Tag Archives: Congress

How to Achieve Transparency for the Supercommittee


Every campaign contribution to members of this powerful panel should be reported every single day.

By Ellen Miller

Come December, the priorities and role of our government could be drastically and fundamentally altered. Are your views and concerns being heard?

The supercommittee created in the wake of the debt ceiling clash is comprised of 12 members of Congress tasked with cutting at least $1.2 trillion from the national debt by the end of the year. Whatever combination of savings and new taxes this panel devises will be fast-tracked to the floor of both chambers, without amendments, for an immediate vote. This is an unprecedented amount of power densely concentrated in the hands of a few.

The possibility of deep cuts across the federal budget sent a rallying cry to K Street, with one lobbyist forecasting a “Holy War” between the defense and health industries. It’s a battle amongst military contractors, health insurance companies, and other special interests buying lobbying time with the lawmakers and their senior staffers via campaign contributions. The special interests that have the supercommittee’s ears are very likely the same ones that contributed more than $28 million to the panel’s dozen members since 1989, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Most Americans, lacking this moneyed leverage, are left in the dark. We won’t get a chance to tell those lawmakers what to cut and what to keep.

We also can’t find out who does have that access. Current disclosure rules are a roadblock to letting us know.

You see, the supercommittee’s members report their campaign finance activities like all other lawmakers. They must report how much money they’ve taken from special interests on a quarterly basis, and they never have to report whom they’ve met with. But the panel’s work is proceeding so quickly that if they follow the old rules for reporting their fundraising, we won’t know which interests pushed their agenda until they’ve already succeeded.

The supercommittee’s unparalleled power demands that lackluster congressional transparency requirements be kicked into overdrive.

In today’s world of pay-to-play politics, expertly timed campaign contributions can open the right doors and provide access to a sympathetic ear. Campaign laws recognize the force of this cash, which is why contributions made within two weeks of an election are disclosed faster. Every member of Congress operates under these rules during an election year and knows that compliance is simple.

The supercommittee is in a similarly time-sensitive situation, where money can tip the balance of debate. While its members deliberate on crucial fiscal decisions, they should disclose campaign contributions in real time. Every contribution should be reported every single day.

Beyond the money are the meetings. Contacts between lobbyists and committee members or staff must all be disclosed online on a daily basis, including any written communications. The Obama administration already implemented these transparency requirements during the debate over the Recovery Act in 2009 and the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that passed last year. It’s not difficult and it’s been done before.

These decisions are too important to be left in the backrooms of Capitol Hill. Lawmakers should be required to post their meetings with lobbyists every single day. Ultimately, the nation’s lobbying laws should be changed to require lobbyists to do the same for the sake of our democracy.

Ellen Miller is the Sunlight Foundation‘s co-founder and executive director. http://www.sunlightfoundation.com

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Filed under Human Rights, Opinion, Politics

Job Destroyers Don’t Deserve a Tax Holiday


When thinks tanks from the left and the right agree on something, Congress should pay attention.

Sarah AndersonBy Sarah Anderson and Chuck Collins

A coalition of big businesses is waging a campaign for a massive tax holiday on corporate profits stashed overseas. Its lobbyists claim that this windfall would create millions of jobs. If our lawmakers buy that, they’ve got very short memories.

Just seven years ago, big American corporations made the exact same promises. And Congress gave them a tax holiday that allowed 843 companies to reduce their tax rate from 35 percent to 5.25 percent on $312 billion in offshore profits.

Dr. National and Mr. Transnational, OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

What did Americans get in return? This week, our organization, the progressive Institute for Policy Studies, released a report showing that 58 companies that received 70 percent of the tax windfalls didn’t boost employment. In fact, they actually destroyed a total of nearly 600,000 jobs.

Almost simultaneously, the conservative Heritage Foundation released a paper with the same conclusion: Tax holidays don’t create jobs. When thinks tanks from the left and the right agree on something, Congress should pay attention.

But we’re up against powerful forces.

A coalition called Working to Invest Now in America, which goes by the slick name WIN America, has deployed more than 160 lobbyists and spent at least $50 million to win a tax holiday on more than $1 trillion in offshore funds that might get repatriated if Uncle Sam grants this tax break. Lawmakers in both the House and the Senate have introduced bills that would do just that.

The Senate version, unveiled in early October, would give the deepest tax discounts to firms that create jobs, but that requirement only applies for one year. We need jobs that last, not positions that could vanish after the nation’s supposed job creators get their huge tax windfall.

Some executives argue that without the tax holiday, these global firms would keep their cash offshore permanently, and it’s better for Uncle Sam to get something rather than nothing. Nevertheless, offering such drastic tax discounts sets a dangerous precedent.

Back in 2004, the corporate lobbyists argued that the holiday would be a “one-time” deal. But after they won that round, they turned around and began amassing their offshore stashes once again. They must have counted on getting more tax holidays.

A tax holiday for job destroyers isn’t only a waste of taxpayer money at a time of urgent needs. It hurts small businesses and other firms that operate only domestically. What sense does it make to give global companies deep discounts on their IRS obligations while these small, yet strong, engines of job creation face standard tax rates?

There are many things that we can do to strengthen the U.S. economy and spur job growth. But providing subsidies to companies whose business model is based on minimizing labor costs, sending profits offshore, and dodging taxes isn’t a good strategy. These companies may compensate their CEOs lavishly and deliver value to shareholders, but they aren’t in the business of creating jobs.

The WIN America campaign leader that stands to gain the most is Pfizer. The pharmaceutical giant was the leading beneficiary of the 2004 tax holiday when it toted $40 billion in foreign funds back to the United States.

And what did Americans get for Pfizer’s subsidy? Instead of creating jobs, the firm proceeded to scrap more than 58,000 jobs in the years since that holiday.

Today, Pfizer is holding more than $48 billion in profits offshore. Will Congress be fooled again?

Sarah Anderson and Chuck Collins are among the co-authors of the new Institute for Policy Studies report, “America Loses: Corporations that Take ‘Tax Holidays’ Slash Jobs.”

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How To “Fix” Congress (in 8 easy steps)


This was sent to me as one of those “chain” emails. You know, if you pass this on to 20 friends we can change the world. Sorry, I just don’t do the forwarding thing. I did find this interesting enough to share here though. If you enjoy this, reblog it, stumble it, recommend it, or whatever you do to show your approval.    Thanks ~ sekanblogger

1.    Term Limits –  12 years max, some possible options are below.

        A.    Two Six-year Senate terms

        B.    Six Two-year House terms

        C.    One Six-year Senate term and three Two-Year House terms

2.    No Tenure / No Pension 

        Members of Congress receive a salary while in office, that salary ends when they leave office.

3.    Congress members (past, present & future) are to participate in Social Security.

        All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately.

        All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with all Americans.

4.    Congress can purchase their own retirement plan,  just as all Americans do.

5.    Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise.

           Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

6.    Congress loses their current health care system….

           and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

7.    Members of Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

8.    All contracts with past and present members of Congress are void effective 1/1/12.  

  The American people did not make the contracts members of Congress enjoy, in fact, Congress made all these contracts for themselves.   

       Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career.   

       The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators,  Congressmen should serve their term(s), then go  home and back to work like the rest of us. NOT AS LOBBYISTS.

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Tea party Congress: “Power to the Corporations”


Wednesday, September 7, 2011 |  by Jim Hightower

Good grief – the genuine populist fury of grassroots tea partiers is now being perverted into anti-populism by the very tea party Republicans they elected to Congress.

Tea party House members have become the Koch brothers‘ plutocratic dream. They’ve voted to keep giving a $4-billion-a-year government subsidy to Big Oil, to privatize and slash Medicare, to let Wall Street banksters keep ripping off consumers and investors, and to put Social Security on the congressional killing floor. Is this what grassroots voters meant by “Power to the people?”

Take tea party Congressman Austin Scott. Only, you can’t – he’s already been taken by corporate lobbyists. This Georgia Republican won election last year by waging a full-throated campaign against foreign workers who enter the country illegally. Throw ’em all out, he ranted – those jobs belong to U.S. citizens. But, curiously, Scott did not applaud on July 29 when Legal Service lawyers won a case to stop a corporation in his district from illegally firing U.S. workers and replacing them with Mexican migrants.

Far from applauding, this tough-on-immigrants tea party stalwart abruptly shifted sides, favoring the corporation’s illegal hiring practices against his own constituents who’d been thrown out of their jobs. Indeed, only three days after Legal Services won its case against the corporation, Scott rose up on his hind legs and introduced H.R. 2774, a vindictive, one-sentence bill that says: “Be it enacted… in Congress assembled, that the Legal Services Corporation Act is repealed.”

Scott’s hypocrisy is as subtle as a hammer to the head: He professes to be for the people then tries to kill a program that helps poor people pursue justice against corporate elites. “Power to the Corporations” is his motto.

“How Rep. Austin Scott betrayed his Tea Party roots,”www.washingtonpost.com, August 9, 2011

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