PEOPLE FOR BLOG

Michael Keegan Speaks with Al Sharpton about White Nationalists at CPAC

On Wednesday, PFAW sent out an alert urging the GOP presidential candidates speaking at this week's Conservative Political Action Conference, to denounce the views of a white nationalist leader who had been invited to speak on a panel at the same event.

No GOP leaders have spoken up yet.

Last night, PFAW president Michael Keegan joined Rev. Al Sharpton on MSNBC's PoliticsNation to discuss why a figure like Peter Brimelow is welcomed to the premier event of the conservative movement:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

 

 

PFAW's researchers and bloggers will be monitoring the conference through Saturday...you can follow their reports over at Right Wing Watch.

PFAW

End the Filibuster of Judge Jordán

With Republican obstruction of qualified consensus judicial nominees showing no sign of abating, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has filed cloture on the nomination of Adalberto José Jordán to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The vote to break the Republican filibuster is scheduled for Monday at 5:30.

Jordán is one of the 18 nominees stuck pending on the Senate floor because Republicans refuse to allow a yes-or-no vote to be scheduled. He received the highest possible rating from the American Bar Association, with a unanimous panel finding him well qualified. Judiciary Committee members who looked over his record agreed, voting unanimously to advance his nomination.

Senator Marco Rubio – Jordán's home state senator and a fellow Cuban American – strongly supports the nomination. As he told the committee, "I think his experience and his resume will speak for itself. ... As a community, we're very proud of Judge Jordán's nomination and we look forward to his appointment."

Jordán immigrated from Cuba when he was six and is the quintessential American success story. Since 1999, he has served ably as a federal district court judge in Miami, where he has presided over nearly 200 trials on a wide range of civil and criminal matters.

The Circuit that he would join desperately needs this vacancy filled, so much so that the Administrative Office of the United States Court has formally declared it a judicial emergency. In other words, there are so many cases and so few judges that Americans are not able to get their day in court.

This nomination has been languishing on the Senate floor since October 13. That was four months ago. Republicans have absolutely no excuse for this latest obstruction. Hats off to Sen. Reid for "calling the question" on this critical nomination. Next we need to turn our attention to the other 17 nominees on the Senate's calendar and the other nominees who will be reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee despite the Republicans' efforts to slow walk nominations in Committee as well.

PFAW

The Mechanism of Obstruction Continues

Before Senate Republicans graciously allowed a vote this afternoon on one of the 19 long-pending judicial nominations – just one, mind you – they did something this morning, that, unfortunately has become all too routine in their relentless efforts to slow-walk judicial nominations: They needlessly delayed committee votes on four additional highly qualified nominees. Republicans won't even let them advance to the floor to languish there, but are delaying them in committee for no reason.

As they have done for all but five of President Obama's judicial nominees, committee Republicans this morning exercised their option to "hold over" (i.e., delay) votes on judicial nominees. The routine use of this hold, without explanation, without regard to actual questions about the nominee, and almost without exception, is unprecedented. And while the delay, likely to be one week, is not by itself enormous, it has become a predictable component of the overall mechanism of obstruction that Senate Republicans have created to keep our nation's courtrooms from functioning effectively for the American people.

Three of the four vacant seats are judicial emergencies, and the three nominees from states with Republican senators have those senators' strong support.

As PFAW has written before:

No matter who the nominee is, no matter how qualified, no matter if confirmation is needed to address a judicial emergency, all the nominees [who are held over in committee] have something in common: They were nominated by a Democratic president, and that is all the reason Republicans need to obstruct the process and sabotage the judicial branch of the United States government.

So the fact that the bottleneck at the Senate floor didn't get worse today is hardly cause to celebrate.

PFAW

Olson: ‘Marriage is a Conservative Value’

Ted Olson, who served as solicitor general under George W. Bush and is now half of the legal team fighting the anti-gay Proposition 8 in California, went on the Rachel Maddow show last night to discuss the marriage equality victory handed down by the Ninth Circuit yesterday.

Asked by Maddow why animus toward gay rights is still so mainstream in Republican politics, Olson gave a defense of marriage equality as a conservative value – one that he says more and more American conservatives are embracing:

 

Maddow: Why do you think it is that hostility to gay rights is still something that is still so utterly mainstream and expected of both mainstream politicians and mainstream institutions in conservative politics today?

Olson: I don’t know the answer to your question, Rachel, but I think that it’s terribly unfortunate. Marriage is a conservative value. Not that conservatives own it or liberals own it, but the loving relationship between individuals that want to be respected by their society and treated as equals is a conservative value. It involves liberty and privacy and association and identity.

Marriage is the building block of our society. Young people get it. Older people are still getting it. But all of the polls are changing. People more and more are understanding that these are American citizens, these are our brothers and our sisters, we have got to treat them right and we’ve got to treat them decency, and we’ve got to give them the same freedom and justice that we give to other people. More and more people in America are understanding that. I’m pleased to say that more and more Republicans are understanding that.

I’m sad to say – it makes me sad to say – that Republicans haven’t fully understood it. But I think that they will come, and every time that David Boies and I have a chance to address this question, we believe that we’re converting more people, and persuading more people that this is the right thing. It is not a liberal or conservative issue, or Republican or Democrats. When David Boies and I came together on this, our mission was to persuade the American people that this is an issue of American justice, American freedom, American equality. These are the principles, all men are created equal in this country, we have got to get there.

 

PFAW

Appeals Court Rules Prop 8 Unconstitutional, Decision Highlights Role of Judiciary

A federal appeals court ruled today that the California ballot initiative that took the right to marry away from same-sex couples violated the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution.  The decision, which is stayed temporarily, affirms an August 2010 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker.  According to the appeals court ruling,

Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples. The Constitution simply does not allow for “laws of this sort.”

The ruling applies only to the situation in California, which, as advocates noted, includes 1/8 of the population of the U.S.

Ted Olson, one of the lead attorneys on the case, said at a press conference organized by the American Foundation for Equal Rights, “this is a huge day,” and said that the court’s analysis will have an impact far beyond California.  He said the court found that Prop 8 “violates the fundamental human rights of citizens in this country” and struck down Prop 8 as “violating the fundamental charter of the United States Constitution.”

This case is about equality, and freedom, and dignity, and fairness, and decency. It is about whether we are going to eliminate government-sponsored discrimination written into the constitution of the biggest state in the United States. It is about whether we are going to eliminate second-class citizenship…We are bringing a stop to that discrimination.

Added Olson, “Thank God for the judiciary in this country, to respect the Constitution, to stand up from whatever pressures may be put upon the judiciary, and to say what the law is. That’s what the Ninth Circuit did today.”

In response to a question about the impact of today’s ruling on legislative and ballot initiatives around the country, Olson described the 80-page majority decision as carefully and thoroughly written, and predicted that it would have an enormous impact as a legal precedent for other courts.  He also said,

The other point that’s so important is that every legal decision allows the American people to hear more about what these issues are, to ask questions, to think about these issues. In my experience -- we’ve been working on this for three years -- the more you talk to people, the more they listen, the more they realize this is right and this is inevitable.  So this will change court decisions, it will change public opinion, it will change what legislatures do.

Olson colleague Ted Boutros said he believes the way the Ninth Circuit crafted the opinion, and its reliance on the Supreme Court’s Romer decision, could make it harder for Prop 8 supporters to get Supreme Court review.

PFAW

Exposing ALEC in Ohio

Yesterday, community leaders held a press conference in Columbus, Ohio to expose the firm grip that corporations hold on the Ohio legislature made possible by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Through this organization, corporations and special interests sit down with complicit lawmakers and devise ways to transfer the public’s resources into a few private hands, while leaving ordinary citizens out to dry.

This effort is underway in statehouses across the country, and a new report by People For the American Way Foundation, Progress Ohio, Common Cause and the Center for Media and Democracy demonstrates the pervasive influence and serious consequences that ALEC has had in Ohio.

At the press conference, people affected by ALEC-sponsored legislation – including teachers, religious leaders and labor representatives – described how their classrooms are being defunded, their fellow citizens are being denied their right to vote and their workplace protections are being dismantled thanks to ALEC, Ohio’s governor and legislators who are willing to put corporate profits over the people’s needs.

The report is available here.

 

From left: Tim Burga, President, AFL-CIO; Pat Clifford, State Organizer for Ohio Common Cause; Rev. Joel King, Unity Coalition; Ltaundra Everhart, High School Teacher; Tim Shafer, Operations Director, OCSEA AFSCME Local 11, former Corrections Officer.

From left: David Romick, Dayton Education Association; Brian Rothenberg, Executive Director, Progress Ohio; Rev. Joel King, Unity Coalition; Ltaundra Everhart, High School Teacher; Tim Shafer, Operations Director, OCSEA AFSCME Local 11, former Corrections Officer.

PFAW

President Obama Supports Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United

Yesterday, President Obama announced his support of a constitutional amendment to reign in special interest money in elections. With his support the growing movement pushing to amend the constitution to overturn Citizens United is gaining even more momentum. The diverse coalition comprised of millions of Americans, small business owners and organizations concerned about the undue influence that corporations wield in our democracy has been raising its voice, and now our elected representatives in city halls and state legislatures, in Congress and even the White House are listening and taking action.

The Supreme Court’s flawed decision that opened our electoral system to unlimited, undisclosed and unregulated corporate spending on our elections needs to be undone. As the president’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, noted in a blog post, President Obama has always opposed the Citizens United decision and views a constitutional amendment as a potential solution:

The President opposed the Citizens United decision. He understood that with the dramatic growth in opportunities to raise and spend unlimited special-interest money, we would see new strategies to hide it from public view. He continues to support a law to force full disclosure of all funding intended to influence our elections, a reform that was blocked in 2010 by a unanimous Republican filibuster in the U.S. Senate. And the President favors action—by constitutional amendment, if necessary—to place reasonable limits on all such spending.

Marge Baker, Executive Vice President at People For the American Way, declares that a constitutional amendment is in fact, necessary, in a statement released to the press this morning:

Citizens United opened the floodgates to a wave of corporate and special interest money in our elections. Since then, Americans from across the political spectrum have joined together to support amending the Constitution to reverse the damage done by the Supreme Court and limit corporate and special interest influence in our democracy. As Justice Stevens pointed out in his dissent, there are problems with our political system, but few people would argue that a shortage of money is one of them.

Amending the Constitution is the only way to completely overturn the Court’s decision, and President Obama should be applauded for lending his support to the movement to restore democracy to the people. Americans of all parties and ideologies support amending the Constitution to overturn Citizens United and related cases.

This is a movement moment. Americans are sick and tired of government that puts the interests of the wealthy above the needs of ordinary people. Momentum for a constitutional amendment is growing every day.

 

PFAW

President Obama Supports Consitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United

Yesterday, President Obama announced his support of a constitutional amendment to reign in special interest money in elections. With his support the growing movement pushing to amend the constitution to overturn Citizens United is gaining even more momentum. The diverse coalition comprised of millions of Americans, small business owners and organizations concerned about the undue influence that corporations wield in our democracy has been raising its voice, and now our elected representatives in city halls and state legislatures, in Congress and even the White House are listening and taking action.

The Supreme Court’s flawed decision that opened our electoral system to unlimited, undisclosed and unregulated corporate spending on our elections needs to be undone. As the president’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, noted in a blog post, President Obama has always opposed the Citizens United decision and views a constitutional amendment as a potential solution:

The President opposed the Citizens United decision. He understood that with the dramatic growth in opportunities to raise and spend unlimited special-interest money, we would see new strategies to hide it from public view. He continues to support a law to force full disclosure of all funding intended to influence our elections, a reform that was blocked in 2010 by a unanimous Republican filibuster in the U.S. Senate. And the President favors action—by constitutional amendment, if necessary—to place reasonable limits on all such spending.

Marge Baker, Executive Vice President at People For the American Way, declares that a constitutional amendment is in fact, necessary, in a statement released to the press this morning:

Citizens United opened the floodgates to a wave of corporate and special interest money in our elections. Since then, Americans from across the political spectrum have joined together to support amending the Constitution to reverse the damage done by the Supreme Court and limit corporate and special interest influence in our democracy. As Justice Stevens pointed out in his dissent, there are problems with our political system, but few people would argue that a shortage of money is one of them.

Amending the Constitution is the only way to completely overturn the Court’s decision, and President Obama should be applauded for lending his support to the movement to restore democracy to the people. Americans of all parties and ideologies support amending the Constitution to overturn Citizens United and related cases.

This is a movement moment. Americans are sick and tired of government that puts the interests of the wealthy above the needs of ordinary people. Momentum for a constitutional amendment is growing every day.

 

PFAW

Senators Take to Floor to Protect Americans' Access to Justice

Several senators are taking the floor today to condemn the needless partisan obstruction that is harming America's judicial system and denying Americans their day in court. With more than 10% of every court vacant or soon to become vacant, the crisis is the worst sustained shortage in 35 years. Yet with Republicans refusing to allow the Senate to vote even on nominees who unanimously cleared committee months ago, the crisis is not being resolved.

There are now 19 pending nominees waiting for a floor vote. 17 were approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee with very strong bipartisan support, and 16 were approved without any opposition at all. Thirteen have been pending for three months or more, nine would fill vacancies classified as judicial emergencies.

The obstruction is also preventing us from having a diverse federal bench: 14 of the 19 pending nominees being denied a vote are women or people of color.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee pointed out a few minutes ago who is being hurt the most by the obstruction:

The costs are borne by the American people. More than half of all Americans – nearly 160 million – live in districts or circuits that have a judicial vacancy. … And they can be filled today – this morning – if Senate Republicans would just agree to vote on the nominations that have been reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee. The irony, Mr. President, is that if those nominees could be brought up for a vote, it would probably be a 100 to nothing vote on all or most of them.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, speaking after Sen. Leahy, rightly called the American judicial system one of the great marvels of the world. The Senate needs to be allowed to fulfill its role in keeping that marvel vibrant and functional.

We should never minimize the importance of careful vetting and scrutiny when it comes to these nominees. But once that process is complete in the Judiciary Committee, blocking these nominees can only be bad for the American people as well as for the 160 million Americans who live in districts and circuits with vacancies whose nominees are sitting on the Senate calendar. They should not have their ability to access justice denied or delayed.

 

PFAW

Romney Supports Disastrous Komen Decision on Planned Parenthood

Last week, PFAW president Michael Keegan wrote that even if Mitt Romney declined to take a stand on the controversy involving Susan G. Komen’s partnership with Planned Parenthood, we already “know where he is on this issue” because of his previous support of draconian bills defunding women’s health care.


But we needn’t have bothered to make the logical leap. In an interview today, Romney said he thought Komen made the right decision in severing the grants it provided to Planned Parenthood to provide breast cancer screening for low-income women:


When Minnesota radio host Scott Hennen asked Romney whether Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the leading U.S. anti-breast cancer charity, should continue to give Planned Parenthood grants for cancer screenings and mammogram referrals, Romney said, "I don't think so."


"I also feel that the government should cut off funding to Planned Parenthood," the former Massachusetts governor added. "Look, the idea that we're subsidizing an institution which is providing abortion, in my view, is wrong. Planned Parenthood ought to stand on their own feet, and should not get government subsidy.”


This view puts Romney entirely out of step with the countless women’s health supporters who successfully fought back against Komen’s decision. The backlash against Komen was so massive that the organization quickly attempted to backtrack and caused the resignation today of a top Komen official.


Romney is saying that as president he would put women’s lives at risk to appeal to a narrow political base – and that’s something American voters should know.
 

PFAW

The Judicial Confirmation Crisis in One Easy Chart

We write a lot about the Senate GOP’s unprecedented obstruction of President Obama’s judicial nominees, but it can be hard to effectively convey the extent of the needless gridlock. We hope this chart helps:

The dotted line marks 24 days, the average time George W. Bush’s nominees – by this point in his presidency --had to wait between being approved by the Judiciary Committee and getting an up-or-down vote from the full Senate. The blue lines represent the number of days each of the nineteen nominees currently waiting for a Senate vote has been stalled. The dark blue lines – seventeen out of the nineteen – represent nominees who were approved with overwhelming bipartisan support  by the Judiciary Committee. These nominees have no recorded Republican opposition – instead, the GOP is stalling them just for the sake of stalling.

Fourteen of the nineteen nominees are women or people of color. Nine have been nominated to fill seats officially designated as judicial emergencies. All of them deserve prompt up-or-down votes from the Senate.
 

PFAW

Sharpton Quotes PFAW on the War on Women

Last week, Susan G. Komen for the Cure faced a tidal wave of public pressure after it announced that it would no longer be working with Planned Parenthood to provide breast cancer screenings to low-income women. The foundation’s excuse – that Planned Parenthood is under a bogus investigation from a right-wing congressman – didn’t pass muster with the many Americans who think public health charities should prioritize public health. After a few days of changing its story, Komen relented – but not before it became clear that for many of its supporters, women’s health is far more important than partisan politics.

In reaction to Komen’s about-face, People For’s Michael Keegan wrote in the Huffington Post that the same anger that was directed at Komen should be directed at the GOP every time they open a new battle in the War on Women:

I too am angry at Komen's decision to put right-wing ideology ahead of its purported public health mission. But our deeper anger should be directed at someone else: the Republicans in Congress and GOP leaders who consistently make the same choices involving many times more money, and many times more women's lives. The shock of the revelation of Komen's new policies only highlighted how numb many of us have become to the larger, unrelenting attacks on women's health by right-wing elected officials.

On his show on Friday, Rev. Al Sharpton discussed the Komen decision with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, and read part of Michael’s piece, saying he "expressed it best":

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

PFAW

NYT: The Courts as a Political Weapon for the Powerful

As Mitt Romney rightly pointed out in December, one of the most important issues riding on the upcoming presidential election will be the future of the federal courts.


Yet, if 2012 is like other election years, the courts will be discussed relatively little by the candidates. That would be a big mistake. Romney has already signaled to the Republican base that he will move the federal courts even farther right than they already are. He named Robert Bork, the judge whose legal views were so extreme his Supreme Court nomination was rejected by the Senate, to lead his “Justice Advisory Committee,” and has said he would seek to nominate judges like those who have made the current Supreme Court the most conservative in decades.


In an editorial this weekend, the New York Times explained how politics has reshaped the courts and the law under the past three Republican administrations. Courts picked by Mitt Romney and Robert Bork would be no exception:


Each party has its program and works to turn it into law. The great example of political change through legal change was the long, methodical effort to whittle away at segregation from within the legal mainstream that culminated in the court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education. The conservatives’ legal-political strategy draws from Brown, but it is also vastly different in nature and design.


The struggle for school desegregation was waged by and on behalf of oppressed minority groups seeking to make good on the Constitution’s promise of equal rights. They faced strong opposition from the most powerful people in our society, in courts that were not necessarily sympathetic or overtly hostile to their cause. And they fought a long, incremental campaign.


When Lewis Powell Jr. energized conservatives by writing in 1971 that “the judiciary may be the most important instrument for social, economic and political change,” he was himself an incrementalist and expected others to be.


But the conservative legal battles of our modern times are being waged by the most powerful, often against the weak and oppressed. They began with a carefully planned and successful effort to reshape the courts to be sympathetic to conservative causes. They are largely aimed at narrowing rights, not expanding them — except where property and guns are concerned. And beginning with the Reagan administration, conservatives became impatient with the pace of change brought about from within the mainstream. They sought to remake law into a weapon of aggressive action.
 

PFAW

Sen. Mike Lee Taken to Task (Again)

By the time the Senate went home for its month-long holiday in before Christmas, Republicans had made it clear they would continue to obstruct the nominations process so as to cripple both the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the National Labor Relations Board. Rather than meekly accept this threat to American consumers and workers, President Obama made several recess appointments, most notably of Richard Cordray, to allow those bodies to function.

As partisan political retaliation, Utah Sen. Mike Lee has claimed the mantle of the Constitution and threatened to escalate his party's sabotage of the judicial nominations process, a threat the president himself condemned over the weekend. In a Huffington Post piece today, the Constitutional Accountability Center's Doug Kendall takes Sen. Lee to task.

[I]t is Senator Lee who is most clearly violating the letter and spirit of the Constitution and playing partisan games. Senator Lee made it absolutely clear that he would not comply with his constitutionally-mandated responsibility to give his "advice and consent" on the Cordray nomination. In an official Senate release in December, he stated that he had no objection to Richard Cordray himself, but that he felt it was his "duty to oppose his confirmation as part of [his] opposition to the creation of CFPB itself."

Actually, according to the Constitution, it's Senator Lee's duty to vote "no" on legislation he opposes, such as the law that set up the CFPB, and to provide "advice and consent" on the president's nominees, judicial or otherwise. Senator Lee's statement is an abdication of his constitutional duty, and it is that hard-line position taken by the President's opponents, coupled with the trick of "pro-forma" Senate sessions designed specifically to prevent the President from exercising his constitutional authority to make recess appointments, that led to President Obama's action on the Cordray appointment.

Kendall's piece is worth reading in its entirety, as it points out many of the hypocritical and misleading ways that Mike Lee waves the Constitution as a weapon to achieve his partisan and ideological ends.

PFAW

Just How Many Americans is Mitt Romney “Not Concerned” With?

Mitt Romney told Soledad O’Brien this morning:


“I’m not concerned with the very poor. We have a safety net there,” Romney told CNN. “If it needs repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich, they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of the America, the 90 percent, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.”


The trouble is, he’s running to be the president of a country where 46.2 million people are living below the poverty line – the highest level in nearly two decades. America is an aspirational culture – we assume that if we fall on hard times, we won’t have to stay that way. We like to think of ourselves as middle class, whether we’re struggling or exceptionally fortunate. But the reality is that the social safety net is now catching more Americans than it ever has.

And Romney is not, as he claims, concerned with keeping the safety net intact. A Center for American Progress analysis of his economic plan, for instance, found that his proposed budget cuts would necessarily result in draconian cuts to social services. Meanwhile, his tax plan would raise taxes on millions of middle class and low income families while handing an average of $150,000 to millionaires.

Romney’s trying to use the classic right-wing strategy of building resentment toward a faceless “poor” who rely on social services. But to the millions of Americans who have seen themselves or friends and family slip from middle class stability during the recession, his words might just ring hollow.
 

PFAW