Momentum Growing as Campaign Finance Amendment Clears Senate Committee

On July 10, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to support S.J. Res. 19, a proposed constitutional amendment that would restore the ability of Congress and the states to regulate money in elections. The amendment was introduced by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) amid growing concerns over the influence of money in politics, particularly following the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

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The IRS Isn't the Only Agency with an E-mail Problem

Washington sure does love a political scandal, and no one more than House oversight committee Chairman Darrell Issa. The story of the missing IRS e-mail provides all the necessary ingredients: an agency accused of abusing its authority, outstanding congressional document requests and e-mail messages from a key IRS employee gone missing. That was all Issa needed to launch a vicious attack on the credibility and integrity of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, who appeared before the committee Monday night to explain what happened to the missing e-mail and why. But between Issa’s outrage and Koskinen’s effort to avoid responsibility, not much was revealed.

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What is this Country about Anymore?

Meet Mark. He's a 58 year old, college-educated veteran who lives in Oregon. He was laid off last September and has been unable to find work since. Mark's state unemployment benefits ran out in May. Since funding for the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation program was cut last December, Mark and more than three million other Americans, including nearly 300,000 veterans, have been denied access to a second six months of support — a vital financial lifeline in this tough economy. Mark is way behind in his rent, is selling everything of value he owns, and fears he will be homeless soon.

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Campaign Transparency Efforts Continue in Congress and the FCC

Amid growing concerns about untracked spending on elections, two different efforts are underway to try to shed new light on this critical aspect of our democracy. First, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) on June 24 reintroduced the DISCLOSE Act, which would require groups trying to influence elections to disclose their funding sources. Second, the July 1 reporting deadline for the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) online political file rule has arrived. The rule requires broadcast television stations to post information online about political advertisements.

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New York State’s High Court Upholds Towns’ Right to Ban Fracking

The New York State Court of Appeals issued a decision on June 30 that will shape the future of natural gas fracking in the state. In a vote of 5-2, the court ruled that local townships have the right to ban hydraulic fracturing within their borders. The decision upheld earlier rulings by the state’s lower courts that recognized the rights of the towns of Dryden and Middlefield to issue moratoriums on fracking.

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Weak Regulations Turned My West Virginia Community into Involuntary Guinea Pigs in an Enormous Science Experiment

Like most Americans, I always took the clean water running out of my tap for granted. That changed in January, when West Virginia American Water (WVAW) sent out an all points alert to stop drinking, cooking, washing, or doing anything else with the H₂O flowing into my home, except flush the toilet.

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Striving for Transparency and Accountability in Border Enforcement

The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) has a long road ahead as the agency aims to enhance its accountability. Several stories in recent weeks have raised questions about the transparency and effectiveness of the agency’s use-of-force policies and practices. In response, CBP released long-sought documents, replaced its chief of internal affairs, and announced that it will restructure that office.

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States Work to Keep Toxic Chemicals Out of Children's Products

New York's Child Safe Products Act failed to make it to the state Senate floor prior to the end of the legislative session last Friday, despite being passed by the New York State Assembly with overwhelming bipartisan support. The bill would have better protected children by tightening standards on toxic chemicals used in kids' products, from car seats to toys to clothes. New York is one of several states seeking to create stronger chemical safeguards than currently exist at the federal level.

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Senate Considering Constitutional Amendment to Curb Influence of Money in Politics

Democracy is premised on affording citizens equal say in determining the nature and direction of our government. The impacts of the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings in the Citizens United and McCutcheon cases threaten to undermine this fundamental principle by maximizing the political power of those with the most economic power. In response, Congress is considering a constitutional amendment aimed at restoring the ability of states and the federal government to develop effective campaign finance policies.

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Agencies Should Cooperate with Freedom of Information Ombudsman, Administrative Conference Says

Federal agencies should do more to cooperate with the government's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) ombudsman, according to recommendations approved June 5 by the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS). The recommendations also called for the ombudsman, known as the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), to continue efforts to assist people who make FOIA requests. The recommendation is a positive step for helping people access public information under FOIA.

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