New Posts

Feb 8, 2016

Top 400 Taxpayers See Tax Rates Rise, But There’s More to the Story

As Americans were gathering party supplies to greet the New Year, the Internal Revenue Service released their annual report of cumulative tax data reported on the 400 tax r...

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Feb 4, 2016

Chlorine Bleach Plants Needlessly Endanger 63 Million Americans

Chlorine bleach plants across the U.S. put millions of Americans in danger of a chlorine gas release, a substance so toxic it has been used as a chemical weapon. Greenpeace’s new repo...

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Jan 25, 2016

U.S. Industrial Facilities Reported Fewer Toxic Releases in 2014

The Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) data for 2014 is now available. The good news: total toxic releases by reporting facilities decreased by nearly six percent from 2013 levels. Howe...

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Jan 22, 2016

Methane Causes Climate Change. Here's How the President Plans to Cut Emissions by 40-45 Percent.

  UPDATE (Jan. 22, 2016): Today, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released its proposed rule to reduce methane emissions...

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AU Asks IRS to Investigate Florida Church for Electioneering Against Gay Mayoral Candidate

Americans United for Separation of Church and State asked the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to investigate a Florida church for improper electioneering. Americans United filed the complaint against Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, as a result of the church posting a sign on its property that read, "No Homo Mayor," in an apparent attempt to deter people from voting for Craig Lowe, an openly gay Gainesville mayoral candidate.

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Disclosure Requirements Endure After Case Decided

In v. Federal Election Commission, a federal appeals court unanimously struck down limits on contributions to independent political groups that want to spend money in support or opposition to candidates. The court ruled as unconstitutional the $5,000 annual limit on donations from individuals to groups like

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Study Finds Errors in Lobby Reports

Roll Call ($$) reports on a CQ MoneyLine study that found that over the past twelve years many companies, unions and other groups often made a mistake of reporting only its in-house expenses on lobbying disclosure reports. The Lobbying Disclosure Act requires that entities with in-house lobbying disclose all lobbying costs, including money spent on outside firms, even though outside firms must also separately disclose revenue they receive from the clients.

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National Broadband Plan Seeks to Increase Civic Engagement

On March 16, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released its 376-page National Broadband Plan, setting forth a strategy to expand access to broadband Internet services to millions of people. Chapter 15 of the broadband plan is specifically intended to make it easier for Americans to actively participate in civil society and hold their government accountable.

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Commentary: A Call for Change on Legal Services Corporation Funding Restrictions

For the past 14 years, the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), which funds legal services for the poor, has been forced by Congress to place severe restrictions on legal aid programs that receive LSC funds. These restrictions also extend to non-federal funds raised by legal services programs. Since their passage, the restrictions have been plagued by repeated First Amendment questions and have sparked calls for change.

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Citizens United and Impacts on Nonprofits' Political Spending

Since the Citizens United ruling, attention has largely focused on concerns around how much money will be spent on elections. However, groups are already spending heavily, particularly since the Wisconsin Right to Life decision when the Supreme Court decided that the electioneering communications ban is unconstitutional when applied to genuine issue ads. Subsequently, groups have been allowed to run issue ads that may come quite close to arguably resembling a campaign message, without having to disclose donors.

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More Congressional Hearings to Address Citizens United

The Senate Judiciary committee held a hearing tilted, "We the People? Corporate Spending in American Elections after Citizens United." During the hearing opponents of the ruling argued that the case exemplified that the Roberts Court has abandoned judicial restraint. Conversely, witness Bradley Smith, described the responses to the Citizens United decision as "hysteria." Smith also caused hysteria during the hearing when he referenced Vermont legislators as "freaking out" about the decision.

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Advisory Council Provides Recommendations on Faith-Based and Community Organizations

The Chronicle of Philanthropy ($$) details the President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships' new report offering suggestions for the government in its work with charities. The panel provided a 164-page document which included recommendations to ensure that religious charities use government money only for secular activities.

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Supreme Court Hears Charities' First Amendment Challenge to Patriot Act

On Feb. 23, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Humanitarian Law Project v. Holder, a case challenging parts of the USA PATRIOT Act (Patriot Act). The Humanitarian Law Project (HLP) and other charities allege that sections of the law violate the First Amendment.

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Reactions to Citizens United Persist

The American Constitution Society (ACS) hosted an event to discuss the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Five panelists assessed the prospects for congressional legislation. Not surprisingly, their opinions diverged on the ruling's long-term impact. There are numerous practical and constitutional issues involved in passing any of the bills introduced and it is doubtful whether or not legislators would even be able to agree on any of the proposals.

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Resources & Research

Living in the Shadow of Danger: Poverty, Race, and Unequal Chemical Facility Hazards

People of color and people living in poverty, especially poor children of color, are significantly more likely...

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A Tale of Two Retirements: One for CEOs and One for the Rest of Us

The 100 largest CEO retirement funds are worth a combined $4.9 billion, equal to the entire retirement account savings of 41 percent of American fam...

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