U.S. Rep. John Conyers (Elizabeth Conley / The Detroit News)
U.S. Rep. John Conyers is going Hollywood this week in an effort to warn the public about surveillance by the National Security Agency.
The Stop Watching Us coalition released a video Wednesday starring the Detroit Democrat, actors Maggie Gyllenhaal and John Cusack and director Oliver Stone that warns about the NSA’s controversial spying programs — termed “massive” and “suspicionless surveillance” — and demands a fuller congressional investigation.
“We got a wake-up call just recently. ... We’ve been misled,” the Detroit Democrat says in the video. The coalition is promoting a rally on the subject in Washington on Saturday, the 12th anniversary of the Patriot Act.
Detroit mayoral campaigns take interesting tacks
The Nov. 5 Detroit elections have prompted mayoral candidates Benny Napoleon and Mike Duggan and their supporters into some intriguing tactics.
Detroit Forward, the pro-Napoleon political action committee, distributed absentee ballot applications with the slogan “Together we can bring about CHANGE that includes YOU!” Across from Wayne County Sheriff Napoleon’s grinning photo is a picture of a serious President Barack Obama — implying an endorsement.
Meanwhile, television ads by the pro-Duggan PAC Turnaround Detroit stress how the former Detroit Medical Center CEO will restore the city like the eight-hospital health system he once led. And many end: “Mike Duggan. Mayor. Democrat” — which seems redundant since both Napoleon and Duggan are longtime Democrats.
Duggan spokesman John Roach said none of the campaign’s ads identify Duggan as a Democrat, but the independent PAC may be doing so “because I’ve heard chatter among opponents that he’s not a Democrat.”
You get what you pay for when it comes to counsel
With Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration playing a major role in Detroit’s bankruptcy, the state Attorney General’s office has beefed up its representation of the governor and other state officials with some outside counsel that isn’t cheap.
Four attorneys from the Dickinson Wright law firm — including Steven G. Howell, who has been in bankruptcy court lately alongside Matthew Schneider, chief legal counsel for Attorney General Bill Schuette — are billing the state Treasury Department $400 an hour for their services, while junior partners are billing $300 an hour and associates are collecting $235 for each hour of work on the bankruptcy, according to a contract the Attorney General’s office released to The News this week.
The contract contains a $225,000 “budget ceiling” that the private attorneys are likely nearing after a busy September and October for the state’s defense of the bankruptcy filing.
As of Aug. 31, Dickinson Wright Contract had already billed the state $106,739.56, though the AG’s office cut the bill by $800 “following the standard office invoice review of charges,” said Joy Yearout, spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s office.
Sometimes liquor stores are the only place to get cash
The Senate approved legislation this week that would bar welfare recipients or Bridge Card holders from withdrawing cash from automatic teller machines at strip clubs, racing tracks and liquor stores.
But Sen. Morris Hood III, D-Detroit, said he voted no because he thinks an exception should be made for stores that sell alcohol.
“ATMs located at liquor stores are sometimes the only ATMs available for miles for many of my constituents,” Hood said in a Tuesday statement.
Contributors: Richard Burr and Chad Livengood