Archive for the ‘Congress Watch Column’ Category

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Congress passed – unanimously in the Senate and without debate – and President Obama will sign, H.R. 2019, the “Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act” (named after a 10-year old child who died last year of brain cancer). If the legislation actually did what it touts – to finance pediatric research – it would be a noble bill for a noble cause.

But it is a fig-leaf bill. Its real purpose is to begin dismantling the presidential public financing system, and is very unlikely to produce any revenues for pediatric research.

The bill was originally introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), a longtime opponent of campaign finance reform. After Harper was unable to persuade Congress to approve earlier legislation that would have entirely defunded the public financing program, Harper re-worked the bill into what it is known now.

The legislation transfers public funds used to pay for the nominating conventions into the general treasury, then states that those funds may be used for pediatric research, if Congress ever decides to appropriate the funds for that purpose.

This same Congress slashed National Institute of Health (NIH) funding by $1.55 billion, which finances the pediatric research program, in the appropriations bills, and then placed caps on any further spending by NIH. The Kids First Research Act, if ever implemented, would transfer from the presidential public financing system to pediatric research, a pittance of what Congress slashed from the research budget. And even that pittance is not likely to happen. Given current spending caps on governmental agencies, Congress also would have to pass legislation lifting the spending ceiling for the National Institutes of Health to carry through with this appropriation, something that this Congress is very unlikely to do.

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Last night, Public Citizen, along with our allies at Free Speech for People, hosted an online conversation featuring Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and superstar activist for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates to secret corporate money in elections). The court is likely to hand down another decision soon that could further increase corruption of our democratic election system.

During yesterday’s webinar, Ben Cohen, Public Citizen’s Robert Weissman and Jonah Minkoff-Zern, and Free Speech For People’s John Bonifaz discussed how a bad ruling in the case McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission could fundamentally reshape how candidates and political parties raise money.

These leaders of the movement for a constitutional amendment to prevent corporations and the 1% from dominating our elections also called on activists to join our campaign to fight back on the day the court hands down what’s likely to be a harmful decision in the McCutcheon case. We hope you and your friends and neighbors can get involved in the events planned across the country!

Did you miss the webinar? If so, you can watch a replay here:

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Last week, activists from across the nation tuned in to Public Citizen’s online presentation about writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Writing a letter to the editor is a very important way to have your voice heard on issues since that section is one of the most widely read parts of a newspaper.

You can get valuable tips on writing a letter to the editor by watching a recording of the webinar here:

To make sure you’re invited to the next live online discussion, sign up today.

Rick Claypool is the online director for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. Follow him on Twitter at @RickClaypool.

Last night, dozens of activists joined an online conversation with Public Citizen, hosted by me and my colleague Kelly Ngo.

If you missed the conversation, don’t worry – we hope this will be the first of many online talks. And you can watch a recording of last night’s broadcast here:

During the conversation, we discussed what makes Public Citizen unique among advocacy organizations, the issue priorities of our Congress Watch division, and the process of passing the STOCK Act as a case study in how grassroots activism works in tandem with our lobbying efforts in Washington. We also answered a number of questions posed to us by activists.

Why host these online conversations? Because we are excited to educate grassroots activists like you all over the country about our organization and the issues that we work on, and to prepare you to participate locally in actions that will help sway members of Congress to embrace reforms that benefit the public interest.

The next live online conversation will be held during the week of July 14 (exact time and date to be announced soon).

To let us know you’re interested in joining the next online conversation, sign up here.

Rick Claypool is online director for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. Follow him on Twitter at @RickClaypool.

A quote from George Takei that reads, "Dear Internet: It is not "censorship" to petition companies, the government or organizations to change their policies. Censorship is when the government, or a quasi-governmental entity, itself acts to quash or silence debate. Asking people to add their voices to a cause, or to vote with their dollars, is part of a healthy and robust social discourse and, I argue, is essential to the free exchange of ideas. Carry on.”

I saw this on Facebook earlier today, and it reminded me of all the terrific pressure Public Citizen has organized against reckless corporations for polluting our environment, wrecking our economy, attacking consumer rights and distorting our democracy. And I couldn’t agree more.

Rick Claypool is online director for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. Follow him on Twitter at @RickClaypool.

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