PEOPLE FOR BLOG

RNC Figures Out the Best Way to Attack Obamacare: Lie

Yesterday, the Republican National Committee released a web ad featuring the voice of Solicitor General Donald Verrilli haltingly defending the Affordable Care Act. After saying that “For more than 80 percent of Americans, the, ah, insurance system does provide effective access,” Verrilli trails off, coughing and stuttering for an incredibly long time.

But as Bloomberg News revealed, the awkward silence isn’t credible. It’s entirely doctored. In the actual audio of the case, Verrilli pauses only briefly before continuing “But for more than 40 million who do not have access to health insurance, either through their employer or through government programs such as Medicare or Medicaid, the system does not work.

Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSblog calls it “the single most classless and misleading thing I’ve ever seen related to the Court,” and he’s right.  But it shouldn’t come as any surprise that this is the tack taken by the GOP. From day one, Republicans decided that the best way to oppose President Obama’s health care reform agenda was by lying about it. Whether it’s about death panels, rationed care or the Solicitor General’ performance before the Supreme Court, Republicans have made clear that there’s no lie they won’t tell in order to damage the president and frustrate his agenda.

After the Citizens United decision, we’ve seen outside groups pushing sleazy “Swift Boat” style attack ads. The fact that the RNC itself chose to push such a blatant lie only underscores how comfortable with dishonesty--and how desperate--the party has become.

Republican leaders, including presidential contenders who hope to lead the party, should renounce these dishonest attacks.

PFAW

Energy Builds Around Recall Effort in Wisconsin

Last year, Wisconsin voters recalled two state senators who had backed Gov. Scott Walker’s attacks on working families. This year, Wisconsinites have put the governor himself up for recall, along with four of his anti-worker allies in the state legislature.

More than a million Wisconsinites signed a petition to get Gov. Walker’s recall on the ballot. If the recall succeeds, it will be the first major victory of 2012 against the Tea Party-controlled GOP.

Polls show that the recall elections, which will likely take place on June 5, are going to be close. Already, right-wing groups are pouring money into the state in an effort to protect Walker: the Republican Governor’s Association released an ad this week attacking two possible Democratic challengers to Walker. And we can expect to see much more where this came from – last year, out of state conservative groups spent millions of dollars to defend Walker’s friends in the legislature.

But the energy behind the recall effort is even stronger. Last year, tens of thousands of Wisconsinites took to the streets to protest Gov. Walkers anti-worker policies and showed up at the polls to vote out two of his supporters.

People For the American Way will be helping to mobilize support for the recalls in Wisconsin in the coming months, through staff on the ground, targeted advertising, and direct voter contact. You can read more about our efforts here.

We’ll be closely following the news out of Wisconsin and posting weekly updates on the PFAW blog.

For information on some of the power players behind Gov. Walker's war on working families and labor rights, check out these clips from the new Robert Greenwald movie, Koch Brothers Exposed.

 

PFAW

Protesting ALEC’s Deadly “Shoot First” Laws

Over 100 activists rallied in Washington DC today to call for justice for Trayvon Martin. The people gathered had another point to make as well: Americans are fed up with ALEC’s pernicious influence in writing pro-corporate legislation and pushing it through state legislatures across the country. Today, outside ALEC’s headquarters, we made sure we were heard.

People For’s Diallo Brooks spoke at the event, calling attention to role ALEC and the NRA played in setting the stage for this tragic situation. While racial profiling may be at the heart of this case, the laws pushed by ALEC at have hampered Trayvon’s family’s ability to seek justice, just as ALEC legislation has done to so many Americans.

 

Here are some additonal photos from the event:

 

 

People For the American Way also signed and delivered a letter to ALEC demanding that they disclose their financial ties to the National Rifle Association and desist from promoting "Shoot First" laws. You can read the letter here.

PFAW Foundation

American Apartheid? The Republican "Dream" Scheme

Originally published atHuffington Post.

The Senate GOP seems to be banking on the assumption that Latino voters are stupid, or don't read the fine print -- or are not paying any attention at all.

Panicking from a series of polls that show their years of bashing Latinos haven't been endearing them to Latino voters, prominent Republicans are scrambling for a solution. They seem to have found one, at least for now, in a new attempt by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to rewrite the DREAM Act, the widely popular bill that the Senate GOP derailed in late 2010.

Rubio has come up with a "non-citizen-for-life" concept as he rejiggers the DREAM Act to make it pretty much dream-free. It's a tough trick: how do you create the illusion of a law that looks like it's giving something to Latinos, but which the Tea Party know means nothing?

The authentic DREAM Act offers a path to citizenship for children who were brought to the country without documentation, who graduate from high school and go on to college or the military, allowing them to create a stable life and give back to the country that they call home. Rubio's dream-free proposal gives these young people a nebulous legalized status, so that rather than become American citizens, they will have permanent second-class status - allowed to live, work and pay taxes in the only country they have ever known, but never permitted the ability to vote or exercise any of the rights of full citizenship.

The real cruelty of this Republican proposal is that it seeks to take advantage of the desperation of some DREAM Act-eligible youth to avoid deportation. The Republican proposal offers them that in the short term, but at the price of second-class status for the rest of their lives.They deserve better. Of course, it doesn't have to be this way: not long ago, before the Tea Party drove the GOP's agenda, the authentic DREAM Act enjoyed the support of many Republicans in the Senate. The GOP has paid the price for abandoning the authentic DREAM Act and promoting numerous anti-immigrant policies. Senate Republicans are living in a fantasy land if they believe they can win back Latino voters by inventing a new second-class status for these young people.

They should take a lesson from history. I went to South Africa over 30 years ago, where the government created many different levels of citizenship as a means to keep an unjust system going in a modern world. In addition to "Whites," different categories of "Blacks," "Coloureds," and "Asians" for South Asians, South Africa had to create the category of "Honorary Whites" to accommodate the Japanese and Chinese. We should learn from the lessons of Apartheid and the dangers of creating different levels of citizenship for different people.

That system, thankfully, has fallen, and it has been rightfully judged an historical disgrace, but if today's Republican Party has considered history at all, they're not learning the right lessons. Instead of pushing towards more equality for all people, they've perfected a method of legalizing discrimination by inventing new classes of citizenship for those on whom they don't want to bestow full rights, creating a unique and disturbing American Apartheid.

Add these new immigrant ersatz citizens to a growing list. Republicans want gay people to have a form of citizenship that doesn't include marriage rights -- and if they had their way gay Americans wouldn't be allowed to serve their country in in the military either. Muslims can be citizens, but must fight legal and PR battles just to exercise their First Amendment right to the freedom of religion. People who have served their time in jail for felonies are citizens - but in many states, they aren't allowed to participate in our democracy by voting. And Republican-controlled state legislatures pass laws that make it harder for young people, the elderly, and low-income people to vote -- again, all citizens, legislated out of one of their fundamental constitutional rights.

For a party that claims to be interested in limiting government, today's GOP is surprisingly eager to create new levels of bureaucracy for the sole purpose of depriving some Americans of their rights. Whatever happened to simple? How about an America with equal rights and equal justice for all and a fair path to citizenship for hard-working people who play by the rules?

With the new dream-free DREAM Act, Republicans are trying to create one of their patented new levels of citizenship while pulling a fast one on Latinos and others who care about the fate of immigrants. The problem is, American voters are smarter than they give us credit for - and we know when they're trying to fool us.

PFAW

Activists to Rally at ALEC HQ in Honor of Trayvon Martin

Tomorrow, activists and progressive organizations will descend on the headquarters of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in Washington, DC to protest the NRA-designed “Shoot First” laws that ALEC has shopped to state legislatures around the country. As Calvin posted earlier this week, “When politicians enact ALEC legislation that benefits corporations, real people suffer the consequences. The results are tragic:”

 

 

(Source:  Data issued by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement)

 

Information for the rally is below, and pictures will be posted after the event.

WHAT: Rally in Washington, DC, to protest the ALEC campaign to pass the "Shoot First" laws that protect Trayvon Martin's shooter, and delivery of letter to ALEC headquarters demanding disclosure of NRA funding and immediate cessation of “Shoot First” legislative advocacy:

WHEN: Thursday, March 29, 2012 at Noon

WHERE: ALEC Headquarters, 1100 Vermont Ave., NW Washington, DC

SPEAKERS:

Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL); Hilary Shelton, NAACP; Marc Morial, National Urban League; Rashad Robinson, ColorOfChange; Lisa Graves, CMD/ALECexposed; Mike Livingston, National Council of Churches; Diallo Brooks, People For the American Way; Doug Clopp, Common Cause.

PFAW Foundation

Roberts Court Limits Privacy Act Protections

This morning, in FAA v. Cooper, the five arch-conservatives engaged in Olympic-quality legal gymnastics to find a way – any way – to limit individuals' ability to sue for the damages they suffer when the federal government illegally releases personal information about them. The case involves a man whose HIV status and sexual orientation, which he had been concealing for years, was unlawfully revealed by the Social Security Administration to other parts of the federal government, leading to the public exposure he had been desperate to avoid.

Congress passed the Privacy Act of 1974 to safeguard people's privacy against government invasion. The law has a number of very detailed requirements for the management of records held by federal government agencies, specifically to prevent release of private information that could result in "substantial harm, embarrassment, inconvenience, or unfairness to any individual." Note the fact that preventing embarrassment is specifically mentioned as a key goal of the statute, something that would be obvious even if not stated outright in a law designed to protect personal privacy.

To give the law teeth, Congress gave people the ability to sue the government for violations of the law, allowing them to collect "actual damages." In general, "actual damages" means any damages actually suffered, as opposed to damages that are based on conjecture or damages intended to punish the wrongdoer. Using common sense, the way the term is usually interpreted, the purpose of the statute, and Black's Law Dictionary definition, "actual damages" includes the damages that you suffer due to mental and emotional distress.

But the usual five-justice right wing majority, in an opinion written by Justice Alito, ruled that Congress meant for "actual damages" to include only pecuniary damages. So even though the law gives safeguards explicitly designed to prevent embarrassment, you can't sue over the embarrassment the statute was designed in part to prevent.

To reach this result, the majority grasped onto the fact that in some instances, involving different areas of the law and specific contexts not present here, the term "actual damages" has sometimes been defined to include only pecuniary damages. Therefore, they ruled, that casts doubt on what Congress intended in the Privacy Act, and that, in turn triggers a need to turn to all sorts of canons of statutory interpretation to figure out the meaning.

One of those canons states that a waiver of sovereign immunity [the government's right not to be sued without its consent] will not be read into a statute unless it is unequivocally expressed. Since the majority had manufactured doubt about what Congress meant by "actual damages," they ruled that Congress had not meant to allow Privacy Act lawsuits in cases where the only damages are emotional.

Justices Sotomayor wrote the dissent, which Justices Ginsburg and Breyer joined. (Justice Kagan was recused). As she wrote:

After today, no matter how debilitating and substantial the resulting mental anguish, an individual harmed by a federal agency's intentional or willful violation of the Privacy Act will be left without a remedy unless he or she is able to prove pecuniary harm. That is not the result Congress intended when it enacted an Act with the express purpose of safeguarding individual privacy against Government invasion. And it is not a result remotely suggested by anything in the text, structure, or history of the Act.

 

PFAW Foundation

Sekulow Feigns Outrage at Challenge to Conservative Justices

PFAW Senior Fellow Jamie Raskin went on Fox News last night to discuss the Supreme Court oral arguments on the Affordable Care Act with Sean Hannity and the American Center for Law & Justice’s Jay Sekulow. Unsurprisingly, Sen. Raskin didn’t get much time to make his case before he was hit with a wave of faux outrage from Sekulow and Hannity.

The subject of the outrage? Sen. Raskin had called some of the conservative justices’ questions “weak” – which somehow for Sekulow turned into “attacking the integrity of justices of the United States.”

The conversation starts about five minutes into this clip:

Sekulow’s attempt at outrage is rather stunning, since his organization, the ACLJ, exists in a large part to rail against the motivations – or, if you will, the “integrity” -- of judges and justices with whom he disagrees. When the 9th Circuit ruled in favor of marriage equality, he slammed it as “another example of an activist judiciary that overreached.” When the Senate was considering then-appeals court judge Sonia Sotomayor for her seat on the Supreme Court, Sekulow said, "To call her a judicial activist is an insult to judicial activists."

Sekulow has every right to criticize justices and judges with whom he disagrees. But he doesn’t exactly have the high ground for slamming those who offer mild criticism of questions conservative justices ask in oral arguments.

For more on Jamie Raskin’s analysis of the health care case, read his piece in the Huffington Post yesterday.

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PFAW

PFAW’s Jamie Raskin Discusses Health Care Arguments at Supreme Court on MSNBC

People For the American Way Senior Fellow Jamie Raskin joined Ed Schultz last night to discuss Tuesday’s Supreme Court arguments on the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. Watch:

Yesterday, Sen. Raskin discussed the case in more detail in the Huffington Post.

PFAW

Fight for immigration equality extends to the customs line

In other immigration news, US Customs and Border Protection is working to eliminate the discrimination faced by LGBT couples and families who currently aren’t recognized when they go through the customs line.

When you get a customs form, it clearly states, “only ONE written declaration per family is required.” An opposite-sex couple or a family led by an opposite-sex couple only has to fill out that single form. But if a same-sex couple or LGBT-led family goes through the line, they’re stopped, separated, and forced to fill out two forms.

In June 2011, Mihail – a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Pakistan – and Scott entered the U.S. following a European trip. They filled out one customs form, “since it states that only one form is needed for each family,” said Mihail. The customs officer asked why they had only completed one form, and when they replied they were domestic partners registered in the state of California, the officer said, “The federal government doesn’t recognize that.”

“Scott and I met the qualifications on the customs form, including a shared address, yet the federal government refused to recognize us as a family,” said Lari. “After waiting years for citizenship because federal law would not allow Scott to sponsor me, we were then faced with the reality that, even after I naturalized, we were still not family in our government’s eyes."

Such demeaning treatment is hardly an appropriate way to welcome people back to America. New regulations have just been released that, following a series of reviews, will correct this inequity and eliminate the “double” standard. A coalition including Immigration Equality and Family Equality Council was instrumental in bringing about this change.

PFAW applauds their work and CBP’s recognition that “gay families [are] ‘real families,’ too.”

PFAW

Disturbing Campaign Literature in Maryland

The anti-gay National Organization for Marriage is being widely condemned as Americans learn from previously secret organizational documents the lengths it is willing to go in order to turn one community of Americans against another. This week, campaign literature from one of NOM's allies in the fight against equality, Maryland state senator Anthony Muse, is raising questions as to whether he is using similar methods himself.

Muse, an African American minister in the Washington suburbs, is challenging Sen. Ben Cardin in a Democratic primary election next week. Cardin is Jewish. Maryland Juice has posted a copy of a Muse sample ballot reportedly being distributed at some early voting centers that seems to indirectly make Cardin's religion an issue. The second page notes the underrepresentation of African Americans and other people of color, but also seems to go out of its way to imply there are too many Jews in the Senate.

What legitimate reason is there to include a count of Jews in this tally, when there is no count of any other religious group? Noting that Jews are 12% of the Senate but only 1.8% of the population seems designed to stoke unwarranted and dangerous resentment among voters who are justifiably frustrated that there are no African Americans in the U.S. Senate today.

PFAW Foundation

Standing up for the freedom to marry, access to healthcare, and immigration equality

Judge Jeffrey White of the Northern District of California, a Bush nominee, ruled last month against the federal-recognition component of the Defense of Marriage Act, saying:

The Court has found that DOMA unconstitutionally discriminates against same-sex married couples.

In so doing, Judge White ruled in favor of Karen Golisnki, a Ninth Circuit staff attorney, who had sought the enrollment of her wife, Amy Cunninghis, in her existing family coverage health insurance plan with Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Now the spousal coverage can be granted.

In compliance with that Order, OPM hereby withdraws any outstanding directive regarding the enrollment of Ms. Golinski’s wife, Amy C. Cunninghis, in her family health benefits plan. Please implement an expeditious enrollment of Ms. Cunninghis, pursuant to the Standard Form 2809 dated September 2, 2008 as supplemented by this letter and consistent with the Court’s Order of February 22, 2012.

Judge White’s ruling is consistent with previous rulings and marks yet another step forward in the fight for the freedom to marry. Though applying only to Karen and Amy, it’s a strong statement that legally married couples shouldn’t have to go to court in order to access healthcare. (Click here to learn about the backlash.)

It’s also the latest sign that conservatives in Congress have a tough road ahead in their political push to keep DOMA on the books. On Monday, Representative Jerrold Nadler and the other lead sponsors of the Respect for Marriage Act sent a letter to Speaker Boehner asking that he abandon his defense of DOMA.

At a time when families are struggling to make ends meet and asking Congress to focus on jobs, the economy, and federal spending, all Members should be concerned that taxpayers dollars are being used to pay costly legal fees to make arguments that lack adequate factual or legal support, in pursuit of a law that is not worthy of a defense.

Senator Patrick Leahy is also taking a stand.

I am confident that justice and fairness will prevail in the end. Our Nation is too noble and our sense of liberty too strong to tolerate injustice without end. I am heartened by the progress that we are seeing across the country. Public consciousness is evolving, and will reach the point at which discrimination based on sexual orientation becomes another sad relic of our past. I believe we will look back at these prejudices with disappointment and regret, just as we have at other points in our history. But the capacity of our Nation to evolve and progress is a defining characteristic of the American spirit. And the American people ultimately come to reject that which is fundamentally unfair and unjust.

Senator Leahy is the lead sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act, a bill that would allow same-sex “permanent partners” to be united legally through the US immigration process, making them eligible for green cards and immigrant visas. To protect against abuse, UAFA imposes the same penalties for immigration fraud as those currently imposed on married heterosexual couples – and in some cases sets the bar higher for same-sex couples.

Frances Herbert and Takako Ueda, two of Senator Leahy’s constituents, are legally married in Vermont. But Frances cannot sponsor Takako for immigration because they are not married under the eyes of the federal government. After over a decade together, DOMA repeal and, short of that, UAFA are the only ways to ensure that this loving couple is not torn apart or forced to live in a permanent state of uncertainty.

Please support Frances and Takako. And Tim and Edwin. And Michael and Gordon. Then take a moment to add your name to PFAW's petition urging Congress to Dump DOMA and end this unconstitutional, discriminatory policy once and for all.

PFAW

Analysis of the Roberts Court's 2011-12 Term

This piece originally appeared on Huffington Post.

Eric Segall, a professor of constitutional law at Georgia State University, has just written a provocative book called Supreme Myths: Why the Supreme Court Is Not a Court and Its Justices Are Not Judges. The thesis is that the Supreme Court, unbound by any court above it, unfastened by the vagueness of constitutional text, and uninhibited by the gift of life tenure, operates like a freewheeling political "veto council" and not like any court that we would recognize as doing judicial work. Professor Segall challenges the legitimacy of the Court's decisions and essentially mounts an attack on the whole institution of constitutional judicial review except where the text of the Constitution is perfectly plain and clear.

It is easy to share Professor Segall's exasperation these days, but his argument is not wholly convincing. It understates how often our other courts--federal appeals and district courts and state courts--operate in a political vein and how often they too find themselves in deep ideological conflict. It also understates how clear, coherent, and logical the Warren Court was when it interpreted even vague constitutional language, like "equal protection" or "freedom of speech." Yet, Segall's clarion call to roll back judicial review today will be read by conservative judges as an invitation to negate and undo essential lines of doctrinal development that began in the Warren Court, especially the "right to privacy" decisions under Due Process, like Griswold v. Connecticut and Roe v. Wade, which Professor Segall in no uncertain terms asserts were wrongly decided.

The claim that the Supreme Court is "not a court" distracts us from what is truly at issue today. The Supreme Court is a court alright--indeed, it is the most powerful court in America, perhaps the world, and there's not much getting around that. It takes cases and controversies, writes opinions that refer to precedents and principles, and operates with the full panoply of constitutional powers reserved to the judiciary. The problem is that it is not a court committed to the rights of the people or to strong democracy unencumbered by corporate power. Indeed, it acts with most energy vindicating the rights of the powerful and the unjust. Alas, this hardly makes it an outlier in American history.

With its 2010 decision in Citizens United, the Roberts-led Court essentially cemented the institution's return to a class-bound right-wing judicial activism. Just as the Supreme Court went to war against social reform and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal in the 1930s, just as it nullified the meaning of Equal Protection in sanctifying "separate but equal" in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, just as it expressed the Supreme Court's pro-slavery and racist jurisprudence in the Dred Scott decision in 1857, the Citizens United decision secured the contemporary Court's unfolding legacy as the unabashed champion of corporate power and class privilege.

The 2011-2012 Supreme Court Term

Several cases currently on the Court's docket will tell us whether the Roberts Court will accelerate its assault on public policies that advance the rights and welfare of the vast majority of "natural persons" in the country. Consider:

Legal War on "Obamacare": Health Care Reform and the Contractible Commerce Clause: Of course, the blockbuster of the Term is the cluster of cases that the Court is hearing on the constitutionality of Obamacare. There are two principal challenges to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The first, and certainly the one with the most political traction on the GOP campaign trail, is the claim that Congress has exceeded its Commerce Clause powers by compelling taxpayers to buy themselves health insurance or else pay a penalty in the program. However, the political ubiquity of this claim contrasts sharply with its feather-like legal force. Commerce Clause jurisprudence is replete with cases of Congress regulating national economic policy by compelling individuals to take actions that they would prefer not to take, such as serving customers in their restaurant that they don't want to serve or recognizing a union in their factory and reinstating workers who they fired for organizing it (see my Report for PFAW Foundation, The True Spirit of the Union: How the Commerce Clause Helped Build America and why the Corporate Right Wants to Shrink It Today, for a detailed accounting).

The ACA comes well within Congress's broad authority to address issues of national importance that affect the lives of millions of people moving and working in the streams of interstate commerce. Despite recent efforts by conservative Justices to constrict Congress's powers under the Commerce Clause, the vast majority of lawyers still believe that such powers are expansive and will be upheld even by the Roberts Court. An ABA poll of legal academics, journalists, and lawyers that allowed respondents to remain anonymous showed that fully 85% believe that the Court will uphold the ACA in full, and with a 6-3 vote seen as the most likely outcome. While the Supreme Court in the Citizens United era has been ready and willing to ignore precedent and defy logic in order to achieve its political goals, this law is so mainstream that even they are not expected to do so in this case.

The second challenge, a bit of a sleeper that saw little success in lower courts but now fascinates conservative lawyers, is that Congress has exceeded its powers under the Spending Clause and violated federalism by tying too many strings to federal Medicaid funding and thereby "coercing" states into accepting federal policies. The idea is that Medicaid has grown so big and pervasive that any conditions attached to it constitute a kind of Godfather offer that the states simply cannot refuse. From a doctrinal standpoint, the claim is somewhere between unlikely and silly, which is why no federal law or program has ever been found to unconstitutionally coerce the states under the Spending Clause . Experts in the ABA poll mentioned above predict that this outlandish argument will be rejected in an 8-1 split. A decision to strike down the ACA on this basis would be a stunning development indeed. As with the Commerce Clause issue, a decision to strike down the Medicaid expansion as unconstitutionally coercive would be recognized instantly as an exercise of political will rather than legal judgment.

Of course, should the Court uphold the ACA, as expected by most lawyers, that should not distract anyone from the damage it is doing in other ways, from the constitutional glorification of corporate political power to the continuing erosion of public health, environmental and workplace standards.

Immigration Law: the Arizona Case: Arizona v. United States addresses Arizona's efforts to develop and enforce an immigration law all its own. The statute in question provides law enforcement officers with the power to arrest someone without a warrant based on probable cause to believe that the person committed a deportable act. It also makes it a criminal offense for an undocumented immigrant to apply for a job without valid immigration papers. This presents a clear case of a law that is preempted by federal laws governing and defining U.S. immigration policy, which is committed by the Naturalization Clause of the Constitution to Congress. This case should offer no dilemma for conservatives on the Court, who almost always side with the Executive branch in preemption controversies relating to national security, police enforcement and immigration law. However, underlying all of the debate is legislation hostile to one of America's most scapegoated populations, the undocumented, and that political reality may change the legal calculus.

Attack on Labor Unions: From the repressive "labor injunctions" of the late-19th and early 20th-centuries to the Supreme Court's decisions undermining the right to organize during the New Deal, periods of judicial reaction have always included judicial assaults on the rights of labor to organize unions and fight for their interests. This period is no different, and the Supreme Court has given itself an opportunity, probably irresistible to the five conservative Justices, to take another whack at labor this Term. The case is Knox v. SEIU. It poses the question whether public sector unions must notify members of the union's political expenditures every time they happen so that employees who pay union agency fees to the union for purposes of collective bargaining only may demand a proportional rebate in advance for political expenditures. Or, alternatively, does it suffice to give an annual budgetary statement with notice of political expenditures and invite the "objectors" to seek a rebate at that point? The case, fairly frivolous on its face, but deadly serious in its political mission and reception on the Roberts Court, is obviously designed to further hobble unions and render them ineffectual political actors. The irony is that, through decisions like Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977) and Communication Workers of America v. Beck (1988), the Court has granted muscular rights and powers to dissenting union members that are totally undreamed-of when it comes to dissenting corporate shareholders. Company shareholders who object to corporate political expenditures have no right to a proportional rebate of their corporate shares, much less that they must be told of such corporate treasury political expenditures in advance. While defenders of the Court's decision in the Citizens United case love to observe that the decision opened the floodgates not just on corporate treasury money but on union treasury money too (as if the two were comparable!), they never follow through and make the obvious point that corporate shareholders should, therefore, enjoy the same rebate rights against "compelled speech" as union members presently enjoy. In any event, the war on unions continues and accelerates, with the Supreme Court poised again to undercut the political effectiveness of public sector labor unions, the last meaningful bulwark of labor solidarity in America.

The Surprising Early Return of College Affirmative Action to the Court:
In Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the Supreme Court has, surprisingly, decided to review its holding in Grutter v. Bollinger and explore dismantling what remains of affirmative action in the next Term. The 2003 Grutter decision preserved a soft form of affirmative action at the college and university level for young people who belong to racial and ethnic minority groups, but only for a period that Justice Sandra Day O'Connor suggested would be 25 years. Now, just nine years later, the ruling bloc is ominously poised to wipe out affirmative action entirely, a prospect we must judge a rather likely prospect given the Court's express loathing of progressive race-conscious measures and its brazen disregard for the original meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment, whose framers clearly contemplated such measures. Justices Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Roberts insist that the Equal Protection Clause compels government to be "color-blind" even if seeks to remedy the effects of historical and continuing racism. This rhetorical gloss is a fundamental distortion of the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment, whose framers clearly championed race-conscious measures, like the Freedmen's Bureau, to assist the historical victims of racism. The current project of using the Equal Protection Clause against racial and ethnic minorities seeks to deny any relationship between historical and present-day discrimination and continuing inequalities of opportunity.

Conclusion

The Supreme Court is, of course, still a court, no matter how much certain Justices behave like partisans. Yet, the Court's ideological politics are in full swing these days as the 5-4 conservative majority fleshes out one-sided doctrines in areas from corporate political rights to corporate commercial speech rights to affirmative action to Congressional power to union rights. This is a Court that almost always chooses corporate power over democratic politics and popular freedoms. In a Court of logic and precedent, a Court without aversion to the channels of popular democracy, the challenge to Obamacare would be a total non-starter. But here we are again, waiting to see whether the Court will follow the path of justice or the path of power.

Jamin Raskin is an American University Law Professor, Maryland State Senator and People For the American Way Senior Fellow.

PFAW

PFAW Rallies to Uphold Healthcare Law

PFAW staff and supporters joined the throngs of supporters of the Affordable Care Act outside the Supreme Court today, while the Justices were hearing the second day of arguments on the constitutionality of the law.

Hundreds of activists chanted and carried signs supporting ObamaCare. For so many Americans, the ACA is the difference between receiving potentially lifesaving healthcare services and being denied for a preexisting condition or being financially devastated by an unexpected illness.

The ACA is a practical and constitutional approach to a solving a pressing national problem, and the Supreme Court should uphold the law.

 

 

 

 

PFAW

PFAW Rallies for Corporate Political Spending Disclosure at SEC

PFAW joined a group of bipartisan organizations and public figures at a rally outside the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in Washington today to demand that the agency use its authority to require publicly-traded corporations to disclose their political spending. Currently, corporations can use their treasuries to spend unlimited amounts to influence our elections – but that money belongs to the corporation’s investors. If you’re one of the millions of Americans with a 401 (k) or similar retirement account, it could be your money being spent for political purposes without your knowledge or approval.

That’s why disclosure is so important. Democracy depends on transparency, and until we can pass a constitutional amendment to undo the harmful effects of Citizens United and related cases that have helped to bring on the current crisis in our elections, a SEC rule requiring corporate disclosure is a powerful start. At the rally, themed “Wake up SEC,” pro-democracy groups made the case that the SEC needs to do its job and protect Americans from the undue influence of wealthy corporations and special interests. The American people are increasingly alarmed by the effects of money in politics, and we need a regulatory agency that is not asleep at the switch.

To make the point, over 75,000 people sent letters to the SEC in support of the proposed rule.

 

 

 

PFAW

Undoing the Affordable Health Care Act Would Be…Unhealthy

On the second anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Health Care Act, the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments against its constitutionality, even though legal experts from across the ideological spectrum have concluded the Act is constitutional. Now, Americans who have been helped by the health care reform are speaking out in favor of the law.

The Affordable Health Care Act most effectively addressed three major systemic problems in American healthcare: frequent, unjustified rate hikes, discrimination against Americans suffering from pre-existing conditions, and young Americans losing coverage once they become ineligible for their parents’ insurance plan.

Prior to the Affordable Health Care Act: insured Americans spent around $1,000 caring for uninsured Americans, and paid skyrocketing premiums; insurance companies were allowed to deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, including children; young adults, the group most unlikely to have health coverage, was ineligible to stay on their parents’ insurance plan.

And after Obama signed the Affordable Health Care Act? Up to $1.4 million in rebates could be distributed to as many as 9 million Americans, upwards of 17 million children suffering from pre-existing medical conditions could not be denied coverage, and 2.5 million young adults became eligible to remain on their parents’ health care plan until age 26.

By 2014, every American will access health care regardless of their employment status. Fast forward to 2019, and middle-class Americans are expected to save $2,000 dollars based on the Affordable Health Care Act’s provisions. The budget deficit is supposed to decrease by $127 billion between now and 2021

As long as the Affordable Health Care Act remains law.

If the Supreme Court does not strike down “Obamacare,” small businesses can receive tax credits to insure employees, 45 million women can easily access basic preventative care such as contraception and mammograms, and incentives for annual physician visits increase. And that’s just icing on top of the reform cake.

Or, the Supreme Court could declare the Act unconstitutional (an extremely unlikely, but nonetheless concerning possibility). In Massachusetts, Gale’s son with cystic fibrosis is not necessarily eligible for his parents’ health care plan anymore. Alice from Colorado has to start travelling to Mexico to fill her monthly insulin prescription again. And in Florida, Terry’s daughter might not survive a disease that attacks the arteries branching from her Aorta, so she most likely won’t become an elementary school teacher.

PFAW