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Posts Tagged ‘Lloyd Doggett’

Public disclosure forms released Wednesday show that Texas lawmakers have widely varying financial situations.  In an OpenSecrets blog post, Tarini Parti breaks down how many members of Congress invest in media organizations.  Parti explains that this could be a conflict of interest because many members have a “vested interest…in the performance of the same organizations that are supposed to be their watchdogs”.

Of the 60 lawmakers that have media organizations investments, 6 of them come from Texas.  They are Congressmen Michael McCaul (R-TX26), Kenny Marchant (R-TX24), Michael Burgess (R-TX10), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX25), William Flores (R-TX17) and Blake Farenthold (R-TX27).

          From left to right: Congressmen Bill Flores, Blake Farenthold, Kenny Merchant, Michael Burgess, Lloyd Doggett, and Michael McCaul.

The largest investor in media organizations from the Lone Star State is Rep. Michael McCaul with anywhere from $179,018 to $505,000 invested in companies like Comcast Corp., Walt Disney Co. and CBS Corp. The disclosure reports only require members of Congress to list their assets and debts in broad ranges.

Disclosure reports also show that not all members of Congress from Texas are wealthy enough to invest in media organizations however. A Washington Post article points out that many Republican freshman lawmakers who campaigned on reducing the federal debt are in substantial debt themselves.  One such freshman lawmaker is Congressman Farenthold.  The disclosure reports show that the Congressman could have anywhere between $45,000 and $150,000 in credit card debt.  However, Flarenthold does list that he has anywhere from $2,002 to $30,000 in personal media investments in the Walt Disney Co.

The public disclosure reports that came out this week provide the public with a better understanding of how lawmakers chose to spend their money. The reports show that some lawmakers have chosen to invest in companies that are supposed to report in a fair and unbiased manner on campaign issues and congressional ethics. The documents show yet another example of why disclosure laws are important. The public has a right to know how lawmakers spend their own money so they can trust them with their tax dollars.

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On Wednesday, Rep. Lloyd Doggett announced that the city of Austin will receive $4.8 Million in stimulus funds to train 1,000 workers in energy efficiency and clean energy jobs.  Workers will be trained for jobs at solar plants in Austin, San Antonio and surrounding cities and states, and but the trainings will prepare participants for a variety of green jobs including solar installation.

As Doggett noted,

Green’s the word in Austin, and today greenbacks are on their way to further strengthen our commitment to clean energy. Green jobs have the ability to not only transform the way we do business, but re-power America; this training will provide workers with the nuts and bolts to construct a thriving clean energy economy right here in Central Texas.

This stimulus grant is part of a larger, $500 Million federal initiative to prepare and train workers for green jobs.

Sources: Austin American Statesman, Austin Business Journal

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, cleaner cars, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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As early as the time of Socrates, people have identified money as a corruptive influence in politics, specifically in democracies.  Elections now cost double and triple what they used to, which means more and more of our Senators’ and Representatives’ time is spent dialing for dollars.  The average member of the House of Representatives will want to raise and spend over a million dollars (that’s $1,000,000) to insure victory on Election Day.  In a competitive race, it can be much, much more than that.

So why do we subject our leaders to this grueling and wasteful misuse of their precious time and energy? And why are we surprised when Big Money holds more sway than the Common Good and Reasoned Argument? Ultimately, we get the government we deserve- because we force our politicians to raise money this way, and so we shouldn’t be surprised when campaign “donors” think that their “donations” mean that they should get special favors or special access.  More than ever, voters feel dissillusioned and cynical about government and feel disconnected from their leaders. (And can you blame them?)

So what is the answer? Why not allow those who represent us to circumvent this whole process?  One piece of legislation designed to do this is the Fair Elections Now Act.

What is the Fair Election Now Act? This bi-partisan bill was introduced by Senators Dick Durbin (IL) and Arlen Specter (PA) in the Senate, and by Representatives John Larson (D- CT) and Walter Jones, Jr. (R- NC)  in the House of Representatives. It will provide public funding for office seeking political candidates who qualify, in addition to small private donations up to $100 dollars. Also, all qualifying candidates get a reduction rate on media fees for campaigning purposes, as well as media vouchers that they can exchange for cash if they prefer.

This bill will provide an equal playing field for political candidates, as money differences will play less of a role in the campaign, and therefore provide lesser-known candidates a more fair chance to compete in political races. Public Funding has already been successfully tested in several states, and it can hopefully achieve the same success on a federal level.

Who will qualify for Public Funding? The amount of public funding that each individual candidate receives will depend on the office they are seeking or holding, but each candidate must first qualify by raising a set amount of small donations. For example, House Members running for office must receive 1,500 contributions from their state, and $50,000 altogether. All candidates must therefore prove that they have the ability to raise money for their campaign and thereby demonstrating their competitive ability in the race before they can receive public funding.

Why you should support this bill and how to help get this bill passed! Simple: the status quo is broken. Everyone understands that lobbyists and corporate institutions (PACs, bundlers, etc)  benefit from the current system where big money buys big access.

Voters will first and foremost benefit, because they can be sure their Representatives are ONLY representing them, and basing their votes on what is best for their constituents, not what makes their donors happy.  Furthermore, we will have a fair and wide range of politically qualified candidates to choose from in each election– areas that have enacted public financing, such as Maine and Arizona, have seen a more diverse group of candidates run, resulting in representation that looks more like the population.

The candidates themselves will also benefit, because they can focus more on policies that their constituents favor and their political message instead of constantly raising money for their campaign. In addition, the main contributions are increasingly coming from big donors that come with strings attached. With the Fair Election Now Act, the people have the chance to take back the power of democracy and away from corporate interests!

It is the responsibility of each citizen to ensure our freedom and democracy,and YOU can help the pass this bill for the sake of those crucial values. If you are interested in supporting this bill, you can take one easy step and click here to sign up for a petition. For more detailed information about the bill, please click here.

You can also call your member of Congress and ask them to co-sponser this bipartisan piece of legislation.  Click here to get contact info for who represents you.  As of now, six members of the Texas Congressional Delegation have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill.  If you’re lucky enough to be represented by one of them, call their offices and express your thanks for standing up to Big Money interests.

Gene Green (Houston)

Sheila Jackson-Lee (Houston)

Eddie Bernice Johnson (Dallas)

Solomon Ortiz (Corpus Christi)

Silvestre Reyes (El Paso)

Lloyd Doggett (Austin)

By Harrison

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UPDATE:  Greenpeace has just obtained an internal API memo detailing their astroturf plans.  You can read the memo and Greenpeace’s reply here.  Job “whale” done, Greenpeace!

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Most people have a good general conception of what a real grassroots movement looks like: citizens get outraged over some injustice or inequity and get organized and get active.  These campaigns are built from the bottom up.

Astroturfing a Texas Highway

Astroturfing a Texas Highway

And what happens when you don’t have a grassroots movement but want to make it look like you do?  Well, then you Astro-turf a movement in, paying hired guns to pretend to be “activists” who then show up to townhall meetings and other public forums. Fake grass- sent from top down, rather than something grown naturally from the ground up.  A lot of these protesters have been either astroturfed in or given specific instructions on how to disrupt these townhalls in an attempt to shout down opinions other than their own.

We in Texas know a thing about Astroturf, the name having originated as the name of the artificial turf used in the Houston Astrodome.  (Coincidentally, the first ever Super Bowl played on astroturf was also in Houston at SuperBowl VIII in 1974.)

Many have criticized recent astroturf campaigns on healthcare, climate change, and the infamous tea-baggers because of their coordination by Washington lobbyists and special interests.  In fact, Senator Dick Durbin (IL), the #2 Democrat in the Senate, Sunday told CNN’s John King,

“We have these screaming groups on either side. That isn’t helpful. Let’s be honest about this. . . this is clearly being orchestrated, and these folks have instructions. They come down from a Texas lobbyist in Washington.”

So what’s the difference between what Public Citizen does (educate, activate and organize citizens) and what the astroturfers do (hired guns, fomenting support based on misinformation for the purpose of financial gain)?  Many groups engage in grassroots organizing, from Public Citizen to the League of Conservation Voters to the NRA, and use their membership to engage in activism, and some of this leadership comes from our paid staff in DC or Austin, etc.  However, Public Citizen has a long history of never accepting donations from corporations or government grants, meaning we can always clearly represent only the interests of our membership without any conflicts of interest.

On the complete opposite side of the spectrum, these atroturf campaigns are actually schilling for major corporate interests who have a financial stake in climate change, health insurance, etc.  The most glaring example is ACCCE, the coal industry group that represents 48 of the largest coal electricty utilities in the US with a combined net revenues last year of nearly $200 billion.    ACCCE’s mission is to sell their false claims of clean coal technology.  Haven’t heard of ACCCE?  Well, maybe it’s because they used to be called “Americans for Balanced Energy Choices” but decided to “rebrand” since it became obvious that “balanced” energy choices meant all coal all the time.

Their ads became so ridiculous they became parodied like this, in this commercial from Oscar Winners Joel and Ethan Coen:

Anyway, they’re up to their old Orwellian tricks again.

In the weeks before the House voted on the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES),  ACCCE’s lobbyists forged letters to Congress, claiming to be representatives of minority and environmental justice groups such as NAACP.  (A huge tip of the hat to to Kate Sheppard at Grist who has been following this very closely- also follow Kate on Twitter for the best enviro updates this side of @ClimateHaiku)

Even more amazing was that these letters claimed that enacting climate legislation would hurt low-income communities, even though the national NAACP (and many, many other social justice groups) had come down in support of ACES.  No word yet how many fake letters they sent to members of Congress pretending to be average constituents, rather than important community members who could be easily verified, and we will probably never know the extent of the fraud they have perpetrated.

That is Astroturfing, my friends.

Another egregious example, coming soon to the theater near you, is that the American Petroleum Institute and National Association of Manufacturers along with other flat-earth anti-climate change legislation groups are teaming up to host townhall-style meetings in 20 key states to attempt to influence the passage of the climate bill in the Senate (see articles here and here).  So, the deep, deep pockets of big oil and big business are trying to buy themselves a grassroots movement.  Will they have any luck?

And then, as a corollary to astroturfing, we have the local example of Austin’s Congressman Lloyd Doggett, who has gained a lot of media attention because of the angry throngs showing up to mob him and yell “Just Say No!” to health care reform.

Depending on your view of Doggett, doggett supermanDoggett Devilyou may have shown up to his previous townhalls to lambaste, lampoon, or lavish praise on him.  I have been to these neighborhood office hours before to speak with Congressman Doggett (he is, after all, my Representative in Washington) and I have never seen anything like what happened two weeks ago.  Most people show up to politely engage the Congressman about a (more…)

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We were ecstatic when we heard from Congressman Doggett’s office that he would be signing on as an original cosponsor of the Fair Elections Now Act, a bill which would create a public financing system for Congressional candidates.

Public financing means that instead of spending hours a day raising money on the phone, our elected leaders can instead take money allocated to them by the government for their campaigns.  No longer would any constituent have to worry that their leaders could be “bought” by their campaign donations, and no campaign donor could ever try to attach any strings, real or implied, to their donations.

Public Citizen has long been an advocate for getting money out of Washington. This is the biggest and best step we can take to make this happen.

Congressman Doggett is a leader on this issue, and will hopefully bring more attention to this issue as it moves along.  We’d like to thank him, and hope you will as well, by calling his Austin office 512-916-5921 or by writing a letter to the editor of the Austin American Statesman or your other local paper (I’m looking at you, Hays County — he’s your Rep too!)

We’re all incredibly lucky to have a Representative like Congressman Doggett.  He is joined in support of Fair Elections Now by Rep. Gene Green of Houston.  Silvestre Reyes of El Paso is also on the record for supporting public financing, but has not yet signed on to the bill.

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We’ve been disappointed by the process that the American Clean Energy and Security Act has gone through recently, so a few weeks ago I went to go see my Congressman during his “neighborhood office hours” (at the Randall’s at the corner of William Cannon and MoPac) and talk to him about climate change.  Then this morning  I opened up my email inbox to find a communique from Congressman Lloyd Doggett.

Needless to say, it made me happy, so I’m sharing it with all of you.  This should serve as an example– contact your leaders and tell them how you feel about issues like climate change.  They do listen!  (Or if they don’t– make them!)

I also think his ideas about the “Safe Markets Development” would be a major improvement to any climate bill.  Read on to find out that experts also think it’s a good idea!

Full text after the jump….

doggett banner

May 28, 2009

Mr. Andrew Wilson

5xxx Little Creek Trl

Austin, Texas 78744

Dear Andy:

Knowing of our shared interest in fighting global warming and creating a robust green jobs economy, I would like to update you about my work in Washington.

This is an exciting time for those of us who have long wanted to make renewable energy affordable. Never before has there been such a push from both politicians and concerned citizens like you to get something done.

We cannot allow the fossil fuel special interests to blacken our chances at achieving a strong, clean energy economy in the same way that they blacken our skies. It is critical that the climate legislation this Congress produces ensure both price stability and environmental integrity.  To this end, I have introduced the Safe Markets Development Act. I designed this act to

-Cap carbon pollution;

-Head off market manipulation;

-And incentivize renewable energy technology.

I have also introduced the Green Transit Act, which would require metropolitan planning organizations to consider greenhouse gas emissions in long-range transportation plans and transportation improvement programs. Transportation is an integral factor in the transition to a clean energy (more…)

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social-calendarThere is too much fun going on in the next few days… I can’t handle it.  I wish I could be multiple places at once… and influence climate change legislation by sheer will power.. and attach documents to e-mails telepathically.  Ah well, if wishes were horses, I’d have gotten that pony when I was six.

Here’s a quick breakdown of all the good stuff going on over the next couple days:

Old Settler’s Music Festival, Thursday March 16 – Sunday March 20

Old Settler’s Music Festival is a nationally known music festival featuring the best in roots and Americana music. The festival is held in the gorgeous Texas hill country, at the height of the Bluebonnet and wildflower season. Old Settler’s Music Festival offers great music and activities for the whole family.

The Festival is held at Salt Lick Pavilion and Camp Ben McCulloch, just minutes from Austin, located 11 miles south of Highway 290 West on Farm Road 1826.

Public Citizen is an official sponsor of the event, so keep your eyes out for our table, banners, and slide-shows in between sets.  We hope to live blog the festivities, so be on the lookout for artist interviews and sneak peaks of shows.  And don’t forget your sunscreen, that hill country sun can be brutal!

Fighting Goliath screening, Thursday April 16

When: Thursday, April 16 at 7:00pm

Where: St. Andrew’s Presbyterian, 14311 Wellsport Drive (one block west of the Wells Branch exit off of I-40).

Narrated by Robert Redford and produced by The Redford Center at the Sundance Preserve and Alpheus Media, FIGHTING GOLIATH: TEXAS COAL WARS follows the story of Texans fighting a high-stakes battle for clean air. The film introduces the unlikely partners-mayors, ranchers, CEOs, community groups, legislators, lawyers, and citizens-that have come together to oppose the construction of 19 conventional coal-fired power plants that were slated to be built in Eastern and Central Texas and that were being fast-tracked by the Governor. (34 minutes)

Public Citizen’s Ryan Rittenhosue will do a short presentation on Texas’ current coal threat and have a Q&A session afterward.

Environmental Justice & the Multicultural City: The Transformative Role of Urban Planning City Forum, Friday, April 17

People of color and low-income communities have disproportionately suffered from the environmental burdens generated by consumption and production choices made by others. Responding to these injustices, neighborhood activists have been fighting for over 30 years for the right to live, work, and play in healthy environments. In this City Forum, the panelists will share their insights from research and activist work, and discuss the potential role of planning educators, students and practitioners in addressing environmental justice concerns. (more…)

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2_18_09-001Bright and early yesterday morning, US Representative Lloyd Doggett, State Senator Rodney Ellis, State Representative Mark Strama, and environmental and civil rights advocate Van Jones stood together to tout the Alliance for a Clean Texas’ Texas Energy Future: Clean Jobs, Green Power Conference.

Rodney Ellis opened up the press conference, stating that this year’s legislative session looks to be a very green session.  He also mentioned, as he has before, that the legislature is at a crucial moment in terms of climate change action. If the legislature doesn’t act this year, the federal government will likely pass and begin implementing comprehensive global warming legislation before the state legislature will have a chance to meet again.  If Texas is not prepared for this kind of drastic policy change, we may not have a chance to address these issues again until 2011.

Senator Ellis then gave the mic over to the group he termed the “Dapper Three” (swoon!).

Continue Reading and watch video of Van Jones after the jump! (more…)

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Public Citizen is a national sponsor of this year’s Netroots Nation conference, and as the Austin Texas office of Public Citizen is happy to play host. We’ve met so many great people and been in so many excellent meetings. We’re also proud that we launched this, our Texas blog, in concert with NN08. Today has been incredibly busy and wonderful, so let me fill all of you in who weren’t here.

(more…)

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