Zaid Jilani

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Zaid Jilani is the former Communications and Outreach Coordinator for United Republic and the former Senior Reporter-Blogger for ThinkProgress. His work has also appeared in outlets including Salon and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He graduated from the University of Georgia in 2009 and moved shortly after to Washington to work to make America a more just and free place.

August 1, 2012

Georgia Voters Of Both Parties Revolt Against Corruption

Imagine if lobbyists could give virtually anything they wanted to lawmakers, ranging from a gift basket of cookies to a Mercedes Benz.

This isn’t some dark fairy tale. In Georgia, it’s reality. Lobbyists can give virtually whatever gift they want to lawmakers.

But in recent month, a rowdy coalition of tea partiers and progressives have been campaigning to place a modest cap on these gifts that lobbyists can give to legislators — $100 value per gift.

Last night, in the statewide primary election, voters in both parties overwhelmingly approved of non-binding ballot questions approving of such a lobbyist gift cap. Here’s a

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August 1, 2012

Former Army Captain Says If Hospitals Behaved Like For-Profit Colleges, Execs Would Be In Jail

At a press conference Monday, Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA), flanked by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), unveiled a new report looking at the abuses against students by the for-profit college industry, which is largely subsidized by the taxpayer with few strings attached.

In recent months, abuses against veterans in particular have come to light. Thus one of the speakers at the event was the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America’s (IAVA) Tom Tarantino. Tarantino served 10 years in the U.S. Army, reached the rank of captain, and was awarded the Continue Reading »

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August 1, 2012
Kaplan CEO Andrew S. Rosen

The Washington Post Won’t Tell Congress How Much Money Kaplan’s CEO Makes

Some Members of Congress are stepping up to increase oversight over the for-profit college industry, which is heavily subsidized by taxpayers but which continues to abuse our veterans and other students.

As a part of this effort, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) sought to report about the salaries of top executives at these companies. Keep in mind that more than 86 percent of the funds for 30 major for-profit colleges studied by Congress come from taxpayers. So that means that these execs are essentially living large on the public dole.

One major company, Kaplan, which is owned by the Washington Post, refused …

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July 30, 2012

John McCain Says He’s ‘Proud’ Of Ex-Lockheed Martin Lobbyist He Hired As Defense Staffer

Earlier this year, we reported that Northrop Grumman gave one of its lobbyists an effective $500,000 bonus when he joined the House Armed Services Committee to make defense policy. It now appears that this isn’t the only pay-out from the industry to a future staffer.

Last week, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) noted that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, hired Ann Elise Sauer, who was a lobbyist for Lockheed Martin last year, as the Republican staff director for the committee in February.

POGO revealed that Sauer received $1.66 million in pay last year …

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July 30, 2012
State Senator Michael Waddoups (R-ALEC)

Utah State Senate President Falsely Claims His Legislature Doesn’t Follow ALEC’s ‘Line’

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a very powerful corporate front group that works with corporations to get bills passed in state legislatures — without the general public ever knowing that these bills are ALEC’s.

It has worked to do everything from pass “Shoot First” laws to suppress votes to give special tax favors to online companies. But the public has started to catch on, and dozens of corporations and organizations have ended their relationships with ALEC in recent months.

ALEC is currently holding a meeting in Utah. Utah State Senate president Michael Waddoups (R) defended the …

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July 26, 2012
Rep. Joe Wilkinson (R-Atlanta)

Chairman Of Georgia House Ethics Committee Shills For Lobbyist Gifts

You’d think that if there’s anyone who should be for curtailing the influence of lobbyists and other ethics reforms, its the chair of the ethics committee in the legislature, right?

In Georgia, you’d be wrong. A trans-partisan coalition of tea partiers and progressives have been pushing for a cap of $100 on gifts that lawmakers give lobbyists. Right now, that there is no cap. Lobbyists could give a lawmaker a Lamborghini if they wanted to.

Rep. Joe Wilkinson (R) is standing in the way of these reforms. He recently claimed that many of the candidates who are running for office who support …

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July 25, 2012

Anti-Gun Control Groups Spent 17 Times As Much On Lobbying As Pro-Gun Control Groups Last Year

In the wake of the tragic shooting in Aurora, some have called for a renewed debate on gun control.

While there is likely strong evidence on both sides of this debate, the curious thing is that one institution is not having any debate whatsoever: Congress.

I ran the numbers to see what the various Big Money spenders are putting into lobbying Congress on the issue.

I looked at the four main groups that work in this policy space: the pro-gun control Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Mayors Against Illegal Guns and the anti-gun control National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of …

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July 24, 2012

Is Big Pharma Using A Front Group To Exact Revenge On Cheap Drugs Advocate Denny Rehberg?

One of the biggest rip-offs the U.S. government enforces is a ban on cheap pharmaceutical drugs from Canada. Americans are barred from buying perfectly safe pharmaceutical drugs from Canada that can be 20 to 80 percent cheaper than American drugs.

Conservative organizations like the Cato Institute and progressive lawmakers like former Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) have long advocated for ending this ban and having free trade in pharmaceutical drugs. It would mean cheaper drugs for Americans and more funding for drugmakers and a health care system that can better regulate costs.

But the American pharmaceutical industry is incredibly powerful, and uses its …

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