PEOPLE FOR BLOG

Dolores Huerta: My Message to the National Organization for Marriage

 

By Dolores Huerta

I am a proud Latina and a proud supporter of LGBT rights.

The National Organization for Marriage seems to think I can’t be both.
In a 2009 strategy document that was made public last month, NOM outlines a “wedge” strategy to drive black and Latino Americans away from supporting gay rights. About Latinos, NOM writes, “Will the process of assimilation to the dominant Anglo culture lead Hispanics to abandon traditional family values? We can interrupt this process of assimilation by making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity.”

There are many great values that can be put forward as “key badges of Latino identity.” Opposition to gay rights should not be one of them. In fact, if NOM wants to keep Latinos from embracing LGBT equality, they’re already falling behind. A poll late last year found that a majority of Latinos – like a majority of all Americans – support legal recognition of same-sex unions. Opposition to LGBT rights is no more a hallmark of Latino culture than it is of American culture as a whole.

This is the deep cynicism of NOM and other groups that devote themselves to stopping equality for gay and lesbian Americans. They will attempt to exploit and inflame existing prejudices and fears in order to reach the ends they desire. They forget that the people they attempt to exploit have our own thoughts, opinions and experiences. We have our own relationships with God. We have gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender friends and family members. And we know when we’re being used. Nom should learn what Latinos live by, the words of the great Mexican President Benito Juarez, “Respecting the rights of others is Peace.”

NOM’s attempt to stir up mutual resentment between African Americans, Latinos and the gay community echoes some of the most destructive politics of our past. That they are resorting to this kind of dangerous and divisive tactic shows just how desperate the anti-gay movement has become.

NOM’s mistake is to think that our cultural identity is a definition of who we are not and whom we are against. But of course, our identities are definitions of who we are and what we love. Latinos across America are embracing equal rights for our gay and lesbian friends and family. Those of us who support LGBT equality haven’t abandoned our Latino identity. We’re embracing the values that define who we are as individuals, as Latinos and as Americans.

Dolores Huerta is a member of the board of People For the American Way.

PFAW

Emergencies Among Pending Nominations Increase By a Third

As noted yesterday, the number of judicial emergencies is skyrocketing. This week, the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts formally re-classified seven current vacancies as judicial emergencies, meaning that there are so many cases and so few judges, that the courts are no longer able to get their work done in an acceptable amount of time. With 39 such emergencies, this is putting an unacceptable strain on an already stressed court system.

That means that of the 21 nominees being held up on the floor because Republicans will not allow a timely vote, twelve are for judicial emergencies, an increase from nine at the start of the week.

This should be a wake-up call to Senate Republicans.

In Ohio, Jeffrey Helmick has been waiting since March 8 for a confirmation vote. When the two parties reached an agreement on a schedule of confirmation votes last month, Republicans would not allow Helmick to have a vote before May 7, the end of the agreement period. With his seat newly recognized as an emergency, the time to hold a vote is now, not next month or two months from now.

In Arkansas, Kristine Baker has been waiting even longer, since February 16. Her nomination was part of the agreement, but she is unlikely to be allowed a vote until the final day, May 7. Perhaps their fellow Republican, Sen. John Boozman, will impress upon his party leaders the importance of resolving the emergency in his state. At Baker's confirmation hearing before the Judiciary Committee, he testified that "her extensive experience and her impressive background unanimously qualify her for the position of district [court] judge."

Michigan's Gershwin Drain is the third pending nominee for a seat reclassified as an emergency. He was approved by the Judiciary Committee on March 29. If Republicans allowed prompt votes on district court nominations soon after committee approval as they did under President Bush, Drain would have been confirmed by now.

Because of Republicans' partisan obstruction of highly qualified judicial nominees, more and more Americans are learning first hand that justice delayed is justice denied.

 

PFAW

PFAW Supports the U.S. Justice Department in Arizona v. United States

This morning, the Supreme Court heard the oral arguments of Arizona v. United States, a case that will examine key provisions of Arizona’s infamous and draconian immigration law, SB 1070. If implemented, the law, colloquially known as the ‘show me your papers bill,’ would lead to the unjust targeting of Arizonans through racial profiling and increased jail sentencing.

Because of SB 1070’s blatant assault on civil liberties, much of the nation was shocked by its passage. The United States challenged it in court, arguing that the state was unconstitutionally encroaching on the federal government’s responsibility for immigration law. Four sections of the bill were blocked by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton of Phoenix on July 28, 2010. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld Bolton’s ruling, and after Arizona appealed that decision, the case arrived at the Supreme Court, which has chosen to address yet another politically polarizing issue in this critical election year. Although the threat to the basic rights of people – both citizens and immigrants – is the subject of significant concern, the legal issue before the Supreme Court today addresses whether Arizona’s effort to make life so miserable for immigrants that they leave the state is preempted by federal law.

Below is an analysis of the legislation that People For the American Way published when participating in a statewide boycott of Arizona following the passage of the legislation nearly two years ago.

Question: How does the Arizona law, S.B. 1070, expand racial profiling? Isn't it focused only on migrant workers?

Answer: Under current law, state-local police are authorized to enforce federal immigration laws only in limited circumstances. Even so, law enforcement in Arizona and across the country already is challenged by substantial evidence of wrongful arrests, racial profiling, and discrimination. The new law would dramatically expand the problem. Specifically, the new law:

• Increases the scope of those enforcing immigration laws from a few police departments, or units within departments, to every single law enforcement officer in the entire state.

• Expands the population at risk of being stopped, arrested, and detained from a limited number – those targeted by bona fide immigration enforcement operations, or those already in police custody – to everyone who comes into contact with a law enforcement officer who has a "reasonable suspicion" someone may be undocumented.

• Virtually guarantees that Latinos and other minorities will be asked to provide proof of legal residency, and be subject to arrest and detention if they cannot do so, at far higher rates than non-minorities. Research on racial profiling shows that, not only do minority drivers experience more traffic stops than non-minority drivers, once stopped, minorities are subject to higher rates of searches, arrests, and formal charges than similarly-situated non-minority drivers.

• Provides powerful incentives for wrongful arrests, racial profiling, and other abuse by creating a private right of action against any agency that fails to uphold the new law's provisions, while at the same time indemnifying police officers from litigation brought by those who are wrongfully detained or racially profiled.

Demonstrations in support of the U.S. Justice Department took place this morning, and PFAW staff were able to attend in solidarity.

End Note: Another controversial aspect of SB 1070 is the role that ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, played in adopting the bill as model legislation and pushing it in states across the country. For an analysis of the ALEC connection and SB 1070, please read our report on ALEC in Arizona released in November 2011, “ALEC IN ARIZONA: The Voice of Corporate Special Interests in the Halls of Arizona's Legislature” and the Center for Media and Democracy’s blog post on the issue.

PFAW

ALEC Confirms Shift to Economic Focus Just a PR Move

Responding to pressure from consumers who don’t want the companies they do business with to support an extreme agenda, 13 major corporations have withdrawn their membership from ALEC. The organization has been under pressure from activists outraged at ALEC’s support for draconian immigration policies, vote-suppressing legislation and gun laws like “Stand Your Ground."

 Last week, ALEC released a statement saying that it was disbanding the Public Safety and Elections Task Force responsible for turning these extreme policies into law, instead claiming that the organization would be shifting its focus back to economic issues:

“We are refocusing our commitment to free-market, limited government and pro-growth principles, and have made changes internally to reflect this renewed focus.

“We are eliminating the ALEC Public Safety and Elections task force that dealt with non-economic issues, and reinvesting these resources in the task forces that focus on the economy. The remaining budgetary and economic issues will be reassigned.”

We were skeptical that the decision was anything more than a savvy PR move – and now an ALEC member has confirmed it. This move was just a stunt; the Public Safety and Elections Task Force’s whole portfolio will be reassigned to another committee, according Republican State Rep. Jerry Madden of Texas, the Task Force’s former chair: 

Republican State Rep. Jerry Madden of Texas chairs the Public Safety Task Force and although he is disappointed the committee is disbanding, he said many of the issues will be transferred to other committees.

"ALEC's decision won't impact the important issues we've worked on," Madden told The Christian Post"But I will say this, these groups are targeting ALEC because when conservatives get together, we influence state and federal policy in a major way and these groups are scared of us – and should be."

Considering the ever-growing list of corporations and legislators who have deserted the organization in recent weeks, maybe it’s ALEC that should be worried.

One such defector, State Representative Ted Vick of South Carolina told Ed Schultz his reasons for resigning:

“It started moving to the right and getting very extreme…right now if they continue to do the Right-Wing thing they are doing and pushing agendas that have nothing to do with more efficient government, then it doesn’t have a place in politics in my opinion, and that’s why I’m resigning.”

 

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PR stunt aside, the fact remains that ALEC’s core agenda is just as extreme and dangerous. Somehow, ALEC’s “jobs agenda” still manages to include attacks on working families, the environment, women, public education – the list goes on. As PFAW president Michael Keegan stated,

The true economic consequences of the ALEC agenda – which includes privatizing public resources such as schools and prisons, dismantling unions and stacking the deck against average people who try to seek justice in a court of law – is that wealthy special interests get even richer while the rest of us are left in the dust. ALEC believes in job creation – unless job elimination is better for the bottom line of a few corporations.

PFAW Foundation

Victim of James O’Keefe’s Voter Fraud Isn’t Buying It

In early April, after she went to cast her ballot in Washington, DC, NBC Latino contributor Alicia Menendez found out that someone else had also tried to cast a ballot in her name. The perpetrator was an ally of right-wing activist James O’Keefe, who has been traveling the country trying to trick Americans into thinking widespread voter identity fraud exists by committing it himself.
Menendez writes that the attempted fraud felt like a personal “violation.” But she’s not buying O’Keefe’s scare tactics:

So why are O’Keefe & company pushing a solution in search of a problem? In 2008, a wave of inspired first-time voters flocked to the polls. That level of participation and infusion of enthusiasm is good for our democracy, regardless of how those Americans vote. But some people couldn’t abide the candidates the voters chose, and so they are trying desperately to keep a similar surge of new voters from voting this year.

O’Keefe and the people who fund groups like his want to stop people who traditionally vote against their candidates, almost all Republicans, from voting at all. To do that, they are trying to re-raise the barriers to voting that we tore down in the civil rights era. They are trying to scare us into believing that there is a massive wave of “voter fraud” sweeping the country. I will not be scared into believing their myths and neither should you.

There is something honest here though: they honestly do not understand why more people don’t try to commit voter fraud. That’s because voter suppression fraud — the kind where you keep people who don’t vote your way from voting at all — has been a standard part of their playbook for years.

For more on the “voter fraud” fraud, see People For the American Way’s report, The Right to Vote Under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box.
 

PFAW

Judicial Emergencies Skyrocket

Yesterday, as part of the agreement on 14 judicial nominations reached between the parties last month, Republicans allowed the Senate to hold a confirmation vote for Brian Wimes, nominee for a district court judgeship in Missouri. Wimes was forced to wait four months for a vote on his nomination, which was finally approved by an overwhelming 92-1 vote.  At this pace we are losing ground.  This morning, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts announced that the number of judicial emergencies has skyrocketed to 39. With this reminder that our federal court system is in a state of crisis, there is no reason to keep putting off long-stalled votes that could be held today.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy spoke on the Senate floor yesterday about the situation:

The Senate is still so far this year only considering judicial nominations that could and should have been confirmed last year. We will conclude the first four months of this year having only considered judicial nominees who should have been confirmed before recessing last December. We have yet to get to any of the nominees we should be considering this year because of Republican objections to proceeding more promptly.

With nearly one in 10 judgeships across the Nation vacant, the judicial vacancy rate remains nearly twice what it was at this point in the first term of President George W. Bush ...

That is because of the needless delays in holding confirmation votes. At this point in Bush's term, the Senate voted on his confirmed district court nominees an average of 22 days after they cleared committee. But due to GOP obstruction, that period leaps more than fourfold to 96 days for President Obama's district court nominees. As noted above, Brian Wimes was forced to wait 130 days before his nearly unanimous confirmation vote yesterday.

When the two parties reached their agreement last month, 35 vacant seats had been declared judicial emergencies by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. As noted above, that number has gone up to 39 today. The number of vacant seats has remained near 100. The number of pending nominees being denied a timely floor vote was 22 then and 21 today.

This is not progress. Instead, these are more clear signs that the pace set by last month's agreement is too slow. For the good of the American people and our system of justice, the Senate must significantly speed up votes on President Obama's judicial nominees.

PFAW

ALEC Hit with Whistleblower Complaint and Another Corporate Departure

It’s been a rough start to the week over at the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Common Cause has submitted a formal whistleblower complaint against ALEC to the IRS this morning, alleging that the organization has flouted federal tax laws by portraying themselves as a tax-exempt charity and misusing their 501c3 status by acting primarily as a lobbying organization, according to a press release.

501c3 organizations have very strict limitations on lobbying, and ALEC consistently states on its tax returns that it does not engage in lobbying. But it’s hard to see how an organization that helps facilitate meetings between corporate representatives and state legislators, produces model legislation and coaches state legislators on how to advocate for and defend such legislation can be considered anything BUT lobbying.

Corporations provide the vast majority of ALEC’s funding. But since their membership dues are written up as donations to a “charitable” organization, they can deduct the dues from their taxes – leaving the American taxpayers to make up the difference, says Common Cause president Bob Edgar. “Corporations that have been funding this organization have, in fact, been lobbying and getting a tax break. The taxpayers of the United States have been paying for a lobbying operation because these corporations can take this off on their taxes.”

The 4,000 pages of internal ALEC documents submitted to the IRS make the case that ALEC is an active lobbying organization, and by law, the IRS is required to launch an investigation.

As if that isn’t headache enough, a thirteenth company, Procter & Gamble, has ended its membership in ALEC. As a P&G spokesperson told Color of Change, the company “made the determination that ALEC does not help P&G compete for consumers’ loyalty and support.”

The pressure is now on Johnson & Johnson, one of the companies still connected to ALEC and a target of a petition drive to get ALEC-member corporations to leave the organization, to explain how ALEC’s extreme agenda benefits their consumers when their major competitor P&G concluded it did not.

PFAW Foundation

Introducing YP4 Featured Fellows

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.

We’ll be highlighting the work of some of our outstanding Fellows here. This month, we’re pleased to introduce Crystal Obiukwu, representing Ohio State University.

“My Blueprint is a program that will teach young women, specifically teens, about reproductive justice and how to advocate for reproductive justice in their communities… I want to live in a world that truly embodies progressive values. I want a country where everyone has the ability to reach their full potential. I really want a world that is democratic and people oriented.

“I’ve mainly been involved in the feminist community and the reproductive rights community on my campus. I am starting to get involved in anti-racist work and I’ve been involved with my schools Occupy movement. I feel like my life experience and my identity as a Nigerian American woman brings a new perspective. Right now my university is dealing with a lot of hate crimes and racism on campus. We had a person come to a Trayvon Martin and Shaima Alawadi vigil with a gun holster to intimidate activists, “Long Live Zimmerman” was spray painted on the Black cultural center on campus, and swastikas and the n-word were spray painted on an Obama mural in an area near students and a predominantly black neighborhood. This all happened within 48 hours. Previously an Islamaphobic ad that was funded by an extreme right-wing group was placed in our newspaper.

“Activist, students, and faculty immediately held an impromptu meeting after the 2nd hate crime had occurred. Two actions and a list of 3 demands were created. The next day we had over 200 students and activist go to the board of trustees meeting to read our demands and make them address racism on campus. Our demands were 1) have hate crime alerts go out to students so they can be informed about racism on campus, 2) have diversity be a priority at Ohio State with a diverse body of students and faculty that is representative of the country’s population, and 3) inclusion not tolerance; we want a campus that is genuinely inclusive of all kinds of students. We also had a sit-in in our student union until our first demand was met.

“All of the great student activists around me who do amazing work inspire me. The fact that they can be both students and accomplish incredible things inspires me to do my best as an activist.”

PFAW Foundation

Sisterhood on the Supreme Court

Linda Greenhouse has an interesting column this week on last month's 5-4 decision in which the Roberts Court poked a hole in the Family and Medical Leave Act. Coleman v. Court of Appeals of Maryland involved an FMLA provision requiring employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to employees who can't work because of a health condition. The five arch-conservatives took a statutory provision that was written to address sex discrimination and found a way to rule that it wasn't written to address sex discrimination. As a result, government employers that violate that section of the law have sovereign immunity and cannot be sued for damages.

Greenhouse notes that all three of the Court's women, along with the "the highly evolved" Justice Breyer, recognized that this was clearly a case about sex discrimination. However:

the remarkable thing is that the justices in the majority didn't see it that way. ... Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and his allies denied that this case had anything to do with sex discrimination. It was simply a case about state immunity from suit. The division on the court was thus not primarily one of ideology but of something even more fundamental: perception. ...

Congress debated the Family and Medical Leave Act for eight years before finally enacting it in 1993. ... Some argued that the law should explicitly require pregnancy leave, recognizing women's special need. Others warned that this would enshrine a stereotype, labeling women as more expensive, less desirable employees while in fact men and women take medical leave at almost identical rates.

The ultimate decision was to make the "self-care" medical leave portion of the law gender-neutral, and the legislative history makes the reason clear. "A law providing special protection to women," the House report explained, "in addition to being inequitable, runs the risk of causing discriminatory treatment." In other words, the self-care provision was rooted in Congress's desire to protect women against pregnancy discrimination while at the same time not wanting to inflict a new vulnerability.

Although Justice Ginsburg's dissent gave this essential background in detail, Greenhouse writes that the men in the majority simply ignore it.

The self-care provision "makes no reference to any distinction on the basis of sex," Justice Kennedy said, ignoring Justice Ginsburg's proof of why this was precisely the point. He continued, "There is nothing in particular about self-care leave, as opposed to leave for any personal reason, that connects it to gender discrimination." ...

[Justice Ginsburg's] fact- and history-laden dissent in the latest case was, it seems to me, about as persuasive as they come. Justice Ginsburg's typical writing style is spare, but here she spoke with a passion that she usually keeps in check. [I see this] as a declaration that sisterhood on the Supreme Court is, if not powerful, at least keeping score.

This case serves as a reminder that the GOP's war on women is not confined to the political and legislative arenas.

 

PFAW

Americans Reject Citizens United. Are Our Reps Listening?

Recent polling indicates the vast majority of Americans believe that corporations and special interests have too much sway in our elections – a whopping 85 % of voters said that corporations have too much influence over the political system, and 93% said that average citizens have too little. Across all parties, a full 62% specifically oppose Citizens United, the deeply flawed 2010 Supreme Court Decision that opened the floodgates to massive corporate and special interest spending in our elections.

This deep disapproval is manifest in the growing grassroots movement taking hold across the country fighting for a constitutional amendment to overturn that decision. While there’s a long way to go, the people represented in these polls are making their voice heard, and our elected officials are taking action.

The 89 members of Congress who have endorsed one of the 13 federal resolutions to overturn Citizens United introduced thus far during the 112th Congress are acting on this sentiment. These proposed amendments are diverse, and are reflective of the robust and serious debate Americans are having across the country on what constitutional approach would best solve the problem. In addition, as significant is the groundswell of support at the local and state level that far transcends this total. To name just a few, the City Councils of New York City, NY, Oakland, CA, Los Angeles, CA, Albany, NY, Missoula, MT, and Boulder, CO have all adopted their own resolutions, as have the legislatures of states like Hawaii, New Mexico and Vermont (and in Maryland, where the state Constitution does not permit the passage of non-binding resolutions, a majority of legislators in both houses have signed a letter calling for a constitutional amendment). When given the chance to vote directly, the citizens of 64 towns across the state of Vermont have passed ballot measures supporting a constitutional amendment.

So far, 91 million Americans are represented by public officials who have declared their support for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. 24 Senators, representing 75 million constituents, have sponsored or cosponsored a version of an amendment. Across the Capitol, 65 members of the House of Representatives, representing an additional 16 million people.

Progress is being made, but there’s still more work to do to fill these maps with dark shades of yellow and green. But this is a “movement moment” – and with the ever-increasing support of public officials, advocacy organizations and citizen activists, it can be done.

PFAW

Sessions Objects to Judicial Nominee Who Called Kagan ‘Qualified’

The Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday approved the nomination of Maine attorney William Kayatta Jr. to sit on the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals. Only two committee members voted against allowing Kayatta a vote from the full Senate: Utah’s Mike Lee, who is still protesting all Obama nominees, and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who gave the following reason, according to the Portland Press Herald:

In a statement on his opposition to Kayatta's nomination, Sessions cited Kayatta's role as lead evaluator for the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary during the nomination of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.

Sessions said Kayatta saw fit to give Kagen the highest rating despite her lack of substantial courtroom and trial experience, as a lawyer or trial judge. Sessions said the rating was "not only unsupported by the record, but, in my opinion, the product of political bias."

Yes, that’s right. Kayatta was involved in the American Bar Association’s nonpartisan rating process, which dared to call the solicitor general and former Harvard Law School dean “well qualified” for the job of Supreme Court Justice.

Sessions, one of the most outspoken opponents of Kagan’s Supreme Court nomination frequently slammed her lack of judicial experience in her confirmation hearings two years ago. He seemed to conveniently forget that the late conservative icon Chief Justice William Rehnquist also came to the High Court without having previously served as a judge – as have over one third of all Justices in U.S. history. The American Bar Association similarly found Rehnquist qualified for the job and called him “one of the best persons available for appointment to the Supreme Court [pdf].

It would be funny if it weren’t so appalling: Sessions’ grudge against Kagan runs so deep that he not only objected to her nomination, he’s objecting to anyone who who’s dared to call her qualified for her job.

PFAW

ALEC update: 12th Corporation Drops Out

Yum! Brands, the parent company of fast food chains such as KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, has decided to leave the American Legislative Exchange Council, according to Color of Change. This makes Yum! The 12th company to disassociate from the organization in recent weeks.

This is a significant decision because it comes after ALEC’s decision to disband the Public Safety and Elections Task Force, the part of the organization responsible for the voter suppression and “Stand Your Ground” laws that exemplify ALEC’s extreme agenda and helped galvanize the recent corporate exodus from the group.

Think Progress notes that Yum! held a leadership position on a different committee: Labor and Business Regulation, which fought to repeal laws guaranteeing paid sick leave to workers. The corporation also was a member of the Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force.

Responsible members of the business community are realizing with or without the Public Safety and Elections Task Force, ALEC’s extreme agenda is bad for business.

PFAW Foundation

Mitt Romney, Judge Bork, and the Future of America’s Courts

People For the American Way launched a major new campaign today highlighting what a Mitt Romney presidency would mean for America’s courts. Romney has signaled that he’s ready to draw the Supreme Court and lower federal courts even farther to the right. And no signal has been clearer than his choice of former Judge Robert Bork to lead his campaign advisory committee on the courts and the Constitution.

In 1987, PFAW led the effort to keep Judge Bork off the Supreme Court. Ultimately, a bipartisan majority of the U.S. Senate recognized his extremism and rejected his nomination.

Last night, PFAW’s Jamie Raskin went on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell to discuss PFAW’s campaign and what a Supreme Court picked by Mitt Romney and Robert Bork would look like:

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Watch our full video, Don’t Let Romney Bork America:

To find out more about Judge Bork and what a Romney presidency would mean for America’s courts, visit www.RomneyCourt.com.
 

PFAW

Capitol Hill Summit: Overturn Citizens United!

PFAW joined members of Congress, state and local officials, advocacy organizations and concerned citizens for a Capitol Hill summit to amplify the call for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court decision that helped usher in unprecedented levels of corporate spending to influence our elections.

The speakers recounted the toll that Citizens United has taken on our democracy, as their colleagues must contend with the outsized influence that wealthy special interests hold over the political system, and how it is absolutely imperative for Congress to have the authority to regulate campaign contributions and require disclosure. While there are many approaches under consideration, it was clear to all that amending the Constitution is a necessary step to restore our democracy. So far, 13 constitutional amendments have been introduced in the current session.

It’s a long road to ratification, but there is a rapidly growing grassroots movement taking hold across the country to get this done. State Representatives and City Councilmen took to the podium to share their constituents’ enthusiasm for a constitutional amendment, and many states and cities across the country have already adopted resolutions calling for such an amendment.

The summit concluded with a call for public officials to sign the Declaration for Democracy, a simple statement of support for amending the Constitution “to protect the integrity of our elections and limit the corrosive influence of money in our democratic process.”

Here is a video and photos of the event.

 

 

 

PFAW’s Marge Baker opens the Summit as members of Congress, local and state officials and activists look on. “We the people means all the people, not just the powerful and privileged.”

PFAW’s Diallo Brooks introduces several local government officials as Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) signs the Declaration for Democracy.

Maryland State Senator and PFAW Senior Fellow Jamie Raskin describes the Supreme Court’s flawed logic in the Citizens United decision. Quoting Justice White: “The state need not let its own creature [corporations] devour it.”

Rep. Keith Ellison watches as PFAW’s Marge Baker signs the Declaration.

The Declaration for Democracy: “I declare my support for amending the Constitution of the United States to restore the rights of the American people, undermined by Citizens United and related cases, to protect the integrity of our elections and limit the corrosive influence of money in our democratic process.”

PFAW

The Right's 2012 Solution: "Just Close Your Eyes"

This post originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

Last month, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett offered a solution for women who were going to be forced by the government to undergo a completely unnecessary ultrasound against their wills: "You can't make anybody watch, okay? Because you just have to close your eyes." The governor's suggestion would be almost comical, if it weren't for the tragic fact that forcing women to watch was the whole point of the legislation Corbett supported.

But it seems that Corbett's suggestion doesn't just apply to women seeking abortions in the Keystone state. It is, in essence, what the GOP is telling to every woman turned off by the party's attacks on reproductive rights, equal pay and domestic violence protections: "You just have to close your eyes."

Mitt Romney's campaign is banking on the fact that voters of both genders are concerned about the economy in these uncertain times. Polls show that they're right. But just because you're concerned with the economy doesn't mean you ignore it when a group of people are systematically taking away your rights for their own short-term political gain.

Sadly, this is the new normal. The Tea Party's success has been based on this "just close your eyes" formula. Swept into power on a wave of economic dissatisfaction, Tea Party legislators in Washington and the states asked the country to "close its eyes" as it did everything but fix the economy. "Pay no attention while we roll back decades of progress everything else you care about. Just close your eyes while we bash immigrants, cut essential services, make it very hard to vote, and take away collective bargaining rights". Many minorities have been affected, particularly in the last two years, but arguably and amazingly, no group has been under attack more than the American majority--women.

A new report from People For the American Way investigates the new landscape that the Tea Party is creating for American women. Mississippi is set to become the only state in the country without a legal abortion clinic. Texas is on the path to denying reproductive health care to 130,000 low-income women. Wisconsin repealed its enforcement mechanism for equal pay lawsuits. Senate Republicans are fighting to stop the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Following an all-male panel speaking on women's health, a woman who dares speak in front of Congress about the importance of affordable contraception is called a "slut."

Even with closed eyes, these things are very hard to miss. The Romney campaign has attempted to distract voters from this train wreck of anti-woman policies by claiming that a second Obama administration will hurt women economically. Last week, they hammered hard on the claim that women have accounted for 92 percent of job losses under President Obama- a mangled statistic that ignores, among other factors, that many of those losses were the result of Republican-led layoffs of teachers and other government employees. Then they decided to accuse Democrats of waging a "War on Moms" - forgetting, perhaps, the candidate's history of aggressively pushing low-income women to work outside of the home when their children are very young.

Women haven't bought it. In polls, Romney still trails Obama among women voters by double digits. And in an under-reported fact, among women ages 18 to 29, he's losing by an astounding 45 points. You don't need a political science degree that know that that spells disaster.

Mitt Romney and congressional Republicans seem to think they can get away with almost anything because, in the end, their Election Day hopes will be saved by a bad economy. The problem is, the people they attack on a regular basis - women, gays, Latinos, Muslims, you name it -know the Tea Party's record on the economy and its history of cynical, culture-war attacks that deeply affect the lives of real people. We have our eyes wide open.

PFAW