First Order of the New Order

Who needs any ethics nowadays? From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — House Republicans, overriding their top leaders, voted on Monday to significantly curtail the power of an independent ethics office set up in 2008 in the aftermath of corruption scandals that sent three members of Congress to jail.

The move to effectively kill the Office of Congressional Ethics was not made public until late Monday, when Representative Robert W. Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced that the House Republican Conference had approved the change. There was no advance notice or debate on the measure.

The surprising vote came on the eve of the start of a new session of Congress, where emboldened Republicans are ready to push an ambitious agenda on everything from health care to infrastructure, issues that will be the subject of intense lobbying from corporate interests. The House Republicans’ move would take away both power and independence from an investigative body, and give lawmakers more control over internal inquiries.

It also came on the eve of a historic shift in power in Washington, where Republicans control both houses of Congress and where a wealthy businessman with myriad potential conflicts of interest is preparing to move into the White House.

Continue reading the main story

Diversifying Media Ownership

A coalition of citizens’ groups, including the National Organization for Women and Consumers Union, is asking people to write to their members of Congress in a campaign to “stop big media.”  I know leaders of many of these organizations and can attest that they’re doing good work. Their draft letter is as follows:

I am writing to urge you to support S 2332, the “The Media Ownership Act of 2007.” This legislation will ensure that the Federal Communications Commission addresses the dismal state of female and minority ownership before changing any rules to unleash more media concentration.

Nearly 99 percent of the public comments received by the FCC oppose changing the nation’s media ownership rules to allow a handful of large conglomerates to swallow up more local media outlets. Congress rejected the same changes to the rules in 2003. Yet the FCC is still pushing a plan to overhaul the rules by the end of the year.

This legislation would mandate that the FCC give the public 90 days’ notice before holding a vote on new rules to ensure a full public accounting of the impact of media consolidation before changing the ownership limits. These steps are necessary to preserve diverse local media that meets the needs of our communities.

Diversity is the cornerstone of a democratic media system. Yet research by Free Press found that that while minorities make up 33 percent of the U.S. population, they own less than 8 percent of radio stations and 3 percent of TV stations.

This legislation would create an independent task force to address the crisis in minority media ownership.

Our democracy requires the free flow of local information from diverse voices. Please support the “The Media Ownership Act of 2007.”

For more information and a way to send your own version of the letter electronically, go to StopBigMedia.com.