Senator Russ Feingold has been busy doing the people’s business. First, you may have missed this because of the zillion WH surge stories, but I think this is important. From The Hill, Friday, January 5:
Sens. Feingold, Obama to push Office of Public Integrity plan in ethics reform bill
By Elana Schor
Democratic Sens. Russ Feingold (Wis.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) have unveiled details of a reform bill they will introduce during floor debate next week on leadership-backed lobbying and ethics legislation, laying down a marker for possible amendments aimed at beefing up the measure.
Many of the Feingold-Obama bill’s provisions would bring the Senate’s ethics bill in line with the House package that passed overwhelmingly Wednesday and are expected to be part of any leadership amendment to the Senate bill. But the Democratic duo, considered Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) ethics point men, also aim to push the Office of Public Integrity plan offered last year by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.).
The public integrity office would be an independent panel empowered to probe alleged violations by members, aides and lobbyists, and make recommendations for enforcement. Government watchdog groups traditionally allied with the Democratic agenda have lined up behind the proposal, which gained renewed support from Collins, Lieberman, Feingold and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) last month.
CSPAN covered the Friday presser, which in addition to Majority Leader Reid, Feingold and Obama, featured new Senators Tester (MT), Klobuchar (MN), Whitehouse (RI), McCaskill (MO), and Webb (VA). There may have been others, but I tuned in late. What America saw was a smart, honest, articulate group. The CSPAN rerun was on in the East today about noon, so look for it in your area. It’s a fun watch.
More details on the House and Senate versions of the proposed legislation, and discussion of how Feingold helped rewrite earlier bills to strengthen their provisions, can be found here.
Second, Senator Feingold would like to ask the White House a few questions about why they think a Presidential signing statement makes it okay for the President to open our mail without obtaining a warrant. Raw Story has the letter (h/t to twolf1). Here’s a part of it:
Dear Mr. President:
I am deeply concerned about the signing statement that you issued on December 20, 2006, regarding H.R. 6407, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. It raises serious questions about whether the government is reading Americans’ first class mail without obtaining a search warrant or other court order as required by statute.
The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act recodified in a different location an existing provision of federal law, without change, that states as follows:
No letter of such a class of domestic origin shall be opened except under authority of a search warrant authorized by law, or by an officer or employee of the Postal Service for the sole purpose of determining an address at which the letter can be delivered, or pursuant to the authorization of the addressee.
. . .The American people and Congress are entitled to know whether you have acted on that theory. Please answer the following question: has your administration authorized any government agency to read Americans’ first-class mail without obtaining a search warrant, complying with the applicable court order requirements of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or satisfying Postal Service regulations?
I look forward to your expeditious reply.
Russell D. Feingold
Looks like our side is putting their best feet forward. Keep going.