Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Federal Election Commission will be without quorum effective December 31st

According to an article in today's Washington Post, the FEC (Federal Election Commission), the regulatory agency for congressional and presidential campaigns, will be without a voting quorum of four commissioners effective December 31st. This means that decisions will not be able to be made on campaign finance and other campaign issues as the primary election season begins. There is a deadlock in Congress over the choosing of new commissioners including the controversial Hans A. von Spakovsky.

Congress will need to begin anew the selection process for new FEC commissioners in mid-January, 2008.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tell the federal government your thoughts on their regulations

Regulations.gov is the federal government's regulations website that encourages citizens' comments. Just use the site's search form to access any government agency's regulations, and personally give your input on them.

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

Committee Caller makes it easy to contact a whole congressional committee

There is now an easier way to make a phone call to all of the members of a Congressional committee-- it's called Committee Caller. You enter your phone number and select your committee or subcommittee from either the U.S. House or Senate, and it will rotate you through to the individual committee members' offices. It even allows you to note their responses.

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

Only voter-verifiable paper trail machines will do!

ZDNet's Zero Day blog reports that research on the voting machines of Ohio confirms our worst fears-- there are many security problems associated with them. This is not new news, as we have been hearing stories of voting machine breaches of security for several years, especially electronic ones.

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

A call to citizenship and responsibility

The Progress Report has an interesting commentary by Ben Tanosborn, on today's "consentership" of the American people to our government. It is a cry to shake off the deferment of all the great issues of the day to our unresponsive government. Democracy lies in the hands of we, the people; it is our responsibility as citizens of this great nation to see that our government is honest and accountable, a truly-qualified representation of you and I.

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

Top Ten Ethics Scandals of 2007

CREW has released the "Top Ten Ethics Scandals of 2007" list; it is in pdf file format and requires the free Adobe Reader software. Most of these stories you may remember, as they impact the quality of business in our nation's capital city.

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.

Senate passes new FOIA bill

The FOIA, or Freedom of Information Act, has become up-to-date to service increased government transparency demands. FOIA is a term used by the general public to request information from any federal government agency, based on the terms of the Act. It is expected to be signed into law by President Bush; for details on the FOIA changes, please see this Associated Press article.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tell the FEC NO on this Friday's ruling about presidential public financing

Public Campaign has issued a letter to the FEC (Federal Election Commission) concerning the public financing of presidential elections. The FEC is considering a ruling that would prevent some small-dollar donations given through the web from triggering public matching funds for candidates who have opted into the system.

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

Check who your Congressmen meet with

Sunlight Foundation provides assistance to government database projects. One of these, the Punch Clock Campaign, asks Congressmembers to post on the internet many of their meetings. To date, there are just eight representatives involved; you may find one of your's enlisted. Although several types of meetings are not qualified for this, you will find some information about what your representative does on a day-to-day basis and with whom.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The U.S. Constitution With the Declaration of Independence now on All Things Reform

I've added the U.S. Constitution With the Declaration of Independence, a pdf file from the U.S. GPO, to the left-hand column of this blog.

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 internet reveals government increasingly, Bush administration is secret

I am continually amazed at the rush of government databases available to the citizen these days. If you look at my left-hand column, you will see an ever-growing list of mostly free-to-use campaign finance, government finance and document databases.

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.

Tell your Congressmen YES to restoring presidential public financing

Public Citizen has launched a netroots campaign for public financing of elections. The "Presidential Funding Act of 2007" (HR 776 and S 436) brings the presidential public finance program, which started in the mid-1970's, up to date. Although it has worked for a few decades, it needs to be restored in its ability to support those candidates who wish to avoid the day-to-day big money fundraising that many of today's candidates go through. If you agree, please take action here or go directly to your Representative's and two Senators' websites through this service. Here's what Public Citizen says in its new drive:

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.

Report reveals full history of Department of Homeland Security mismanagement

CREW (Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington) has released a report on the mismanagement of the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) during its first five years of operation. They also created a website devoted to the research project, called Homeland Security for Sale.

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

Tell the FCC NO on fewer mass media owners

Common Cause is leading an email campaign on the issue of media consolidation. Recent news says that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has scheduled a vote on December 18th on whether to allow fewer mass media companies such as major news networks, radio stations and daily newspapers, than we have now.

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.

Sign the Public Campaign petition against special interest deals

Public Campaign Action Fund has a petition to the U.S. Congress leadership, asking them to take control of the special interest bill requests from Bush donors. President Bush rode into the White House in the elections of 2000 and 2004 on a wave of large corporate campaign contributions, and now they are asking for preferential benefits in return. Our president, however, is for we, the people, not special interests. If you agree and would like to sign the petition, please go here. Here's more info from the petitioner, PCAF:

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.

Election Assistance Commission withholds provisional balloting reform report from the public

VoteTrustUSA has an almost complete, leaked copy of a "provisional balloting reform" paper presented to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. It appears the EAC has withheld the document from release to the general public. VoteTrustUSA has the downloadable report and a statement of the circumstances surrounding this withholding by the federal commission.

Sign the VotersUnite.Org petition for better voting machines

VotersUnite.Org, a non-partisan promoter of fair and accurate elections, has a petition we can send to Congress concerning many of our election machines. We have developed a lack of trustworthiness in many of the new polling machines that have been installed in recent years. If you agree, please take action here. Here's what VotersUnite.Org has to say:

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

Ask your Congressmen if they support a U.S. Constitution Article V Convention

Friends of the Article V Convention requests us to ask our Congressmen if they support an American citizen's right to an Article V Convention; then, leave those responses here. Here's an explanation by the Friends of how important this part of the U.S. Constitution is:

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 . . .

Sign the Citizens' Debate Commission petition for presidential debate reform

The Citizens' Debate Commission (CDC) is running an internet petition drive for presidential debate reform. They want to improve the debates run by the Commission on Presidential Debates, which is corporate-sponsored. Find out more about the CDC on their "The Issue" page. If you would like to sign the petition, please go here. The CDC's petition says this:

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
be included.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Americans for Redistricting Reform to launch project in early 2008

Redistricting reform is a hot topic these days, because of some controversial redistricting in states in recent years. I believe such an important task of government, which happens after each 10-year U.S. Census, is too politicized and is susceptible to power plays by the majority party. In this week's news review, the Campaign Legal Center covers the latest reform activity for redistricting:

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.

From Fresh Start for Democracy: please sign the petition to presidential candidates!

Common Cause is starting its Fresh Start for Democracy project, by asking us to sign their petition to all of the presidential candidates. It is a commitment to democratic reform. If you agree, please take action and sign the petition here. This is Common Cause's message:

Dear _,
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,
Bob Edgar
President, Common Cause

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tell your U.S. Representative NO to House Ethics Task Force recommendations

CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) Executive Director Melanie Sloan is encouraging the public to contact their U.S. Representatives, in order to express discontent over the short-sighted recommendations of the the House Ethics Task Force.

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:


video

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Important "voter ID" law is in the U.S. Court of Appeals

The Brennan Center for Justice provides legal assistance and support for court cases involving elections. They have filed an amicus brief in reference to a very important case pending in Indiana, that requires voters to present a voter ID at the polling place to be eligible to vote. The brief addresses voter fraud implications in the case, in opposition to voter ID's. Here is Brennan Center's story on where they stand:

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.

Have your say on the new federal government spending database

The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA) of 2006 asks the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to lead the development, by January 2008, of a single searchable website, accessible by the public for free that includes for each Federal award:

* 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

All Things Reform now on Facebook!

In our continuing quest to build an activist community for government reform, All Things Reform now has a page at popular social networking site Facebook. It's at All Things Reform Facebook. Please, visit and say hi. I hope your stay is entertaining and helpful.

Tell your U.S. Representative to cosponsor 72 hour online rule for bills

ReadtheBill.org is asking us to contact our U.S. Representatives to cosponsor H.Res 504. This bill would require Congress to post their legislation and conference reports on the internet for 72 hours before floor consideration.

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.

Visit VOTE411.org to prepare for the Primaries in your state!

The LWV (The League of Women Voters) is reminding eligible voters to make sure they are registered for the upcoming Primaries elections. Each state has it's own date for nominating candidates for each office, from both major and minor political parties, for the General elections in November, 2008. LWV has a website for your preparation for both election days-- it is VOTE411.org. Please make sure you are a registered voter, and an informed voter this election year by visiting the comprehensive voter assistance site at VOTE411.org.

NOTA BENE: For voter services for US Citizens Overseas and Uniformed, please check out the Overseas Vote Foundation.

Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007 bill held in the US Senate

The present Bush administration has been more secretive than previous presidents. Our Congress is continuously fighting our Executive branch for the release of information that is in the public's interest to review and act upon. One bill that both the US House and US Senate has introduced (the House "companion bill" was passed already) addresses Bush's Executive Order limiting any access to records of past presidents. OpenTheGovernment.org recently sent a letter with other good government groups to the leader of the Senate to move the Senate bill forward:

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 tackles broken 2008 presidential primaries

This presidential election cycle for general election November, 2008 has seen an increase in change in state primary dates. Even recently, states were moving up their primary days to be more competitive in choosing their respective presidential nominees from each party. FairVote is on the front line in presidential primaries reform; during their 2007 Claim Democracy Conference earlier this month, they discussed this very timely topic:

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 ]

Tell your U.S. Representative YES on state video tax fairness

NTU (National Taxpayers Union) is running an email campaign for fair taxation of state TV taxes. H.R. 3679, the State Video Tax Fairness Act, would end state governments' growing habit of taxing TV service at different rates according to the type of signal. If you agree and want to take action, just contact your U.S. Representative directly or go to this webpage. Here's what NTU says about this bill:

Dear _,
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.
Act now!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Let's make 2008 a Fresh Start for Democracy!

Common Cause has devoted 2008 to the complete renewal of democracy here in the United States. Yes, that is a tall order. But if anyone can do it, it is the large membership of a very respected good government public interest, Common Cause. Let us all help Fresh Start for Democracy, by supporting and being active this upcoming election year! Here is their message:

Dear _,
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
achieve it.
Peace,
Bob Edgar
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

Find out if the IRS owes you money!

The National Taxpayer Union (NTU) has an IRS Tax Refund Finder that allows you to check to see if you're owed a refund on your federal taxes. Try it, you might like it! :)

I've added this free resource to the "Other Government Databases" list in the left column.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A sample report from this blog's federal government database list

This is a government finance report of U.S. Representative Neugebauer; it is derived from free links in this blog's "Federal Government Finance Databases" in the left column. It is just one thing you can do for your own state and federal representatives from this blog; you can also search their campaign finances, ethics violations and other news. Then, from your reports, cull information that may be useful in your communications, and, ultimately, in your votes next election day.

U.S. Representative Randy Neugebauer (R-TX): government finance free data links
Taxpayers for Common Sense
Defense spending bill earmarks
Two earmarks from Neugebauer

Details at
http://www.fedspending.org/fpds/fpds.php?reptype=r&database=fpds&fiscal_y
ear=2006&detail=-1&mustcd=y&datype=T&sortby=f&pop_cd2=TX19
FedSpending.org
Contracts performed in Texas 19 (Neugebauer)

Details at
http://www.fedspending.org/faads/faads.php?reptype=p&database=faads&datyp
e=T&fiscal_year=2005&sortby=f&detail=-1&principal_place_state_code=48
FedSpending.org
Assistance spent in Texas (FY 2005)
Texas 19 (Neugebauer) was third-highest paying congressional district in Texas
LEGISTORM
Salary data for Neugebauer and staff
LEGISTORM
Privately-financed travel by Neugebauer and staff
LEGISTORM
Personal financial disclosure of Neugebauer
MAPLight.org
Legislators
Neugebauer-received contributions from interest groups, organizations

Friday, November 23, 2007

Tell your Congressmen to sign Earmark Reform Pledge

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) is asking we, the people, to petition earmark reform to our own congressmen. In these days of increasing government transparency, earmarks are still difficult to remain open. Many congressmen would prefer not keep their unethical spending behavior available to the general public. CAGW asks us taxpayers to be diligent, however; here is their message. If you agree, simply take action here; or contact your two US Senators and one US Representative on your own, at each of their respective websites. You can find all of your representatives at the white widget on the left column of this blog.

Dear _,
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
congressional websites;
* not request any earmarked funding or targeted tax
benefit provision that does not serve a federal interest and/or have a federal
nexus;
* 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!
Sincerely,
Thomas A. Schatz, President

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A major lawsuit is filed for hand counting paper ballots for election day

At times since the federal government's attempts to improve voting technology of the last several years, individuals and groups have cried unstable and even unreliable new voting machines. Nevertheless, these new electronic voting machines are being released and used, as controversial as they are. A new, 50-state lawsuit to return to paper ballots has been filed; Richard Winger of Ballot Access News reports:

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

A sample report from one of this blog's database lists

This is a campaign finance report of U.S. Representative Neugebauer; it is derived from free links in this blog's "Campaign Finance Databases" in the left column (CQ's Moneyline database is fee-based). It is just one thing you can do for your own representatives; you can also search their campaign finances, government finances, ethics violations and other news. Then, cull from your reports information that may be useful in your communications, and, ultimately, in your votes next election day.

U.S. Representative Randy Neugebauer (R-TX): campaign finance data links

Details at http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/summary.asp?CID=N00026043&cycle=2006
opensecrets.org
Candidates
Neugebauer 2005-2006 campaign finance totals

Details at http://www.politicalbase.com/people/randy-neugebauer/9822/money/
Political Base
People: Money
Neugebauer campaign finance totals and data

Details at http://query.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/can_detail/H4TX19102/
Federal Election Commission (FEC)
Candidates
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
Consultants
Amount spent on campaign consultants, 2003-2004: $2,500,303

Monday, November 19, 2007

CAGW Names U.S. Rep. Clyburn Porker of the Month

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) has released its November Porker of the Month! He is U.S. Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.). He airdropped a $3 million earmark for the First Tee golf program into the fiscal 2008 Department of Defense Appropriations Act conference report. First Tee’s mission, according to its website, is “To impact the lives of young people by providing learning facilities and educational programs that promote character development and life-enhancing values through the game of golf.”

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...

Sign the 100,000 Strong petition for federal earmark reform

U.S. Senator Jim DeMint is running an internet blogging campaign for earmark reform. Earmarks over several year's time, as they are dropped into appropriations bills, cost in the billions of dollars. These are mostly local-interest projects out of the jurisdiction of the federal government. Even with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the already bloated national debt, individual Congressmen are wasting millions of dollars per year. Take action below and tell Washington, DC enough is enough.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tell your Congressmen NO to the NAFTA Trucks Pilot Program

Public Citizen is asking us to contact our Congressmen to stop the NAFTA Trucks Pilot Program.

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.

Call your U.S. Representative to co-sponsor the Fair Elections Now Act

Common Cause, a participant public interest group in this ongoing Fair Elections Action Week, has a notice out that the U.S. House now has a sister bill to the Senate's Fair Elections Now Act. Please see this blog's November 12, 2007 post for more information about the senate bill; if you agree to further legislation with this U.S. House bill, please take action at this webpage, or just call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 .

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

Tell your U.S. Senators to vote YES for Fair Elections Now Act

Citizen activists across this country have come together this week, November 12-16, 2007, to support clean elections. A website is devoted just to this, called Fair Elections Action Week.

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

Tell your U.S. Representative YES on veterans legislation

U.S. Representative Randy Neugebauer's weekly newsletter tells of a recently-written bill to help our military veterans. House Republicans have introduced H. Res. 786, which would change the rules of the House to ensure that Congress never again uses funding for our veterans in order to advance a partisan agenda. This resolution would require the House of Representatives to consider the Military Construction bill and Veterans funding bill as stand alone legislation, preventing any excessive or unrelated spending to be attached. My own Rep. Neugebauer is proud to be a co-sponsor.

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

Contact your representatives personally, for added impact

Just a note on this experiment in citizen activism that is All Things Reform. I understand that, if you take action from any public interest group's website, you may be added to their email database. I have done this for years now, and I therefore often get action alerts and other information by email.

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.

Tell your Senators to RECALL Nancy Nord of the CPSC

Public Citizen has issued a netroots alert for the recall ("firing") of Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) interim Chairwoman Nancy Nord. I am much too happy to support this campaign, as Nord is totally blind to the ethical breeches she has committed already in her "leadership" role. Here is more alert information from Public Citizen; if you agree, please take action from this website or send your message on your own to your two US Senators:

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

New database of government documents

CREW, in conjunction with a coalition of government watchdog groups, has a new online government document database at governmentdocs.org. It houses Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) responses, and other government documents, from a number of organizations, that can be browsed, searched and reviewed. It is the only one of its kind. Organizations, including CREW, Project on Government Oversight, Public Citizen, Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Sunlight Foundation have contributed documents. The goal of the database is to create a central repository of government documents, promoting greater transparency into the inner-workings of our government. Check it out, at http://www.governmentdocs.org/.

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

Tell your Senators to vote YES for two Farm Bill amendments

The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste has an urgent action request. The Senate will soon vote on the 2007 Farm Bill. Tell your Senators to put the interests of taxpayers and consumers first by voting in favor of amendments that would bring about true reform of Depression-era agricultural policies! Below is their request details; if you agree, please take action at this website or send a message on your own:

Dear _,
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!
Sincerely,
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.

Upload your question to the presidential candidates, and vote for your favorite!

10 Questions is an "ask the presidential candidate" website through the use of videos. You ask your question on video, then upload it to 10 Questions; then, viewers will vote up or down for the best videos to forward to the candidates. Check it out; be careful of the home page, as it is slow due to all of the videos. Also, vote up for the "clean elections" clip!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Write the Laws Act-- "Not the bureaucrats"

Downsize DC has an ongoing netroots campaign to push leglislation for the "Write the Laws Act" (WTLA). Just as it says, it requires only the legislators (and their staff) to write the bills. If you agree, take action at this webpage or send your message on your own.

Read the Bills Act-- "No legislation without representation"

Downsize DC has an ongoing netroots campaign to push leglislation for the "Read the Bills Act" (RTBA). Just as it says, it requires all who vote for a bill to read it first. If you agree, take action at this webpage or send you message on your own.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tell President Bush to sign amended SCHIP bill

U.S. PIRG is asking everyone to send a message to President Bush, that poor children's health is more important than banning more tobacco taxes. SCHIP, the State Children's Health Insurance Program has, after a couple of rounds of legislation, mostly bipartisan support-- most Democrats and Republicans in Congress support it; Bush doesn't want to further tax the tobbaco industry to pay for it. Here is what U.S. PIRG says; if you agree, please take action at this webpage:

Background
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.
http://www.uspirg.org/action/health-care/schip?id4=ES
Sincerely, Joe Rupp, TexPIRG Citizen Outreach Director JoeR@texpirg.org
http://www.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

Get online detailed data reports on federal government spending

A subscription based government finance database is available to the general public from Syracuse University. Here is subscriber info. culled from TRAC to help you in your purchase decision:

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

Remember to vote Tuesday, November 6th

The League of Women Voters are the first people to look up for assistance in voting in the next election. They have local and national groups always ready with a wealth of information to make your voting experience the most productive. As many states around the country are having elections next week, LWV sends their greetings and their willingness to help:

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"!

Vote UP (yes) on the new S 1285 clean elections bill

S 1285, the Fair Elections Now Act, is the Senate version of public financing of campaigns legislation that is also going through the House. If both houses pass their own versions, they will settle in conference on one to send to President Bush. It will then be hoped that Bush will sign the final legislation into law.

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.

Tell your U.S. Representative to oversee the FCC

Common Cause has released an action alert on the issue of media consolidation. They are fighting unethical moves by the Federal Communications Commission to hastily pass media ownership rules. Here is their explanation; if you agree, please take action at this webpage:

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

Agencys' Inspector General openness to the public now being legislated

There is often tension between government agencies and their Inspector General watchdogs who can be the bearer of bad news about those agencies. POGO (Project on Government Oversight) has been researching the effectiveness and independence of the IG’s. They’ve already found other instances where IGs have had their reports unnecessarily redacted by agencies or where the agency has simply refused to post an IG’s reports on the web.

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.

Get ready now for Fair Elections Week, November 12-16, 2007

Fair Elections Now! is a website devoted to the upcoming Fair Elections Week of November 12-16, 2007. It is run by the Fair Elections Now Coalition, which includes Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause, Democracy Matters, Public Campaign, Public Citizen and U.S. PIRG.

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

Study assesses each state's campaign disclosure laws and programs

Grading State Disclosure is a study of the Campaign Disclosure Project, which seeks to bring greater transparency and accountability to money in state politics through assessments of state disclosure laws and programs.

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

Tell your U.S. Representative NO on national heritage area bill

Kristina Rasmussen of NTU has issued an alert on a U.S. House bill. I believe that now, more than ever, Washington must prioritize its spending on the large entitlements and defense parts of our critical federal budget. If you agree with this alert, contact your U.S. Representative today.

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.

NTU releases taxpayers ballot guide for 2007

The National Taxpayers Union (NTU) has released their ballot guide for 2007. They’ve identified 29 measures in seven states that concern taxpayers. For example, Oregon’s Measure 50 would boost the state cigarette tax from the current $1.18 per pack to $2.025 per pack. Proceeds would be funneled toward health care for uninsured children and smoking prevention programs, but the impact of the tax on cross-border sales could result in lower-than-expected revenues. California, Idaho, and Nevada would levy significantly lower cigarette taxes.Another interesting one: Texas’ Proposition 11 would stipulate that each vote on the final passage of most bills must be recorded and made publicly available on the Internet for a minimum of two years.Check out the guide to see if your state has a taxpayer-related ballot measure.

CAGW Names U.S. Senator Shelby Porker of the Month

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) has named Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) Porker of the Month for October 2007 for an $11 million Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) earmark for his alma mater.

Laurels of garland should adorn the esteemed Senators navel for this distinguishable recognition; salute!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tell your Senators to vote YES on an internet tax ban

Citizens Against Government Waste is running a taxpayer alert for a proposed ban on internet taxes. Currently, there are no "internet taxes" by any level of government, such as email tax or internet retail sales tax. Here's what CAGW says; if you agree, please send your letter to both of your U.S. Senators from this webpage.

Dear _,
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

Tell your Congressmen NO to coal-to-liquid federal subsidies

Taxpayers for Common Sense wants us to write our own U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative, asking them to decline federal subsidy dollars for coal-to-liquid plants. The private sector deems the industry too risky; so, why shouldn't the American taxpayer as well? Here's what TCS has to say; then, please take action by going to their webpage:

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

The left column tools on this blog are now easier to use

I have further organized the link lists in the left column to make it easier to follow. The "Government Reform-Related Organizations" is now divided into three lists: "Electoral Reform Organizations", "Campaign Finance Organizations" and "Government Finance Organizations". This will also allow the user to see the correlations in the "Campaign Finance Databases" and "Government Finance Databases" lists below.

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

Call U.S. Senators Bunning and McConnell for presidential records reform

Over the course of his one and a half terms as president, George W. Bush has written into law a record number of Executive Orders. These orders are solely the work of our president, yet there are some of them enacted that are very controversial to segments of the American public. OpenTheGovernment.org is running a netroots campaign to help overturn those that concern the openness of presidential records of the present and former presidents:

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

No more replies from a couple of my representatives!

Well, I've lost touch with one of my U.S. Senators and my U.S. Representative. Not that they have stopped sending me multiple informational emails from their respective offices each week... Since last summer, all three of my federal representatives have just about stopped sending me any replies at any of my letters to them! Is anyone having the same responses lately?

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

A wealth of campaign and government data at your fingertips

I have broken up the "Government Reform-Related Databases" list on the left column into two lists: "Campaign Finance Databases" and "Government Finance Databases". This makes it easier to pick and choose the databases you need for any one project.

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

Your state and federal representatives' ratings scorecards

U.S. PIRG, the center for PIRG state affiliates active in the public interest, has a ratings scorecard for each state legislator and U.S. Congressman. It appears to be continuously updated as legislation is passed. The scorecard concerns how each have already voted in the areas of democracy, consumerism, energy, government waste/ budget and others. It is a good way to see how your state and federal representatives stand on the issues that are promoted by All Things Reform.

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

All Things Reform now on JAJAH!

JAJAH now offers a way for it's customers (All Things Reform) to receive calls from people using their blogs. It's easy, and free! Just go to the widget in the left column and enter your own phone number, and hit call. You will ring my own phone.

You can also call me from www.jajah.com/reform. The internet never seizes to amaze! :)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

We won! Wartime contracting reform passes.

Last Wednesday, September 26th, we posted a POGO netroots campaign to help establish a Commission on Wartime Contracting. With your help, we were successful! Here's what POGO (Project on Government Oversight) has to say:

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

All Things Reform now on Squidoo!

Squidoo has provided All Things Reform a "lens", Reform Your Government, to share all of the things we have to offer. We are always looking for ways to spread the word about this blog-- about grassroots reform activism-- and we are grateful to Squidoo for providing this opportunity.

Ask our presidential candidates what they think of public financing of campaigns

Just $6, from Americans for Campaign Reform, is running a grassroots campaign right now for the first several presidential primary states. They want you to ask your candidate whether he/she supports public financing of campaigns. Please follow this link Just $6, and follow their easy instructions.

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

Call U.S. Senators Ensign and McConnell to remove bill amendment

The Sunshine Foundation is asking the netroots reform community to call U.S. Senators Ensign and McConnell and have them remove an unrelated amendment to the Senate electronic filing bill. Here's their story:

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.