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Groups Wary of Grassroots Reform:

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Some lobbying groups, such as AARP, National Association of Manufacturers, and the American Cancer Society are concerned that lobbying reforms targeting efforts to mobilize grassroots support could “quell citizen involvement in the political process.” The Hill newspaper notes that “[s]ome lawmakers want to require greater transparency when lobbying organizations, on their own or through specialty public-relations firms, try to generate public support for their legislative priorities.” The real target, according to lawmakers, is the practice of “astroturfing” or “the creation of coalitions or umbrella organizations that reach out to the public without openly declaring their ties to special interests.” So far the concerned groups have not seen any proposal that they see as dangerous to their grassroots efforts.

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ExxonMobil Posts Record Profit, Continues to Receive Tax Breaks:

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ExxonMobil posted the single largest quarterly and annual profit raking in over $10 billion in the fourth quarter of last year while the annual total topped $36 billion, according to the New York Times.  The annual revenue for the oil and gas behemoth was $371 billion, nearly $100 billion more than the entire revenue for the oil producing nation Saudi Arabia.  ExxonMobil is not proudly displaying these record numbers as public opinion towards oil and gas companies has turned sour after a year of high prices at the pump.  Recently a tax increase of $5 billion has been proposed for the oil and gas industry although it is strongly opposed by President Bush, the industry‚Äôs number one recipient of campaign funds over the past decade.  Congressional Republicans fear a backlash from voters after placing $2 billion of tax cuts for the oil and gas industry into the 2005 energy bill.

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Both Parties End Meetings with Lobbyists:

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The Washington Post reports that Senate Republicans and Democrats have both ended their practice of meeting with lobbyists on a regular basis.  Democrats previously met with sympathetic lobbyists every other Monday to plot strategy and to keep the lobbyists informed of the party’s plans.  Republicans, led by Sen. Rick Santorum, met with lobbyists every other Tuesday and will cease to hold these meetings – “at least for now.”  Both parties had already stopped handing out job listings at these meetings although the Republicans stopped more recently than Democrats.

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Bush Administration Weakened Mine Safety Rules, Some Tied to Disasters:

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Six years ago when the Bush Administration took office they “abandoned or delayed” 18 mine safety rules and implemented a self-regulatory approach for the mining industry.  According to the Washington Post, two of those safety rules scuttled by the Administration may have been able to prevent the death of twelve miners in the Sago mine.  These rules were to include “mandatory caches of oxygen tanks and breathing masks inside every mine” and to expand the number of rescue teams.  Mine-safety experts claim that a lack of oxygen reserves and a slow response led to the deaths at Sago in West Virginia.  After the Sago disaster two more miners were killed at the Alma mine in West Virginia when their conveyor belt caught fire.  In 2002, the Administration abandoned a proposal to find ways to make the conveyor belts fire-proof.

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Doolittle Refuses to Comment on Abramoff Ties:

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Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) will not talk about the letters that he wrote to the Interior Department in an effort to help Indian tribes who hired Jack Abramoff as a lobbyist, according to the Sacramento Bee.  One of Doolittle’s letters complained about the closing of an Indian casino contradicting Doolittle’s career-long anti-gambling stance.  Doolittle has even claimed that the reason that he wrote letters opposing Indian casino openings that threatened Abramoff clients was because he is anti-gambling.  Doolittle's contradictory letters follow one pattern: helping Abramoff clients who contributed $130,000 to him and his leadership PAC.

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Lawmakers Target Tribal Casino Giving, Loopholes:

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Indian tribes are considered “persons” under campaign finance law due to a history of treaties and separate tribal governments, thus allowing them to give almost unlimited amounts.  A USA Today article reports that Republican lawmakers are looking to change that with a proposal that would close, what they call, the “Indian tribes loophole.”  Twenty-four tribes gave more than the federally mandated limit on “individuals” in the 2004 election season while total tribal contributions reached $8.6 million.  Kevin Gover, former Bureau of Indian Affairs director states, “It's not as simple as buying their support. But the reality is … why not vote with those who support your campaign?”

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Meehan Opposes Folding 527 Reform Into Lobby Reform:

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Rep. Marty Meehan (D-MA) has insisted that his 527 campaign finance reform bill should not be folded into a lobbying reform package as is being suggested by Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and other Republicans.  The co-sponsor of Meehan’s 527 reform, Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT), has sided with Meehan stating, “If 527 reform is going to turn the debate on cleaning up lobbying into partisan bickering, I’d prefer to see an up-or-down vote on two clean bills.”  Meehan and Shays also fear the Republican leadership will include language from another 527 reform proposed by Representatives Mike Pence (R-IN) and Albert Wynn (D-MD) because it could prove a “Trojan horse for gutting the McCain-Feingold law.”

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Washington Lobbying Boom Provides Widespread Representation:

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Lobbyists are hired by groups as wide-ranging as turkey hunters and pornographers according to an article in The Hill newspaper.  Some experts claim that the boom may be caused by a complicated tax code or the proliferation of congressional earmarks but the general belief is that the amount spent on lobbying Washington provides huge returns on investment, from big money earmarks to stopping unfavorable legislation and eliminating regulations. 

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California Assembly Sends Public Financing of Elections to State Senate:

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The California Assembly sent AB 583, a bill providing for the public financing of elections, to the State Senate with a stipulation that the final details of the bill will be hashed out in a conference committee.  Each of the last three elections - Gray Davis’ 2002 victory, his 2003 recall, and Schwarzenegger’s 2003 victory - broke the record as the costliest races in state history.  Critics claim that the bill stymies free speech and would cost the taxpayers more money.  If the State Senate passes the bill and Governor Schwarzenegger signs it then the citizens will vote for its passage in 2008.

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