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The AP reports, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) has fulfilled a unique campaign promise. At end of each day, his office posts a schedule of what he did and with whom he met.
Constituents can see how much time he is in the gym or who is joining him for lunch. For instance, at 2:15pm on January 30, 2007, he met with with Lyndsey Layton of the Washington Post for an interview.
Such transparency is a remarkable step forward for government accountability and helps put pressure on other senators to open up about how they spend their time. They are, after all, our public servants and unless they have something to hide, they ought to follow his lead.
Wondering why your senator doesn't do the same? Why not ask?
Click here to find your Senators' phone number, or call the Senate switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
Let us know what you hear by commenting to this blog below.
Tonight we’ll be listening closely to the President’s State of the Union address. This year we hope he levels with the American people. Unfortunately, as we’ve learned in previous State of the Union addresses, this president’s assertions are not always "reality-based."
As an example from his 2006 address, we were told that lawsuits were driving doctors out of practice - causing a shortage of ob-gyns in 1,500 counties. This was not true and a blatant attempt to urge the Congress to enact medical liability reform.
Today, Public Citizen released an analysis [pdf] of this claim that shows the real facts.
So, will we hear the truth from the President tonight?
What we’d like to hear is an honest assessment and a solid plan for moving our nation out of an era of corruption and lies and into a future of more transparency and integrity in our government. However, we won't hold our breath.
So, we’re asking you.
Post your own "address" on the true State of the Union in comments to this blog and we’ll continue to work to get Congress and the President to listen to you, the people.
(Listen to my podcast: click here [mp3])
Last night the Senate brought back its lobbying and ethics reform bill from the grave, finally approving a sweeping measure that contains more than I had expected. It was looking grim yesterday, as a partisan fight had broken out the day before which threatened to kill the whole bill.
The stand-off was over a dispute between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on whether the Senate would take a vote on a "line-item" veto proposal desired by President Bush. Our activists and other concerned citizens then flooded the Capitol with calls demanding an immediate vote on real lobbying and ethics reform.
Throughout the afternoon and into the evening, the Senate leaders negotiated an agreement that eventually brought the bill back to life. McConnell got a promise on a later vote on a watered-down “line-item” veto bill – and we got a series of strengthening amendments. The bill:
1. Bans gifts from lobbyists and organizations the hire lobbyists (no more gifts to lawmakers, folks).
2. Prohibits organizations that employ lobbyists from arranging or paying for congressional travel, with the following exceptions:
* One day trips
* Travel paid for by 501(c)(3), subject to pre-approval by the ethics committee
* Travel paid for by universities.
3. Requires Members to pay full charter rates for flying on private corporate jets, for officially connected and campaign trips.
4. Discloses all fundraising activity, including bundling, by lobbyists.
5. Prohibits lobbyists from hosting events that "honor" members of Congress, even at party conventions.
6. Extends revolving door prohibition from one year to two – and include "lobbying activity" in that two-year cooling off period.
7. Prohibits spouses of Members of Congress from lobbying, unless they were registered lobbyists prior to the Member's election or they were a lobbyist prior to one year of marrying the Member.
8. Members cannot request earmarks that benefit the Member's immediate family.
9. Extensive earmark disclosure, for federal agencies as well as earmarks to private parties.
10. Earmarks must be posted on the Members' Web page.
11. Disclosure of stealth coalition lobbying.
12. Point of order removal for any earmarks not previously agreed to in the conference committee.
13. And, of course, quarterly, electronic reporting of lobbying activity.
Though there were two notable omissions, we expect to be able to get those provisions into the House bill (and thus in the final bill):
1. Astroturf lobbying, by a vote of 43-55. But we will take this battle to the People's House (and win there).
2. The Office of Public Integrity (or OPI) lost by an even bigger margin than last time, 27-41. But the Senate agreed to further deliberate OPI in the Homeland Security committee to coincide with work that will be done by the House study committee.
Final bill passage: 96-2.
Overall, a great victory! The votes show that Congress does listen to voters and can produce a very good bill.
Now – we work to win the rest.
The Senate's ethics and lobbying reform bill, S. 1 [pdf], will be debated on the floor this week and through the end of next week. Contained in the bill is a strong provision that would shine new light on grassroots lobbying by large (and often for-profit) lobbying firms.
Frightened for their bottom line, and protective of the premium they earn for stealth efforts that conceal the real interests of industry, a small coalition of right-wing groups is trumping up a controversy over this simple new disclosure provision. We responded to their concerns in a letter sent yesterday [pdf].
We also released a report, Organizing Astroturf [pdf], which listed 12 examples of bogus grassroots efforts by phony industry-backed groups and the important public issues involved, which included everything from asbestos rules to the environment and the estate tax.
The provision in the Senate bill is very narrowly drawn. It requires disclosure only when an entity spends a large amount of money – more than $25,000 over a three-month period – to rally the public to urge Congress to act on a pending bill. The measure does not in any way restrict lobbying activities by individuals or groups.
Citizens and lawmakers deserve to know who is influencing public policy. Please take a minute to call your Senators and let them know you agree with us that sunlight is the best disinfectant for politics.
Under the leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the House in a single day approved some of the most critical new ethics rules changes seen in a decade. Lobbyists, and organizations that employ them, are now banned from giving gifts of any value to members of Congress and their staff; prohibited from arranging or paying for congressional travel, except for one-day trips to make a speech or attend a conference; and barred from flying on private corporate jets for campaign purposes, personal trips and travel connected to official duties. Further, the growing wave of earmarks in appropriations and tax bills must be identified with a specific congressional sponsor.
Nearly all of these reforms were rebuked by the House and the Senate last year. Following the November elections, the same reforms were adopted by a near-unanimous vote of 430-to-1, with Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) as the lone dissenting vote.
Next on the reform agenda for Pelosi is her legislative package, which regulates the conduct of persons outside the House (i.e., lobbyists and former members). This package is expected to contain an equally impressive set of legislative reforms, such as slowing the revolving door and enhancing disclosure of fundraising activity by lobbyists and Astroturf lobbying.