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.