Open Government, Social Media and Adriel Hampton

You2Gov was mentioned prominently in a blog posting yesterday about communicating with Government. Open Government rests on the foundation of Direct Democracy, ie, that you can get in touch with your government officials so they can hear from you directly.
Thanks Adriel!



Political Power for Real People

Political Power for Real People

Ralph J. Shapira, the Chairman of You2Gov posted this on the You2Gov home page blog today, September 29, 2008.

The Bush Administration’s bail-out plan to be voted on this week by Congress has been amended in response to many valid concerns raised by critics.  But the amendments are drafted so vaguely that we must take on faith that the concerns will be appropriately addressed.  The law merely sets out broad purposes and goals; the Secretary of the Treasury will issue guidelines and policies to accomplish them.  There are no specifics as to how effectively any of the purposes of the amendments will be accomplished.

Here are some examples:
Criticism:  the original plan did nothing to help financially ailing homeowners avoid foreclosure.  “Solution”:  the Treasury Secretary will develop a plan to lessen foreclosures and to encourage loan servicers to modify loan terms to assist homeowners [Section 110].  The law has no specifics about how many homeowners will be helped or in what way.  The people must take on faith that the plan will actually do something meaningful to help homeowners.
Criticism:  the original plan didn’t require the government to take ownership interests in the companies it helps.  Such ownership interests would allow the taxpayers to earn something back, lowering the cost of the bailout, if the companies prosper after the bailout.  “Solution”:   the government will get warrants to buy stock in any publicly traded financial institution it helps.  However, the law has no specifics about how much stock the warrants will cover or what price the government will have to pay to buy the stock.  The people must take on faith that the government will drive a reasonable bargain for stock.
Criticism:  the original plan didn’t limit the obscenely high compensation often paid to executives of the companies getting the bailout money, or their receipt of golden parachutes.  “Solution”:  the government will set “appropriate standards” for compensation of the top five executives of companies it buys securities from [Section 111].  There are no specific limits on compensation, and whatever limits the government does eventually decide on will apply only while the government holds stock or debt in the company.  There are no limits at all on how much the companies can pay to anyone other than the top five executives.  The companies will not be allowed to grant or pay golden parachutes, but again only during the time that the government holds an interest in the company.  The people must take on faith that much of the taxpayer money given to the companies will not be paid out in huge bonuses to company executives other than the top five, or even to the top five after the government sells the stock or debt it owns in the company.
Criticism:  the original plan didn’t assure that the government would pay the lowest prices when it buys securities from troubled financial companies.  Solution:  the Secretary will buy the securities “at the lowest price that the Secretary determines to be consistent with the purposes of this Act” [Section 113].  However, the purposes of the Act include “providing financial assistance to financial institutions” and “restor[ing] the financial institutions to at least an adequately capitalized level” [Section 103(6)].  Furthering those purposes will permit — or even require — the government to overpay for securities in order to financially assist the sellers and restore their capital.  Here, the people should have no faith that the government will drive the best deal on its purchases, because paying the lowest prices would not help restore the troubled financial institutions’ capital.
Most economists and leading businessmen, including the revered Warren Buffett, are warning that the bailout or something like it must be passed to avoid an imminent complete collapse of our economy.  It’s difficult to oppose the bailout bill under those circumstances.  The bill has been much improved from the original plan.  However, there are no guarantees in the bill that a number of the valid concerns raised by the plan’s critics will be sufficiently addressed in the actual administration of the program.  An enormous amount of responsibility and trust, not to mention $700 billion, will be given to the Secretary of the Treasury.  And while most agree that Hank Paulson is a capable man, no one knows who the Treasury Secretary will be in the next administration.

You2Gov Chairman Comments- Great Wall Street Bailout of 08


Political Power for Real People

September 23, 2008

This is commentary and links to blog postings from the Chairman of You2Gov, Ralph J. Shapira. He is a partner at O’Melveny and Meyers Law Firm and has handled complex business litigation for decades.


I’m writing about the Great Wall Street Bailout of 2008.  Here’s a blog I just posted on, a website I started 4 months ago:


“That astounding fact, tucked in today’s Wall Street Journal near the end of a long piece on the bailout, speaks volumes about how unfair the bailout would be.  The principals of the Wall Street firms to whom Paulson demands we give $700 billion in taxpayer funds have reaped colossal riches in the past decades when business was good.  Are they offering to kick in anything to help their firms through the current hard times?  Of course not —  they plan to keep all their ungodly wealth while financially struggling Joe Taxpayer is asked to bail out the firms that have done little to help him in the past.  To the contrary — hefty parts of their wealth have come from financing the buying and “downsizing” of U.S. corporations and shipping U.S. jobs overseas, squeezing millions of JT’s out of the modest houses they’ve scrimped a lifetime to buy.

“Paulson’s wealth is not untypical for his crowd.  Indeed, there are scores of hedge fund and private equity magnates whose fortunes make Paulson’s look like chump change.  A few thousand of these financial titans could pool their resources and do this rescue themselves.  Only they really, really don’t want to, because it’s such a lousy deal they wouldn’t touch it with a 10 foot pole or fly near it on their golden parachutes.

“Let’s not dupe the U.S. taxpayers and their children, who will be taxed for generations to pay the National Debt this plan would so substantially augment, into giving their financial lifeblood to “save” these financial companies.  If the taxpayers say a resounding “no,” these guys will find a way to save the system that has been so overwhelmingly good to them, and will be back to earning their hundreds of millions again — much of it taxed at lower rates than we pay — in no time flat.”$500-MILLION.html

My more measured views are in 2 earlier blogs, and

The proposed bailout is one of the most expensive, extraordinary and far-reaching government initiatives of our lifetimes.  Whether you agree with my views or not, I’m urging everyone I know to call or write their Senators and House Representative as soon as possible to let them know how you feel:  this thing or some variant could be enacted within days, and we’ll be living with its consequences, foreseen and unforeseen, for decades.  Constituent communications can be very influential on our Congressional representatives.

One of the purposes of You2Gov, a non-partisan politically-oriented social networking site, is to facilitate citizen communications with elected officials.  The site has free tools to make writing or calling your Congressional Reps easy, by providing the website each official uses to receive constituent emails and the Representatives’ telephone and fax numbers.  Just click the menu item “Take Action” and then “Write Your Rep” and “Write Your Senator”.  Your letters can be as simple as “Dear ____: As your constituent, I urge you to vote [“no” or “yes”] on the Paulson Wall Street bailout;” or it can be as lengthy and explanatory as you have time to write.

You have to register to use You2Gov’s communications tools (but not to read its extensive content), but registration takes less than a minute, is free, does not require invasive personal information, will not subject you to unwanted emails, spam or commercial appeals, and your information will never be sold to 3rd parties.  And perhaps you may find yourself visiting again:  the site was recently named by PC Magazine one of the 20 Best Political Sites on the Web, the only social networking site so honored.

If you send me copies of any emails or letters you send or fax to Congress, I will post them on the site (without your identifying information) as exemplars for others’ use.

Two final notes. First, please consider forwarding this email to any or all of your friends who might wish to express their views before the train leaves the station. Second, I would love to hear your views on the issue if you’re willing to share them, either directly with me or on You2Gov’s discussion forum.

I hope this finds you well.  Please accept my best regards and my appreciation for allowing me to impose this very long email on you.


Ralph J. Shapira