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Posts Tagged ‘Open Government’

Five justices on the U.S. Supreme Court – none of whom ever ran for election or served in elective office – reversed a century of political tradition and decades of legal precedents when they ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that corporations may spend unlimited amounts of money to promote or attack candidates in local, state and federal elections. This disastrous decision will both increase the premium on campaign dollars and the role of the wealthy in determining who gets elected to office. It vastly enhances the power of well-funded corporate lobbyists in extracting policy concessions from members of Congress and the executive branch.

The DISCLOSE Act (S. 3295), sponsored by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), is an important first response to this ruling. The legislation would close a gaping loophole in the campaign finance disclosure system. Under existing law, groups that pay for electioneering communications need not disclose their major donors. Most corporations will launder their political expenditures through innocuous sounding groups, such as Americans for Job Security, and thus hide their political activity. The DISCLOSE Act for the first time would require these outside groups to identify their major donors of $1,000 or more who are funding the campaign ads, and that identifying information would be posted on the Internet for all to see.

For the DISCLOSE Act to take effect in time for the 2010 general election, when a lot of this new political spending is expected to swamp the airwaves, it must be approved by the U.S. Senate before the August recess. For that to happen, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) filibuster to prevent a vote on the bill must be broken.

Public Citizen strongly encourages senators of all parties to stand up for opening the books on money in politics. The quality of our elections and the integrity of our government rides on this vote for the DISCLOSE Act.

Call your Senators and tell them to vote for more transparency in government: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

http://www.pledgefordemocracy.org/

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The army of “revolving door” lobbyists bidding for the financial services industry is even larger that we thought. After combing through Senate lobbying disclosure records, we reported in November that at least 940 lobbyists in the financial services sector.

This week, we partnered with the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) on an update to that report that included data from CRP’s in-house revolving doors database (catching lobbyists who do not report to their employment histories on their lobbying disclosure forms) as well as Senate records showing an additional two reporting quarters.

The result: At least 1,447 of the lobbyists employed by the financial services sector since 2009 previously held a government job. That is nearly 56 percent of the 2,603 lobbyists, all told, who worked for the sector in the time period.

Among these “revolving doors” are 73 former (more…)

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If you missed “Building Transparency,” the live online forum last Friday about how the Obama administration is doing in terms of transparency and open government, you can watch the entire two-hour program online. (more…)

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On his first full day in office, President Barack Obama committed his administration “to creating an unprecedented level of openness in government.”

 

Do you think the President has done a good job of making the federal government more open and transparent? Or has his administration failed to overcome the culture of secrecy?

March 14 – 20 is Sunshine Week – a week in which we celebrate and examine transparency in government. Join Public Citizen and open government leaders in a live online discussion this Friday to find out just how the current White House administration is doing when it comes to openness and accountability. You can sign up at www.citizen.org/building-transparency. (more…)

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Senators bought and sold by powerful private interests. Public policy cynically manipulated to rip off constituents. Flagrant abuse of the public trust and tenacious advocates battling for the public interest, despite entrenched opposition.

mrsmithNo, I’m not describing the policy battles happening in Congress today. I’m talking about the 1939 Frank Capra film starring Jimmy Stewart, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. As part of DC Labor’s Whistleblower Film Series this October, Public Citizen is sponsoring a screening of this classic at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 8 at the Capitol Visitor Center (underground on the east side of the Capitol at First Street and East Capitol Street NE).

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Now that’s what I call having an impact! Just weeks after the New York Times ran the story about Public Citizen and the Center for Auto Safety making public the government documents showing the risks of driving while talking on a cell phone (regardless if the phone is hands-free), Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced he’s convening a panel of experts to deal with the distracted driving problem.

 From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON — Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Tuesday he will convene a summit of experts to figure out what to do about driver cell phone use and texting, practices that studies — and a growing number of accidents — show can be deadly. (more…)

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clunkerI’m floored at the pace with which the House of Representatives acted to dump more money into the Car Allowance Rebate System, or “cash-for-clunkers.”  Before it was even clear to me what was happening with the money, the House had taken $2 billion from a program for loan guarantees to support renewable energy.

Even stranger is how quiet the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been on the performance of the program.  Dealers and auto manufacturers are waving estimates of transactions completed and fuel economy gains made through the program, but NHTSA has been on the sidelines, failing to use its data on the completed transactions to confirm or deny dealer claims.  (more…)

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