February 12, 2013

Is Rubio’s Denial of Climate Change Tied to His Dependence on Koch Oil Money?

Tonight, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) will offer the rebuttal to President Obama’s State of the Union address.  This isn’t a casual designation: Top Republicans and outside commentators are hailing the young Senator as the very future of the GOP.

One issue where Rubio sharply contrasts with Obama is climate change. With record-high temperatures and devastating weather events inflicting hardship on millions of Americans, Obama made the need for urgent action on global warming a key component of his inaugural address last month:

We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children …

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August 31, 2012

On HuffPost: To Get Better Policies, Expose Corrupt Politics

Huffington Post published this piece by me yesterday, as part of its Shadow Conventions series:

To grasp the harms caused when money dominates politics, start with for-profit colleges. This industry tripled in size during the last decade, spurred by deceptive recruiting practices, after its lobbyists loosened federal rules aimed at protecting students and taxpayers from fraud. It has become a monster, a league of Wall Street corporations and private equity-owned firms that get 86 percent of their revenues — $32 billion a year — from taxpayers.

While some for-profit colleges are honest and work to educate their students, many charge sky-high …

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August 3, 2012
A portrait of Gore Vidal

What Gore Vidal Said About The Corrupting Influence Of Money In Our Politics

Earlier this week, celebrated author, playwright, and activist Gore Vidal passed away. “Mr Vidal was, at the end of his life, an Augustan figure who believed himself to be the last of a breed, and he was probably right,” editorialized the New York Times upon his death.

In 2000, Vidal authored the foreword to Money and Politics, a Boston Review New Democracy Forum published in book form by Beacon Press. This is what the legendary author noted about the cost of elections at that time:

Some nuts and bolts. Of the billions now spent each election cycle, most is donated …

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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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July 20, 2012

Maine’s Two Senators Were Once Champions Of Campaign Disclosure; Now They Bow To K Street-Prescribed Secrecy

If Maine’s two senators, or even one of them, had stood by their long-held principles, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in today where the majority of the outside spending groups are completely undisclosed, and even foreign corporations can spend in our elections without any transparency. Because of the Supreme Court, we can’t limit this spending; but disclosure is a story of political will, or the lack thereof.

Indeed, either one of Maine’s senate delegation — Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins — both Republicans, could have been the deciding vote to break the GOP filibuster of the DISCLOSE Act, …

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July 13, 2012

In Georgia, Tea Party And Progressives Go On Bus Tour To Fight Lobbyists

We’ve been continually reporting on the tea party-progressive movement in Georgia to demand a lobbyist gift cap so that lobbyists can no longer give any gifts to lawmakers that cost more than $100 (Georgia is today one of three states where lobbyists can give unlimited gifts to legislators).

At least 130 sitting state lawmakers or legislative candidates have signed a pledge promising to support a $100 cap on gifts to lawmakers, an important step ahead of Georgia’s state legislative primaries at the end of this month. There will also be non-binding ballot questions both for Democrats and Republicans …

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July 10, 2012
Nebraska GOP Senate candidate Deb Fischer

Nebraska GOP Senate Candidate Deb Fischer Puts Out Bold Plan For Ethics Reform

Deb Fischer shocked political observers recently when she came from behind and won the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in Nebraska. Although an endorsement from GOP icon Sarah Palin probably helped, it’s worth noting that Fischer has also been campaigning on a strong proposal to reform the ethics and lobbying laws in Congress.

Here’s a few of the provisions that she has listed:

- “A lifetime ban on Members of Congress from becoming federally registered lobbyists after they leave office.”

- “Congress should be subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  Nebraska and other states are subject to FOIA and Washington …

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