Friday, February 29, 2008

Tell your US Senators to vote FOR Consumer Product Safety Reform Act of 2007

Public Citizen wants us to tell our US Senators to vote FOR on a bill to reform the Consumer Protect Safety Commission (CPSC) - and protect us from defective and dangerous products. They are expect to vote on it next week. If you are having difficulties with the webpage, or would like to call them instead, the Capitol Switchboard number is 202-224-3121.

Although the Consumer Product Safety Reform Act of 2007 (S. 2663) will give the CPSC much-needed muscle, it could be stronger than it is. For example, the maximum fine for violating the Act has been reduced from $100 million to $10 million, or $20 million in "aggravated" circumstances, a pittance for multibillion-dollar corporations. However, the current bill makes valuable improvements over current law that must be defended.

TAKE ACTION: Urge your senators to vote FOR the Consumer Product Safety bill and strong, consumer-friendly amendments and AGAINST amendments that put industry interests before consumers! Thank you

Thursday, February 28, 2008

House Appropriations Chair Rep. David Obey warns President Bush to negotiate or else

From OMB Watch:


If [President Bush] chooses, as he did last year, to say 'sorry, I'm not going to compromise on the numbers,' then there's very little incentive for this committee to do anything except say, 'well, the president's dealt himself out of the game and we will simply have to … wait until a new president is in office who will act like an adult when it comes to negotiating.

-- House Appropriations Chair Rep. David Obey

Tell your US Senators YES to the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act

Public Citizen is asking us to contact both of our US Senators to end subsidies to the oil and gas industry and incentivize renewable energy. The House just passed its part of the bill's legislative process-- now it's the Senate's turn to take it up. It's called the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act (H.R.5351). Take action today; if you would like to call them instead, the Capitol Switchboard number is 202-224-3121. Thank you

US Reps. Lois Capps and Devin Nunes named Porkers of the Month

From CAGW's Porker of the Month page:

" Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) has named Reps. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) and Devin Nunes (R-Calif) Porkers of the Month for attempting to impede the recovery of hundreds of millions of dollars in Medicare overpayments. Using Recovery Audit Contractors (RACs), private-sector auditing companies that specialize in uncovering improper payments, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has recouped $357.2 million in overpayments to Medicare providers in California, Florida, and New York since 2005. A demonstration project slated to roll out nationwide next month, the RAC audits have deterred fraud and reduced Medicare’s improper payment rate, according to CMS officials. However, with their home-state hospitals objecting to having to account for $120 million in improper payments, Reps. Capps and Nunes have introduced H.R. 4105, which would place a one-year moratorium on the RAC program, blocking the nationwide rollout and essentially ending the three-state pilot project. For being more interested in kowtowing to pressure from hospitals in their districts that billed for millions they were not entitled to than in shielding the Medicare program and taxpayers from huge losses, CAGW names Reps. Capps and Nunes its February, 2008 Porkers of the Month. "

Take pictures while at your polling place

The Polling Place Photo Project is a program of The New York Times and AIGA, the professional association for design. The Polling Place Photo Project is a nationwide experiment in citizen journalism that encourages voters to capture, post and share photographs of this year’s primaries, caucuses and general election. By documenting local voting experiences, participants can contribute to an archive of photographs that captures the richness and complexity of voting in America.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

2007 National Government Ethics Survey released by the Ethics Resource Center

On January 29th, the Ethics Resource Center released the National Government Ethics Survey (NGES). 774 federal, state and local government employees were interviewed by telephone for NGES from June 25- August 15, 2007. From its press release:

" Slightly less than one-third (30%) of federal workers surveyed believe their organizations have well-implemented ethics and compliance programs, which ERC has found greatly reduce the incidence of misconduct. Only one in 10 said there is, indeed, a strong ethical culture in their federal workplace. But the results were considerably less impressive at the state level (where only 14% saw strong ethics programs and a mere 7% perceive a truly ethical culture) and in local government (where the figures were 14% and 9%, respectively).

Almost two thirds of local government employees (63%) said they observed at least one type of misconduct in the previous year. At the state level, the rate of reported misconduct was 57%, while 52% of federal workers had witnessed ethics breeches. In the aggregate, 57% of public servants surveyed had observed misconduct in the past year. There has been no improvement since ERC's last survey of government employees in 2005, and the rate is worse than that of the biennial survey in 2003.

Local government had the highest level of workers who witnessed misconduct but did not report it – 34%. That compares with 29% at the state level and 25% within federal agencies. "

This free downloadable report requires registration with ERC. Also, related webcasts, articles and other information is available at

Join tele-press conference, sign petition to demand hearing on substandard military helmets

The image above shows a helmet and the amount of kevlar that was left out due to Sioux Manufacturing's substandard production.

Tomorrow, Thursday, February 28th, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), will join and two whistleblowers to discuss the need for a congressional investigation into a $74 million Department of Defense contract awarded to a North Dakota manufacturing company, Sioux Manufacturing Company, which has been outfitting our nation's troops with substandard Kevlar helmets.

New tape recordings of employees discussing the production of the substandard Kevlar for helmets will be publicly played and posted for the first time during the TELE-PRESS Conference, tomorrow at 10:30 am. The call in number is 866-211-5938 (no passcode required).

The public is invited. For further conference details, please go here.

Also, has a petition drive on its website-- Petition to Demand Hearings on Substandard Helmet Procurement, where you can show your support.

Look for possibly big money commercials by nonprofits later this election season

According to a Feb. 25th Mother Jones article, a shift of major campaign funds from candidates and parties to individuals will take place later this election season. And 501(c)(4) nonprofit organizations may have a say on what commercials will be aired right before the November general elections.

Even if the two eventual major party presidential candidates accept the public financing system for their general election campaigns this fall, they will have little say or control over people outside their campaigns advertising for or against them costing millions of dollars.

Free "Ceasefire! Bridging the Political Divide" forum webcast on political reform

Presented by the Center on Communication Leadership at the USC Annenberg School for Communication, Ceasefire! Bridging the Political Divide is a forum for exploring ways to improve political dialogue and decision making at all levels.

Convened by Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the conference features a keynote address by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The program also features remarks by Governor Janet Napolitano, chair of the National Governors Association and two important panel discussions featuring key journalists, political strategists, philanthropists, and non-profit community leaders.

Free webcasts are still available for internet viewing for the June 18-19, 2007 Los Angeles forum.

Call your U.S. Representative to vote YES for an independent ethics office

Common Cause is asking us to call our own U.S. Representatives and telling them to vote in favor of a new, independent ethics enforcement office. For years, the House ethics committee has been negligent is following up complaints, investigating problems and enforcing ethics laws. This new independent office would relieve Congress members from the difficulties of self-regulation. Please call soon, as the vote to allow the new office will be made as early as Thursday. Thank you; please leave their response to your call at Common Cause.

Comptroller David Walker is leaving his post at the GAO (Government Accountability Office)

An outstanding public servant is stepping down from an influential federal government agency of reform. David Walker has run a non-partisan department (GAO) that usually responds to a Congressional request for an investigation or research effort so that we all can learn more about an issue, a concern, a topic. The Government Accountability Office is an arm of the Congress.

He has been travelling the nation bringing the urgent need for fiscal reform during this time of deepening budget crisis. He will be sorely missed.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Under-appreciated and often ill-trained poll workers need your help

The Associated Press (AP) has published an article about many of the problems experienced by poll workers so far this election season; the Feb. 23rd story is entitled "Precinct hiccups blamed on poor training". These employees often are ill-trained for the variety of voting machines on the market today and complicated voting rules; they sometimes have to manage long voter lines; and possible problems with voter rolls or other election official snafus complicate an already under-appreciated job.

You can help if your state still has not had primaries or caucuses, or you can wait until the upcoming November general elections to assist. Just contact your local elections office for details. Also, there are many nonprofit organizations that reform the electoral process and help voters-- you can find a list of these on this blog's left hand column.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Ask the presidential candidates where they stand on reform issues

Common Cause is forwarding a Midwest Democracy Network survey to all of our major presidential candidates, asking them where they stand on some political reform issues. If you would like to participate, please go here. Common Cause says in its email action alert:

" The presidential candidates have gone on the record with their plans for health care, their ideas to improve the economy and their strategies for dealing with Iraq.

But, despite repeated requests, only one of the remaining candidates has answered the Midwest Democracy Network's questionnaire about democracy and government reform. "

Thanks for taking action!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Transparency International Surveys/ Indices

Transparency International reports annually on government corruption on a country-by-country basis. I have distilled their rather byzantine presentation of their latest reports from their website onto All Things Reform's Google Notebook, entitled "Feb. 24, 2008 All Things Reform blog post: Transparency International Surveys/ Indices". I focused on the United States results.

Transparency International, the global civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption, brings people together in a powerful worldwide coalition to end the devastating impact of corruption on men, women and children around the world. TI’s mission is to create change towards a world free of corruption.

Transparency International challenges the inevitability of corruption, and offers hope to its victims. Since its founding in 1993, TI has played a lead role in improving the lives of millions around the world by building momentum for the anti-corruption movement. TI raises awareness and diminishes apathy and tolerance of corruption, and devises and implements practical actions to address it.

Transparency International is a global network including more than 90 locally established national chapters and chapters-in-formation. These bodies fight corruption in the national arena in a number of ways. They bring together relevant players from government, civil society, business and the media to promote transparency in elections, in public administration, in procurement and in business. TI’s global network of chapters and contacts also use advocacy campaigns to lobby governments to implement anti-corruption reforms.

Politically non-partisan, TI does not undertake investigations of alleged corruption or expose individual cases, but at times will work in coalition with organisations that do.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hundreds of servicemen and womens' lives lost due to mismanaged procurement of armored vehicles

POGO has just made publicly available for the first time an internal study--conducted by Marine Corps science adviser Franz Gayl--showing that the Marine Corps "grossly mismanaged" Marines' requests for armored vehicles, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of U.S. servicemen and women.

The study points to unacceptably long delays in the procurement of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs), which are much less susceptible to the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) being used against American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. POGO is calling for congressional hearings to investigate the rapid acquisition system at the Defense Department, which is clearly failing to respond to urgent requests from American soldiers in battle.

To learn more about the study, be sure to check out POGO's press alert and blog post.

Financial contributions by both Clinton and Obama to Democratic superdelegates have results

The Center for Responsive Politics has published a report entitled "Seeking Superdelegates". It is a powerful analysis of the influence financial contributions to them by Democratic presidential candidates Clinton and Obama is. From Capital Eye, the Center's newsletter:

" Obama, who narrowly leads in the count of pledged, "non-super" delegates, has doled out more than $698,200 to superdelegates from his political action committee, Hope Fund, or campaign committee since 2005. Of the 82 elected officials who had announced as of Feb. 12 that their superdelegate votes would go to the Illinois senator, 35, or 43 percent of this group, have received campaign contributions from him in the 2006 or 2008 election cycles, totaling $232,200. In addition, Obama has been endorsed by 52 superdelegates who haven't held elected office recently and, therefore, didn't receive campaign contributions from him.

Clinton does not appear to have been as openhanded. Her PAC, HILLPAC, and campaign committee appear to have distributed $205,500 to superdelegates. Only 12 percent of her elected superdelegates, or 13 of 109 who have said they will back her, have received campaign contributions, totaling about $95,000 since 2005. An additional 128 unelected superdelegates support Clinton, according to a blog tracking superdelegates and their endorsements, 2008 Democratic Convention Watch. "

A chart of all of the superdelegates who are public officials, both committed and not, and how much if any Obama and Clinton have given them since the 2005 election cycle breaks down the numbers.

Participate in a government document social tagging experiment

Free Government Information needs your help to investigate whether social tagging of government documents is a viable idea.

They have stashed 32 documents from the Government Printing Office's EPA Web Harvesting Pilot Project in the Internet Archive. They would like as many people as possible to bookmark, tag and provide brief descriptions of all 32 of these test documents using the bookmarking service.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Same Diebold, same Premier Election Solutions

Remember Diebold Election Systems? Well, due to all of their scandals of the past few years, they have changed their name to Premier Election Solutions! And not only that, but the new company's "new, independent" board of directors of five individuals include three former officials of Diebold!

I believe in old-fashioned, verifiable, paper ballot voting-- not the hackable, historically-unreliable electronic voting machines "Premier" and the other couple of major manufacturers sell at a profit to our nation's public election officials.

Check out the BRAD BLOG for this "news" from the old folks of Diebold.

U.S. Rep. John Murtha is 2007 Porker of the Year

Well, it's been voted on by you, the citizens at Citizens Against Government Waste-- U.S. Representative John Murtha (Dem.-PA) is the "coveted" (by Murtha) 2007 Porker of the Year!

You saw him throw a temper tantrum and threaten fellow appropriations committee members where his earmarks are often made last May, and voted him Porker of the Month.

But he didn't stop there. Rep. Jack Murtha has long been known inside the Beltway for using threats, power plays, and backroom deals to control spending decisions. There is an area of the House floor known as “Murtha’s Corner,” where the legendary appropriator dispenses earmarks.

Get more of the sordid details of this legendary porkmeister at a webpage devoted just for this "coveted" prize at Swine Line blog.

UPDATE: Judicial Watch's Corruption Chronicles blog shares with us the annual appreciation dinner for Rep. Murtha by the same contractors that enjoy the free federal money known as earmarks:

" To show their appreciation, the contractors hold an annual payback dinner for Murtha at a fancy Washington-area venue. This year’s event (“an evening with Jack and Joyce Murtha”) is scheduled for February 27 at the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City in Virginia, across the Potomac from Washington. Diners (earmark recipients) will pay $1,500 a person to eat with Murtha and his wife.

Of interesting note is that the invitations to the costly dinner were sent out right before the annual deadline for earmark applications. Murtha ended up getting more earmark dollars than any other legislator in the massive 2008 military spending bill. He secured 48 earmarks for a total $150.5 million. "

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Call U.S. Attorney General Mukasey and ask him to meet with Common Cause

From Common Cause:

Over the seven years of the Bush Administration, the American justice system has taken quite a beating. From the denial of fundamental civil rights and civil liberties to the outright abuse of our Constitution – the integrity of our justice system is in jeopardy.

So, Common Cause is stepping up to the plate to restore our democracy's rule of law. Our first step was to ask new Attorney General Michael Mukasey for a meeting to express our concerns and recommendations. But he refused. I am writing to you today to ask you to make a simple, quick phone call to Attorney General Mukasey, urging him to meet with Common Cause.

Common Cause is running a telephone campaign. They are having difficulty getting U.S. Attorney General Mukasey to talk with them. We can help by calling his office directly ourselves and asking him to meet with Common Cause, then leaving the answer at Common Cause's webpage for this campaign. The number is (202) 514-2001. Be sure to report your call! Thank you.

Sunshine Week 2008 Webcast March 29, 2008, 1 - 2:30 PM EDT

OpenTheGovernment.Org presents an internet webcast: "Sunshine Week 2008 Webcast: Government Secrecy: Censoring Your Right to Know". It will be held on March 19, 2008, 1 - 2:30 PM (EDT) Participate in person at the National Press Club in Washington DC, or Online Anywhere. Details for the event are here. Please register to watch or show the webcast; a fee is required if you also want to show it from your own physical location.

I. The Secret Executive -- What Can Congress and the Public Do?

Confirmed Speakers: Mickey Edwards, Director of the Aspen Institute-Rodel Fellowships in Public Leadership and former Republican member of Congress from Oklahoma for 16 years (1977-92), Ann Beeson, Director of U.S. Programs at the Open Society Institute and previously Associate Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, and John Podesta, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Center for American Progress, Chief of Staff to President William J. Clinton from October 1998 until January 2001, and formerly in senior staff positions in Congress, will discuss executive branch power and secrecy, congressional rights and responsibilities, and the role of the press in combating government secrecy. Patrice McDermott, Director of, will moderate the discussion.

II. Citizen Self-Help: Finding the Information You Need

We will be visiting and talking with creators of web sites that help the public avoid having to file official requests or go to offices and meetings to learn what our government is doing. These sites make hard-to-find government information -- federal, state and local -- easy for the public to find and use and may inspire you to do likewise. A quick report will be given, as well, on an initiative to develop a 21st Century Right-to-Know agenda and recommendations for the next President and Congress.

In each segment, opportunities will be available for audience questions from all participants.

The event will be held in the Holeman Lounge of the National Press Club in Washington, D.C and webcast to sites around the country. A satellite downlink option will be available for a fee.

We're inviting you to host a program in your community! Participants are encouraged to show the national program and plan local programs tailored to open government issues in their communities.

Audience members at all sites viewing the live event will have an opportunity to call in (using any telephone) and email questions to our live panels. We will answer as many questions as time permits.

Sites are encouraged to show the national program and plan local programs tailored to open government issues in their communities. Audience members at all sites viewing the live event will have an opportunity to call in (using any telephone) and email questions to our live panels. We will answer as many questions as time permits.

Presidential candidate fundraising in 2007

The Campaign Finance Institute has issued a press release on this election cycle's presidental candidate fundraising, and how it compares with the odd year of previous cycles. The data includes all of 2007, up to the latest from the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Tune in tonight to Election Defense Radio show for latest elections news and commentary

Election Defense Radio will be broadcast live this evening, Tues. Feb. 19. It is a weekly live internet radio show by Election Defense Alliance. 8:00 - 9:00 pm Eastern / 7:00 - 8:00 pm Central / 5:00 - 6:00 pm Pacific.

To "tune in" via the Internet, go to and click on either of the two Audio Players (Flash or Windows Media) you will see in the upper right corner.

Call in with your questions, too, at 877-864-4869

Shows are replayed on Sundays 1 - 2 pm Eastern at the same location on your internet dial (recorded, no call-ins)

Downloadable audio files of each show are available at the Toginet site and at EDA's radio page the next day.

ABA passes resolution supporting redistricting reform

The recognition of the need for a more fair redistricting process has created a groundswell among organizations across the political spectrum and has led to the creation of Americans for Redistricting Reform - an initiative of the Campaign Legal Center scheduled to launch later this year.

The ABA (American Bar Association) passed a resolution at its midyear meeting urging states to utilize independent commissions for redistricting in order to remove the process from politically self-interested state legislators and incumbents.

In his role as a member of the ABA’s Administrative Law Section, Campaign Legal Center's J. Gerald Hebert helped draft the resolution that was approved.
Hebert stressed in his statement that redistricting decisions are too often made for purely partisan purposes and ultimately it is the voters of both parties who suffer. “Democrats and Republicans alike have gained and lost seats unfairly through the heavy-handed tactics of state legislatures that gerrymander districts such that the electoral outcome is foreordained,” Hebert emphasized. The result has been the elimination of competitive districts and with it the elimination of more moderate representatives who are more likely to be attentive to a broader community.

Tell your U.S. Senators to unblock vote of Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007

Public Campaign asks us to contact our U.S. Senators concerning S.886-- Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) is blocking a bill that would return the presidential records, including possibly all previous presidents, their family members and vice presidents, to the American people. Take action now to help bring the bill to the floor for a vote. Thank you.

In 2001, President Bush issued an Executive Order that gives current and previous presidents the power to withhold their documents and records INDEFINITELY. What's more, the order extends this extraordinary authority to presidential family members, and even vice presidents.

Bush's order was a direct attack on the Presidential Records Act of 1978, a law passed in the wake of Watergate that makes presidential records the property of the American people. The president should not be allowed to permitted to flout open-government laws and lock away his records with a stroke of a pen.

But this is not just about Bush. It's about the records of ALL presidents.

Right now
the Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007, a bipartisan bill to undo the Bush order, is close to becoming a law, but it is being blocked by Senator Jeff Sessions.

Take Action NOW: Contact your senators and ask how they can allow a colleague to block this important bill.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Will the Democratic Party's superdelegates vote the will of the people?

The role of the "superdelegate" in the presidential nomination process of the Democratic Party is under scrutiny, as the remaining two candidates-- Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama-- are in a tight race in this primary election season. Superdelegates are party public officials and party activists that individually vote for their nominee any time up to the party convention when the nominee is officially made.

FairVote's blog takes the position that the will of the people who vote in all of the primaries and caucuses that result in "delegates" should dictate the will of the party's "superdelegates". FairVote, along with other democracy-leaning organizations, have purchased an advertisement to appear this week in USA Today (it's in pdf format-- free Adobe Reader required).

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Citizen's guide to financial state of U.S. government

The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Financial Management Service has released the "Summary Report of the 2007 Financial Report of the United States Government" . This is a citizen's guide to the financial health and prognosis of the federal government. The report is in pdf format (free Adobe Reader required.)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Superdelegate Transparency Project

Congresspedia is leading a project to shine some light on the superdelegate process in the Democratic race for president. Called "Superdelegate Transparency Project", it relies on the contributions of the general public to count delegate totals by district and guage the preferences of superdelegates. You can collaborate with Congresspedia and help reveal the run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Will John McCain have a campaign finance conscience this election season?

Public Campaign posted today that, now that Pres. Bush has recognized John McCain as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, he has forwarded his "list" of big money donors he enjoyed when he was a candidate. This is quite disturbing, as we can see the corruption and secrecy from the administration that is inherent in exuberant campaign fundraising. George W. Bush put the F in fundraising by encouraging and rewarding the bundling of contributions from politically active companies.

Where has the R gone in reformer for McCain? The following several months of candidacy shall reveal the truth.

Congressional earmark database complete for FY 2008

Taxpayers for Common Sense has completed its database of fiscal year 2008 appropriations bills earmarks.

Congress inserted 12,881 earmarks worth $18.3 billion into this year’s spending bills, $14.8 billion of which were disclosed by lawmakers. This represents a 23 percent cut in total earmarks from the high water mark of 2005, but a smaller cut than the 50 percent reduction House leadership initially set as its goal.

To call your U.S. Rep. or U.S. Senator: 202-224-3121

More than 125 years since the installation of the first telephone in the Capitol, the Capitol switchboard office employs a staff of more than two dozen and handles in excess of 30,000 calls per week. To find your senators' and representative's phone numbers, you may use the searchable online congressional directory or call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202)224-3121 and ask for your senators' and/or representative's office.

Remember that telephone calls are usually taken by a staff member, not the member of Congress. Ask to speak with the aide who handles the issue about which you wish to comment.

After identifying yourself, tell the aide you would like to leave a brief message, such as: "Please tell Senator/Representative (Name) that I support/oppose (S.___/H.R.___)."

You will also want to state reasons for your support or opposition to the bill. Ask for your senators' or representative's position on the bill. You may also request a written response to your telephone call.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Help Common Cause advertise on "Holt" secure election machine bill

Common Cause is asking for financial donations to help them on an advertising run. If you can help them put up a newspaper ad in all nine of a committee members' hometown newspapers concerning an elections-related bill, please help at the link below. Here is their full fundraising letter:

Dear __,

As a strong supporter of Common Cause, you know that when our country's most important issues are on the line, Common Cause is at work.

Help us place online newspaper ads to get the Holt bill moving.

Donate today!
With elections in full swing and dozens of states left in the lurch, without secure voting machines, our democracy's basic values aren't merely "on the line" – they're in the line of fire. And, to make matters worse, the Holt bill, which would secure those voting machines, is locked up in Congress' Committee on House Administration.

Here's the good news: Common Cause already has big plans underway to keep the ball rolling on the Holt bill. With your support, we'll run ads on the Committee members' local newspapers' websites, urging them to bring the Holt bill to a vote, and to secure our elections once and for all.

Help Common Cause launch nine online newspaper ads with a donation today!

Unfortunately, right now we only have the resources to run the ad in one local newspaper – the hometown paper of Rep. Brady, the Chairman of the House Administration Committee. But, the fact is, in order to turn up the heat on Congress and get the Holt bill to a vote, we've got to run ads online in all nine of the Committee members' newspapers.

That's why your immediate support is critical. Only with your help can we launch all of the ads we need to keep up the pressure and ensure that Congress does not dilly dally in voting on this critical legislation.

Help Common Cause launch all nine online newspaper ads with a donation today!

It's plain to see that a wave of change is sweeping over our country. We cannot allow that wave of change to stop short simply because of voting machine errors that could have been prevented had Congress passed the Holt bill.

David, I hope it's as clear to you as it is to me: with this being a big change election year, if we want an election process we can trust – and I know you do – we must act together, and we must act now.

Thanks for all you do,

Bob Edgar
Common Cause

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ask your local, state and federal candidates where they stand on open government

Sunshine Week, which is March 16-22, has begun compiling an unprecedented Web database that will chronicle the positions of candidates running for president and Congress on issues of government openness, access and secrecy.

Sunshine Week Campaign database planned

From David Westphal, and Pat Yack, co-chairs of ASNE's Freedom of Information Committee:

Sunshine Week has begun compiling an unprecedented Web database that will chronicle the positions of candidates running for president and Congress on issues of government openness, access and secrecy. We're calling this the Sunshine Campaign.

Our aim is a one-of-a-kind repository that will inform voters on where candidates stand, and will serve as a touchstone for measuring the winning candidates' performance in office.

We need your help in asking candidates their views on Freedom of Information issues. Many of you will have the chance, over the next 14 months, to grill candidates in editorial board meetings, debates, town-hall meetings and on-the-road reporting. We'd like to suggest that these are golden opportunities to ask what we think are among the most important questions of the campaign.

We've put together a list of questions we hope will get to as many candidates as possible, but we encourage you to formulate your own as well. We also hope you'll take this model and apply it to candidates at the state and local level.

We know there's never enough time to ask all the questions that need to be asked, but access to government information lies at the heart of our democracy. At a time when world events have prompted strong pleas from some to expand secrecy in government, it is fundamental to the public interest to know where the candidates stand — just as we need to know their views on war and peace, jobs and the economy.

Getting candidates to address openness issues is the big challenge. But we ask your help as well in getting their answers to Sunshine Week Coordinator Debra Gersh Hernandez, who will compile this searchable database. Simply e-mail transcripts or clips — from your reporting or from others' that you spot — to Deb at

Visit for more of the story.

Freedom of Information Day is March 17, 2008

Sponsored by the Program on Law and Government's Collaboration on Government Secrecy ("GCS")

March 17, 2008: 9 am - 4 pm (registration at 8:30 am)

American University Washington College of Law
4801 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Room 603, Washington, DC
In the United States, "Freedom of Information Day" is celebrated annually on March 16 (James Madison's birthday) or proximate business day, at the beginning of what is now known as "Sunshine Week." This program is the first annual celebration of Freedom of Information Day by WCL's [Washington College of Law] new Collaboration on Government Secrecy ("CGS"), and this year it helps launch the "Sunshine Week" (March 17-21) of related activities by media and public interest groups. Panels of leading experts will discuss major issues of current importance to the openness-in-government community.

Sunshine Week is March 16- 22, 2008

As Judicial Watch says, open government is honest government. The American citizen, through the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act), has rights to request information, except homeland security-sensitive info, from the federal government; all states have laws regulating public information requests, too. has myriad materials for use free during Sunshine Week, March 16-22, by any participant. Some resources are themed specifically to the Sunshine Campaign initiative. Others are the general Sunshine Week items offered each year, such as editorial cartoons, logos and opinion columns.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Tell your U.S. Representative to restore intent of 2007 Ethics bill

Public Citizen has an email your representative campaign concerning the recent U.S. House ethics committee's guidelines on convention parties. These lobbyist-paid "honor" parties for lawmakers have given undue influence on those representatives when they return to the Capitol to vote. The 2007 Ethics bill corrected this, but recently the House ethics committee ruled against the intent of this new law. If you agree, please contact your U.S. Representative and tell them to have the House use the Senate ethics committee's correct banning of these convention parties. Thank you.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sound science should overrule high powered lobbying

Our legislators in Washington have increasingly over recent years taken stock on the ill-educated lobby industry over sound scientific advise. Clearly, there is a campaign finance element behind this, as this is a corruption of the decision-making process for our Congress and President. Below is a letter I wrote to my U.S. Representative on the topic and corn ethanol, as an blind alternative energy issue drive in Washington:

Dear Representative Neugebauer,
I understand the federal government is still moving forward on the scientific fallacy that ethanol is an improvement on our environment. Quite the opposite! The subsidies from Congress has encouraged a replacement of the food of corn and raised it's price and the entire food chain corn gives! Also, the subsidies encourage a plowing away of land around the world to land cover that is much worse for the climate than what was already there! Please, let's consider more effective alternative fuels before the high-powered lobbyists once again take the place of sound science.
Thanks in advance, David Weller

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Twelve steps to restore checks and balances: a report on presidential powers and the Constitution

The Brennan Center for Justice has released a new report by Aziz Huq, entitled "Twelve Steps to Restore Checks and Balances". You can download the report here.

Executive Privilege. Extraordinary Rendition. Torture Memos and other secret legal opinions. Warrantless wiretapping. Indefinite detention. Suspension of habeas corpus. America's system of checks and balances is eroding, upsetting the delicate balance of power set forth in the Constitution. Twelve Steps to Restore Checks and Balances proposes specific reforms designed to keep the nation secure and free, as the Constitution's Framers intended.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Upcoming third party lawsuits for better ballot access and other easings of restrictions

Richard Winger's Ballot Access News reports several state third party court cases coming up in the next couple of months by COFOE (Coalition for Free & Open Elections). Third parties have historically had difficult hurdles in most states in gaining access to general election day ballots for their respective candidates, one among a myriad of other hardships. Of course, most states in the union include legislators, and judiciary, almost exclusively from both the Republican and Democratic parties.

Several lawsuits against repressive ballot access laws are likely to be filed in February and March, some of them with financial support from COFOE, others not. They include a lawsuit to be filed against the Ohio law that bans circulators for independent candidates unless the circulators are registered voters in Ohio; a lawsuit against Illinois law on the number of signatures for unqualified parties and independent candidates for US House; a similar lawsuit for independent candidates for US House in North Carolina; a similar lawsuit for independent candidates for US House in Alabama; a lawsuit against New Hampshire’s refusal to permit presidential substitution; and a lawsuit against the new March petition deadline for independent candidates (for office other than president) in Montana.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Democracy Day is June 5th

On June 5 in Minneapolis (MN), FairVote is joining with Common Cause, Public Campaign and Liberty Tree to host Democracy Day - a gathering in the spirit of last November's Claim Democracy conference and a lead-in to Free Press's huge media reform conference taking place that weekend. Visit as details develop.

Tentative Schedule:
  • Plenaries by Leading Experts in the Pro-Democracy Movement
  • Workshops on Topics Ranging from voter protection, structural electoral reforms, and democracy focused movement building
  • Democracy Film Festival Featuring Why Democracy? Film Series

Check your state for electoral reform bills in legislation

FairVote has "Roadmap for Reform - 2007", a page of bills introduced in the states in 2007 on electoral reform. Many of these bills are still in the legislative process, so check out your own state to see how your state is doing; then, call on your state representative and state senator to make your own opinions heard.

Introducing Democracy SoS Project, from FairVote

FairVote now has a watchdog group for Secretaries of State (SoS) for all of the states, called "Democracy SoS Project". A Secretary of State is an state executive office responsible for the state's electoral system, regulating political parties, candidates, county voting administrators and voters.

FairVote is launching the Democracy SoS Project. With a number of coalition partners, FairVote will survey Secretary of State (SoS) candidates and act as a watchdog for incumbents. Putting more sunshine on the influential office of SoS will promote transparency in election administration and encourage office-seekers to share their views on issues ranging from photo identification requirements to maintaining complete and accurate voter rolls.
Through research, education and outreach to these officials and their actions, we will spotlight ways to improve elections in the short-term and over the long-term in every state. For more information, visit or contact Right to Vote Director Adam Fogel (

Attorney General Mukasey will not enforce contempt charges against executive branch officials from Congress

TPMmuckraker blog has an update on Attorney General Mukasey's interview before the Senate Judiciary Committee today. On the issue of whether he would enforce a charge of contempt by Congress against executive branch officials who deny subpoenas, he said "no". This is clearly against his charge of office. In controversy after controversy from the Bush administration, the executive branch has been siding on obfuscation, denial, rejection, lies and contempt when it has been asked for further information from Congress.

Perhaps Senator Robert Wexler's intent to call for impeachment hearings against Vice President Cheney is due to, as he says, "these abuses of executive power and the fact that the White House still refuses to provide any answers whatsoever to subpoenas."

U.S. Department of Justice fails for 15 years to administer used car database for public

Public Citizen has announced that they and two other consumer groups are sueing the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for failing to administer a database of defective vehicles. The lawsuit asks the court to find the DOJ in violation of a 1992 law for not having established the database or even the regulations setting it up. The suits ask the court to order the DOJ to issue the regulations within 30 days of finding the agency in violation.

Under the 1992 law, junk and salvage yard operators are required to file monthly reports to the database operator. Each report is supposed to contain a list of the vehicle identification numbers of all junk and salvage vehicles obtained during the previous month. The law also requires insurance companies to file similar reports. But the DOJ has yet to establish regulations that would tell insurance companies and junk and salvage yards how to report their information.

Hundred of thousands of ballots mired in problems from LA county's Feb. 5th presidential primaries

The BRAD BLOG has a thorough recounting of what happened to many Independent voters in LA county in their February 5th presidential primaries. If you are interested in who wins the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, you will want to read the entire post to bring you up to date on the counting of hundreds of thousands of ballots-- LA county's problems may make the difference in delegate counts between candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Stay tuned to the BRAD BLOG for honest reporting of this democratic crisis.

Attorney General Mukasey: USDOJ Office of Legal Council pardons lawbreakers in advance

TPMmuckraker reports the ongoing struggle between the U.S. Department of Justice and Congress. New Attorney General Michael Mukasey is defending the Justice Dept's. Office of Legal Council, even if it's opinions may breach actual law.
The Justice Department will not investigate whether CIA agents engaged in torture by waterboarding detainees, Attorney General Michael Mukasey said earlier. Ditto goes for the administration's warrantless wiretapping program, Mukasey added later, when asked by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) whether he would appoint a special counsel to investigate. The question came after Mukasey had baldly asserted that it was not a "practical view" that the president could order someone to act outside the law. Nadler wanted to know if the president hadn't done just that with his warrantless wiretapping program, which had ignored the constraints of FISA. Well, Mukasey said, the President had ordered that on the advice of the Justice Department that it was lawful. So, just as he will not initiate an investigation of waterboarding since the DoJ had given its OK, he will also not investigate whether the warrantless wiretapping was lawful, since it was legal, because the DoJ said it was ("there are views on both sides of that" he acknowledged). Mukasey also went back to correct his statement during last week's hearing that he "didn't know" if the President had ordered the warrantless wiretapping outside the law. Silly me, he said, of course it was legal -- it was authorized by the DoJ.
Now you know why Jack Goldsmith, the former chief of the DoJ's Office of Legal Counsel, said that OLC has the power to issue “free get-out-of jail cards,” or "advance pardons" with its opinions.

Nation's top public health agency blocks critical study on Great Lakes region

The Center for Public Integrity has uncovered a federal agency-suppressed report on a high public safety risk for people living in the U.S. and Canada Great Lakes region. "For more than seven months, the nation’s top public health agency has blocked the publication of an exhaustive federal study of environmental hazards in the eight Great Lakes states, reportedly because it contains such potentially “alarming information” as evidence of elevated infant mortality and cancer rates." [emphasis mine].

U.S. Department of Defense contracts with faulty helmet manufacturer for more helmets!

CREW posts on its blog that a sub-standard military helmet manufacturer is nevertheless being contracted for yet more helmets by the U.S. Department of Defense!

6 Feb 2008 // Today, in light of evidence that a company has been outfitting our nation's troops with substandard Kevlar helmets, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) sent a letter to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees requesting an investigation into a Department of Defense $74 million contract awarded to Sioux Manufacturing.

The New York Times reported that Sioux Manufacturing, which makes Kevlar helmets, has agreed to pay $2 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that the company had shortchanged the armor in up to 2.2 million helmets for the military, including helmets used by American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Department of Defense, aware of both the problem with Sioux's helmets and the company's efforts to cover it up, awarded another contract to Sioux a mere 12 days before the lawsuit was settled.

It has astounded me for years the level of incompetence and, frankly, immorality this administration has subjected its own troops, and veterans, to in the face of two ongoing wars.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Audio clip on helping make election work more accurate

The BRAD BLOG has a very informative audio clip-- an interview with Tom Herman of about how the general public can help see that the polling place during election day is effective and their ballot counting is accurate. Listen to the clip and get inspired to volunteer for a democratic process the is the best in the world. It's 14 minutes long.

Hard choices for the federal budget as long-term difficulties approach

The Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to balanced federal budgets and generationally responsible fiscal policy, states in its latest press release that President Bush's 2009 Budget Proposal is not realistic for the short or long term. Although he is planning to create a surplus in the federal budget in 2012, he assumes several factors that are likely not to happen:

1. A revenue windfall from the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)

2. A sudden drop in new funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (from nearly $200 billion in 2008 to zero in 2010)

3. Substantial programmed cuts in Medicare physician payments, and

4. Annual reductions in non-security appropriations beyond 2009

In addition to "pay-as-you-go", the Concord Coalition in this press release offers a couple of other things that can be done in a bi-partisan matter immediately to ease budget concerns.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

A video about Project Vote Smart-- a leader in candidate information

Project Vote Smart has been a leading supplier of information on state and federal candidates for years. They offer many primary resources to help you make an honest decision at the polling place. To give you more info about this marvel of political volunteerism, this nonprofit, nonpartisan organization in the Montana rockies has made a video; it is over 9 minutes long.

Ask your candidates to take the Political Courage Test at Project Vote Smart

Project Vote Smart releases a "Political Courage Test" every election season for all state and congressional candidates. There has been a decline in usage, as many candidates are afraid that it will restrict their campaign message and open themselves up for opposition research. This test covers a wide variety of issues for the voter to study and compare candidates with; it has been created, designed, and drafted by more than 200 of the nation’s most prominent journalists, political scientists, and leaders of the major and third political parties.

Project Vote Smart released the 2008 Illinois and Maryland Political Courage Test results today showing that only seven percent of the Illinois’ primary candidates for State Legislature and fifteen percent of the state’s primary candidates for Congress were willing to answer questions on the issues that are of top concern to Illinois voters, such as questions regarding hate crime legislation, the employment of undocumented immigrants, the possible constitutional convention, the death penalty, access to health care and the licensing of gun possession. Maryland candidates were slightly more willing to give voters information about their positions on issues that are critical to voters. Twenty-six percent of candidates for Congress were willing to give voters this information.

Richard Kimball, Project Vote Smart’s President, said that national response rates for federal and state candidates have fallen dramatically over the last three elections.

The Political Courage Test asks all candidates one central question: “Are you willing to tell citizens your positions on the issues you will most likely face on their behalf?” It is conducted nationally over the last 12 months of each election season. Illinois legislative and Congressional candidates were contacted repeatedly over three weeks and asked by prominent leaders of both major parties and by Project staff, if they were willing to provide their issue inclinations in the public interest.

Candidates advancing to the general election will have the opportunity to respond to the test again, when tested later this year.

Elderly and disabled voters are guaranteed access to a polling place

The federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently gave testimony to the U.S. Senate's Special Committee on Aging on the current accessibility of polling stations for the aging and disabled. Page 5 of the pdf manuscript (free Adobe Reader required):

The proportion of older people in the United States who may face challenges exercising the right to vote is growing. As of 2003, there were almost 36 million individuals aged 65 or older (12 percent of the population), and the majority have at least one chronic health condition. By 2030, those aged 65 and over will grow to more than 20 percent of the population. Disability increases with age, and studies have shown that with every 10 years after reaching the age of 65, the risk of losing mobility doubles.7 In many ways, lack of mobility and other types of impairments can diminish seniors’ ability to vote without some assistance or accommodation. With increased age, seniors will become more limited in their ability to get to polling places by driving, walking, or using public transportation. Once seniors arrive at the polling places, they may face additional challenges, depending on the availability of accessible parking areas, accessibility of polling places, type and complexity of the voting equipment, availability of alternative voting methods (such as absentee voting), and the availability of voting assistance or aids.
Responsibility for holding elections and ensuring voter access primarily rests with state and local governments. Each state sets the requirements for conducting local, state, and federal elections within the state. For example, states regulate such aspects of elections as ballot access, absentee voting requirements, establishment of voting places, provision of election day workers, and counting and certifying the vote. The states, in turn have typically delegated responsibility for administering and funding state election systems to the thousands of local election jurisdictions—more than 10,000 nationwide—creating even more variability among our nation’s election systems.
Although state and local governments are responsible for running elections, Congress has authority to affect the administration of elections. Federal laws have been enacted in several major areas of the voting process, including several that are designed to help ensure that voting is accessible for the elderly and people with disabilities. Most importantly, the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act (VAEHA), enacted in 1984, requires that political subdivisions responsible for conducting elections assure that all polling places for federal elections are accessible to elderly voters and voters with disabilities (with limited exceptions). Any elderly voter or voter with a disability assigned to an inaccessible polling place, upon his or her advance request, must be assigned to an accessible polling place or be provided with an alternative means for casting a ballot on the day of the election.

Presidential candidates raise money from foreign lobbyists

The Center of Investigative Reporting has issued an alert on a project it has produced in cooperation with

Lobbyists for foreign governments raise money, get meetings
By Will Evans and Avni Patel February 1, 2008

Top fundraisers for the presidential campaigns of Democrat Hillary Clinton and
Republican John McCain lobby on behalf of foreign governments, and in some
cases, helped their clients gain access to the senators, according to a CIR and investigation.

>> Read the story and see source documents:

>> A CIR web exclusive chart follows the money: WEB OF INFLUENCE