U.S. Government

Second Circuit Considers Challenge to NDAA's Military Detention Provisions; CMD Joins Challenge to Exec Powers

-- By Lisa Graves, Brendan Fischer, and Meher Ahmad

The Obama administration is urging a federal court to overturn a ruling that blocked the government from enforcing a law that could allow the military to imprison American citizens indefinitely, without trial. The Center for Media and Democracy joined an amicus brief with groups across the political spectrum calling for the judiciary to reject such unchecked power to use "indefinite detention."

Bill in Congress Could Limit Access to Drug Safety Information

"Open Government" cartoon (Source: Adam Zyglis, Buffalo News)The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote Wednesday, May 30, on the Food and Drug Administration Reform Act of 2012, H.R.5651. Groups advocating for open and transparent government have found a provision in the bill that would keep potentially important health and safety information away from the public. Section 812 would, according to a letter to leaders of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee penned by several of these groups, deny the public access to information relating to drugs obtained by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from any government agency -- local, state, federal, or foreign -- if that agency has requested that the information be kept confidential.

Patrice McDermott, Executive Director of OpenTheGovernment.org, which works with the legislative and executive branches to encourage more open government, told the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) that the provision might blow a huge hole in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). It would give the FDA carte blanche with regard to drug information.

Death by Delay: Obama Team Stalls on Chemical Regulation

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has drafted a "chemicals of concern" list to restrict the use of certain chemicals and alert the public to their possible dangers. But the list remains secret and dormant because it's stuck at the Obama administration's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for review.

OIRA is a division of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB). According to Katie Greenhaw, Regulatory Policy Analyst at the government watch-dog group OMB Watch, OIRA has 90 - 120 days to review rules from a regulatory agency, before releasing the rule back to the agency to open it up for public comment. Rules then go back to OIRA for additional review before being published as final rules. This rule has been stuck at OIRA for almost two years. That means the public hasn't even laid eyes on it.

USDA to Serve Kids More "Pink Slime"

Pink SlimeA product made by grinding up connective tissue from cows and beef scraps that used to be made into dog food is too disgusting to serve at McDonald's, Burger King or Taco Bell, which have all dropped it due to public pressure, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) thinks it's fine to serve in school lunches. The USDA plans to buy seven million pounds of the "Lean Finely Textured Beef" (LFTB) from Beef Products Inc. (BPI) and serve it to school children this spring.

Events Marking Second Anniversary of "Citizens United"

January 20 marks the second anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's disastrous decision in Citizens United v. F.E.C., where a narrow majority of the Court asserted that the Constitution prevents Congress from limiting the amount of money that can be spent influencing our elections. A series of events are planned this week to mobilize opposition to the decision and to generate support for a constitutional amendment to reverse it.

Vengeance is Mine, Sayeth Newt Gingrich

While Mitt Romney came out ahead in New Hampshire, his front-runner status will soon be under the gun by some very deep pockets backing Newt Gingrich.

As previously reported by CMD, over $3 million dollars worth of ads cut by a Super PAC controlled by Mitt Romney's former aides, dropped Gingrich like a stone in Iowa. Gingrich sank from an overconfident front runner, who told ABC's Jake Tapper "I will be the nominee" on December 1, to an embittered candidate who placed fourth in Iowa a short time later.

After ineffectually whining about being totaled by Mitt Romney's "negativity" in the Iowa primary, Newt Gingrich may have decided that revenge is sweeter. A pro-Gingrich Super PAC is preparing to unleash a barrage of negativity on South Carolina voters.

Newt Gingrich's Baggage

The new Super PACs dominating the air wars in Iowa and New Hampshire were unleashed by the Citizens United revision of the First Amendment to allow individuals and corporations to give unlimited amounts of money to influence U.S. elections. Super PAC spending cannot be directly coordinated with a candidate, but provides candidates with an avenue for negative attack ads that they do not have to put their name on. (Numerous groups are calling for amending the Constitution to overturn the decision.)

The most omnipresent ad by the pro-Romney "Restore Our Future" Super PAC led with the line "You know what makes President Obama happy? Newt Gingrich's baggage." It then went on to detail a scorching list of allegations, including that Gingrich was paid $30,000 an hour by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two organizations that "helped cause the financial crisis."

"I've been Romney-boated," Gingrich complained to the press in Iowa, referring to the ad campaign in 2004 launched by the group, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, that helped sink presidential candidate John F. Kerry. According to the Campaign Media Analysis Group, 45 percent of all TV ads in Iowa have been attack ads against Gingrich, including this no-hold-barred attack by Ron Paul's campaign. (Note that Paul does not hesitate to put his name right on the ad.)

The pro-Mitt Romney Super PAC massively outspent the candidate's official presidential campaign on advertising, reportedly spending $7 million to the candidate's official $5 million so far. While Romney dodged responsibility for the negative ads, Gingrich put is succinctly: "It's very hard to run $3.5 million of negative ads and pretend it's not yours and not have people think you're being dishonest."

"The Man that Destroyed Us"

Now, a pro-Gingrich Super PAC is getting ready to unleash a world of harm on the Romney campaign. According to the New York Times, billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson has cut a $5 million check to the "Winning Our Future" Super PAC. Adelson has long been a Gingrich supporter.

Winning our Future just released a devastating 30 minute film, When Mitt Romney Came to Town, in advance of the South Carolina primary ten days away. The Super PAC has reserved more than $3.4 million in advertising time in the state to air clips of the movie as ads.

The ads and the film claim that as CEO of Bain Capital, a venture capital firm, Romney bought American businesses simply to shut them down. Romney describes his tenure at Bain as one in which he created "100,000 jobs." But the ad characterizes Romney and Bain "as group of corporate raiders ... more ruthless than Wall Street" and intones, "For tens of thousands of Americans, the suffering began when Mitt Romney came to town." A woman put out of work by Bain, characterizes Romney as "the man who destroyed us," a potent message in a country that currently has 25 million unemployed or underemployed citizens.

Gingrich characterized Romney and Bain as "rich people figuring out clever legal ways to loot a company," but Gingrich of course has his own private equity supporters including Blackstone Group and KKR & Co. according to the Boston Globe.

As for the truth of the matter, an old Bain prospectus obtained by the Los Angeles Times shows a stunning 88 percent average annual rate of return under Romney's leadership. But did the firm earn this money by creating jobs or destroying them? The Washington Post recently gave Romney three Pinocchios for his unsubstantiated job claims.

Supremely Unseemly Conduct by Supreme Court Justices Spurs Call for Mandatory Ethics Rules

Madison, WI, January 9, 2012—The Center for Media and Democracy today joined a coalition of public interest organizations in calling for the United States Supreme Court to agree to follow the Code of Conduct for U.S. judges.

Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, Ginny (photo via FTWP)CMD joined the Alliance for Justice, American Association of University Women, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Common Cause, Communications Workers of America, CREDO Action, Equal Justice Society, League of United Latin American Citizens, National Employment Lawyers Association, People for the American Way Foundation, and U.S. Public Interest Research Group in a letter to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. The letter calls on the Court to "take it upon itself to agree to be bound by the Code," and "do so unequivocally and publicly." (The coalition's letter to Chief Justice Roberts is uploaded down below.)

Colvin on How to Choose a Constitutional Amendment

This is a guest post by Greg Colvin, partner at the firm Adler and Colvin, originally published at OurFuture.org.

There is a growing movement of people fed up with corporations-as-persons, money-as-speech, elections-for-sale in America. They are ready to amend the US Constitution as the only sure way to reverse the Supreme Court's decisions in Citizens United v. FEC and Buckley v. Valeo. But what's the best amendment? Sanders/Deutch or Udall/Sutton? Move To Amend or Free Speech for People?

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