 to an organization that, among other things, provides “gender-affirming” clothing to trans youth.

Regardless of how one feels about the related social issues, there is no reason Congress ought to steal taxpayer dollars for such causes. Citizens, of their own volition, can donate their money to those projects if they wish. Congress has no right to force that spending on taxpayers and add to the national debt. 

Yes, $1.25 million is not a lot, but those are only two of many special interests that will receive federal money as a result of this package. In the last two years, members of Congress known as The Squad have secured $220 million for special interest groups.

Republicans, too, are guilty of using the federal government to provide funding to favored interests in their districts. For example, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia  secured $3.8 million in federal funding for an airport expansion in Dade County, Georgia.

If you thought conservatives would fight for limiting government and cutting spending, you were wrong. Instead, in this package, the GOP was far more focused on  banning LGBTQ pride flags from being flown outside of U.S. embassies. The GOP did not stop the $200 million allocated for a new FBI headquarters in Maryland. Additionally, the Republicans supported a $27.75 billion raise for the Department of Defense above its current funding level, even though the Pentagon has failed audits six years in a row.

Now, for the ugly: the process. Not only did our nation’s politicians pass a package containing all kinds of ridiculous measures, but they passed it without even reading it. The bill, which spans more than 1,000 pages, was released in the middle of the night, and our representatives were given fewer than 36 hours to review it. In other words, they didn’t review it. We elect these individuals to be our eyes, ears and voice in Congress. Is it too much to ask that they read the bills before they vote?

There’s a big difference between “completing the job,” as Schumer said, and skipping the job altogether.

Finally, the worst: broken promises. When Mike Johnson became speaker of the House, he promised Republicans adequate time to read legislation before voting on it. However, he waived the self-imposed 72-hour rule for this massive $1.2 trillion package, sparking ire from many. Even Republicans, such as Greene and Justin Amash of Michigan, have called for the ouster of Speaker Johnson after the chaotic process through which this bill was passed.

 Thomas Massie of Kentucky went to X (formerly known as Twitter) right before the spending package was passed to lament, “As part of the debt limit deal last summer, Biden agreed to an automatic 1 percent cut to all discretionary spending if we were still on a CR on April 30, 2024. Tomorrow, our Speaker will give up that leverage and pass an omnibus that spends more than (Nancy) Pelosi spent in her highest year.”

Our politicians impetuously spend American taxpayers’ money, imprudently blowing out the national debt with no signs of slowing down. This weighs on economic growth and reduces the prosperity of Americans. In justifying the haste with which this bill was shoved through, Speaker Johnson stated, “We have to govern.” Blindly spending taxpayer dollars is not governing. It is lazy and immoral. Americans ought to demand better.

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GRAHAM: Dems’ Vote to Vacate Leaves Congress Powerless During ‘Israel’s 9/11’

When reports of kidnapped women and murdered children began pouring in Saturday from the massive Hamas attack on Israel, the response in Washington was to convene the “Gang of Eight.” Those are the eight key congressional leaders charged with overseeing military intelligence, and they are usually the first people briefed in such a crisis.

Only thanks to House Democrats, it is now the gang of seven. The speaker’s chair is empty, vacated by a vote of all 208 members of the House Democratic Caucus in support of Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, and seven fringe MAGA Republicans.

Unlike a typical leadership battle, Democrats weren’t backing an alternative candidate to take control. They didn’t even offer a leadership plan. Their only goal was to help what talk host Hugh Hewitt has dubbed the “Knucklehead Caucus” create chaos and promote GOP infighting while shutting down the House.

The Democrats’ plan worked. There is plenty of chaos in Washington today.

Unfortunately, there is far worse in Israel, and thanks to the Democrats’ success, a leaderless Congress is powerless to act. The House cannot pass legislation or approve military aid until the vacancy that Democrats helped create — purely for partisan political purposes — has been replaced.

“The emergency in Israel puts a spotlight on the state of paralysis in the House and completely unchartered legal territory the House is in,” reported CNN’s Annie Grayer.

Or, as moderate Republican Mike Lawler of New York put it, “This is why you don’t remove a speaker mid-term without cause. What an unmitigated sh*t show.

“Doing so as Israel faces an all-out attack is dangerous. Uncertainty and chaos in the U.S. breeds vulnerability around the world,” Lawler added.

Democrats remain unapologetic. Rep. Annie Kuster of New Hampshire, head of the New Democrat Coalition in the House, sent out a fundraising email Saturday morning — literally as the Hamas terrorists were rampaging across Israel — touting Democrats’ success in ousting the speaker.

The email included this description of Kuster’s vote to vacate: “As the Chair of the New Democrat Coalition, she worked to end the chaos and deliver bipartisan solutions for the American people.”

Voting with Gaetz and his fringe fellow travelers is certainly “bipartisan,” but how many Americans view it as a “solution”?

Meanwhile, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pennsylvania, was bemoaning the behavior of Democrats in the Problem Solvers Caucus who could have intervened to stop the chaos.

“The motion to vacate (the speakership) gets put on the floor, and we went to our (Democratic) colleagues and said, ‘Can you at least buy us some time?’” Fitzpatrick told Fox News. “Forty-eight hours. We can’t rewrite a 300-page rules package to make the House work more in a bipartisan manner in eight hours. It’s impossible.”

Fitzpatrick said Republicans asked Democrats in the Problem Solvers Caucus to vote “present” instead of advancing the motion to vacate. They refused.

“That’s all we were asking for was some time. … And that’s why there are so many Republicans in our group that are very, very upset, and add me to the list.”

And even if there hadn’t been an international crisis (there could be another one in Ukraine, Taiwan, North Korea, etc. tomorrow), former Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg points out that empowering Gaetz would still be a mistake.

He says House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries’ decision to “let (Kevin) McCarthy hang himself may have allowed Democrats to feel good in the moment, but Democrats now face the prospect of a speaker who will likely be to McCarthy’s right, and who will likely draw from his political demise the worst possible lesson: that the extremists must be heeded.”

Democrats engaged in childish partisanship for short-term gain, with Kuster’s enthusiastic support. Now, there is a mess the United States must clean up quickly to fully come to Israel’s aid.

All 208 Democrats should be asked whether it was worth it.

POULSON: How to Solve the U.S. Debt Crisis

Solving the U.S. debt crisis will be challenging. It will require bringing expenditures into balance with revenues in the long term. The federal government has failed to do this for decades. Under law, deficits and debt are projected to continue to grow at an unsustainable rate for the foreseeable future. Statutory fiscal rules still need to halt unsustainable growth in debt.

For example, in the 1980s and 1990s, Congress implemented statutory fiscal rules designed to reduce the debt burden. In those years, federal expenditures were balanced with federal revenues, decreasing debt burdens. But in 1999 and 2000, Congress circumvented the rules by allocating funds to emergency spending. 

And in 2002, Congress ended this charade by simply allowing the fiscal rules to expire. This allowed Congress to pursue discretionary fiscal policies, boosting spending far above that permitted by the regulations. The statutory fiscal rules enacted by Congress in recent years have suffered a similar fate. The fatal flaw in statutory fiscal rules enacted by Congress is that rules passed by one Congress are easily circumvented or suspended by a subsequent Congress.

In contrast to the United States, other countries have enacted effective fiscal rules. The most successful is Switzerland. The Swiss constitution requires voter approval for increased taxes and debt. In the 1990s, Switzerland experienced a debt crisis. Swiss citizens responded by enacting a debt brake as a constitutional fiscal rule through a referendum, with support from 85 percent of voters. The Swiss debt brake caps the growth in federal spending at the long-run growth rate in national income. It mandates that the federal government bring expenditures into balance with revenue soon. If the government incurs a deficit, the deficit must be offset by surplus revenue in subsequent years. The debt brake was enacted in 1998 and has allowed the Swiss to cut the ratio of national debt to national income in half. The Swiss could respond to the financial crisis and the coronavirus pandemic without a massive increase in deficits and debt, such as that incurred in the United States.

The Swiss debt brake has been copied in other European countries. It is now part of the fiscal rules imposed by the European Union. Northern European countries have been more successful in implementing the new fiscal rules than the southern countries. Ultimately, the success of the new fiscal rules depends upon support from citizens. When citizens approve new fiscal rules as constitutional provisions, as in Switzerland, it is more difficult for elected officials to circumvent or suspend the rules.

If the United States had enacted a debt brake, we could have reduced debt burdens just as the Swiss have. The question is how to enact more effective fiscal rules. Congress has proposed many fiscal rules as constitutional amendments for decades. However, Congress has never achieved the two-thirds’ majority required to submit these proposed amendments to citizens for ratification.

U.S. citizens can follow the lead of Switzerland and incorporate a Fiscal Responsibility Amendment in the Constitution. Article V gives citizens, as well as Congress, the right to propose amendments. Citizens and their state representatives have proposed Fiscal Responsibility Amendments for more than half a century. In 1979, two-thirds of the states had proposed such amendments. At that point, Congress was required to call the amendment convention, but Congress failed to fulfill this obligation under Article V.

This year, citizens may finally see some light at the end of this tunnel. House Budget Committee Chairman Jody Arrington, R-Texas, introduced a resolution requiring Congress to count state resolutions and call the amendment convention.

It is now up to the people and their state representatives to exercise the power granted to them in Article V of the Constitution. With a Fiscal Responsibility Amendment in the Constitution, citizens could determine how much government they want and are willing to pay.

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KING: We Get Lousy Politicians Because Running for Office Is Ghastly

I am often asked why, in a country of such talent and imagination, the U.S. political class is so feeble. Why are our politicians so uninspiring, to say nothing of ignorant and oafish?

The short answer is because political life is awful, and potential candidates have to weigh the effect on their families plus the wear and tear of becoming a candidate, let alone winning.

I would name three barriers that keep good people out of politics: the money, the primary system and the media scrutiny.

Taking these in order, you must have access to enormous funding to be a candidate. Mr. Smith, the character in the 1939 movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” was appointed. He didn’t have to subject his rectitude to the electoral process.

A candidate for Congress must get substantial funding from the outset and be prepared to spend much of his or her career raising money, which frequently means bending your judgment to the will of donors. Yes, Mr. Smith, to some extent, the system is inherently corrupt.

I asked a prominent political consultant what he asks a candidate before going to work for him or her. First is money: Do you have your own, or can you raise it? Second are skeletons in the closet: Have you been arrested for indecent exposure or drunk-driving offenses?

Finally, the consultant told me, he asks a candidate: What do you stand for? In short, the mechanisms of politics triumph over principles. A member of the House once told me that he spent much of his time meeting with donors and attending fundraisers. “You’ve got to do it,” he said.

In the days of the smoke-filled rooms (there really was a lot of smoke), the party — the professionals — prevailed. In the primary system, the odds are on those who are extreme and appeal to the fringes of their party ideology. The party doesn’t shape today’s candidates; they shape the party.

Look at the Republicans, little recognizable from the party of old; the party that was held in check by the New England stalwarts. Or look at how the Democrats fight to avoid falling into the chasm of the far left. Once, the Democrats were held in check by labor, which gave the party an institutional center.

On the face of it, the primary system favors grassroots democracy and the individual. In fact, it favors those with rich friends who will cough up.

Finally, there is media scrutiny. If you want to run for office, you become a public plaything. Everything you ever wrote or said can and will be dredged up.

Opposition research operatives will interview old lovers; check on what you wrote in the school yearbook; rake through your social media posts; and that unfortunate slip of the tongue in a local television interview years ago will be reprised on the evening news. You have a target on your back, and it will be there every day you are in office.

This delving into every corner of life is a huge barrier that keeps a lot of talent out of politics. Anyone who has ever had a disputed business dealing, a DUI arrest (not even a conviction) or a messy divorce is advised to forego a political career, no matter how talented and how much real expertise Mr. Smith might bring to the statehouse or Congress.

Run for political office, and you put your family at risk, your private life on display and, having been hung out to dry, you may not even win.

These are some of the factors that might explain why Congress is so risible and why such outrageously fringy people now occupy high office.

Having observed politics on three continents, I am firmly of the belief that it needs strong institutions in the form of local political associations and party structure, and candidates should be judged on the body of their work, not on a slip of the tongue or an indiscretion.

However, the selection of candidates is always a hard call. If parties have too much control over the system, party hacks are favored and new, quality candidates are shut out.

If primaries continue as they have, the fringes triumph. Just look at the Congress — a smorgasbord of wackiness.

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TELLER: The Year of the Congressional Review Act

The Congressional Review Act has proven its importance in holding the Biden administration accountable in a divided Congress. 

Conservatives in Congress won their very first legislative victory in March with a CRA resolution overturning a District of Columbia crime bill that would have reduced penalties for violent offenders. Under political pressure for surging crime in the District, President Biden caved and signed the CRA resolution, leaving progressives high and dry without any executive branch cover for voting against common sense.

Created in 1996 through the efforts of then-Rep. David McIntosh, R-Indiana, the CRA was constructed to empower Congress to keep the executive branch and D.C. in check, which the Constitution grants Congress exclusive authority over. 

Rather than the typical 60 votes necessary to advance most policies in the Senate over the potential for a filibuster, CRA resolutions are “privileged measures” requiring only a simple majority. In the current Congress, that has meant that conservatives could hold Biden’s sprawling administrative state in check with the support of only one or two Democrats, and sometimes less than 51 votes. Convince the usual suspects of Democratic senators Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema or Jon Tester that a Biden policy has gone too far, and the CRA can be used to stop that policy in its tracks.

Conservatives also forced the first veto of the Biden presidency through a CRA resolution opposing a 401(k) rule that put progressive values over economic value for American workers. Advancing American Freedom launched a six-figure ad campaign, concentrated in Arizona and Montana (we had already flipped Manchin with a massive coalition letter effort that included key West Virginia stakeholders). As a result, we were able to protect the retirement accounts of hardworking Americans from progressives’ political games.

Last week, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed two CRA resolutions, overturning Biden’s overreach on heavy-duty vehicle emissions and his student loan bailout. The heavy-duty vehicle emissions rule would add thousands of dollars to the cost of every truck on the road, driving up already exorbitant transportation costs for consumers. According to the American Truck Dealers, costs could be as much as $42,000 per truck, and the EPA estimates the rule would impose a $55 billion burden on the trucking industry over the rule’s lifetime. The CRA, which already passed in the Senate with the support of Manchin, received support from four House Democrats in battleground districts.

The student loan rule would cost hundreds of billions of dollars, breaking our already broken higher education system. Rather than helping working-class Americans struggling to get by, this rule rewards the professional class and progressives with overly expensive gender studies degrees. 

The rule isn’t just a slap in the face to Americans who chose not to go to college because of the crippling expenses or those who worked hard to pay off their student loan debts — it’s a deeply misguided initiative that will actively encourage more reckless borrowing and stoke the flames of inflation. Even Biden has acknowledged that his authority is doubtful here. It’s clearly part of a corrupt political spoils system aimed at buying votes. While it did not get as many Democratic votes as the heavy-duty vehicle CRA, the student loan CRA passed with bipartisan support in the House and now moves to the Senate, where its fate will be determined.

Advancing American Freedom has been compiling a list of executive overreach called the Biden Accountability Tracker (BAT). The BAT tracks each significant policy decision made, executive action taken, or regulation promulgated by the administration that hurts the American people. This task has produced 171 entries in the past two years, the latest of which would be ripe for CRA action. 

The administration has aggrandized federal power at the expense of accountability, adopting a radical “whole-of-government” approach to nearly every political or policy issue. Defeating this destructive agenda is top of mind as conservatives look to take back control of Congress in 2024. In the meantime, we should use the CRA vigorously to swat down overreach. Let history remember 2023 as the year of the CRA.

DelVal Dems Vote Against Bill to Keep Men Out of Women’s Sports

All three Democrats representing the Delaware Valley in the U.S. House of Representatives voted against the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act Thursday, which passed in a party-line 219-203 vote.

The bill would allow women to compete in sports without being forced to face off against males.

“For purposes of determining compliance with Title IX . . . in athletics, sex shall be recognized based solely on a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth,” the bill reads. Senate Democrats are expected to prevent it from coming to the floor for a vote.

“We have come too far as women to allow biological men to compete against us in sports and for college scholarships,” said Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) via Twitter. “It is total bull****!”

Reps. Mary Gay Scanlon, Chrissy Houlahan, and Madeleine Dean all voted against the bill and in favor of allowing males who identify as female to participate in women’s sports. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks) voted with the GOP majority in favor of women-only sports competitions.

Neither Scanlon, Houlahan, nor Dean would answer questions about their vote.

However, Houlahan did post a press release on her website calling the bill “an attack on some of the most vulnerable people in our society—our transgender community.” She called the measure a “cynical vote” and urged Congress to “leave these infrequent conversations to students, parents, doctors, and schools who can make decisions based on kindness, inclusivity, and understanding, not fear and vitriol.”

Critics noted that leaving the issue to local schools is impossible because the Biden administration has issued a federal order arbitrarily redefining the word “sex” in Title IX to include “stereotypes, sex characteristics, pregnancy or related conditions, sexual orientation, and gender identity.” The White House has also forbidden school districts from issuing blanket bans on biological male athletes competing in women’s sports.

Scanlon posted a video on Twitter earlier in the week telling transgender-identified individuals she would “never stop standing up for you and standing against hatred.”

Pat Poprik, chair of the Bucks County Republican Committee, told Delaware Valley Journal in a statement that she supported the bill.

“I speak to voters daily, and nearly all of them are in favor of protecting women and girls’ sports,” Poprik said. “The failure of Democrats to support this bill, once again, shows how out of touch they are to what is important to our hardworking families in our community.”

A similar proposal was passed by both houses of Pennsylvania’s legislature last year. 

The state “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act” stipulated that “athletic teams or sports designated for females, women or girls … may not be open to students of the male sex.”

The bill had been introduced by five women legislators in the Pennsylvania House, with Rep. Martina White (R-Philadelphia) stating that the legislation would “ensure all female athletes have a level playing field to compete and win.”

“Science and common sense tell us that males are generally bigger, faster, and stronger than females,” White said. “These are all advantages that cannot be undone.”

That bill passed by strong majorities in both the state House and Senate, though it was ultimately vetoed by then-Gov. Tom Wolf (D) in July. The governor had slammed the measure as “transphobic.”

The issue of transgender athletes has become a cultural flashpoint nationally in recent years, with Republicans often pushing to keep sports divided by sex and Democrats arguing that males should be allowed to compete against young women at the high school and college levels.

However, even left-leaning news outlet NPR was forced to issue a correction when it falsely reported that “there is limited scientific research” supporting the “physical advantage” males have over females in athletic competitions.

Last week, high school volleyball player Payton McNabb testified before the North Carolina legislature about “suffering severe head and neck injuries resulting in long-term concussion symptoms” after a male player who identifies as female spiked a ball in her face, a local TV station reported.

“Due to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association policy allowing biological males to compete against biological females, my life has forever been changed,” McNabb said.

“Allowing biological males to compete against biological females is dangerous. I may be the first to come before you with an injury, but if this doesn’t pass, I won’t be the last.”

Congress Nearly Passed a Federal Data Privacy Standard. Here’s Where We Go Next.

Congress came remarkably close to setting a federal privacy standard in 2022, but fell just short of the finish line. That’s unfortunate, because consumer data underpins almost everything that happens in today’s global economy. The absence of a federal data privacy regime means the United States risks falling behind its economic peers.

However, with a few adjustments, the new Congress can pick up where its predecessors left off and make the United States a global leader in this space, ensuring data privacy alongside a seamless, tailored consumer experience.

Lawmakers made remarkable progress in July when the House Energy and Commerce Committee moved a bipartisan bill out of committee. The result made clear that Members of both parties, and in both chambers, want a federal standard for consumer privacy protections. What’s less clear is how we do this without degrading the digital experience consumers have come to expect.

Consumers are rightfully at the center of the data economy, with tremendous power to drive innovation. They don’t want to give that up, in part because their expectations have driven huge leaps forward in user interface, customer experience, and digital marketing.

A quick example: The demand-driven economy paved the way for an omni-channel experience that allows a consumer to begin a mobile transaction during their commute, then finish it on their computer when they get home.

Likewise, consumer demands drive innovations that defend against the growing threat of fraud. Protecting consumers was hard enough when transactions occurred in person at a bank counter. It’s much harder today, where a consumer might exchange sensitive financial and biometric information over an internet-connected device in a crowded café.

Meeting that challenge is essential. After all, trust underpins everything in the digital economy, and consumer data is the engine behind the anti-fraud technology that makes those protections possible. 

That’s why federal privacy legislation must reject excessive limitations on the use or flow of data, as this could hinder the ability to protect consumers and businesses against fraud writ large. As Congress crafts fresh data privacy legislation, they should avoid any legislative or regulatory activity that would thwart the use of data necessary to identify consumers and their devices.

Next, Congress should set the tone by establishing a clear national framework for data privacy that’s based on consumer choice. Many consumers expect advertising to be tailored and relevant to them. Targeted marketing serves advertisers and consumers alike, to say nothing of the small and local businesses who depend on it to compete against bigger players with larger ad budgets. 

With a clear national privacy framework based on choice, consumers who do not value targeted marketing can opt out, while the rest can continue to enjoy the online experience they have today. That includes an estimated $30,000 per year in free services — like email, mapping, and internet search — which depend on ad revenue to survive. 

Strong data privacy legislation can achieve a better online experience, offering more options for how their data is used. Consumers deserve transparency, and they know what they want. Congress needs to trust consumers to decide what they do with that information.

Finally, Congress should work to deliver a data privacy standard that includes robust pre-emption standards. This would streamline the confusing patchwork of state laws that exists today, help businesses (as well as consumers) understand the rules of the road, and ensure all Americans enjoy the same rights and protections in every state.

Congress can deliver data privacy alongside the seamless, tailored experiences consumers demand, building trust along the way. The challenge is real, but it’s far outweighed by the cost of inaction.

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KING: My Adventures With Classified Documents

It is easy to start hyperventilating over classified documents. It isn’t the classification but what is in the documents that counts. Much marked classified is rubbish.

I have been around the classification follies for years. In 1970, I did what might be called a study, but it was just a freelance article on hovercraft use by the military. I was paid $250 to write it.

In those days, there was no easy way to copy a document. The standard was to put several sheets of paper in a typewriter with carbon sheets between them. Like any other journalist, I started by going to the best library I could access — in this case, The Washington Post library. I read what was available, largely newspaper clippings, and wrote the article.

Arctic, a consulting company, paid me to write it, and I forgot about it. A couple of years later, I wanted the article — probably to use to get other work — and I asked Arctic for it. They said it had been delivered to the Pentagon long since, and I had better ask the commissioning Department of Defense office.

I did that and was told that I couldn’t have the article, nor could I even look at it because it had been “classified,” and I didn’t have clearance.

Like so much else, it had gone into the dark underworld of the classified from whence few pieces of paper ever return.

When James Schlesinger became chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission in 1971, one of the first things he did was revamp document classification. He told me that the AEC was classifying far more than was necessary and, as a result, the system wasn’t safer but more vulnerable.

His argument was that for classification to work, the people managing classified material had to have confidence that it was truly deserving of secrecy. He directed the declassification of the trivial and increased the security surrounding what was vital.

Schlesinger was succeeded as chairman by Dixy Lee Ray. At the time, I covered the nuclear industry, and Ray became a social friend and a subject.

Once, Ray and I went to dinner at the historic Red Fox Inn in Middleburg, Virginia. After a swell meal, we walked to her limousine in the parking lot behind the inn. She had something in her briefcase that she wished me to have.

But Ray always had her two dogs with her. One was a huge gray wolfhound, and the other was a smaller gray dog, which looked like the wolfhound but was half the size.

The dogs were in the car’s front seat, and a high wind was blowing. Ray opened one back door, and I opened the other. Then she opened her briefcase and was rifling through the contents — some of which were marked as classified with a telltale, red X — when the big wolfhound jumped onto the back seat. He knocked over the briefcase, and the wind blew documents all over the parking lot.

It was a security crisis. Not that Soviet agents were dining at the Red Fox Inn that night, but if any document marked as secret was found and handed to the police, a major scandal would have resulted.

For the best part of an hour, Ray, myself and her driver scoured the parking lot, the grassy areas and the bushes for documents.

In the early morning, I drove back to the inn to ensure we had made a clean sweep. State secrets in the parking lot of a pub make for hot headlines and end careers.

In the age of computers, classified documents — and who knows if they should be marked as such — are much less likely to be put into paper folders.

Once, the Congressional Joint Committee, which oversaw the Atomic Energy Commission, held a hearing in its secure hearing room in the U.S. Capitol, where all the documents before the members and the witnesses were marked “eyes only.” The hearing had to be canceled because no one could say anything.

Also, at one of the major nuclear weapons laboratories, I deduced what a machine I was told was used for conducting “scientific experiments” really was. The director assured the technician showing it, “Don’t worry, King is too stupid to know what it is.” He was right, and another state secret was saved.

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HOLY COW! HISTORY: Forget George Santos, Meet Congress’ Champion Truth-Stretcher

If the title Congressional Truth-Stretching Champion is ever awarded, there would be an Olympic-scale competition to claim it. Politicians in general, and members of Congress in particular, take a certain wiggle room with telling the truth.

Americans are tolerant of that — to a point. And when that point is exceeded, things become very unpleasant, very fast.

Just ask George Santos. The newly minted congressman allegedly fibbed about big (and important) chunks of his resume, his family history, and much else. He is quickly finding Capitol Hill is not an emotional support group for those who find themselves in increasingly hot water.

Santos is far from the first congressman to inflate his story. So, who was history’s worst offender? A strong case can be argued that dubious distinction belongs, hands down, to David Crockett.

You know. Coonskin cap. Bear fighter. Hero of the Alamo. And member of the House of Representatives.

Everything we know about Davy Crockett is a chemist’s mixture of truths, half-truths, tall tales, myths and outright lies told for political gain.

Start with his nativity. “Born on a mountaintop in Tennessee.” Though in fairness, that bit of misinformation can be blamed on Walt Disney’s crew, who enshrined it in the “Ballad of Davy Crockett” in 1954. The song became a hit as the theme of Disney episodes featuring Fess Parker as the famous frontiersman. (Parker also later portrayed Daniel Boone on the tube, forever confusing Baby Boomers who mixed up the two portrayals.) It was part of the 1950s “Crocket Craze” that grew so white-hot that imitation coonskin caps were selling at 5,000 every day. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Crockett was born soon after the Revolutionary War in a state that no longer exists. In fact, it never existed. The Free State of Franklin consisted of several East Tennessee counties that broke off from North Carolina. It fizzled when Congress didn’t admit it to the Union and settled for becoming part of the Volunteer State instead.

Far from being “born on a mountaintop,” he arrived at his family’s home deep in a small valley. And while Crockett never claimed to have killed a bear “when he was only three” as his lyrical resume insists, he was indeed a hunter.

And here’s where things grow murky. Davy Crockett was a prolific and skilled gamesman. So much so that he began making a name for himself as a hunter while still a teenager.

But Crockett was born with the politician’s inherent burning desire to make a good thing better. Tales about his hunting ability grew taller with each telling.

He claimed to have killed 105 bears in a year. He said he killed one at midnight, either with a knife or his bare hands. Which may have happened. Or maybe not. Or perhaps it kinda sorta happened. Who knows?

His entire life is a 21st-century fact-checker’s nightmare come true. His autobiography is no help. It is grandly titled “A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett of Tennessee: His Own Story.” Except it was ghostwritten by a Kentucky congressman for political purposes. Even a popular play called “The Lion of the West” wavered between truth and fabrication.

This much is certain. After being narrowly defeated for re-election to Congress in 1835, he famously stormed, “You can go to Hell — I’m going to Texas.” And so, he departed on a one-way trip to immortality.

Even his death is shrouded in historical ambiguity. That much, at least, cannot be blamed on Crockett. Tradition tells us all the Alamo’s defenders died fighting when the old crumbling mission was stormed by Santa Anna’s army on March 6, 1836. Some Mexicans claimed Crockett was one of six men who surrendered and later stood against a wall and was shot. Others dispute that claim. Regardless of how his story ended, he was no coward.

Nearly 200 years later, it’s impossible to sort the fact from fiction in Davy Crockett’s adventures. In many ways, it personifies “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’s” most famous line: “When the truth becomes legend, print the legend.”

Davy would have agreed.

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