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.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Government Reform-Related Databases

We've added a new list on the left panel of this page, called "Government Reform-Related Databases". It is a links list of user-friendly search engines for money in politics data.

Developing internet technology has enabled public interest groups such as the Sunshine Foundation to make government data more accessible to the general public. As more come online, I will add them here.

Now, federal contract and grant spending information

Announcing The FFATA Portal; at http://www.ffata.org/, it is a database operated by Global Computer Enterprises, Inc. – the same company that owns and operates FPDS-NG. Following in the footsteps of OMB Watch’s http://www.fedspending.org/, GCE brings federal contract and grant spending information to the public in a very user-friendly format.

The FFATA Portal brings transparency to government spending. It is the place to learn how your tax dollars are working. Current data includes all contracts and grants awarded by different government agencies.

The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA) was signed on September 26, 2006. The intent is to empower every American with the ability to hold the government accountable for each spending decision. The end result is to reduce wasteful spending in the government. The FFATA legislation requires information on federal awards (federal financial assistance and expenditures) be made available to the public via a single, searchable website. Federal awards include grants, subgrants, loans, awards, cooperative agreements and other forms of financial assistance as well as contracts, subcontracts, purchase orders, task orders, and delivery orders. The legislation does not require inclusion of individual transactions below $25,000 or credit card transactions before October 1, 2008.

Tell your Congressmen to vote YES on mining law reform

Taxpayers for Common Sense is running a grassroots internet campaign to reform an old mining law that has lost the American taxpayer billions of dollars over the years. Here is their message; then go to their action page for an example letter to send to your representatives:

End Mining Giveaways Support H.R. 2262
There was a time when only pirates made off with billions in someone else’s gold. But thanks to a 135 year old mining law still on the books, some of the world’s biggest corporations are still plundering.
Signed into law by President Ulysses Grant to encourage Western expansion, the 1872 Mining Law has long outlived its original intent. With the Wild West settled and multinational mining companies flourishing, wasteful subsidies continue to flow. Federal land can still be sold dirt cheap (no more than $5/acre!), hardrock miners are uniquely excused from royalty payments for the mineral they extract, and taxpayers are often left with the clean-up bill after expensive environmental damage is abandoned on federal lands.
The Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2007, H.R. 2262, introduced by Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV), takes steps to reform this age-old law and address these critical issues. The bill imposes a modest eight percent royalty on the value of the gold, silver, and other stones and metals extracted. It prohibits the sale of federal land to hardrock mining companies. And it tackles the steep clean-up costs by establishing standards to minimize damage, requiring more stringent planning and disclosures from mining companies to reduce unforeseen catastrophes, and investing royalty and fee revenues into a fund to help cover these expensive damages.
Write to your Member of Congress today and urge them to cosponsor this important legislation and support these long-awaited reforms.
Take action now.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ask your U.S. Senators to vote YES on wartime contracting reform

POGO-- Project on Government Oversight-- is running a grassroots campaign for wartime contract reform. Billions of dollars have been lost due to mismanagement of financial contracts between Congress and private companies in the battle against terrorism. Here's the message from POGO asking for your action; the U.S. Senate bill number is S 1825:

Congress has recently taken great strides toward holding wartime contractors accountable. Last week Senators James Webb (D-VA) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) introduced a legislative initiative to establish an independent and bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting. POGO sent Senators Webb and McCaskill a letter to offer support for the bill, which would help to alleviate the burden placed on taxpayers due to waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement of wartime contracts.
The bill is currently at a crucial juncture; we need your help to ensure its passage. Please call or write your Senators today and ask them to support "The Commission on Wartime Contracting Act" (S. 1825) so that wartime contractors can be held to account for their misconduct.
Sincerely,
Danielle Brian, Executive Director, Project On Government Oversight

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ask your U.S. Senators to vote YES on campaign finance electronic filing

U.S. Senator Ensign disclosed Monday night that he was the one who blocked legislation requiring senatorial candidates to file campaign finance reports electronically. The bill is alive again, and may be brought to the floor any time now.

This bill is a common sense update of campaign finance reporting; the U.S. House of Representatives candidates are already required to do this.

Send a message to your two senators asking them to say YES to campaign finance report electronic filing. As of today, there are already 40 bill co-sponsors.

Write your U.S. Representative for co-sponsorship of electoral reform bill HR 3600

U.S. Representative Ron Paul has introduced an electoral reform bill, namely, "To enforce the guarantees of the first, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments to the Constitution of the United States by prohibiting certain devices used to deny the right to participate in certain elections." Simply put, HR 3600 lowers the barriers for candidates from alternative parties and independents to get on the general election day ballot.

The two party system doesn't work. It maintains, through legislation of the two major parties' officeholders, a monopoly on the democratic process. Most states have very difficult ballot access requirements outside the Democratic and Republican parties, leading to unorganized, thwarted third parties and few independent candidates.

Yes, there are more than two political philosophies than Democratic and Republican. Very powerful and unique ideas are offered today by third parties. Write a letter to your Representative, and ask him or her to give more choice to the American voter on election day.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Now, citizen oversight of congressional spending

The Sunlight Foundation and Taxpayers for Common Sense have teamed up to offer EarmarkWatch.org: Bringing Citizen Oversight to Congressional Spending.

Although you need to register, it is a free service. Bills that are currently being legislated are broken down; you can analyze your own U.S. Representative and U.S. Senators usage of earmarks.

Earmarks, or porkbarrel spending, are individual appropriations inserted into a bill after it has been legislated; they often are for local or regional pet projects. Earmarks are a reflection of fiscal discipline; you may now check on your own elected officials promises on how he is controlling spending.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Thoughts on ethical and political reform

The Merton Institute for Contemplative Living offers a free weekly thoughts newletter of Thomas Merton, a famous 20th Century American monk. The Sep. 3rd issue strikes to the heart of what All Things Reform is about-- ethics and politics. Here Merton in his later years speaks of it, not as an agenda of a program with a definite beginning and ending, but as a way of life.

The Merton Reflection for the Week of September 3, 2007
"[Reading Chuang Tzu, I wonder seriously if the wisest answer (on the human level, apart from the answer of faith) is not beyond both ethics and politics. It is a hidden answer; it defies analysis and cannot be embodied in a program. Ethics and politics, of course: but only in passing, only as a "night's lodging." There is a time for action, a time for "commitment," but never for total involvement in the intricacies of a movement. There is a time of innocence and kairos, when action makes a great deal of sense. But who can recognize such moments? Not he who is debauched by a series of programs. And when all action has become absurd, shall one continue to act simply because once, a long time ago, it made a great deal of sense? As if one were always getting somewhere? There is a time to listen, in the active life as everything else, and the better part of action is waiting, not knowing what is next, and not having a glib answer."
Thomas Merton. Conjectures of A Guilty Bystander. New York: Doubleday, 1966: 173.

Thought to Remember
"A postulant who has come to the end of his rope and wants to leave, but who has been dissuaded (not by me), stands in the novitiate library leafing through a book called Relax and Live. Sooner or later it comes to that."
Conjectures of A Guilty Bystander: 173

Friday, September 21, 2007

Celebrate OneWebDay!

OneWebDay is on September 22nd. We can observe the significance of the Web and what it means to individuals, organizations and communities.

The Sunlight Foundation is a major contributor to internet grassroots activists such as All Things Reform-- they have just in the last year made great strides to technologically advance on the internet ways to enjoy more openness and transparency in government. Here is a fun video they made in that light:


video

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Send a message to your Representative and support earmark reform

According to The Hill, House Republican leaders will launch a new offensive in the fight over earmark reform today, seeking to expand earmark disclosure requirements to tax and authorization bills. Currently, only earmarks in appropriations bills are subject to new transparency requirements.

Also know as pork, earmarks are unethically added after a spending bill is already legislated formally. They are often of local interest only, out of the purposes of their underlying bills.

I just sent a small email letter to my U.S. Representative's website asking him to support fiscal discipline and this fight for earmark reform. You can do so also, by finding your own representative with the white widget to the left; just enter your full zip code and look for your U.S. Representative.

Help pass drug safety law

Take on the powerful pharmaceutical drug industry lobby! State affiliates of U.S. PIRG, a public interest group, are running a internet grassroots campaign to pass a drug safety bill. Here is an opportunity for you to help get President Bush to sign it into law (you don't have to live in this affiliate's state to participate). Here's their message:

The drugs in your medicine cabinet will soon be safer because Congress passed strong drugs safety legislation.The House and Senate hammered out an agreement on a final drug safety bill earlier this week and the House passed it on Wednesday. The Senate will pass the identical bill today, but the President, who has sided with the pharmaceutical industry and their goal of weak drug safety reforms, still must sign the bill.The pharmaceutical industry has opposed many of the safety reforms in the bill, but in the end there were too many headlines about dangerous drugs and Congress had to act. We're glad they did.Our top drug safety priority passed. Drug makers must release the results of their safety studies on-line. No more hiding unflattering or dangerous results. This will help patients and doctors figure out if the drug's risk is worth its benefits.
The bill also authorizes the FDA to issues fines of up to $10 million for drug makers who fail to complete follow-up drug safety studies. Drug makers used to routinely ignore follow-up studies. The threat of this stiff fine should get their attention.The bill includes other good safety provisions such as strengthening conflicts-of-interest rules at the FDA and increasing by $225 million the budget for follow-up drug safety studies. These studies are extremely important for people taking drugs for years at a time to control chronic conditions.Together we can make sure this legislation is signed into law. Join me in telling President Bush to sign the strong drugs safety legislation passed by Congress.
To take action, click on the link below or paste it into your browser: https://www.uspirg.org/action/health-care/strong-bill?id4=ES
Sincerely, Dr. Matthew Tejada TexPIRG Advocate, MatthewT@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, September 18, 2007

Help restore habeas corpus today

Public Citizen is running a grassroots email campaign in order to restore habeas corpus. I can't think of too many more important reforms about we, the people, than this! Here is their message:

You know the saying, "If at first you don't succeed..."?
We have another opportunity to restore the right to habeas corpus now. The Senate is debating the defense authorization bill again this week, and Senators Leahy and Dodd have re-introduced the bill to restore habeas corpus as an amendment. Meanwhile, many continue to languish without due process to review the lawfulness of their detainment, and still more of us remain vulnerable.
Your help is urgently needed again. Please call your senators now.
As the Founders understood, in denying someone else's freedom, we ultimately surrender our own.
Thank you for all you've done and for not backing down. Take a few moments today to restore habeas corpus!
Sincerely,
Daniel De Bonis, Online Organizer, Public Citizen's Congress Watch Division action@citizen.org

Report names the 22 Most Corrupt Members of Congress

CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) has released it's third annual Beyond DeLay: The 22 Most Corrupt Members of Congress (and two to watch). This is an opportunity for all constituents (and future voters) to check to see if their Congressmen is on the list.

Reminder: every citizen of the U.S. is a constituent (has representatives in elective offices from the local to the national levels.) Become familiar with yours; I particularly am an active correspondent with my U.S. Representative and two U.S. Senators. The white widget on the left panel of this page will take you to your own public servants' websites.

Monday, September 17, 2007

FairVote's electoral reform news

Top news and updates from FairVote, as of September 5th:

Presidential Primary Reform: FairVote-backed American Plan draws support of New York Times [HERE] and NPR interview [HERE] with Rob Richie

Instant Runoff Voting: IRV makes the November ballot in Sarasota (FL), Aspen (CO), and Washington State counties [MORE INFO]

Proportional Representation: Canada's biggest province Ontario to vote on adoption of "mixed member" proportional voting on October 10. Please donate: [MORE INFO]

National Popular Vote: NPV plan may head to California ballot as a contrast with the undemocratic "congressional district" system -- see FairVote's critique of the district plan [READ MORE] and see Rob Richie's piece in the Austin American-Statesman [HERE].

Research: FairVote releases new congressional election analyses: Dubious Democracy 2007 [HERE] and Monopoly Politics [HERE].

Press: FairVote has a new feature: its weekly Innovative Analysis series, featuring revealing statistics and insightful commentary [HERE].

FairVote 15 year Anniversary

FairVote is celebrating 15 years of "The Way Democracy Will Be". Based in Washington, D.C., FairVote promotes electoral reforms nationally and across the country; reforms include IRV (Instant Runoff Voting), Proportional Representation, Presidential Primary Reform, and NPV (National Popular Vote.) Here is their message and invitation to supporters on their upcoming celebration:

Three Exciting Opportunities
Help sustain our 15 years of reform advocacy.
To commemorate our 15 years of advancing bold reforms like proportional voting, instant runoff voting, a constitutionally protected right to vote, and fair presidential elections where every vote counts, FairVote is highlighting three exciting opportunities for our supporters. Read below about how you can get involved. There's never been a greater time to help build the pro-democracy movement than today, and with a presidential election looming, FairVote is needed now more than ever.

1. Save The Date: Claiming Democracy 2007 & 15th Anniversary Gala
Excitement is growing about FairVote’s upcoming Claiming Democracy conference on strengthening a pro-democracy movement, to take place in Washington, D.C. on November 9th to 11th. Fellow conference sponsors include election reform and media reform organizations like Demos, Free Press, New America Foundation, Public Campaign, and the Brennan Center. Details at ClaimDemocracy.com
On November 10th we will also hold our 15th anniversary banquet in D.C.’s majestic Union Station. This will be a special affair with leaders from FairVote’s history and high-profile supporters in attendance, such as former independent presidential candidate and FairVote chairman John Anderson, as well as appearances by New Yorker editor Hendrik Hertzberg, Daily Show correspondent Dan Bakkedahl, and Nirvana bass player Krist Novoselic. An evening of fine dining and great entertainment awaits all who attend, along with the winning videos from our Upgrade Democracy Video Contest! Stay tuned for more details at fairvote.org/gala – and please save the dates for these two exciting events!

2. Make a Video: Upgrade Democracy Video Contest
There’s still plenty of time to flex your creativity and submit your entry into FairVote’s first-ever Upgrade Democracy Video Contest! Tell us what you think ought to be done to improve elections by making a short video answering the question:
“If you could change anything you wanted about elections, what would our democracy look like?”
You could win $2000 and have your video seen by celebrity judges including filmmaker Richard Linklater (School of Rock, Dazed and Confused), political guru Donna Brazile, The Daily Show’s Dan Bakkedahl, MoveOn’s Eli Pariser, Nirvana bassist Krist Noveselic, and New Yorker editor Hendrik Hertzberg! The winners will be honored at FairVote’s 15th Anniversary Gala at the Claim Democracy conference.
To learn more about how to enter, visit http://www.upgradedemocracy.com/. The deadline is September 28, 2007, so spread the word and get filming!

3. Donate Items, Make a Pledge: 15th Anniversary Auction & Pledge Drive
Timed to coincide with our 15th anniversary celebrations this November, FairVote is holding an online charity auction to raise funds for our work. We hope that some of our loyal supporters, and maybe even some new ones, will make in-kind contributions of items and services for us to auction. Do you have a vacation home or timeshare to donate, or perhaps some rare or autographed items? Please pull them out of your attic and put them to work for democracy!
Pledges for FairVote: FairVote of course needs your 2007 donations to sustain our progress toward 'the way democracy will be,' but also seeks commitments of support for the coming five years -- a critically important opportunity to win reform at all levels of government. Please consider commitments in the form of gifts of stock, pledges of annual support and bequests in your will. Contact Ross Margulies at Ross [at] fairvote.org for more information, or to donate an item to our auction.

President Bush signs Congressional pension reform bill!

The National Taxpayers Union, who led a grassroots activist campaign, announces victory.

Dear David,
Last year, we told you about how the more than 20 former Members of Congress who had been convicted of serious offenses were allowed to keep drawing benefits from a lavish, taxpayer-funded pension system.
It's bad enough that taxpayers have to cough up for a pension program whose payments are far more generous than what similarly-paid workers in the private sector typically receive, but we thought that handing this cash over to criminals was just wrong.
Thousands of taxpayers joined us in expressing outrage over this matter by sending "no pensions for Congressional felons" letters to their representatives in Washington, D.C.
Thanks to your demands for change, WE GOT IT!
Last week, President Bush signed a bill that contains a version of the "no pensions for Congressional felons" reform we sought.
From here on out, Members of Congress who commit certain felonies (like perjury, bribery, or fraud) related to their official duties won't be allowed to draw from a Congressional pension "honey-pot" that overtaxed American workers are forced to fill.
While the new law doesn't go quite as far as our request for automatically denying taxpayer-funded retirement benefits to a Representative or Senator convicted of any felony, during or after Congressional service, it is a MAJOR IMPROVEMENT to the current law that lets criminals like "Duke" Cunningham and Dan Rostenkowski collect cash from you and me.
Thank you for helping to change things for the better in Washington. You deserve a huge pat on the back!
With many thanks,
John Berthoud, President, National Taxpayers Union

Support the Alaska Clean Elections Act

The Public Campaign Action Fund is running a petition drive to bring full public financing to state races in Alaska. And with several legislators now indicted for ethics violations, now is a great time to promote clean elections.

Accusations and guilty pleas of political corruption have been running high in Alaska. Four current and former legislators have been indicted on corruption and bribery charges while two corporate executives and a lobbyist have pled guilty to the same.

Alaska's elections should be about voters and not special interest donors--both honest and dishonest ones. Support Clean Elections campaign reform. Sign our petition below and tell others so we can build our base and make our elections about voters and volunteers instead of dollars and donors.

Alaska Clean Elections Act petition.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

All presidential candidates should co-sponsor/ endorse presidential public financing fix

A group of six government reform groups, who often work together in Washington, D.C., has issued a press release urging all presidential candidates to co-sponsor/ endorse legislation to fix the present presidential public financing system.

Campaign Legal Center - Common Cause - Democracy 21 - League of Women Voters - Public Citizen - U.S. PIRG
_________________________________________________________________
Press Release, September 14, 2007, http://www.democracy21.org/ _________________________________________________________________
Reform Groups Urge Presidential Candidates to Co-Sponsor, Or, if not in Congress, Endorse, Legislation to Fix Presidential Public Financing System

September 14, 2007
Our groups strongly urge you and other presidential candidates to co-sponsor, or, if not in Congress, to endorse, legislation introduced in Congress to repair the presidential public financing system.
The organizations include the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters, Public Citizen and U.S. PIRG.
The recent published stories involving bundler Norman Hsu have only served to reinforce the dangers of privately-funded presidential campaigns driven by unlimited campaign spending and increasingly dependent on bundlers to raise huge amounts of money.
It is essential to the health of our democracy and to the integrity of the presidency to avoid having the nation's highest office on the auction block and presidential candidates engaged in a never-ending race to raise and spend ever-growing amounts of private contributions.
As The New York Times recently stated in an editorial endorsing legislation to fix the presidential public financing system (September 12, 2007):
For 30 years after the Watergate scandal, the nation did well by the public financing campaign system, which served as a cleaner alternative to private political money. Congress let that die on the vine, failing to raise subsidy levels to meet campaign inflation. The result is candidates' gratefully wooing bundlers and selling privileged access -- with far too few questions asked.
And as The Washington Post recently stated in an editorial (September 12, 2007):
If the system of providing candidates with federal matching funds for their primary campaigns and full financing for the general election were overhauled to make participation more attractive, candidates would limit the amounts they spend -- and have less need for the Hsus of the world.
The problems with the presidential funding system today are primarily the result of the failure of Congress to take any action to modernize and update the system since it was enacted more than thirty years ago. These problems can and must be solved.
For example, the spending limits for presidential primaries are far too low to meet the costs of running a modern presidential primary campaign. And sufficient public funds are not made available to presidential candidates to run competitive primary campaigns.
Legislation to repair the presidential public financing system has been introduced in the Senate (S.436) by Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI) and co-sponsored by Senator Barack Obama (D-IL). Companion legislation has been introduced in the House (H.R.776) by Representatives David Price (D-NC), Christopher Shays (R-CT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Todd Platts (R-PA).
The legislation increases the spending limits and the amount of public funds available for candidates who opt into the presidential system. It also includes adjustments to allow candidates who opt into the system to run competitive races against candidates who opt-out of the system and substantially outspend the spending limits for opt-in candidates.
The legislation also requires presidential candidates to disclose the individuals who bundle contributions for them and the total amounts they bundle. The significance of bundlers, however, would be greatly reduced in an effective public financing system. While the legislation would not take effect until 2009, reflecting the practical realities of the 2008 presidential race, enacting this legislation as soon as possible is critical to protecting the presidency and our democracy in future years.
We strongly urge you to co-sponsor this legislation if you are in Congress, or to endorse it if you are not, and to publicly commit to working for its enactment if you are elected President.
We would appreciate your responding to this letter from our organizations by email addressed to esaloutsi@democracy21.org or by mail addressed to Elenia Saloutsi, Democracy 21, 1875 I Street, NW, Suite 500, Washington, D.C. 20006. Campaign Legal Center, League of Women Voters, Common Cause, Public Citizen, Democracy 21, U.S. PIRG
# # #
Released: Friday, September 14, 2007

Bring representation to the District of Columbia

Public Citizen's Congress Watch is running an email campaign asking the public to help bring congressional representation to the District of Columbia. The DC Voting Rights Act would also add a House of Representatives seat to Utah.

September 14, 2007
Dear David,
While we endlessly debate the possibility of democracy in Iraq, our democracy at home remains in question.
More than half a million people live in the capital of the United States without voting representation in Congress. Yes, the citizens of the District of Columbia pay U.S. taxes, fight and die for the U.S. during wartime and yet, shockingly, they have no vote in the Congress that governs them.
A vote to right this wrong is imminent - but we need your help.
A key procedural vote on the DC Voting Rights Act is scheduled for Tuesday, September 18. We must act now to prevent some senators from blocking this bill. If Tuesday's motion succeeds, the Senate could next vote on the bill for final passage. If it fails, an endless filibuster could ensue, killing the bill that the House already passed in pril.
The bill would provide for a seat for traditionally Democratic Washington, D.C., with an additional seat for Republican-leaning Utah, making it a partisan and politically neutral bill.
Citizens in the District of Columbia don't have senators of their own to call, so they need you to stand up for them and our democratic values. Contact your senators today and insist that they allow this important civil rights legislation to proceed to the floor for a vote!
Tell your senators to make history by ending taxation without representation in Washington.
Sincerely,
Angela Canterbury, Public Citizen Field & Outreach Director of Congress Watch mailto:Watchaction@citizen.org

Friday, September 14, 2007

President Bush signs government ethics bill!


Campaign Legal Center - Common Cause - Democracy 21 - League of Women Voters - Public Citizen - U.S. PIRG
_________________________________________________________________
Press Release, September 14, 2007, http://www.democracy21.org/ _________________________________________________________________
The following statement on the lobbying and ethics reform legislation passed by Congress was issued today by the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters, Public Citizen and U.S. PIRG:
The landmark lobbying and ethics reform legislation passed by Congress constitutes a major accomplishment by this Congress.
The far reaching reforms passed by Congress are the most important lobbying and ethics reforms since the Watergate era. They will help to change the way business is done in Washington and help to protect the interests of the American people.
Our organizations strongly commend the House and Senate for responding to deep citizen concerns about corruption and lobbying scandals revealed in the last Congress by passing landmark government integrity reforms.
Our organizations also strongly commend House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senator Russell Feingold and Senator Barack Obama and Representative Chris Van Hollen and Representative Rahm Emanuel for the outstanding national leadership they provided for this successful reform effort.
The overwhelming bipartisan vote in Congress for the reform legislation shows once again the powerful voice of citizens and the power of recorded votes when it comes to government integrity issues, with House members voting 411 to 8 and Senators voting 83 to 14 for the reform legislation.
We thank all of the Democrats and Republicans who voted for the legislation.
The immediate challenge that lies ahead now is to ensure that the new lobbying disclosure law and congressional ethics rules are effectively implemented and enforced.
Our organizations will work to achieve this goal and also are working to strengthen the systems for enforcing the congressional ethics rules, lobbying laws and campaign finance laws.
In the longer term, our organizations are working for essential campaign finance reforms that include repairing the presidential public financing system and establishing a public financing system for congressional races.
For now, however, our organizations believe it is important to recognize that this Congress has provided major lobbying and ethics reforms in response to the major corruption, lobbying and ethics scandals that were revealed in the last Congress.
# # #


The above public interest groups are constantly on the leading edge of campaign finance reform and other government ethics concerns in Washington, D.C. With the help of citizen activists such as yourself and thousands of others across this nation, these reform groups work closely with Congress and the President to see that we, the people, are heard and that they are accountable to us only.

Check out these and other government reform groups in the list on the left panel of this blog. Constant vigilance and an optimistic outlook is all it takes to help maintain a responsible and accountable federal government.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Public financing of campaigns represents all of the voters

A Connecticut Post article, entitled "Candidates Use Money from New State Fund," interviews the two candidates for State Representative running in a special election that is publicly financed. Democrat James Orazietti finds this approach of campaign financing to be encouraging for more people considering a run for office.

In the privately financed election that most races are undergoing today, all candidates must personally search for and attract individual and PAC financial contributions to fuel their campaigns. This takes staff, time and money that would otherwise go towards actually interacting with the voters.

Public financing doesn't discriminate the candidate on which individuals or PACs contribute to his campaign. He is beholden to all of the constituents in his district. Therefore, when the winner legislates for his people, he will not fight for some constituents in preference over others.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Uniformity in petitioning laws eases multi-state political campaigns

Ballot Access News reports on the petitioning efforts by the Iowa Green and Libertarian Parties so they can be included in their state's voter registration forms as unqualified parties. This petitioning law is different among many states across the nation.

Each state in the U.S. has it's own set of election laws, and practically every state is unique in that respect. Ballot access rules are different; this makes national petitioning campaigns of minor political parties for several states very difficult over any election cycle.

In these and perhaps other instances, uniformity amongst the states in electoral laws would be preferable to today's variety. Having practically the same petitioning laws across the country, for example, will help the present two-party dominant political system in place today become more competitive. It would also ease the petitioning campaigns of independent presidential candidates seeking ballot access across the country.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Senator Larry Craig vs. Senator Ted Stevens admonishment question

There has been some considerations, and perhaps a few comments, about why U.S. Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) was relieved of his committee posts and fellow U.S. Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) was not. You remember that Craig was alleged to commit immoral public sexual behavior, while Senator Stevens was alleged to unethically steer taxpayer monies to a business in exchange for personal benefit.

As both congressmen are Republicans, a true double-standard in party leadership response is the question at hand. May I submit to you that the predominant philosophy of today's Republican leadership in Congress is conservative; therefore, it's actions would favor questions of personal morals more than that of ethical values.

Given the professed political philosophies in the Senate Republican Party leadership, it should have come as no surprise that Craig was admonished for his alleged immoral behavior, while Stevens unethical actions were considered much less.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Incumbent protection scheme degrades democracy

The Corruption Chronicles blog, a favorite of mine from Judicial Watch, writes that legislators in the Pennsylvania House use taxpayer funds to pay their staff for re-election campaign work. This includes House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese.

On the federal level, many of our representatives employ at least one full-time staff person for nothing but campaign work; but most presumably use their campaign funds. Judicial Watch's story pertains to the state of Pennsylvania legislature; who knows how many other state officeholders around our country employ the same tactic?

Using public funds to pay campaign workers is illegal; PA's state attorney general has launched an investigation into the taxpayer abuse. State legislators have a great responsibility to conduct themselves in an ethical manner, for thousands of voters entrust them with their leadership every two years. Incumbent protection schemes such as this degrade our democracy, and the fairness of our electoral system.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Our public servants have committed to leadership; they are responsible for it

On September 4, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) faxed a letter to the ethics committee of the U.S. House of Reps., concerning the conduct of Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado. Proof is evident that he intimidated and threatened two of his own constituents in response to their published letter criticizing him.

We reformers receive coarse and uninspired reactions from our government servants when we shine a light on their professional misgivings. This is only a natural human response; never the less, our representatives' commitment to leadership is proclaimed when they run for their coveted public offices. That commitment is manifested in the presence of an ethics committee in their legislative houses.

And, more critically professional is the responsibilities of that ethics committee. The reformer's light shines brightest on those government servants who commit the most leadership. Kudos to CREW, for carrying the torch of reform in their call for action to the U.S. House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.