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Advocacy.

During the first session of the 110th Congress, the LWVUS Advocacy staff worked with the Congress on the seven priorities set by the LWVUS Board: Campaign Finance Reform, Civil Liberties, DC Voting Rights, Election Administration, Ethics and Lobbying Reform, Global Climate Change, and Healthcare Reform.

There has been considerable action on campaign finance reform during this session. In late March, the League endorsed the bipartisan Fair Elections Now Act introduced by Senators Dick Durbin (D IL) and Arlen Specter (R PA). The legislation would improve the federal election process by allowing qualified candidates to receive campaign funds from the Senate Fair Elections Fund instead of relying upon money from private interests. Earlier in the session, the LWVUS sent Senators a memo urging them to cosponsor S. 436, introduced by Senator Russell Feingold (D WI), to fix the presidential public financing system beginning in 2009. The LWVUS Lobby Corps visited Senate offices in February to lobby in support of S. 436. To top things off, the LWVUS joined eight reform organizations in a letter to presidential candidates, asking them to commit to legislation to fix the presidential public financing system and to make a public commitment to use the public financing system for the 2008 presidential general election if their opponent does the same.

The Advocacy staff worked with outside counsel on the LWVUS amicus brief to the Supreme Court in FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life challenging the constitutionality of restrictions on the funding of sham issue ads. The brief, joined by other concerned organizations, argued that the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) properly applied to the ads in question and that the Court's previous ruling upholding BCRA should be followed.

In civil liberties, the LWVUS contacted Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D VT) in support of the OPEN Government Act, which will strengthen the Freedom of Information Act and make information more readily available to the public. The OPEN Government Act is sponsored by Senators Leahy and John Cornyn (R TX).

The League worked very hard to move the DC Voting Rights Act quickly when the 110th Congress convened in January. The LWVUS Lobby Corps visited select House offices urging fast action on the legislation; action alerts were sent to the Grassroots Lobby Corps; and local League members participated in a February 15 Lobby Day in Congress. The intense lobbying produced results. The DC Voting Rights Act reached the House floor in mid-March only to be stymied by the opposition. President Wilson called on the House Speaker and Majority Leader to reschedule the bill. On April 19, just days after the April 16 DC Emancipation Day March of thousands that included League members and staff, the House passed the bill by a 241-177 vote! "Finally, Congress has begun to right the wrong they've committed against DC citizens," declared President Mary Wilson. "As this legislation moves on to the Senate, the League will be behind lawmakers every step of the way, urging them to do the right thing. We will also look to President Bush to put his full backing behind this bill and provide equal rights to the half-million Americans at his doorstep."

In keeping with the Board's decision to emphasize five key issues in election administration, the LWVUS has been reaching out to congressional offices, election administrators and other organizations. While not an exhaustive list of important issues, the League is focusing on: 1) opposing ID and documentary proof-of-citizenship requirements, 2) improving administration of statewide voter registration databases / guarding against wrongful or incorrect purging, 3) guarding against unnecessary restrictions on voter registration, 4) improving poll worker recruitment, training and supervision, 5) improving polling place management and ballot design.

The LWVUS continues to press for meaningful ethics and lobbying reform. Throughout the early days of the 110th Congress, the League lobbied selected Senate staff on the ethics and lobbying legislation. In March, the LWVUS Lobby Corps lobbied House offices in support of real ethics reform. During Senate action, the League expressed disappointment in the amendment sponsored by Senator Robert Bennett (R UT) striking a key provision requiring professional lobbying firms to disclose the large sums they spend on campaigns to urge the public to lobby Congress. On this issue, President Wilson said, "The American voters were very clear last November--clean up Washington or we will vote you out of office. Voters expect their elected representatives to solve this mess. They don't want late night shenanigans that kill ethics reform."

On global climate change, the LWVUS task force has begun its work in looking at key steps that can be taken at all levels of government to combat global warming. It is carefully examining a broad range of scientific and policy issues on the global warming front.

In the healthcare reform arena, the LWVUS joined other concerned organizations in a letter to all Members of Congress supporting increased funding in the FY '08 budget for SCHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Program). The Advocacy staff also continues to monitor and address other issues of concern as they arise.

The Grassroots Lobby Corps, the League's legion of online activists, more than tripled its membership in 2006. Because these activists are responding to the urgency of our alerts in increasing numbers, more of our messages are reaching Members of Congress. The number of e-mail messages sent through the League's easy, online system increased by 500 percent in 2006!

Thanks to all of you who take a few minutes to respond to our action alerts. To keep flooding Congress with our concerns, forward the next action alert you receive to people you know with a personal note asking them to sign up to receive e-mailed alerts. To learn more about how you can take action on the League's priority issues, see Hill Bulletin on page 13. Also visit Take Action at www.lwv.org and sign up for the Grassroots Lobby Corps to receive action alerts by e-mail.
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Title Annotation:LEAGUE MATTERS
Publication:National Voter
Date:Jun 1, 2007
Words:985
Previous Article:Global Democracy.
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