Saturday, December 22, 2007
Congress will need to begin anew the selection process for new FEC commissioners in mid-January, 2008.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Yes, we, the people do have a say in federal government regulation. Regulations.gov is an award-winning, interactive site that is built for citizens' input for its regulation decision-making.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
This tool is a time-saver for those of us that need to contact the whole committee on an issue or bill it is currently working on.
Nota bene: Most bills start in committee, or even before that, in sub-committee; they don't reach the floor for a debate and vote unless they pass their committees with positive vote.
Monday, December 17, 2007
This pattern of laxity and unaccountability among the voting machine manufacturers is an atrocity. Nothing is more important to a nation's viability than clean and fair elections, for all levels of government. We all have witnessed the chaos of the 2000 presidential election day, and the controversies of 2004's; this is only what we know happened.
We cannot allow another successive election season crater to voting machine problems. The only safe and accountable solution is voter-verifiable paper trail voting. We, the people, should never demand less from our electoral administrators.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
I hope that All Things Reform is a step in the right direction, that we, the people are the ultimate owners of this country, that we are upholding our responsibility as its only constitutional owners. It is truly up to us.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Thanks go to all of our dedicated public interest groups, as shown in the left-hand column, for keeping these scandals at bay and to a limited number; it is always a struggle to keep ahead of breeches of rules and conduct, even at the highest levels of our government.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
The FEC vote for this is scheduled for this Friday, December 14. Public Campaign urges us to turn down this new rule, so that small donors can keep a stake in the race for presidential campaign contributions. If you agree, please take action here to "sign" Public Campaign's letter to the FEC.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Located near the bottom of this page, this widget is self-contained and interactive, courtesy of .docstoc, a document storage and sharing service. I have found that you may need to "zoom in" on the document 10 times to make it comfortable reading on the eyes. It is printable. Although you can't keyword search it, there is an extensive index at the very end of the document itself.
A larger, more fully-featured version of this document's widget is on .docstoc's website here.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
As the internet has been integral in empowering American citizens to see what their government is up to, the Bush administration has been stonewalling most attempts by Congress to review Executive branch documents. In fact, it was determined in spring of this year that at least 5 million emails were destroyed by the administration between 2003 and 2005; there is still a chance there is a backup of these on tape. Now, according to a press release from CREW, the number of lost emails is probably much more-- between 10 and 20 million messages!
What has the Bush administration to hide, for such a long period of time? All government officials are ultimately answerable to we, the people, the citizens of the United States. Just as the law to maintain all emails was passed after the 1970's Watergate scandal, we must see that transparency in government is still very important to an accountable government.
White House: NOT for Sale!
The 2008 presidential candidates are engaged in never-ending race for campaign contributions – relying more than ever on bundlers and big donors, who attain special access and plum appointments as reward for their support. It was not always like this. For years, the presidential public funding system worked to level the playing field by setting limits on campaign spending and prevented candidates from becoming indebted to major contributors. Since the Bush/Gore race in 2000, it has failed as an alternative to big special interest money because it has not kept up with the costs of modern campaigns. Champions of fair elections in both houses of Congress have introduced the “Presidential Funding Act of 2007” to update the system. This legislation would make the funding system a viable alternative in today’s political environment. Please take a minute to add your own words to the letter below and tell your members of Congress to co-sponsor and help pass the fix for funding presidential elections.
The DHS has lost billions of dollars already in its short existence; it can be argued, too, that our domestic security situation in America is not any better than when the department was first established. Hopefully, this report will inspire our Congress to take deep, serious steps to see that the DHS enjoys new, top management resources and practices during this age of illegal immigration and terrorism.
Monday, December 03, 2007
Further relaxing media consolidation rules means fewer voices on the airwaves and less variety of viewpoints and information. We, the people, must enjoy free speech in all of its forms, including radio, tv, newspapers and more. We need a large variety of owners in our local and national news and entertainment media. If you agree, please take action here by contacting the FCC through the Common Cause website; the larger the number of letters sent in this campaign, the greater the chance for success.
Stop Bush's Holiday Giveaways
The New York Times reported that lobbyists for big corporations were “racing to secure final approval for a wide range of health, safety, labor and economic rules, in the belief that they can get better deals from the Bush administration than from its successor.” The industries seeking these changes are big donors to Bush’s elections in 2000 and 2004. Congressional leaders ought to do everything in their power to stop these disastrous changes that hurt the environment, public health, workers, and consumer safety.
Take Action. It's time to call for accountability in the machinery of our
electoral system. Please sign the petition in support of VoterAction's call for
Congressional investigations into blatant and destructive commercial fraud in
the electronic voting machine industry.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
Article V of the Constitution of the United States provides that "on the application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, [Congress] shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments...". The Founding Fathers of our nation recognized the importance of providing this means by which the citizens of our country could initiate amendments to change and/or clarify the Constitution; the fundamental document which they intended to be not only the blueprint for our federal system but also "the supreme Law of the Land".
The Founding Fathers described . . . continued . . .
We, the undersigned, support Open Debates' campaign to reform the
presidential debate process. We believe that the presidential debates should
serve the American people first, not political parties. We support replacing the
bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates with the nonpartisan Citizens'
Debate Commission, so that inspiring formats can be employed, pressing national
issues can be addressed, and popular independent and third party candidates can
Friday, November 30, 2007
On November 29, the Campaign Legal Center, along with the League of Women
Voters and the Council for Excellence in Government, announced that Pam Pryor
had been selected as project director of Americans for Redistricting Reform. The
project Ms. Pryor will lead is slated to launch officially in early 2008 and has
been guided by a broad coalition of organizations. With initial funding provided
by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the new initiative's goal is to build public
support and be a resource for state-level redistricting reform efforts
throughout the country.
In 2008, we've got a fundamental choice to make: Will we settle for modest change and incremental gains? Or will we demand the broad, all-encompassing fresh start for democracy that our country so urgently needs?
Sign our Fresh Start for Democracy petition today! Let's make it clear that we won't settle for anything less thana vibrant revival of American democracy.
As it should be in a democracy, it's up to us. We are the leaders we've been waiting for. I urge you to join Common Cause in an all-out effort to reclaim the full promise of our democracy. We’ll start by delivering a petition -- signed by thousands of activists like you -- to all 2008 presidential candidates on January 1st, urging them to commit themselves to a Fresh Start for Democracy.
Sign our Fresh Start for Democracy petition today! We need genuine leadership from candidates ready, willing and able to address the fundamental, "can't wait" problems that America faces in 2008. To make it concrete and actionable, Common Cause is demanding:
* Ethical, open government without lies and abuses of power distorting it.
* A full, spirited, fact-based-debate on issues like health care and global warming without special interests driving it.
* An accurate and secure election process without fraud and unjust legal barriers undermining it.
* A robust national conversation about our future without Big Media stifling it.
Please sign our Fresh Start for Democracy petition today! Together, we can make sure presidential candidates know that there is a powerful popular outcry for the deep-seated changes we're calling for.
I am certainly ready for renewal, to say the least, and definitely up for the challenge. Are you? Thanks for all you do,
President, Common Cause
Thursday, November 29, 2007
In the wake of the 2006 elections, new Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Dem-CA) began the process of developing a U.S. House ethics group to support the already in place House Ethics Committee. Unfortunately, as Melanie Sloan points out in her interview on C-Span, the long-awaited recommendations for the new group fail to (1) accept ethics complaints from outside of the House, and (2) subpoena House members for ethics complaint investigation purposes.
If you agree with CREW's Ms. Sloan, please contact your U.S. Representative in support of receiving outside of house ethics complaints from the public, and in support of house member subpoena powers for ethics investigations.
Here is Ms. Sloan's interview on C-Span:
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
The Brennan Center filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit challenging the constitutionality of an Indiana law requiring citizens to present photo ID as a condition of voting. In its amicus brief, the Brennan Center argued that impersonation fraud is an extremely unlikely and unsubstantiated occurrence that can be prevented without requiring a photo ID, and that the Indiana law fails to address more common forms of voter fraud. The Center's brief marshalled the best evidence on individual voter fraud and catalogued the practices in other states for preventing voter fraud without resorting to photo ID. On January 4, 2007, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in an opinion authored by Judge Posner, upheld the lower court decision and found that the state law did not unduly burden the right to vote. Plaintiffs were denied a rehearing en banc on April 5, 2007.
On July 2, 2007, Plaintiffs filed a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari, which was granted on September 25, 2007. The Brennan Center and others filed an amicus brief in support of Petitioners on November 13, 2007. Oral argument is scheduled for January 9, 2008.
* the name of the entity receiving the award;
* the amount of the award;
* information on the award including transaction type, funding agency, etc;
* the location of the entity receiving the award;
* a unique identifier of the entity receiving the award.
OMB has created a Task Force to implement the requirements of this important Act. Here is where you can have an impact on how the Task Force proceeds. Please use the comment box to provide feedback on how you, as a citizen, would like to see the FFATA implemented and government award information presented.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
H.Res. 504 would amend the standing rules of the House to update and strengthen the existing three-day rule in the House and close various loopholes. It would replace the obsolete, unenforceable, routinely-waived three-day rule it with the modern, tough, enforceable 72 hour online rule. Unlike the three-day rule, the 72 hours online rule would apply even in the final week of a congressional session, when the worst abuses occur.
If you wish to take action, please contact your US Representative and ask him/her to cosponsor H.Res.504.
NOTA BENE: For voter services for US Citizens Overseas and Uniformed, please check out the Overseas Vote Foundation.
On November 19, forty groups, including OpenTheGovernment.org, sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D-NV] urging him to bring the Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007 bill [S. 886] to the floor. As reported in the October 16 edition of the Updates, Sen. Jim Bunning [R-KY] has a hold on the bill, but has refused to state his reasons for the hold.
The legislation would nullify the Bush executive order [E.O. 13233], which gave current and former presidents and vice presidents broad authority to withhold presidential records or delay their release indefinitely. The bill would also establish procedures for the timely release of records. On March 14, 2007, by a vote of 333-93, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the companion bill, H.R. 1255. Read background in the October 16 edition of the Updates and learn more from the National Coalition for History.
FairVote Convenes Panel on How to Fix the Primaries
At FairVote's 2007 Claim Democracy Conference, an expert panel got together for a good old fashioned "smoke filled room" discussion of the future of presidential primaries reform. Joining the distinguished panel was Libby Benton, Legislative Aide to Rep. Sander Levin, Pamela Prah of Stateline.org, Kate Nilan, Senior Advisor to Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and Kay Stimson, Director of Communications and Special Projects for National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS). The discussion was moderated by FairVote's Ryan O'Donnell.
Most panelists came with differing ideas about how to fix the primaries, but all expressed the need to act. Check out some resources below.
[ FairVote's Ryan O'Donnell in The National Journal ]
[ FixThePrimaries.com ]
[ Claim Democracy 2007 ]
As you sit down to watch football games and holiday specials, you may not know that some states are starting to tax your TV service differently depending on how you receive the signal. You and your neighbor could be enjoying the same TV shows, but you could be paying more in taxes if you're using a satellite dish while they're subscribing to cable. Sounds ridiculous, but it has happened in six states so far. Legislation before Congress would stop these discriminatory taxes, but TV viewers and taxpayers need to round up support for the bill on Capitol Hill if we want it to pass. In the time it takes to watch a commercial, you can join us in telling Congress to stop unfair television taxes.
Monday, November 26, 2007
After years of war, corruption, abuse of power, and disregard for
the Constitution and the rule of law, the American spirit has taken quite a beating. Help us launch a Fresh Start for Democracy.
Send an e-card to your friends with Bob's inspiring message!
It's time for renewal, time for civic-minded people all across America to join in launching a fresh start for democracy in 2008. We need to lift our sights, renew our passion for participation and act together to restore democracy's promise. That is what Common Cause's Fresh Start for Democracy Campaign is all about. In this critical year of transition for our country, we can't settle for modest improvements. We need fundamental change. Rampant corruption doesn't need to be scaled back. It has to be ended. Abuses of power don't need to become less blatant. They need to disappear. We're not looking to weaken the hold that special interests have on American politics. We're out to break their grip once and for all. In 2008, we've got a fundamental choice to make: Will we settle for modest change and incremental gains? Or will we demand the broad, all-encompassing fresh start for democracy that our country so urgently needs?As
it should be in a democracy, it's up to us. I urge you to join Common Cause in an all-out effort to reclaim the full promise of our democracy. Together, I know that we can spark a movement capable of producing the broad, powerful changes we need to enliven civic life in America and produce genuine, deep-seated progress on issues that will define our future. That's the promise of democracy. Let's work together to
President, Common Cause
P.S. Help us spread the word by sending an e-card to your friends and family about our campaign for a Fresh Start for Democracy.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
I've added this free resource to the "Other Government Databases" list in the left column.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
U.S. Representative Randy Neugebauer (R-TX): government finance free data links
Friday, November 23, 2007
I urge you to call on your U.S. Representative and Senators today to sign CCAGW’s
Earmark Reform Pledge!
The ink was barely dry on the “New Honest
Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007” when House and Senate leaders began looking for ways to circumvent or obstruct its earmark disclosure rules. CCAGW’s Earmark Reform Pledge aims to commit lawmakers to providing taxpayers with greater transparency and accountability for earmarks.
By signing the pledge, members of Congress agree to 10 provisions, including that they will:
* fully disclose all earmarked funding or targeted tax benefit requests on their
* not request any earmarked funding or targeted tax
benefit provision that does not serve a federal interest and/or have a federal
* not request any earmarked funding or targeted tax benefit provision
that would be directed toward a specific private entity that was not requested
by an agency; and,
* support legislation that would end the linkage between
campaign contributions and earmarks.
From 1995 to 2005, the number of appropriations earmarks grew nearly tenfold, from 1,439 to 13,997. It’s no coincidence that the proliferation of earmarks has corresponded with the debasement of the budgetary process in Washington. As the examples of former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.) and Jack Abramoff illustrate, lawmakers and lobbyists trade in earmarks as their “currency of corruption.” If House and Senate leaders are truly committed to overseeing “the most ethical Congress in history,” they should be making it easier, not more difficult, to follow the money trail. Please tell your Representative and Senators today to sign CCAGW’s Earmark Reform Pledge!
Thomas A. Schatz, President
Thursday, November 22, 2007
On September 11, 2007, Robert L. Schulz and many other voters filed a lawsuit in federal court, alleging that the U.S. Constitution requires reliable vote-counting methods. The lawsuit also alleges that only paper ballots, hand-counted, are truly reliable. The case is Schulz v State of New York, 1:07-cv-943-LEK, in the northern district of New York.
There have been other attempts to persuade courts to invalidate certain types of vote-counting machines, and they have generally not succeeded. Even sitting Congressman Robert Wexler’s lawsuit did not prevail. The Schulz lawsuit is somewhat notable because it is endeavoring to sue elections officials in all 50 states. There are 150 voter-plaintiffs, three from each state. For more information about this lawsuit, see www.electionguardians.org, or www.votefraud.org. Robert L. Schulz was the New York Libertarian gubernatorial candidate in 1994. In 1994 he won a lawsuit in federal court, requiring New York to give the list of registered voters to the unqualified parties on the same basis that the state provided the list to the qualified parties.
Our nation has been struggling with it's voting machines since the problems associated with the 2000 presidential elections. It is time we return to voter-verified voting that can be hand counted to ensure the safest polling place administration.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Details at http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/summary.asp?CID=N00026043&cycle=2006
Neugebauer 2005-2006 campaign finance totals
Details at http://www.politicalbase.com/people/randy-neugebauer/9822/money/
Neugebauer campaign finance totals and data
Details at http://query.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/can_detail/H4TX19102/
Federal Election Commission (FEC)
Individual records of Neugebauer: Contributions Made by This Candidate's Committees, Committees Who Gave to This Candidate, Individuals Who Gave to This Candidate
Details at http://www.publicintegrity.org/consultants/list.aspx?act=canDetail&id=H4TX19102
The Center for Public Integrity
Amount spent on campaign consultants, 2003-2004: $2,500,303
Monday, November 19, 2007
Rep. Clyburn is a multiple committer of federal government funds to the honorable game of golf. In August 2007, the City of Columbia Golf Center was renamed the James E. Clyburn Golf Center and a statue of him was erected outside the facility. Great Scot! We have two wars going on right now! Does that mean anything anymore? I am teed off...
Congrats and salute to the most popular golfer in Columbia right now...
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Mexico-based trucking companies are gaining access to the U.S. with insufficient protections in place. Now, Congress is acting, but the Bush administration is threatening to veto any legislation that would hinder this pilot project. We are so close... the House and Senate came out of their negotiations on the final Department of Transportation appropriations bill with wording that would end all funds directed to a cross-border trucking program. This dangerous program cannot be allowed continued access to our nation's highways without proper safeguards.
If you wish to take action, please go to this website or contact your Representative and two Senators directly yourself.
At the end of last week, Rep. John Larson (D-CT), member of the House Leadership and new champion of "Fair Elections" public financing reform, sent a letter to the entire U.S. House asking for original cosponsors of his Fair Elections Now Act, a sister bill to the Durbin-Specter bill of the same name in the Senate.
Larson comes from the newest "Clean Elections" state, Connecticut, which will offer full public funding to candidates for state office who accept spending limits and swear off special interest cash in the 2008 election. He's also someone, like Durbin, who is simply tired of the fundraising arms race and the corrosive influence of big money on our political system.
Months ago we declared this Fair Elections Action Week--with events for public funding of campaigns happening throughout the country--and now there's a key opportunity to push this issue in Congress. We're asking folks to call their representatives and ask them to be original cosponsors of Rep. Larson's Fair Elections Now Act--so please make a call today and help give this bill some momentum and some new supporters! If you don't want to leave your call information with Common Cause, just call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask for your U.S. Representative's office to leave your message.
Monday, November 12, 2007
The increase in government corruption in the last few years has shown a need to publicly-finance our elections. Private fundraising takes way too much of the candidates' time, including that of the incumbent, your own representative. With clean elections, all qualified candidates who personally raise a set amount of individual contributions can commit much more of their own time exclusively with the voters. No more full-time fundraising. More interacting with the people.
Several states and lower levels of government have recently been successful with clean elections. The time is now to tell our local, state and national representatives to implement public financing of elections. Right now in congress, Senators Durbin of Illinois and Specter of Penn. is sponsoring S 1285, Fair Elections Now Act. Tell your two US Senators in Washington, DC today to co-sponsor or vote yes for this clean elections bill, by email from their websites, by phone or by visiting their local offices.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
This bill is in response to past corruptions of veterans bills from addons of unrelated, politically divisive legislation. Our military men and women in this time of war are too important to this great country to become subject to unethical legislation. I believe this bill is non-partisan in spirit; if you agree with it, please call, write or visit your own U.S. Representative with a message to co-sponsor H. Res. 786.
Friday, November 09, 2007
However, now that All Things Reform copies much of the alert information for its blog posts, you can avoid privacy issues by avoiding contact with the public interest groups. Just read the blog post, and if you want to take action, just contact your representative personally, by telephone, email, postage mail or personal visit. In addition to keeping personal privacy, this personal method may make a more powerful statement by communicating privately with your elected official.
I can't supply this blog without information from these hard-working public interest groups issuing these alerts. However, if you want to stay off of their databases, use All Things Reform and communicate directly with your representatives. Use the widget in this blog's left column to find your own representatives' contact addresses, or use Yahoo! Capwiz.
While parents were in panic over the lead paint on their children's toys (like "Robot 2000"), what was the head of the government agency in charge of protecting us doing? Traveling - on the dime of the very industries she is supposed to be regulating.
Nancy Nord, the interim Chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), has not shied away from that fact that she accepts lavish trips from the industries she regulates and even claims that it is perfectly ethical.
The CPSC is charged with monitoring thousands of products that we use everyday, including toys, but has been systematically gutted by lack of funding and industry-friendly political appointees. A proposed bill, the CPSC Reform Act of 2007, would help fix that. It would more than double the agency's funding, give it new powers to punish those who sell dangerous products, and offer protection to government whistleblowers who courageously report wrongdoing within the agency.
Guess who isn't a fan?
Nord. She is also opposed to a bill that would make her agency more effective and better protect consumers from dangerous products. Could her position having anything to do with a recent free trip to New Orleans? Or maybe she is just more interested in protecting industry profits than consumers.
You can tell your senators to "RECALL" Nancy Nord and to PASS the CPSC Reform Action of 2007 with additional ethics reforms to prevent staff from accepting industry-sponsored travel.
Posted by Daniel De Bonis on November 09, 2007 at 05:48 PM
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Also check the left column for more government ethics information and databases.
UPDATE: Several government document databases for background research is now available in the left column, under "Other Government Databases".
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
I urge you as strongly as possible to tell your Senators to support TRUE REFORM in the 2007 Farm Bill. The Senate will begin debating the Farm Bill tomorrow, so it is urgent that you send a message to your Senators right away!
The federal government’s Depression-era web of agricultural subsidies, price and supply controls, and import restrictions long ago outlived their justification. Rather than assisting small family farms, federal agricultural policies overwhelmingly benefit the wealthiest farmers and mega-agribusinesses -- to the detriment of those farmers most in need. Today, 60 percent of farms receive either no subsidies or less than $2,000 annually, while the top 10 percent of farm subsidy recipients collected 72 percent of total payments in 2003.
What’s more, this handout to well-heeled, politically influential agribusiness is financed on the backs of American taxpayers and consumers like YOU!
At a time when agricultural income is at record highs and commodity prices are soaring, taxpayers have been paying an average of $20 billion annually for the most expensive farm subsidy payments in history. Sugar price supports alone cost us all $1.9 billion each year in higher prices at the grocery counter, not only for sugar, but also for sugar-containing products, like cereal, baked goods, and candy.
The Farm Bill passed by the House of Representatives in July not only failed to reform existing agricultural policies, it increased subsidy payments. The Senate Agriculture Committee made this bad bill even worse by raising taxes on U.S. businesses in order to pay for yet another disaster assistance program for farmers.
As the full Senate takes up the 2007 Farm Bill, Sens. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) will offer an amendment to replace existing farm subsidies with an insurance program that would enable farmers to mitigate weather and market risks. This would provide a real safety net for farmers, instead of doling out excessive payments to the wealthiest farmers whether they need them or not.
Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) will also offer an amendment to cap annual subsidy payments at $250,000 per farmer and close the loopholes that allow mega-farms to get unlimited payments by creating a complex web of multiple entities. Right now, some farmers receive taxpayer-provided subsidies in excess of $1 million annually!
Please tell you Senators to support taxpayers and consumers and bring TRUE REFORM to federal farm policy by voting in favor of the Lugar-Lautenberg and Grassley-Dorgan amendments!
Thomas A. Schatz, President
***The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) is the lobbying arm of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), the nation's largest taxpayer watchdog organization with more than one million members and supporters nationwide.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Just two months ago, U.S. PIRG worked with Congress to pass an important prescription drug safety law. It requires drug companies to tell us the whole truth about the safety of their drugs, and it requires the FDA to crack down on drug companies that break the law by putting out misleading ads or failing to finish safety studies.We stood up to the pharmaceutical industry and won. And now we've turned our attention to children's health insurance.Millions of American kids lack health insurance. Without it, they don't get the preventive care they need, and small problems turn into big health problems. If their health problems grow worse, uninsured kids wind up in emergency rooms, and those costs are borne by those with insurance.The good news is that Congress has a plan to make health care more efficient by covering more uninsured American kids.The State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) currently provides health coverage to 6 million uninsured kids. Congress passed a bill to reauthorize the program and expand it to cover 10 million uninsured American kids. The bill provided new funding for the states, which was paid for with a tax on big tobacco, the culprit of many health-related woes. Expanding this program has bipartisan support in Congress and bipartisan support from governors across the U.S.President Bush vetoed the children's health insurance bill, stating that he was worried that kids who weren't poor would be covered through the program. Since then, Congress has amended the bill to restrict eligibility to only those uninsured kids from families earning 300% of federal poverty or less.The amended bill will go back to President Bush, and we will learn whether his stated concerns were legitimate, or whether he was merely siding with the tobacco industry, which is opposed to the measure.
Please join with us in telling President Bush to sign the amended bill.
Sincerely, Joe Rupp, TexPIRG Citizen Outreach Director JoeR@texpirg.org
P.S. Thanks again for your support. Please feel free to share this e-mail with your family and friends.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
For $50/month, a TRACFED monthly personal subscription provides:
All TRACFED information resources
Individual Web Locker to store search results
Free on-line help services plus discounts on TRAC training and course offerings.
For more detailed information, see our Fees page.
The spending of tax dollars for public services is a central function of the federal government. Government workers must be paid. Government programs must be operated. Government supplies must be purchased. Government assistance programs for individuals , for corporations and for special functions like schools and scientific research must be distributed. So detailed information about where and when and how the federal government is spending the taxes it collects is as important as comprehensive data abou t where and when and how the federal agencies and prosecutors are enforcing the law. The range of federal spending is vast. There are Social Security and Medicaid and Medicare payments, federal grants to state and local governments, federal funds to defen se contractors, federal support for numerous insurance and loan programs.
Changes in the mix and amounts of these programs disclose and document important shifts -- sometimes unannounced -- in government priorities. Regional variations in federal spending always are interesting and sometimes raise questions of questionable mana gement practices and even corruption.
Are federal program equitable? Are they efficient? What is the government spending in your backyard?
Information includes actual dollar expenditures (as well as these figures after inflation adjustments), per capita expenditures, percentages and rankings.
For access to how federal funds are distributed within the states, counties, and 90 federal judicial districts:
Go to TRAC Express and select the area or agency or program of interest.
After choosing the variables, submit your order and the requested information will be returned almost immediately to your browser for printing or downloading.
For more help on which menu item best suits your needs, take the "Guided Tour” which you will find under the "help” menu.
Monday, October 29, 2007
It's fall election season! Many jurisdictions have elections on November 6, 2007. Visit the League's VOTE411.org site to find all the election information you need! Your voice will help shape important issues in your community, so please go vote on Tuesday, November 6th. Throughout the year, League members work to register, educate and inform voters on the issues that affect them. Providing quality, nonpartisan voter education remains one of our most important and well-known activities. Go to VOTE411.org to get registered, get educated, and get informed. Better yet- add VOTE411 to your list of online "favorites"!
S 1285 is very early in the legislative process still; however, http://www.washingtonwatch.org/ has begun an internet poll on whether people like the bill or not. It is now on All Things Reform, in the left hand column for you to vote yourself! I have, and noticed that not too many people on the 'net have voted on this bill yet; so, your vote can make a real impact. I have also added a bill status information box.
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin wants his agency to make crucial decisions about media ownership rules behind closed doors and without public input. That’s what happened in 2003, until Congress and the courts stepped in. We shouldn’t let history repeat itself.
Contact your Representative today, and let them know that if the FCC won’t listen to the public, Congress can and should exercise its oversight power.
These media ownership rules are too important to be kept secret. We need full disclosure and a robust public debate before the FCC votes to make any changes that would allow Big Media to get even bigger.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Inspector General legislation THAT passed by a vote of 404-11 in the House, despite a Presidential veto threat, would require that all IG reports be posted on the web within three days. The Senate will likely take up corresponding legislation in the coming days.
Fair Elections Week is a great opportunity for supporters of public financing of campaigns. Instead of relying only on fundraising drives, candidates can focus their attention on the race at hand, and, most importantly, on the voters.
At Fair Elections Now!, there are several things everyone can do to participate and make the Week a success. I, personally have signed up already to host an event in my town. I have already signed the petition to support Clean Elections. I have read what's posted on the website's bulletin board. There are indeed many ways to get involved for this worthy campaign fianance reform cause, just by going to the website.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Some states provide better and more complete access to information about the money that fuels campaigns than others, through both a strong campaign disclosure law and high-quality Internet access to disclosure reports. The purpose of the Campaign Disclosure Project’s Grading State Disclosure 2007 study is to provide an overview of how each state measures up to a set standard for disclosure programs, as well as to show how each state compares to others around the country. Check how your state is doing!
Thursday, October 25, 2007
October 23, 2007
National Taxpayers Union Vote Alert
NTU urges all Members to vote “NO” on H.R. 1483, which would unnecessarily extend the authorization of nine national heritage areas while creating six new areas. NTU testified against H.R. 1483 in committee, and we’re dismayed to see that the bill has grown in both cost and potential harm since introduction.According to promoters, national heritage areas were supposed to be finite, self-reliant programs. H.R. 1483 defies those notions. The bill would extend the authorization for nine existing areas (expected to sunset in 2012) for an additional 15 years (to 2027). Also, H.R. 1483 comes with a price tag of $135 million (up from a pre-committee total of $90 million). Members should keep in mind that this amount is equivalent to the annual federal income tax burden paid by 33,276 middle-class taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes between $30,000 and $75,000.In 1994, the late Representative Bruce Vento (D-MN) rose on the House floor in support of a heritage area bill and said: “There is a limit to the length of time or the amount of money the Federal Government can be in a heritage area. In 10 years, we are out of there. Then they are on their own. …” Congress should honor his pledge by rejecting H.R. 1483.Roll call votes on H.R. 1483 will be significantly weighted in our annual Rating of Congress.
Laurels of garland should adorn the esteemed Senators navel for this distinguishable recognition; salute!
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
In less than 10 days, you and I could be paying a tax for sending e-mails. That’s right. The existing moratorium on Internet taxes expires on November 1, 2007, and unless Congress acts, the federal, state, and local governments will be free to tax any aspect of using the Internet -- from going online, to sending and receiving e-mails, to buying and selling goods and services.
I urge you, before you do anything else today, tell your Senators to pass a permanent ban on Internet taxes! The House last week passed a four-year extension of the Internet tax moratorium, and the Senate is scheduled to take up legislation this week. While extending the moratorium is better than letting it lapse, it leaves the door open for eventual taxation and creates a climate of uncertainty for individuals and businesses that rely on the Internet. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), John Sununu (R-N.H.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) are pushing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to allow a vote on making the Internet tax ban permanent. The Senate needs to hear that Americans like you support a permanent ban! The Internet has become a vital part of our economy and keeping its use tax-free is essential for economic growth. Enacting a permanent ban will provide much-needed consumer and business confidence. It will also keep governments at all levels from tapping into a new pot of money that they can squander on more wasteful spending programs. Time truly is of the essence. Please tell your Senators to support Sens. McCain, Sununu, and Wyden in their drive to make the Internet tax ban permanent!
Sincerely, Thomas A. Schatz, President
Stop Coal-to-Liquids Subsidies
Since the 1930s, the coal industry has made off with $60 billion in taxpayer subsidies, and now they are asking for even more to support the coal-to-liquid (CTL) industry. CTL is a chemical technology developed in the 1920s to turn coal into a liquid fuel. The coal industry has stayed away from this costly and risky industry in the past, but are willing to take the plunge only if taxpayers step in and provide billions of dollars in subsidies, price floors, and loans. Here's why CTL fuel is a bad investment for taxpayers:
• Replacing just 10% of our county's oil consumption with CTL fuels would cost taxpayers $70 billion in construction costs alone, according to an MIT report.
• CTL plants can cost over $6 billion dollars to build and around $350 million per year to operate. • Carbon sequestration technology would be required to contain the large amount of greenhouse gas emissions CTL plants emit. Unfortunately, carbon sequestration is an unproven and costly technology, which could end up adding more than $100 million in plant operating costs.
• CTL fuel is only competitive when the price of oil is high. If oil prices drop below $55 per barrel, taxpayers could end up being forced to spend billions of dollars buying uneconomical fuel. • Congress would be repeating costly mistakes of the past. In the late 1970s, lawmakers tried to jumpstart the CTL industry by creating the $15 billion Synthetic Fuels Corporation. Volatile oil prices caused the synthetic and CTL fuel industries to go bankrupt within five years.
The government should not waste taxpayer money supporting a risky industry that private companies have avoided for years. Send a letter urging your representative to oppose costly CTL subsidies in the appropriations and energy bills!
Monday, October 22, 2007
And don't forget another powerful tool for the citizen researcher: the search box for the three "Organization" lists-- for example, type in your Congressman's name to see articles from the different orgs. with his name mentioned; the more detailed your query, the more relevant your results. Follow that up with any of the "Databases" for more details. The search box also checks this blog's posts, and all incoming links on them.
These tools give you great background information for your next letter to your representative, or your next letter to the editor, be it your hometown paper or TIME magazine!
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
The Presidential Records Act, enacted in 1978 following the Watergate scandal and the resignation of President Nixon, established that presidential records belong to the American people, not to the president. The Act gave custody of the records to the Archivist of the United States, established that records should be released to the public 12 years after the end of a presidential administration, and recognized presidential authority to assert executive privilege. On January 18, 1989, President Reagan, the first president to whom the Presidential Records Act applied, issued Executive Order 12667. The order established a process to deal with potential executive privilege claims.
In November 2001, President Bush issued Executive Order 13233, overturning the Reagan E.O. and giving current and former presidents and vice presidents broad authority to withhold presidential records or delay their release indefinitely. E.O. 13233 requires the incumbent president to sustain the executive privilege claim of a former president unless a court order is issued to reject the claim. The E.O. also gives "designees" of the former president the right to assert privilege, allowing relatives and others to delay the release of the president's records. Also under the Bush E.O., the Archivist must wait for both the current and former president to review the records to be released, which could lead to indefinite stalling. As recently reported by the New York Sun, President Clinton is accusing the current Bush administration of delaying the release of the former president's records. In late September Mr. Clinton said, "I want to open my presidential records more rapidly than the law requires, and the current administration has slowed down the opening of my own records."
Legislation currently being held up in the Senate would nullify the Bush executive order and establish procedures for the timely release of records. The "Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007" (H.R. 1255; House Report 110-44) would reverse the Bush E.O. by establishing a deadline for the review of records, limiting the authority of former presidents to withhold records, requiring the president to make privilege claims personally, and eliminating the ability for Vice Presidents to assert executive privilege claims over vice presidential records. On March 14, 2007, by a vote of 333-93, the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 1255. The legislation is currently being held up in the Senate by Sen. Jim Bunning [R-KY]. On September 24, Sen. Bunning objected to floor consideration of the bill, but did not state the reasons for his opposition.
On October 1, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly rejected part of President Bush's 2001 executive order in a civil lawsuit filed by the American Historic Association. The judge struck down the section of the E.O. that allows a former president to indefinitely delay the release of records.
In comments on the Senate floor on October 15, Sen. Jeff Bingaman [D-NM], the sponsor of the Senate version of the bill (S. 866), spoke of the need to pass H.R. 1255. He said, "The people of this Nation hired the President. His work is undertaken on behalf of the people. Can anyone doubt that the Nation is made stronger and our Government and the electorate are better served by the study of the actions of past Presidents?"
TAKE ACTION: Call Sens. Bunning and McConnell to ask them to allow the presidential records reform bill (H.R. 1255) to come to the Senate floor for a vote.
Monday, October 15, 2007
This won't stop me at all from sending those personal letters from their website contact forms; nor, will I stop participating in selected public interest group "contact your Congressman" drives. However, they will know how increasingly dismayed I am as their owner, the American taxpayer.
Friday, October 12, 2007
There are seven campaign-related databases for when you want to background check each of your candidates, on the state and national levels. Plus, there are nine databases for when you want to check existing elected officials of state legislatures and Washington and their spending habits.
Advances in internet technology has made these databases possible, with many developed just in the last couple of years. They are easy to use, and they make a great study for the next time you write your next letter to any of your representatives, or when you write that letter to the editor.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
You can return to the "U.S. PIRG Public Interest Ratings" link any time on this blog, in the left column under "Government Reform-Related Databases."
Thursday, October 04, 2007
You can also call me from www.jajah.com/reform. The internet never seizes to amaze! :)
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
You did it! Last week we told you about an amendment introduced by Senators James Webb (D-VA) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) to establish an independent and bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting. I'm happy to report that the amendment has passed the Senate with unanimous approval.
We were overwhelmed by the response from POGO's supporters who contacted their Senators and asked them to support this important initiative. Thanks to your hard work, we're now one step closer to victory. We'll be watching closely as Representative John Tierney (D-MA) introduces a counterpart bill in the House, and will let you know if we need your help.
Click here to read POGO's press release on the passage of the Senate amendment.
Click here to read the amendment introduced by Representative Tierney.
Monday, October 01, 2007
Just $6 is an innovative approach to public financing of federal campaigns-- for just $6 per citizen, candidates each election cycle can brush aside donations from private special interests and spend more time with the voters. It proves to be less expensive, too, than the fundraising route.
Friday, September 28, 2007
Ensign Refuses to Yield, Admits Working With McConnell
Sen. John Ensign continues to transparently block the electronic filing bill by refusing to back down from a ridiculous amendment requiring outside groups filing ethics complaints to reveal their funding sources. In stating his refusal to yield Ensign also admitted that he is working with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the author of this absurd amendment, to block passage of the electronic filing bill. The Hill reports, "Ensign added that he consulted with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) before deciding on his strategy, deeming the push for the amendment 'something we did together … we discussed it. I felt it was a good idea for me to do it.'" (Emphasis added.) McConnell has stated previously, including in the last few days, that he supports the electronic filing bill. It appears that he is being far less than honest.
Ensign and McConnell should do the senatorial thing and step out of the way as Sen. Bob Bennett did when he tried to offer a poison pill amendment. Rules Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein has offered Ensign a fair hearing in her committee on his amendment in exchange for dropping his objection to electronic filing. It's time for Ensign and McConnell to stop blocking transparency legislation.
In regards to the Ensign/McConnell amendment itself there are serious legal questions that appear to make it and illegal attempt to infringe on certain groups' privacy. Adam Bonin summarized the legal issues yesterday in a post at Daily Kos:
What can we say about this proposal? Of course it's not germane to this innocuous, bipartisan legislation, but what's more is that it's pretty blatantly unconstitutional. In a series of cases from the civil rights era including NAACP v Alabama and Bates v. City of Little Rock, the Supreme Court has made clear that such compelled disclosure – or "outing" – of supporters of a political organization is anathema to democracy, as it subjects members to potential harassment or retaliation and infringes on their constitutional rights of association, and must be supported by a compelling state interest.
Tell Ensign and McConnell to stop blocking transparency.
Sen. John Ensign: (202) 224-6244
Sen. Mitch McConnell: (202) 224-2541
Paul Blumenthal's blog Written by Paul Blumenthal on September 28, 2007 - 11:17am.