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From Public Citizen's Joan Claybrook

I was thrilled to join Bill Moyers this week on his show, and I welcome a dialogue about a problem that impacts every issue today: the corrupting influence of big-money congressional lobbyists.

When corporate lobbyists raise campaign cash or help lawmakers get lucrative lobbying jobs after leaving office, the democratic system is corrupted. It's also expensive. Lobbyists throw their financial weight around Congress to get tax breaks, contracts, loan guarantees, subsidies and regulatory cutbacks for their corporate clients. Meanwhile, those of us with legitimate concerns about drug safety, global warming and high gas prices have trouble being heard at all.

The scandals brought on by the criminal relationship between lobbyist Jack Abramoff and members of Congress * like Tom DeLay and Bob Ney * toppled Republicans in 2006. The Democrats came to power on the promise of draining the swamp and ending the culture of corruption.

So where are we now?

We are still fighting for some very modest reforms for transparency in the way that lobbyists and members of Congress conduct business. (http://citizen.typepad.com/watchdog_blog/)

The lobby and ethics reform bills passed by the Senate and House (http://www.cleanupwashington.org/lobbying/page.cfm?pageid=24) will be joined in a conference committee when Congress returns to work next week. At least one critical reform found in the stronger Senate bill may be in jeopardy: slowing the "revolving door." This refers to the practice of former lawmakers taking high-paying lobbying jobs after leaving Congress, hired because they know the system and have special access to ask former colleagues for favors.

Under the current law, public officials are prohibited only from "direct" lobbying * and only for one year after office. This means that former lawmakers can run lobbying campaigns for clients as soon as they leave Congress * as long as they don't pick up the phone or meet personally with a lawmaker. This is completely inadequate.

However, the Senate lobbying reform bill (S. 1) restricts all lobbying activity * not just "contacts" * for two years for lawmakers and senior executive branch officials. Former senior Congressional staffers would be prohibited from making lobbying "contacts" with Congress for one year. This would be a big improvement. Unfortunately, the House bill does not have the same reforms. Our goal is to keep the Senate provisions in the final bill. (http://action.citizen.org/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=11780&t=CleanUpWashington2col.dwt)

What are your thoughts? Have you or your family been harmed by big-money politics? What do you think the solution is?

-Joan Claybrook, president, Public Citizen


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Comments

Right on Paul Amigo! We individual citizens may have the right to cast a vote at the ballot box, but in between these election opportunities, it's legalized bribery all the way.

Case in point: HR 811 (the Holt Bill)
1. There is copious evidence that e-voting machines are prone to malfunctions and vulnerable to vicious software attacks.
2. Supporters of HR 811 say that an amendment to ban e-voting machines could not be passed by Congress.
3. Not one investigation that I am aware of has yet been able to find a single Congress Member who supports the bill as currently written, without such a ban, who will go on record --- or even admit off-record --- that they would vote against HR 811 if it included a ban on e-voting machines.

The only valid conclusion that I can come up with to explain this scenario is that the lobbying efforts of the e-voting machine companies to tap into the federal stream of money generated by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 are successfully winning out over our democracy.

Help! I am absolutely convinced that every Congress Member on Capitol Hill is on the take from these e-voting machine companies. If I'm wrong about this, then what are the reasons behind our Congress apparently choosing to ignore what computer scientists and advocacy groups are telling them that e-voting machines are antithetical to democracy?

This issue of e-voting machines cannot be determined by the lobbying influence (bribery) of the businesses that manufacture and sell them. Too much is at stake for this to happen.

TO KEEP IT SIMPLE,ALL THEY HAVE TO DO IS, BAN ALL LOBBYISTS AND LOBBYING EFFORTS FROM WASHINGTON; THESE 'CORPORATE PIMPS' SHOULDN'T BE THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE.
ALL CONGRESSMEN AND SENATORS SHOULD BE MADE TO TAKE AN OATH OR PLEDEG NOT TO ACCEPT ANY GIFTS/DONATIONS/
FREEBIES,PERIOD.

Considering the fact that
the Cheney-Bush regime is
the most negligent, most
corrupt, most criminal regime in the entire history of
this country, how is it that
Nancy Pelosi can say,
repeatedly, that
"impeachment is off the
table?". How is it that
Barbara Boxer can react
with credulity to Bush's
dissimulations about the environment?
How is it that we can have
a corporate pharma Hillary
shoved down our throats as the
next Democratic prez-candidate?

-Attlee

' and the scales shall fall from your eyes'
Congratulations to those who are just discovering that there IS NO DEMOCRATIC party only a
separate wing of the repugs
who make a pretense of
opposition by milking the
wedge (read irrelevant)issues. The idea that 'free trade' hillary
is anything but a corrupt corporate federalist is a
sad joke on those who still believe in the pretense of democracy we are/have swallowed for as muchtime as has passed since the ETHICS committees internally agreed not to investigate each other. Since then its
been balls to the wall
no holds barred corruption.

The goal of those who really care about America needs to be public finance. Those opposed always bring up the cost. The present corrupt system costs each citizen far more than the modest cost of public financing of all elections. Let's do it.

Bill Moyers, Cleaning Up Washington

Political Corruption, Journalism, Lobbyist, PBS, Lyndon Johnson, Vietnam, Bill Moyers


Born on this day in 1934


America's corporate and political elites now form a regime of their own, they're privatizing democracy. All the benefits, the tax cuts, policies and rewards flow in one direction: up.
Bill Moyers


I happened to be reading Moyer's Blog early this morning looking for his interview with Public Citizen's Joan Claybrook which I missed when it aired on PBS last Friday on "Bill Moyers Journal."


The subject of the segment was lobbying and lobbyists and their pervasive influence on our political system.


I have a large measure of respect for both Moyers and Claybrook and an enormous loathing for lobbyists and their destructive influence on MY country and I was disappointed to have missed the program.


Fortunately for me I learned from Karl Rove that Al Gore invented the internet a few years back, and that invention led to the discovery of You Tube where I found a clip of the segment and I feel very good about the modern world this morning.

Break

If you are at all interested, as you should be, in the machinations and corruptions of our polical system by the Bob Neys, the Jack Abramoffs, the Billy Tauzins and other disreputable and criminal scum who infest our government and engage in buying and selling it these days I recommend that you watch the video.


Coincidentally, it seems like an appropriate time to once again ponder the the corruption in our government and to seriously consider, again, again... doing something to put an end to the revolving doors and corrupt and unethical congressional behavior, after yesterday's indictment of another sitting congressman (Louisiana's own William Jefferson .. hmmm... Billy Tauzin was from Louisiana too) on bribery and racketeering charges.


Just about a year ago, around the time that the Feds were breaking down Jefferson's office door, I wrote a somewhat awkwardly titled and probably, awkwardly written piece The Mother Of All Public Airings Of The Dirty Skivvies, in which I ranted briefly about the corruption in Washington. I reread it this morning after reading accounts of "Dollar Bill's" indictment and marveled that I had, at that time, a somewhat hopeful tone, because I fully expected the Democrats to sweep back into Washington at mid term, surfing on a tidal wave of the foul detritus of Republican corruption and really polish up the Washington Monument and everything else in sight.


Those were heady and optimistic days for me, I had survived a heart attack, learned that I would likely survive to a decently old age, Abramoff was singing his heart out, Duke Cunningham and Bob Ney were preparing musical arrangements of their own and it looked like the lid was going to blow right off the old Washington sewer.


I gushed:


Democrats do not wait, do not falter, this day, this very day begin to cleanse your ranks of the filth, of the rot, of all those unworthy to serve the public trust. You know them well, you have ignored and protected and excused them far too long, and they have held us back like a great sea anchor, made from the mainsail of our Ship of State and torn from it's proud and proper place flying high and boldly before the winds of history.


Take the lead Democrats and do it this day, the gods and the people wait and watch.


I blush as I read it this morning but I was so much younger and idealistic a year ago, and this morning after the last months of watching my Democratic leadership fold on nearly all fronts, from health care and pharmaceuticals to Iraq and ethics reform, watching their cowardly accommodations and their lust for the largesse of the lizards of K Street, I am much older.


The Democrats were voted back into Washington and the several statehouses by the people, to do the work of the people, to put a stop to the corruption, an end to the war, to renew our economy, and return us to a position of respect in the eyes of the world, not to do the bidding of the Big Oil Trust, Big Pharm, the National Association of Manufacturers or the defense industry.


They were elected to throw the moneylenders out of the temple not to grovel by their side and worship Mammon with them.


I'm straying a bit here from "Happy Birthday Bill" I suppose but I set out to pen a small tribute to his work in past years of exposing the kind of corporate and governmental collusion that I believe is at the heart of our public malaise as well as to express my respect for the work of Public Citizen.


From Ms Claybrook:

When corporate lobbyists raise campaign cash or help lawmakers get lucrative lobbying jobs after leaving office, the democratic system is corrupted. It's also expensive. Lobbyists throw their financial weight around Congress to get tax breaks, contracts, loan guarantees, subsidies and regulatory cutbacks for their corporate clients. Meanwhile, those of us with legitimate concerns about drug safety, global warming and high gas prices have trouble being heard at all.
Joan Claybrook from Public Citizen

The scandals brought on by the criminal relationship between lobbyist Jack Abramoff and members of Congress * like Tom DeLay and Bob Ney * toppled Republicans in 2006. The Democrats came to power on the promise of draining the swamp and ending the culture of corruption.


So where are we now?


We are still fighting for some very modest reforms for transparency in the way that lobbyists and members of Congress conduct business.

See Watchdog Blog


The lobby and ethics reform bills passed by the Senate and House will be joined in a conference committee when Congress returns to work next week. At least one critical reform found in the stronger Senate bill may be in jeopardy: slowing the "revolving door." This refers to the practice of former lawmakers taking high-paying lobbying jobs after leaving Congress, hired because they know the system and have special access to ask former colleagues for favors.


Under the current law, public officials are prohibited only from "direct" lobbying * and only for one year after office. This means that former lawmakers can run lobbying campaigns for clients as soon as they leave Congress * as long as they don't pick up the phone or meet personally with a lawmaker. This is completely inadequate.


If I have a point here aside from birthday greetings it is this, the only thing that will save our Democratic Party is extreme pressure from you and I, we, after all are the base, the core and the soul of the party and we must not allow it to become another tool co -opted by the theo - plutocracy.


Write to the Party leadership, piss and moan in the media and in print, loudly, boldly and clearly.

My America, our America, cannot survive without a Democratic Party.


Oh yeah, donate to Public Citizen and to Bill Moyers Journal, it's his birthday you know.


Bob Higgins

Worldwide Sawdust

I am disgusted by the behavior of this congress. I believe every single senator and congressperson who enables the Bush Admin in its corrupt practices should be prosecuted.
I have been following the Scooter Libby sentencing and I have heard media personalities and republican elected officials saying things like "oh he didn't commit a crime." and a group of high profile politicians and operatives have submitted letters to Judge Walton in an effort to mitigate Libby's sentence and they want those letters concealed so the public won't know what crooks and liars they are. It's unbelievable. Here's the thing. Libby was tried by a jury of his peers. He had a multimillion dollar defense team-so many aides and lawyers it was impossible to count then. He was prosecuted by a republican who had been chosen for the task by another republican. This was a fair trial. And those who say otherwise are liars.I believe anyone who calls him or herself a journalist or a media personality should be prosecuted for misleading the public.
Bill O'Reilly is a case in point. He has deceived his audience and actually affected the quality of their lives by influencing them to vote against their own interests. It's so hideous. Sorry for the rant.

I have a suggestion for constructive action, though I don't have a good sense of its feasibility.
Public Citizen , League of Women Voters, and other like minded groups appoint a small group to draft a lowest common denominator list of reforms concerning the revolving door, campaign contributions, lobbyists reforms, and the like. An agreed list of reforms is then publicized with a high falutin title in the MSM and Democratic (and Republican ) candidates are asked to pledge their support. The list of reforms should be kept real simple and to a minimum. Any reforms passed prior to a new
election are simply removed from the list.
While there are obviously no guarantees that a pledged candidate will attempt to deliver on their pledge once elected, having such a pledge seems preferable to none.
My own priority is to greatly restrict the revolving door. This problem has been growing larger and larger over the past 2 decades.
Cheers.

Bill Moyers, Cleaning Up Washington

Political Corruption, Journalism, Lobbyist, PBS, Lyndon Johnson, Vietnam, Bill Moyers


Born on this day in 1934


America's corporate and political elites now form a regime of their own, they're privatizing democracy. All the benefits, the tax cuts, policies and rewards flow in one direction: up.
Bill Moyers


I happened to be reading Moyer's Blog early this morning looking for his interview with Public Citizen's Joan Claybrook which I missed when it aired on PBS last Friday on "Bill Moyers Journal."


The subject of the segment was lobbying and lobbyists and their pervasive influence on our political system.


I have a large measure of respect for both Moyers and Claybrook and an enormous loathing for lobbyists and their destructive influence on MY country and I was disappointed to have missed the program.


Fortunately for me I learned from Karl Rove that Al Gore invented the internet a few years back, and that invention led to the discovery of You Tube where I found a clip of the segment and I feel very good about the modern world this morning.

Break

If you are at all interested, as you should be, in the machinations and corruptions of our polical system by the Bob Neys, the Jack Abramoffs, the Billy Tauzins and other disreputable and criminal scum who infest our government and engage in buying and selling it these days I recommend that you watch the video.


Coincidentally, it seems like an appropriate time to once again ponder the the corruption in our government and to seriously consider, again, again... doing something to put an end to the revolving doors and corrupt and unethical congressional behavior, after yesterday's indictment of another sitting congressman (Louisiana's own William Jefferson .. hmmm... Billy Tauzin was from Louisiana too) on bribery and racketeering charges.


Just about a year ago, around the time that the Feds were breaking down Jefferson's office door, I wrote a somewhat awkwardly titled and probably, awkwardly written piece The Mother Of All Public Airings Of The Dirty Skivvies, in which I ranted briefly about the corruption in Washington. I reread it this morning after reading accounts of "Dollar Bill's" indictment and marveled that I had, at that time, a somewhat hopeful tone, because I fully expected the Democrats to sweep back into Washington at mid term, surfing on a tidal wave of the foul detritus of Republican corruption and really polish up the Washington Monument and everything else in sight.


Those were heady and optimistic days for me, I had survived a heart attack, learned that I would likely survive to a decently old age, Abramoff was singing his heart out, Duke Cunningham and Bob Ney were preparing musical arrangements of their own and it looked like the lid was going to blow right off the old Washington sewer.


I gushed:


Democrats do not wait, do not falter, this day, this very day begin to cleanse your ranks of the filth, of the rot, of all those unworthy to serve the public trust. You know them well, you have ignored and protected and excused them far too long, and they have held us back like a great sea anchor, made from the mainsail of our Ship of State and torn from it's proud and proper place flying high and boldly before the winds of history.


Take the lead Democrats and do it this day, the gods and the people wait and watch.


I blush as I read it this morning but I was so much younger and idealistic a year ago, and this morning after the last months of watching my Democratic leadership fold on nearly all fronts, from health care and pharmaceuticals to Iraq and ethics reform, watching their cowardly accommodations and their lust for the largesse of the lizards of K Street, I am much older.


The Democrats were voted back into Washington and the several statehouses by the people, to do the work of the people, to put a stop to the corruption, an end to the war, to renew our economy, and return us to a position of respect in the eyes of the world, not to do the bidding of the Big Oil Trust, Big Pharm, the National Association of Manufacturers or the defense industry.


They were elected to throw the moneylenders out of the temple not to grovel by their side and worship Mammon with them.


I'm straying a bit here from "Happy Birthday Bill" I suppose but I set out to pen a small tribute to his work in past years of exposing the kind of corporate and governmental collusion that I believe is at the heart of our public malaise as well as to express my respect for the work of Public Citizen.


From Ms Claybrook:

When corporate lobbyists raise campaign cash or help lawmakers get lucrative lobbying jobs after leaving office, the democratic system is corrupted. It's also expensive. Lobbyists throw their financial weight around Congress to get tax breaks, contracts, loan guarantees, subsidies and regulatory cutbacks for their corporate clients. Meanwhile, those of us with legitimate concerns about drug safety, global warming and high gas prices have trouble being heard at all.
Joan Claybrook from Public Citizen

The scandals brought on by the criminal relationship between lobbyist Jack Abramoff and members of Congress * like Tom DeLay and Bob Ney * toppled Republicans in 2006. The Democrats came to power on the promise of draining the swamp and ending the culture of corruption.


So where are we now?


We are still fighting for some very modest reforms for transparency in the way that lobbyists and members of Congress conduct business.

See Watchdog Blog


The lobby and ethics reform bills passed by the Senate and House will be joined in a conference committee when Congress returns to work next week. At least one critical reform found in the stronger Senate bill may be in jeopardy: slowing the "revolving door." This refers to the practice of former lawmakers taking high-paying lobbying jobs after leaving Congress, hired because they know the system and have special access to ask former colleagues for favors.


Under the current law, public officials are prohibited only from "direct" lobbying * and only for one year after office. This means that former lawmakers can run lobbying campaigns for clients as soon as they leave Congress * as long as they don't pick up the phone or meet personally with a lawmaker. This is completely inadequate.


If I have a point here aside from birthday greetings it is this, the only thing that will save our Democratic Party is extreme pressure from you and I, we, after all are the base, the core and the soul of the party and we must not allow it to become another tool co -opted by the theo - plutocracy.


Write to the Party leadership, piss and moan in the media and in print, loudly, boldly and clearly.

My America, our America, cannot survive without a Democratic Party.


Oh yeah, donate to Public Citizen and to Bill Moyers Journal, it's his birthday you know.


Bob Higgins

Worldwide Sawdust

Bob Kerrey said in his interview "But Bin Laden would be using the Internet to recruit young Muslim men worldwide, had we never invaded Iraq. That is undeniably true". Of course this is true, but does he really not know that wars are the greatest rallying points? Does he not know that Iraq has become a very effective recruiting poster for Bin Laden, not to mention an excellent training ground for young Jihadists? Come on!

Happy Birthday Bill. And many more. We so need you around today more than ever. Keep on keeping on...and Godspeed.

It's terrific to read so many thoughtful comments here. At Public Citizen, we strongly agree that the ultimate solution to corruption is publicly funded elections, or Clean and Fair Elections.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with public funding, here�s how it works:

Candidates choose to opt-in to a system where they get clean, public money to run their campaign after they prove they have significant grassroots support.

Full public funding of elections, sometimes called Clean and Fair Elections or Voter Owned Elections, is already working for all state elections in Maine and Arizona, and is being implemented in Connecticut, North Carolina and elsewhere. The people in those states have freed themselves by passing laws that allow candidates to run for office without seeking large contributions from an elite and wealthy few.

Most promising for national reform is a bill that Senators Durbin and Specter introduced that would create a voluntary public funding system for congressional elections, the Fair Elections Now Act.

Policy decisions bought by corporate lobbyists and fundraisers have disastrous consequences for all of us. It is time for us to take our government back from corporations like ExxonMobil, Enron, and Halliburton.

With the leadership of Senators Durbin and Specter and the support of many diverse groups and people throughout the country, the time has come for a transformation of our politics.

To learn more, please visit us at http://www.cleanupwashington.org/fairelections

What was the purpose of Sen Dorgan talking about the different prices of the drug to only turn around and vote yea for it? One word HYPOCRITE!!

All of our families are and continue to be negatively impacted by big money politics.

Richard in comment 2 has it exactly right with Public Campaign Financing as the solution, and I believe the only one that matters.

We must remove the stain of the 1976 Buckley V Valeo Supreme Court decision through Constitutional Amendment.

This decision, that essentially uses the First Amendment to assure only those with the money will have "Free Speech", ranks with the all time horrid decisions by the Supreme Court in undermining the concepts and practices of our Democratic Principles.

No other meaningful reforms on a plethora of issues are possible until this "Plessey like" decision is expunged and relegated to the very full dustbin of failed, destructive Conservative ideas.

A half truth is still a half lie. When you omit the truth it is a lie.

Mr. Moyers, citzens & neighbors -

Would you be kind enough to hear what I hope you will agree is a thoroughly logical, straightforward and effective remedy to problems of corruption of all sorts caused by lobbyists with billions to spend? I think it should be remarkably easy to get nearly universal support for these measures amongst nearly everyone - except perhaps lobbyists.

I listened intently to Bill Moyers and guests on the June 2nd airing discussing the impenetrable hornets' nest lobbyists have secreted (in every sense) to encapsulate our representatives in Congress - ethics and all - and the huge price we pay in pork barrel legislation and other corruption for the pittance our representatives receive in return in campaign contributions and other kickbacks. What do you imagine that return is, a tenth of one percent... less? How many times each year do taxpayers spend a billion on pork to yield a campaign contribution of several thousand?

Here's the plan. Hugely diminish the incentives to corruption while at the same time making our representatives' jobs ones that non-wealthy people with integrity and genuine desire for public service can and will once again campaign for, win, and keep once elected.

Here's how. Pay our representatives commensurately with private industry for the same calibre of individuals. Pay the President of the United States $30 million per year, the Vice-President $15 million, and all 535 or so of our representatives at least $3 million per year. Total price - $1.65 billion. Less than 10 days of the Iraq war. Or about what ONE big fat pork barrel project costs. (There are individual freeway interchanges that have cost that much!) We could get back our $1.65 billion investment a hundred times over, perhaps three or four times that, maybe more? (Then perhaps we could AFFORD tax cuts instead of subsidizing them by BORROWING and spending like we do now. Or perhaps remove our nation as the only one in the 1st world without universal healthcare.)

In exchange for this adequate compensation, completely eliminate all contributions of any kind to our representatives while in office, and make very strict "non-compete" succession clauses - just as private industry does. When a representative leaves office and the next morning begins a million dollar job as a lobbyist - s/he is competing with our interests using information and skills s/he gained during our employ - the citizens of the US. Private industry doesn't allow this, why should we?

We will also completely eliminate private campaign contributions - including candidates' own funds - and require campaigns to be funded solely and exclusively by funds paid equally to the campaigns of each qualified, bona fide candidate. Even at an expense of several billion, we would still reap a huge return over the current system. It will allow us for the first time to demand that our representatives stop spending most of their time fingering the bulges in those deep devious pockets and start spending their time working for US.

Competitive pay means we can attract the cream of the crop - real LEADERS and CIVIL SERVANTS - without prerequisites of being wealthy, having to depend on contributions while in office, or courting rich jobs commencing the moment they leave.

How about we demand that these measures be enacted by congress by the upcoming national election in November 2008, or else be placed on the ballot for the voters to decide? And how about these measures take effect the same date our president-elect takes the oath of office?

Thanks for your efforts, Ms. Claybrook.

We are caught in a sort of Catch 22 - the people who are in a position to change the law are the very reaon the law needs to be changed. The simple fact is that the Democrat are all as rich as the Republicans and they're making too much money to oppose Bush with any real strength. All we're going to get is dog and pony shows.

The first thing we need to do i get all corporate money out of elections and Congress. Corporations can't vote, so they shouldn't be allowed to contribute money to a campaign, nor should any member of Congress accept a gift of any value from them. When I worked for the DOD as a Contract Specialist, we weren't allowed to keep anything from a contractor worth more than $10. Why don't Congress members have to observe that rule? Why aren't they barred from taking a job in private industry that has anyting to do with their government positions for a minimum of 10 years?

The airwaves belong to the public, so why do candidates for office have to buy ads? Shouldn't every channel have to donate an equal amount of time per candidate as a condition of being allowed to obtain FCC licenses? If they didn't have to spend all their time raising money, maybe Congress could actually do some work - like a reading an anti-democratic bill before they sign it into law in the middle of the night.

Who defends the Constitution when everyone who has been elected to, and has sworn to, defend it has abdicated their responibility? Who stops the government from committing treason against the people?

One could say that the Armed Forces should step in, but instead, they're committing war crimes, too. The Department of Justice would be a logical choice, but torture boy made sure they don't actually work for us any more. The FBI could step in, but they're too busy framing Democrats for doing things the Republicans really are doing, or guarding a border that should never have existed in the first place.

The CIA never really did work for us, but at this point they may be our last hope. It all depends on how angry they are at the outing of one of their covert operatives by a political thug with no sense of loyalty to anyone but his puppet."Regime change" has a nice ring to it.

Ms. Claybrook is impressive. She has, from this show, reinforced a new lesson I've been slowly learning over the past few years.

Our government is, by Constitutional stipulation, meant to be tied in knots -- the checks and balances. We've seen through most of the Bush 'Presidency' what it's like to have a stubborn man lead during a frightful time and have a Congress from his party in line with him, lockstep, no ties, no knots.

It's too soon to blame Democrats for errors 95% attributable to Republican ideology. But what Claybrook brings to consciousness is that NONE of ANY elected body/office of leaders we CAN POSSIBLY have will do what we want.

Rich cats will always be 'getting influence' (if not bribing) WHOEVER is there. The only antidote -- and this sounded naive to me for many decades -- is democracy 'on the streets'.

By that, I don't mean (and she certainly didn't mean) General Strike and brick throwing mobs. But it MUST entail LARGE numbers of -- yes -- voluntarily full time people spending their waking lives directing the pressures to countervail the rich cats.

I was never a 'marcher'. Now I see my failure as a citizen. To regard my country properly, American democracy properly, my duty should have been, all along, SACRIFICE to the cause.

This is a hard lesson, but I've come to conclude any private gains I've made, humble though they've been, have in a real sense been at the expense of the ideal I've always held.

Tomorrow?

Pelosi promised us "most open" government ever. "Sunshine was the great disinfectant." Why then have the Dems met in SECRET with Bush in the months since they came to power to hammer out a "free" trade bill giving Bush fast track on trade bills and an immigration bill to suit the large economic interests that benefit from cheap labor? TWO BILLS DEVELOPED IN SECRET WITH BUSH; both betray the common people and give the big money interests what they want. Are the Dems and GOP really any different when the big money powers interests are on the line? Social issues, yes. Economic interest, NO.

Pelosi promised us "most open" government ever. "Sunshine was the great disinfectant." Why then have the Dems met in SECRET with Bush in the months since they came to power to hammer out a "free" trade bill giving Bush fast track on trade bills and an immigration bill to suit the large economic interests that benefit from cheap labor? TWO BILLS DEVELOPED IN SECRET WITH BUSH; both betray the common people and give the big money interests what they want. Are the Dems and GOP really any different when the big money powers interests are on the line? Social issues, yes. Economic interest, NO.

CONGRESSIONAL LOBBYING REFORM:

I have to wonder if there is any hope that our legislators can start to spend the majority of their time actively assisting in the needs and progress of the citizens of this country, instead of feathering their own beds. It seems that a Congressional position is parlayed into a life-long benefit of after-service lobbying incentives and high income positions with private concerns that benefit profusely from their Congressional contacts; followed thereafter by extraordinary pensions, at very considerable cost to the taxpayers. I have to wonder: "How about us?" Or shall I say, "How about the U.S.?" Politicians these days seem to be in the same running as film and T.V. celebrities, poised at being rich and famous, important and influential. But, isn't being an elected representative supposed to be about SERVICE to the public, not about serving oneself? We desperately need Ethics in Government to be improved, increased and enforced at all levels. Public servants do not exist to drain the taxpayer-funded coffers, while padding their own pockets and serving their own vested personal interests. They exist to serve the public; an idea that seems to have gotten lost somewhere in the Devil's Triangle. Let's get back on track, and try to keep in mind the important values upon which this Country was founded, and steer away from the pompous exploitation, corruption, nepotism and oppression against which this great Country fought to be free. Most Sincerely, Salee' Amina Mohammed

What was the reason this piece did not say that liberal senators are the one that defeated the drug importation bill including Senator Kerry and Senator Kennedy, two of the most liberal senators. So where is the progress.

Thanks for your effective work in this area, Ms. Claybrook. After watching Bill's interview with you, I am struck by how fortunate we are to have someone like you doing this work for us.

Corporate money is the barrier that separates the people from our representatives in Congress. I would like to see your organization come up with something along the lines of a Citizen's Bill of Rights in Our Relationship with Congress. This Bill of Rights could become the blueprint we use to tear down the wall that exists between us and our representatives.

At the same time that you and your organization are working in this way, it's absolutely essential that we keep the internet open and easily accessible by all. Communication over the internet has made possible much better communication between citizens who want to organize for political purposes, as well as between constituents and Congress.

Corporate interests are working very hard, through lobbying influence on Capitol Hill, to un-do the net neutrality that we have today. Their stated reasons for wanting to do this are clearly bogus. None of them, not a single one of the telecommunications companies, can claim credit for the internet. None of them initiated or took part in any of the innovation and research that went into the internet becoming the tool for citizens that it has become today. Yet each of them has become very well versed in explaining why it is that they should now control who benefits from using the internet, as well as how much it's going to cost various users.

Possibly your organization can become involved in the net neutrality issue, as I think it's very closely linked to the unfair and undemocratic corporate influence on Capitol Hill issue.

As far as there being an issue that I think corporate money has overshadowed my efforts to communicate effectively with my representatives, I would say that one issue is the NoChildLeftBehind legislation. Public school students, teachers, and parents are suffering as a result of this terrible piece of legislative work. Yet our concerns are largely ignored by our legislators. And while we cannot get heard, all those private education "consulting" firms that feed off of the money stream generated by NCLB have no difficulty at all gaining entrance into the Rayburn Building offices. Helping us out on this issue, will be helping out our children, which will benefit our future.

Thanks again for the work you do.

The other revolving door that must be closed is the one between DoD and its military-industrial contractors. I have personally witnessed that revolving door work so that military personnel with mid-level to high ranks retire on Friday and begin employment on the following Monday as lobbyists with the same contractors to whom they awarded contracts and monitored for performance. We continue to see the fallout of this practice, with pressure on Congress and the Branches to buy military equipment and services that even the military don't want, procurement of ineffective and overly-expensive materiel (not exactly news), and programs for new nuclear weapons and arms systems capabilities that do nothing but keep the military-industrial complex healthy and destabilize the world even further down the road to nuclear proliferation and a constant state of war. Civilian government employees in the Executive Branch have to wait at least a year before they become associated with a former contractor whom they oversaw. It's unconscionable that the military are not restricted by the same laws as civil service employees, especially as their influence extends to issues of war and peace.

It's discouraging when a public spirited individual like Ms. Claybrook, working day after day and year after year, can only effect major legislation every 12 years.

It's discouraging when you see a dedicated individual like Cindy Sheehan, who sacraficed everything for the cause of peace, giveup because of a corrupted system.

An election system that no longer works for the average citizen, special interest access to our elected officials 365 days a year, and a news media that increasingly resembles a state propaganda machine. The American people expect substantive change in their government while continuing to vote to send the same people back to Washington year after year, it's always somebody elses politician who's on the take!

For you I have Three words, Public Campaign Financing. I know it's a long shot, but why can't we get people to try to get Ball Rolling on this. The tax payers are being expected, to subsidize large corporations with tax breaks,wouldn't our money be more wisely spent, on the geting these people elected. It is clear that the American people can not count on the Company they work for to do anything for them, We need To make the Lawmakers work for use. What's going on today tell us that Career politions, may not be so bad,at the end of the day.

I am encouraged by Joan's assessment of the progress being made toward a more ethical Congress. I can only hope that this desire spreads to other branches of the government.

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