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Can Washington Change?
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October 31, 2008
No matter who is elected November 4th, Americans are certain to have a president who promised to bring change and reform to Washington, D.C. It's a safe stance. In an electorate that can sometimes seem intractably polarized, most seem to agree that something is fundamentally broken in our nation's capitol.

If the new president is truly serious about reform, where should he start? Two veteran watchdogs, Joan Claybrook of Public Citizen and Bob Edgar of Common Cause, join Bill Moyers on the JOURNAL to help prioritize the most pressing fixes in Washington.

Joan Claybrook
Photo by Robin Holland Joan B. Claybrook has been the President of Public Citizen since 1982. Founded by Ralph Nader in 1971, Public Citizen is a nonprofit public interest advocacy organization that seeks to improve the health and safety of the public, as well as civil rights and liberties, clean and safe energy sources, public availability of information, campaign finance reform, accountability and fairness in the marketplace and citizen participation in government decision-making.

Ms. Claybrook testifies frequently before Congressional committees, and speaks on behalf of public interest issues to private groups and educational institutions. Current issues Ms. Claybrook is working on include product liability, campaign finance reform, health care reform, auto and highway safety, trade, and regulatory policies.

Ms. Claybrook is a member of the Board of Georgetown University Law Center; Citizens for Tax Justice; Public Justice; Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety; and Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways.

Bob Edgar
Photo by Robin Holland Bob Edgar is the president and CEO of Common Cause. Common Cause is a non-profit, nationwide advocacy organization, 400,000 member strong, that advocates for open, responsive government and encourages citizen participation in democracy.

Bob arrived at Common Cause in 2007 with a long history of leadership and public service that included 12 years in Congress. He was the general secretary of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA for seven years immediately before becoming Common Cause President. Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1974 to represent the Seventh Congressional District of Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia, Bob was part of the congressional class nicknamed "the Watergate babies," those elected in the wake of the Watergate scandal and who led sweeping reforms of Congress.

Published October 31, 2008.

Guest photos by Robin Holland

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References and Reading:
"A Last Push to Deregulate"
By R. Jeffrey Smith, WASHINGTON POST, October 31, 2008.

Public Citizen
The Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.

The Sunlight Foundation
The Sunlight Foundation supports projects that increase government transparency and responsiveness.

Common Cause
Common Cause is a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization founded in 1970 by John Gardner as a vehicle for citizens to make their voices heard in the political process and to hold their elected leaders accountable to the public interest.

The Center for Public Integrity
The Center for Public Integrity is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, tax-exempt organization that conducts investigative research and reporting on public policy issues in the United States and around the world. They post commentaries, list news stories of interest, and distribute the "Public i" newsletter. The Center maintains extensive online research projects including LobbyWatch, and PowerTrips, an investigation into Congressional travel.

The Center for Responsive Politics
The Center for Responsive Politics is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research group based in Washington, D.C. that tracks money in politics, and its effect on elections and public policy. The site contains comprehensive databases on 527s, PACS and breakdown of dollars by representative, major donors, donors by industry, and many others.

Follow the Money: The Institute on Money in State Politics
The Institute on Money in State Politics is a national nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to accurate, comprehensive and unbiased documentation and research on campaign finance at the state level. The Institute develops searchable databases, makes them available to the public online, and analyzes the information to determine the role campaign money plays in public policy debates in the states.
Maplight is developing an database which combines all campaign contributions to U.S. legislators with legislators votes on every bill, using official records from the Library of Congress Web site and the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Visitors to the developing site can track how much the pharmaceutical industry contributed to each Senator voting Yes, and voting No, on an amendment to prohibit consumers from buying prescription drugs from abroad.
This is a Sunlight Foundation sponsored group, which centralizes official government data with news and blog coverage regarding members of Congress.
A comprehensive guide to money in politics at the state level. Find out how much candidates are collecting in campaign contributions and from which organizations.

Citizens Against Government Waste
This group produces numerous publications highlighting wasteful government spending, as well as features action alerts that inform the public about earmark abuses.

Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest
Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest (CLPI) promotes, supports and protects 501(c)(3) nonprofit advocacy and lobbying in order to strengthen participation in our democratic society and advance charitable missions. The Web site contains information on effective lobbying procedures.

Public Citizen: Lobbying Info
Public Citizen is a national nonprofit public interest organization "protecting health, safety, and democracy." Their Lobbyinginfo Web site features a report on Congressmen who retired to K Street (PDF) and offers a searchable database of lobbyists and their employments histories.

The Federal Election Commission (FEC)
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is an agency created to administer and enforce the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1975 (FECA), the statute that regulates the financing of federal elections in the United States. It has jurisdiction over all subsequent campaign finance regulation. The Web site contains a searchable database of all campaign finance filings and a guide to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2004.

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