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Conyers’ Rescue Trade associations and grass-roots groups breathed a collective sigh of relief last week after a change was made to the House ethics reform bill that exempted nonprofits from having to reveal their membership. The change, which was in the form of a manager amendment by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) at the committee markup last Thursday, came after organizations such as the National Rifle Association, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and the American Civil Liberties Union, among others, lined up against the provision. Groups such as the National Association of Manufacturers went further, saying they would take the provision to court if it wasn’t removed. “We do not relish the thought of having to go to court to retain a long-held standard to not disclose our membership,” said Lawrence Fineran, vice president for legal and regulatory reform policy of NAM, before Conyers’ move. “This would have been a real administrative nightmare, also a disclosure nightmare,” says James Clarke of the ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership, an organization for association staff. Clarke went so far as to send an e-mail missive the day before the markup, saying that the bill included “disastrous language” for associations. But the outcry seems to have been for naught. “We found out it was just a drafting error. They had planned on taking what they had done last year, but somehow it got left out,” says Marvin Johnson of the ACLU. In previous bills, the language provided blanket cover for all 501(c) groups. This time around, only 501(c)3 groups would have been covered, which would have meant groups that tightly hold their membership and donor list would have had to disclose any member that contributed more than $500. The groups, including the ACLU and NRA, also got Conyers to come out against an amendment by Rep. Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) that would require lobby firms to disclose how much they are paid to gin up support for companies or grass-roots organizations. The amendment failed on a voice vote. Conyers implemented two other manager’s amendments, both loosening the requirements for lawmakers looking for work in the private sector. Instead of increasing the length of the “cooling off” period in which former members cannot lobby after leaving Congress from one year to two years, Conyers kept the status quo. He also changed the provision requiring lawmakers to report to the Clerk of the House within three days of talking to prospective employers. Now, lawmakers would direct those reports to the House Ethics Committee. The bill was sent to the full House, where it is expected to be voted on this week, says Drew Hammill, spokesman for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). — Anna Palmer
Duck Hunt In the wake of a scandal involving No Child Left Behind, the University of Oregon has turned to former Democratic Rep. Jim Turner (Texas) for help. Turner says he was hired to make sure the University of Oregon complies with document requests as the House Education Committee investigates conflict-of-interest allegations involving Oregon professors who served on an evaluation panel under the Bush administration’s $6 billion Reading First program. Turner, a former ranking member of the House Government Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on Government Management, Information, and Technology and now a partner at Arnold & Porter, says he is representing the university and not the three professors under investigation. He also says the problem lies more in the way the Department of Education handled the conflict-of-interest process rather than wrongdoing by the university or its professors. The House has held two hearings on the matter thus far, and Turner says there will likely be another hearing in the Senate. The matter is under review by federal prosecutors. The probe began last month, after the Education Department’s inspector general reported mismanagement of the federal reading program, which allocates grants to school districts. The inspector general found that professors at Oregon and two other universities, while working under government contract on the reading program, steered districts toward textbooks and materials that they themselves had developed or that were put together by family members or friends. — Osita Iroegbu

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