Here’s your weekly roundup of the important political corruption stories we’ve been tracking.

Former Coal Lobbyist Could Take the Second Spot at the EPA

Andrew Wheeler, former coal lobbyist, is on track to become the second highest ranked official at the EPA.

Last year, lobbyist Andrew Wheeler’s nomination for deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) failed to come to a final confirmation vote after decision making was stalled in the Senate. Now, Wheeler is back on track towards gaining the position. Last week, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted to advance his nomination to the Senate, and it appears that Wheeler is now one step away from becoming the second highest ranked official at the EPA.

Andrew Wheeler is no stranger to environmental legislation; he worked for more than 15 years in various roles on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and has ties to many organizations overseen by the EPA. Wheeler has also worked as a registered lobbyist for refrigerator manufacturer ICOR International, where he lobbied Congress and the EPA to remove ozone protections.

Aside from his work with the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to defeat a 2008 climate bill, Wheeler’s history as a consultant and lobbyist for several fossil fuel companies has many concerned that he would abuse the role as deputy administrator to promote the interests of high polluting groups.

Wheeler is most known for his ties to the coal manufacturer Murray. Last year, Murray sent a memo to the EPA which laid out a plan to repeal limits on mercury emissions, reverse the agency’s findings that greenhouse gases are harmful, and pushed for the administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. When questioned on Wheeler’s stance in this matter, an EPA spokeswoman said that “Mr. Wheeler supports the President’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement.”

Many, if not all, of the organizations Wheeler has advised have lobbied in some way to shape EPA regulations in their favor. Needless to say, Wheeler’s nomination is rife with conflicts of interest.

The Bottom Line: People with serious conflicts of interest should not be confirmed to appointments in any federal agencies.

Pennsylvania Politicians Fight Against Fair Redistricting

Last month, we told you about Pennsylvania’s push to redraw district lines after the state Supreme Court ruled the map unconstitutional. Now, State Representative Cris Dush is moving to impeach the Justices who made that possible.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an emergency application by lawmakers seeking to overturn the state’s court’s decision to stop partisan gerrymandering redraw the districts. Now, Republican Cris Dush (and others) are ignoring the Court’s decision.

In a striking display of anti-democratic values, Dush introduced a resolution to impeach four of the five state Supreme Court Justices who ruled the old map unconstitutional. Dush is accusing the state Justices of misbehavior in office, arguing that the court overstepped its bounds when it imposed a new congressional map.

If the movement to impeach is accepted by the House, the four Justices will be forced to face a trial before the Senate. Two-thirds of senators would then need to approve the resolution in order to pass it.

The Bottom Line: When the benefits that legislators reap through manipulative practices like partisan gerrymandering are threatened, lawmakers move quickly to restore their undeserved advantages.

Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) Wins in Washington State

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee signed a package of measures Monday aimed at increasing participation in the state’s elections.

On Monday, WA state Governor Inslee approved a package of measures which will make it the 10th state in the past 4 years to implement Automatic Voter Registration (AVR). The package includes several bills aimed at increasing the rate of voter participation in the state, which is already one of the highest in the country. With the implementation of AVR, any citizen who interacts with a government agency (i.e. getting a license, etc.) will be automatically registered to vote.

The package also includes a series of measures which allow same-day registration for voters, and pre-registration for citizens who are 16 and 17. These provisions are expected to register hundreds of thousands of potential new voters, a feat which Inslee highlighted at the bill-signing ceremony Monday, stating that “democracy is served when more people participate.”

Campaign finance laws are also under reform in Washington, as Inslee signed an act which would significantly increase transparency. Under the new bill, any nonprofits that are being used to donate more than $10,000 to political campaigns in the state must register with the Public Disclosure Commission, the state’s election finance watchdog. This measure was widely supported, with well-known Senators like Andy Billig stating that “voters have the right to know who’s paying for a campaign.”

The Bottom Line: More states should follow in Washington’s footsteps by implementing automatic voter registration.

Dear America, Sincerely Us

Last week, nonprofit advocacy group ReThink Media launched a project to collect stories and mobilize Americans from across the political spectrum in the campaign for democracy reform.

Dear America, Sincerely Us is a site dedicated to sharing the inspiring and frustrating stories of everyday Americans in their endeavors with and against the current political system. The campaign highlights how our current political system affects everybody in our country in some way, and reflects how the health of our democracy has a huge influence our lives.

ReThink Media is compiling these stories to prove to lawmakers, media, and the public that Americans need and demand reform.

From a dedicated equality/justice organizer, Will Fuller, who came to his line of work through his faith, to a long-time public servant, Paul Perry, who backed out of a congressional race after rejecting corporate donations, this project proves that policy impacts everyone in our country. These stories demonstrate that the wavering health of our democracy has very real impact on every citizen in the United States.

You can participate in the Dear America, Sincerely Us campaign by sharing your own story or reading the testimonies of others here.

The Bottom Line: Our political system should work for all of us.

About kerrin
Kerrin is the Digital Campaigns Intern at RepresentUs and is a full-time student studying communications and political science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
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