Saturday, July 26, 2008

124 donation bundlers for Bush's campaign are now bundling for McCain

Republican presidential nominee Senator John M...Image via Wikipedia
From Public Campaign Action Fund blog:

Back for More

Submitted by Katie Schlieper on Wed, 07/23/2008


Research done by Public Campaign Action Fund's Campaign Money Watch project has revealed that though the candidates in this year's presidential race may be different than in years past, the big donors sure aren't -- at least when it comes to the migration of President Bush's best bundlers to the donor rolls of Sen. John McCain's campaign. One hundred and twenty-four bundlers for Bush's campaign are now bundling for McCain, and have brought in just shy of $26 million.

This is how the big money game works in Washington -- access to wealth gives the same people the same privileged access to the most powerful lawmakers. And we get the same policies that put the interests of this select group ahead of the interests of the rest of us. [...]


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Defense Contract Auditing Agency found without independence from its contractors

Seal of the United States Government Accountab...Image via Wikipedia
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From Taxpayers for Common Sense

GAO: Defense Contract Audit Agency Bends to Contractor Pressure

[...] A GAO investigation released Wednesday revealed that the Defense Department organization responsible for auditing contracts with the private sector is severely compromised. The investigation of 14 audits by the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) found that “contractor officials and the DOD contracting community improperly influenced the audit scope, conclusions, and opinions of some audits—a serious independence issue.” [...]
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Bill introduced to make Smithsonian Institution adhere to FOIA


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From Taxpayers for Common Sense

Open the Doors to Congress

[...] Just recently, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) co-sponsored a bill [S.3276] with Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) that would subject another government entity, the Smithsonian Institution, to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). We think it is about time.

[...] In the 1990s, court rulings held that the Smithsonian’s status as a “trust” put it outside the scope of FOIA. Considering that in fiscal year 2008 taxpayers provided the Smithsonian with $871 million, the public should be able to peek at their records and documents to better understand where our money is going. So it is high time that the “nation’s attic” be brought under the law.

[...] So while we support Sen. Grassley’s efforts to open up the Smithsonian, why stop there? There’s more work to be done to open up the people’s house and make Congress a paragon of transparency.

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Tell your two US Senators NO to the "Coburn Omnibus" bill

Official portrait of Tom Coburn, U.S. Senator.Image via Wikipedia
National Taxpayers Union (NTU) is asking us to tell our US Senators NO to the "Coburn Omnibus" bill. Formally titled "Advancing America's Priorities Act" (S.3297), it is a bundle of a great number of new government programs and more earmarks-- it contains wasteful spending, and doesn't address today's most pressing issues, such as war and energy. Also, this bill is not scheduled for debate or amendment.

According to US Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), a staunch defender of taxpayers and eight-time winner of NTU's Taxpayers' Friend Award, this bill would ram through more than $11 billion in spending and create at least 34 new programs without any debate or amendment.

Take action now, by going to NTU's campaign web page, editing the sample letter if possible and sending it off. Or, if you prefer, please call your two US Senators' Washington offices at 202-224-3121 (not toll-free) and tell their staff that you oppose the "Coburn Omnibus" bill. NTU Campaign Expiration Date: August 22, 2008. Thank you

We will be following this legislation, so stay tuned for this bill's outcome in the Twitter timeline.

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McCain ahead of Obama in campaign cash


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From Campaign Finance Institute
http://bit.ly/15seWP

Obama’s Small Contributions Surged in June, but McCain's Party-Based Strategy Gave the GOP Side a Combined Cash Advantage on June 30

[...] The combined June 30 cash on hand surplus for the Republican party and its presumptive nominee came to $95.5 million, compared to $62.0 million for the Democrats. In addition, McCain related joint fundraising committees had $9.7 million cash on hand destined to be split between McCain’s accounts, the RNC, and various state party committees. Obama related joint fundraising committees had $15.8 million cash on hand to be split between Obama’s campaign and the DNC. Obama’s new joint fundraising committee with state parties was formed after June 30th.

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Response to Crystal Ball: anybody's ball game


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From Crystal Ball, University of Virginia
http://bit.ly/3qKIxR

RESPONSE: ANYBODY'S BALL GAME
By James E. Campbell, Guest Columnist

[...] While this could be to Obama's favor, the general historical pattern is for the actual vote margin to be closer than what the polls indicate. Add to this the fact that the polls of registered voters normally under-report Republican votes (since the socio-demographics of registered Republicans leads them to turn out at higher rates than registered Democrats) and have at times over-reported support for African American candidates (Wilder in Virginia, Bradley in California). For whatever the polls are worth at this point, the fact that the July polls indicate only a narrow lead for Obama over McCain would seem to mesh well with the historical patterns noted above. In short, there are good reasons to anticipate another "hotly contested election that is essentially up for grabs."

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Crystal Ball says Obama the likely winner this general election


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From Crystal Ball, Univ. of Virginia
http://bit.ly/3OgaoY

THE MYTH OF A TOSS-UP ELECTION
By Alan Abramowitz, Thomas E. Mann, and Larry J. Sabato

[...] It is no exaggeration to say that the political environment this year is one of the worst for a party in the White House in the past sixty years. You have to go all the way back to 1952 to find an election involving the combination of an unpopular president, an unpopular war, and an economy teetering on the brink of recession. 1952 was also the last time the party in power wasn't represented by either the incumbent president or the incumbent vice-president. But the fact that Democrat Harry Truman wasn't on the ballot didn't stop Republican Dwight Eisenhower from inflicting a crushing defeat on Truman's would-be successor, Adlai Stevenson.

Barack Obama is not a national hero like Dwight Eisenhower, and George Bush is no Harry Truman. But if history is any guide, and absent a dramatic change in election fundamentals or an utter collapse of the Obama candidacy, John McCain is likely to suffer the same fate as Adlai Stevenson.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Administrative Conference of the United States expected to get reauthorized


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From OMB Watch
http://bit.ly/33Fywb

Congress Votes to Reauthorize Administrative Conference of the United States

The House voted July 14 to reauthorize the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) by accepting an earlier Senate-passed bill. The bill now moves to the White House, where President Bush is expected to sign the legislation. ACUS was a small government agency, abolished in 1995, that advised Congress on reforms to administrative and regulatory processes and saved the government millions of dollars over its life. [...]

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EPA has been devaluing human life when it prepares cost-benefit analyses for new regulations


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From OMB Watch
http://bit.ly/3TGyt

Life's Value Shrinks at EPA

An Associated Press (AP) investigation released July 10 showed that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been devaluing human life when it prepares cost-benefit analyses for new regulations. Federal agencies such as EPA use the life value, an inaccurate statistic, to help them determine whether a proposal's benefits will outweigh compliance costs to industry. [...]

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Electronic Communications Preservation Act targets executive branch agencies


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From OMB Watch
http://bit.ly/1qWaaS

House Decides Saving E-mails is a Good Thing

The White House has threatened to veto an already weak bill targeted at preserving electronic records, despite legal action and recommendations from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the need for such accountability. On July 9, the House passed the Electronic Communications Preservation Act (H.R. 5811) by a veto-proof margin of 286-137. While targeted at the White House, this legislation will have an impact throughout executive branch agencies. [...]

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Bush administration continues its strong efforts to censor climate change information


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From OMB Watch
http://bit.ly/4ARfQz

White House Climate Change Policy -- Delay, Delete, and Deny

The Bush administration continues its strong efforts to censor climate change information that reaches the public and Congress. Recent reports indicate that the White House pressured the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to make changes to its regulatory process regarding climate change and that Vice President Dick Cheney's office was responsible for suppressing key sections of the congressional testimony of a high-level official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). [...]

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

New Mexico passed one of this nation's most restrictive voter registration laws


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From Brennan Center for Justice
http://bit.ly/3OSNjA

Friends,

I wanted to keep you all in the loop regarding an important filing we made this morning. The Brennan Center brought a lawsuit against the state of New Mexico. We did this because the state passed one of the most restrictive voter registration laws in the country, one with such severe penalties that it threatened to shut down voter registration drives and disproportionately block minorities from voting in the 2008 election.

You can find the press release and filing here.

And a link to the mention on Politico here.

This is just one clear example of why our country needs universal voter registration: to make democracy work better and to ensure political operatives can't shut eligible citizens out of the process.

Please help us spread the word. If you have friends in New Mexico, let them know we're working on their behalf. Forward this email. Ask them to sign up for our Voter Registration Action Network -- they should understand what's at stake -- and help us with this push to make voter registration a key part of our national agenda. We'll need people on the ground, in the state, ready to reach out to bloggers and pen letters to newspapers -- we won't be able to do it alone.

Here is the link for our Voter Registration Action Network.

Thank you for passing this along. Remember, if laws keeping people from the polls can be passed there, they can happen anywhere.

Sincerely,

signature

Thaddeus Kromelis

Brennan Center for Justice | Web, Communications & Strategy


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First Board of the new Office of Congressional Ethics appointed


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From Democracy 21
http://bit.ly/1VCzOi

Democracy 21 Press Release
July 24, 2008
Statement of Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer on Appointments Made Today by Speaker Pelosi and Republican Leader Boehner to the Board of the New Office of Congressional Ethics

Democracy 21 is very pleased that Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Leader John Boehner today appointed the Board of the new Office of Congressional Ethics, which begins the process of activating the Office.

With this action, the stage is now set for the new Office to be fully operational by January 1, 2009 and it is essential that the new Board take all appropriate steps to ensure that this occurs. [...]

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Safety recalls increased 22% over last year


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From Public Citizen
http://bit.ly/4DaDPU

Wednesday 23 July 2008
CPSC Data Show Safety Recalls Increased 22% Over Last Year Leading Consumer Groups Urge Congress To Enact Strong Reforms Before Recess

The number of recalls of toys and children's products is up 22% over the first half of last year, despite industry promises last year to solve the problems that made 2007 the "year of the recall," according to an analysis of Consumer Product Safety Commission data by the nation's leading consumer groups. The groups urged Congress to complete a "strong CPSC Reform Act" before the August recess.

READ the release.

LEARN more.


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Outside groups likely to influence electorate late in presidential election season


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From Democracy 21
http://bit.ly/4Eq2hb

Top donors slice gifts to political groups since '04
By Matt Kelley and Fredreka Schouten of USA Today
July 22, 2008

[...] "Despite some of the candidates throwing cold water on outside groups, there is no way they can stop them," says campaign-finance lawyer Kenneth Gross. "This can happen and will likely happen late in the game."

Some help in other ways. Three of the six top GOP donors are raising money for McCain. None of the top six Democrats is an Obama fundraiser.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bills passed/ costs during week ending July 20, 2008


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From WashingtonWatch.com
http://www.washingtonwatch.com/

P.L. 110-273
The District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority Independence Preservation Act

P.L. 110-274
To amend the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 to clarify the authority of the Secretary of the Army to provide reimbursement for travel expenses incurred by members of the Committee on Levee Safety

P.L. 110-275
The Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008
Costs $24.90 per family

P.L. 110-277
The American Veterans Disabled for Life Commemorative Coin
Costs $0.06 per family

P.L. 110-278
The Children's Gasoline Burn Prevention Act
Costs $0.01 per family

P.L. 110-279
A bill to provide for certain Federal employee benefits to be continued for certain employees of the Senate Restaurants after operations of the Senate Restaurants are contracted to be performed by a private business concern, and for other purposes


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Air Force brass and troops are worlds of class apart


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From POGO.org
http://bit.ly/4tDSkb

July 21, 2008
The Brass and Troops are Worlds of Class Apart
Contact Nick Schwellenbach or Marthena Cowart, 202-347-1122

Washington, D.C. - While elements of the Air Force brass were bickering about color coordination for their new comfort capsules, troops have sat for hours on long flights in mangled seats and on netting inside cargo aircraft, POGO has learned. Last Friday, POGO revealed that numerous Air Force generals wasted time and taxpayer dollars on frivolous changes for new “world class” accommodations for themselves while they fly on cargo aircraft. [...]

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13 ballot problems that bedevil elections across the country


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From Common Dreams
http://bit.ly/1J047F

Bad Ballot Design Results in Staggering Numbers of Lost Votes
Thousands of Voters Disenfranchised in Recent Elections, Particularly Elderly, Low-Income & New Voters
Brennan Center Study Shows 13 Ballot Problems that Bedevil Elections Across the Country –
Voting Experts Offer Guidelines For Improved Ballot Design in time for ‘08 Election

NEW YORK - July 21 - Today voting technology experts at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law released an extensive analysis of election ballots from across the country that shows that hundreds of thousands of voters were disenfranchised in recent elections as a result of badly designed ballots and confusing voting instructions.

Better Ballots, a product of the Center's national Task Force of design and usability experts and election officials, cites 13 frequent problems that continue to plague elections even after the infamous "butterfly ballot" in Florida's Palm Beach which resulted in 30,000 lost votes in the 2000 election.

The report recommends specific guidelines for county, state and federal election officials that will help avoid further voting blunders in 2008—and beyond.

Significantly, the report shows that ballot design problems disenfranchise disproportionate numbers of elderly, low-income and new voters.

"Design flaws resulted in hundreds of thousands of lost votes in recent elections," said Lawrence Norden, Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, "and the same error-causing designs still plague ballots across the country." [...]

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House Ways and Means Cmte, Chairman Charles Rangel soliciting donations from corporations with business interests before his panel


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From Judicial Watch
http://www.judicialwatch.org/

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel is soliciting donations from corporations with business interests before his panel

[...] according to The Washington Post:
"House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel is soliciting donations from corporations with business interests before his panel, hoping to raise $30 million for a new academic center that will house his papers when he retires.

"The New York Democrat has penned letters on congressional stationery and has sought meetings to ask for corporate and foundation contributions for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York, a project that caused controversy last year when he won a $1.9 million congressional earmark to help start it. Republican critics dubbed the project Rangel's "Monument to Me."
The powerful New York Congressman also secured grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development totaling $690,000 for the Rangel Center.

If you ask me, all of this sounds very similar to the Clintons' fundraising efforts on behalf of the Clinton Presidential Library, where the Clintons shamelessly traded favors (including presidential pardons) in exchange for donations to the library, which was designed to help secure the "Clinton legacy." (The Bushies may have crossed the line, too.)

And what is Charlie Rangel's response to all of this? He doesn't think he's done anything improper, or at least he's not saying so publicly. In fact, even he is calling for an investigation, saying that he wants to "clear the air." In a display of arrogance even unusual for a politician, Rangel seems to believe that because he believes he is ethical, anything he does is ethical.

Let's hope the ethics committee accepts his challenge.

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US Rep. Charles Rangel rents apartments at bargain rates in own district


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From Campaign Legal Center
http://bit.ly/3KIeAp

The New York Times: Rangel Rents Apartments at Bargain Rates
Jul 11, 2008
By: David Kocieniewski

While aggressive evictions are reducing the number of rent-stabilized apartments in New York, Representative Charles B. Rangel is enjoying four of them, including three adjacent units on the 16th floor overlooking Upper Manhattan in a building owned by one of New York's premier real estate developers.

Mr. Rangel, the powerful Democrat who is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, uses his fourth apartment, six floors below, as a campaign office, despite state and city regulations that require rent-stabilized apartments to be used as a primary residence.

Mr. Rangel, who has a net worth of $566,000 to $1.2 million, according to Congressional disclosure records, paid a total rent of $3,894 monthly in 2007 for the four apartments at Lenox Terrace, a 1,700-unit luxury development of six towers, with doormen, that is described in real estate publications as Harlem's most prestigious address.

The current market-rate rent for similar apartments in Mr. Rangel's building would total $7,465 to $8,125 a month, according to the Web site of the owner, the Olnick Organization. [...]


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Reform groups call on candidates to avoid lobbyist fundraisers at upcoming party conventions


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From Campaign Legal Center
http://bit.ly/4bb0er

The Star Ledger: It's Party Time in DC
Jul 19, 2008

[...] Under the ethics code adopted in January 2007, House members could no longer attend parties thrown in their honor by lobbyists during the national party conventions. Such lavish parties were supposedly intended to recognize a member for his or her accomplishments. The honorees undoubtedly thought they were worth it.

In reality, the parties were lucrative fundraisers. And, of course, the House member would always remember who had been so thoughtful - and generous.

The we-won't-do-that-anymore policy was clearly enunciated 18 months ago and repeated a year ago when Democrats were proudly wearing the white hats belonging to ethics reformers. But as this summer's political conventions approach, those hats have gotten a lot grayer.

The House ethics police say the ban applies to parties thrown for individual members. It doesn't extend to parties for a group of House members. That's quite a loophole.

A bunch of good government groups - Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, Public Citizen, U.S. PIRG and Campaign Legal Center - are urging politicians to do the right thing. We wish them good luck with that one. [...]

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76 Congress members publish their earmark requests


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From Taxpayers for Common Sense
http://bit.ly/2BA1jU

TCS, Allies and Taxpayers Find 76 Lawmakers Publish Earmark Requests

[...] TCS, working with the Sunlight Foundation, Citizens Against Government Waste, and taxpayers across the country, found 76 lawmakers that disclose all of their requests on the internet. An additional 46 decline earmarks entirely. That brings the transparency total to 112 out of 535 members of Congress.

You can see a list of who is disclosing. The problem with keeping requests in the shadows is it inflates the number of requests to be dealt with, since a request doesn't cost anything. And it prevents earlier accountability and oversight. TCS encourages constituents to ask their lawmakers to come clean about where they are asking to spend your tax dollars.


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FY 2009 Labor-HHS earmarks from senators up 37% over last year


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From Taxpayers for Common Sense
http://bit.ly/h8p6v

Cost of Senate Labor-HHS Earmarks Increase by 37%

The FY 2009 Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill contains 934 earmarks for a total cost of more than $690 million (click here for the database). The number of projects is down slightly from the FY08 Senate total of 941 projects, whereas the cost of the earmarks has increased 37% from $501 million. But the numbers are comparable to the House passed version of the legislation. [...]

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Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may receive from Congress more than financial help


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From Taxpayers for Common Sense
http://bit.ly/Pohc4

Fannie and Freddie should downsize and be overseen by the Federal Reserve

[...] No matter what happens [to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac financial troubles] – even if a bailout is avoided – strong strings must be attached [by Congress]. Fannie and Freddie are going to have to shrink and they are going to have to be overseen by the Federal Reserve. In writing the bailout package, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee said that he was “determined to do this early but more determined to go it right.” We sure hope so.
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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A redistricting reform proposal


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From Campaign Legal Center
http://bit.ly/41Lvti

Posted July 18, 2008 by J. Gerald Hebert and Susan Gershon
A Shadow Sheds Light on Redistricting

It is clear to anyone who is paying attention that the American redistricting system is in need of reform. The districts which make up the building blocks of representative democracy are nearly always designed by politicians whose jobs (both current and future) and political power are determined by the way the lines are drawn. Already political strategists and party leaders are talking openly about the need for the major parties to capture state legislatures and governors' mansions in 2010, so that their party would be in the best position to manipulate the redistricting which will follow the decennial census. Where politicians are unable to draw districts which decidedly skew the process towards their own party, they generally conspire with politicians on the other side of the aisle to create "safe" districts for both sides such that no incumbent need fear a serious general election challenge.

Just as obvious as the need for reform, however, is the difficulty of achieving it. The foxes guarding this particular henhouse are not eager to give up their posts or their power, and the kind of political pressure necessary to force the issue is difficult to muster. It is even more difficult in a time when war, rising food and gas prices, and a declining economy understandably overshadow the arcane issue of redistricting in the eyes of voters. Voters need to be made aware that redistricting does affect who we elect as our leaders, which in turn shapes our policies as a nation, from the wars we fight to the economic conditions we face.

One intriguing notion, proposed by Yale Law Professor Heather Gerken[1] in an editorial in Legal Times and on the blog Balkanization, offers the potential to take a small step toward better redistricting while simultaneously helping to pave the way for larger steps to come. Professor Gerken suggests the creation of a new body, composed of nonpartisan experts in redistricting, to act as a sort of "shadow" redistricting commission. This body could use its expertise to design districts based on community input and values of competition and fairness instead of incumbent protection and partisan advantage. Such a shadow commission would be easy to create, requiring only publicly available census data, reasonably inexpensive redistricting software, and a group of respected, nonpartisan community members.[...]

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Voluntary Corporate Codes of Conduct may not be meaningful

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From PRWatch.org
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Purposes of Voluntary Codes of Conduct
From "Who Really Benefits from Voluntary Corporate Codes of Conduct?"

The BAT incident [in England] demonstrates how deceptive, and even fraudulent, self-imposed corporate "voluntary codes" of conduct can be. Corporations, and even entire industries, publicly claim that they adopt such codes out of caring and concern for the health and welfare of people and the environment. In reality, these codes confer far greater benefits upon the companies than they do upon the public. Corporations use these codes as a crisis management strategy to stave off government regulation, improve their image, boost their credibility with legislators and regulators, and thus preserve their seat at the table in any regulatory discussions. Voluntary codes also give political cover to legislators who favor industry by giving the legislators something they can point to to calm public demands to rein in harmful corporate behavior.

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Evidence of corporate self-regulation abuse

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From PRWatch.org
http://bit.ly/3nWtSU

Drug Companies Move to Regulate Themselves, Before Anyone Else Does
Source: New York Times, July 10, 2008

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) has announced a ban on giving branded items to doctors. The pens, notepads, mugs and other gifts are ubiquitous in medical offices. Some, like Senator Herb Kohl, think it is a step in the right direction. "We've been pushing to see reforms like this for some time now. Consumers will undoubtedly be the beneficiaries of these industry changes." But the voluntary code does nothing to stem the more egregious ways that drug companies influence doctors, including speaking fees and lavish "educational" events. Kohl has co-sponsored a bill to require drug and medical device companies to publicly disclose payments to doctors of $500 or more, but does not ban them. Industry watchdogs are not convinced. One complained that "It strikes me as an attempt to persuade people against doing anything that's serious." The industry's new policy, the Code on Interactions with Health Care Professionals, "will ask the chief executives of large drug makers to certify in writing that 'they have policies and procedures in place to foster compliance with the code.'" But because it is voluntary, there will be no accountability or regulation. Former U.S. Representative Billy Tauzin now heads PhRMA. Tauzin said, "This updated code fortifies our companies' commitment to ensure their medicines are marketed in a manner that benefits patients and enhances the practice of medicine." CMD staffer Anne Landman recently wrote about the perils of letting industries self-regulate.

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FTC considers dropping its Tar and Nicotine Measuring Method

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FTC Considers Dropping Its Tar and Nicotine Measuring Method
Source: Associated Press/CNN Money.com, July 9, 2008

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is considering stopping use of the "FTC Method" to determine the amounts of tar and nicotine in cigarettes, a test that tobacco companies have touted on cigarette packs for over 40 years and have long used to market "light," "ultralight" and "low tar" cigarettes. The FTC started using the "Cambridge Filter Method" to test for tar and nicotine in 1966, when public health authorities believed that reducing the amount of tar in cigarettes would reduce the risk of lung cancer. In recent years, evidence has proven the test meaningless because it was found that smokers "compensate," or adjust how they smoke, to get the amount of nicotine they need from a cigarette, regardless of nicotine content. Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) have introduced a bill to stop cigarette companies from using the "FTC Method" to measure tar and nicotine. "For years, Big Tobacco has relied on the FTC's flawed testing method to mislead smokers into thinking these ['light' and 'low tar'] cigarettes deliver less tar and nicotine...In reality, some so-called 'light' and 'low tar' cigarettes can actually be more harmful for smokers," Lautenberg said.

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Former Congressman Weldon instrumental in questionable defense contract

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From PRWatch.org
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A Deal So Good It Could be Illegal
Source: Wired's Danger Room, July 10, 2008

Former Congressman Curt Weldon's employer Defense Solutions got a good deal in Iraq. So good, that "the deal, for decades-old, equipment, included terms so lopsided, they likely would have been illegal under U.S. law." Defense Solutions got a contract with the Iraqi government in 2005 to refurbish obsolete Soviet-era Hungarian tanks. While U.S. law would dictate that the company's fee be tied to performance, Defense Solutions' contract not only ensures payment, it also gives them a percentage of the total cost. Even the Pentagon admits that "A cost plus percentage of cost type arrangement would encourage the contractor to experience as much cost as possible to receive a greater amount of fee." The status of the tanks is not known, and the amount paid to Defense Solutions is confidential. The contract was signed on the Iraqi side by Ziad Cattan, who was put in place by the U.S. to oversee Iraq's defense procurement. During his time in Congress, Weldon was on the House Committee on Armed Services and chaired the Military Procurement Subcommittee under Armed Services.

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Drug makers' corrupting influence over mental health doctors

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From PRWatch.org
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Closer Scrutiny for Drug Companies' Impact on Mental Health
Source: New York Times, July 12, 2008

As CMD recently reported, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, have instituted a voluntary, and therefore unenforceable, code to guide drug makers' relationships with doctors. Now, thanks to pressure from Congress, most notably by Senator Charles Grassley, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) needs to respond to concerns about the influence drug company money has on the association and its members. "In 2006, the latest year for which numbers are available, the drug industry accounted for about 30 percent of the association's $62.5 million in financing." There are serious questions about the association's leadership as well. "One of the doctors named by Mr. Grassley is the association's president-elect, Dr. Alan F. Schatzberg of Stanford, whose $4.8 million stock holdings in a drug development company raised the senator's concern." The New York Times analyzed Minnesota data from last year on drug company funding of doctors, finding that "on average, psychiatrists who received at least $5,000 from makers of newer-generation antipsychotic drugs appear to have written three times as many prescriptions to children for the drugs as psychiatrists who received less money or none."

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25 open government advocates support the Electronic Message Preservation Act

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From OpenTheGovernment.org
http://bit.ly/15aYpB

24 Groups Join OpenTheGovernment.org in Support of H.R. 5811, the Electronic Message Preservation Act

OpenTheGovernment.org and 24 groups (including many coalition partners) sent a letter to Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform , Henry Waxman, supporting passage of H.R. 5811, the Electronic Message Preservation Act. The bill directs the Archivist of the United States to establish standards for the capture, management, and preservation of White House e-mails and other electronic communications and to issue regulations requiring agencies to preserve electronic communications in an electronic format. Both the well-publicized White House email scandal and a recently released GAO Report that found agencies are inconsistent in preserving emails highlight the need for the legislation. The House passed the bill by a vote of 236-187; however, the bill still faces a murky future in the Senate and a definite veto threat by the President.

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30 open government advocates endorse the OPEN FOIA Act

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OpenTheGovernment.org and 29 open government advocates endorse S. 2746, the OPEN FOIA Act

Twenty-nine organizations and open government advocates(including several coalition partners) joined OpenTheGovernment.org in writing to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary to endorse S. 2746, the OPEN FOIA Act. The bill will give members of the public and open government advocates the tools they need to find, analyze and challenge FOIA exemptions that are tucked into inconspicuous provisions buried deep in proposed legislation.

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"Government Secrecy: Decisions Without Democracy 2007" report available for purchase

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From OpenTheGovernment.org
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Report on Government Secrecy Now Available for Purchase

Government Secrecy: Decisions Without Democracy 2007-- an update of the 1987 publication is now available for purchase on the OpenTheGovernment.org homepage. In the report, OpenTheGovernment.org and People For the American Way Foundation document executive branch changes that expand power and diminish accountability.

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Academic paper on government transparency released

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From OpenTheGovernment.org
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iSolon.org: New Academic Paper on Government Transparency

Jim Snider of iSolon.org has released an academic paper on government transparency through Harvard's Shorenstein Center. The paper is titled "Would You Ask Turkeys To Mandate Thanksgiving?". The first half of the paper, "The Dismal Politics of Legislative Transparency," examines the extent to which legislators make information about their voting record accessible; the second half, "Using Citizens Assemblies to Reform the Process of Democratic Reform," looks at case studies of from British Columbia and Ontario to evaluate the ability of citizen's assemblies to hold political officials accountable to the public.


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The FISA Amendments Act of 2008 passes

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Passed Items

P.L. 110-261
The FISA Amendments Act of 2008

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Our Political Calendar has been upgraded

Please make note of All Things Reform's new adjunct web site for its Political Calendar. It's at:


A year's advance of all of the same political, government and technology events, conventions and special days are still here, but with several new features:

  • Google Map of actual event locations, often with links to hotels
  • Expanded event descriptions with additional links to event sites/ blogs
  • Leave event comments (it's a public calendar)
  • Share and collaborate entries with friends
  • Attachments capability

Visit our political calendar at its new home, and please let me know of any major events we may be missing by notifying David Weller at poetspirit@gmail.com. Thanks
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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tell your US Rep. YES to inherent contempt for Karl Rove


Common Cause's Recapture the Flag campaign wants us to bring Karl Rove to the witness chair concerning possible politicization at the Department of Justice. Congress has the power and a duty to conduct investigations of possible wrongdoings in the Executive Branch. It's time to stop the stonewalling, and get the bottom of the questions about the firings of U.S. attorneys and other allegations about politicization at the Justice Department.

By voting for inherent contempt, Congress would be ordering the Sergeant-at-Arms to physically bring Rove in to testify. If he still refused, he could be jailed. Urge your Representative to support a vote of inherent contempt against Karl Rove!
Just personalize the sample letter if you desire, and send it off; a copy of your letter will be emailed to you if you prefer. Or, you may, instead, call your US Representative through the Capitol Switchboard; its number (not toll-free) is 202-224-3121. Thank you
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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"Sunlight Transparency," by David Weller

I have sent a 'sunlight' poem to the Sunlight Foundation. In only a few short years, they have been instrumental in many fine government reform projects on the internet. So, I dedicate "The sun" to the hard-working folks at the Sunlight Foundation:


The shine
that lights the whole

The sear
that warms the soul

The star
that sight's the steep

The sun
that charms the deep

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Download free federal government ebooks, other titles, from July 4 to August 4, 2008

From July 4- Aug 4 of each year, many ebook websites collaborate at World eBook Fair website to make available to anyone, for free, all of the ebooks they may want to download to their computer. No obligation. Includes federal government, audio ebooks, mobile ebook downloads, most classics from the beginnings to 1923, plus many more after that permitted by authors. There is an option to subscribe to World Public Library for $8.95/year for additional features; you can join Project Gutenberg, or make a donation.

I personally use the free Microsoft Reader and Adobe Digital Editions software downloads, to read from my desktop computer.

The World eBook Fair's theme this year- its third annual online festival- is "Own Your Own Library"-- start or build your own ebook library today!
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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

"Contact your representative tips" on lefthand column of All Things Reform

Contact your representative tips:

  • Write legibly and use the proper form of address: ** Letters to Senators: your name, address & zip code; Honorable (full name), United States Senate, Washington, DC 20510; Dear Senator (last name): (body of letter) Sincerely yours, ** Letters to Representatives: your name, address & full zip code; Honorable (full name), House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515; Dear (Mr. or Ms.) (last name): (body of letter) Sincerely yours,
  • Write a short letter- be brief, up to one page- try to limit letter to just one issue or bill; attach an editorial or other articles, but only one or two pages if possible
  • Give bill number when possible; explain with reasons why the bill's important to you, their constituent. Be appreciative; you might politely send them another letter after their vote
  • Be courteous, and respect his/her office staff- who read the letters- even if you didn't vote for him. Be constructive, but don't use technical jargon or acronyms; an easy to understand, original letter by a constituent is far more effective than a signed sample letter
  • Write neatly, or use their official website's contact form; thank them for their consideration, and leave your telephone number if you want to be available for questions. An additional phone call and a visit are helpful. You may request a reply in return
  • Be timely- don't send letter months in advance- they might forget; if they vote very soon, call their office or Capitol Switchboard; don't fax- they don't read them; snail mail is safest, but there's a 30-day delay in delivery in Washington DC
  • Call Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 for convenience; number is not toll-free
  • Committee Caller- Call all members of any congressional committee at one time- www.is.gd/HhE
Bless you for your efforts for a better government! Bookmark shortened URL for this post: www.bit.ly/dear

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Say NO to costly and unnecessary nuclear weapons projects

the entrance to the Senate Appropriations Comm...Image via Wikipedia
POGO (Project on Government Oversight) is asking us who are represented by US Senators in the Senate Appropriations Committee, to tell them NO to costly and unnecessary nuclear weapons projects. This week, the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee and the full Senate Appropriations Committee will be marking up the Senate's version of the Energy and Water Appropriations bill.

The US Senate has the opportunity to eliminate three projects worth billions of taxpayer dollars; otherwise, these projects would create unnecessary national security risks and costs. This savings can be made without diminishing the national security mission of the US nuclear weapons complex.

Take action right now on this urgent action alert-- first, please check to see whether either of your two senators are on the Senate Appropriations Committee. If so, then go to POGO's campaign webpage, make any personal changes you might want to the sample letter and fill out the short address form.

If you prefer to call their official senate offices personally and leave this message with their staff, you may call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 (this is not a toll-free call).

Then, tell all your friends about this timely alert. Also, please share this alert with your social networks!

Thank you

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The importance of Election Day

Please, people, reserve your final judgements of all of our candidates until General Election Day. It is not healthy in a democracy to claim victory or trash candidates prematurely, as it corrupts the decision making process of more considerate voters. Take, for example, these blog comments from a July, 2007 Marc Ambinder (Atlantic Monthly) blog post:

Who would want a clueless person like McCain to run the country? Perhaps McCain should ask illegal immigrants to donate money and provide marches to support him.

It is absolutely ironic that in 2004, McCain was identified as the middle-of-the-road, "thinking man's" Republican. Even more so, he was the iconic war hero and the anti-Bush. Four years later he's so closely identified with Bush, he seems like a fawning protege, and he's sinking in his mentor's leaky and rudderless boat. What a political moron he is. Thank god he has no chance of being President, and that both of these incompetent men will be gone from public service in 18 months.

Well, you know the old adage about lipstick and pigs. Truth is that it doesn't matter who puts the lipstick on the pig, or who tells the media about the pig wearing the lipstick, in the end all you have is a pig.

The problem is the candidate, his lack of appeal to the republican party, and a media that has stopped covering him as he "tries" to discover his republican soul.

The formal announcement will come before Xmas that the pig is out.

Poor McCain, He's very wrong on both issues. The war in Iraq and the illegal alien invasion. How can he be so wrong? He's certainly way out of touch with Americans. It's a funeral for his ambitions.

C'mon Mc Cain, drink the kool-aid and give your campaign cash to Fred T. Sooner the better!!

These types of statements prematurely paint candidates still on the campaign trail; and, they have in the past disqualified third party candidates early on, especially those who had serious and unique issue positions.

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