Democratic Senators Propose Lifetime Ban on Lobbying

Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Jon Tester (D-MT) “introduced legislation to prevent members of Congress from becoming lobbyists after they retire,” The Hill reports.

"Current law allows senators to become lobbyists two years after leaving office, while House members only have to wait for a year. But Bennet and Tester’s bill would institute a lifetime ban on lobbying for lawmakers."

Excellent idea.

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Consumers, farmers, & activists prepare to fight “Monsanto Protection Act” passed by the U.S. Senate
April 1, 2013

You most likely haven’t seen this story on your nightly news or on the front pages of most mainstream newspapers, but there is a huge battle underway that’s pitting angry consumers, organic farmers, small farmers and the natural food industry and others against bio-tech giant Monsanto and its large agriculture supporters.

The fight is centered around growing outrage over passage in the U.S. Senate of what critics are calling the “Monsanto Protection Act,” which President Obama signed into law on Tuesday. Anthony Gucciardi in piece on naturalsociety.com describes what’s happening this way:

"There truly is no rest for the wicked, and Monsanto is at war once again against health conscious consumers with the latest ‘Monsanto Protection Act‘, managing to sneak wording into the latest Senate legislation that would give them blanket immunity from any USDA action regarding the potential dangers of their genetically modified creations while under review.

The USDA would be unable to act against any and all new GMO crops that were suspected to be wreaking havoc on either human health or the environment….it all started in the late hours of Monday night (March 11), when lobbyists working for the Monsanto-fronted biotechnology industry managed to slide a ‘rider’ (through the deceptively worded Farmer Assurance Provision, Sec. 735) into the Senate Continuing Resolution spending bill.”

The left-of-center NationOfChange reports that Monanto’s lawyers and lobbyists pulled off a major coups with this rider and right under the eyes of even the most knowledgeable players along The Beltway:

"In the typical slippery nature of Monsanto’s legislation-based actions, the biotech giant is now virtually guaranteed the ability to recklessly plant experimental GM crops without having to worry about the United States government and its subsequent courts. The Monsanto Protection Act buried deep within the budget resolution has passed the Senate, and now nothing short of a presidential veto will put an end to the ruling.

In case you’re not familiar, the Monsanto Protection Act is the name given to what’s known as a legislative rider that was inserted into the Senate Continuing Resolution spending bill. Using the deceptive title of Farmer Assurance Provision, Sec. 735, this bill actually grants Monsanto the immunity from federal courts pending the review of any GM crop that is thought to be dangerous. Under the section, courts would be helpless to stop Monsanto from continuing to plant GM crops that are thought even by the US government to be a danger to health or the environment.”

In essence, say the critics, rider gives “backdoor approval” for any new genetically engineered crops that could be potentially harmful to human health or the environment.

A lobbyist monstrosity

The legislation has been described as a, “Lobbyist-created recurring nuisance that has been squashed in previous legislation thanks to outcry from not only grassroots but major organizations. Last time we saw The Center for Food Safety, the National Family Farm Coalition, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists all come out against the Monsanto Protection Act from the 2012 Farm Bill,” says a report in NationOfChange before Mr. Obama signed the bill into law.

"This time, there was a swift resistance…however sadly the Senate acted so quickly on this and almost entirely ignored the issue that it has now passed despite thousands of fans signing the old petition…the reality is that the bill is actually seen as a positive one by most politicians, which is where Monsanto lobbyists were so deceptive and slippery as to throw in their rider (the actual Monsanto Protection Act into the bill). This makes it very unappealing to veto the bill, but also we must remember that Obama actually promised to immediately label G Mos back in 2007 when running for President," concludes the NationOfChange story.

The rider in the bill allows farmers to plant, harvest and sell “genetically engineered plants” even if the crops have been ruled upon unfavorably in court.

A Center for Food Safety statement called the rider “an unprecedented attack on U.S. judicial review of agency actions” and “ a major violation of the separation of powers.”

Yahoo News goes a step further saying this legislation rider, “Threatens the health and well-being of the public by undermining the federal courts’ ability to protect farmers and the environment from potentially hazardous genetically engineered (GE) crops. The rider was slipped into the bill while it sat in the Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Maryland Democrat Barbara Mikulski. According to the Center for Food Safety, the committee held no hearings on this controversial biotech rider and many Democrats were unaware of its presence in the larger bill.”

Hidden backroom deals

Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety said in a statement, “In this hidden backroom deal, Senator Mikulski turned her back on consumer, environmental, and farmer protection in favor of corporate welfare for biotech companies such as Monsanto…this abuse of power is not the kind of leadership the public has come to expect from Senator Mikulski or the Democrat Majority in the Senate.”

Food Democracy Now is calling on concerned citizens to call Congress and petition President Obama to remove Section 735 from the Continuing Resolution bill. There is an online petition sponsored by Food Democracy Now located here .

The International Business Times (IBT) says of the Monsanto rider in the bill, “The provision’s language was apparently written in collusion with Monsanto. Lawmakers and companies working together to craft legislation is by no means a rare occurrence in this day and age. But the fact that Sen. Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, actually worked with Monsanto on a provision that in effect allows them to keep selling seeds, which can then go on to be planted, even if it is found to be harmful to consumers, is stunning. It’s just another example of corporations bending Congress to their will, and it’s one that could have dire risks for public health in America.”

The IBT says there are “five terrifying facts about the Farmer Assurance Provision — Section 735 of the spending bill — to get you acquainted with the reasons behind the ongoing uproar.” Those five things can be found here .

More than 100 organizations and businesses have come out against this section of the bill, including the National Farmers Union, American Civil Liberties Union, Sierra Club, Environmental Working Group, Stonyfield Farm, Nature’s Path, Consumers Union, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and Public Citizen.

Source

Breaking: Pebble Mine project shut down. Mining lobbyists lose millions. Local efforts prevailed. Huge environmental win in Alaska today!

NRDC: “(I)n a historic result against enormous odds, the Save Our Salmon initiative has prevailed.

In the Lake and Peninsula Borough of southwest Alaska, where the massive Pebble Mine is proposed to be sited by a consortium of foreign mining companies, the residents have approved a prohibition against large-scale resource extraction – like the Pebble Mine — that would destroy or degrade salmon habitat in their region. 

And, most remarkably, they did so despite an intense campaign of fear funded by the Pebble Partnership falsely charging that the initiative “will drive Lake and Pen families away to find work, force schools to close and drive up the cost of food and fuel as the local economy shrinks even more.”

Source: NRDC

For background, read/listen to NPR’s report yesterday: Pebble Mine Development Polarizes Alaska.”

See also the Pebble Mine wiki and read about the legal battles, lobby efforts, and salmon habitat issues.

Watch on pantslessprogressive.tumblr.com

Report: Obama Has Weakened More Lobbyist-Opposed Health, Public Safety Regulations Than Bush

A new report shows that despite a campaign pledge to get lobbyists out of Washington, the Obama White House has weakened regulation in favor of corporate interests more than the Bush administration. The study, “Behind Closed Doors at the White House: How Politics Trumps Protection of Public Health, Worker Safety, and the Environment,” examines more than a thousand meetings that took place over a decade between lobbyists and a little known regulatory office, then checks to see how proposed rules were weakened to accommodate industry requests. It found the Obama White House changed rules 76 percent of the time, while Bush changed them just 64 percent of the time. EPA rules were changed at a significantly higher rate — 84 percent. [Democracy Now!] spoke to the report’s lead author, Rena Steinzor, professor at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law and President of the Center for Progressive Reform.

People who say GMO helps fix world hunger are wrong.

Genetically Modified Crops are restricted to a select handful of countries.

GMO crops are used primarily for animal feed and fuel

- US: over 50% GMO
- Brazil & Argentina: 30% GMO
- China: 3% GMO
- India: 3% GMO
- EU: 0.21% GMO

Most developing/poverty stricken countries have no access to GMO foods due to patents made by companies such as Monsanto and Syngenta

The people who hold patents hold the right to say “Who plants what, and who sells what around the world”

Generally GMO foods/seeds are not engineered for sustainability and yield. However pesticide resistance does help with the aforementioned, it is not intended for that

"Genetic engineering causes centralization of food genes instead of diversification" - Agriculture at Crossroads 2008

This means that our food isn’t diverse genetically, causing prices to rise and monopolies to continue their hungry rule on seeds

"Evidence is emerging of herbicidal and insecticidal resistance in crop weeds and pests associated with GMO crops" - Agriculture at Crossroads and World bank 2008

"Glyphosate (a very powerful and common pesticide) tolerance in corn, soy and rice have increased herbicide use by 383 million pounds in the USA alone" - Union of Concerned Scientists Report November 2009 

Several States for example Georgia have had to abandon pieces of land due to Glyphosate resistant plants!

This means that because the land is so resistant to pesticides, it has an uncontrollable amount of weeds!

Summary: GMO in its /current/ state is only hurting us, I have yet to find to research proving its harmful to consuming GMO food, however the same goes for the opposite. I’m staying away from GMO all together mostly in protest of these monopolies.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R)’s family and business partner have been receiving payments from a secret Political Action Committee called Real PAC. Half a million dollars of the money donated to the PAC has come from corporate health care interests which — like the governor and Georgia state Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens — oppose the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare.”

According to investigative reporter Jim Walls of Atlanta Unfiltered, the PAC hasn’t filed taxes or the required financial disclosures in two years, and the information it did file for 2011 was incorrect.

Contributors to Real PAC include Aetna, Humana, Blue Cross, United Healthcare and other interests that want to keep health insurance premiums and other costs as high as possible. Bryan Long of activist group Better Georgia told Raw Story that the list of donors shows who Gov. Deal really works for.

“He goes out and he does their bidding,” Long said, “He’s working for them instead of working for the 650,000 Georgians who don’t have insurance at all or access to the Medicaid expansion.”

“What’s remarkable about this isn’t that there’s money in politics,” he continued. “We all know there’s money in politics. He knew that this was so wrong that he didn’t want to tell anyone. He tried to keep it a secret for two years.”

Deal’s office made financial records publicly available on the Friday before Labor Day weekend, hoping, Long said, that no one would pay attention. The AP reported Friday that among its outgoing costs, the PAC “paid $30,000 to Southern Magnolia Capital, a fundraising firm founded by Deal’s daughter-in-law, Denise Deal. It also paid Ken Cronan, who co-owned a Gainesville salvage yard with Deal, more than $10,000 in December for pilot and plane expenses.”

All of the companies that pay into the PAC are doing business with the state of Georgia on some level. The PAC’s treasurer, former state ethics chairman Rick Thompson, protested that the PAC money is not just for Deal’s re-election, but for “Republican causes.”

Last week, state insurance commissioner Ralph Hudgens was caught on tape boasting to a crowd of supporters that his office is deliberately obstructing the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. As Floyd County Republicans called out “Amen!” and applauded, Hudgens said that his office is interfering with the certification of the ACA’s insurance policy “navigators,” individuals hired to help consumers choose policies on the open market.

“Let me tell you what we’re doing (about Obamacare),” he said. “Everything in our power to be an obstructionist.”

Pew poll finds voters’ assessments of the two US political parties surprisingly accurate.

Washington Post: Democrats hold a sizable advantage on Republicans on several key perceptions of the United States’s two major political parties, according to a new poll.

The Pew Research Center poll show Americans perceive Democrats as more willing to work with the other party than Republicans, by a margin of 52 percent to 27 percent.

Democrats also hold a 20-point advantage when it comes to which party “is more concerned with the needs of people like me” and a 10-point edge when it comes to governing in a more ethical and honest way.

The GOP, meanwhile, is viewed as much more “extreme” in its issue positions (54-35) and more influenced by lobbyists (47-30).

In other words, all five measures favor Democrats by a significant margin.

What’s interesting to me about this is that it demonstrates the complete failure of the “both sides are just as bad” false equivalency narrative that much of the media have been trying to get Americans to buy into. After years of GOP obstructionism, the government shutdown, and the debt limit fiasco, it’s become a tough sell.

You can’t continually vote against the wishes of the people — as the GOP has with immigration, the minimum wage, and unemployment benefits — and expect people to see you as the good guys. And the media is thankfully no help at all in bailing them out. It turns out that their actions speak louder than the media’s words and no amount of spin will bail them out for continually failing the American people.

[photo via Wikimedia Commons]

Scott Walker Makes early Voting More Difficult, Yet Extends Time For Lobbyists

This is just wrong.

In the early-voting measure, [Wisconsin Gov Scott] Walker used his partial veto powers — the most powerful in the nation — to nix language restricting early voting hours in Milwaukee and other cities to 45 hours a week while leaving in place a provision to prohibit early voting on weekends.

Republicans claim they want uniformity across the state. So a city with a population of 500 and and a city with 600,000 should have the same hours for early voting. This horseshit reasoning unfortunately makes sense in the conservative world. Voter suppression and long lines in the city is all they want. Big cities skew Democratic. Republicans want to discourage voting. Uniformity, may ass,

One of the state senators, Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend), had the balls to say:

"Every city on election day has voting from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. The idea that some communities should have weekend or night voting is obviously unfair."

Since when is voting a one-day competition? The idea that some cities with larger populations need more voting booths and extended hours is “unfair”? So by that logic, to be fair, you have to have the opposite of a level playing field and purposefully create a more difficult voting experience in big cities? Such blatant evil.

And not to be outdone, Walker also signed this crock:

Signed legislation to give lobbyists more time during election years to make financial contributions to lawmakers and other candidates.

You think Republicans could not be worse, and then they totally take being assholes to the next level.

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