CAGW reiterated support for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' (CMS) efforts to recover hundreds of millions of dollars in improper payments made to hospitals and healthcare providers using the Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC) Program. RACs, which are private-sector auditing companies that specialize in uncovering improper payments, have offered a commonsense solution to the leakage of billions of dollars in overpayments and underpayments to federal healthcare contractors. Audits being conducted in three states (California, Florida, and New York) as part of a CMS demonstration project launched in 2005 have exposed $299.5 million in improper payments, and CMS recently announced that the payment error rate has dropped significantly, translating into $11 billion that the government has retained instead of seeing it paid to healthcare providers who billed for it erroneously. Nonetheless, parochial interests are prompting some politicians to line up to gut the program before it rolls out nationwide. "This program is reducing billing errors, fraud, and abuse, and now it is being undermined by the very people who were elected to protect taxpayers," declared CAGW President Tom Schatz. Read more about efforts to stymie Medicare provider audits.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
Consumer Product Safety Commission unresponsive to dangerous and defective company product reports - SendMeRSS
Here is Public Citizen's description of its newest report on consumer product safety issues and the federal government:
U.S. Consumer Protection Officials Wait Months to Notify Public of Dangerous, Defective Products, Public Citizen Study Finds
Despite a law requiring manufacturers to provide the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) with "immediate" notification of dangerous products, the agency typically delays nearly seven months after learning of dangerous, defective products before telling the public. A new Public Citizen study, Hazardous Waits: CPSC Lets Crucial Time Pass Before Warning Public About Dangerous Products, reveals that companies fined for tardy reporting took an average of 993 days – 2.7 years – between learning of a safety defect in their products and notifying the CPSC. Perhaps as shocking, the CPSC then took an average of 209 additional days before disclosing the information to the public – even though each case concerned a product defect so dangerous that the item was recalled.
- Read the press release
- Read the report
- Read a summary of the differences between the House and Senate versions of the Consumer Product Safety Reform/Modernization Act
- Read an in-depth comparison of the House and Senate bill
Of the nearly $700 billion Congress has approved for GWOT activities--including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan--since 2001, 90 percent have come from "off budget" supplemental emergency spending bills. This is viewed by the Pentagon as free money. Annual war costs have more than doubled in recent years, helped in large measure by a 2006 Pentagon directive that allowed supplemental requests to include anything related to GWOT and equipment lost in combat to be replaced by not-yet-ready-for-primetime weapons still in development. These fiscal feeding frenzies also have a tendency to pick up pork as they roll through Congress – producing war spending with side orders of whiz-bang gadgetry, sugar beet subsidies and ewe lamb replacement.
We have long argued that emergency spending bills should meet the government's own definition of emergency: sudden, temporary, unforeseen and urgent. After several years, war funding isn't sudden, temporary or unforeseen, even if it is urgent. But supplementals are attractive because they are not subject to the same caps as other sources of discretionary spending. This means DoD can pile emergency funding on top of their nearly $500 billion regular budget, allowing unnecessary programs and weapons to snowball. Worse, the omission of war costs also allows the White House to produce rosier deficit projections by ignoring a whole column of expenses.
No "emergency" – especially one that is six years old with no end in sight – should allow a government to evade budgeting for the future. The President and the Defense Department aren't fooling anyone by conducting this war off the balance sheet. They owe it to every American citizen to come clean.
Yes, there are many considerations for choosing your next president. This report on where more or less of your money will go starting next year may, however, be a major factor in your voting decision.
Crucial Amendments Fall Prey to Presidential Signing Statement
In an outrageous but all-too-familiar move, President Bush has declared in a signing statement that he is entitled to ignore certain provisions of the FY 2008 Defense Authorization Bill, which he signed into law yesterday. One of these provisions would establish an independent, bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting; another would extend whistleblower protections to employees of defense contractors.
According to the White House press release, the burdensome provisions "purport to impose requirements that could inhibit the President's ability to carry out his constitutional obligations...The executive branch shall construe such provisions in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President."
As many reporters have pointed out, the use of presidential signing statements has increased at an alarming rate under the current administration. But should the president be allowed to selectively disregard any part of a bill that he signs into law? Senator Levin (D-MI), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told CQ Today that "the courts have ruled that the president cannot pick and choose provisions of appropriations bills that [he wants] to comply with." A blue-ribbon American Bar Association task force also found that these signing statements "undermine the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers."
-- Michael Smallberg
In the last decade, 18 lobbying organizations have purchased town houses or leased office space near the U.S. Capitol, joining more than a dozen others that had operated there for years. At least 214 members of Congress held fundraisers at these properties last year through November, often for free or at cut-rate prices. Events listed here benefited lawmakers' candidate committees or political action committees they head, or both. This is a partial list, since many events are not reflected in federal campaign records.
If a lawmaker has a bill coming up for a vote, and the bill concerns a lobbyist hosting that lawmaker's campaign fundraiser, that would be a conflict of interest, no?
Super Duper Tuesday will include presidential primaries for 20 states on February 5th. It will require a large coffer of funds from each of the remaining candidates in order to reach all of the voters across the widely dispersed states that include California and New York. The best way to handle this is Clean Elections-- public financing of elections supplies a central fund provided by the U.S. taxpayer. It will not give amounts in favor of some candidates over others, thus leaving the issues the main focus of the campaign trail. Wouldn't it be nice to keep special interest money out of the campaign of our future leader? Clean elections leave the candidates free for speaking openly, and not for begging for dollars.
The deletion of millions of email beginning in March 2003 coupled with the White House's destruction of back-up copies of those deleted email mean that there are no back-up copies of emails deleted during the period March 2003 through October 2003. The significance of this time-period cannot be overstated: the U.S. went to war with Iraq, top White House officials leaked the covert identity of Valerie Plame Wilson and the Justice Department opened a criminal investigation into their actions.
Lawsuits by CREW and others against the administration in pursuit of any backup copies during the time George W Bush has been in office are ongoing.
Washington, DC – This morning, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) hosted a press conference call with the NAACP and MALDEF to demand that U.S. Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey rescind a Bush legal memo that authorized deceptive appointments of exclusively partisan Republicans to the bipartisan Civil Rights Commission.
The letter, signed by LCCR, CREW, NAACP, MALDEF, National Women's Law Center, National Partnership for Women & Families, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, National Congress of American Indians and the ACLU is online:
In order to circumvent the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the Bush Justice Department wrote a memo allowing Republican members of the Commission to switch their party affiliation to "independent." That allowed the president to appoint more Republicans to the bipartisan eight person commission under the guise that they were somehow "independent," allowing the Bush administration to circumvent the law requiring that no more than four members of any party serve on the commission.
During his confirmation hearing, Mukasey pledged to review "significant" decisions of the Office of Legal Counsel to ensure that such decisions were "sound, soundly reasoned, soundly based." Allowing this deception in the appointment process was neither sound, soundly reasoned or soundly based and is a continuation of the Bush administration's legacy of undermining the credibility and subverting Congress' intent to retain the commission's independence and bipartisan membership
Mukasey is scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
The government agency that enforces one of the principal laws aimed at keeping politics out of the civil service has accused the Justice Department of blocking its investigation into alleged politicizing of the department under former Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales.
Scott J. Bloch, head of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, wrote Atty. Gen. Michael B. Mukasey last week that the department had repeatedly "impeded" his investigation by refusing to share documents and provide answers to written questions, according to a copy of Bloch's letter obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
Leaders of the House have been improperly shielding members of Congress – including former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL), Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA), Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) and Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) -- from criminal investigation and prosecution through an expansive and aggressive interpretation of the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution.
Members of Congress, like all other citizens, can hire attorneys to ensure that their constitutional rights are protected; this is not, however, the job of the House general counsel, hired at taxpayer expense.
The Bush administration's federal mine safety regulators have violated federal law by allowing thousands of health and safety violations to go unpunished. In just the past six years, The Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration failed to act upon approximately 4,000 violations. One of those violations was partially responsible for the 2005 death of a Kentucky miner. (Charleston Gazette)
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Presidential candidate John McCain receiving many lobbyist bundlers to finance his campaign - SendMeRSS
McCain has often been on the front lines of reform in Congress, as an author or co-author of campaign finance-related bills. And now, as the second leading presidential candidate in lobbyist bundling receipts, former New York City mayor Rudy Guiliani (Repub.) is likely to end his candidacy and endorse McCain later today; the senator may subsequently receive even more lobbyist bundlers.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
BRAD BLOG will continue covering the state's ballot recount effort as it happens. For additional New Hampshire primary video please go to BlackBoxVoting.org.
Monday, January 28, 2008
This large newspaper doesn't include the fiscal platforms of minor and independent presidential candidates, so I must ask you to visit their respective campaign websites for those. Here are just a few third party websites that include candidates running for their nominations:
Friday, January 25, 2008
The [CBO] projects that "after three years of declining budget deficits, a slowing economy this year will contribute to an increase in the deficit," according to its new report, The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2008 to 2018 (pdf, 1.9mb).
"Under an assumption that current laws and policies do not change, CBO projects that the budget deficit will rise to 1.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2008 from 1.2 percent in 2007," the report said. That translates to an increase in the deficit from $163 billion last year to $219 billion in 2008 (see Summary Table 1). In addition, "[e]nactment of legislation to provide economic stimulus or additional funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan could further increase the deficit for this year," the report said.
The GAO just released its most recent report on estimated improper payments made by federal agencies. Overall 2007 estimates for improper payments (overpayments or underpayments, but guess which one is most prevalent?) were $55 billion. The most vulnerable federal program was the Medicaid fee-for-service program, which had an estimated $13 billion in improper payments and that was only for its fee-for-service program and only for six months worth of claims. Government Executive Magazine reports that:
HHS is not the only agency still working to develop improper payment estimates. GAO reported that the fiscal 2007 estimate did not include data from 14 risk-susceptible programs with outlays of $170 billion. Nine of these fall under the Homeland Security Department and were only recently identified as risk-susceptible. GAO considered the identification of programs as an important step toward proper reporting and prevention of improper payments. Twelve of the 14 programs that did not report estimates aim to do so for 2008. The other two did not report target implementation dates.
The presidential "bully pulpit" can move Congress on issues, especially in the new president's first months in office. Let's ask those Republicans still in the primaries where they stand. Public Citizen, a public interest organization promoting Clean Elections, is running a campaign to do just that:
The Republican candidates talk about changing Washington but have refused -- so far -- to support policies that bite the hands that feed their campaigns.After we collect signatures on this petition, we'll fax each of the Republican presidential candidates a letter on February 4th, the day before Super Tuesday on February 5th, to urge them to support public financing.
Tell the GOP presidential candidates that real change means supporting policies that put voters ahead of big money in presidential and congressional elections.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
This site is a project of NewAssignment.Net, a project in open-source, pro-am journalism. It will prove to be very helpful to the vast majority of the general public (including me!) wanting to find out what interesting bills in legislation actually say.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Concord Coalition: Make financial stimulus package near-term to avoid long-term deficit abuse - SendMeRSS
Presently, the White House and Congressional leaders are developing a financial stimulus package to help ward off an economic recession in the U.S. And there appears to be a political consensus around fiscal stimulus that is 'targeted, temporary and timely.' If those criteria are scrupulously followed, a fiscal stimulus bill would not present long-term concerns.
We must never lose sight of the larger picture, however; that is, the long-term fiscal condition of our nation. Read the Concord Coalition press release for further insights on expected budget deficits for the coming decade and later.
The CPD, or Commission on Presidential Debates, still is the sole organizer of the debates that happen the fall of every presidential election year. Run in cooperation of the Republican and Democratic Parties, these debates are self-regulated and exclusive of popular independent and third party candidates who don't pass the Commission's difficult admissions requirements. Open Debates is a watchdog for this monopolistic debate organization.
Here is the Open Debates letter in full:
Dear Open Debates Supporters,
It's 2008, and we're back!
1. Twenty-six primary debates have been held this election season, and they have shown that presidential debates can be enhanced by allowing multiple candidates to participate. They have also shown that the exclusion of viable candidates before a single vote has been cast is fundamentally undemocratic. Read our press release condemning the exclusion of Dennis Kucinich from a primary debate that he was actually invited to: http://www.opendebates.org
2. Unremarkably, in November 2007, the CPD announced that it will sponsor four presidential debates in September. However, two things were remarkable about that announcement. First, in response to our criticism of previously restrictive formats, the CPD declared that -- for the first time ever -- participants would ask each other questions during the debates. This improvement should be applauded. Second, in response to our criticism, the CPD announced that it will no longer allow the major party candidates to dictate how the debates will be structured. This one is hard to believe. The CPD exists for the exclusive purpose of sponsoring presidential debates that are controlled by the Republican and Democratic campaigns – that is why the CPD seized control of the debates from the League of Women Voters in 1988; that is why the CPD has implemented secret contracts jointly drafted by the major party campaigns; and that is why the CPD has been run by former chairs of the Repub
lican and Democratic parties for the last 20 years.
3. We are already seeing evidence that the CPD will continue to do the Republican and Democratic parties' bidding in 2008. First and foremost, the CPD re-issued candidate selection criteria that no third-party candidate has ever met; a candidate must reach 15 percent in national polls to qualify for any of the debates. This antidemocratic criterion could prevent the inclusion of candidates that most Americans want to see, and it is three times higher than the threshold candidates must reach to qualify for taxpayers' funds. In other words, taxpayers can subsidize candidates that they can't watch debate.
Moreover, the CPD rejected New Orleans as a presidential debate site, despite overwhelming evidence that the city has adequate facilities. Unconfirmed allegations abound that the CPD struck a deal with the RNC, in which the CPD agreed not to host a debate in New Orleans, a symbol of President Bush's incompetence, and the RNC agreed to a debate in New York City. Read the New York Times editorial criticizing the CPD for its rejection of New Orleans: http://www.opendebates.org
/news/relatedarticles/bigeasy. Meanwhile, for the fourth consecutive year, the CPD selected Washington University in St. Louis as a debate site, in large part because Anheuser Busch will foot the bill and because the chairman of the university's board of trustees is the brother of CPD board member John Danforth. Anheuser Busch will transform the debate area into a corporate carnival, with scantily clad Busch-girls distributing pamphlets denouncing beer taxes to reporters and campaign staff. .html
Though the debates are more than nine months away, it is already clear that the nation is in need of a new, genuinely nonpartisan presidential debate sponsor that will ensure our most sacred public forums serve the public interest.
Thank you for your support!
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Named in the study along with Bush were top officials of the administration during the period studied: Vice President Dick Cheney, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan.
Bush led with 259 false statements, 231 about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 28 about Iraq's links to al-Qaida, the study found. That was second only to Powell's 244 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 10 about Iraq and al-Qaida.
The center said the study was based on a database created with public statements over the two years beginning on Sept. 11, 2001, and information from more than 25 government reports, books, articles, speeches and interviews.
Perot offers no easy solutions, instead emphasizing "a strong moral and ethical base, strong homes and the finest schools." He says he's disappointed that big textbook companies successfully lobbied in the Texas state legislature to reverse his landmark school reforms.
The pint-size Texan with the funny voice and the big ears isn't planning to run for president again, but says he will launch a Web site next month with plenty of the charts and graphs he made famous when explaining the deficit in 1992.
Before hanging up, Perot asked me to read the books he recommended on live POWs. I promised him I would.
The Pew Center on the States' Make Voting Work initiative and the JEHT Foundation today are joining with election experts and state and local officials across the country to address the most pressing problems facing voters during the 2008 elections. In partnership with the JEHT Foundation, Pew is awarding $2.5 million in funding to 16 projects that advance innovative solutions to critical flaws in our elections system and improve accuracy, convenience, efficiency and security for voters. An additional $1 million in funding will be awarded over the next six months. The projects were selected from 183 proposals submitted to Pew in 2007 from state and local governments and election experts.
Make Voting Work selected the 16 projects, which focus their work on five distinct areas where major failings have been identified and improvements are being debated and implemented by election officials, but where additional expertise is desired and necessary to shape and evaluate these efforts. These areas include:
Voter Registration System Assessment ($669,000)
Successful voter registration systems enable eligible citizens to vote without undue burden, secure our elections from those ineligible to participate and facilitate communication with voters. Yet, registration rolls are created from piecemeal data collected by local election officials, state motor vehicle agencies and other nonpartisan and partisan get-out-the-vote campaigns. As a result, rolls fail to keep pace with a mobile society and are often inaccurate and costly to maintain.
Vote Centers ($568,000)
States are increasingly grappling with the problem of overcrowded, inconveniently located and poorly designed polling places. In response, some states are experimenting with vote centers that replace neighborhood precincts and allow voters to cast ballots at large, centralized polling places anywhere in their city or county—near their work, school, shopping center or other destination.
Audits of Elections ($467,000)
With concerns about the accuracy of voting systems continuing to rise, post-election audit requirements have been adopted by states seeking to ensure the integrity of the electoral process. Still, state requirements vary dramatically and there are no generally accepted standards for how to verify an election outcome. Make Voting Work seeks to fill that void by funding the testing of multiple techniques for measuring the validity and accuracy of vote counts on various voting systems. In addition, Make Voting Work is supporting efforts to broaden the definition of an election audit, seeking to identify other elements—beyond vote counts—that should be audited, such as pre-election preparations and poll worker performance.
Online Training for Poll Workers ($318,000)
Volunteer poll workers are the foot soldiers of democracy, but, as recently documented by Pew's electionline.org, their enthusiasm needs to be joined with proper training—particularly essential as voting systems and rules take on greater complexity.
Election Performance Assessment ($465,000)
To further help election officials, policy makers and the public assess the true impact of changes in policies, practices and technologies, Make Voting Work aspires to identify means that can be consistently applied to measure accuracy, convenience, efficiency and security.
Monday, January 21, 2008
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Tell the U.S. House Republican Steering Committee to place Rep. Flake on the Appropriations Cmte. - SendMeRSS
CAGW has this to say about the dire need to equip this spending committee with fiscally responsible representatives:
Right now, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) is seeking to be placed on the House Appropriations Committee. Rep. Flake has been the House's leading champion for smaller, less wasteful government and has helped spearhead the drive to restore fiscal discipline in Washington.
I urge you, before you do anything else today, to write the Republican Steering Committee and urge them to place Rep. Jeff Flake on the House Appropriations Committee! Rep. Flake has an unblemished record on congressional earmarks, having never requested a single pork-barrel project, and has been a tireless advocate on behalf of all taxpayers. The explosion of earmarks over the 12 years of Republican leadership corresponded with a collapse of fiscal restraint and personal ethics in Congress. While some have argued that the cost of earmarks represents an
insignificant portion of total federal spending, they ignore the outsized role earmarks play as the "currency of corruption" in Washington. They also ignore - at their own peril - how "Bridges to Nowhere" and other poster children for pork undermine the public's image of Congress.
If Republicans wish to restore fiscal discipline and end the culture of corruption that has consumed Washington, Rep. Flake boasts the credentials to help lead the way. If appointed to the Appropriations Committee, he will help restore integrity to the
appropriations process and refocus Congress's role on issues of national importance, not on parochial concerns better left to state and local governments, such as bike paths, teapot museums, and peanut festivals.
Time is of the essence. Please tell the Republican Steering Committee to place Rep. Flake on the House Appropriations Committee today!
Thomas A. Schatz, President