Trying To Trump The Competition

Originally published at NationalJournal.com
By K. Daniel Glover

Two years ago this fall, Raj Bhakta made a splash on the reality TV show “The Apprentice.” His wardrobe (bow ties) and antics (jogging in his boxers after losing a bet) helped make him the standout personality among 17 other candidates.

But in the end, Bhakta didn’t make the cut. Donald Trump fired him in the ninth episode, costing Bhakta the chance at a $250,000-a-year job with one of America’s most famous entrepreneurs.

Bhakta is in another competition this fall. He is trying to parlay his “Apprentice” fame and entrepreneurial experience into a lower-paying ($165,200) but higher-profile job as a congressman, and in his bid to unseat Democrat Allyson Schwartz in Pennsylvania’s 13th District, he is using the blogosphere to generate buzz and bucks.

The most obvious element of Bhakta’s effort is his campaign blog. “Team Raj” typically posts multiple entries a day, and the candidate himself makes an occasional appearance. On Friday, for instance, Bhakta penned a critical response to a speech about violent crime by Philadelphia Mayor John Street, whose city is in the 13th District.

The blog also includes a “donate” button in the shape of a bow tie. It takes visitors to a page that features the “Joe Biden 7/11 Challenge.” The fundraising gimmick calls attention to a wisecrack in early July from Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., about not being able to “go into a 7-Eleven or into a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.”

Bhakta, who is of Indian ancestry, seized on the quote as an opening to invite donations of $7.11, $70.11 or $700.11. “I hope you’ll show the senator what a silly thing he said,” Bhakta said in an audio statement explaining the challenge. The challenge, which was promoted by some bloggers, yielded several thousand dollars, Bhakta said in a telephone interview.

That’s just one example of Bhakta’s outreach. The candidate granted an interview to The Real Ugly American that in turn generated links to Pennsylvania and national blogs. “We don’t have to beg [the media] for an interview,” a worker for Bhakta wrote. “This campaign and the blogs can communicate directly with the people.”

(more…)

The Master Of Eminent Domain

Originally published at NationalJournal.com
By K. Daniel Glover

On June 22, the Pacific Legal Foundation entered the blogosphere. The launch of the group’s blog, PLF on Eminent Domain, was the perfect end to a year marked by keen public interest in a legal doctrine that guarantees governments the right to “take” private property for public use.

The year started June 23, 2005, when the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling in Kelo v. New London. The case pitted the city of New London, Conn., against homeowner Susette Kelo and her neighbors. The city used the power of eminent domain to condemn and then buy their properties in order to redevelop them, and the Supreme Court concluded that the seizure was constitutional.

The decision triggered a wave of public outrage that manifested itself in opinion polls, media commentary, legal analysis, and online rants.

Kelo has been in the news again lately, as President Bush in June signed an executive order on eminent domain. Critics of the ruling also marked its anniversary with protests and continue to ponder their next steps to protect their private property. Blogs are part of that equation.

It took the Kelo decision to really get bloggers engaged on the issue. Eminent Domain Watch was created before then, but founder Alan Krigman said he never found either other blogs or conventional Web sites dedicated to eminent domain until Kelo.

“We started [in 2004] at the time that the Michigan Supreme Court reversed itself on the Poletown decision,” Krigman said. “It was my intuition that this would start the dominoes falling. Had Kelo not been heard by the [Supreme Court], I believe the Michigan reversal would have triggered at least some action.”

(more…)