Field Organizer Gordon Clark works for Public Citizen's Congress Watch. You can hear Gordon's outrage on other topics at our Outrage of the Week feature
Issue Update: From Gordon Clark
You've been busy this year, record-breaking busy, with messages, calls and visits to your elected officials - and you have the successes to show for it. So much has been going on, you may have lost track. Let's take a second to recount your accomplishments.
The Estate Tax: Success
Campaign Finance Reform: Success
COOL: Successful grassroots turnout and vote, then killed in conference committee
The Estate Tax – You will no doubt recall the outrage we all felt when we heard that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s first priority when returning after Labor Day – in the midst of Katrina’s devastation of New Orleans and Gulf Coast – was to hold a vote on the permanent repeal of the estate tax! This outrage over wildly misplaced priorities - the repeal would overwhelmingly benefit the wealthiest Americans - translated into thousands of emails and phone calls to the Senate, and while Sen. Frist was not able to see the light on this issue, he soon began to feel the heat. Sensing a public relations disaster, he withdrew his plans for a vote on the estate tax, quietly and without comment. Even with hardliners like Rep. Tom DeLay saying the vote should proceed, the Bush Administration was forced to trot out Treasury Secretary Snow to say that there would be no push for estate tax repeal – this year. We expect to be ready for them if they try to bring it up again.
Campaign Finance Reform – Your actions have realized substantial successes here in just the past several weeks.
In October Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and long-time reform opponent Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) conspired to insert a tiny provision in the completely unrelated transportation appropriations bill – a provision that would have allowed members of Congress to give unlimited amounts of money from their Leadership PACs to national party committees… which could then in turn give the money right back to the member of Congress for the election campaign. (It is illegal for Congresspersons to use Leadership PAC money directly for their election campaigns, as it is supposed to be for basic office functions.) This maneuver was caught by sharp-eyed staff at the office of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), and once again, after many activist calls and emails, Frist and McConnell were forced to back off and withdraw the provision. McConnell then refused to even admit he had anything to do with it!
This of course follows our tremendous success over the summer in beating back the Ney-Pence-Wynn bill, which would have rolled back many campaign finance reforms dating back to the Watergate era.
And the power of the reform ideal was once again demonstrated last week, when Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.) introduced a measure to exempt internet advertising from the type of Federal Election Commission regulations governing political ads in other media, such as TV. The House leadership once again tried to sneak it through, this time by including the measure in a special “suspension rules” procedure usually meant for non-controversial matters. (Ironically, even though the proponents claimed the bill was needed to protect “free speech” on the internet, the suspension rules under which it was introduced limit floor debate and preclude amendments.) This sleight-of-hand to create a giant loophole in campaign finance reform was spotted again, though, and went down in defeat.
Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) – Although you joined us in successful lobbying to have this mandatory program included in the Agriculture Appropriations bill – requiring labels on foods to state where and how the food was raised or produced is overwhelmingly popular with the public, as you might imagine – the program was effectively killed in the House-Senate Conference Committee
As is typical of this Congress, this final move was made behind closed doors. Even though Public Citizen tried to attend this so-called public meeting, no one who was standing in line was allowed to enter the room. Once again, the Republican leadership running Congress decided to bow to the wishes of their campaign contributors in industry, as opposed to working for the welfare of their constituents, the American people.
While the destruction of the COOL program is a major disappointment, it as at least instructive that Congressional leaders felt forced to do it behind closed doors – the public reaction was too strong for them to try and vote on this in the open.
And the successes on campaign finance and the estate tax repeal demonstrate that successful resistance to the right wing agenda is building across the board.
Thanks again for all you did to make these successes happen. Want to get more involved in issues that effect you and your family? Drop me a note below.