Coburn targets party conventions
Sen. Tom Coburn wants the national Republican and Democratic parties to prove their commitment to ending taxpayer-funded junkets.
In a letter to party leaders last week, Coburn said the parties should return the checks they received last year to fund their 2012 national conventions.
According to the Federal Election Commission, each party received $17.7 million last year, with another $600,000 to be allotted this year for each of the gatherings.
The convention money comes from the same public fund that finances presidential candidates and is provided by taxpayers through a voluntary checkoff on income tax returns.
In his letter, Coburn, R-Muskogee, noted that both parties had criticized the recent scandal about the federal General Services Administration spending lavishly on a Las Vegas conference.
Coburn said the political conventions “will be weeklong parties paid for by taxpayers, much like the highly maligned GSA conference in Las Vegas. At a time when confidence in Washington has dropped to all-time lows and the federal debt is growing by more than $1 trillion a year, we need more than election year rhetoric and political posturing. Taxpayers expect leadership demonstrated by action.”
Coburn said it is likely that, for the 2008 conventions, taxpayers covered the Democrats’ bill at the Ritz Carlton in Denver and the Republicans’ $32,250 bill for speech coaching services.
Last year, the U.S. House passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, to abolish the presidential campaign fund to save $617 million over the next 10 years. The Obama administration came out against the bill, and it wasn’t considered in the U.S. Senate.
When the parties received their convention checks last year, Cole said, “It’s outrageous for the government to write $17 million checks to political parties when we’re facing trillion-dollar deficits. The Presidential Election Campaign Fund is an outdated, wasteful program that only 7 percent of Americans support.”
Democrats are holding their convention in Charlotte, N.C., while the Republicans are gathering in Tampa, Fla.
Lankford tackles human trafficking
The U.S. House passed an amendment on Friday by Rep. James Lankford aimed at cracking down on the use of forced labor by foreign contractors doing work for the U.S. State Department and other federal agencies.
Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, sponsored the amendment with Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., in the wake of subcommittee hearings held by Lankford that revealed human trafficking persists in Iraq and Afghanistan and some other countries, despite efforts to stop it.
Lankford said in a speech on the House floor that some people are recruited by labor brokers who lure them into these positions under false pretenses.
“Many have been robbed of wages, injured without compensation, subjected to sexual assault or held in deplorable conditions resembling indentured servitude by their subcontractor bosses,” Lankford said.
“They are deceived about their work location or conditions when they are recruited, and many paid an illegal job broker fee equal to or greater than their final pay.”
He said, “Using taxpayer dollars to support these conditions is immoral, inappropriate and un-American.”
The Lankford-Connolly amendment, added to the 2013 defense bill, would require federal agencies to:
•Investigate complaints of trafficking.
•Require large overseas contracts to have compliance plans to prevent trafficking.
•Require every contract to have a termination clause and penalties for contractors who engage in trafficking.
Post office named for fallen soldier
President Barack Obama signed a bill May 15 to name the post office at 115 4th Ave. SW in Ardmore for U.S. Army Spc. Micheal E. Phillips, who was 19 when he was killed in Iraq in 2008.
Phillips died when his Humvee was hit by an explosive device. He was a member of the 101st Airborne Division.
The bill, authored by Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, and co-sponsored by the four other Oklahoma representatives, was approved by the House last year and by the Senate in April.
Chris Casteel, Washington Bureau