PEOPLE FOR BLOG

ALEC Tries to Hamstring Attorneys General

A major component of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s agenda is shielding corporations from liability by removing consumer protections and limiting the people’s ability to seek justice in a court of law. At their meeting last week in Charlotte, N.C., ALEC’s Civil Justice Task Force considered legislation that would hamstring some of the mosteffective consumer advocates: state attorneys general.

Common Cause recently released some 4,000 of ALEC’s internal documents, including task force agendas, participants and model legislation. The documents revealed ALEC’s “Attorney General Authority Act” under consideration at the task force meeting, which seeks to limit state AGs from bringing suits against corporations. ALEC’s explanation of the bill reads in part:

Just as a private attorney cannot bring a suit on behalf of a client without the client agreeing and authorizing such action, and then only within the guidelines allowed by the client, so it should be with the attorney general. Rather than an attorney general deciding on his or her own what authority the office may have to bring a lawsuit, the authority should be defined by the state as reflected by the specific decisions of the legislature via statute. The legislature, not the attorney general, is best positioned to balance the competing concerns that go into the decision of whether to allow a cause of action and under what circumstances.

Put simply: this act would prohibit the attorney general from bringing a suit in the public’s interest unless the state legislature specifically authorizes it.

As the Minnesota Post astutely points out, a legislature that enacts such a provision to protect corporations is unlikely to subsequently grant the attorney general the authority to prosecute them. The consequences are significant: "This legislation would have prevented [an attorney general] from suing tobacco manufacturers in the ‘90s for tobacco-related health costs associated with the Medicaid program,” said Mike Dean, head of Common Cause of Minnesota. “It is easy to see why corporations would want to stop these types of lawsuits because tobacco manufacturer were forced to pay $6.1 billion in a settlement to the state of Minnesota."

This law doesn't just help ALEC-member corporations, it helps ALEC. After recently filing a whistleblower complaint with the IRS alleging that ALEC abused its tax-exempt status by failing to report lobbying activities, Common Cause is calling on state attorney generals to investigate ALEC for tax fraud in all 50 states. What better way to derail investigations into ALEC than by advocating for legislation that removes the attorney general’s ability to investigate ALEC?

PFAW Foundation

Broun introduces anti-VRA amendment. Lewis says not so fast, seeks to empower voters.

On May 9, Representative Paul Broun tried to prohibit the use of Department of Justice (DOJ) funds for enforcing Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

You heard me right.

Representative Broun, a Republican whose home state of Georgia is covered by Section 5 of the VRA, tried to stop DOJ from enforcing the requirement that jurisdictions with a history of discrimination have their voting laws and regulations precleared by the federal government or a federal court before they may be changed. It is widely known that the deterrent effect of Section 5 continues to prove significant in protecting minorities against potentially discriminatory electoral changes.

It started at 9:58 pm with the offering of Amendment 1095 during debate on the FY13 Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bill.

At 10:04 pm, he was sticking to his story.

At 10:12 pm, Representative John Lewis (D), whose experiences during the Civil Rights Movement have made him one of the most respected voices on voting rights, took to the floor to talk some sense into his colleague from Georgia.

At 10:26 pm, the amendment was withdrawn.

But we might not yet be out of the woods. New York Times reporting:

On [May 10], Meredith Griffanti, a spokeswoman for Mr. Broun, who is a medical doctor, said that he “fully believes in the intent of his amendment to prevent the Justice Department from enforcing Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act,” but added that “given the magnitude of this change and out of respect for his colleagues, Dr. Broun withdrew the amendment.”

“He felt as though it deserved ample debate time where all members could participate rather than during a closed-off discussion in the late hours of the evening,” she said. “Dr. Broun looks forward to having this debate in the future.”

(Click for the NYT editorial, and for more information regarding similar attacks on marriage equality and immigration.)

As has been well-documented by PFAW Foundation, Representative Broun isn’t alone in his attacks on voting rights, and Representative Lewis’s work isn’t over.

In fact, Representative Lewis returned a week later to introduce the Voter Empowerment Act (H.R. 5799).

The ability to vote should be easy, accessible and simple. Yet there are practices and laws in place that make it harder to vote today than it was even one year ago. The sponsors of this act believe we need to take action or risk losing the liberties we have enjoyed. We should be moving toward a more inclusive democracy, not one that locks people out.

Representative Lewis in The Hill:

We must not be silent while leaders we elect take away our voting rights.

The Lewis bill, supported by 130 House Democrats, has been billed as “comprehensive voting rights legislation,” which seeks to address:

  • Voter registration modernization
  • Disability access
  • Voter caging
  • Deceptive practices
  • Restoration of federal voting rights for certain ex-offenders
  • Accuracy, integrity, and security of elections
  • Provisional ballots
  • Early voting and voting by mail
  • Absentee voting for uniformed and overseas voters
  • Poll worker recruitment and training
  • Federal election integrity
  • Other election administration improvements

Click here for more information from our friends at Demos.

PFAW

Wisconsin’s Walker Tells a Big Lie About Voter Fraud

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who’s currently in a tough recall election battle, has a new line about what could tip the election against him. From the Weekly Standard via Dave Weigel:

"I’ve always thought in this state, close elections, presidential elections, it means you probably have to win with at least 53 percent of the vote to account for fraud. One or two points, potentially."

That’s enough to change the outcome of the election. “Absolutely. I mean there’s no question why they went to court and fought [to undo] voter ID.”

This is a blatant lie.

Every single time the federal government or a state has gone looking for evidence of widespread voter fraud, it’s come up short – including in Wisconsin, where an investigation of the 2008 election turned up 14 instances of voter fraud out of 3 million votes. As has been proved time and again, the myth of widespread voter fraud is in itself a fraud.

Gov. Walker claims that the reason progressives worked to overturn the Voter ID law he imposed was so that they could win elections with fraud. That is also a blatant lie. Progressives oppose Voter ID and other voter suppression laws because they keep eligible voters from voting – the Brennan Center for Justice estimated that these laws could keep 5 million eligible voters from the ballot box in 2012.

The voter-fraud fraud isn’t a misunderstanding. It’s a lie perpetuated by politicians like Gov. Walker to cast doubt on the election of progressives and build support for suppressive measures like Voter ID laws. The fact that Gov. Walker can parade totally made-up “facts” about voter fraud to a conservative publication and not get called out for it shows just how much traction the myth has gained.

PFAW

Poll Finds Voters Don’t Want a Romney Court

 Think Progress alerts us to a recent Fox News poll which finds that a strong plurality of voters would prefer that President Obama, rather than Mitt Romney, pick the next Supreme Court justice. (46 percent said they’d prefer Obama make the pick; 38 said Romney).

This shouldn’t be surprising. President Obama’s two Supreme Court nominees, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, have been a strong voice for the rights of ordinary Americans in the court that brought us Citizens United. Meanwhile, Romney has said that he’d appoint more Justices like Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and John Roberts, the core of the Corporate Court.

And, of course, there’s the matter of who Romney is going to for advice about picking judges:

PFAW

How the Weakened House Version of VAWA Hurts Immigrant Women

Yesterday, we wrote about the House GOP’s effort to gut the Violence Against Women Act in response to a Senate reauthorization of the act that expands protections for gay and lesbian victims, Native Americans and immigrants. In the Daily Beast today, Michele Goldberg looks at some of the way the House-passed version of VAWA not only doesn’t expand protections for vulnerable groups, but removes existing domestic violence protections for immigrant women:

Mony Ruiz-Velasco, director of legal services at the National Immigrant Justice Center, has been representing immigrant victims of domestic violence for 15 years. In all of the hundreds of cases she has worked on, she says, “I’ve never had a case where the abuser did not use his immigration status as a tool.” Often an abusive American citizen or permanent resident with an immigrant wife will threaten her with deportation, which could separate her from her American children. Or he’ll begin the paperwork to sponsor his spouse for a green card but threaten to withdraw it. “You have no rights in this country,” an abuser will tell his victim, says Ruiz-Velasco.

The Violence Against Women Act offers these women some protection. But on Wednesday, House Republicans passed a reauthorization bill that significantly weakens it, claiming that VAWA facilitates immigration fraud. “For those of us who’ve been in the antiviolence movement for the last 30 years, some of the biggest victories are being completely turned on their head by what’s going on,” says Mallika Dutt, president and CEO of Breakthrough, a human-rights organization that has worked closely with immigrant victims of violence.

GOP opposition to the VAWA reauthorization is mind-boggling The sponsor of the House Republican’s bill, Florida’s Sandy Adams, claims that defending victims of domestic violence is a sort of zero-sum game. “Once you start listing out groups or listing in groups, then you’re excluding groups,” she told MSNBC today.

Needless to say, there is no evidence that making it easier for immigrant women to escape abusive relationships or making sure gay and lesbian victims are served by VAWA grantees or letting Native American women seek legal recourse through the tribal court system will hurt women who seek protection through the existing parts of the bill.

Each time Congress has reauthorized VAWA it has worked to improve it, to make it work better for more victims. This time is no different. Except, it seems, for the identity of the victims.

PFAW

A Look at Citizens United in Practice

Since the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, election watchers have predicted that the influx of unaccountable and often anonymous election spending would lead to a dramatic increase in dirty, dishonest attack ads. A report by the New York Times confirms those fears. High-profile Republican strategists for a super PAC funded by TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts created a proposal titled “The Defeat of Barack Hussein Obama: The Ricketts Plan to End His Spending for Good,” which lays out an aggressive character attack against the President. Focusing on his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., the ads will seek to portray the President as unfit to lead because of his formative experiences – a strategy that his 2008 opponent, Senator John McCain, refused to authorize. Even Mitt Romney has avoided such attacks, believing that they would backfire – but unaccountable super PACs are not necessarily taking it off the table:

“Our plan is to do exactly what John McCain would not let us do: Show the world how Barack Obama’s opinions of America and the world were formed,” the proposal says. “And why the influence of that misguided mentor and our president’s formative years among left-wing intellectuals has brought our country to its knees.”

How can one person’s extreme opinion make its way to aerial banners flying over the Democratic Convention, outdoor advertisements and television screens across the country?

“Joe Ricketts is prepared to spend significant resources in the 2012 election in both the presidential race and Congressional races,” said Brian Baker, the president and general counsel to Mr. Ricketts’ super PAC, called the Ending Spending Action Fund. “He is very concerned about the future direction of the country and plans to take a stand.”

Thanks to his wealth and Citizens United, he can do just that. Unfortunately, average Americans don’t have this luxury, and our democracy suffers greatly as a result.

Following the outcry in response to today’s article, Mr. Ricketts issued a statement claiming he had never approved the plan and disavows the type of politics it represents, saying that the proposal “was never a plan to be accepted but only a suggestion for a direction to take.” Nonetheless, the critical harm posed by Citizens United is clear. Just because Mr. Ricketts chose not to run this attack ad doesn’t mean that someone else won’t. The need to amend the Constitution to overturn Citizens United to protect our democracy from the lopsided influence of wealthy special interests is even more clear today.

PFAW

New CMD Report Reveals ALEC's Influence in Wisconsin

The Center for Media and Democracy released a new report today detailing the American Legislative Exchange Council’s influence in Wisconsin’s laws. At a time when ALEC members are jumping ship thanks to increased exposure of the ALEC agenda – 14 corporate members and 45 legislative members so far – this report serves as yet another window into ALEC’s shadowy, undemocratic method of ushering an extreme, pro-corporate agenda into law.

With the loyal help of Governor Scott Walker and a slew of complicit state legislators, ALEC has successfully implemented much of its corporate wish list in the state, including union-busting and corporate tax giveaways. According to the report, in Wisconsin:

• 32 bills or budget provisions reflecting ALEC model legislation were introduced in Wisconsin's 2011-2012 legislative session;

• 21 of these bills or budget provisions have passed, and two were vetoed;

• More than $276,000 in campaign contributions were made to ALEC legislators in Wisconsin from ALEC corporations since 2008;

• More than $406,000 in campaign contributions were made to ALEC alumnus Governor Walker from ALEC corporations over the same time period for his state campaign account;

• At least 49 current Wisconsin legislators are known ALEC members, including the leaders of both the House and Senate as well as other legislators holding key posts in the state. Additionally, the Governor, the Secretary of the Department of Administration, and the Chairman of the Public Service Commission are ALEC alumni; and

• At least 17 current legislators have received thousands of dollars of gifts cumulatively from ALEC corporations in the past few years, in the form of flights and hotel rooms filtered through the ALEC “scholarship fund” (complete “scholarship” information is not available).

People For the American Way Foundation has contributed to similar reports covering ALEC’s influence in Ohio and Arizona, and work continues to shine light on how ALEC paves the way for a state-by-state corporate takeover of our democracy.

PFAW Foundation

Educators Dismiss ALEC

The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) will not renew their membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council, the organization said in a statement released on Tuesday. NACSA is the third major educational organization to drop their association with ALEC, joining Kaplan and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

Both ALEC and NACSA support charter schools, but NACSA appears to have decided that ALEC’s extreme vision for charter school systems – which place corporate profitmaking above the needs of students, parents and communities – is out of touch with its mission to “advance excellence in public charters schools as a way to improve public education for all children.”

Rather than proposals designed to improve our public education system, ALEC’s model bills instead transfer public education funds into the hands of private corporations. Such proposals include voucher programs and publicly funded subsidies for religious and other private schools. ALEC’s Education Accountability Act would allow a state to override the elected school board and declare schools “educationally bankrupt,” then divert its funds to private schools. Of course, ALEC’s assault on public education wouldn’t be complete without attacks on teachers, school personnel and basic educational standards.

Just as important, there was never a legitimate reason for NACSA to support an organization that promotes legislation that attacks working families, rolls back consumer rights, blocks access to courts of law and disenfranchises thousands of eligible voters.

It’s not surprising that NACSA and other educators have concluded that ALEC is far more trouble than it’s worth.

PFAW

White House Condemns Obstruction of Judicial Nominations

During yesterday's White House press briefing, Press Secretary Jay Carney discussed the vacancy crisis that is plaguing America's federal courts – and the unprecedented obstruction in the Senate that is causing it. When he observed that the pace of confirmations has never been slower, a reporter from Fox News interrupted with the inaccurate statement that the pace is about the same as under the previous two presidents. However, Carney stuck to the facts:

Well, I disagree with that. And we continue to work with the Senate to get qualified nominees confirmed by the Senate as appropriate. We had some progress recently where a number of nominees both to the bench and to the administration were moved forward. And what I think is absolutely the case and indisputable, Wendell, is that we've never had a situation where nominees to whom no serious objection is put forward, nominees who clear committee overwhelmingly, nominees who are absolutely qualified for the post that they've been nominated for, are then held up interminably for political reasons. That's not how it should be. And we've obviously made the case against that kind of highly politicized behavior.

He is correct. It is unprecedented for one party in the Senate to prevent confirmation votes for month after month, delaying consensus nominees who were long ago approved by the Judiciary Committee (usually with overwhelming bipartisan support). The obstruction has become so bad that President Obama's nominees now take more than four times as long on average to get a confirmation vote than was the case with President Bush's confirmed nominees at this point in his presidency. Senate Republicans are making a major effort to obscure this inconvenient truth.

That's why there are now 17 pending nominees who have been approved by the Judiciary Committee who are waiting for a simple up-or-down vote from the Senate. A third of these were nominated to fill vacancies classified as judicial emergencies. More than half – nine of the 17 – are women or people of color whose only crime seems to be that they were nominated by a Democratic president.

Most have been waiting since March or earlier for a simple yes-or-no vote. But they aren't the only ones waiting: So are the people in the communities these nominees would serve. They are waiting year after year for justice to be done, because there are not enough judges available to hear the cases in a reasonable amount of time. Meanwhile, their lives are on hold, while Senate Republicans use them as pawns to score political points.

 

PFAW

All of a Sudden, House GOP Doesn’t Like “Issues that Divide Us”

 The National Journal today reports on the rocky progress of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which for the first time this year has become an object of partisan dispute. Why? The Democratic-backed reauthorization includes new protections for LGBT people, Native Americans and undocumented immigrants who are victims of domestic violence. That bill passed in the Senate despite 31 no votes – all from Republican men.

In response, the House GOP put together an alternate bill that not only axes the new protections recommended by Democrats but eliminates some protections that are already in the bill. Yesterday, the White House threatened to veto the House bill.

Now, the House GOP is playing the victim, accusing Democrats of trying to make them look bad by including things like help for gays and lesbians and undocumented immigrants in the bill:

The Senate version would expand current protections to gay, bisexual, or transgender victims of domestic abuse, subject non-Native American suspects of domestic abuse occurring on reservations to the jurisdiction of tribal courts, and increase temporary visas for victims who are undocumented immigrants. The House bill was amended on Tuesday to allow illegal immigrant “U visa” recipients to receive permanent residence if the perpetrators of the crimes against them are aliens, are convicted of the crimes, and are deported to the visa holders’ home countries.

But Republican leaders have accused Democrats of adding those hot-button issues to intentionally create a fight for political advantage—and lash out at House Republicans for waging a “war against women.” House GOP leaders—including Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia—say they want to stay away from “issues that divide us.”

That’s right. House Republican leaders – who threatened to shut down the government to stop Planned Parenthood funding, who won’t even consider cutting tax loopholes for giant corporations, who continually go out of their way to express their opposition to equal rights for gays and lesbians – are now worried about “issues that divide us.” Like, apparently, protecting gay people, Native Americans and immigrants from domestic abuse.

One “issue that divides us” apparently didn’t turn off some House Republicans. Rep. Morgan Griffith of Virginia offered an amendment to the bill that, according to the National Journal, would provide “help for convicted domestic abusers who want their gun-ownership rights back.” That one, at least, didn’t make it past the Rules Committee.

PFAW

Virginia Rejects Openly Gay Judicial Nominee After Campaign By Far-Right Activists

Virginia’s House of Delegates yesterday rejected the nomination of a state prosecutor to serve as a judge – just because he is openly gay.

Tracy Thorne-Begland, a Navy veteran who has been a prosecutor in Richmond for 12 years, enjoyed bipartisan support in the House of Delegates until, at the last minute, he came under attack from far-right Delegate Bob Marshall and the right-wing Family Foundation. The Richmond Times Dispatch reports:

A late-hour lobbying offensive by social conservatives prevailed in the House of Delegates early Tuesday to torpedo bipartisan support for the judicial nomination of an openly gay Richmond prosecutor.

After a lengthy discussion, the GOP-controlled House of Delegates defeated the nomination of Tracy Thorne-Begland, Richmond's chief deputy commonwealth's attorney. He would have been the first openly gay judge elected in Virginia.

Thorne-Begland received 33 votes, and 31 delegates voted against him. He needed a majority of the 100-member House -- 51 votes -- to secure the judgeship.

….

In an email blast to supporters late last week, the Christian conservative Family Foundation questioned Thorne-Begland's fitness for the bench given his support for gay marriage, which is not legal in Virginia. Thorne-Begland and his partner, Michael, live together and are raising twins.

Marshall, too had charged that Thorne-Begland pursued an "aggressive activist homosexual agenda.

Opponents of gay rights, in their effort to keep LGBT people out of the public square, have in the past few years gone after several openly gay judges and judicial nominees. Supporters of California’s discriminatory Prop 8 tried to get a federal judge’s ruling against them thrown out because the judge is openly gay. Another judge issued an epic takedown of their argument.

A number of Republican delegates in Virginia, as well as the state’s socially conservative governor Bob McDonnell backed Thorne-Begland’s nomination until Del. Marshall began his onslaught.

Del. Marshall is the one who claimed in 2010 that disabled children are God's punishment for abortion. On Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell – a policy that Thorne-Begland worked to end after his distinguished career in the Navy – Marshall said openly gay troops would distract their fellow servicemembers: "It's a distraction when I'm on the battlefield and have to concentrate on the enemy 600 yards away and I'm worried about this guy whose got eyes on me." Once Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed, Del Marshall tried to get gay Virginians banned from the state’s National Guard.

Marshall later told the Washington Post that he objected to Thorne-Begland’s brave coming out in protest of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:

I would guess — law of averages — we’ve probably nominated people who have homosexual inclinations,” Marshall said. Marshall faulted Thorne-Begland for coming out as a gay Naval officer on “Nightline” two decades ago to challenge the military’s now-repealed ban on gays openly serving in the military. He said that amounted not just to insubordination, but to a waste of taxpayer dollars, since it resulted in his dismissal from the Navy. “The Navy spent $1 million training him,” Marshall said. “That’s cheating the country out of the investment in him.”

In the end, it was Del. Marshall’s arguments that won out in the effort to halt the career of a dedicated Virginia public servant.

PFAW

ALEC's Strategy for Tough Questioning: Evade and Reframe

Since ALEC’s agenda has come to light, the organization has found itself playing defense. So far, 14 corporations and numerous member legislators have withdrawn their support in recent weeks as a result of the intense media scrutiny and public campaigns focused on exposing the organization’s extreme policies and shadowy practices. A newly released ALEC internal memo describes how they plan to deal with the endless onslaught of tough questioning from the press and the American people:

Change the subject.

A memo obtained by Common Cause and published by The Huffington Post, instructs ALEC members to essentially ignore tough questions about ALEC’s workings: “The following information is designed to help you navigate away from those tough questions and get back to talking about policy," says the memo, "If you are asked any of these questions, acceptable responses are provided, but please then direct the conversation back to the policy to which you want to discuss."

The memo also provides a few sample questions from the media that ALEC members can expect to face. They are actually pretty good questions:

• Didn't ALEC actually write this legislation in conjunction with private corporations and then convince state legislators to pass it throughout the country?

• Isn't this just a front for big corporations to push their legislative policies on policy makers?

• Isn't this just another way for big corporations to lobby behind closed doors?

• I see the huge cost for private companies and the minimal cost for legislators. Why the difference and doesn't this jus [sic] prove that big corporations run ALEC?

• How much does __________ contribute to ALEC? I've seen figures in the hundreds of thousands. Reports suggest __________ have been contributed to ALEC.

• Isn't it true that Koch (or insert other members' names) provided ALEC over $500,000 in funding over the past few years?

• Your corporate members are the real ones pushing the issues and controlling ALEC, aren't they? They do give the most money.

The suggested answers, on the other hand, are evasive and disingenuous and are designed to help steer the conversation toward a favorable discussion of ALEC policies. But as ALEC has discovered, the much-deserved scrutiny of their operations and agenda won’t be easily shaken.

PFAW

House votes to slam courthouse doors shut to immigration cases

Last month, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Arizona v. United States, a case that will examine key provisions of Arizona’s infamous and draconian immigration law, SB 1070. Sponsored by ALEC member and former Senate President Russell Pearce, and several others with ALEC ties, SB 1070 was developed in close consultation with ALEC and now stands as one of its model bills.

The Department of Justice argues that Arizona unconstitutionally usurped the federal government’s role in enforcing immigration law. PFAW and other opponents cite evidence of wrongful arrests, racial profiling, and discrimination, especially against Latinos and other minorities.

Now efforts are being made in to block court challenges to SB 1070 and similar laws in other states. On May 9, the US House passed Amendment 1063 by a 238-173 vote.

An amendment to prohibit the use of funds to be used by the Attorney General to originate or join in any lawsuit that seeks to overturn, enjoin, or invalidate Immigration Enforcement Laws in Oklahoma, Missouri, Arizona, Utah, Indiana, Alabama, South Carolina, and Georgia.

Note the especially selective list of states, through which anti-immigrant forces seem to be trying to muzzle DOJ only where they approve of the legislation that is (or might be) challenged, showing a profound and dangerous contempt for the rule of law.

As the ACLU put it:

The DOJ’s filing of this lawsuit proves [that] the department takes its role in stopping rampant racial profiling seriously. Congress should support the DOJ’s role in protecting the constitutional rights of those subjected [to] racial profiling, not tie the department’s hands as the House has with the Black amendment. It is now up to the Senate to ensure that the Black amendment doesn’t become law.

Thankfully, it’s likely that the Senate will do just that.

For more information on ALEC’s role with SB 1070 and other controversial bills, check out PFAW Foundation’s report on ALEC in Arizona (and its April 2012 update).

PFAW

YP4 Featured Fellow: Ariel Boone

Young People For (YP4), a program of People For the American Way Foundation, is a year-long leadership development program that helps a diverse set of student leaders turn their idealism into actions that advance social change on their campuses and in their communities. YP4 Fellows design and implement a capstone project called the Blueprint for Social Justice and work on social justice projects of their choosing.

We’ll be highlighting the work of some of our outstanding Fellows here. This week, we’re pleased to introduce Ariel Boone, representing the University of California at Berkeley.

Originally from Davis, CA, Ariel quickly became active in student government and advocacy upon arriving at Cal. She was elected to serve as a senator in the Associated Students of U.C., and also was the Internal Vice President of the largest college political party chapters in California. Her passion for the democratic process began early – she has extensive campaign experience and has been canvassing and phone-banking for various candidates for years. As an advocate, she was a co-chair of the 2011 Western Region LGBTQIA Conference and is active with the CalSERVE (Students for Equal Rights and a Valid Education) coalition, which works to promote civil rights, improve college affordability and other issues facing Cal students.

Seeking to improve fairness and transparency in government, as her Blueprint for Social Justice, Ariel wrote and introduced a bill in the Student Senate that would withdraw the Berkeley Student Government’s $3.5 million treasury out of Bank of America, and encourages the University to do the same. Ariel’s bill passed the Student Senate with unanimous support.

This action was prompted by the growing national effort to get major corporations to refrain from spending their vast treasuries to influence elections. Just last week, the shareholders of Bank of America called on the company to refrain from such spending and strengthen its disclosure practices. People who have a stake in Bank of America and companies like it – from shareholders to 401(k) enrollees and even students at universities like Cal – have a right to know if the corporations they invest in are using those funds to support candidates, causes or attack ads without their knowledge or approval. By withdrawing the Cal Student Government’s funds from Bank of America, students are sending a powerful message: like all Americans, young people are affected by the undue influence that wealthy special interests have in our democratic system, and it is time to do something about it. Ariel’s effort was echoed around the country last week, as students joined demonstrations at various Bank of America branches to add their voices to the call and telling corporations to stop spending money on politics.

You can read Ariel’s article in the Daily Californian about how to enact change by making informed financial decisions here.

PFAW Foundation

In film, Walker talks of 'divide and conquer' union strategy

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (emphasis added):

A filmmaker released a video today that shows Gov. Scott Walker saying he would use "divide and conquer" as a strategy against unions.

Walker made the comments to Beloit billionaire Diane Hendricks, who has since given $510,000 to the governor's campaign -- making her Walker's single-largest donor and the largest known donor to a candidate in state history.

...

In the video shot on Jan. 18, 2011 -- shortly before Walker's controversial budget-repair bill was introduced and spawned mass protests -- Hendricks asked the governor whether he could make Wisconsin a "completely red state, and work on these unions, and become a right-to-work" state. The Republican donor was referring to right-to-work laws, which prohibit private-sector unions from compelling workers to pay union dues if the workers choose not to belong to the union.

Walker replied that his "first step" would be "to divide and conquer" through his budget-adjustment bill, which curtailed most collective bargaining for most public employee unions.

More proof that Walker is working to serve the billionaire ideologues who want to bulldoze every institution set up to protect the public interest against rapacious corporate interests. And this shows, in his own words, how Walker sought to divide Wisconsin workers against each other with his unconscionable smear campaign last year against public employees.

This is why we're going to recall him on June 5!

UPDATE: Here's some video:

PFAW