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Who Needs Disclosure?

The Federal Election Commission renewed the Socialist Workers Party’s exemption from disclosing names of its donors last week, but not without some colorful commentary from the watchdog agency’s six commissioners. [IMGCAP(1)]

Democratic Commissioner Danny McDonald said he couldn’t support the exemption request, which extends through 2008, and said other groups could make a “much more compelling case” that disclosure of their contributor information had led to harassment.

But GOP Commissioner Bradley Smith said he supported the Socialists’ assertion that disclosure of names would have a chilling effect on their membership and thought it might extend even further.

“I find myself wondering why does the federal government keep a database of the citizens’ political participation anyway?” Smith said, adding that he would not be averse to considering applications from other groups that want exemptions from the FEC’s disclosure requirements.

Caucus Cornucopia. Several new Congressional caucuses have formed.

The Congressional Public-Private Partnership Caucus debuted Thursday. The caucus will focus on the collaboration of private groups and public agencies on public safety issues. The caucus is chaired by Reps. Chris Cannon (R-Utah) and Charlie Stenholm (D-Texas).

Cannon and Stenholm will also head up the U.S.-Mexico Congressional Caucus, along with Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.). The 24-member group, formed in early March, will focus on “cross-border issues,” according to a press release.

Education Secretary Rod Paige was on hand Wednesday when the Senate and House Rural Education caucuses were inaugurated. The groups will work to highlight the educational needs of rural areas.

Senate co-chairmen are Sens. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), John Edwards (D-N.C.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.). House co-chairmen are Reps. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), Tom Osborne (R-Neb.) and Ron Kind (D-Wis.).

Also on Wednesday, Sens. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) launched the Senate Caucus on Missing, Exploited and Runaway Children. Among members’ priorities: creating a grant program to help states strengthen their Amber Alert programs and requiring child pornography offenders to be listed on a national registry.

Wonder Woman. Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) was named Woman of the Year by Hispanic Business Magazine, the first time the magazine has bestowed the award.

Velázquez was recognized in a Hill luncheon Thursday for her influence in both the political and business sectors and for her longtime support of minority enterprise. She is ranking member on the Small Business Committee.

— Amy Keller, Nicole Duran, Jennifer Yachnin and Bree Hocking

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