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Deb Bowen’s A Book By Me at Moline Public Library PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Jennifer Christiansen   
Tuesday, 20 March 2012 12:21

The Moline Public Library celebrates National Library Week with a program from Deb Bowen as she discusses her children’s book series A Book By Me, Wednesday, April 11th at 7:00 p.m.

A series of books for children authored by young adults, A Book By Me features stories of Holocaust survivors, prison camp liberators, and Christian & Muslim righteous gentiles.  Deb Bowen’s project, in cooperation with the Jewish Federation of the Quad Cities and local educators,    has resulted in 60 books written, 6 of which were printed   and distributed to local schools.  Ms. Bowen will also discuss Operation WRITE NOW, which is seeking out students interested in participating in conducting interviews and writing stories for A Book By Me.

To register for this free program, please visit the Moline Public Library at 3210 - 41st Street, Moline or call 309-524-2470.  This program is sponsored by Friends of the Moline Public Library.

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Leahy, Grassley Urge Leaders to Convene Conference Committee on STOCK Act PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 20 March 2012 12:20

WASHINGTON – Sen. Patrick Leahy and Sen. Chuck Grassley today urged the Senate leaders to convene a conference committee on the congressional insider trading bill to restore two key amendments.

 

Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, wants the Senate to restore his amendment to give prosecutors new tools to identify, investigate, and prosecute criminal conduct by public officials. Grassley, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, wants a conference committee to renew his amendment requiring political intelligence agents to register as lobbyists. The Senate overwhelmingly passed both amendments but the House of Representatives’ version of the bill excludes the provisions.

 

Leahy and Grassley wrote to the Senate majority leader, Sen. Harry Reid, and the Senate minority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell, urging a conference committee to resolve the differences between the Senate and House bills or alternatively, the opportunity to offer their amendments if the Senate takes up the House bill instead of convening a conference committee.

 

The text of Leahy-Grassley letter follows.

 

March 19, 2012

 

The Honorable Harry Reid                           The Honorable Mitch McConnell

Majority Leader, United States Senate                      Minority Leader, United States Senate

S-221 Capitol Building                       S-230 Capitol Building

Washington, DC 20510                          Washington, DC 20510

 

 

Dear Senators Reid and McConnell:

 

The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act (STOCK Act) passed the Senate with two critical provisions that would improve transparency and give law enforcement more effective tools to combat corruption.  One, an amendment requiring political intelligence agents to register as lobbyists, strengthens the STOCK Act by ensuring that lawmakers, congressional staff, and the American people know who is feeding information to Wall Street.  The other, a carefully tailored amendment to give prosecutors new tools to identify, investigate, and prosecute criminal conduct by public officials, furthers the STOCK Act’s goals of stopping public corruption and holding public officials accountable for wrongdoing.

 

The Senate passed both of these amendments with strong, bipartisan support.  Unfortunately, the House stripped both provisions from the STOCK Act without a vote. The Senate should act to ensure that the key improvements it made to this bill are incorporated into the final legislation that Congress passes.

 

We urge you to take the STOCK Act to a conference committee to resolve the differences between the Senate and House bills and to encourage the conference to restore these two key provisions.

 

Should you decide, instead, to have the Senate take up the House-passed version of the STOCK Act, we request the opportunity to offer these two crucial amendments so that the Senate may adopt them, again.

 

Taking up the House-passed bill without the opportunity for the Senate to reassert its position with respect to these provisions would be wrong.  These are two of the most important and substantive provisions in the bill.  Without them the legislation would be significantly weakened.

 

Sincerely,

 

PATRICK LEAHY                          CHARLES GRASSLEY

Chairman                       Ranking Republican Member

 

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Grassley Statement on Government Transparency as Sunshine Week Comes to a Close PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 20 March 2012 12:06

Prepared Floor Statement Senator Chuck Grassley

Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee

Sunshine Week

Delivered Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mr./Madam President,

This is Sunshine Week.  Sunshine Week is observed annually to coincide with the birthday of James Madison, the Founding Father known for his emphasis on checks and balances in government.

Open government and transparency are essential to maintaining our democratic form of government.

Although it’s Sunshine Week, I’m sorry to report that contrary to President Obama’s proclamations when he took office, after three years, the sun still isn’t shining in Washington, DC.

There’s a real disconnect between the President’s words and the actions of his administration.

On his first full day in office, President Obama issued a memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act to the heads of the executive agencies.   In it, he instructed the executive agencies to

“adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open Government.”

We all know that actions speak louder than words.  Unfortunately, based on his own administration’s actions, it appears that the President’s words about open government and transparency are words that can be ignored.

Given my experience in trying to pry information out of the Executive Branch and based on investigations I’ve conducted, and inquiries by the media, I’m disappointed to report that President Obama’s statements about transparency are not being put into practice.

Federal agencies under the control of his political appointees have been more aggressive than ever in withholding information from the public and from Congress.

Throughout my career I’ve actively conducted oversight of the Executive Branch regardless of who controls the Congress or the White House.  When the agencies I’m reviewing get defensive and refuse to respond to my requests, it makes me wonder what they’re hiding.

Over the last year, many of my requests for information from various agencies have been turned down again and again because I’m the Ranking Member and not the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee.  Agencies within the Executive Branch have repeatedly cited the Privacy Act as part of the rationale for their decision, even though the Privacy Act explicitly says it is not meant to limit the flow of information to Congress.  This disregard by the Executive Branch for the clear language of the law is disheartening.

 

Since January 2011, Chairman Issa and I have been stonewalled by Attorney General Holder and the Justice Department regarding our investigation of Operation Fast and Furious.  This deadly operation let thousands of weapons “walk” from the United States into Mexico.  Despite the fact that the DOJ Inspector General possesses over 80,000 relevant documents, Congress has received only around 6,000 in response to a subpoena from the House Oversight Committee.

Even basic documents about the case have been withheld by the Justice Department, yet the Department insists it is cooperating.

The sun must shine on Fast and Furious so that the public can understand how such a dangerous operation took place—and what can be done to prevent it in the future.

I’ve also worked hard to bring transparency to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  This is an Executive Branch agency that desperately needs more sunshine.  Over the past two years I’ve investigated rampant fraud, waste, and abuse at public housing authorities around the country.  I’ve discovered exorbitant salaries paid to executive staff, conflicts of interest, poor living conditions and outright fraud, waste and abuse of taxpayers’ money.

Many of these abuses have been swept under the rug and HUD has been slow at correcting these problems.  HUD cannot keep writing checks to these local housing authorities and blindly hope that the money gets to those Congress intended to help.  I’ll continue to work to bring sunshine to HUD.

In April of last year, I requested documents from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding a valuable regulatory waiver it granted to a company called LightSquared.  LightSquared was attempting to build a satellite phone network in a band of spectrum adjacent to GPS.  The problem is that LightSquared’s network causes interference with critical GPS users such as the Department of Defense, the Federal Aviation Administration, and NASA.

The FCC responded to my document request by saying that they don’t give documents to anyone but the two Chairs of committees with direct jurisdiction over the FCC.  That means that if you’re in that 99.6 percent of Congress that does not chair a committee with direct jurisdiction, you are out of luck.

In a letter to me, Chairman Genachowski did tell me that he would make his staff available to me for interviews.  But when I took him up on his offer and asked to interview members of his staff, my request was refused.  Once again, actions speak louder than words.  This is stonewalling pure and simple.

It seems obvious that the FCC is embarrassed and afraid of what might come from uncovering the facts behind what the Washington Post called the LightSquared “debacle.”  If there’s nothing to hide, then why all the stonewalling?  The FCC seems determined to stonewall any attempts at transparency.

But it’s not just the executive branch that needs more transparency.  The judiciary should be transparent and accessible as well.  That’s why over a decade ago, I introduced the Sunshine in the Courtroom Act, a bipartisan bill which will allow judges at all federal court levels to open their courtrooms to television cameras and radio broadcasts.  By letting the sun shine in on federal courtrooms, Americans will have an opportunity to better understand the judicial process.

The sunshine effort has no better friend than whistleblowers.  Private citizens and government employees who come forward with allegations of wrongdoing and cover-ups risk their livelihoods to expose misconduct.  The value of whistleblowers is the reason I continue to challenge the bureaucracy and Congress to support them.

For over two decades, I’ve learned from, appreciated and honored whistleblowers.  Congress needs to make a special note of the role that whistleblowers play in helping us fulfill our Constitutional duty of conducting oversight of the Executive Branch.

The information provided by whistleblowers is vital to effective Congressional oversight.  Documents alone are insufficient when it comes to understanding a dysfunctional bureaucracy.  Only whistleblowers can explain why something is wrong and provide the best evidence to prove it.  Moreover, only whistleblowers can help us truly understand problems with the culture at government agencies.

Whistleblowers have been instrumental in uncovering $700 being spent on toilet seats at the Department of Defense.  These American heroes were also critical in our learning about how the FDA missed the boat and approved Vioxx, how government contracts were inappropriately steered at the GSA, and how Enron was cooking the books and ripping off investors.

Like all whistleblowers, each whistleblower in these cases demonstrated tremendous courage.  They stuck their necks out for the good of all of us. They spoke the truth. They didn’t take the easy way out by going along to get along, or looking the other way, when they saw wrongdoing.

I’ve said it for many years without avail, but I’d like to see the President of the United States have a Rose Garden ceremony honoring whistleblowers.  This would send a message from the very top of the bureaucracy about the importance and value of whistleblowers.  We all ought to be grateful for what they do and appreciate the very difficult circumstances they often have to endure to do so, sacrificing their family’s finances, their employability, and the attempts by powerful interests to smear their good names and intentions.

I’ve used my experience working with whistleblowers to promote legislation that protects them from retaliation.  Legislation such as the Whistleblower Protection Act, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and the False Claims Act recognize the benefits of whistleblowers and offer protection to those seeking to uncover the truth.  For example, whistleblowers have used the False Claims Act to help the federal government recover  more than $30 billion since Congress passed my qui tam amendments in 1986.

These laws are a good step, however, more can be done.

For example, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, will provide much needed updates to Federal whistleblower protections.  I’m proud to be an original cosponsor and believe the Senate should move this important legislation immediately.  This bill includes updates to the Whistleblower Protection Act to address negative interpretations of the WPA from both the Merit Systems Protection Board and the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

 

I started out my remarks by quoting James Madison, the Founding Father who is one of the inspirations for Sunshine Week.

Madison understood the danger posed by the type of conduct we’re seeing from President Obama’s political appointees.  He explained that --- “[a] popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce, or a tragedy, or perhaps both.”

I’ll continue doing what I can to hold this administration’s feet to the fire.

I hope that my colleagues will help work with me so that we can move toward restoring real sunshine, -- in both words and actions --, in Washington DC.


 
BOXER, GRASSLEY INTRODUCE MEASURE TO CURB EXCESSIVE TAXPAYER-FUNDED SALARIES FOR GOVERNMENT CONTRACTORS PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 20 March 2012 12:05

Measure Limits Taxpayer-Funded Reimbursement to $400,000 per Year, Extends Cap to All Government Contractor Employees

 

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) this week introduced the Commonsense Contractor Compensation Act of 2012, S. 2198, which would lower the maximum amount taxpayers reimburse all government contractors for their salaries.

 

The Senators’ bill would limit the taxpayer reimbursement for government contractor salaries to the amount of the President’s salary – currently $400,000. The measure would also extend the cap to all government contractor employees.

 

Currently government contractors can charge taxpayers $693,951 for the salaries of their top five employees, based on a federal executive compensation benchmark. Employees of government contractors outside of the top five can and do earn taxpayer-funded amounts in excess of the current benchmark.

 

The new bill would build on a previous measure by Senators Boxer and Grassley – which was passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act in December – that set limits on taxpayer-funded salaries for defense contractor employees. It extended the $693,951 salary cap to all defense contractor employees, not just the top five.

 

Senator Boxer said, “As Senator Grassley and I made clear in December, we will keep fighting to rein in exorbitant taxpayer-funded salaries for contractors. There is simply no reason that taxpayers should fund government reimbursements for private contractor salaries at a rate more than three times what Cabinet Secretaries earn.”

 

Senator Grassley said, “The direct taxpayer-funded salaries of government contractors clearly need to be contained, and this legislation is designed to do so. There’s no justification for these payments to be higher than the salary of the President of the United States.”

 

The salary benchmark has nearly doubled in the last twelve years. From 1998 to 2010 the benchmark has grown 53 percent faster than the rate of inflation. According to a study from New York University, in 2005, the most recent year for which statistics have been compiled, there were 7.6 million government contractors, including 5.2 million defense contractors.

 

The proposed taxpayer salary reimbursement limit is still double the $200,000 salary that Cabinet Secretaries earn.  Additionally, the amendment would in no way limit employee compensation provided by private companies out of their own revenue streams.

 

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Herbert Hoover NHS News Release: Retired Park Ranger and Author Gregory W. Moss on March 26 PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Adam Prato   
Monday, 19 March 2012 15:00
WEST BRANCH, IOWA— Gregory W. Moss, author of “National Park Ranger, a.k.a.
‘Bleeding Green & Grey’” will speak at Herbert Hoover National Historic
Site on Monday, March 26. The program is free and begins at 7:00 p.m. in
the visitor center. A veteran of thirty-two years as a former national park
ranger, Mr. Moss has worked at more than 20 parks all across the United
States. He retired as a chief ranger from the National Park Service in 2011
and now resides in Springfield, Missouri.

“As one of nearly four hundred parks in the National Park System, we’re
excited about hosting an author who can share stories from those other
special places around the country,” said Pete Swisher, superintendent of
Herbert Hoover National Historic Site.

“National Park Ranger, a.k.a., ‘Bleeding Green & Grey’” tells stories of
the numerous and sometimes heroic daily deeds of a national park ranger.
His true-life tales embrace not only high adventure cases, unfortunate
deaths, and mayhem, but also humorous park visitors, limited budgets,
politics, and bureaucracy. Mr. Moss pokes fun at himself and his colleagues
while sharing the amusing side of his career.

Herbert Hoover National Historic Site and the Herbert Hoover Presidential
Library and Museum are in West Branch, Iowa at exit 254 off I-80. Both are
open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central Time. Parking is limited so please
allow extra time to find a parking space. For more information go online to
www.nps.gov/heho or call (319) 643-2541.


Herbert Hoover National Historic Site
110 Parkside Drive
PO Box 607
West Branch, Iowa  52358

319 643-2541 phone
319 643-7864 fax
www.nps.gov/heho

Photographs may be available upon request.
Follow @HooverNPS on Twitter.

 
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