PFAW to Corporations: Get out of ALEC!

As the American people become more and more aware of the damage caused by the extreme pro-corporate agenda pushed in state legislatures by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the more evident it becomes that this organization is undermining our democracy by advocating for special interest bills that benefit the wealthy few at the expense of the many.

But ALEC can’t do this on their own. They need complicit state legislators to introduce the corporate lobbyist-drafted model bills in state legislatures, but they also rely on the millions of dollars paid annually by major corporations for membership in the organization. That’s why PFAW and a number of other advocacy organization have launched a petition calling on ALEC members like State Farm, Johnson & Johnson and McDonald’s to disassociate from the organization. Over 68,000 people have signed it so far.

ALEC’s agenda is so extreme that the organization is becoming unpalatable even for the corporations that fund it. The Coca-Cola company, PepsiCo, Kraft Foods, and Intuit have already ditched the group, and the Gates Foundation has decided that they will no longer provide grants to ALEC. We need to tell major corporations that funding a secretive organization that hawks legislation that is not in the American people’s interest is not in their interest either. As PFAW Foundation president Michael Keegan said,

“Corporate membership in ALEC isn’t just destructive to democracy, it’s also bad for business. Corporations that currently support ALEC have a choice to make: they can continue to underwrite reckless assaults on our rights and wellbeing, or they can stand up for their customers by leaving ALEC immediately.”

ALEC can be tied to the proliferation of “Stand Your Ground” laws like the one that is hindering bringing justice for Trayvon Martin, as well as tons of model bills that are aimed at increasing corporate profits by privatizing schools and prisons, weakening environmental protections, dismantling unions, disenfranchising voters and making it harder to seek justice in a court of law. The American people want nothing more to do with ALEC, and neither should the corporations we support.

PFAW Foundation

The Right to Vote under Attack: Latest News from the States

Voting rights and voter suppression, especially voter ID, continue to make headlines in many states. Below is a sample of the latest. For more information, click here and also check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.


Voter ID (HB12-1111) made it through the House but was postponed indefinitely in the Senate. One of its lead sponsors, Representative Kenneth Summers, is an ALEC member.


Evidence continues to mount against what should properly be called the Voter Suppression Act for its disenfranchising impacts, including its reduction of early voting hours and its harsh new restrictions on community groups seeking to help register voters. HB 1355 was originally sponsored by Representative Dennis Baxley, who has ties to ALEC.


The voter ID constitutional amendment (HF 2738) sponsored by ALEC State Chairwoman Mary Kiffmeyer has been approved by the state legislature and will now go to the voters in November. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie says that it will “turn our state's entire election system upside down.” Mike Dean, Executive Director of Common Cause Minnesota, “expects groups opposed to photo ID to challenge the amendment in court on the discrepancy between the ballot question and the actual changes to the Constitution.”


Cole County Circuit Court Judge Pat Joyce struck down the proposed voter ID constitutional amendment (SJR 2) on the grounds that the ballot summary is “insufficient and unfair.” The St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorialized, “In a perverted, poetic justice kind of way, it's pitch perfect that in their alleged attempt to stop voter fraud, Missouri Republicans committed, well, fraud.” Prospects for an appeal are unclear, but the legislature is already working on contingency plans. They might try to bring the same bill back up with a new amendment (HCR 53), or they might get around the court by passing HJR 89. Representative Shane Schoeller, an ALEC member, is behind both, as well as efforts (HB 2109) to pass proof of citizenship for voter registration.


Voter ID looked set to pass before voting rights advocates put the brakes on LB 239, sponsored by Senator Charlie Janssen, ALEC member. But that doesn’t mean their work is over. Nebraskans for Civil Reform and Nebraska Appleseed have called for an investigation into polling place closures in Douglas County. Omaha World-Herald: “But is that cost savings worth making it harder for some people to exercise their right to vote? Is it worth eroding the American voting franchise, discouraging voters from going to the polls, not only because of the extra distance but also because of longer lines?” A lawsuit may be looming.

New Hampshire

SB 289, which would require voters to present valid photo identification, and SB 318, which would alter residency requirements and make other voter registration changes that could have a profound impact, especially among the student population, have both passed the Senate and are due soon in the House, as early as April 10. SB 318’s lead sponsor, Senator Sharon Carson, is an ALEC member who also supports SB 289. Tabled in committee was a bill (HB 1301) concerning oaths for vote challengers and the voters they challenge.

North Carolina

The voter ID battle began last session when the state legislature passed HB 351, legislation requiring photo ID, whose 3 primary sponsors all have ties to ALEC. But the House failed to override Governor Perdue’s veto. Now voting rights advocates are concerned that HB 351 will be pulled out of the “veto garage.”


In July 2011, Governor John Kasich signed a sweeping “election reform proposal” (HB 194) into law. Voting rights supporters were able to move forward with a referendum for repeal, which is set for the November ballot. Now the forces behind HB 194, sponsored by former Representative and ALEC member Robert Mecklenborg, want to head off what they worry will be an embarrassing defeat at the ballot box. Senator William Coley, also an ALEC member, has sponsored his own version of repeal through SB 295. It has passed the Senate and is expected in a House hearing on April 17. We’ll have to see what they try to replace it with, likely much of the same language.


Last month, Representative Daryl Metcalfe’s (an ALEC member) HB 934 passed the Pennsylvania Senate. It got through concurrence by a House vote of 104-88. Governor Corbett signed it as soon as it got to his desk. Though photo ID is now law in Pennsylvania, the legal debate continues, and voting rights supporters continue efforts to demonstrate the impacts, including what it means for students and what it really costs to have “free” ID.

South Carolina

With the state still embroiled in its battle over voter ID, the ACLU and League of Women Voters have moved to intervene, as has the Department of Justice, which rejected the law last year. HB 3003 was originally sponsored by Representative Alan Clemmons, an ALEC member.


Evidence continues to mount against voter ID and now the issue is before the state Supreme Court. Act 23 (aka AB 7) was originally sponsored by Representative Jeffrey Stone and several others with ties to ALEC.

PFAW Foundation

Wisconsin’s Walker Signs Religious Right Wish-List of Bills

We noted on Friday that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, working with a Republican-led state legislature, had taken the extraordinary step of repealing the state’s enforcement mechanism for pay discrimination lawsuits.

But it turns out that’s not all. Daily Kos points out that along with equal pay repeal, Gov. Walker signed what reads like a wish list of bills from the Religious Right:

The first bill bans abortion coverage through policies obtained through a health insurance exchange, set to be created under the federal health care reform law starting in 2014. The only exceptions would be in cases of rape, incest or medical necessity. [...]

The second bill requires a woman seeking an abortion to undergo an exam and consult with a doctor alone, away from her friends and family. The doctor must determine whether someone is pressuring the woman into the procedure. Doctors who break the law could be charged with a felony. [...]

The sex education bill requires teachers in schools that offer sex education to stress abstinence as the only sure way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

The bill also declares that sex education teachers do not have to address contraception. That's a dramatic shift from current state law, which requires teachers to instruct students on birth control options.

And it doesn’t end there. Walker has now decided to stop defending a law that gives gay and lesbian couples the right to visit each other in the hospital, a law that an anti-gay group is disputing in court.

That’s right. After making it harder for women to sue for pay discrimination, setting up demeaning hurdles for women seeking legal abortions, and giving the go-ahead for ineffective sex ed, Gov. Walker is going out of his way to try to keep same-sex couples from visiting each other in the hospital.

Is this the governor’s “jobs” agenda?


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

UPDATE: Frances and Takako and Tim and Edwin are among five plaintiff couples suing the federal government in a new challenge to the federal-recognition component of the Defense of Marriage Act, filed by Immigration Equality and the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. Executive Director Rachel Tiven:

The families in today’s lawsuit meet every qualification for immigration benefits, with the sole exception that they happen to be lesbian or gay. Solely because of their sexual orientation, they have been singled out, under federal law, for discrimination and separation. That’s not only unconscionable; it is unconstitutional. We know DOMA cannot withstand careful review, and we know we will prevail on their behalf.

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.


Walker Steps Up War on WI Women With Repeal of Equal Pay Provision

In July 2009, Wisconsin passed a law making it easier for victims of pay discrimination to seek justice in court.

Today, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill repealing the segment of the law:

The 2009 Equal Pay Enforcement Act was meant to deter employers from discriminating against certain groups by giving workers more avenues via which to press charges. Among other provisions, it allows individuals to plead their cases in the less costly, more accessible state circuit court system, rather than just in federal court.

In November, the state Senate approved SB 202 , which rolled back this provision. On February, the Assembly did the same . Both were party-line votes in Republican-controlled chambers.

SB 202 was sent to Walker on March 29. He had, according to the state constitution, six days to act on the bill. The deadline was 5:00 p.m. on Thursday. The governor quietly signed the bill into law on Thursday, according to the Legislative Reference Bureau, and it is now called Act 219.

Wisconsin voters have put Gov. Walker up for a recall election this summer, along with his lieutenant governor and four of their allies in the state senate. Two of the state senators up for recall, Terry Moulton and Pam Galloway, were a primary sponsors of the repeal. The other two, Scott Fitzgerald and Van Wanggard, voted for its passage.

The repeal of the Equal Pay Enforcement Act is just the latest extreme measure pushed through by Gov. Walker and his Tea Party allies, including an attack on collective bargaining rights, a measure to take away care from 12,000 low-income women served by Planned Parenthood clinics, and a restrictive Voter ID law that has already resulted in voters being turned away from the polls.


Yes, There is a War on Women

In an interview with Bloomberg today, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus claimed that accusing the Republican Party of waging a “war on women” is as absurd as accusing them of a “war on caterpillars”:

“If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and every mainstream media outlet talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we’d have problems with caterpillars,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt” airing this weekend. “It’s a fiction.”

Perhaps Preibus should listen to women in his own party before declaring the GOP’s war on women to be a “fiction.” Speaking in Alaska today, Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski was very clear that the war on women exists and is alienating female voters. According to the Huffington Post:

"It makes no sense to make this attack on women," she said at a local Chamber of Commerce luncheon, according to the Homer News. "If you don't feel this is an attack, you need to go home and talk to your wife and your daughters."

She also said that she would continue to support funding for Planned Parenthood, adding that the courts have affirmed a legal right to an abortion and she stands by that.

Murkowski criticized GOP presidential candidates for not condemning Rush Limbaugh for calling Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute," which he later apologized for. Fluke was rejected as a witness before a panel on the Obama contraception mandate chaired by House Oversight And Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) last February. (She spoke Thursday to HuffPost in a Q&A.)

"To have those kind of slurs against a woman … you had candidates who want to be our president not say, 'That's wrong. That's offensive.' They did not condemn the rhetoric," she said.


Death of a Ninth Circuit Judge

The death several days ago of Robert Beezer, an 83 year-old senior judge on the Ninth Circuit, highlights the lengths to which semi-retired judges have been going to help ease the crushing caseload burden on their fellow jurists. The LA Times reports on his lifetime of accomplishments and contributions to the legal profession. It also reports:

Like most of the senior judges, Beezer continued to hear cases long after resigning his active judgeship in 1996. As his eyesight failed in recent years, he turned to computerized text-to-audio translation technology to keep up with the voluminous reading required for each case, the court said in its report on his death. ...

Beezer's death now drops to 18 the number of semi-retired senior judges [in the Ninth Circuit] who help shoulder caseloads twice that of the other 12 federal appeals courts.

Just how bad is the caseload crisis? Senator Dianne Feinstein talked about it last year when she was testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of Paul Watford to fill one of the four vacancies on the Ninth Circuit.

I would also like to note that the Ninth Circuit is in serious need of new judges. It has 1,453 cases per three-judge panel. That's by far the highest in the nation, and more than 400 more than the next highest court. Each of the court's vacancies is a judicial emergency.

The term Sen. Feinstein used – "a judicial emergency" – isn't hyperbole. It's a formal category based on caseload used by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to describe those areas where Americans' timely access to justice is at risk. Across the country, there are 34 vacancies that are judicial emergencies, four of which are empty circuit court seats in the Ninth Circuit.

Beezer was the sixth Ninth Circuit judge to die in little over a year. The vacancies there need to be filled.


Stripped of Dignity by the Roberts Court

Last week, the Supreme Court's arch-conservatives made professions of deep concern for the right of the individual to be left alone from a government mandate to purchase insurance. Less than a week later, in yesterday's 5-4 Florence v. Board of Freeholders decision, the same arch-conservatives had no difficulty in approving the needless dehumanization by the government of completely innocent Americans by forcing them to endure the humiliation of unwarranted strip searches.

A New Jersey government database incorrectly stated that Albert Florence had failed to pay an old fine. When he was in a car that was pulled over by a state trooper, the trooper called up the (inaccurate) records and immediately handcuffed and arrested Florence. He was held in jail for seven days and strip-searched twice. As reported by NPR:

Florence said the experience "petrified" and "humiliated" him. Upon entering the jail, he was ordered to take a delousing shower, then inspected by a guard who was about "an arm's distance" away and instructed Florence to squat, cough and lift up his genitals.

Florence subsequently sued, contending that automatically strip-searching a person who is arrested for a minor offense violates the Constitution's ban on unreasonable searches.

But on Monday, the Supreme Court disagreed by a 5-4 vote. Writing for the court's conservative wing, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that jails are "often crowded, unsanitary, and dangerous places," and that, therefore, the courts must defer to the judgment of correctional officials in order to prevent new inmates from putting lives at risk with weapons or contraband that they may "carry in on their bodies."

So even the most minor of infractions can now trigger degrading strip searches. Justice Breyer's dissent describes other Americans forced to endure this degradation: a nun arrested for trespassing during an anti-war demonstration; people stopped for driving with a broken headlight or a noisy muffler; a driver who turned without signaling; and a bicyclist riding without a bell. And, of course, as Mr. Florence's case shows, the people forced to endure this may be completely innocent.

The five Justices have corrected the impression that the rest of us had that America isn't the sort of country where the government can arrest innocent people and force them to endure a humiliating strip search with no reason at all to suspect they are hiding anything.

Yet they were so respectful of Tea Partiers who don't want to buy health insurance, expressing deep concern about a fundamental change in the relationship between the American people and their government.

I think Mr. Florence would argue that the five conservatives have already made that change.

PFAW Foundation

Wisconsin: GOP Presidential Primary Shows Where the Energy Isn't

In yesterday's primary election in Wisconsin -- a major defining event in the long, often ugly GOP presidential contest -- less Wisconsin voters turned out to vote in the Republican primary (under 720,000) than signed the petition to recall Gov. Scott Walker (roughly 1 million). The actual turnout fell short of what it was projected to be by a whopping 12 points.

From AP:

Turnout in Wisconsin's presidential primary election was just over 23 percent, falling short of predictions it would be 35 percent.

With 98 percent of precincts reporting Wednesday, just over 1 million people voted in the presidential primary. That was the only race statewide, although President Barack Obama had no opposition.

About 719,000 people voted on the Republican side and about 290,000 voted on the Democratic side.
That equates to about 23.2 percent of the state's 4.3 million eligible voters.

The Government Accountability Board had predicted 35 percent turnout, the same as it was in the 2008 presidential primary when Obama and Hillary Clinton were battling it out. The board also factored in high interest in numerous local elections around the state.


Scalia Tests Americans' Faith in the U.S. Court System

The Supreme Court arguments this week were an excellent opportunity for Americans to see the importance of the courts. With the entire nation paying attention, the nine Justices had a chance to demonstrate how judges, as neutral arbiters, have a different role from political figures. While elected officials disagree over the merits of the Affordable Care Act, we assign the task of settling disputes over its constitutionality to disinterested Justices, who analyze the law regardless of how they would have voted on it were they members of Congress.

Unfortunately, what Americans saw was disappointing evidence suggesting that Justice Scalia might not be able to fulfill that most basic of constitutional roles. By referring to the "Cornhusker kickback," raised questions about his own neutrality.

"Cornhusker kickback" was a term of abuse designed by the law's opponents to denigrate, belittle, and delegitimize the entire bill. It was a term of abuse coined by the legislation's enemies, one that a neutral person would be unlikely to use. There's little ambiguity on this point; the term has no other context or function.

Can a judge adopting the opposition's term truly be seen by the American people as a neutral arbiter who will put legal matters before his personal and political preferences? Senator Ben Nelson had a point when he said, "I am concerned that Justice Scalia's comments call into question his impartiality and instead suggest judicial activism."

It's difficult to see how a judge who publicly, from the bench, and during oral arguments uses partisans' denigrating terms for the law whose validity he is judging, has the judicial temperament needed to make people trust that he will be a neutral arbiter. When a Supreme Court Justice gives such powerful evidence that he is using his position simply to legislate his desired policies, he does great damage to the public's faith in the entire judicial system.

PFAW Foundation

Ryan Budget "Robin Hood In Reverse"

“We think America is on the wrong track,” said Chairman of the House Budget Committee Paul Ryan (R-WI) as his budget plan passed the House on a party-line vote. “We think the president is bringing us to a debt crisis and a welfare state in decline,” he continued.

So what’s his prescription?

It turns out the GOP’s lead budget person is pushing for a debt crisis and a welfare state. Except the debt crisis would be caused by continuing to give massive tax cuts to the 1 percent and the welfare program would be for Big Oil. And one other thing: it would end Medicare as we know it.

The Ryan budget would reduce taxes roughly $400,000 a year on those earning more than $1 million annually. 62 percent of the funding for this tax cut comes from low income programs.

The Ryan budget would keep the $24 billion in subsidies to Big Oil that the Obama Administration tried to end.

The Ryan budget would transform Medicare from a system that guarantees coverage to a voucher system and raise the age of eligibility, leaving millions of seniors without affordable coverage.

The Republicans have had quite a few chances to lay out a fresh vision for America, but instead keep offering up the same misguided priorities that make the rich even richer and leave the rest of us out to dry. If Paul Ryan thinks that forcing Americans to give up our Medicare benefits while continuing taxpayer handouts to Big Oil is the “right track” for America, then we might not want to board that train.


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.


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.



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.