Saturday, February 28, 2009

Pres. Obama's Third Commerce Secretary Nominee Has Corrupt Ties to Chinagate


{{w|Gary Locke (politician)|Gary Locke}}Gary Locke. Image via Wikipedia

Government reform orgs. deliver news on major events within their areas of expertise.
From:
Judicial Watch

February 27, 2009

This is all starting to get a little ridiculous. Obama's first pick for Commerce Secretary, Bill Richardson, had to withdraw his name when it was discovered that he was the subject of a federal grand jury investigation concerning influence peddling. Obama's second choice, New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg, first accepted and then rejected the nomination, citing irreconcilable policy differences (which included Gregg's objecting to the politicization of the Census by the Obama White House).

Next up: Former Washington Democratic Governor Gary Locke. So is the third time the charm for the president? Or, as columnist Michelle Malkin put it, "Is it possible for Barack Obama to pick a Commerce Secretary nominee who'll actually make it past first base?"

Locke may in the end get the votes he needs but he is a horrible choice for such a sensitive post. Allow me explain.

Remember the Chinagate scandal, where the Clintons and the Democratic National Committee raised gobs of cash from communist Chinese operatives? (This is perhaps the worst fundraising scandal in U.S. history, and Judicial Watch was one of the first to get on top of it. Check out the first three related lawsuits listed on this page.)

Well, the Clinton Chinagate scheme had a focus in the Clinton Commerce Department. One of the key figures in Chinagate is none other than former Clinton Commerce official and DNC fundraiser John Huang. You may recall, when deposed by Judicial Watch in its Chinagate litigation, Huang took the fifth more than 2,000 times in connection to the scheme, although he did eventually plead guilty to violations of campaign finance laws.

In the midst of violating all those campaign finance laws in the 1990s, Huang also found time to raise money for another key Democratic rising star, Gary Locke.

Huang personally stroked a $1,000 check for Locke and also co-sponsored fundraising events that netted $30,000 in 1996 alone.

Of course, when criticized for his connections to Huang, Locke quickly yanked out the race card. (Liberals always seem to have the "race card" handy in their breast pocket, don't they?)

In 1999, Locke told a group of Asian American journalists that the Chinagate scandal will have a negative impact on Asian Americans seeking top-level appointments in the U.S. Government. "If they have any connection to John Huang," Locke lamented, "those individuals will face greater scrutiny and their lives will be completely opened up and examined - perhaps more than usual."

We can only hope.

There is little doubt that there was a plan by the Chinese Communist government to influence our politics with campaign cash. The Clintons were happy to play along. And it looks like Gary Locke may have been, too.

Michelle Malkin has done some excellent reporting on the Locke-Chinagate connections, much of the work produced while Michelle was working for the Seattle Times in the 1990s. Click here to read her posts.

The Locke appointment is par for the course for Barack Obama, who admitted recently he "screwed up" on some of his previous picks. The last thing we need is a Commerce Secretary with ties to a foreign fundraising scheme that actually took place at the Commerce Department not too long ago.


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President Obama must do more to lower the nation's deficits during his stay in office


White HouseThe White House. Image by Fabio Gava via Flickr

Government reform orgs. deliver news on major events within their areas of expertise.
From:
Taxpayers for Common Sense

Volume XIV No. 9 - February 27, 2009


In his address to Congress, President Obama pledged to cut the annual budget deficit in half by the end of his term. The problem is, this goal would keep deficit levels higher than the record deficits we have seen over the last eight years.

The bottom line is we have to do better. The largest budget deficit during the Bush presidency was $454 billion in 2008. At the time, that was a record. Everyone knows that record will be smashed to bits with the deficit estimated (pdf) to exceed $1.7 trillion in 2009. Right on the heels of that is a predicted deficit of $1.2 trillion in 2010.

We understand the argument that the country is in a deep recession, committing unprecedented funds to a bailout of the financial system and to stimulate the economy, so there is a need to carry large deficits in the short term. But, the budget the Administration released predicts the economic recovery starting in 2010, thus deficit reductions should and can be more aggressive before the end of the Presidential term in 2013.

[more...]


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Friday, February 27, 2009

This year's Sunshine Week, on March 15-21, 2009, will be celebrated across America


Government reform orgs. deliver news on major events within their areas of expertise.
From:
Sunshine Week

Sunshine Week 2009: March 15-21


What is Sunshine Week?

Sunshine Week is a national initiative to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include print, broadcast and online news media, civic groups, libraries, non-profits, schools and others interested in the public's right to know.

Sunshine Week is led by the American Society of Newspaper Editors and is funded primarily by a challenge grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation of Miami.

Though spearheaded by journalists, Sunshine Week is about the public's right to know what its government is doing, and why. Sunshine Week seeks to enlighten and empower people to play an active role in their government at all levels, and to give them access to information that makes their lives better and their communities stronger.

Sunshine Week is a non-partisan initiative whose supporters are conservative, liberal and everything in between.



Govt. Info is Focus for SW09 Survey

Published: January 27, 2009
Last Updated: January 27, 2009

Contact:
Debra Gersh Hernandez
Coordinator, Sunshine Week
dghernandez@asne.org
703-807-2100

For Immediate Release: Jan. 27, 2009

Nationwide Snapshot of Government Records Online
Is Focus for Sunshine Week Transparency Project



Washington — Sunshine Week's government transparency project for 2009 is enlisting journalists, educators and students, openness advocates and others to develop a snapshot of public records that states make available on their Web sites. The information collected will be distilled into a nationwide report released for Sunshine Week, which runs March 15-21.

In parallel efforts, participants also are examining local government Web sites and reporting on the records available there, and national journalism and open government groups are surveying particular federal records online. These additional reports will be posted alongside the main report on the Sunshine Week Web site.

The surveys are being coordinated by Sunshine Week, the American Society of Newspaper Editors' Freedom of Information Committee, the National Freedom of Information Coalition and the Society of Professional Journalists' FOI Committee. Sunshine Week is a non-partisan open government initiative led by ASNE, with print, online and broadcast media; public officials; civic groups and non-profit organizations; public and special libraries; educators and students; religious leaders; and others. It is primarily funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

"Online access to public records is the next battleground for Freedom of Information advocates," said Andy Alexander, co-chair of ASNE's FOI Committee. "The results of this groundbreaking survey, which will be showcased during Sunshine Week, will provide the first comprehensive assessment of the extent to which citizens can access public records through their state government's Web site.

[...]

Sunshine Week 2009 Calendar of Events

Not listed? Send a link or details to dghernandez@asne.org.


ARIZONA

Wednesday, March 18:

The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University hosts the state attorney general, along with other local legal and media professionals discussing access to public records, 7-8:30 p.m. at The First Amendment Forum. More info.


FLORIDA

Monday, March 9:

Gov. Charlie Crist (R) will begin notifying student winners of Florida's 2009 Sunshine Week essay contest. Students in grades 9-12 are invited to submit 500-word essays describing "the various public records available under Florida’s open government laws and how access to these records strengthens citizens’ civil rights and liberties." In addition to scholarship prizes of $3,500, $2,000 and $1,500, all winners will be invited to a reception at the governor's mansion. More info.


MICHIGAN

Thursday, March 12:

The Michigan Press Association Sunshine Week 2009 Kickoff Event, 9-10:30 a.m., Michigan State Capitol Building, Lansing. Panel discussion features Detroit Free Press editor and reporters discussing their coverage of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. More info.


MINNESOTA

Monday, March 16:

Minnesota News Council Freedom of Information Day and Award Ceremony, 1-2 p.m., Pohlad Auditorium, Minneapolis Central Library. Keynote speaker is Rick Kupchella, reporter and anchor, KARE-11. John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award will be presented to citizen lobbyist Rich Neumeister. Sponsored by the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information with support from advocates for open government. The event is free and open to the public. More info.


MISSOURI

Thursday, March 12:

The Missouri Sunshine Coalition holds a reception and program to introduce the new group to interested individuals and organizations. The reception opens the event at 2 p.m. at the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri. Program speakers will include the state's attorney general and FOI experts. The event is free and open to the public. More info.


NEW YORK

Thursday, March 12:

Main Street newspaper hosts a talk by Robert Freeman, executive director of the state's Committee on Open Government at 7 p.m. at the Greenwich Free Library. Freeman will be joined by local residents discussing their experiences with open government laws. The event is free and open to the public. More info.


NORTH CAROLINA

Wednesday, March 18:

The Sunshine Center of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition will observe "Sunshine Day" with a workshop at the Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte. Panels will look at systems to access government e-mail messages, using new state legislation on salary disclosures and other open government issues. The event is open to the public. Registration, which includes lunch, is $30, or $15 for students. More info.


OHIO

Wednesday, March 18:

ACLU Ohio, Ohio Citizen Action, Ohio Coalition for Open Government and Ohio Newspaper Association host "Sunshine Week 2009: Your Right to Know, 3 p.m., Columbus Metro Library Auditorium. Panelists will discuss Ohio's Sunshine Laws and how they are used to monitor government actions. The event is free and open to the public. More info.


WASHINGTON, D.C.

Friday, March 13:

First Amendment Center 11th Annual FOI Day Conference, " Freedom and Information: Looking Back and Looking Forward,", 8:30 a.m.-12 p.m., Knight Conference Center at the Newseum. Panelists will review transparency in the Bush administration and look ahead to what's expected from the Obama White House. The FOI Day conference is presented in conjunction with Sunshine Week, the American Library Association and OpenTheGovernment.org. There is no charge to attend, but space is limited and reservations are required. More info.

Monday, March 16:

American University Washington College of Law, Collaboration on Government Secrecy Second Annual FOI Day Celebration, 8:45 a.m.-5 p.m., American University Washington College of Law. Keynote speaker and recipient of the Robert Vaughn FOIA Legend Award is Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). Panel topics include: an analysis of national security classification, bailout transparency, e-government and digital records management, pseudo-secrecy and an assessment of the Obama administration. CLE accreditation is available. The event is free, but registration is required. More info.

Wednesday, March 18:

The National Press Club offers a Sunshine Week tutorial on using the federal Freedom of Information Act and state FOIA laws, 10-11:30 a.m. in the library classroom. Space is limited to 24 people. More info.

Friday, March 20:

OpenTheGovernment.org, "Opening Doors: Finding the Keys to Open Government," 1:00pm- 2:30pm, Center for American Progress and via webcast to host sites around the country. Panelists will discuss implementation of President Obama's transparency memoranda, as well as innovative ways to make government information useful online. Remote sites are encouraged to hold panel discussions in conjunction with the webcast. Co-sponsors of the event include American Association of Law Libraries, American Library Association, Association of Research Libraries, American Library Association, Center for American Progress, League of Women Voters, National Freedom of Information Coalition, OpenTheGovernment.org, Public Citizen, Special Libraries Association, Sunshine Week, and the Sunlight Foundation. More info.



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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Vote for 2008 Porker of the Year


Government reform orgs. deliver news on major events within their areas of expertise.
From:
Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW)


And the Nominees are:

Sen. Christopher Dodd

Rep. John Mica

Rep. Jim Moran

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid

Sen. Ted Stevens


Please visit CAGW and cast your vote now! Thank you


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Entertaining story on using major campaign contributors for social activism


A typical Senate deskA typical Senate desk. Image via Wikipedia.

Government reform orgs. deliver news on major events within their areas of expertise.
From: Change the Web

February 26th, 2009
Topic: Using Facebook.com for Social Change

[Below is a snippet of a conversation via Meebo.com, in text chat format. It is an entertaining story of how one nonprofit and it's activist members lobbied a US Senator to favor passing a piece of legislation. Special thanks to Ivan Boothe of Rootwork.og for sharing his story.. Enjoy!]

12:14 Ivan Boothe, Rootwork.org So my first experience using Facebook in that way was in 2005

12:14 Ivan Boothe, Rootwork.org The Genocide Intervention Network was just getting off the ground

12:15 Ivan Boothe, Rootwork.org Our network of activists was trying to move a particular bill on Darfur through Congress. We knew we had the votes in the full Senate, but one particular senator was holding it up in committee

12:15 Ivan Boothe, Rootwork.org So we used Facebook to identify Darfur activists in that senator's home state

12:16 Ivan Boothe, Rootwork.org Then, we gave them all a training on how to use the website OpenSecrets.org, which lists publicly available campaign contribution information

12:16 Ivan Boothe, Rootwork.org And we had them contact that senator's highest donors

12:16 Ivan Boothe, Rootwork.org And ask *them* to contact the senator and request that the Darfur bill be moved through the committee

12:17 Ivan Boothe, Rootwork.org We had a few dozen students participate, and while it's hard to measure reliably, two weeks later the senator did indeed move the bill, after several months of not doing anything

12:17 JoeSolomon That's an amazing story!

12:17 @keka_marzagao wow, amazing Ivan!

12:17 Ivan Boothe, Rootwork.org The bill ultimately passed and became the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act

12:17 Ivan Boothe, Rootwork.org I've got more stories, but I'll leave it there for now

12:17 bethP Sounds like you successfully mobilized a community of supporters using the Facebook platform in a relatively short amount of time.

12:17 bethP Thanks Ivan



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Voting rights reform among workshops to be held at youth Powershift 2009 Conference


Government reform orgs. deliver news on major events within their areas of expertise.
From: Black Box Voting and Election Defense Alliance

Black Box Voting teaching youth activists how to do voting rights reform

[...]
Ten thousand young, politically motivated and organized voters are descending on Washington D.C. this weekend.

Bev Harris of Black Box Voting, and Nancy Tobi of Election Defense Alliance are co-producing the important election rights segment at the youth-based PowerShift 2009 Conference #powershift09, with a hands-on workshop titled "Citizens Gone Wild: Taking Control of Our elections". Here are highlights from an interview by Joan Brunwasser about this, with the full article currently headlined at OpEdNews.com - http://www.opednews.com/articles/Nancy-Tobi-On-her-way-to-by-Joan-Brunwasser-090225-434.html

OpEdNews: "What do you and your team hope to accomplish at PowerShift 2009?"

Tobi: "We will energize the next generation of election integrity activists so that we can propel the movement forward and keep up the fight to take control of our elections. The youth environmental movement is composed of the children of the information age and they show it. They are smart, organized, and very savvy. They were the force that put climate change and green economy on the agenda during the last two presidential elections, and they are the force that got out the youth vote in record numbers to sweep Obama into the White House.

...

"During Election 2008 Black Box Voting and Election Defense Alliance joined forces with the youth environmental voting movement to launch "Protect the Count". This was an election night action designed to bring citizen oversight into the polling places to oversee the vote count.

"The leaders of the youth environmental movement impressed me immediately with their quick understanding of election integrity issues that many "gray haired ponytails" in the election integrity movement are still arguing about. Many "old-timers" in the current election integrity movement are still wasting a lot of time trying to play DC politics, trying to pass legislation like the Holt Bill."

(See Brad Friedman's feature on Bev Harris and Black Box Voting's stance opposing the Holt Bill: http://www.bradblog.com/?p=6943 )

Tobi: "The younger generation understands, almost intuitively it seems, the value of standing for your principles to gain what you really want rather than compromising in order to gain questionable "wins" at any cost.

"The new generation understands, for instance, the myth of clean coal as easily as they can understand the myth of verified voting. "Clean coal" is sold as a compromise to enable industry to continue practices - such as strip mining and burning fossil fuels - that are fundamentally destructive to the environment. "Verified voting" is sold as a compromise to enable industry to continue practices - such as replacing election night public vote counting with post-election spot checks of secret computerized vote counts - that are fundamentally destructive to democracy.

"When I worked with them on Election 2008 Protect the Count, the youth organizers understood immediately that the most important thing was to get out there to the polls and practice citizen oversight on the elections. They understood immediately that citizen oversight is probably the most important of the founding principles of our nation and many of our state constitutions. They had no problem understanding that this is the highest priority we have in regaining control over our elections. And they suffered no delay in getting out there to protect the count! In New Hampshire alone, I had people coming in to protect the count from San Francisco, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Germany!"

OpEdNews: "What else do you want our readers to know?"

Tobi: "I think it is telling that the youth movement gave themselves the moniker "Power Vote" and now "Power Shift." They know their power, they used their power in their vote, and now they intend to weild their power.

"Power is a beautiful metaphor for this amazing new generation...This is the kind of movement that gets things done, and it is exactly the movement that America needs now."
[...]


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Give your most-wanted federal documents request


Government reform orgs. deliver news on major events within their areas of expertise.
From: Show Us The Data


Is the federal government putting the information you need online? Are there categories of unclassified documents or data that you know exist–on paper or in government computers and databases–that would be of value to the public if posted and regularly updated on an agency's Web site? If so, then help Open The Government and the Center for Democracy and Technology identify the 10 Most Wanted Government Documents, Reports or Data Sets that should be available on the Web. Use this site to tell us what data you want and who has it, (“Request a Document”) or add your vote (up to three times) to the suggestions others have made.

The deadline to submit documents and vote is March 9, 2009.

A final report will be produced recommending documents and data that the federal government should make easier to find and use.


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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

New links module in lefthand sidebar

Government reform orgs. deliver news on major events within their areas of expertise.
From: All Things Reform

Campaigns by Government Reform Orgs.

We are pleased to add a new module to this blog's lefthand sidebar- Campaigns by Government Reform Organizations. It is a list of links to special, ongoing projects from a variety of groups that accept volunteering by the general public; they are often given their own dedicated web site and web server address.

These online campaigns are deemed of sufficient importance that they are treated as stand-alone projects within their respective orgs. Volunteering is continuously requested as the public interest groups manage these projects to their desired conclusions- you may get involved at any time and have an appreciated role in any of the campaigns' tasks.


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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Week's activity from The Concord Coalition Washington Budget Report


Seal of the United States Office of Management...Image via Wikipedia

Government reform orgs. deliver news on major events within their areas of expertise.
From:
Concord Coalition

From The Concord Coalition Washington Budget Report: February 23, 2009

[...]

Completing FY 2009 Appropriations and War Supplemental

This week, the House is expected to vote on an omnibus appropriations bill for the remainder of fiscal year 2009. The bill has been negotiated between House and Senate Democrats and Republicans and will likely not require a House-Senate conference.

Reason for the omnibus bill: Last fall, Congress completed action on only 3 of the 12 regular FY 2009 appropriations bills.

Background -- Last year's FY 2009 appropriations process was one of the worst on record. Only one FY 2009 appropriations bill made it to the House Floor.

There were two reasons for the serious disruption of the regular appropriations process. First,President Bush threatened to veto any appropriations bills that exceeded his requests, and Democrats--as reflected in the Budget Resolution--called for nearly $25 billion more than the President requested. Second, House Republicans attempted to amend appropriations bills with off-shore oil drilling amendments, strongly opposed by many Democrats.

Consequently, in late September, Congress enacted a stopgap measure to keep Federal programs operating. The stopgap measure:

  • included detailed, full-year appropriations measures for the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs (based upon provisions informally negotiated by House and Senate Appropriators); and
  • included stopgap funding through March 6, 2009 for all other departments and agencies of government at FY 2008 levels.

Impending $83 Billion War Supplemental: Bloomberg News reports that the Administration will send to Congress, within the next few weeks, an $83 billion war supplemental for the remainder of FY 2009. This would bring total war spending for the current fiscal year up to $149 billion.

Link to late September Continuing Resolution

President to Release FY 2010 Budget Outline; Bans Gimmicks

Following Tuesday's State of the Union Address, the President will release on Thursday, February 26, 2009 a "budget outline" for FY 2010.

(The President is normally required to transmit the annual budget request to Congress by the first Monday in February; however, this being a presidential transition year, President Obama will transmit a budget "outline" on February 26, 2009, with detailed budget documents to be released by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in late March or April.)

A few details have been made available about the impending 2010 budget outline:

  • In his Saturday radio address, President Obama said he is determined to "get exploding deficits under control" and said his budget request is "sober in its assessments, honest in its accounting, and lays out in detail my strategy for investing in what we need, cutting what we don't, and restoring fiscal discipline."
  • According to the Washington Post, President Obama is aiming to cut projected budget deficits in half over the next four years from $1.1 trillion in FY'10 to $533 billion in FY'13--about 3% of GDP. According to the Post, these projections assume some of the Bush tax cuts (those benefitting high income taxpayers) expire after 2010. (That would mean that for taxpayers with incomes over $250,000, the top rate would jump from 35% to 39.6%; the tax on capital gains would jump from 15% to 20%, and the tax on estates worth more than $3.5 million would be taxed at the currate rate of 45%.) Also, the earnings of hedge fund managers would be taxed as normal income, rather than the lower 15% capital gains rate. According to a senior White House official, the budget will "create running room for health reform," by reducing spending on current health programs--such as subsidies to privately run Medicare programs, known as "Medicare Advantage"--in order to expand coverage for the uninsured.
  • According to Congressional Quarterly, the Pentagon and OMB have agreed on defense spending of $537 billion for FY 2010, excluding war costs. This is $10 billion more than numbers floated last month, and is about 5% higher than defense funding appropriated for FY 2009.
  • According to the New York Times, President Obama has banned four budget "gimmicks" that were used in recent years to make deficit projections appear smaller:
  1. War spending will be included in the regular budget submission, as opposed to recent practices of funding the war in later "supplemental" bills;
  2. The budget will no longer assume drastic reductions in Medicare payments to physicians that are technically required by a 1997 law, but have never been allowed to take effect.
  3. An effort will be made to appropriately fund disaster accounts at the beginning of the year rather than paying for disasters on a piecemeal basis and declaring the emergency spending to be exempt from budgetary limits.
  4. The budget will not assume higher revenues from letting the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) extend to upper middle income Americans, since Congress has routinely acted to prevent the expanded reach of the AMT.

Stabilizing the Financial, Housing, and Auto Sectors

The Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve are engaged in ongoing efforts to stabilize the financial, housing, and automobile sectors. Following is an update on recent developments:

Homeowner Recovery Plan: President Obama last Wednesday, February 18, 2009, announced a "Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan" to stem the tide of foreclosures and falling home prices. The plan would allow up to 5 million individuals to refinance their mortgages through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and assist 3 million homeowners to modify their monthly payments. Highlights of the plan:

  • Help 4-5 million home owners--suffering from falling home prices--to refinance loans owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
  • Create a $75 billion fund to incentivize lenders to modify the mortgages of at-risk homeowners--bringing monthly payments down to 31 percent of the borrower's income.
  • Steps to keep mortgage rates low for middle class families by strengthening Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac through Treasury purchases of mortgage-backed securities and other steps.

Link to Executive Summary
Link to Fact Sheet
Housing Example Sheet

Q&A

More Assistance for the "Big Three" automakers: GM announced last Tuesday that it would need a $2 billion loan to make it through March; another $2.6 billion in April; and another $12 billion by 2011 (including $7.5 billion in loans and $4.5 billion to pay off credit that comes due).

Chrysler requested another $5 billion in loans, without which the company said it would have to go into liquidation.

These two requests, according to Congressional Quarterly, bring total automaker assistance to $39 billion.

In return for their federal assistance, GM and Chrysler were required to submit comprehensive viability plans for administration review. If the plans fail to show significant progress, Treasury can recall the loans. Those plans are now under review by an Presidental Task Force on Autos chaired by Treasury Secretary Geithner and National Economic Council Director Summers.

Financial Stability Plan: On Tuesday, February 10, 2009 Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner released the outlines of a sweeping Financial Stability Plan. Early responses by the markets and analysts have been luke warm with many expressing concern about the sparse details.

Highlights of the plan:

  • Treasury would operate a Capital Assistance Program (CAP) to serve as "bridge funds" for relatively healthy banks until they can access private capital markets. Treasury's assets in the banks would be placed in a new Financial Stability Trust.
  • Treasury, in partnership with FDIC and the Fed, would create a Public-Private Investment Fund of $500 billion - $1 trillion to purchase troubled assets.
  • Treasury, in partnership with the Fed, would create a Consumer & Business Lending Initiative of up to $1 trillion to boost the secondary market for purchase of auto, small business, credit card, and other consumer and business loans.
  • In cooperation with FDIC, Treasury would establish a Housing Support and Foreclosure Prevention initiative for purchase of mortgage-backed securities (up to $600 billion), and a facility to reduce monthly mortgage payments ($50 billion).
  • In cooperation with SBA, Treasury would establish a Small Business and Community Bank Lending Initiative to boost the secondary market for SBA loans, as well as increase the federal guarantee of (and reduce fees associated with) such loans.
  • Require greater transparency, accountability, and conditionality for firms receiving extraordinary assistance.

Link to Treasury Fact Sheet

Stimulus Bill Signed into Law

On February 17, 2009, the President signed into law the economic stimulus bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (PL 111-5).

The previous week, the House passed the measure on a 246-183 (without any Republican votes) and passed the Senate by the narrowest of margins 60-38 (with 3 Republican votes). 60 votes were needed in the Senate to waive a budgetary objection to the bill.

According to estimates by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the bill's spending and tax provisions will cost $185 billion over the remainder of 2009, $399 billion in 2010, $134 billion in 2011, and $787 billion over fiscal years 2009-2019. Approximately 3/4 of the bill's spending and tax cuts will occur by the end of FY 2010 -- the target the Administration had been aiming for.

In a letter analyzing the likely economic effects of the stimulus bill, CBO estimated that "in the short run the stimulus legislation would raise GDP and increase employment by adding to aggregate demand and thereby boosting the utilization of labor and capital that would otherwise be unused because the economy is in recession. Most of the budgetary effects...would occur over the next few years, and as those effects diminished the short-run impact on the economy would fade....In contrast to its near-term macroeconomic effects, the legislation wold reduce output slightly in the long run...."

Following are links to bill summaries, CBO and JCT estimates, bill text, and report language.

Final Stimulus Bill: Detailed Summary of Appropriations Provisions

Final Stimulus Bill: Summary of Tax, Health, and Entitlement Provisions

Final Stimulus Bill: CBO Estimates

Final Stimulus Bill: CBO Economic Analysis

Final Stimulus Bill: JCT Tax Cut Estimates

Final Stimulus Bill: Legislative Text of Spending Provisions

Final Stimulus Bill: Legislative Text of Tax, Unemployment, Health, and State Fiscal Relief Provisions

Final Stimulus Bill: Joint Explanatory Statement (Report Language) on Spending Provisions

Final Stimulus Bill: Joint Explanatory Statement (Report Language) on Tax Unemployment, Health and State Fiscal Relief Provisions

[...]



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Monday, February 23, 2009

Please reply to this quick online survey

USC Annenberg School for CommunicationImage by annaberthold via Flickr

Government reform orgs. deliver news on major events within their areas of expertise.
From: USC Annenberg School of Communication

Online Charitable Giving Survey

As part of my [Diane Faure] Master's thesis at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication, I am conducting a study on the role played by nonprofit organizations' websites in establishing a relationship with their online donors. [...]

If you have made an online donation to any kind of nonprofit organizations, then I would really appreciate it if you took my survey (see link below). All responses are anonymous, and the survey takes only 4-6 minutes to complete!

http://usc.qualtrics.com/SE?SID=SV_3CR4Qf8cZTzUhXS&SVID=Prod

[Thank you for your valuable time.]


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Friday, February 20, 2009

Please share this ad for bipartisan efforts for our nation's financial condition


Government reform orgs. deliver news on major events within their areas of expertise.
From:
Peter G. Peterson Foundation

Just the Tip of the Iceberg...

The Peter G. Peterson Foundation's new ad campaign explains our current federal burden — now up to $56.4 trillion, or $483,000 per U.S. household — and calls on Congress to make bipartisan efforts to address the nation's deteriorating financial condition.


Posted using ShareThis


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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Please support independent federal finance watchdog Taxpayers for Common Sense


Government reform orgs. deliver news on major events within their areas of expertise.
From: Taxpayers for Common Sense

[TCS has been an integral watchdog of our federal government's fiscal activities. The below letter from them reminds us of how critical they are during this time of economic crisis. If you can, please financially support this independent taxpayer's friend in bringing to light these momentous days in Washington. Thank you.]

about : contact : TCS home : donate

Dear Fellow Taxpayer,

The price tag for the government's response to the economic crisis keeps growing.

As you've probably heard, the $787 billion stimulus was signed into law on Tuesday. This afternoon a $75 billion Homeowner Stability Initiative was unveiled by the Obama Administration. GM and Chrysler are back in Washington asking for $22 billion more in taxpayer help. And we're still looking for details on the Treasury's plans for the second half of the $700 billion bank bailout program.

The need for an independent, experienced, fiercely dedicated budget watchdog is growing by-the-minute.

If you have not done so yet, and can support our work, please consider making a donation today.

Donate Here

We need your support to hold the federal government, state agencies, and government contractors accountable for the billions being directed from Washington. Many people have asked me what role TCS can play in bringing oversight and transparency to the spending of our tax dollars? With a new administration vowing to be more transparent and www.recovery.gov on-line, what does TCS add?

Well, we add a lot:

  • 100% Independence

    We take no money from political parties, the government, corporations, or labor unions. The only person we work for is you, the taxpayer. We don't pull punches out of fear of upcoming elections, Wall Street's reaction, or having our budget cut by some political boss. Non-partisan, objective, and speaking the truth—whether you are going to like what you hear or not.

  • Experience

    We've been down this road before. Our budget specialists have plumbed the depths of the federal budget for years. We have an intimate knowledge of dozens of waste-prone programs and agencies (post-Katrina FEMA contracts, the Army Corps of Engineers, Iraq contracting, etc.) and have seen nearly every trick in the legislative book.

  • Unmatched Commitment

    My staff has been called a lot of things: hard-working, efficient, dogged, even scrappy…and that's just by our allies. But one thing we've never been called: lazy. Nearly every day someone fires-up their computer before dawn. The oil in our office burns well past midnight. And weekends—they're a great time for kids' soccer matches and made-from-scratch pancakes, as well as earmark databasing and catching-up on archived C-Span hearings.

For fourteen years, TCS has been a crucial voice for taxpayers on Capitol Hill. We have exposed the big spenders and fought for greater transparency. In the midst of a financial crisis and an unprecedented federal response, taxpayers need a strong and independent voice in Washington now more than ever.

Please help strengthen the voice of taxpayers in Washington and support our work today.

Sincerely,

Ryan Alexander signature

Ms. Ryan Alexander
President

P.S. We depend on the support of people like you. Please make a donation in support of our work today. And to stay on top of breaking news concerning the management of your tax dollars, visit us at www.taxpayer.net.

Make a Donation Today: DONATE


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Sunday, February 15, 2009

"Privatizing Democracy: Promoting Election Integrity Through Procurement Contracts"


Government reform orgs. deliver news on major events within their areas of expertise.
From:
Jennifer Nou

Forthcoming in the Yale Law Journal is an article titled "Privatizing Democracy: Promoting Election Integrity Through Procurement Contracts," about voting machine reform. It is authored by Jennifer Nou. A copy of it is available here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1340817.

Abstract
Voting machine failures continue to plague American elections. These failures have fueled the growing sense that private machine manufacturers must be held accountable. This Note argues that, because legitimacy externalities and resource disparities across election jurisdictions pose persistent threats to electoral integrity, meaningful accountability will require greater federal oversight. This oversight must take into account the unique nature of the public-private partnership that defines this nation's system of election administration. This Note thus proposes an amendment to the Help America Vote Act of 2002, which would condition federal funds on state procurement contracts. These procurement contracts would mandate performance-based requirements for vendors to supply the means with which to verify votes cast. Such contracts should not only have third-party beneficiary enforcement mechanisms, but also override the doctrine of trade secrecy invoked by manufacturers to prevent software disclosure.


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Thursday, February 12, 2009

ES&S Voting Machines is threatening maintenance contracts with local election officials

CHICAGO - OCTOBER 16:  Robert J. Thomsovic use...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Government reform orgs. deliver news on major events within their areas of expertise.
From: Black Box Voting


If your state uses ES&S voting machines, this is a public education message to keep you informed about important public policy issues.

Wisconsin citizen John Washburn has obtained public records showing that Election Systems & Software, citing murky needs to alter hardware on all computerized voting systems (M100 scanners, AutoMARK, Unity servers, iVotronics), has failed to gain federal approval and therefore failed to gain state approval, so it is threatening its maintenance contracts with local election officials.

This is equivalent to your car dealer warning you that unless you let them make an adjustment to your car that makes it violate your state's emissions laws, they will punish you by charging you extra on a maintenance agreement you've already paid for, or refuse to service your car.

As Washburn correctly points out, it is difficult to imagine any part common to all these systems. We don't know what ES&S wants to change, but we do know that if election officials allow this, a private company will gain inside access to voting machines to add, delete, or switch something, without really telling us what they are doing. [...]

We cannot have democratic elections when private companies run elections on secret software and information is hidden from the public. The core problem is Freedom of Information and -- once achieved in elections, the core solution must always involve individual citizen vigilance, just as the founders of this nation intended. [...]


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Two reports on the George W. Bush legacy and our regulatory system


Presidency of George W.Presidency of George W. Bush.

Government reform orgs. deliver news on major events within their areas of expertise.
From:
OMB Watch


OMB Watch has released two reports looking back at the damage done to the regulatory system by the Bush Administration in the last eight years.

The Bush Legacy, crafted by freelance writer and author Osha Gray Davidson, shows that attacks on a variety of common-sense regulations over the past eight years have taken a great toll on the United States and uses clear examples to document a wide range of activities, much of which occurred behind the scenes, away from the eyes of all but the most observant members of the press and the public. The report a pointed assessment of the Bush administration's regulatory record and a call for the incoming Obama administration, the 111th Congress, and the American people to craft workable, effective solutions that will reinvigorate our struggling economy, safeguard our nation's natural beauty, and protect every American's health and safety.

After Midnight, co-authored by OMB Watch and Center for American Progress, dissects the varied impacts of problematic regulations that the Bush administration rushed out in its final months. Many of these "midnight" regulations actually represent deregulatory actions that weaken or eliminate safeguards protecting health, safety, the environment, and the public's general welfare. The Obama administration and new Congress are now faced with the question of how to respond to the Bush administration's midnight regulation, especially the difficult problem of Final rules. Executive branch agencies must conduct an entirely new rulemaking—the legal process by which regulations are made—which often consumes significant time and resources. Congress also can intervene to block or undo midnight regulation. The last option for dealing with midnight regulation is the courts; lawsuits are likely to challenge many of the Bush administration's midnight regulations.

As the Obama administration reverses Bush policies, it also must move forward with a positive regulatory agenda that recognizes a fundamental responsibility to protect the public's health, safety, and general welfare. This will require open and honest assessment of risks, vigorous monitoring and enforcement, and new regulatory protections where there are gaps or where existing protections are not strong enough.

The last eight years have left much work to be done, and OMB Watch will continue to work for a more just and democratic society, one in which an open, responsive government protects people’s health, safety, and well-being, safeguards the environment, honors the public’s right to information, values an engaged and effective citizenry, and adequately invests in the common good.


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Friday, February 06, 2009

Tell your US Senators 'NO' on the economic stimulus


Government reform orgs. deliver news on major events within their areas of expertise.
From:
National Taxpayers Union

Join in the stimulus fight! It's not too late!

NTU worked hard during the fall of 2008 to stop a $50 billion "stimulus" package. We were outraged that the House's legislative scheme gave priority to projects that "can award contracts based on bids within 120 days of enactment." In other cases, it favored "those activities that are labor intensive." Speed and make-work shouldn't be the primary drivers of how taxpayer dollars are spent. Thankfully, enough Senators agreed with us to defeat the plan.

Taxpayers are now facing a spending spree of a far greater magnitude. President Barack Obama, along with Congressional Democrats, want to bail out state governments and dump money into questionable infrastructure projects with the hope that the economy will somehow respond.

But keep in mind that bloated government budgets don't make economies soar. They certainly didn't work here in the 1970s, the last time Washington tried spending its way out of a slump. It hasn't worked in Japan either, where they've poured huge sums into public works projects over past decades, helping to boost their national debt level to 150 percent of Gross Domestic Product -- the highest in the industrialized world. Japanese citizens are still waiting for the boom.

The reason for these failures is simple -- pumping money into the inefficient public sector means taking it out of the private sector through taxes or borrowing, which can reduce or stall growth overall.

Many state and city governments, some of whom are experiencing deficits of their own making, are also looking for a bailout via a "stimulus" bill. On the whole, state outlays have grown 124 percent over where they were 10 years ago, and debt has increased by 95 percent. Clearly, some states and localities allowed themselves to be caught up in the borrow-and-spend mania. Now that the economy has soured, they want Uncle Sugar to finance their habits. This just isn't fair to taxpayers.

The better way to jump-start the economy and keep it going is through tax relief. How about locking into place the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts that are set to expire after 2010? If families can count on current tax rates, many will be more comfortable investing today instead of fearing the tax man's bigger bite in 2011. Or what about allowing full and immediate expensing for small businesses? This would encourage firms to invest in the assets such as equipment and real estate that could help expand and invigorate operations.

Pro-growth tax policy can best lay the groundwork for a sustainable economic expansion -- one that will provide the solid foundation for tomorrow's tax revenues.
Action Alert

Outraged taxpayers across the country are calling their Senators and asking them to vote "NO" on the "stimulus" hoax.

In fact, many NTU supporters have told us they get a busy signal or a full voicemail box after placing a call to their Senators.

You can still be heard by sending your Senators an e-mail message today.

Time is running out, as the Senate is trying to cram this awful bill through today.

E-mail your Senators right now -- it will only take a moment!

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