Saturday, June 13, 2009

Changes are being made at All Things Reform- check out the new Political Activist Calendar site now!

Image representing Google Calendar as depicted...Image via CrunchBase

Things are changing here at All Things Reform. Due to the sheer number of events and awards taking place throughout the year, we will devote most of our energies to just the Political Activist Calendar. It's new address is

The Calendar is specifically suited for the average political activist and non-profit. There is a timeliness value of having a Google Calendar constantly updated online; there you will find events and awards for both your political and technology interests. Most entries are national (USA) and international in scope.

Thank you for sharing for the past three years all of the news reports from the world of government reform here at ATR. All Things Reform will remain open for its large residual value in our lists of databases and organizations in the lefhand sidebar. Remember, you can still search the blog post archives, and the Custom Google Search for reform organizations in the sidebar; the comprehensive list of blog post labels (tags) will also stay.

Again, the All Things Reform Political Activist Calendar will be constantly updated; we plan to add information to it over time as the only post on its site. Google Friends and Comments features are already in place in its sidebar to communicate and collaborate with other event goers. Now, join your family, friends and colleagues at the Political Activist Calendar!

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Monday, June 08, 2009

Landmark U.S. Supreme Court case affirms justice recusal from major supporters before their courts

U.S. Supreme Court building.Image via Wikipedia

Government reform orgs. deliver news on major events within their areas of expertise.
Brennan Center for Justice

Press Release – 06/08/09

For Immediate Release: Contact: Jeanine Plant-Chirlin, 212-998-6289, Susan Lehman, 212-998-6318

Picture: U.S. Supreme Court Building, Washington, D.C. USA

Supreme Court Reverses Decision in Caperton v. Massey
In 5 to 4 Vote, Major Victory for the Rule of Law

New York – Today, in a major victory for the rule of law, the Supreme Court issued a decision in the landmark case of Caperton v. Massey, reversing the decision of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals by a 5 to 4 vote.

"There has been an unprecedented flood of money into judicial elections in the states," said Susan Liss, Director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. "And this decision makes clear that campaign contributions must not be permitted to undermine the impartiality of the courts."

"This is a major victory for the rule of law," stated James Sample, Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice. "The Supreme Court has reaffirmed the fundamental principle that money should not influence the courts, and that justice should not be for sale."

This landmark case brought together an unlikely set of allies who supported Caperton in his bid for an impartial tribunal. The strange bedfellows included former state Supreme Court justices, corporations like Wal-Mart and Lockheed Martin, and advocates for fair courts like the Brennan Center for Justice and the Campaign Legal Center.

"The remarkable coalition supporting Caperton's position speaks to the considerable effect the outcome will have on our judicial system—and the widely recognized need to ensure that the courts continue to dispense fair and impartial justice," Liss observed.

In Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., the Supreme Court grappled with the question whether the fundamental right to a fair hearing before a neutral arbiter required disqualification of a judge in a case where one party to litigation had given extraordinary campaign contributions to the judge while the party's case was pending. Against a backdrop of a dramatic rise of special interest spending in judicial elections nationwide, former Solicitor General Theodore Olson argued before the Supreme Court on March 3 that the Constitution's due-process clause required a West Virginia Judge to recuse himself from a lawsuit involving an executive who spent $3 million to elect the judge. Those expenditures, which came at the same time the court was considering the executive's case, were more than all other contributions to the judge's election, combined.

Emphasizing that a "fair trial in a fair tribunal is a basic requirement of due process," the Supreme Court ruled that the constitution required recusal under the circumstances of the case. Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court, and was joined by Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer. Chief Judge Roberts issued a dissenting opinion that was joined by Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito, and Justice Scalia also filed a dissenting opinion.

Background materials on the case, including all the amicus briefs filed, can be found here. The Brennan Center's amicus brief can be found here.

For more information or to set up an interview with James Sample, please contact Jeanine Plant-Chirlin at 212-998-6289 or, Susan Lehman at 212-998-6318 or You can also contact James Sample directly at 406- 690-3947.


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Parties and contributions to congressmember-connected non-profits are unethical legislation influences

WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 26:  Sen. Edward Kenned...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Government reform orgs. deliver news on major events within their areas of expertise.
USA Today

Lobbyists unlimited in honoring lawmakers

By Fredreka Schouten and Paul Overberg, USA TODAY

Picture: U.S. Center Edward Kennedy (D-MA) speaking about healthcare.

WASHINGTON — On a mild evening last September, Citigroup lobbyists mingled with South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn at a rooftop reception — complete with miniature putting greens — as the company hosted a party to honor the third most powerful Democrat in the House and raise money for one of his favorite golf charities.


FAVORITE CAUSES: A sampling of Congress members

MORE: Special-interest money helped pay for lawmakers' portraits

Health insurers and hospitals, meanwhile, are donating millions to help build an institute in Boston to celebrate the career of Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who is attempting to overhaul the nation's health care system.

Despite a ban on gifts to lawmakers and limits on campaign contributions, lobbyists and groups that employ them can spend unlimited money to honor members of Congress or donate to non-profits connected to them or their relatives. The public — until now — had little insight into the scope of this largely hidden world of special-interest influence.

Under ethics rules passed in 2007, lobbyists for the first time last year had to report any payment made for an event or to a group connected to a lawmaker and other top federal officials.

USA TODAY undertook the first comprehensive analysis of the lobbying reports and found 2,759 payments, totaling $35.8 million, were made in 2008. The money went to honor 534 current and former lawmakers, almost 250 other federal officials and more than 100 groups, many of which count lawmakers among their members.

The total cost is roughly equivalent to what the U.S. government spends to operate Yellowstone National Park each year.

Most of the money — about $28 million — went to non-profit groups, some with direct ties to members of Congress. In two cases, USA TODAY found, the donations to non-profits associated with a member of Congress came in response to a personal appeal for funds from the lawmaker.

"It's another example of the many pockets of a politician's coat," says Ellen Miller of the Sunlight Foundation, a watchdog group. The spending amounts to an "end-run" around campaign-finance laws "that are designed to limit the appearance of undue influence," she says.

The money came from companies, trade associations and labor groups that lobby Congress and the government on a range of issues, from seeking a share of last year's $700 billion financial bailout package to trying to shape the debate on climate change.

The donations cover various activities — from a golf tournament that raises money for a lawmaker's non-profit to gifts to the alma mater of a powerful House committee chairman.

"You can still have a gala or something or the other for a charity and earn some favor with members of Congress, which is what the gift ban was put in place to avoid," says Dan Danner, CEO of the National Federation of Independent Business and a veteran Washington lobbyist.

The spending demonstrates the subtle ways that special-interest groups try to sway lawmakers, without making "something as crass as a payoff," says Kenneth Gross, a former Federal Election Commission official.

He credits Congress for mandating the disclosure of the gifts and giving the public another view of the relationships between lobbyists and lawmakers.


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"Accountability," by David Weller

Government debt isn't like, personal... right?

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Democratic Congressional candidate Adriel Hampton is strongly for reform, Government 2.0

I just had the pleasure of interviewing Adriel Hampton- he is running a reform candidacy for the upcoming 2009 Special Election for U.S. Congress, CA-10 (a San Francisco area district). A Democrat, he is presently running a "insurgent campaign"- and it has been close to the people; in addition to government reform issues, he has been working for greater "Gov 2.0". Adriel can be reached at his campaign web site.

ATR: Welcome, and thank you for your valuable time in answering a few questions on your 'reform' candidacy for U.S. Congress, and on your work in social media.

ATR: As you know, All Things Reform follows the latest happenings in the world of government reform (and a bit of poetry!); including 'Government 2.0', what could you bring to Washington on these issues?

Adriel: David, I can say unequivocally that I am the candidate in the CA-10 race who understands the promise of Gov 2.0 for really moving our government and our economy forward. I am running because of my strong concern that our political elite is greatly out of touch with the economic and cultural realities of everyday folks in the San Francisco East Bay, and I believe that reform under the 2.0 rubric is essential to making our government people-focused again. I believe wide-scale tech-based and cultural reforms in government - along with single-payer or public option health care, which I strongly support - will help revolutionize our economy and our politics.

ATR: What current reform legislation in Congress is most important to you and why?

Adriel: Health care reform is the single most important legislation in Congress right now, and we must have a public option in the final product. Guaranteed health care for all will allow the transformation of our economy from one tied to a dying industrial base into an America fueled by small business and innovation (and smooth the transition from autos and heavy infrastructure to a "green" economy). I support HR 676, although I am open to private options in addition to single-payer - anyone who pays their taxes for the national safety net should also be able to deal with specialty insurance if desired. I am also very interested in HR 1207, and support more Congressional oversight of the Federal Reserve.

ATR: I follow your multiple accounts on Twitter right now for your Special Election campaign... how do you use the service, and what other social networking services do you use thus far? Why do you feel they are very important in a congressional campaign for office?

Adriel: In addition to Twitter, I use Facebook and LinkedIn. I have a number of other accounts as well, but mainly as placeholders for the content from Twitter. I was heavily immersed in social networking for community building and activism before the opportunity came to run for an open Congressional seat, and I've tried not to change my style too much. I believe that the openness of social networking, especially the anarchic/democratic nature of Twitter, represents the style of leadership, transparency and collaboration I want to see in government (Rep. John Culberson is a good example of keeping that style, from a conservative viewpoint, while in office). In addition to modeling reform and opening up more as a person, Twitter (and to a lesser extent, Facebook) has helped me to recruit a number of very talented volunteers locally and from around the country, and to have debates on issues in advance of in-the-flesh-life. Social networking has helped me be a better-prepared candidate. And let me just say, zero-cost communications is changing everything.

ATR: It's interesting that you note in your campaign as your being an "insurgent" congressional candidate. You are running as a major party candidate in the Democratic Party; why do you fashion your campaign in this manner? How does your campaign compare to all of your competitors in this and in other respects?

Adriel: If I was the only Democrat in a heavily Democratic district, I certainly would not be the insurgent! However, I am running against a field of well-known professional politicians, including my Lt. Governor, a State Senator, and my Assemblywoman (I was the first to announce my intentions). I am the Democratic candidate who lives in below-market-rate housing (for moderate income families only), is pro-peace, anti-Drug War, pro-EFCA and anti-Taft-Hartley, and I am running my own campaign. All of my opponents, in addition to their careers as Sacramento politicians, are running heavily managed campaigns. I'm about reaching people directly and bringing back "government of the people, by the people, for the people."
Running in a field of professional politicians also makes it difficult to raise money, so I'm asking folks who agree with what I'm trying to do to pitch in $5-20 at ActBlue.

ATR: Thanks again for your interesting, modern campaign's insights. Good luck, and i look forward to following you on Twitter and elsewhere!

Adriel: Thank you!

Adriel Hampton is a journalist, Gov 2.0 and new media strategist, public servant, and licensed private investigator. He is running for U.S. Congress in the 2009 special election for California's 10th District. He has pledged to vote against funding for expansion of the Iraq and Afghan wars.

David Weller
All Things Reform

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Friday, June 05, 2009

"The Environment," by David Weller

oil leaks onto land
roils the royalty owners,
spoiling monthly checks

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

'Good Government' non-profit coalitions watchdog the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

WASHINGTON - JANUARY 28:  U.S. Treasury Secret...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Government reform orgs. deliver news on major events within their areas of expertise.
Coalition for an Accountable Recovery and STAR Coalition

Picture: U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

The Coalition for an Accountable Recovery was formed to promote accountability policies for both government agencies and companies that contract with or benefit from recovery spending. Seizing 21st technology tools and precedents from states and cities, taxpayers deserve transparency and accountability in all new recovery efforts.


STAR Coalition is a network of groups working at the state and local levels to ensure that the implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is transparent, accountable, fair and effective.

We want stimulus spending to address vital social needs and benefit those most harmed by the failed economic policies of the past.

We believe that active civic engagement-enabled by full transparency-is the only way to achieve true accountability.

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Monday, June 01, 2009

President Obama broadens and hones lobbying restrictions for Economic Stimulus funds

U.S.Image via Wikipedia

Government reform orgs. deliver news on major events within their areas of expertise.
Democracy 21

Democracy 21 Press Release, June 1, 2009,

Democracy 21 applauds the steps taken by the Obama Administration on Friday, May 29, 2008 to revise the lobbying rules it established on March 20, 2009 to govern the distribution of stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act).

The revisions carry forward the President’s stated goals of challenging special interest influence in Washington and increasing government transparency, combining public disclosure with the power of the Internet to quickly provide information to citizens.

The revised rules both broaden and narrow the coverage of it March 20 lobbying rules regarding stimulus funds. The revisions expand the coverage of the prohibition on oral communications by registered lobbyists about stimulus funds to apply to communications from all persons, not just registered lobbyists. They also focus the application of the prohibition on oral communications on the key period after competitive grant applications have been submitted and before grants have been awarded.

During this competitive bidding stage all communications initiated by anyone other than an agency official must be submitted in writing and will be posted on the Internet.

The revised rules serve to expand the information that will be provided to the public on the Internet about efforts to influence decisions about competitive grant applications submitted for stimulus funds.

At the same time, the revised rules narrow the original restriction on oral communications about stimulus funds to cover the period when competitive grant applications are under consideration.

The Obama Administration’s lobbying rules for the distribution of funds under the Recovery Act are precedent setting transparency reforms and open the door to similar kinds of rules be adopted for other activities conducted by the Executive Branch.

The initial Executive Branch lobbying rules for the stimulus package adopted on March 20, 2009 were intended to help "ensure the responsible distribution of funds for the Act's purposes and to provide public transparency and accountability of expenditures."

The unprecedented rules were established as a sixty-day pilot project, providing the Administration with the opportunity to review how the rules were working and to make appropriate adjustments. The revised rules announced on May 29, 2009 followed the expiration of the trial period and build on the lobbying rules adopted in March.

The original lobbying rules required Executive Branch departments and agencies to publicly post all written communications received from registered lobbyists concerning the commitment, obligation, or expenditure of funds under the Recovery Act for particular projects, applications, or applicants. These provisions continue in effect.

The rules also prohibited oral comminucations from registered lobbyists to Executive Branch officials concerning particular projects, applications, or applicants for funding under the Recovery Act, but allowed them in the case of communications to discuss general Recovery Act policies. In such cases where oral communications were allowed, the Executive Branch official receiving the communication was required to expeditiously post a summary of the communication received from the registered lobbyist by the deparment or agency involved. These rules have been both expanded in terms of the people being covered and narrowed in terms of the period to which they apply.

# # #

Capital Bits and Pieces Vol. VII, No. 53 Released: Monday, June 1, 2009

Contact: Kristen Hagan

For the latest reform news and to access previous reports, releases, and analysis from Democracy 21, visit .

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A proportional voting system (Proportional Representation) arguably improves the makeup of the U.S. House and the Voting Rights Act

This ballot design, used in cumulative voting,...Image via Wikipedia

Government reform orgs. deliver news on major events within their areas of expertise.

The FairVote Reformer, May, 2009
Picture: A cumulative voting ballot.

Proportional voting systems have found their way into national discussions surrounding ways to improve the makeup of the U.S. House and the Voting Rights Act. The New Republic's Jeffrey Rosen spotlighted cumulative voting as a potentially helpful voting system for racial minorities, while prominent blogger Matthew Yglesias cited multiple-member districts elected via choice voting (also called the single transferable vote) as a means to reduce polarization in Congress. A Los Angeles Times editorial noted that a "cutting edge" proposal for proportional representation is in the growing call for a state constitutional convention in California - you can see more about proportional voting's place in California debate at the New America Foundation website.

Internationally, proportional voting failed to reach the 60% winning threshold in British Columbia, but is gaining strong support in the British parliament in tandem with instant runoff voting, and forms of proportional voting will be used by every European nation in next month's elections to the European parliament. The Philippines has made strong moves toward proportional voting, while Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is advocating for a major restructuring of his country's government, modeling it after South Africa's parliamentary system with proportional voting for its National Assembly.

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Amend the US Constitution to require that, when vacancies occur, senators be elected by the people instead of the Governor

Russ Feingold, U.S. Senator from Wisconsin.Image via Wikipedia

Government reform orgs. deliver news on major events within their areas of expertise.

By David Segal
Published May 14th 2009 in Baltimore Sun
Picture: U.S. Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI).

Where are they now?

Just three months ago, America was introduced to four newly appointed Senators - two of whom had never even run for office. They've receded from the fore of our consciousness over the months since, but they're still out there, doing the business of the people who elected the people who appointed them.

Senators Russ Feingold and John McCainare pushing an amendment to the Constitution to require that senators be elected by the people whom they are meant to represent. The 17th Amendment, ratified in 1913, removed the appointment of senators from the purview of state legislatures, mandating popular elections, excepting for gubernatorial appointments when vacancies occur. It's time to close this loophole - and Maryland's Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, who sits on the Constitution subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee - can play a critical role in doing so.

Americans were rightfully dismayed by the political jockeying, and in some cases apparent outright corruption, that swirled around their ascension during the fall and winter. Now the appointees are laser-focused on consolidating the power that was handed to them. But their low popular support yields diminished legitimacy, making it harder to be taken seriously by their colleagues and to work effectively on behalf of their constituents.

So who could oppose electing our senators? Several so-called conservatives have lined up against the proposal - and some even against the 17th Amendment itself: They assert that state governments should decide how senators should be selected.

States can indeed take action right now, but despite this winter's mass outcry, legislation requiring that Senate vacancies be filled by special election has been introduced in just a handful of states this year, and it's already clear that only a few of these bills stand a chance of passing.

What happened in Annapolis this year illustrates why: Del. Saqib Ali introduced legislation to require special elections, but to avoid stepping on the toes of the powerful, it was written to not take effect until 2015 - when Gov. Martin O'Malley will presumably have left office. Even so, the proposal went nowhere.

States in which the legislature is dominated by the same party as the governor - especially those with relatively stable political dynamics - are unlikely to perceive an urgency to act on the Senate vacancy issue; the party that rules the legislature is hesitant to strip authority from a governor of the same party.

In states where power is shared by Democratsand Republicans, the parties have competing interests that complicate the vacancy issue, hurting chances of passage. Indeed, passage is likely only in states with the most unusual of political dynamics: a legislature controlled by a super-majority of one party but a governor of the opposite political affiliation.

Rhode Island, where I live, is the exception that proves this rule: Democrats hold 90 percent of legislative seats and the governor is a relatively unpopular Republican. Versions of Senate vacancy legislation need to be reconciled after having already passed the House and Senate; a likely gubernatorial veto would be easily overridden. (Governors have no role in ratifying constitutional amendments, so the threat of vetoes would be removed under Mr. Feingold's proposal.)

A national movement, and national branding of the push as a "good government" effort, would lessen the appearance that action or inaction by a given legislature would serve as a referendum on any particular governor or on any particular appointed senator. Passage by only 38 states would, once and for all, put an end to this vestige of the oligarchical politics of a century gone by.

The basic legitimacy of our system of governance requires that senators be chosen by the people. Senator Cardin should use his privileged position to aggressively push Senator Feingold's amendment.

David Segal is an analyst for Takoma Park-based FairVote and a Rhode Island state representative. His e-mail is

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