Charities Challenge Anti-Terrorism Law

The Supreme Court heard arguments today (Feb. 23) in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, a case challenging the constitutionality of the definition of material support. Human rights and humanitarian aid charities say the law is so broad that it squelches their speech and advocacy work. The definition of material support includes services, training, expert advice, and could criminalize their work even when they have peaceful goals.

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The Problem Remains Money in Politics

Global Integrity, an international nonprofit organization that tracks global corruption trends, released the Global Integrity Index: 2009. The report analyzed 35 countries' ability to counter corruption, and the tools available to citizens to hold the government accountable.

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Webcast Thursday: The Administration's Approach to Lobbyists

The Washington Post reports that, "President Obama is escalating his war on K Street, proposing a series of tough restrictions a year after he first issued policies aimed at tamping down the influence of lobbyists." On Thursday, Feb. 18 OMB Watch will host a webcast where panelists will discuss a review of the administration's efforts to reform lobbying and ethics during the past year.

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Letter Sent to Congress in Support of Civil Access to Justice Act

Over 150 national, state and local groups, including OMB Watch signed on to a letter supporting passage of the Civil Access to Justice Act (S.718 / H.R. 3764). The legislation was introduced last year to reauthorize the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) and expand access to civil legal aid.

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Schumer/Van Hollen Response to Citizens United

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) announced a summary, presented as a "framework," of the legislation they plan to introduce to curtail the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Their extensive response includes a ban on expenditures by foreign interests, as well as corporations that have federal contracts and those that received funds through the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

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Groups Call on Obama to Reform Faith-Based Office

OMB Watch, along with religious and public policy organizations, sent President Barack Obama a letter on the anniversary of the Executive Order establishing the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The groups asked Obama to, "take additional actions to prevent government-funded religious discrimination and protect social service beneficiaries from unwelcome proselytizing."

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President and Congress Continue to Respond to Citizens United

Earlier this week Norm Eisen, special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform, wrote a blog post defending President Obama's call for legislation restricting foreign corporations from getting involved in federal elections. As evidence, Eisen references news reports that discuss a lobbying campaign on behalf of subsidiaries of foreign corporations.

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SpeechNow.org Seeks Unlimited Individual Contributions for 527 Groups

Almost two years ago, a 527 organization called SpeechNow.org, asked for a court ruling that would have blocked the Federal Election Commission (FEC) from enforcing limits on contributions to the group. On Jan. 27, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard oral arguments in the case. The court must consider whether the group should be subject to an annual limit on donations from individuals and comply with disclosure requirements.

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Obama Seeks More Lobbyist Disclosure

During President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, he said he came to Washington "to end the outsized influence of lobbyists; to do our work openly; to give our people the government they deserve. [. . .] That's why we've excluded lobbyists from policymaking jobs, or seats on federal boards and commissions." However, as a group of nonprofits have recently noted, in the process of attempting to limit the influence of special interests, the administration has successfully "[excluded] the voices of citizen- and community-based organizations."

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Citizens United Aftermath

Almost a week has passed since the Supreme Court issued the very significant ruling in the Citizens United case. There has been nonstop commentary and discussion of the possible ramifications. During a news conference, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) announced plans to hold hearings and introduce legislation to curtail the effects of the decision. One suggestion from the lawmakers would require shareholders to vote before a corporation could spend money in elections.

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