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Today’s Flickr photo

The Barkhor in Lhasa, Tibet. Flickr photo by Alex '77.

If you read one thing today . . .

This is a late entry but this gem from Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) might very well be the quote of the year. Bachus, the incoming chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, clearly gives a new meaning to the phrase “letting the fox guard the hen house.” Bachus told Mary Orndoff of the Birmingham News , it’s the banks, not Congress that should be calling the shots. This despite the fact it’s those same Wall Street bankers who drove our economy into the ground with their reckless deal making.

Bachus, in an interview Wednesday night, said he brings a “main street” perspective to the committee, as opposed to Wall Street.

“In Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated, and my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks,” he said.

He later clarified his comment to say that regulators should set the parameters in which banks operate but not micromanage them.

Overheard

Kevin Sessums with The Daily Beast interviewed Kevin Spacey about his new film “Casino Jack,” which is about everybody’s  favorite disgraced K Street lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Spacey on fact being stranger than fiction:

But these kinds of stories based on real events—like Recount and now Casino Jack—are filled with characters that are so larger than life and the decisions and judgments are so outrageous and the excesses even more outrageous when money and power and influence become such an integral part of the political process. All of that is so crazy that it is inherently funny. You couldn’t f*#king write this shit. It’s far more funny because it is real. We’re not making this stuff up. This shit happened.

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Last night, Public Citizen participated in a panel discussion about the solutions to the crisis of money in politics following a sneak peak screening of Casino Jack and the United States of Money at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Panelists included Angela Canterbury of Public Citizen (above right), Heather Smith of Rock the Vote, Mark McKinnon of Change Congress and Ilyse Hogue of MoveOn.org. You can now watch a recording of the discussion on ustream.tv.

The documentary tells the story of uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff and teaches tough lessons about the “way Washington works” – an all-too-frequent euphemism for how corporate interests warp the political process to serve their agenda against the public interest.  

In the early 2000s, Abramoff siphoned money from lobbying clients into the political war chests of mostly conservative members of Congress. In particular, he cultivated a close (and lucrative) relationship with then-House Majority Leader Rep. Tom Delay (R-Texas), who was indicted and forced to resign because of his association with the scandal.  

Abramoff subsequently was convicted of fraud and corrupting public officials. He is now serving a four-year prison sentence. But while Abramoff is out of business, film makes it clear that the corrupting incentives for lawmakers to exchange campaign donations for legislative favors are stronger than ever. (And the film’s Web site also has an interesting tool you can use to compare your members of Congress’ voting record to the interests of their biggest campaign donors.)

Among the solutions panelists discussed was a constitutional amendment to limit corporate influence in elections, as well as the Fair Elections Now Act and the recently proposed DISCLOSE and Shareholder Protection Acts.

Clearly, there is much to be done. But momentum is building to fight for the solutions. This film will help educate and engage activists and spark the necessary discussions that will help push the American people to repair our wounded democracy.

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Join Public Citizen on the campus of George Washington University on Tuesday, May 4, for a free preview screening of Casino Jack and the United States of Money.

This new documentary from Academy Award-winning director Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Taxi to the Dark Side) tells the story of notorious lobbyist Jack Abramoff and reveals just how profoundly money can corrupt lawmakers in Washington.

Watch the trailer and RSVP to reserve your seat at www.citizen.org/CasinoJack.

WHAT: Free screening of the new documentary Casino Jack and the United States of Money.

WHEN: Tuesday, May 4, at 6:30 p.m. Discussion begins at 9 p.m.

WHERE: George Washington University, Lisner Auditorium (730 21st St. NW, Washington, D.C.)

Following the screening, Public Citizen’s Angela Canterbury will join a panel for conversation about the corrupting influence of money in politics and the solutions. If you can’t attend the screening, you can still participate in the discussion online at www.citizen.org/CasinoJack at 9 p.m. (EDT) on Tuesday, May 4.

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