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Going to Washington

February 29, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

David and I are going to be in D.C. starting this weekend for a couple of conferences: eDmocracyCamp and Politics Online. We're excited and looking forward to sharing ideas with other people using the Internet to make politics more participatory. At eDemocracyCamp we'll be working with everyone there on "how the web can help us better govern ourselves, support democratic structures, make online civic participation more accessible, convenient, fun, efficient etc." At the Politics Online Confer...

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Campaign Cash Calculus

February 28, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

What's a lawmaker got to do around Capitol Hill to get some campaign cash? Roll Call (subscription required) is quoting some anonymous Republican aides who are upset at not getting more of a kickback from the telecom companies their party has been fighting to protect as part of the FISA bill. >Like most corporate interests with a heavy stake in Congressional action, the major phone companies significantly boosted their contributions to Democrats last year after the party surged back into th...

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New Features on "My OpenCongress"

February 27, 2008 - by David Moore

Last month, OpenCongress launched brand new features for tracking and sharing the best info about Congress. Since then, thousands of people have created "My OpenCongress" accounts to engage with the bills, Members of Congress, and issues they care about -- but this is just the start. Here are a few recent additions that bring you closer than ever to what's really happening in Congress. To best see these new features in action, take a moment to login to "My OpenCongress" or create a new account, it's free and takes less than a minute.

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Double Veto

February 27, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

Congress's work this week is shaping up to be mostly in vain. As Dana of OMB Watch points out, the Bush administration announced yesterday that the President will veto both of the major bills being debating in Congress this week unless their core propals are fundamentally altered.

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Swapping Tax Breaks: From Oil to Renewables

February 26, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

Congressional Democrats are going to try one more time to end what they see as "unnecessary subsidies to Big Oil companies making record profits." In the Democrats' new bill, repealing the roughly $18 billion in oil company tax breaks would be used to fund tax breaks for a wide range of renewable energy programs. The programs include tax credits for renewable energy producers, residential energy efficient properties, energy efficient commercial buildings, buyers of plug-in hybrid vehicles, and more.

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Iraq is Back

February 22, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

It's been a while, but the Senate is finally going to try again to change the course of the Iraq war. Their first order of business when they come back from recess next week will be to vote on two bills from Russ Feingold (D-WI) designed to force changes to U.S. policies in Iraq. One of them even has a chance of passing.

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Round Two: Stimulus for Subprime Sufferers

February 21, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

Congress is preparing for a second round of economic stimulus, but it 's not shaping up to include the extended unemployment insurance benefits and additional food stamp assistance that was dropped from the first stimulus bill. Instead, it looks like the next stimulus bill will contains more business tax breaks and a measure to help out home owners facing foreclosure as a results of the subprime mortgage mess.

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Lessig for Congress?

February 20, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

Several months ago, Larry Lessig, a law professor who has spent the past ten years as the free culture movement's leading advocate, announced his decision to switch his focus to the issue of government corruption. Now, only a few months later, Lessig's preparing to make another big decision: whether becoming a member of Congress is the most effective way for him to root out the corruption he sees there.

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Unemployment Insurance Still May Be Expanded

February 18, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

If you were disappointed that Congress didn't end up expanding unemployment insurance benefits as part of their economic stimulus package, here is the bill you should be asking your senators and representative to pass: Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2008

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Help Us Out By Taking Our Survey

February 15, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

Our goal at OpenCongress is to help people understand and engage in what's happening in their government by combining all the best data with tools for sharing, analyzing and acting. We want to know how we can better reach our goal. We have put together a short survey, and we hope you'll take a few minutes to fill it out and send your thoughts our way.

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FISA Walkout

February 14, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

Republicans in the House of Representatives stirred up quite a commotion today by storming out of the Capitol Building and assembling on the steps in protest of the Democrats handling of the FISA reform bill. But Democrats, both in Congress and in the blogs, are arguing that the whole protest and walkout was baseless.

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A Renewed Push for Net Neutrality

February 13, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

Net neutrality is very much back on the table. Representatives Ed Markey (D-MA) and Chip Pickering (R-MI) have just introduced a new bill into the House that would amend the "Broadband Policy" section of the Communications Act, spelling out net neutrality rules for FCC to uphold. The bill, entitled the "Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008," differs from past net neutrality legislation in that it does not tell broadband providers what they can and cannot do in order to adhere to the principles of net neutrality, but expands the scope of the FCC to respond to violations of the principles as they arise.

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For months, the question of granting immunity to the companies, who are currently facing over 40 lawsuits, had been a sticking point in the Senate's work on updating the foreign surveillance law, or FISA. Many Democrats opposed the idea of retroactive immunity vehemently, but President Bush repeatedly stated that he refused to sign a FISA bill without it. This morning, with the expiration of part of FISA looming on Friday, the Senate once and for all approved the immunity and completed their work on the bill, jolting it forward towards finally becoming law.

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Last Thursday, the House overwhelmingly approved the College Opportunity and Affordability Act, a bill that gathers together dozens of proposals designed to make colleges more affordable and accessible. But tucked away amongst its 747 pages of mostly-non-controversial provisions is a section entitled "Campus-Based Digital Theft Prevention" that has drawn a red flag from all sorts of tech-savy public interest groups.

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Stimulus Bill Misconceptions

February 8, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

From reading through the comments section for H.R.5140, the economic stimulus bill that Congress just passed, there seems to be some confusion about what the tax rebates will mean for peoples' tax returns in 2008. Specifically, people are wondering if the rebate check will be taken out of their 2008 tax returns, and if they will have to pay taxes on the checks next year. I took a look at the tax mechanisms at work in the bill and drew some conclusions.

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