Archive for the ‘Election’ Category
Elias Isquith has a very interesting column in Salon. From that column:
. . . While most people at least intuitively understand that big-time political campaigns are financed largely by the very wealthy, Ferguson and his co-authors’ paper reveals the degree to which these national operations are funded by a vanishingly small number of people. “We really are dealing with a system that is of by and for the one percent — or the one-and-a-half percent,” Ferguson told Salon in a recent interview. And the numbers bear him out. Assuming that contributions over $500 come largely from the one percent, the paper finds that no less than 59 percent of Obama’s funding, and 79 percent of Romney’s, emanates from that small sliver of society. This contrasts rather jarringly with the popular image of the 2012 campaign as one pitting Obama’s middle-class constituency against Romney’s plutocratic backers. It was more of a plutocrat vs. plutocrat affair.
Even on that score, however, the lines of demarcation are fuzzy at best. It’s undeniable that Romney was more popular among big business than Obama, but the differences between the two were smaller than you’d imagine. In fact, the authors “suspect” that “the president probably enjoyed substantially higher levels of support within big business than most other modern Democratic presidential candidates, even those running for reelection.” Obama got walloped when it comes to what you could call Koch brother industries — oil, gas, plastics, etc. — but he did OK with Wall Street and, especially, the telecom and tech industries.
It’s that last point — Obama’s popularity among the industries that make up the surveillance state — that forms the most surprising and relevant takeaway of the paper. In the wake of the ongoing revelations from Edward Snowden of a national security state-turned-surveillance behemoth, the level of financial support the president enjoys from the industries working with the government to spy on Americans starts to make sense. But to compare this synchronicity to Obama’s 2008 campaign, and its pledges to rein in and civilize the Bush-Cheney post-9/11 national security leviathan, is to risk vertigo.
The distressing conclusion to be drawn from all this is that those interested in truly curtailing the surveillance state will find few friends within the two-party system. Democrats, after all, were supposed to be the ones who were more cautious, pragmatic, and civil liberties-minded when it came to surveillance. Voicing a sentiment that’s no doubt still held by many, if not most, Ferguson told Salon that, prior to his research, he “thought there was more distance between the Democrats and the Republicans on the National Security State.” That distance, if it ever was significant, is certainly gone now. . .
John Halpin posts at ThinkProgress:
Contemporary punditry suffers from many shortcomings, but among its most egregious errors is a widespread failure to examine how political ideology shapes public opinion among whites. Contrary to what you may have been told, there is really no such thing as “white” opinion anymore.
White liberals and white conservatives hold diametrically opposed views on many topics related to the economy and government — divisions that simply do not exist among other groups. Whites may be ideologically polarized, butAfrican-Americans, Latinos, and Asians are not.
A recent CAP/PolicyLink study on attitudes about rising diversity provides clear evidence for this view. Respondents were asked to choose which of the following two statements they agree with more, presenting a clear ideological choice between a more individualistic or collective view of the economy and government. The options were either “In today’s economy, average Americans are on their own. Jobs and benefits are less secure and you can’t really count on anyone but yourself and your family to get ahead” and “In today’s economy, we all face common challenges. Jobs and benefits are less secure, so we all need to work together to make it easier for average Americans to get ahead.”
On the face of it, Americans seem divided on this essential framing of our society — 47 percent believe that people are basically on their own while 49 percent believe that we must work together on common challenges. Under the surface, however, some fascinating trends emerge. A huge divide between whites is one of the most important: while 58 percent of white liberals believe that we must work together on common challenges, 59 percent of white conservatives said that people are basically on their own (overall, 36 percent of white respondents self-identified as ‘liberal’ and 50 percent of whites as ‘conservative’).
By contrast, majorities of African-Americans and Latinos -– regardless of ideological self-identification -– hold a more collective understanding of the economy. 73 percent of African-American liberals and 60 percent of African-American conservatives believe that we must work together on common economic challenges (46 percent of African-Americas self-identify as ‘liberal’ and 38 percent as ‘conservative’). Fifty-six percent of Latino liberals and 53 percent of Latino conservatives believe similarly (45 percent of Latinos self-identify as ‘liberal’ and 43 percent as ‘conservative’). Asian responses on this particular question more closely resemble those of whites than other people of color.
These same ideological patterns emerge on beliefs about reducing racial and ethnic inequality. In a separate test, we asked respondents to choose between two competing ideas about the connection between inequality and growth: “Government policies and investments that reduce racial and ethnic inequality would help us grow faster” and “Government policies and investments to reduce racial and ethnic inequality would not work and would just interfere with economic growth.”
By a 50 to 43 percent margin, Americans overall agree that government policies to reduce racial and ethnic inequality would help with economic growth. Nearly 7 in 10 white liberals (69 percent) take the majority position, but more than 6 in 10 white conservatives (63 percent) disagree. By contrast, significant majorities of African-Americans, Latinos, and Asians believe that government investments to reduce racial and ethnic inequality would be beneficial to growth — again, regardless of whether they identify as ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’. This pattern is repeated on other questions as well.
Although these new results should be replicated by additional studies, the conclusions are nonetheless striking. White liberals think far more like the bulk of African-Americans, Latinos and Asians than white conservatives on the country’s biggest ideological questions. That’s particularly true on diversity questions: . . .
Continue reading. The graph that follows in the text at the link is quite interesting.
Extremely interesting datapoint: A Louisiana Republican backing Obamacare defeats his rival who ran against Obamacare
Josh Israel writes at ThinkProgress:
Louisiana voters elected Republican Vance McAllister in a runoff to fill the state’s vacant Fifth District U.S. House seat on Saturday. McAllister, a businessman who embraced the expansion of Medicaid available to the state under the Affordable Care Act, defeated a Republican party favorite who called for full Obamacare repeal.
In a district won by Mitt Romney with 61 percent of the vote in 2012, two Republicans were the top vote-getters in a 14-candidate October primary. McAllister, who received nearly 60 percent of the vote in Saturday’s special election, criticized much of the Affordable Care Act, but also criticized Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R) decision to dismantle charity hospitals in the state, and to reject its Medicaid expansion, which would expand the qualifications for Medicaid recipients and extend healthcare coverage to hundreds of thousands of uninsured Louisianans. “Our governor and Sen. Riser right here have gutted [heath care] to the core and privatized it.”
McAllister’s top opponent, State Senator Neil Riser (R), received support from House Republican Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), three of the four other Louisiana Republican Congressmen, the National Rifle Association, FreedomWorks and, more tacitly, Gov. Jindal. Riser ran ads saying that he would go to Washington to balance the budget and stop Obamacare — not make friends — andslammed McAllister for ” attempting to redefine himself and stand with President Obama.”
According to President Obama, 265,000 Lousianans would benefit from the Medicaid expansion. According to Jindal’s own Department of Health and Hospitals, the billions of dollars in federal payments available to the state would allow about 272,000 of the roughly 633,000 uninsured adults in the state to get subsidized health insurance on the exchange. But citing potential future costs, Jindal has rejected the expansion, saying “We will not allow President Obama to bully Louisiana into accepting an expansion of Obamacare.”
The essence of fairness is reciprocity: the same rules apply to either side. The GOP either does not grasp this or simply is uninterested in fairness. For example, I blogged earlier about how GOP Senators who strongly condemned filibustering a judicial nomination now are filibustering judicial nominations, the difference being simply that the shoe is on the other foot. But take a look at the rule they laid down earlier, from a post by Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress. All of these plan to vote in favor of a filibuster of judicial nominees:
- Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA): “Every judge nominated by this president or any president deserves an up-or-down vote. It’s the responsibility of the Senate. The Constitution requires it.”
- Tom Coburn (R-OK): “If you look at the Constitution, it says the president is to nominate these people, and the Senate is to advise and consent. That means you got to have a vote if they come out of committee. And that happened for 200 years.”
- John Cornyn (R-TX): “We have a Democratic leader defeated, in part, as I said, because I believe he was identified with this obstructionist practice, this unconstitutional use of the filibuster to deny the president his judicial nominations.
- Mike Crapo (R-ID): “Until this Congress, not one of the President’s nominees has been successfully filibustered in the Senate of the United States because of the understanding of the fact that the Constitution gives the President the right to a vote.”
- Lindsey Graham (R-SC): “I think filibustering judges will destroy the judiciary over time. I think it’s unconstitutional”
- Chuck Grassley (R-IA): “It would be a real constitutional crisis if we up the confirmation of judges from 51 to 60, and that’s essentially what we’d be doing if the Democrats were going to filibuster.”
- Mitch McConnell (R-KY): “The Constitution of the United States is at stake. Article II, Section 2 clearly provides that the President, and the President alone, nominates judges. The Senate is empowered to give advice and consent. But my Democratic colleagues want to change the rules. They want to reinterpret the Constitution to require a supermajority for confirmation.”
- Jeff Sessions (R- AL): “[The Constitution] says the Senate shall advise and consent on treaties by a two-thirds vote, and simply ‘shall advise and consent’ on nominations…. I think there is no doubt the Founders understood that to mean … confirmation of a judicial nomination requires only a simple majority vote.”
- Richard Shelby (R-AL): “Why not allow the President to do his job of selecting judicial nominees and let us do our job in confirming or denying them? Principles of fairness call for it and the Constitution requires it.”
- John Thune (SD): Filibustering judicial nominees “is contrary to our Constitution …. It was the Founders’ intention that the Senate dispose of them with a simple majority vote.”
All of these statements were made when George W. Bush was president. But that should not matter because, as Sen. Cornyn said at the time, “we need to treat all nominees exactly the same, regardless of whether they’re nominated by a Democrat or a Republican president.”
This fails the basic test of fairness, a virtue considerably less important to the conservative mind than, for example, loyalty (the virtue that leads a military officer to protect a rapist under his command). And the GOP attitude toward fairness—i.e., toward not changing one’s position based on the political party involved, is also evident in campaign contributions. Josh Israel notes at ThinkProgress:
Tuesday, as he conceded defeat in the Virginia governor’s race, Ken Cuccinelli II (R) told supporters that he had come closer than polls had indicated “despite being outspent by an unprecedented $15 million.” But while he and his conservative supporters now lament that money cost them the victory they felt they deserved, they have long been the defenders of the system of campaign finance non-regulation in Virginia and nationally.
Conservative groups like the Center for Competitive Politics have long argued that “money doesn’t buy elections.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R), whose own political action committee gave $5,000 to Cuccinelli’s campaign, has for years advocated for an end to limits on campaign contributions, believing “money is speech.” While the 2010 Citizens Unitedruling weakened federal contribution limits, Virginia has long been one of a handful of stateswith no limits whatsoever. The only restriction Cuccinelli supported over his time in the state senate was on contributions from foreign nationals.
Because of the Old Dominion’s anything goes system, candidates can accept millions of dollars from any individual or corporation seeking to ensure their victory. While Governor-Elect Terry McAuliffe raised over $32 million, Cuccinelli himself reported at least $19 million in donations — including hundreds of thousands from fossil fuel companies who preferred a climate-change denier to a candidate focused on green energy.
Leading up to the election, the Cuccinelli campaign repeatedly highlighted the money gap, attacking McAuliffe for as being “bought and paid for,” “exclusively driven by big money,” and “willing to sell his out Virginia families to the highest bidder.” When McAuliffe embraced campaign finance reform in an April interview, agreeing that “there’s just way too much money in politics,” Cuccinelli’s campaign pooh-poohed the idea as “hypocrisy.” “McAuliffe complaining about money in politics is the equivalent of Bobby Knight criticizing cursing among college basketball coaches,” they answered.
In campaign post-mortems, conservatives from Linda Chavez to Ralph Reedboth echoed the candidate’s concession and blamed Cuccinelli’s loss on money. Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots,lamented that the pro-corporate U.S. Chamber of Commerce went from making seven-figure investments in the 2009 campaign for Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) but spent nothing on Cuccinelli. “Just think what would have happened if the business and donor classes of the Republican Party would have helped.” Ben Domenech blamed the “donor class” as “sore losers” who threw a “temper tantrum” by not opening up their wallets for a more conservative nominee.
As Zack Beauchamp noted Thursday, Cuccinelli got “killed in the fundraising race,” in large part because business leaders did not care for his anti-corporatist stances against a tax increase to increase transportation funding and corporate welfare. Cuccinelli embraced anti-government populist ideas — as well as socially conservative ones — but not the priorities of some business interests. Had Cuccinelli embraced their agenda, as McDonnell did in 2009, others in the business community might well have supported him as enthusiastically as the energy sector did.
In an October press release called “Big Money,” the Cuccinelli campaign highlighted a fundraising appeal, sent by the chairman of the University of Virginia Council of Foundations to a hedge fund manager, explaining that he hoped to enlist a large number of UVA alums to support McAuliffe. “The more influential names we have associated with our shared voice the more likely we are going to have the future Governor’s ear,” he wrote.
Therein lies the problem. If money really is the determining factor in who wins elections, candidates who agree with powerful moneyed interests like the Chamber will always have the upper hand over those who do not. And as Virginia saw with McDonnell’s Star Scientific scandal, those wealthy benefactors will be the ones with the freest access to the politicians they bankroll. And if states are the laboratories of democracy, as the late Justice Louis Brandeis suggested, the experiment of unlimited money in Virginia might be a warning sign to conservatives nationally that “anything goes” campaign finance laws may not always work out in their favor.
There’s a lot to be said for drawing up rules that apply to a situation without knowing on which side you’ll be: the rules then are apt to be more fair. In this case, the GOP loved a rule that allowed them to spend any amount of money they wanted on a campaign until they encountered a campaign in which they were heavily outspent, and now they don’t like the rule. Well, then perhaps the rule should be redrawn to limit campaign spending for all parties—and public financing of elections is the way to go.
Fascinating story by Kim Barker for ProPublica:
In a sharply worded ruling, a federal judge in Montana said Tuesday that documents found inside a Colorado meth house pointing to possible election law violations will not be returned to the couple claiming the papers were stolen from one of theircars.
Instead, the thousands of pages will remain where they are — with a federal grand jury in Montana, investigating the dark money group American Tradition Partnership, once known as Western Tradition Partnership, or WTP.
The documents, detailed last fall in aFrontline documentary and ProPublica coverage, point to possible illegal coordination between candidates and WTP, which since 2008 has worked to replace moderate Republicans with more conservative candidates in both Montana and Colorado. The documents, including a folder labeled “Montana $ Bomb,” provided the first real glimpse inside a dark money group. Such so-called social welfare nonprofits, which have poured more than $350 million into federal election ads in recent years, don’t have to disclose their donors.
Conservative political consultant Christian LeFer, a former WTP official, and his wife, Allison LeFer, who helped run the couple’s printing shop, sued Montana’s former Commissioner of Political Practices Jim Murry and the state of Montana to recover the documents.
On Tuesday, the LeFers lost in almost every way possible. They didn’t get their documents. They didn’t get any money; instead, they’ll have to pay Murry’s fees, which haven’t yet been totaled. They won’t be able to file their complaint against Murry ever again.
And on every page of his ruling, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy seemed to somehow insult them.
At one point in his 34-page ruling, Molloy referred to “the procedural morass caused by the LeFers’ posturing.” Since last fall, the LeFers have filed at least five separate complaints in different courts, sometimes with factual errors.
Although WTP operated at the state level, . . .
They simply don’t want Democrats to vote because their sole interest is winning, not governing. Kevin Drum explains in detail.
Interesting report by Anita Kumar at McClatchy:
There’s the vice president of global licensing and retail at the television network HBO, the senior managing partner for a consulting firm based in Chicago and a Miami trial attorney who makes a living suing insurance companies.
Each raised more than a half million dollars for President Barack Obama’s political campaigns. In turn, Obama tapped each to be an ambassador, one of the most coveted posts an occupant of the Oval Office can offer.
Obama has nominated a number of major donors to plum diplomatic posts, from Spain to the Dominican Republic, Australia to Singapore. While the practice is anything but rare for U.S. presidents in modern history, Obama has nominated more donors, friends and supporters – nearly double – than his predecessors since the start of his second term.
Of the 41 ambassadors selected since the beginning of the year, 23 – or 56 percent – are political appointees with little or no diplomatic experience, according to the American Foreign Service Association, which keeps a tally. Nine helped collect more than $500,000 for Obama’s campaigns, though it could be much more because certain campaign finance reports list only the range of the donations.
Just last week, Obama nominated former first daughter Caroline Kennedy, whose influential endorsement helped him secure the Democratic nomination over Hillary Clinton in 2008, as ambassador to Japan.
“It’s long been a practice,” said Meredith McGehee, policy director for the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan organization that studies campaign contributions. “It’s a process that reinforces the notion in American politics that you can buy your way to the most powerful man in the world.”
But Obama’s actions stand out because he promised to be different.
As a candidate, he pledged to decrease the influence of money in politics and push for a series of changes – from eliminating donations from corporations to his inaugural festivities, to fighting a court decision that allows unlimited corporate donations “We’re going to change how Washington works,” he often said.
Many of his promises went unfulfilled, either because he did not lobby for them or changed his mind about supporting them, government watchdog groups say. His ambassadorial picks indicate that – in yet another way – he’s engaged in business as usual, the same quadrennial tradition as his predecessors.
But the White House says . . .
Obama: Don’t trust a word he says, watch what he does.
This country desperately needs publicly financed election campaigns, with private funds not allowed once the candidate is on the ballot (primary or general).
The American Prospect has a very interesting article on the Moral Monday protest against the draconian and repressive actions of the North Carolina legislature. One interesting point:
By the end of session, only 20 percent of North Carolinians approved of the legislature’s performance. The GOP’s marquee legislation—including its assaults on voting rights, reproductive rights, and unemployment benefits—was broadly unpopular. Governor McCrory’s approval ratings, as he signed one extreme bill into law after another, fell by 15 percent in just the last month.
It looks as though the next few elections in North Carolina will be quite interesting.
The article is particularly valuable in providing a context and historical background for the Moral Monday movement—as as noted in the article, It’s “a movement, not a moment.”
It makes me feel more hopeful: egregious overreach may be punished at the polls.
Jaime Fuller writes in The American Prospect about a very interesting initiative:
Susannah Shakow’s first impression of high-school junior Tristana Giunta was that she was awkward. “Like, couldn’t-look-you-in-the-eye kind of awkward,” Shakow says. Giunta was attending the first annual Young Women’s Political Leadership conference in Washington, D.C.—the flagship program offered by Running Start, which Shakow, a lawyer with experience pushing women into politics, started to get girls excited about governing; excited enough to run for office.
The Young Women’s Political Leadership conference is a boot-camp where high-school women learn the ingredients that make a great politician. They take Networking 101, Fundraising 101, and Public Speaking 101. They get first-hand knowledge of how Washington works from women who have been playing the game for ages. Girls learn there are dozens of people their age just as ambitious and as hungry to run for office as they are.
Despite her shy demeanor, Giunta soaked up an impressive amount of campaign know-how that weekend in D.C. She wrote Shakow a letter after leaving, saying she attended the conference because she wanted to run Young Democrats of America (YDA) at her high school, Holton-Arms in Bethesda, Maryland. “I don’t know if you remember,” Giunta wrote, “but in high school, if you’re not popular, of course you never run for anything.” Today, Giunta, who graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown University with a degree in Government and a minor in Environmental Studies this spring, still remembers what an uphill battle running for president of the YDA was. “Some of the things that went on would make the movie Mean Girls look like nursery school,” she says. “I was not popular. I did not fit in socially. I did not do a sport … I did not have a large group of friends to support me. But I wanted so badly to win the election.” The following year, she ran a campaign for the position, and she won. Looking back, Giunta says, “I was the most active president and the club membership grew like never before—all because Running Start helped me to realize I could do it. I could take the risk and somehow it all worked out.”
Shakow filed it away as one of Running Start’s first successes, but the story gets better—she later spoke to a girl who also attended Holton Arms, and asked if she knew Tristana. The girl’s face fell. “Yeah.” Shakow was surprised by the strong reaction, and pressed for more details. “Oh, nothing,” she said. “It’s just I ran against her for YDA president and she cheated. She put up posters, and she had a table, and she had buttons and stuff.” Shakow, retelling the story in Running Start’s office in downtown Washington, D.C. is laughing at this point. “I was like, ‘honey, she didn’t cheat. You just lost.’”
Running Start has only grown more ambitious in the seven years since that first conference. . . .
I guess gutting the Voting Rights act worked, at least from the point of view of the GOP, which is unable to win elections if everyone votes—they have to rely on keeping Democrats from voting, and to the GOP mind, this seems perfectly reasonable and ethical. Scott Keyes reports in ThinkProgress:
Voting in North Carolina may soon change, much in the same way a wrecking ball changes a building.
The highly-conservative North Carolina legislature just released a new voter suppression bill that would enact not just voter ID, but a host of other new initiatives designed to make it more difficult to vote. A significant roadblock to the legislation was removed last month when the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, making it easier for states with a history of racial discrimination like North Carolina to enact new voter suppression laws.
- Implementing a strict voter ID requirement that bars citizens who don’t have a proper photo ID from casting a ballot.
- Eliminating same-day voter registration, which allowed residents to register at the polls.
- Cutting early voting by a full week.
- Increasing the influence of money in elections by raising the maximum campaign contribution to $5,000 and increasing the limit every two years.
- Making it easier for voter suppression groups like True The Vote to challenge any voterwho they think may be ineligible by requiring that challengers simply be registered in the same county, rather than precinct, of those they challenge.
- Vastly increasing the number of “poll observers” and increasing what they’re permitted to do. In 2012, ThinkProgress caught the Romney campaign training such poll observers using highly misleading information.
- Only permitting citizens to vote in their specific precinct, rather than casting a ballot in any nearby ward or election district. This can lead to widespread confusion, particularly in urban areas where many precincts can often be housed in the same building.
- Barring young adults from pre-registering as 16- and 17-year-olds, which is permitted by current law, and repealing a state directive that high schools conduct voter registration drives in order to boost turnout among young voters.
- Prohibiting paid voter registration drives, which tend to register poor and minority citizens.
- Dismantling three state public financing programs, including the landmark program that funded judicial elections.
- Weakening disclosure requirements for outside spending groups.
- Preventing counties from extending polling hours in the event of long lines or other extraordinary circumstances and making it more difficult for them to accommodate elderly or disabled voters with satellite polling sites at nursing homes, for instance.
Each of these changes, on their own, would be a significant step away from increasing voting rights. Taken together, this is the voter suppression magnum opus. . . .
Ken Cuccinelli seems exactly like the sort of politician one doesn’t want in politics: the kind that simply outright lies about easily checkable facts. Watch this video for an excellent takedown:
Aviva Shen reports at ThinkProgress:
Just days after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, North Carolina is moving forward with a host of bills to roll back voting rights. Republican lawmakers are accelerating a new agenda to eliminate early voting, Sunday voting hours, and same-day registration provisions. GOP leaders also vowed to move quickly to pass a controversial voter ID law that would make it much harder for minorities, seniors, students, and low-income voters to cast their ballots.
The court’s conservative majority decreed last Tuesday that the formula used to identify states with a history of using election law to discriminate against minorities has “no logical relationship to the present day.” Many of the covered jurisdictions celebrated the decision by promptly advancing voting restrictions that disproportionately target minorities and low-income voters. Texas enacted their previously blocked voter ID law mere hours after the ruling.
North Carolina’s newly unfettered attack on voting rights has three main prongs:
- Require ID at the polls. North Carolina’s voter ID bill could pose problems for 1 in 10 voters, according to an analysis by the State Board of Elections. About 613,000 North Carolinians lack the required government-issued ID. Nearly a third of these voters are black, while over half are registered Democrats.
- Penalize college students for voting. Republicans are also pushing a bill to raise taxes on families with college students who choose to vote at school rather than at home, effectively discouraging college students from voting.
- End early voting and same-day registration. Other states that restricted early voting, like Ohio and Florida, needlessly created mammoth lines on Election Day, forcing some voters to wait until 1 a.m. to cast a ballot. The backlash in Florida has been especially strong, prompting Gov. Rick Scott (R) to reverse his own voter suppression laws. In North Carolina, black voters make up 29 percent of early voters and 34 percent of voters who took advantage of same-day voter registration at the polls.
The Republican-dominated legislature and new Republican governor will likely do all they can to speed along these restrictions. However, polls show that North Carolinians overwhelmingly oppose these new voter suppression measures. “Moral Monday” protests are cropping up all over the state to challenge these bills and a slew of other draconian policies targeting the poor, women, minorities, and seniors.
Observing New York state politics is like watching felons run a parole board. Last week, senate leadership killed a bill that would have cleaned up state government and created citizen-funded elections. It was a huge opportunity to stem corruption that has wracked the state. Thirty-two state officials have been in deep trouble  over the last few years, including (ironically) four former Senate majority or minority leaders. A 2012 study  gave New York a D grade, and ranked it 36th nationally in government integrity.
But this is more than just another case of jaw-dropping political dysfunction. What happened in Albany last week has major implications for national anti-corruption efforts that are central to making progress on the issues that you care about most, yet keep losing. Health care, climate change, education, financial oversight, military spending… the list goes on.
Every American who cares one whit about future generations should be obsessed with money in politics corruption. And for those of us who are, all eyes were on Albany. The Fair Elections Act was backed by serious funders and a skillful organizing campaign. But it was not enough: the latest in a long string of disappointments for public interest advocates. This one however should serve as a blaring wake up call for reformers that it is time to change the play.
The Albany effort had all of the ingredients of a winning campaign. In January, Governor Cuomo opened the legislative session with public financing as one of his top priorities. It received endorsements from celebrities like Alec Baldwin and Jason Alexander as well as the editorial boards of the New York Times and several other papers across New York. The state assembly easily passed the measure in May, but in the end, the momentum for change was stopped cold.
How could this happen? The hard lesson to take from Albany is that a deliberate legislative effort that works within a corrupt system — in the current political environment — cannot overcome the power of that corruption. The only way to get foxes (politicians) to put a lock on the henhouse (campaign money) is to change the political environment, and force politicians in the only place that works: the ballot box. And to do that, we must break with old habits, and forge a new strategy that: . . .
Continue reading. As I read the new strategy, I cannot help but think that the Internet and social media are going to play a big role if we do succeed in changing the rules of the game and start a new paradigm.
The big plan for the GOP is to prevent people from voting: that’s how much confidence the GOP has in their platforms and programs. Joseph Diebold writes at ThinkProgress.org:
Less than 48 hours after the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, six of the nine states that had been covered in their entirety under the law’s “preclearance” formula have already taken steps toward restricting voting.
In a 5-4 decision, the Court’s five conservative justices ruled Tuesday that the formula, which required states with a history of racial discrimination to “preclear” changes to their voting laws with the Department of Justice or a federal judge before enforcing them, was unconstitutional. Since then, these six states have already started moving on restrictions, many of which have adverse effects on the abilities of minorities, young people, and the poor to exercise their right to vote:
- Texas: The Lone Star State saw its strict voter ID law and redistricting plan blocked by the DOJ and federal courts last year. Just two hours after Tuesday’s decision came down, the state’s attorney general issued a statement suggesting both laws may go into effect immediately . On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Perry (R) signed slightly modified congressional maps  into law, apparently deciding not to veto them and reinstate the more blatantly discriminatory maps blocked by the court. These new maps will not be screened by the DOJ. And Thursday morning, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated two federal court decisions  that had relied upon the VRA in blocking the voter ID law and redistricting plan.
- Mississippi: The state legislature approved a voter ID scheme in 2012, but it has not received DOJ clearance. Despite the restrictions, Mississippi’s secretary of state said Tuesday they would proceed with implementing the voter ID law and that “We’re not the same old Mississippi that our fathers’ fathers were. “
- Alabama: In 2011, the state passed a law requiring photo ID to vote, but never cleared it with the DOJ. Both the attorney general and the secretary of state said Tuesday they believed their plans could now be implemented in time for the 2014 elections .
- Arkansas: In April, the Arkansas legislature overrode Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto to pass their voter ID legislation. With preclearance out of the way, the state law can now be implemented without DOJ review.
- South Carolina: The Palmetto State passed a similar voter ID law in 2012, but DOJ at least succeeded in delaying its implementation. South Carolina’s attorney general issued a statement following the decision , lauding the Court for allowing the preclearance states to “to implement reasonable election reforms, such as voter ID laws similar to South Carolina’s.”
- Virginia: Unlike several of the other states, Virginia’s voter ID plan was not scheduled to be implemented until July 2014 anyway. But unless Congress replaces the preclearance formula before then, Virginia will also likely be able to move forward with its plan .
These moves mean that of the nine preclearance states, only Alaska, Arizona (which just had its own voter ID law struck down ), and Georgia (whose own voted ID law was likely ruled unconstitutional in the same decision ) have not moved to restrict the right to vote in less than two days since the ruling. The Court’s majority held that the formula for determining which states are subject to federal oversight is outdated, leaving the law without any jurisdictions requiring preclearance. If these states are any evidence, they may have just opened the door for massive disenfranchisement.
The GOP has become completely corrupt.
Interesting story about the “scandal” the GOP is trying to create. Nicholas Confessore and Michael Luo report in the NY Times:
When CVFC, a conservative veterans’ group in California, applied for tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service, its biggest expenditure that year was several thousand dollars in radio ads backing a Republican candidate for Congress.
The Wetumpka Tea Party, from Alabama, sponsored training for a get-out-the-vote initiative dedicated to the “defeat of President Barack Obama” while the I.R.S. was weighing its application.
And the head of the Ohio Liberty Coalition, whose application languished with the I.R.S. for more than two years, sent out e-mails to members about Mitt Romney campaign events and organized members to distribute Mr. Romney’s presidential campaign literature.
Representatives of these organizations have cried foul in recent weeks about their treatment by the I.R.S., saying they were among dozens of conservative groups unfairly targeted by the agency, harassed with inappropriate questionnaires and put off for months or years as the agency delayed decisions on their applications.
But a close examination of these groups and others reveals an array of election activities that tax experts and former I.R.S. officials said would provide a legitimate basis for flagging them for closer review.
“Money is not the only thing that matters,” said Donald B. Tobin, a former lawyer with the Justice Department’s tax division who is a law professor at Ohio State University. “While some of the I.R.S. questions may have been overbroad, you can look at some of these groups and understand why these questions were being asked.” . . .
The IRS was targeting groups—those most likely to be breaking the law. Good target.
The US certainly insists on the right to vote for other countries, as Michael Lind points out in Salon:
Is it time, at long last, for the citizens of the United States to enjoy the constitutional right to vote for the people who govern them?
Phrased in that way, the question may come as a shock. The U.S. has waged wars in Iraq and Afghanistan justified, at least in rhetoric, by the claim that people deserve the right to vote for their leaders. Most of us assume that the right to vote has long been enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.
Not according to the Supreme Court. In Bush v. Gore (2000), the Court ruled that “[t]he individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States.” That’s right. Under federal law, according to the Supreme Court, if you are a citizen of the United States, you have a right to own a firearm that might conceivably be used in overthrowing the government. But you have no right to wield a vote that might be used to change the government by peaceful means.
FairVote, a nonprofit organization that leads the fight for electoral reform in the U.S.,points out:
The right to vote is the foundation of any democracy. Yet most Americans do not realize that we do not have a constitutionally protected right to vote. While there are amendments to the U.S. Constitution that prohibit discrimination based on race (15th), sex (19th) and age (26th), no affirmative right to vote exists.
And that’s just the beginning. While the Voting Rights Act eliminated overt disenfranchisement based on racial discrimination, state governments retain many tools that state politicians can use to disfranchise citizens, not only in state and local elections but also in federal elections. Among these tools are . . .
The above diagram (click to enlarge) shows some of the connections described in this (peer-reviewed) article ‘To quarterback behind the scenes, third-party efforts’: the tobacco industry and the Tea Party. Pam Martens in Wall Street on Parade discusses the article and why the DoJ is uninterested in pursuing the matter:
The Justice Department is investigating the investigators of the Tea Party at the IRS while leaving a 29-year criminal conspiracy against the American people by the Tea Party cabal untouched. That’s not surprising, given that the U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, and the former head of his criminal division, Lanny Breuer, came from the law firm Covington and Burling which played a seminal role in the conspiracy.
On February 8 of this year, the peer-reviewed health professionals’ journal, Tobacco Control, published an exhaustive study of the roots of the Tea Party dating back to the 1980s. Researched and written by Amanda Fallin, Rachel Grana and Stanton A. Glantz, the study was funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and titled ‘To Quarterback Behind the Scenes, Third Party Efforts’: The Tobacco Industry and the Tea Party.
The authors explain how Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), which split into Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks in 2004, “was co-founded in 1984 by David Koch, of Koch Industries, and Richard Fink, former professor of economics at George Mason University, who has worked for Koch Industries since 1990.” According to the study, “CSE supported the agendas of the tobacco and other industries, including oil, chemical, pharmaceutical and telecommunications, and was funded by them.”
Long before the Tea Party had gained traction in the media, CSE started the first online Tea Party in 2002, calling it the US Tea Party. The federally funded NIH study shows that between 1991 and 2002, Philip Morris and other tobacco companies gave CSE at least $5.3 million.
CSE, a Koch created organization, was considered an integral part of Philip Morris’ strategy to thwart Federal regulation of cigarettes and second hand smoke. The authors write that Philip Morris designated CSE a “Category A” organization for funding and it was assigned its own Philip Morris senior relationship manager. They cite a 1999 internal email at Philip Morris which asked if CSE was worth its current level of funding. Philip Morris’ vice president of federal government affairs, John Scruggs, replied: . . .
This time in Ohio. The GOP really works hard to keep voters from going to the polls; I’m sure if they had the power they would discontinue voting altogether and go for a government staffed by appointments. Of course, they also don’t like appointments, as is shown by their refusal to confirm candidates for judgeships and Executive-Branch posts. Hunter Walker reports at TPMDC:
Republicans in the Ohio Legislature are pushing a plan that could cost the state’s public universities millions of dollars if they provide students with documents to help them register to vote. Backers of the bill describe it as intended to resolve discrepancies between residency requirements for tuition and voter registration, while Democrats and other opponents argue it is a blatant attempt at voter suppression in a crucial swing state.
“What the bill would do is penalize public universities for providing their students with the documents they need to vote,” Daniel Tokaji, a professor and election law expert at Ohio State University told TPM. “It’s a transparent effort at vote suppression — about the most blatant and shameful we’ve seen in this state, which is saying quite a lot.”
The legislation is a provision in the state budget that was backed by the Republican majority in the Ohio House of Representatives. It is now headed to the Ohio Senate, which also has a GOP majority.
Currently, Ohio requires voters to be “a resident of Ohio for at least 30 days immediately before the election in which you want to vote” and to provide photo identification, a current utility bill, a bank statement, current paycheck, current government check, or “an original or copy of a current other government document, other than a voter registration acknowledgement notification mailed by the board of elections, that shows the voter’s name and current address.” Students who live in dormitories and do not have state identification or a job or bank account in Ohio might not be able to meet this requirement even if they have lived in the state for over a month. Public universities provide letters or utility bills to students to help them meet the residency requirement for voter registration. If the legislation is passed, it would force schools that provide this documentation to charge out-of-state students the same tuition they charge students from Ohio.
This change would effectively eliminate out-of-state tuition, which is more expensive than the rates currently charged to students from Ohio. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, university officials have said they will continue to provide the documentation even if this item remains in the state budget and a group called Innovation Ohio that opposes the legislation has estimated the will cost the schools about $272 million. . .
Andy Kroll has a good column at TomDispatch. Tom, as usual, provides an introduction:
Once upon a time, the election season began with the New Hampshire primary in early March and never really gained momentum (or much attention) until the candidates were chosen and the fall campaign revved up. Now, the New Hampshire primary is in early January, and by then, the campaign season has already been underway for a couple of years.
Consider campaign 2016, the next 1% presidential election of the twenty-first century. It’s more than underway with congressional hearings that are visibly organized to skewer possible Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, and that special table-setter, the first Karl Rove super PAC attack video/ad, also lighting out after the former secretary of state. Looked at another way, like recent presidential campaigns, the 2016 version actually began before the last election ended. The initial media handicapping of future candidates by reporters and pundits, for instance, hit the news well before the first voter emerged from a polling booth in 2012 — and it’s never stopped. Similarly, the first Iowa poll for the next campaign season made it on the scene within days of the 2012 vote count (Hillary was ahead), and the first attack ads in early primary states are already appearing. With thousands or perhaps tens of thousands of polls to follow, Americans will repeatedly “vote” in contests set up by companies, often hired by political parties or politicians to take the pulse of the public in the unending serial ballots that now precede the actual election.
And don’t forget the single most obvious characteristic of supersizing American democracy: money that will flood the zone. Billions of dollars will go to “political consultants” (in 2012, an estimated $3 billion) and billions of dollars in ads will inundate TV, radio, and almost any other medium around ($6 billion in 2012 and expected to climb in 2016). Billions of words of punditry and commentary about the election (always) “of the century” will flow from well-funded TV news outfits stoked by all those ad dollars. Above all, there will be the money pouring into super PACs and the dark side, which will inundate everything else, shaping the new landscape in which U.S. elections now take place. The sums are staggering, and the limits on how much a wealthy person can “contribute” are rapidly falling away.
As a result, “earlier” and “more” are likely to be the operative political words for 2016, which means that, in a sense, American “democracy” couldn’t be more vigorous. Unfortunately, it’s the vigor of the wealthy, as TomDispatch Associate Editor Andy Kroll makes clear. Increasingly, it’s their system, politically speaking and in every other way, and welcome to it. Tom
The New Pay-As-You-Go Landscape of American “Democracy”
By Andy Kroll
Billionaires with an axe to grind, now is your time. Not since the days before a bumbling crew of would-be break-in artists set into motion the fabled Watergate scandal, leading to the first far-reaching restrictions on money in American politics, have you been so free to meddle. There is no limit to the amount of money you can give to elect your friends and allies to political office, to defeat those with whom you disagree, to shape or stunt or kill policy, and above all to influence the tone and content of political discussion in this country.
Today, politics is a rich man’s game. Look no further than the 2012 elections and that season’s biggest donor, 79-year-old casino mogulSheldon Adelson. He and his wife, Miriam, shocked the political class by first giving $16.5 million in an effort to make Newt Gingrich the Republican presidential nominee. Once Gingrich exited the race, the Adelsons invested more than $30 million in electing Mitt Romney. They donated millions more to support GOP candidates running for the House and Senate, to block a pro-union measure in Michigan, and to bankroll the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other conservative stalwarts (which waged their own campaigns mostly to help Republican candidates for Congress). All told, the Adelsons donated $94 million during the 2012 cycle — nearly four times the previous record set by liberal financier George Soros. And that’s only the money we know about. When you add in so-called dark money, one estimate puts their total giving at closer to $150 million.
It was not one of Adelson’s better bets. Romney went down in flames; the Republicans failed to retake the Senate and conceded seats in the House; and the majority of candidates backed by Adelson-funded groups lost, too. But Adelson, who oozes chutzpah as only a gambling tycoon worth $26.5 billion could, is undeterred. Politics, he told the Wall Street Journal in his first post-election interview, is like poker: “I don’t cry when I lose. There’s always a new hand coming up.” He said he could double his 2012 giving in future elections. “I’ll spend that much and more,” he said. “Let’s cut any ambiguity.”
But simply tallying Adelson’s wins and losses — or the Koch brothers’, or George Soros’s, or any other mega-donors’ — misses the bigger point. What matters is that these wealthy funders were able to give so much money in the first place.
With the advent of super PACs and a growing reliance on secretly funded nonprofits, the very wealthy can pour their money into the political system with an ease that didn’t exist as recently as this moment in Barack Obama’s first term in office. For now at least, Sheldon Adelson is an extreme example, but he portends a future in which 1-percenters can flood the system with money in ways beyond the dreams of ordinary Americans. In the meantime, the traditional political parties, barred from taking all that limitless cash, seem to be sliding toward irrelevance. They are losing their grip on the political process, political observers say, leaving motivated millionaires and billionaires to handpick the candidates and the issues. “It’ll be wealthy people getting together and picking horses and riding those horses through a primary process and maybe upending the consensus of the party,” a Democratic strategist recently told me. “We’re in a whole new world.” . . .
Not is so many words, of course. He specifically advises that we avoid false prophets. Brian Tashman reports at Right-Wing Watch:
On today’s episode of the 700 Club, Pat Robertson urged viewers to avoid false prophets and televangelists caught up in scandal. “By your fruits you shall know them, what’s their track record?” Robertson told cohost Terry Meeuwsen, “You can dominate somebody that way: I’ve heard from the Lord, I have a message for you, do this.”
Funny he should mention this, because just today we stumbled across an interview between Pat Robertson and televangelist Benny Hinn the week before the presidential election where Robertson bluntly informed Hinn that “the Lord told me” that Mitt Romney would defeat President Obama.
Not only did God inform Robertson that “Romney will win” but that he will be a two-term president who presides over a huge economic boom.
Robertson even told Romney to save him a ticket for the inauguration: “I told Mitt a long time ago, I called him and said listen, I’ve been in prayer and number one you’re going to win the nomination and number two you’re going to win the general election, he said ‘well what can I do for you,’ I said give me a seat on the platform during your inauguration, give me a ticket to your inauguration.”
“The Lord said he’s going to have a second term, I told him there will be to be trillions of dollars coming into the economy when you’re elected,” Robertson continued, “the stock market ought to boom, everything ought to boom.”
This all deeply reassured Hinn who said that Robertson was conveying “God’s voice.”
It’s nice as a paradox: a false prophet telling us to avoid false prophets—like “This sentence is false.” Also interesting is the discovery that God will lie to you.