News/Oversight

House Democrats Appeal For Justice In NYC Police Shooting Case

Reps. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) and Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) called for police accountability in the wake of the acquittal of three New York detectives who shot an unarmed man the night before his wedding, reports NY1.

Meeks, who represents parts of Queens, said that the judge's decision in the Sean Bell case should not be "the end of the quest for justice."

"We who are members of the United States Congress must realize and utilize our legislative powers and the moral authorities of our offices, to help the victims of unwarranted and excessive use of force seek and redress grievances at a federal level," Meeks said.

Meeks and Rangel appeared in a forum on police-community relations in Manhattan with House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.), who has promised a federal probe into the shooting.

The three detectives, who were part of a group of five involved in the shooting, said they believed Bell was trying to run them down with his car outside of a strip club.
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Specter To Meet With Former Patriots Assistant Over Spygate

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) is scheduled to meet Tuesday with a former New England Patriots assistant who has turned over eight tapes that reportedly show the three-time Super Bowl champions filming opponents' play-calling signals.

Matt Walsh, a former video assistant for the Patriots from 2000 to 2002, has given tapes to the National Football League of signals in six Patriots games, including the 2002 conference championship game between New England and the Pittsburgh Steelers, reports the Boston Herald.

The NFL docked the Patriots their 2008 first-round draft choice for filming the signals of the New York Jets during a 2007 game.

Specter has criticized the NFL's decision to allow the tapes of the Jets' signals to be destroyed. Specter has also said that he could call on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to testify about the "Spygate" controversy in a Senate committee hearing over the league's federal antitrust exemption.
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Democrats Scrutinize Labor Department's Earmark Spending

A new congressional report has found the Labor Department failing to monitor how it spent nearly $300 in earmarks.

The General Accountability Office (GAO) found the Labor Department did not set goals and follow the progress of grants for job training and economic development that were partially paid for by earmarks.


Democrats on the Senate appropriations subcommittee for labor plan to question Labor Secretary Elaine Chao about the spending at a hearing today.


"This Administration has asked American taxpayers to trust its discretion in awarding these grants without full and open competition, and now it appears that good decisions were not made in choosing or accounting for how to best spend taxpayer dollars,

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Hensarling Urges Tanker Oversight Move With Caution

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) is asking fellow members of Congress not to rush to judgment when reviewing the $35 billion air force tanker contract awarded to a group that includes the European Aeronautic Defence And Space Company (EADS).

Several House members have criticized the Defense Department for giving the contract to EADS and its U.S. partner Northrop Grumman and not to U.S.-based Boeing. Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) has suggested that Congress block funding for the deal.

But Hensarling, chairman of the Republican Study Group, writes in his letter that the deal with EADS will still create American jobs. He adds that the debate should be over "which tanker serves our airmen best" and that overturning the Defense Department decision could risk setting off a trade war with other countries.

Boeing has filed a formal protest with the Government Accountability Office, which is scheduled to rule on the case by June 19.

Download Hensarling's letter here.
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DeLauro Calling For Answers On Defense Dept. P.R. Program

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) is asking the U.S. Inspector General to look into the Pentagon's program of having generals defend Bush administration foreign policy on talk shows, which was first reported by the New York Times.

"This extensive propaganda program should have been revealed, not by a newspaper, but long-ago by the DoD Office of the Inspector General, which is responsible for eliminating waste, fraud and abuse at the department, as well as promoting integrity and serving the public interest," wrote DeLauro in a letter to the Inspector General. "Now that the program has been halted, we must take the next steps to determine how high-ranking officials within the Pentagon were allowed to operate a program aimed at deceiving the American people."

DeLauro was joined by 40 other House Democrats in her letter, Think Progress reports. In the Senate, Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) has asked the General Accountability Office to determine whether the Pentagon's program was illegal.
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DCCC Files 2nd Complaint Over Freedom's Watch Ad

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has filed another complaint against a television ad run by a conservative advocacy group in Louisiana's 6th congressional district race.

In its complaint to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the DCCC charges that the spot by Freedom's Watch, which tries to tie the Democratic candidate Don Cazayoux to excessive government spending, breaks election law by taking a position on Cazayoux's voting record. The DCCC views this as an appeal to vote against Cazayoux, which is prohibited three weeks before an election. The complaint also argues that the group broke the law by failing to disclose donors who each gave $1,000 or more for "the purpose of furthering electioneering communications."

This is the DCCC's second complaint to the FEC over the ad; last week, it had accused Freedom's Watch with illegally coordinating its message with the National Republican Congressional Committee, which had run a similar ad about Cazayoux.


Cazayoux faces Republican Woody Jenkins in a May 3 special election for the House seat. Rep. Richard Baker (R) vacated the seat in February to take a job with a lobbying association representing the hedge fund industry.


Ed Patru, a spokesman for Freedom's Watch, called both of the DCCC's complaints "nonsense."


"The DCCC is obsessed with keeping Don Cazayoux

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AFL-CIO Files Complaint Over Violence In Guatemala

The AFL-CIO has filed a complaint with the Bush Administration that says violence against trade unionists in Guatemala may have worsened since the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) became law, reports The Hill's Kevin Bogardus:

Expect the labor union to use the complaint as an argument against the free trade agreement with Colombia. Colombian supporters believe the trade deal would help that country's economy and thus lessen violence against labor activists. But the AFL-CIO complaint on Guatemala runs counter to this argument.


"This petition will demonstrate that labor conditions in [Guatemala] have remained unchanged or have worsened since the trade agreement was ratified," charges the complaint. "The level of physical violence against trade unionists increased markedly since the agreement entered into force in July, 2006. Violations of freedom of association and collective bargaining continue apace, and access to fair and efficient administrative or judicial tribunals remains elusive."


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Dem FEC Nominee Withdraws Due to Confirmation Delay

A Democratic nominee for the Federal Election Commission has pulled his name from consideration, a move that may further prolong the Senate impasse over filling four FEC vacancies.

Democrats had hoped to return Robert Lenhard, a former chairman of the commission, to the FEC. But Lenhard no longer wants to be considered due to the delay over the nomination process, according to a letter from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten.

"[Lenhard] is exceptionally well-qualified and his nomination is not controversial," Reid wrote. "However, given the complete unwilligness among Republicans to constitute a functional FEC, I could not assure him of timely confirmation."

Senate Democrats have held up votes to confirm the four pending nominees due to their objection to Republicans' choice of Hans von Spakovsky. While Republicans have called for one vote to confirm all four nominees as a bloc, Democrats have sought a separate vote for each nominee, believing that von Spakovsky does not have enough support for confirmation. Democrats, led by Barack Obama, have concerns over von Spakovsky's voting rights record in Georgia and as a lawyer in the Department of Justice.

Reid wrote that the search for a new Democratic nominee and the process to get one confirmed typically takes seven months.

The FEC has only two current members, which isn't enough for a quorum.

Read Reid's letter here (.pdf).
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Waxman Subpoenas EPA for White House-Related Documents

House Oversight Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) has subpoenaed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) documents involving the White House as part of his committee's investigation of EPA's 2007 decision stating that California could not impose its own stricter regulations on auto emissions.

Waxman said his committee has found evidence that the EPA communicated with the White House about the decision. "Unfortunately, EPA has refused to disclose the substance and extent of its communications with the White House," Waxman said today. "The Committee must have these documents in order to understand how the agency
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