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The Rich Soil of Manhattan

August 29, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

The farm bill that was passed by the House in July was refreshing in some ways. It set up some new programs for organics, increased investments in conservation programs, and provided more funds for renewable energy research. But it was the provision at the heart of the bill, the subsidies for growers of a select group of crops, that was most in need of an update. Unfortunately, the House failed to make any changes to that provision at all.

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Bush Ups His Ante

August 29, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

In preparation of the showdown that will follow the September 11th update on the surge strategy in Iraq, the President is raising his request for additional war funding to a total $197 billion.

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The Presidential Money Race in a Widget

August 28, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

MAPLight.org, an important new site whose goal is to illuminate the connection between money and politics, released a new tool last week that lets anyone put the most up to date information about presidential fundraising on their site. Their new widget for tracking the campaign contributions of presidential candidates is highly customizable and it is automatically updated as soon as new data is available from the Federal Elections Commission.

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Craig, the Law, and Senate Ethics

August 28, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

There has been a lot of discussion about what it was that Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) actually did that was illegal in the events leading to his arrest on June 11th. From an empirical standpoint, all he did was tap his foot, bump his shoe against someone else's shoe, and make his hand visible to the person in the bathroom stall next to him. Today the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed an ethics complaint (.pdf) with the Select Committee on Ethics that explains the law he was charged with violating and the possible violation of Senate ethics that the group wants to have investigated.

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A Hollywood Congressman's Pledge to Fight Piracy

August 27, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

Last week I put out a call for people to monitor the promises that their members of Congress make as they speak to constituents in their districts during the August recess. Here is a perfect example. Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA) -- pictured at right -- represents a district that includes Hollywood. Last Thursday he spoke there at a US Chamber of Commerce panel on "antipiracy" where he promised to introduce a bill to Congress that would expand the size of the force responsible for policing copyright violations on the internet.

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Helping Communities Go On Air

August 27, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

The people at the Prometheus Radio Project have been fighting for nearly 10 years to make low power community radio stations a reality across the country. And after filing -- and winning -- a lawsuit against the FCC, testifying at congressional hearings, and initiating a multi-million dollar independent study, victory is finally standing solidly in front of them. The Local Community Radio Act of 2007 was introduced to the House and Senate in June and if it becomes law, the number of low power F...

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The two highest-ranking members of the Senate Armed Service Committee took a brief trip to Iraq last week and it inspired a shift in opinion from at least one of them. While Democratic committee chairman Carl Levin (MI) has stayed steadfastly in support of a mandated troop withdrawal timeline, Republican ranking member John Warner (VA) came back with new found conviction that such a withdrawal is needed. The pair released a joint statement upon returning that noted both the tangible results t...

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Critterwidget

August 22, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

We've made widgets to help you track particular bills, bills grouped by issue area, OpenCongress meta-data, and now -- thanks to BritCrit's clever solution -- there's a widget to help you track your Congresscritter. The OpenCongress team is actually busy developing our own widget for tracking senators and representatives, but in the meantime this widget, powered by Widgetbox.com, does the trick quite nicely. BritCrit's made widgets for the senators from Texas, Massachusetts, and Michigan that ...

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Bush Backpedals to Block Children's Health Bill

August 21, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

With Congress looking likely to beat the administration in a fight over expanding a health care program for children when they come back in September, Bush jumped in and changed a couple key rules of the game. The State Children's Health Insurance Plan (SCHIP) is popular. It helps out families who can't afford private insurance for their children, but aren't poor enough to receive Medicaid. States love the program because it gives them the flexibility to create their own ways of spending SCH...

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Political Promise Patrol

August 19, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

We want to help you hold your elected officials accountable. Chances are that with Congress in recess during August, the representative and senators you elected to Congress are around your district to hold town-hall-style meetings and discuss issues with constituents. If you see or hear the lawmakers you elected making promises or commitments, and you want to make sure they stay true to their word, let us know about it and we'll post it on our blog. As this Washington Post story explains,...

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Four New Features to Help You With Your Issues

August 16, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

Today we are pleased to introduce four new features on OpenCongress that will make it easier for you to track and share information about what's happening in Congress with the issues that matter most to you. A Widget For Your Issue Our new issue areas widget lets you customize your blog or website with a concise overview of what's happening in Congress with the issue that matters most to you. OpenCongress bills are already classified into more than 4,000 issue areas (i.e. Labor, Immigratio...

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Campaign Funds With a Side of Filet Mignon

August 14, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

The ethics bill that Congress passed just before leaving for recess adds a lot of new restrictions to lobbyist-lawmaker relations. But lobbyists are a shrewd bunch and it didn't take long for them to identify the loopholes in the bill that they can use to cozy up to Congressmen: >Lobbying laws are separate from campaign finance laws, and the new ban on meals and gifts applies only to lobbying laws. That means the legislation does not rein in fundraising events, so lobbyists and their client...

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Easier, Cheaper, Faster Government Information

August 14, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

This major tweaking to one of our most important government transparency laws got lost in the whirlwind of legislation that Congress approved just before leaving for recess: >A bill to make the Freedom of Information Act more responsive has picked up momentum in Congress. > >Senate legislation -- sponsored by Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and passed by voice vote just before the chamber left for recess -- includes provisions to allow anyone who provi...

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Making Money and Making it Cheap

August 10, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

Nothing inspires creative thinking like new restrictions: >House Democrats have sponsored legislation to change the metal content of coins, outraged that it costs a dime to make a nickel. > >House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Domestic and International Monetary Policy Subcommittee Chairman Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., are sponsors of the bill that would give authority to the Treasury Department to change the composition of coins issued by the U.S. Mint to less expensiv...

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Congress Is On Vacation, Democracy Isn't

August 9, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

Frustrated by what you've seen from Congress lately? When they return from recess in September, Congress will face more critical votes on some of the biggest issues -- the Iraq war, health care for children, amending the FISA bill, among others. Now is the perfect time to get in contact them and let them know what you, as voting constituents, want them to do. (Yes, Hill staffers are still at their offices in D.C. and as ready as always to take your calls). The War in Iraq In September, ...

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