I was lucky enough to be invited to the bill signing ceremony for S. 2590, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, at the Old Executive Office Building this morning. President Bush's remarks are here; Glenn Reynolds has a post here; and Mark Tapscott previewed the event this morning. It was nice to meet the two of them in the flesh, as well as a fair number of the folks who are part of the Exposing Earmarks coalition.
Well, you can’t accuse them of lacking chutzpah. In the waning days of the 109th Congress – a Congress marked by a notable lack of accomplishment – the GOP leadership has set aside time this coming Thursday not to pass the long-stalled lobbying reform bill, but rather to meet with friendly lobbyists and warn them that giving to Democrats is bad business.
A story in today’s Roll Call – GOP Brass to Meet Lobbyists – has all the details:
“This is a straight-out appeal to [lobbyists] to contribute to Republicans — to remind them what Republicans do not only for their specific industries but for the whole business community,” said a GOP leadership aide. The aide added that the leaders would emphasize that “reports of the Republican majority’s demise have been greatly exaggerated, and we’re coming back.”
I am not a target of an investigation and neither is Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont. But is Sen. Burns “under investigation”? Is he a “subject” of an investigation? Over the weekend the Washington Post checked the investigatory lingo out and found that despite Burns’ protestations that he is not a “target” of any investigation he is still potentially in deep trouble.
The Post asked Stanley Brand, “a lawyer in Washington with decades of experience in defending prominent officials charged with corruption,” about the importance placed on the terms “target,” “subject,” and “under investigation”:
Perry Bacon writes this week in Time Magazine that the netroots have reached their limits and are, "paradoxically," now going offline. I like Perry (I rode the Dean press bus with him briefly), and it's a fine article, but it misses the point that the earliest efforts that got attention for being "netroots" -- MoveOn and Dean, just as examples -- were profoundly offline.
Unlike the reigning online organizing at the time (GOPProgress), Moveon connected people in the same neighborhood to each other through marches and vigils, and the single most important use the Dean campaign made of the Internet was Meetup, a website that allows for monthly offline meetings. After Meetup, the second most important form was local listservs (over 1,000) that talked online about meeting offline. And Perry should know this, having ridden the Dean bus.
Though preferred solutions to these issues might differ, I think that the issues identified in these Gallup polls--which potential voters rank as the most important facing the country, or the most important in determining their votes in the congressional elections, would be hard to argue with: The situation in Iraq, terrorism, the economy & jobs, immigration, education and health care. Right now we are in the midst of the election season, and candidates are, to a greater or lesser extent, putting before the public their views on these issues, while trying, during the last few days that remain on the pre-election legislative calendar, to address some of these concerns (for example, building a wall to deter illegal immigration, adotping new rules governing the treatment of terrorism suspects held by the United States, and approving spending for operations in Iraq and Afghinistan. As citizens, we may or may not agree with what Congress is doing, we might prefer a more robust debate on these issues, we might even have preferred it if members of Congress had begun addressing these concerns much earlier in this legislative session rather than schedule so few working days.
Parke Wilde, writing at the U.S. Food Policy blog, has a pretty good idea: take data from different sources, line it up and organize it by congressional district, and then present it--either graphically (a map) or in a table, for easy analysis--to find out what individual members are up to. I'll return to this in a minute--and it's an intriguing notion that fits in with something I've been kicking around in my head for a while--but first let's look at what Wilde did: he looked at campaign contributions from C-Span, farm subsidy payments from the Environmental Working Group and earmarked pork projects from Citizens Against Government Waste all in a single disctrict -- that of Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, a member of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee.
Glenn Reynolds notes that both Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., and Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., are holding up legislation that would make the Senate have to electronically file their campaign finance reports. This process would save the Federal Election Commission about $250,000 and countless hours of work per election cycle, not to mention the numerous other benefits to campaign finance watchers. Now here's the crazy thing: both Trent Lott and Mitch McConnell already use electronic software to fill out FEC forms. In fact, it is highly likely that they are among the 95% of Senators who use the FEC's own or recommended software.
If you’ve been reading the latest New York Times/CBS poll numbers – Only 25% in Poll Approve of Congress – you might well wonder why despite all this, political insiders remain so confident that only a tiny percentage of members will be defeated at the polls in November.
The answer lies in the two big assets incumbents have going for them this election year: safely drawn congressional districts and cold, hard cash. In fact, if 2006 is supposed to be a tougher-than-normal year for incumbents, somebody forgot to tell the interest groups that fund congressional campaigns.
Earlier in the week, my colleague Paul Blumenthal expressed justifiable dismay over a report in The Washington Post arguing that the ethical problems of Congress--which can be viewed both as failings of individuals and as the product of an institutional inability to come to grips with shady behavior--was having little resonance as an issue in the minds of voters. Paul offered plenty of examples in his post to counter that argument, and more here on the bipartisan, citizen-driven effort to make the doings of elected government officials more accountable to their bosses (that's us citizens, by the way).
<p class="MsoNormal">Thanks to the detective work of the <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/19/AR2006091901759.html">Washington Post</a>, the website of the <a href="http://www.usitc.gov/tata/hts/other/rel_doc/bill_reports/109c.htm">US International Trade Commission</a>, and the ingenuity of Sunlight’s computer wizards – thank you especially Kerry Mitchell – we’ve been able to put together a spreadsheet of all tariff legislation in the 109<sup>th</sup> Congress.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">You can download it by clicking on the attachment link below. The file is a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, which you can look at directly or easily import into the database program of your choice. </p>