Thursday, February 17, 2005

Grits Truth

Final-conflict-alert-for-a-while-because-I'm-tired-of-writing-"conflict alert": As the legislative session kicks into high gear, let me reiterate that most Texas legislation I write about are all bills supported, opposed, or monitored by ACLU of Texas, with whom I am employed as a consultant part time. That employment affiliation has always been permanently affixed in the right-hand column of this blog, but it is about to change, which is the other reason perhaps it's a good time for an overarching "conflict alert." Legislation and issues I'm writing about are mostly stuff ACLU is working on, and many are bills on which I'm lobbying or even up at the Lege testifying about. In other cases the people working them at the capitol are folks I work with through ACLU's legislative committee.

Here's the bottom line skinny on my employment and non-employment relations with ACLU: This is the third legislative session that I've volunteered to lobby on behalf of the group at the Texas Legislature, along with 15-20 others on the ACLU legislative commitee. I've volunteered for ACLU for five years, and on criminal justice stuff as my primary focus for my volunteer time 11 years total. But for the first time since 2003 I began to receive income from ACLU through grants and as a part-time consultant, focused narrowly on specific projects. I'm not paid to lobby. I don't office there and maintained other clients through the election season. But starting later this year, according to a state board vote last weekend, I'll actually join the ACLU more formally as half-time staff working on police accountability. I'll let you know when the i's are dotted. I plan to still take on a few, but fewer, election clients, performing opposition and defensive research.
And I suppose I'll have to check the state lobby regs to see if I need to register as a lobbyist -- you don't have to when you're going up there on your own time.

Nobody pays me to blog (though I may try to convince ACLU of Texas to start one if they ever get the web site together), but I'm certainly often blogging about ACLU's issues. That's what I care about. It's why I volunteer virtually every spare moment to the group, and to the cause of Texas criminal justice reform. This ain't the MSM and I ain't fair and balanced, striving instead for the lower bar of merely reasonable and coherent. But I work on police accountability for ACLU and I have a point of view. Let a prosecutor blog the same topics and you'd get a different perspective. Then, I thought that's the point of blogs, which is why the conflict of interest charge for bloggers, to use Alberto Gonzalez' famous phrase regarding the Geneva Conventions, seems a tad "quaint" regarding the genre.

Anyway, re-reading the post about harm reduction legislation, I thought I ought to restate that "conflict" in general terms, if indeed it's a conflict for someone working on political issues to write down what they see and think on a web site with full disclosure. This blog is essentially an extended op-ed, a "working manifesto," as my friend Tom put it. I doubt that too many readers have been confused, and certainly hope not. I try to source my stuff and admit my errors. Like so many of us, I'm out there looking for Truth with a capital T, combing through the endless barrage of facts we're exposed to, looking for meaning, and on those rare, happy occasions when I find some, I try to let you, gentle readers immediately know. But most Grits' posts document the search, not the discovery. The sands of Truth too often shift beneath us precariously and, at bottom, you'll rarely find here absolute Truth, mostly just Grits Truth.