No (secret) holds barred

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

It's Stevens

From TPMmuckraker is this article which references an Arkansas Times Record article where Sen. Colburn talks about the bill and how Stevens(R-Series of Tubes) is the only one blocking the bill. Many people had their money on Stevens, but I thought he was brazen enough to not need the anonymity.

So, where do we go from here? The first thing you can do is call his office in DC ( (202) 224-3004) and get his office to either admit he placed the hold or deny it. The second thing is to call your Senator to ask whether they will be speaking out against Senator Stevens publically. If your Senators are democrats, then this should not be too difficult. It's an election year, and this issue is a nice one....a Republican using a parlimentary maneuver to halt a bill calling for greater transparency from his veil of anonymity.

Keep the pressure on your local Senator. Let them know that this issue matters. Ironically, Stevens hold may have backfired and by making it politically difficult to vote it down.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Can we eliminate more?

Senator Frist just published this blog entry which is very supportive of the blog-led inquiry to find out who is responsible for the hold on the S2950. Can we use his post to eliminate more of the Senators who have yet to reply?

Remember from here, that a hold is made by a Senator contacting either the Majority or Minority leader depending on party. If a Republican had placed the hold, they would have contacted Senator Frist. Would Senator Frist publish such an article if he had been contacted?

In an election year, an issue like this can easily be held up a sign of the incumbant party's arrogance and desire to maintain power above all else. If it were a Republican Senator I doubt he would publically call for them to identify themselves (even if privately he hoped they would). He would also make himself look foolish - having members of VOLPAC running around asking congressmen their position, when he already knows what it is.

I have neither heard nor read any such support from Senator Reid. From this, I conclude that it is more likely that the requester of the hold is a Democratic Senator. This leaves:

  • Thomas Carper (Delaware)
  • Jay Rockerfeller (West Virginia)

as the only two Democrats who have yet to come out one way or another. I would throw in Chris Dodd as well, as the only denials I've heard have been pretty wishy washy.

I will be calling Senator Reid's office tomorrow (and Senator Dodd's as well).

Who else knows?

It's clear that the identity of the Senator placing the hold must be known to at least one other person in the Senate. They can't simply snap their fingers and make the hold happen, they'd have to contact somebody. But who? From this nice article on TPM Muckraker, we have the answer.

Turns out it is common practice for the Senator requesting a hold (these are typically not done anonymously) to contact either the Majority or Minority leader (depending on party) to request a hold. That means, either Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) or Minority Leader Harry Reid(D-NV) knows who the Senator is.

Here is their contact information:

William(Bill) Frist - (202) 224-3344
Harry Reid - (202) 224-3542

Call them both (you don't have to be one of their constituents) and ask:
  1. Is Senator Frist/Reid willing to unequivocally state whether he was (or was not) contacted to place a hold on the bill?
If his office states unequivocally that they were not contacted, that would indicate the guilty person was from the other party. If they state unequivocally that they were contacted, that means we are a lot closer to figuring out who placed the hold. The odds of this happening are just about zero barring some major slip from the person on the phone. More likely than not, it will be some ambiguous "not to my knowledge" response.

Again, if you do call be polite. Outrage and obnoxiousness do not have to go hand in hand.

Keeping Score: Porkbusters

Porkbusters has a tally of all of the Senators who deny placing the hold in the hopes of ferreting out who is responsible. If you haven't contacted your state's Senators yet, do so! You can find their phone numbers here. It only takes a few moments to do. Even if your Senator is on the record as not placing the hold, call anyway. The more calls they get, the more pressure there is on them to either reveal themselves, or publically repudiate the "holder". Who knows, you may even get someone at your congressman's office to slip and give out some important piece of information.

One thing to remember, though, is to be polite. Politeness is a forgotten virtue (especially in politics). I called Senator Dodd's and Lieberman's offices. Lieberman is a co-sponsor, but Senator Dodd's office refused to deny placing the hold.

First Post and Welcome

Amazing, isn't it? Just when you think government can't get any more insular and secretive it amazes you. The latest example is Senate bill, S2950 (which has bi-partisan support) to create a publically accessible database which would let the public to know what groups get what funding.

Now, I am sure the bill is not perfect (I hope to post an analysis of it in the near future), and I am also not pretending that if the Bill did pass, that it would somehow clean up politics for some time. And maybe that's why the issue has grabbed me in a way that larger (and arguably more important) issues have not. It is such a tiny baby step in the direction of transparancy in government, yet even that is too much. And the senator (yes, it's lower case....I'm so mature) does not even have the guts to stand up and declare his/her opposition.

It combines government's arrogance, secrecy, and incumbancy in one small dispicable package.

More to follow.