Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Election’ Category

Marijuana as a political issue in upcoming election

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Good rundown in this McClatchy story by Rob Hotakainen. From the story:

In Maryland, Republican Rep. Andy Harris is getting a taste of things to come.

Last month, Americans for Safe Access ran an ad against Harris after he gave a speech opposing medical marijuana and voted against the bill to strip funding from the Justice Department.

He’s also upset officials in Washington, D.C., by trying to block the city from decriminalizing marijuana. In March, the D.C. Council voted to make possession of a small amount a misdemeanor with a $25 fine, but Congress must approve the law. Harris got the House Appropriations Committee to back an amendment to kill the plan.

“Congress has the authority to stop irresponsible actions by local officials, and I am glad we did for the health and safety of children throughout the District,” Harris said in a statement.

Last week, Democratic D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray urged residents of the nation’s capital to stay away from Maryland’s Eastern Shore, a vacation spot in Harris’ district.

And Eidinger said pot activists were ready to campaign heavily in Harris’ district before the Nov. 4 general election.

“This is serious business,” Eidinger said. “If he’s successful, we’ll have nothing to do but go campaign and fight to get him out of office to make an example of him. That’s all we’ll do.”

The story includes some examples of ads. This one’s similar to those in the article:

Written by LeisureGuy

12 July 2014 at 4:27 pm

Why it is difficult to have the least shred of respect for the Senate and its rules

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Written by LeisureGuy

11 July 2014 at 5:30 pm

Posted in Congress, Election

7 papers, 4 government inquiries, 2 news investigations and 1 court ruling proving voter fraud is mostly garbage journalism

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Christopher Ingraham reports in the Washington Posti:

Voter ID laws are back in the news this week after a group of college students joined a lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s new restrictive rules. And as Catherine Rampell pointed out earlier this week, it’s not just ID laws – Republican state legislatures have been busy devising all manner of creative ways to make voting more difficult for traditionally Democratic-leaning groups.

All of these restrictive measures take their justification from a perceived need to prevent “voter fraud.” But there is overwhelming scholarly and legal consensus that voter fraud is vanishingly rare, and in fact non-existent at the levels imagined by voter ID proponents. That hasn’t stopped many Republican lawmakers from crying “fraud” every time they’re faced with an unfavorable election outcome (see also: McDaniel, Chris).

For reference, a round-up of the latest research is below. Let me know in the comments if I missed anything. . .

Continue reading.

And, of course, a Republican official in Florida, I believe it was, said quite openly that the purpose of the laws was to reduce Democratic turnout in elections. Pure and simple. That’s the goal, and if you look at the measures passed, that is exactly the (intended) effect.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 July 2014 at 1:46 pm

Posted in Election, GOP

The Mayday PAC succeeded—a superPAC to fight superPACs.

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Brian Fung reports in the Washington Post:

Last week, with just a couple of days until a hard July 4 deadline, Mayday PAC still had to raise a whopping $2.5 million. It was an ambitious target. When I spoke to Harvard law scholar Lawrence Lessig about his chances then, he seemed grimly optimistic in the way a battlefield commander might be about taking a particularly well-defended hill: They’d get there.

Turns out, the super PAC that’s trying to end the influence of money in politics had reinforcements in waiting. It broke past its $5 million goal over the holiday weekend with about $300,000 to spare. With more than 50,000 contributors, the average donation works out to about $140. No matter what side you’re on when it comes to campaign finance, this was a triumph of grassroots organizing, with small donations leading the way. . .

Continue reading.

Full disclosure: I contributed, and more than the mean.

From later in the article:

With the $5 million comes a $5 million match from high-profile investors. Together with another $2 million raised earlier this year, Mayday PAC will have more than $12 million in its pocket to get campaign finance reformers elected to Congress.

“The pundits say ‘America doesn’t care about this issue,'” wrote Lessig in a note to supporters. “This is America caring.”

As I wrote last week, this is where Mayday PAC’s real work begins. It needs to figure out how to spend that money effectively. It needs to pick the right races to make that money competitive.

Mayday PAC might need to be smarter and faster than the average super PAC, because depending on the contest, it may be drawing people’s attention to campaign money for the first time. Unlike other issues that have already been politicized — taxes, or health care, say — Mayday’s task is two-fold. First it has to convince people that campaign finance is an issue worth voting on at all. Then it has to persuade people to vote its way. If Mayday’s selected a race in which neither candidate has taken a firm position on campaign finance reform, getting it onto people’s radar will be that much harder. This is where the heat map above may prove useful as a way to identify likely races — and an active base of existing supporters and potential volunteers.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 July 2014 at 11:42 am

OMG! This is wonderful: See the owners of any member of Congress is real-time—a new app

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Install the app, hover your mouse over the name of any member of Congress—the example used is John Boehner—and you see:

Boehner

Very cool. AND it obviates the need for members of Congress to wear sponsor patches on their suits, as race-car drivers do. Win-win, eh?  The Washington Post story is here. The app itself is here. (It’s free.) The guy who wrote the app is 16. Years. Old.

Here’s the explanation:

Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 4.26.01 PM

Written by LeisureGuy

3 July 2014 at 4:10 pm

Mayday PAC: A run at campaign-finance reform

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Brian Fung has a very interesting article in the Washinton Post, and I did make a pledge to Mayday PAC:

Whatever your politics, chances are you’re among the vast majority of Americans who believe there’s too much money in the whole business. With the Supreme Court knocking down one campaign finance barrier after another, money in politics has only grown more central to U.S. culture — not less. Even as the cycle of spending and giving accelerates, it’s not clear what, if anything, ordinary voters can do about it.

Except, perhaps, to fight money with money.

Lawrence Lessig is the Harvard scholar who’s better known for his work on intellectual property and co-founding Creative Commons, the licensing framework that allowed me to use the photo at the top of this post. But going to Congress to ask for a more progressive copyright regime was a fool’s errand, he discovered, because he found that everyone on the Hill had been captured by large, wealthy interests who had a stake in keeping things the way they were. So lately, Lessig has taken to running a campaign of his own: launching a super PAC that would dismantle the modern-day campaign finance system.

Lessig wants to break the resignation he’s seeing in Americans. And he wants to do it now. On Friday, the three-month-old Mayday PAC will hit a key deadline; if Lessig and his fellow activists successfully raise $5 million, Kickstarter-style, the super PAC will get a massive match, putting it within reach of its $12 million goal and making Mayday PAC competitive in five House races around the country.

That’s the idea, at any rate. If Mayday PAC fails to hit its target — the group still must raise nearly $2.5 million in the next two days — the money gets returned to the crowdfunders and basically nothing happens. To help push it over the top, the Internet’s grassroots activism machine is already churning in high gear: In recent weeks, Mayday PAC has been promoting itself as the Internet’s superPAC, gaining endorsements from prominent tech geeks like Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Silicon Valley investors like Peter Thiel and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman. On Wednesday, the group announced it would even begin taking donations in bitcoins.

Why would anyone support a super PAC whose sole purpose is to reduce the role of money in politics, anyway?

The case for Mayday PAC — and what Lessig hopes will make it compelling both to liberals and conservatives — is that . . .

Continue reading.

Fung also points out a win for transparency in campaign finance—a small reform that was fought viciously by conservative donors.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 July 2014 at 12:37 pm

Posted in Election, Politics

It’s hard to have confidence in Hillary Clinton

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At least it is for me. She voted in favor of the invasion of Iraq, and in her new book she makes a poor case for why. Read this article by Jeff Gerth in Pacific Standard. From the article:

. . . Clinton continues to misstate parts of her record on Iraq, while failing to address some of the tough choices she took as America’s chief diplomat.

Here’s a refresher on the details, drawn from interviews and government records and reports on Iraq. Clinton’s office and the book’s publicist did not respond to requests for comment. . .

Lying about her statements and actions and refusing to face questions: not something I want in a president—or any official responsible to the public. Later in the article:

She also wrote that she “made the best decision I could with the information I had.”

In our 2007 book about Clinton, co-author Don Van Natta Jr. and I showed that she had never read what arguably was the most authoritative information available: the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. After book excerpts appeared, Clinton was asked in the first presidential debate with Barack Obama whether she regretted not reading the estimate. “I feel like I was totally briefed,” she said.

Evasiveness in response to direct questions constitutes a BIG warning sign.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 June 2014 at 4:46 pm

Posted in Democrats, Election

A great idea for a campaign-finance law, but I doubt it will get through Congress

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Congress really does not like to pass laws that prevents members of Congress from doing pretty much as they please. (Congress usually excludes itself from having to observe various fair-labor practices, for example.) But, still: it’s a good idea, described in the Washington Post by Emily Badger:

Four years ago, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy made a quaint assessment about the power of technology to counter any nefarious effects from massive campaign contributions in politics. From his majority opinion in the landmark Citizens United case:

With the advent of the Internet, prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions. This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.

The Internet! In theory, it might enable us to keep tabs on political spending with the same ease that it allows us to track our banks accounts or book concert tickets.

“It would be nice if that were true,” says Lisa Rosenberg, the lobbyist for the Sunlight Foundation, a D.C.-based group that advocates for government transparency. “But unfortunately, even though the technology is available to make it true, the laws are not.”

Here is an intriguing idea for one that would: Sunlight is pushing a bill, introduced earlier this spring in the Senate by Angus King (I-Maine) and in the House by Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.), that would get us much closer to real-time disclosure of political contributions. In place of quarterly reports, it would require public disclosure of hard-money contributions within 48 hours of the moment when candidates, committees or political parties receive donations of a $1,000 or more.

This is a potentially powerful idea for at least two reasons. For one, timeliness makes this information even more valuable, because timing itself is information.

“Certainly it helps connect the dots on public policy,” Rosenberg says, “if these large contributions are coming in right before a hearing, and you can see that an industry representative has an interest in that hearing, whether it’s a tax bill, or an immigration bill, whatever it is.”

Current law requires 48-hour disclosure of large contributions within the last 20 days before an election (although right now, super PACS get a reprieve from this pesky requirement in the final 48 hours). The Real Time Transparency Act would extend that window throughout the year. Which leads us to the second reason why this idea could be powerful: Require constant disclosure like this, at all times, and you make possible the kind of digital tools Kennedy seemed to vaguely imagine.

You’d make this possible: A smartphone app that pings you every time someone sends a big chunk of money to your congressman. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 June 2014 at 2:42 pm

Posted in Business, Congress, Election, Law

Interesting take on Rep. Brat: The Elizabeth Warren of the Right

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Ryan Lizza writes in the New Yorker:

On January 14th, David Brat, the college professor who defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on Tuesday, in a Republican primary in Virginia, was reading the Wall Street Journal’s opinion section when the premise of his improbable campaign was revealed to him.

Randall Stephenson, the C.E.O. of AT&T, had recently been named chairman of the Business Roundtable, a pro-Republican group that is made up of C.E.O.s from major American companies and has spent well over a hundred million dollars lobbying Congress during the past decade. Stephenson was a good fit for the organization. AT&T is known as a G.O.P.-leaning company; in their political donations, its political-action committees and employees have favored Republicans over Democrats almost two to one in the past two election cycles. Randall’s piece, which came after a year of Tea Party-inspired upheaval in the House, was called “A Business Short List for Growth,” and in it he laid out his group’s policy agenda for Congress in 2014. At the top of the list for Randall was “stability,” by which he meant an end to the crisis policymaking that has regularly threatened a government shutdown or debt default in recent years.

Brat, a free-market purist and a devotee of Ayn Rand, read the op-ed and turned to his wife. As he recounted several times on the trail this spring, he told her, “This guy just wrote my stump speech for me!” What was useful to Brat about the Wall Street Journal article was not that it echoed his own views, but that it clarified for him everything that Cantor was for and that Brat was against. “Stability,” for Brat, was simply code for a status quo in which companies like AT&T fleece the government.

From what I’ve observed, Brat has not talked like a forty-seven-per-cent conservative complaining about how tax dollars are being shovelled to the undeserving poor (although maybe he does believe that and didn’t emphasize it in the campaign). He comes across, instead, like a ninety-nine-per-cent conservative who sees the real villain as corporate America and its addiction to government largesse. One of his biggest applause lines is about how bankers should have gone to jail after the 2008 financial crisis. Brat is the Elizabeth Warren of the right.

The divisions within the Republican Party since 2010 are not always obvious from the shorthand we commonly use: Tea Party versus establishment, conservatives versus moderates, outsiders versus insiders. Brat’s stump speech, inspired by the country’s top corporate-lobbying group, was notable for the clarity with which it defined these often opaque categories. Eric Cantor “is running on the Chamber of Commerce growth plan,” Brat told a small gathering at the Life Church in Hanover, Virginia, last April. “The Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable. If you’re in big business, he’s good for you. But if you’re in any other group, it’s not good for you.”

What Wall Street was asking from Washington was, “Just keep it stable for us so we can make profits.” Brat went on:

I’m an economist. I’m pro-business. I’m pro-big business making profits. But what I’m absolutely against is big business in bed with big government. And that’s the problem.

Put aside for a second whether it’s actually true that a C.E.O.’s plea for an end to fiscal brinksmanship is actually a mask for extracting corporate subsidies. The more interesting phenomenon is that, for Tea Party conservatives, the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page had morphed into the voice of the enemy.

In his campaign against Cantor, Brat turned every issue into a morality tale about big business cheating ordinary Americans. He attacked Cantor for supporting the farm bill (“Do those billions of dollars go to the small American farmer? No, they go to huge agribusiness, right? Big business again.”), the flood-insurance bill (“Who does that go to? A lot of the money goes to gazillionaires on both coasts who have homes in nice real-estate locations.”), and the STOCK Act, an effort to stop insider trading by congressmen, which Cantor gutted by including an exception for spouses. In his Randall-inspired stump speech, Brat was more worked up about the STOCK Act than anything else. He promised, “If you tell your friends or neighbors about this issue, I will be your next congressman!”

Granted, at the core of Brat’s ideology is an unvarnished belief, one that does not maintain majority support in any recent national poll that I have encountered, that the government should return to its pre-New Deal roots. This is not surprising. He’s a libertarian. But his message, which today is being embraced by Tea Party candidates around the country, is also sharply different from the Romney-Ryan view of limited government celebrated by Republicans in 2012.

Instead of lecturing the most vulnerable about the moral beauty of the marketplace, Brat targets the most well off. “Free markets!” he declared in Hanover, like a teacher about to reveal the essence of the lesson. “In a nutshell, what does it mean?”

It means no one is shown favoritism. Everyone is treated equally. Every firm, every business, and you compete fairly. And no one, if you’re big or small, is shown special attention. And we’re losing that. . .

Continue reading.

And another very interesting column on Brat and the issues that drove him to victory.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 June 2014 at 4:42 pm

Rational redistricting: Is this why it will never happen?

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Read this fascinating article, with many informative maps.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 June 2014 at 2:41 pm

Iowa’s Republican Secretary of State Just Proved That Voter ID Laws Are Unnecessary

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Even members of the GOP have admitted that voter ID laws are in fact passed simply to bar voters likely to vote Democratic. The GOP really doesn’t much like democracy: they simply want to run things, whether validly elected or not (cf. Koch brothers). Josh Israel reports at ThnkProgress:

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz (R), one of the nation’s most enthusiastic voter suppressors, released a report on Thursday outlining the results a two-year investigation into possible voter fraud, conducted by the Iowa Department of Public Safety’s Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) at his request. But while Schultz has frequently scared Iowa voters with allegations of thousands of possible non-citizens voting in the state and living people showing up at the polls to cast ballots in the name of dead voters, the investigation revealed found an infinitesimal number of illegal votes cast and zero cases of impersonation at the polls.

Since his election in 2010, Schultz has been a staunch advocate for a strict voter ID law in Iowa, though his efforts to require one have stalled in the Democratic-controlled Iowa Senate. Last year he told supporters that in order to get conservative policies on “abortion, gay marriage, a whole lot of social issues that we care deeply about,” they must “start caring about voter ID and election integrity as well.” Without voter ID, he told them, “you’ll never be able to make a difference in any other issue you care about. Never. Because they will cheat! They’ll cheat.”

In 2012, Schultz attempted to launch an illegal voter purge to remove up to 3,582 foreign nationals he suspected of being illegally registered to vote in the state. He proposed a system in which those suspected non-citizens would have just two weeks to prove their citizenship or they would lose their voting rights. When that was blocked by the courts, he committed hundreds of thousands of public dollars for the DCI investigation.

Nearly two years and $250,000 later, Schultz said that 238 total cases of suspected election misconduct were investigated. Investigators “found evidence of election misconduct in 117 cases that cancelled out the votes of legitimate Iowa voters,” he notes, and 17 more cases are still being investigated. One of those cases resulted in a not-guilty verdict and four cases were dismissed. Combined, that means at most 134 instances of fraudulent voting were found in Iowa over several elections, compared with 1,589,951 votes cast in the 2012 general elections alone. That means, at most, the investigation found a 0.008427933% [8/1000 of 1% - LG] rate of voter fraud.

But notably, that total includes more than just non-citizen voting. Sixty eight of the 238 investigated cases involved convicted felons who allegedly were registered to vote and/or voted despite not having had their voting rights restored. And of the 147 registered voters suspected of being non-citizens even after thorough review of the 3,582 people initially flagged, 70 of those turned out to also be citizens (more than 47 percent).

The report also notes that 23 cases examined “potential election misconduct” by people other than non-citizens and felons without restored voting rights. According to the AP, these cases involved people who had cast votes in more than one state — possibly by absentee in one and in person in the other. There was not a single identified case of impersonation fraud at the polls — people showing up and pretending to be another voter — meaning that Schultz’s own investigation found no cases at all that would have been prevented with his proposed voter identification law.

A spokesman for Schultz did not immediately respond to a ThinkProgress request for comment, but Schultz told the AP the investigation was worth the money: “There are people who voted who weren’t supposed to, and this is a situation where we tried to do something about it. I think it was the right thing to do and I stand by that.”

Written by LeisureGuy

11 May 2014 at 7:45 am

Posted in Election, GOP

Wisconsin Republican Legislator Tears Into His Own Party For Voter Suppression

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Voter suppression is a direct attack on the heart of our democratic government: it is a deliberate effort to forestall voters from exercising the basic Constitutional right: to elect those who will speak on their behalf. The GOP is quite deliberately—and openly—working to prevent large swathes of voters from being able to vote, and that effort is truly despicable—plus it gives a chilling view into the intentions and direction of the GOP, which seems to be to seize power by whatever means possible, whether legitimate or not.

Josh Israel writes at ThinkProgress:

As his own party pushed through the Wisconsin Senate the latest in a series of measures to make it harder to vote in the state, Sen. Dale Schultz (R) blasted the efforts as “trying to suppress the vote” last week.

Schultz, who is not seeking re-election and was the lone Republican to oppose a bill last week to limit the hours of early voting in every jurisdiction in the state, was a guest on The Devil’s Advocates radio program on Madison’s 92.1 FM last Wednesday. Asked why his party pushed the bill, Schultz responded, “I am not willing to defend them anymore. I’m just not and I’m embarrassed by this.”

Schultz argued that this and dozens of similar bills before the Senate this were based on “mythology” that voter fraud is a serious concern: “I began this session thinking that there was some lack of faith in our voting process and we maybe needed to address it. But I have come to the conclusion that this is far less noble.”

Noting that Republican President Dwight Eisenhower championed the 1957 civil rights law, Schultz said that he could not “find any real reason” for his party’s effort to make it harder to vote:

SCHULTZ: It’s just, I think, sad when a political party — my political party — has so lost faith in its ideas that it’s pouring all of its energy into election mechanics. And again, I’m a guy who understands and appreciates what we should be doing in order to make sure every vote counts, every vote is legitimate. But that fact is, it ought to be abundantly clear to everybody in this state that there is no massive voter fraud. The only thing that we do have in this state is we have long lines of people who want to vote. And it seems to me that we should be doing everything we can to make it easier, to help these people get their votes counted. And that we should be pitching as political parties our ideas for improving things in the future, rather than mucking around in the mechanics and making it more confrontational at the voting sites and trying to suppress the vote.

Schultz added that the suppression was “just plain wrong,” adding, “It is all predicated on some belief there is a massive fraud or irregularities, something my colleagues have been hot on the trail for three years and have failed miserably at demonstrating.” The GOP-controlled Assembly has already passed a similar bill.

2011 study by the non-partisan Brennan Center found just seven cases of voter fraud in Wisconsin’s 2004 election, out of three million votes cast — a fraud rate of just 0.0002 percent.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2014 at 10:07 am

Posted in Election, GOP

Bad Democrats

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Ian Millhiser reports at ThinkProgress:

Debo Adegbile, who previously served as the acting head of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, is one of the nation’s top civil rights attorneys. He’s also a leading expert on voting rights who twice defended the Voting Rights Act before the Supreme Court — the first time successfully. He was, in other words, an ideal candidate to lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division — the division which, among other things, oversees the federal government’s voting rights work in an era where conservative state lawmakers are currently waging a widespread campaign to prevent demographic groups that tend to vote for Democrats from casting a ballot.And yet, the Senate just voted his nomination down, thanks to seven Democrats. TheDemocrats who opposed Adegbile’s confirmation are Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mark Pryor (D-AR) and John Walsh (D-MT).

Although most of these senators have yet to offer an explanation for their votes — and the Senate offices ThinkProgress contacted shortly after the vote were not especially forthcoming — it is likely that their votes were motivated by a campaign to disqualify Adegbile because of a high profile case the NAACP LDF participated in during his time with that organization.

In 2008, a federal appeals court unanimously held — with two Reagan appointees on the panel — that procedures used during a convicted cop killer named Mumia Abu-Jamal’s death penalty hearing violated the Constitution. Specifically, the panel of predominantly Republican judges concluded that the trial judge gave the jury a confusing form that could have been read to require a death sentence unless every single juror agreed to a life sentence. The NAACP LDF filed an amicus brief on Abu-Jamal’s behalf.

At least one of the Democrats who opposed Adegbile, Sen. Casey, cited his work to overturn this unconstitutional death sentence as the reason for his opposition.

As MSNBC’s Adam Serwer points out, the Senate was not always so critical of lawyers who help bad people fight potentially unconstitutional death sentences. Indeed, as an attorney in private practice, Chief Justice John Roberts “devoted 25 pro bono hours” to representing a mass murderer recently executed in Florida.

Ian Millhiser also reports on how one of the Senators immediately proclaimed her support for voting rights:

A fundraising email sent by Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) this afternoon claims that “[i]f there’s one thing we should all be able to agree on, it’s that every American deserves the right to vote. It’s one of our most basic rights – but right now it’s under attack.”

Heitkamp is correct. Indeed, one of the ways that voting rights are currently under attack is that Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) voted on Wednesday to block Debo Adegbile, the attorney who twice defended the Voting Rights Act in the Supreme Court, from being confirmed to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

The vote wrapped up shortly after noon today. A copy of Heitkamp’s email obtained by ThinkProgress is timestamped “Wed, Mar 5, 2014 at 1:11 PM,” which means that Heitkamp waited about one hour after she opposed one of the nation’s leading voting rights advocates to send out an email trying to fundraise off of her support for legislation seeking to “restore voting rights for all Americans.” Ironically, the reason why this legislation is necessary is because five conservative justices rejected Mr. Adegbile’s arguments seeking to preserve a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.

A screenshot of Heitkamp’s email is [at the link - LG].

Although the email does not contain an explicit fundraising ask, people who sign the “petition” touted in Heitkamp’s email are directed to an ActBlue page fundraising for Heitkamp, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE). Coons, like Heitkamp, also opposed Adegbile’s nomination.

It should be noted that Heitkamp’s likely did not oppose Adegbile because of his advocacy on behalf of voting rights. Rather, the primary reason offered by senators who opposed this nomination is that Adegbile played a role in convincing a unanimous panel of federal appeals court judges to strike down an unconstitutional death sentence.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 March 2014 at 11:32 am

An interesting view of “fair”

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I am certain that the man described in this post believes firmly that he is fair, and sees the policies he espouses as being fair. That’s another example where one would love for him to write exactly the specific criteria that define a policy or action as being “fair.”

I confess that I found some of his reasoning surprisingly immature—for example, his pointing out that he never actually used the word “shot,” as though that somehow mattered. Swallow a camel, strain at a gnat.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 February 2014 at 11:07 am

Posted in Election, GOP, Politics

The overt oligarchic outlook of the GOP

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The GOP truly does not want democracy or a government that responds to the will of the governed. It is stunningly explicit in their actions—and often in their words as well. Josh Israel reports at ThinkProgress:

On a party-line vote, a Florida county’s Republican majority Board of County Commissioners voted Tuesday to eliminate almost one-third of Manatee County’s voting sites. The board accepted a proposal by Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett (R) by a 6-1 vote to trim the number of precincts, despite unanimous public testimony against the move — and complaints by the lone Democratic Commissioner that it would eliminate half of the polling places in his heavily minority District 2.

Bennett, in his first term as elections supervisor, proposed reducing the number of Manatee County precincts from 99 to 69. Citing decreased Election Day turnout, as more voters switch to in-person early voting and vote-by-mail options, he told the commissioners that the move would save money and allow the county to offer more early voting sites in the future.

In the public comment section of the meeting, all ten speeches strongly opposed the move. Representatives of the local NAACP and Southern Christian Leadership Council warned that the cuts would decrease voter turnout because voters would have to travel further to a polling place, especially among the elderly and people without cars, and noted that the cuts disproportionately affected minority-heavy precincts. Bennett dismissed these concerns, noting that because District 2 had received “preferential treatment in the past,” even with the changes, his district will have the smallest number of voters per precinct. “It was overbalanced before, it’s overbalanced now.” Bennett also repeatedly noted that he had discussed the move with civil rights groups and both the Republican and “Democrat” Parties.

Bennett assured the commission that if lines are longer in 2014 as a result of these changes, he would ask them to revisit the decision in 2015, before the 2016 elections. But it is unclear whether voter accessibility is a sincere priority for him. In 2011, while serving in the Florida Senate, he endorsed making it hard to vote: “I wouldn’t have any problem making it harder. I would want them to vote as badly as I want to vote. I want the people of the state of Florida to want to vote as bad as that person in Africa who’s willing to walk 200 miles…This should not be easy.” He made that comment as he supported a voter suppression bill that reduced the number of days for early voting in Florida and helped create long lines across the state.

I think the GOP is directly opposed to traditional American values of respecting the will of the governed and is on a course toward vesting control of the government to a very few, with the mass of Americans simply subject to the rule of this small minority.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 February 2014 at 10:20 am

Posted in Election, GOP, Government

Maybe there’s hope…

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If we could move to publicly financed political campaigns, so that members of Congress are not required to spend 5 hours of each day in fund-raising for the next campaign, we might get a government that works better, in part because the tilt toward following the orders of big donors would be rectified.

Take a look and sign the petition.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 February 2014 at 11:16 am

Why public financing of political campaigns is at the top of my list of reforms

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And I would think sensible members of Congress would agree: who wants to spend 5 hours every day begging for money? Let’s free them from that burdensome task and let them focus on governing, without having to consider how their decisions will affect the inflow of funds, simply on how it affects their constituents.

Elias Isquith writes in Salon:

“Mitt,” Netflix’s recently released documentary chronicling the two failed presidential campaigns of Willard Mitt Romney, has, on the whole, been rather well-received. And not just by the New York Post’s reliably wingnutty film critic, Kyle Smith. Business Insider’s Brett LoGiurato called it “fantastic,” Sahil Kapur of Talking Points Memo described it as a “fascinatingly personal” portrait, Time’s James Poniewozik said it was “interesting” and “humanly sympathetic.”

Not everyone believes that the film succeeds in giving viewers a behind-the-scenes look at two presidential campaigns — but most seem to have found it, at the very least, a humanizing depiction of a seemingly decent man. A few have even gone so far as to argue that “Mitt,” had it been released during the 2012 campaign, could’ve helped Romney shed his image as a robotic plutocrat. Maybe it could’ve even helped him win the election. (Vanishingly unlikely, if one believes in political science; but at this point, it feels somewhat churlish to point that out.)

Even if the man in “Mitt” is not so charming and sympathetic a figure as to counterbalance the woeful policies on which he ran, there is the lingering question of why there is such a great distance between Candidate Romney and Mitt Romney. How could the same guy who at one point in the film acknowledges the immense privilege he was born into repeatedly insist, on the campaign trail, that he was a self-made man, a testament to the American meritocracy? How could the guy who infamously sneered that roughly half of the country were irresponsible, entitled, greedy moochers seem, in another context, to be kind, thoughtful, polite and fundamentally well-meaning?

Sure, people are complicated; and yes, the intensity of the politico-media complex often renders us incapable of seeing the men and women on the other side as fully formed human beings until well after the final ballot is counted. That’s all true. But I think there’s another explanation, one that has more to do with power and economics than ideology and partisanship.

To explain, allow me to turn for a moment to another one of January’s most talked-about happenings in the political world: The debut (to a wider audience, at least) of Thomas Perkins, an octogenarian venture capitalist and multimillionaire.

Last Saturday, Perkins kicked off a full week’s worth of outrage, befuddlement and frustration when the Wall Street Journal published a letter to the editor he had written in which he compared liberal America to Nazi Germany, and the wealthiest 1 percent to the Third Reich’s Jews. Making matters worse, Perkins subsequently appeared on Bloomberg TV, ostensibly to apologize, but in truth to argue that while his warnings of a looming “progressive Kristallnacht” were hyperbolic, his fundamental point — that the nation’s economic 1 percent was demonized and oppressed — held true. (The impetus for all of this, for what it’s worth, was the fact that some people had made fun of his multi-millionaire ex-wife’s oversize hedges.)

While Perkins’ ahistorical and narcissistic ramblings were roundly mocked, they also inspired greater interest in discovering whether or not his fellow members of the 1 percent felt the same way he did. As it turns out, many, if not most, of them do. Bloomberg Businessweek’s Joshua Green explained how in the Obama years, “a class of financiers whose wealth shields them from the effects of practically any government policy has come to develop … a powerful persecution complex.”

Politico’s Ben White took it further, reporting on how the 1 percent is seized with a consuming anxiety in response to the public’s new focus on income and wealth inequality. As one psychologist who works mainly with the hyper-rich told White, the disruption of Occupy Wall Street and the resurgence of (a mild) class-consciousness in American politics has created “a worry among our clients that they are being judged and people are making assumptions about who they are based on their wealth.” . . .

Continue reading. The good stuff is later in the article.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 February 2014 at 9:29 am

Posted in Election, Politics

GOP more determined than ever to block Democratic voters from voting

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The GOP is openly determined that it will do everything in its power to prevent Democrat-leaning voters from being able to vote, presumably because the GOP knows that its own policies (such as they are: “defund Obamacare” is not much of a policy) are increasingly unpopular, so it becomes increasingly important that more and more people not be allowed to vote. And they are working hard on it, as Aviva Shen reports at ThinkProgress:

A new conservative super PAC hopes to proliferate more voter suppression laws by pouring money into secretary of state races. The group, SOS for SoS, is looking to spend $10 million in nine states in support of candidates who will champion “smart voting,” such as restrictive voter ID laws, voter purges, and proof of citizenship requirements. Secretaries of state set elections procedures and can determine mundane but crucial aspects like voting hours, provisional ballot rules, and recounts.

The announcement, per Politico, comes days after a judge overturned Pennsylvania’s hotly contested voter ID law because it could disenfranchise 750,000 voters. A Democratic counterpart, SoS for Democracy, launched in December to promote secretary of state candidates who are against voter suppression measures. Currently, 29 secretaries of stateare Republican, while 21 are Democrat.

State secretaries have been instrumental in the voting rights war. Some, like Secretaries of State Kris Kobach (R-KS), Jon Husted (R-OH), Ken Detzner (R-FL), and Scott Gessler (R-CO), gained notoriety in the 2012 election for their persistent efforts to restrict early voting hours, purge voter rolls, throw out legitimate votes, and limit registration.

As demographics turn against Republicans’ favor, voter suppression efforts are expected to ramp up even more. A recent study found that states with higher minority turnout are more likely to try to pass voter suppression laws.

Working hard to prevent people from voting is about as undemocratic as one can get. It’s a sign of a corrupt country, which the US, unfortunately, is becoming.

Jeffrey Toobin has a related article in the New Yorker:

The world’s greatest democracy is not so great at running elections, as we all saw in 2012. There were, among other things, long lines at polling places, botched registrations, and mysterious rules on absentee ballots. As President Obama declared victory on election night, he wanted to do something about these problems. He appointed a (very) bipartisan commission, chaired by two self-described “partisan hacks”: Robert Bauer (Obama’s personal lawyer and his one-time White House counsel) and Benjamin Ginsberg (the national counsel to the Romney campaign and many other Republican causes). Wednesday, after six months of work, the “lines commission,” as it’s known, released a hundred-page report. Notwithstanding the strong party affiliations of its leaders, the group was unanimous in its recommendations.

Its an unexpectedly bold document, especially in light of the strong partisan differences over voting these days. Every since the Republican landslides of 2010, states have been tightening the requirements to vote, and Democrats have cried voter suppression. The commission avoids the especially controversial issues of photo-identification requirements and the future of the Voting Rights Act, but it strikes out in a clear pro-voting direction. The key recommendations come in four areas:

• More early voting. More mail and Internet voting would take care of the biggest problem in 2012, long lines. This is a clear embrace of a Democratic priority.

• Easier voter registration, including online. Again, this is a top Democratic priority, though the commission also gives a nod to technologies that compare databases and allow purges of ineligible voters, which have been a Republican cause.

• Improved voting technology. After the 2000 fiasco in Florida, the federal government subsidized the purchase of many new voting machines, but these are now approaching the end of their useful lives. The commission recommends ending the hegemony of the specialized voting machine and allowing voters to use their own computers to print out their ballots at home, like they do with boarding passes. With the right security in place, this makes all the sense in the world.

• The legacy of Newtown. The commission learned, surprisingly, that in the wake of school massacres, many schools are determined to keep strangers off the premises at all times—and that includes voters. Schools represent about twenty per cent of all polling places, and the commission proposed putting even more to use, so this creates a serious problem. The report recommends “taking all the steps necessary to address these legitimate security concerns,” as well as trying to arrange days when children aren’t present—ones set aside for teacher training, for example—to coincide with elections. (Election Day is only a holiday in some states.) Again, early voting and improved technology can address these issues.

As with all federal commissions, the question arises: so what? What impact will these high-minded suggestions have in the real world? The recommendations do not require any federal legislation to be implemented. The real targets are state and local officials who run elections on the ground.

Commission members plan a roadshow to make their case, but it’s far from clear whether there will be the will, or the money, to put their suggestions into practice. Voting rules may have become partisan in recent years, and yet election officials themselves tend to be somewhat removed from the fray. That—and the self-evident logic of the proposals—give the commission members hope. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 January 2014 at 11:33 am

Posted in Election, GOP

Why conservatives go crazy over Benghazi

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I’ve been puzzled by the full-court press of plainly false stories (Lara Logan and “60 Minutes”, I’m looking at you) on Benghazi pushed by conservatives such as Darrell Issa and others. Benghazi seems of major importance to them, and I couldn’t figure out why. David Kirkpatrick’s excellent (and thorough) report in the NY Times not only did not settle it for them, it led immediately to a ludicrous effort to smear Kirkpatrick based on an item from a spoof issue of his college newspaper 24 years ago, when he was a student. (That issue also included an appearance by Elvis Presley to lead a singalong (Elvis was long since dead), aliens (from other planets), and a report that the student government has absconded to Rio with student fees. (Kevin Drum blogged a good summary of the smear effort.)

I posted a comment asking why conservatives are so weirdly determined to ignore the facts on the ground, and I received an excellent answer that makes a lot of sense from pyrocantha51:

The “Innocence of Muslims” video, which ignited some of the riots used as cover for the attack in Benghazi, was translated into Arabic and uploaded by Coptic Christian supporters of the Romney campaign, hoping trouble in the Middle East would feed into the “Obama as Jimmy Carter” meme. When it blew up in their faces and an American ambassador was killed, they realized they needed to do everything possible to muddy the waters, pin responsibility on Obama and make any connection to Romney seem like defensive lies from an administration on the ropes. And I think Mitt was aware of the plan. On the 47% tape, before those remarks, somebody asks him how he’ll campaign on foreign policy. Instead of the party line answer (“Obama apologizes for America”) Romney immediately jumps to stating that he’ll do all he can to “capitalize on any Obama missteps in the Middle East.” And as we all know, Romney was out in front of the press before the attack was even over, almost as if he, um, anticipated it.

That certainly would explain the frenzied efforts by the Right to make this an Obama problem. And I do recall conservative denials that the film had anything to do with it—but it did, as Juan Cole pointed out in a lengthy and interesting post that includes:

. . . The ginned up Islamophobic attack “film” on the Prophet Muhammad probably produced secretly by the Islamophobic network in the US in hopes of causing trouble abroad for President Obama in an election year did provoke demonstrations at the US consulate, which morphed into the attack on it. In fact, in my darker moments I suspect that some US GOP officials knew about the “film” and the likelihood it would get the Muslims’ goat, and had a narrative ready to go that Barack Obama on the Middle East was another helpless Jimmy Carter. Whatever the origin of their narrative, they clearly weren’t willing to let go of it simply because it flew in the face of the facts as known.

US officials in Benghazi knew that there were dangerous fundamentalist militias in the city. But they had dozens of CIA operatives at a nearby safe house, who they were sure could protect them. And they had allied with the fundamentalists against Gaddafi and so expected if not gratitude at least tolerance for their presence.

The Republican attack propaganda on President Obama and his team maintained that the consulate attack was the work of Ayman al-Zawahiri’s al-Qaeda, that it was preplanned, and that the “Silence of the Muslims” film had nothing to do with it. Sen. Lindsey Graham alleged that “everyone knew” that Benghazi was controlled by al-Qaeda in summer of 2012. Rep. Mike Rogers, who is more of a prevaricator even than most politicians, asserted the same thing.

I was in Benghazi in late May of 2012 for a few days and gave a talk at a community center there. The city most certainly was not in the control of “al-Qaeda.” There were a few fundamentalist militias, but they were not representative of the city, which had municipal elections in late spring. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

6 January 2014 at 12:58 pm

Reining in the for-profit colleges that are, in effect, scams—and the opposition

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Congress demonstrates again its abysmal state of corruption. This sort of thing is what makes it difficult to be hopeful. Jeff Bryant writes a good article at Campaign for America’s Future on the opposition to stopping the scams:

The good news coming from the U.S. Department of Education recently is the effort to put tougher restrictions on for-profit scam colleges that rip off students, families and the taxpayers.

The bad news is that not all Democrats are behind this effort and pushing for the tighter restrictions.

Think Progress last week passed along a report from The Wall Street Journal that Big Ed has drafted a rewrite of regulations to rein in “for-profit schools whose students end up deep in debt or default on their student loans at exceptionally high rates.”

The colleges that would be most heavily affected include the University of Phoenix (owned by Apollo Education Group), Kaplan Higher Education, Devry Inc., The Art Institute (owned by Education Management Corporation), and Corinthian Colleges, among others.

The guidelines provide the teeth for what is referred to in wonk-speak as a “gainful employment” plan. The new regulations could go into effect as early as 2015 and could cause, according to the WSJ report, “as many as 20 percent of programs at for-profit colleges” to lose revenue. Public and nonprofit colleges four-year colleges would be exempted.

Writers at Think Progress provided some useful backstory:

“For-profit schools have come under scrutiny for burdening students with debt without giving them degrees or skills that help them get jobs to pay them off. Many for-profit schools and community colleges have higher rates of students defaulting on their loans than who actually graduate. More than three-quarters of the students at for-profit collegesfail to earn a degree within six years.”

Further, low-income students are particularly vulnerable to the predatory nature of these for-profit schools, because these students “attend for-profit colleges at a rate four times higherthan other students.”

Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are also at risk of being scammed by the for-profit higher ed sector.

As Mother Jones reported back in 2011, “at 8 of the 10 for-profits that take in the most GI Bill cash, more than half of students drop out within a year of matriculation. Many students find that prospective employers and graduate schools won’t take their coursework seriously,” and “some for-profits have cleaned out students’ military benefits while also signing them up for thousands of dollars in loans without their knowledge.”

But, back to The Wall Street Journal report, “for-profit schools say they are being unfairly targeted, given that some of the highest student-debt burdens fall on those who attend public and nonprofit graduate schools, such as law and medical school. They say they serve many students – such as single mothers and many low-income students who don’t live near a community college – who otherwise would have few, if any, options for attending postsecondary schools.”

Whichever side you take in this debate, clearly big money is involved. According to report filed by David Halperin, when he wrote for the Republic Report, the for-profit higher education industry generates a $35 billion annual revenue, of which the vast majority – “about $32 billion” – comes from federal financial aid. . .

Continue reading. In other words, the for-profit colleges, like charter schools, are another mechanism for private companies to scoop up money from the public till. The key paragraph:

As the intrepid Lee Fang again reported, this time in The Nation, “a small group of House Democrats, led by Representatives Rob Andrews of New Jersey and Alcee Hastings of Florida, are organizing an effort within the caucus to protect the for-profit career college industry from any meaningful regulation.

“The two congressmen are among the largest recipients of campaign cash from the industry.Campaign finance data compiled by TheNation.com show Hastings has received $54,500, and Andrews $78,547, from for-profit college executives and political committees.”

Andrews and Hastings circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter asking, according to Fang, “other House Democrats to sign a document asking the administration to back down.”

The amount of money donated to the Representatives is pocket change to the industry, but it was certainly enough to buy the two Representatives. So long as our Representatives and Senators are, in effect, up on eBay, so long will our government continue to be at the beck and call of the wealthy.

We desperately need public financing of campaigns, with no private money involved. That would put an end to the bribes campaign donations.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 December 2013 at 1:14 pm

Posted in Business, Congress, Election

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