What’s in a memo?

We were intrigued by yesterday’s hullabaloo (that’s right, hullabaloo) about the Congressional Research Service (CRS) memo regarding the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline.

The forces that want to stop the Canadian tar sands oil — and are using the pipeline as one way to slow it down — are leaning on the CRS memo as their controlling legal authority regarding state and federal law.

Uh, yeah. About that…

If you wanted to find out about what the law is on a certain issue would you ask a lawyer, or would you ask…a librarian?

Because CRS researchers are essentially librarians. They work for the Library of Congress. And their research, while potentially correct or even well researched, is NOT a legal authority or even legal advice.

Why not? Well, for one on CRS’s own website they specifically point out that they do NOT give legal advice as, for one, there is no attorney-client privilege. But beyond that, if a Member of Congress wanted a legal opinion on a subject, they could, or should go to the Legislative Counsel’s office. Or a state Senator could go to the Attorney General’s office.

But here are a few interesting notes:

State Senators have their OWN Legislative Research Office (LRO). So why did state Senator Annette Dubas ask Congressman Lee Terry to get a CRS report, instead of simply getting the research from Nebraska’s LRO? Well it is possible that she knew that she would get the answer that she liked from the CRS — and not from the LRO.

Hmm. Forum shopping?

And then there are the Sierra Club and Wildlife Federation guys saying this CRS report makes it “crystal clear” that the state can reroute the pipeline and legislate on it any way it wants.

Oh yeah?

Well, beyond the issue of what “siting” means for the pipeline, there is also the question whether the state can legislate only on an intrastate pipeline versus an interstate pipeline (like the Keystone XL). Then throw in the fact that this crosses international borders, and you see where the State Department becomes involved.

These are big, fat legal issues that still lie out there, that haven’t been “decided” just because a librarian wrote a memo.

That’s not to say they won’t be decided in the same way — but it also doesn’t mean there is some solid legal precedent now that says the Legislature should ram through a bill that doesn’t make any sense.

(You now owe me $32,000 in quasi-legal fees.)


Congresswoman America?

Hey Miss America, Teresa Scanlan from Gering, Nebraska, told Politico that she is interested in a future in politics.

“The dream of president and Supreme Court justice is certainly still there!”


‘Course, she’s only 18, so she has a good seven years before she can run for Congress.

Wonder if she’ll try City Council first.


The gang over at the Objective Conservative believe that Douglas County will lose a state Senator due to redistricting. And that state Senator Heath Mello is pumped about it.

And jumping over the river, did you see that it is likely that Iowa Congressmen Steve King and Tom Latham (both Republicans) may face off in their redrawn district?

That’s a battle for ya.


And we will just throw in our two cents on the David (“Dave“) Sokol thing.

Our guess — based completely on what we’ve read — is that Berkshire needs to be lilly-white and Sokol’s stock trade added a shade of grey. So both sides agreed that a parting of ways would be for the best.

And being a zillionaire helps leaving a gig too.

Either that, or Sokol simply got tired of the constant barrage of Cherry Cokes and See’s peanut brittle and listening patiently to yet another ukulel solo.

You know a guy likes to eat somewhere other than Gorats once in a while. Once in a while!


  1. GeosUser says:

    After his interview with Mr. Buffet’s pet reporter, Becky Quick, on CNBC this morning, on balance Mr. Sokol didn’t do himself or his business reputation any big favors. He did throw Charlie Munger under the bus as having bought about 3% of BYD stock before Berkshire Hathaway got into the act. Mr. “Pleased But Never Satisfied” Sokol knew he wasn’t going to be the next CEO of Berkshire and helped himself to a little “bonus” on the way out the door. Mr. Buffet has to play it cool, since there’s something in the neighborhood of a $200 million payment due to Lubrizol if the merger fails. Sending Sokol on CNBC (still minority owned by GE, in which Mr. Buffet has significant interests) was an act of desperation trying to keep the “stink” away from Buffet. As for Sokol, it couldn’t have happened to a guy that more richly deserves it since he’s “Pleased But Never Satisfied”…LOL!!!

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