Congress Extends Patriot Act, No New Oversight

Congress voted yesterday to extend three expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act until June 2015 without adopting any new oversight or transparency provisions. President Obama has signed the bill.

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House Stands Up for Big Business, Spurns Transparency*

GOP: How dare average citizens demand that powerful business interests disclose how they’re influencing the political process.

On Wednesday evening, during House debate of the fiscal year (FY) 2012 defense authorization bill, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) introduced and won agreement to an amendment that would prevent the federal government from requiring potential contractors – which would include many large corporations – to disclose their political contributions to the public.

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New GAO Report Shows the Benefits of Spending Transparency

According to the report, $24 billion in Recovery Act contract and grant spending went to about 3,700 recipients who owed some $750 million in taxes to the US government. Clearly, this isn’t good. Government contracts shouldn’t be benefiting organizations that don’t play by the rules. But the important point is that we only know this because of the recipient reporting feature built into the Recovery Act.

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Fixing the Deficit is Not Rocket Science

Seriously.

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Lisa Jackson Defends Regulation on the Daily Show

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson was on the Daily Show last night giving an impassioned defense of public health, the environment, and regulatory safeguards. Despite some recent disappointments from the EPA surrounding boiler emissions and coal ash, Jackson came across as a committed public servant and argued against some of the ridiculous attacks on public protections.

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Life After Debt Ceiling

On May 16, the United States Treasury auctioned off $72 billion in bonds, and as it did so, it reached the limit of its $14.294 trillion limit on how much it can legally borrow. But the world didn't end. Or at least the bond market -- the collective pool of investors that buy us debt -- went about its businesses as if nothing happened. A full on freak out by the bond market would drive up the cost U.S. borrowing and, according to Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke, "destabilize" the financial system and "have extremely dire consequences for the U.S. economy."

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Spying Without Oversight is a Compromise?

Congressional leaders have agreed to extend key provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act until June 2015, according to reports today. The extension will not include reforms.

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MSHA Failed to Watchdog Deviant Mine Company

Today, the Governor’s Independent Investigation Panel submitted to the governor of West Virginia its report on the Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine disaster that killed 29 men in April 2010. Liz Borkowski at The Pump Handle blog has a detailed summary. Be sure to read it, especially if you’re going to bypass the 126-page report.

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New Executive Order Could Improve Government Websites

On April 27, President Obama signed Executive Order 13571, entitled "Streamlining Service Delivery and Improving Customer Service." Building on a Clinton-era order, E.O. 13571 requires agencies to develop plans to make their customer service more efficient and effective. Agencies have to publish their plans online within 180 days.

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Will the Water Polluters Please Come Forward?

On May 16, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) added new features to the Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) tool that allow the public to search for information about which drinking water systems have violated federal and state regulations.

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