Policy and News Updates for January 24, 2006

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Policy Updates

[new] Washington corruption spurs proposals for reform
Congressional Democratic and Republican leaders rushed to propose fixes to Washington’s corruption scandals after super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff pled guilty to conspiracy, tax and fraud charges. The lobbying reform proposals offered by members of the House and Senate, such as Sen. McCain’s (AZ) bill (S. 2128), address some key issues, like privately funded travel and gifts from lobbyists but overlook others, like access to congressional documents.
Status: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, led by Sens. Collins (ME) and Lieberman (CT), announced a hearing for Jan. 25 to address the lobbying reform proposals. Representatives of both private and non-profit organizations will testify.
Sources: S. 2128; Democrats Propose “Honest Leadership And Open Government Act” [All Headline News]; Two Parties Rush to Offer Proposals to Curb Lobbying [New York Times]; Letter from Gary Bass: Washington’s Corruption Woes [OMB Watch]

[updated] Secret spying heats up
Secrecy limited oversight and debate over controversial National Security Agency (NSA) plans to spy on Americans without a court order. The secrecy forced employees uneasy about the program’s legality to do the only thing they could: let the public know.
Status: Several groups filed lawsuits with the NSA and the Justice Department. The legality of this program remains in question.
Sources: Key articles and statements (collected by CDT); Congressional Agency Questions Legality of Wiretaps [Washington Post]; Two groups sue over NSA wiretap program [CNN] ; EPIC Sues Justice Department for Release of Domestic Surveillance Documents

PATRIOT Act: Reauthorization vote delayed
On December 30, President Bush signed S. 2167, a five-week extension of the PATRIOT Act in a last-minute compromise. The Senate initially approved a six-month extension to allow more time for negotiations but the House insisted on a shorter version.

Status: The 16 expiring provisions are extended through Feb. 3. The House is scheduled to vote on February 1 assuming a deal can be worked out.

Sources: Bush Assails Democrats Over Patriot Act; Bush signs extension of Patriot Act [CNN]; S. 2167; H.R. 3199; S. 1389

News from Coalition Partners and Others

Sunshine Week: Are We Safer in the Dark?
On Monday, March 13, 2006 a panel of experts from around the country will kick off a lively discussion about open government and secrecy. A panel discussion will start in Washington, DC and link via satellite to locally hosted discussions in communities across the country. Civic organizations, libraries, universities and other groups can participate by becoming a host site or a local sponsor. Find out more here.