From: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Senate Vote This Week Affects You – Call Every Day Mon –Thurs. Land Rights Network American Land Rights Association PO Box 400 - Battle Ground, WA 98604 Phone: 360-687-3087 - FAX: 360-687-2973 Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org Web Address: http://www.landrights.org Legislative Office: 507 Seward Square SE - Washington, DC 20003 Senate Vote This Week Affects You – Call Every Day Mon –Thurs. All Out Call To Action -- Urgent Action Required Senate Largely Lets Themselves Off The Hook – Attacks Grassroots Groups Instead. Grassroots groups. All grassroots groups must contact their Senators. Washington Post and Associated Press Stories at bottom. Action Items: -----1. Call both your Senators everyday Monday through Thursday to oppose the bad requirements in S. 2128 that will penalize grassroots groups and let big money outfits off the hook. The big money outfits will gain a huge advantage that will hurt you. The bill drops some restrictions on the Senators themselves. You may call any Senator at (202) 224-3121. -----2. Ask for your Senators fax number and send him a fax. -----3. Call at least three other people to get them to call and fax. Time is urgent. You must take action immediately. Grassroots groups took it right on the chin at Thursday’s session of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The Senators exempted themselves from some rules while imposing vast new rules on grassroots groups across America. Every grassroots group will be tied up in regulatory knots if S. 2128 passes Congress. The meeting was held to markup S. 2128 – the Lobbying Transparency and Accountability Act of 2005 that was introduced by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). At the markup, a bill that embodied many of the elements of the McCain bill was substituted by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), the Chairman of the Committee, and Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT). Collins-Lieberman is designed to stiffen reporting requirements of lobbyists and to limit what they can do. Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) introduced an amendment that embodied the elements of a troublesome provision in the McCain bill which was not originally included in Collins-Lieberman. It was Section 105 of the McCain bill. Levin-Lieberman passed the committee with three Republicans – Ted Stevens (R-AK), George Voinovich (R-OH), and Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) – having voted for it. The problem is that, under Levin-Lieberman, grassroots groups are placed at a real disadvantage in Levin-Lieberman because their contractors will be saddled with detailed and burdensome reporting requirements of activities such as direct mailings and phone bank calling. The disclosure may even occur perhaps even before the activity has taken place. Affluent, well-heeled associations and special interests can easily meet the reporting requirements without much trouble. However, the contractors of grassroots groups will in effect be required, in effect, to tip off what often may be their better heeled opponents as to what will be their strategies and tactics. The better heeled opposition, more than likely, will be able to react much faster and bring more force to bear in terms of money. Congress should be encouraging Grassroots America to contact their elected representatives, not pass regulations that discourage such activity. Collins-Lieberman with the Levin-Lieberman amendment on grassroots lobbying reporting will likely hit the Senate floor next week. The Collins-Lieberman bill will probably include legislation to strip earmarks. Grassroots groups that advocate issues of concern to home schoolers, property rights advocates, defenders of life and traditional values, and the right to keep and bear arms all have a vested interest in speaking up loudly and clearly to let Washington know that they should not be saddled with troublesome and burdensome reporting regulations. Grassroots groups and their leaders need to start speaking up now for their right to have unfettered communications with their members. The Levin-Lieberman Amendment is not healthy for grassroots groups, citizen participation and freedom of political speech. Uncle Sam should not be whispering into the ears of big special interest groups about what conservative grassroots groups are doing. Lieberman, joined by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich, was successful in winning approval of an amendment that would require paid lobbyists to reveal information about grassroots lobbying, helping clients to encourage the general public, through mass mailings or advertising, to contact federal officials. Smaller grassroots lobbying efforts aimed at 500 people or less would be exempt. (Basic message edited from FreeCongress.org release.) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/02/AR2006030200261.html?sub=AR Ethics Office For Hill Rejected Bipartisan Defeat For Independent Lobbying Overseer By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum Washington Post Staff Writer Friday, March 3, 2006; A01 A Senate committee yesterday rejected a bipartisan proposal to establish an independent office to oversee the enforcement of congressional ethics and lobbying laws, signaling a reluctance in Congress to beef up the enforcement of its rules on lobbying. The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs voted 11 to 5 to defeat a proposal by its chairman, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), and its ranking Democrat, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.), that would have created an office of public integrity to toughen enforcement and combat the loss of reputation Congress has suffered after the guilty plea in January of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Democrats joined Republicans in killing the measure. The vote was described by government watchdog groups and several lawmakers as the latest example of Congress's waning interest in stringent lobbying reform. After starting the year with bold talk about banning privately paid meals and travel, lawmakers are moving toward producing a bill that would ban few of their activities and would rely mostly on stepped-up disclosure and reporting requirements as their lobbying changes. "Lobbying reform is going more the enforcement route," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "What's that going to do? Nothing much." Yesterday, the governmental affairs panel spent most of its three-hour drafting session debating the Collins-Lieberman proposal. Collins argued that by hiring professionals to oversee lobbying reports and the investigation of ethics complaints, Congress would improve its credibility by ending the appearance of conflict-of-interest created by the self-policing of its ethics committees. "The current system of reviewing lobbyists' public reports is a joke," she added. But Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio), chairman of the Senate's Select Committee on Ethics and a member of Collins's panel, said the ethics panel does not need any help because it is already doing a thorough job of enforcing the chamber's rules. Speaking of the audits and investigations that the office of public integrity would undertake, Voinovich said: "The ethics committee is already doing those things." With the backing of current and past ethics panel members in attendance, Voinovich proposed, and the governmental affairs committee adopted, an amendment that would strike the new office from the committee's bill while requiring more openness in the now secretive ethics panel. An annual report would list the number of alleged rule violations that are reported or otherwise dealt with by the House and Senate ethics committees. Watchdog groups reacted angrily. "The cutting out of the office of public integrity really undermines this whole effort," said Joan Claybrook, president of the liberal group Public Citizen. Lieberman said he will try to get the integrity office approved next week when lobbying legislation is scheduled for action on the Senate floor. He said that he will be joined by other senators in a variety of efforts to get the lobbying bill back in the direction it was headed at the beginning of the year. In January, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) was joined by leaders of both parties in calling for bans or severe restrictions on gifts, meals and travel provided by private groups. The proposed stiff limitations were the initial reaction to the political scandals involving Abramoff and members of Congress and their staffs. But as the legislation has evolved and Abramoff has faded from the headlines, calls for bans have grown scarce, and expanded disclosure has become the centerpiece of the efforts underway. Two Senate committees this week have largely left undiminished lawmakers' ability to accept meals and travel, and the House appears headed in the same direction. "Disclosure, transparency and oversight systems are the tenets we're interested in implementing," said Kevin Madden, spokesman for House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). Boehner succeeded Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), who was forced to step down as leader last year after he was indicted in Texas on campaign-money laundering charges. "We're focusing on more disclosure, transparency," agreed Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, which approved its own disclosure bill Tuesday. The measure will be considered by the full Senate next week. Some of the disclosure proposals are significant. The governmental affairs committee agreed for the first time to require professional grass-roots lobbying firms to report publicly how much they spend to influence government actions. Currently, only people who are paid to directly lobby lawmakers and their staffs must disclose their activities. Grassroots lobbying is indirect lobbying to try to galvanize voters back home. The bill would also require lobbyists to file quarterly reports, rather than the current biannual ones, on their activities, as well as a new, annual disclosure that would detail their donations to federal candidates, officeholders and political parties. In addition, lobbyists would have to disclose all the travel they arrange for lawmakers and all the gifts worth more than $20 that they give to them. Lobbying reports would be filed electronically and would be accessible via the Internet, something that is not always true today. On Tuesday, the rules committee approved its own set of extra disclosures. Its bill would require that meals accepted by senators and their aides be reported online within 15 days. That bill would also require that senators get approval in advance from the Senate Select Committee on Ethics for any privately financed travel that they accept. The trips and their main details would have to be disclosed rapidly, including the names of the people who come along on private aircraft. So far, only one outright ban has been approved. The rules committee decided to prohibit lawmakers from accepting gifts other than meals from registered lobbyists and foreign agents. That would include such benefits as tickets to sporting events and the theater. House Republican leaders have not endorsed a similar ban. Another serious restriction, approved by the governmental affairs committee, would slow what has been called the revolving door between government and the K Street lobbying industry. The provision would double to two years the time during which former lawmakers and former top executive branch officials would be barred from lobbying their ex-colleagues. It would also ban -- for a year after leaving their Capitol Hill jobs -- former senior congressional staffers from lobbying anyone in the chamber in which they had worked. Currently, staff members are prohibited from lobbying only their former offices during their one-year "cooling-off period." But Lieberman said he wants to do more. He said he will try to curtail corporate-plane travel by forcing lawmakers to pay charter fares for their private airplane trips rather than the first-class rates that are allowed under current law. This restriction was proposed during a debate in the rules committee earlier in the week but was defeated. © 2006 The Washington Post Company Senate Panel Rejects Ethics Office By JIM ABRAMS The Associated Press Thursday, March 2, 2006; 3:32 PM WASHINGTON -- Legislation that would force lobbyists to disclose more about their spending to influence the political process advanced Thursday in the Senate, but minus a key provision that would have set up a new independent office to monitor congressional ethics. The 12-1 vote in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee sends the bill to the Senate floor, where it could come up next week. That would be about two months after former lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty in a federal corruption investigation involving his providing of lavish trips, meals and golf outings "in exchange for a series of official acts." The relative speed in moving the bill reflects election-year concerns that lobbying and ethics scandals have alienated voters. "The consequences of these scandals are so antithetical to our democracy and so damaging to Congress that we must come together to produce reform or face further derision and mistrust," said Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., who sponsored the bill with committee chairman Susan Collins, R-Maine. Under the Collins-Lieberman bill, lobbyists would have to file quarterly reports of their activities, instead of the current twice a year, and would have to ensure Internet access to those reports. Lobbyists would also have to provide details of trips they arrange for legislators and make annual disclosures of their campaign contributions or fundraisers for politicians. Retiring lawmakers would have to wait two years before accepting jobs lobbying Congress, up from the current one-year waiting period. But in a 11-5 vote, the committee decided to eliminate a provision that would have set up an office of public integrity, an agency with investigative and subpoena powers that would complement and assist the work of the House and Senate ethics committees. "Restoring public confidence is essential and the public is very leery about whether we can set our own rules," Collins said in explaining the need for the new office. She and Lieberman stressed that the ethics committees would still have final say on proceeding with investigations or charging members with violations. But three committee members who are also on the six-member ethics committee balked, saying they were doing a good job and adding another of bureaucracy would only complicate their work. "I fear that the ethics committee will become little more than a paralyzed political body," said Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, chairman of the ethics committee. Lieberman vowed to reintroduce the provision when the bill reaches the Senate floor. Please forward this message as widely as possible. -- To unsubscribe from this mailing list; please visit http://governance.net and enter your email address.