PEOPLE FOR BLOG

Ninth Circuit upholds voter ID, rules against proof of citizenship

Back in 2004, Arizona voters passed Proposition 200. Two years later, PFAW Foundation joined voting rights supporters in filling suit against its voting-related provisions.

Because these provisions disenfranchise qualified and eligible Arizona voters by requiring citizens to present documentary proof of their citizenship status when registering to vote, and further requiring qualified and registered voters to present additional identification at the polling place on Election Day.

[ . . . ]

“Proposition 200 is a barrier that keeps people away from the polls,” said Elliot Mincberg, Legal Director of PFAWF. “We should make it easier for Arizonans to vote, not harder.”

District Court Judge Roslyn Moore-Silver ruled against the plaintiffs in 2008. A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit ruled in 2010 to uphold voter ID but strike down proof of citizenship for voter registration.

"This is a great victory for voting rights advocates," said LULAC General Counsel Luis Vera. "The court ruled that AZ Proposition 200 was superseded by the National Voter Registration Act, which does not allow states to require proof of citizenship to register to vote."

On Tuesday, the full Ninth Circuit ruled the same:

We uphold Proposition 200’s requirement that voters show identification at the polling place, but conclude that the NVRA supersedes Proposition 200’s registration provision as that provision is applied to applicants using the National Mail Voter Registration Form (the “Federal Form”) to register to vote in federal elections.

Importantly, the full court recognized the additional burden that the proof of citizenship requirement placed on voters, saying:

In short, much of the value of the [NVRA Form] in removing obstacles to the voter registration process is lost under Proposition 200’s registration provision.

As to that point, the state had contended that “its proof of citizenship requirement [was] not excessively burdensome,” though burdensome nonetheless.

Also known as the Taxpayer Citizen Protection Act, Proposition 200 remains the ALEC model for voter ID and proof of citizenship nationwide. Compared side-by-side, you can see that the two measures are virtually identical.

For more information on ALEC in Arizona, check out the November 2011 report and the April 2012 update, co-authored by PFAW Foundation, Common Cause, Center for Media and Democracy, and Progress Now.

For more information on voting rights, 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.

PFAW Foundation

UPDATE: LWV New Hampshire: We deserve honesty from House leaders

UPDATE: Having passed the Senate, 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, received House hearings on April 10 and next week are due for committee votes. Tabled was a bill (HB 1301) concerning oaths for vote challengers and the voters they challenge.

When New Hampshire House leaders chose politics over facts in the voter ID debate, the New Hampshire League of Women Voters called them on it: “We deserve honesty from House leaders.”

The column says voter fraud is well-documented but gives only one instance in New Hampshire: a videotaped scam during the primary. House leadership supports the con-artist behind the videotaping but others called for prosecution. The League said at the time, "The only thing this video shows is that those with time, resources and criminal intent and with no respect for the fundamental laws of our nation can sometimes deceive our neighbors who work as election officials. There is no reason to believe that New Hampshire citizens engage in such un-American behavior."

[ . . . ]

It's clear the authors of the column have never listened to or read any of the testimony from the many organizations - a majority at every hearing - that oppose photo ID to get a ballot. Those opposing photo ID believe creating barriers to the constitutional right to vote, especially for the elderly and disabled, is wrong. House leadership's ranting about race-baiting and fear-mongering is offensive, an insult to our citizens and unworthy of anyone who holds elected office.

The New Hampshire Senate has just passed SB 289, which would require voters to present valid photo identification. The Senate is also considering SB 318, which would alter residency requirements and make other voter registration changes that could have a profound impact, especially among the student population; its lead sponsor, Sharon Carson, is an ALEC member who also supports SB 289.

For more information, 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.

PFAW Foundation

UPDATE: Voter ID challenges moving forward in Wisconsin

4/17/12: The state Supreme Court has refused to immediately take up voter ID, sending the issue back to regular order in the lower appeals courts. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Wisconsin appellate decisions typically take nine to 12 months, according to Lester Pines, an attorney with the League of Women Voters. The Department of Justice has asked the appeals panel to expedite the League's case, but Pines said even if it agrees to do so, he does not believe it would issue a ruling before the recall elections.

The Supreme Court has been deeply divided in pivotal cases in recent years, with conservatives claiming a 4-3 majority. Pines said Monday's rulings shows the justices do not always make decisions along ideological lines.

Two separate injunctions are currently blocking enforcement of Act 23 (aka AB 7), the voter ID law originally sponsored by Representative Jeffrey Stone and several others with ties to ALEC. A trial is underway before Dane County Circuit Court Judge David Flanagan.

3/13/12: Yesterday, Judge Niess issued a new ruling in the League of Women Voters case, a permanent injunction against Act 23 (aka AB 7). WBAY reporting. This follows his ruling last week on standing in the case, and Judge Flanagan’s ruling in another brought by the Milwaukee NAACP and Voces de la Frontera. FairVote’s Wisconsin legal memo is available here.

Last May, Wisconsin Governor and ALEC Alum Scott Walker signed Act 23 (aka AB 7), a voter ID law which also counts ALEC affiliated legislators among its sponsors. Groups challenging this legislation have a long road ahead of them, but this week they scored some important successes.

In the League of Women Voters case, Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess ruled on Monday that League President Melanie Ramey has standing as a plaintiff, and Governor Walker is the proper defendant.

The League had countered that whether Ramey herself was affected or not was beside the point because the requirement imposes an additional impediment to voting that is not specified in the state constitution.

"In this, she is surely correct," Niess wrote.

Further, he wrote, the League is in the best position to argue on behalf of voters who are "too physically infirm, mentally ill, impoverished, itinerant, elderly or simply neglectful to comply" but are still qualified voters under the state constitution.

"This is the same cohort of citizens that shows up in the circuit courts in increasing numbers, day in and day out, without lawyers, in foreclosure proceedings, collection actions and family matters," Niess wrote. "Who will advocate for them on these constitutional issues that affect their fundamental, inherent and constitutional right to vote, if not the plaintiffs, or entities like the plaintiffs?"

Walker, Niess wrote, is a proper defendant because under recent state law he has ultimate authority over rule-making by state agencies, including GAB.

In the case brought by the Milwaukee NAACP and Voces de la Frontera, Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan on Tuesday halted AB 7’s enforcement in the upcoming April 3 general election, pending trial.

Flanagan granted a temporary injunction (read the injunction here) ordering Walker and the GAB to "cease immediately any effort to enforce or implement the photo identification requirements" of the law, pending a trial on a permanent injunction scheduled before him on April 16.

"If no injunction is issued, a clearly improper impairment of a most vital element of our society will occur," Flanagan wrote. "The duty of the court is clear. The case has been made. Irreparable harm is likely to occur in the absence of an injunction."

The message from these judges for these and other pending challenges (including Advancement Project and ACLU) is clear: voter suppression is a serious issue, and attempts to implement it merit careful scrutiny from the judicial system.

Indeed, something must be wrong when a veteran appears to vote and his VA card isn’t accepted, or when a 95-year-old cannot get ID because neither she nor the state can locate her birth certificate.

For more information, 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.

PFAW Foundation

List of Companies Dropping ALEC hits 10

In the week since the call went out for the corporations on ALEC’s Private Enterprise Board to disassociate from the organization, a whopping TEN companies have publicly announced that they will no longer bankroll the American Legislative Exchange Council’s extreme agenda.

These entities have bid ALEC adieu, and more are sure to follow:

  • Coca-Cola
  • PepsiCo
  • Kraft
  • Intuit
  • Wendy’s
  • Mars, Inc.
  • Arizona Public Service
  • Reed Elsevier
  • American Traffic Solutions
  • McDonald’s

PFAW and other advocacy organizations have launched a petition calling for the remaining companies to leave ALEC, putting increasing pressure on companies like State Farm and Johnson & Johnson to stop funding the organization responsible for so many attacks against workers, public education, the right to vote and so many other fundamental issues.

However, the member-corporations are only one part of the ALEC equation. Slowly but surely, ALEC-member state legislators are beginning to understand that ALEC’s toxic policies are not in the best interests of their constituents, and are backing out of the organization as well:

Missouri State Rep. Mike Colona:

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is not the innocuous, bipartisan organization it purports to be. Their agenda is radical and wrong for Missouri. I was a member and saw firsthand the sort of extreme legislation they push on state legislators around the country. I disagree with ALEC's extremist agenda and encourage my colleagues in the Missouri General Assembly to end their affiliations with the group. If ALEC is too extreme for Coke, Pepsi, McDonald's, Kraft, Wendy's, Intuit and the Gates Foundation, it's too extreme for me and the people of Missouri.

Texas State Rep Alma Allen:

As a legislator, I value the input that non-partisan organizations contribute to various issues. However, I do not believe that the American Legislative Exchange Council is a non-partisan organization. Due to the legislation that ALEC has been involved in forming and promoting, I will not be renewing my membership. I value and listen to all opinions, but ALEC's agenda has become harmful to my constituents, and the people of the State of Texas.

There’s much more work to be done, but the ALEC house of cards is beginning to crumble.

PFAW

Barely Treading Water on Judicial Nominations

The Senate returned today from a two-week recess and is holding a confirmation vote for Fourth Circuit judicial nominee Stephanie Thacker of West Virginia. This is part of the deal the parties made last month to hold votes on 14 long-pending judicial nominations by May 7. Yet even under the agreement, the confirmation rate is still too low to put a serious dent in the vacancy crisis.

Since the beginning of the year, the number of circuit and district court vacancies has moved from 101 to 97, still unacceptably high. The number of judicial emergencies has increased from 30 then to 34 today, while the number of nominees pending on the floor and eligible for an immediate yes-or-no vote is nearly unchanged: 19 then, 18 now. Between today and the final day of the deal (May 7), we expect the committee to advance at least as many nominees as the full Senate will vote on, meaning the blockage will not be getting at all better.

The Senate is barely treading water.

After May 7, there will be no reason not to hold timely votes on every nominee then pending on the floor, as well as every nominee who subsequently clears the Judiciary Committee.

A look at recent history is instructive, particularly the last time an incumbent president was running for reelection. After May 7, 2004, the Senate continued to work, confirming an additional 31 nominees up through September, including five for circuit courts. And that was at a time when the overall vacancy rate was lower than it is today.

Our nation needs a fully functioning court system. That should be a priority for the Senate when it comes back next week and throughout this election year.

PFAW

Bush Judge Defends Ideology of the Lochner Era

Last Friday, a three-judge panel of the DC Circuit released an unexceptional decision in an unexceptional case about congressional authority to regulate interstate commerce. It involved a constitutional challenge to a 2006 act of Congress that had removed an exemption of certain buyers of raw milk from a general rule requiring milk processors and distributors to contribute to a fund designed to stabilize milk prices. Courts recognized many decades ago congressional authority to regulate the milk market.

The unanimous panel easily disposed of the constitutional arguments against the law. However, the concurring opinion by Judge Janice Rogers Brown, joined by Reagan nominee Judge David Sentelle, was anything but unexceptional. One of the most extreme of George W. Bush's ideological nominees to the federal bench, she issued a clarion call to reverse decades of settled law and cripple Congress's constitutional ability to tackle national problems.

In a concurrence loaded with red meat for the political right wing, Judge Brown defended the ideology of the discredited Lochner era, when vitally necessary economic legislation was regularly struck down by an ideological Supreme Court dedicated to limiting the federal and state governments' ability to address the horrific consequences of unbridled capitalism.

The [plaintiffs] Hettingas' sense of ill-usage is understandable. So is their consternation at being confronted with the gap between the rhetoric of free markets and the reality of ubiquitous regulation. The [case] reveals an ugly truth: America's cowboy capitalism was long ago disarmed by a democratic process increasingly dominated by powerful groups with economic interests antithetical to competitors and consumers. And the courts, from which the victims of burdensome regulation sought protection, have been negotiating the terms of surrender since the 1930s.

First the Supreme Court allowed state and local jurisdictions to regulate property, pursuant to their police powers, in the public interest, and to adopt whatever economic policy may reasonably be deemed to promote public welfare. Then the Court relegated economic liberty to a lower echelon of constitutional protection than personal or political liberty, according restrictions on property rights only minimal review. Finally, the Court abdicated its constitutional duty to protect economic rights completely, acknowledging that the only recourse for aggrieved property owners lies in the "democratic process."

...

Civil society, once it grows addicted to redistribution, changes its character and comes to require the state to feed its habit. The difficulty of assessing net benefits and burdens makes the idea of public choice oxymoronic. Rational basis review means property is at the mercy of the pillagers. The constitutional guarantee of liberty deserves more respect - a lot more. [internal quotations and citations removed]

Another judge on the panel, Judge Thomas Griffith, issued his own brief concurrence solely to decry his colleague's inappropriately political remarks expressing personal views on an entire field of constitutional jurisprudence that no party was challenging.

With the right wing using the healthcare cases to urge the Supreme Court to severely cut back congressional authority under the Commerce Clause, an ideologue like Judge Brown cannot hide her eagerness to return us to the Lochner era.

When she was confirmed in 2005, over the objections of People For the American Way and numerous others, we stated:

Justice Brown has tried to use her position on California's Supreme Court to rewrite the law to fit her extreme ideology. She believes we would be better off if we returned to a time when protections like the minimum wage, food safety standards, and Social Security and Medicare were ruled unconstitutional—never mind what voters and elected officials think. She equates affordable housing regulations with theft. She argues that much corporate behavior can only be regulated if companies agree that it's in their best interest. She calls court decisions upholding the New Deal "our own socialist revolution." Her record on civil rights and equal opportunity offends the very notion of justice.

As we said then and as we say now, it is vitally important who gets nominated and confirmed to the federal bench.

PFAW

PFAW Applauds the Citizens United Resolution Effort of YEO Ezra Temko

Ezra Temko’s last day in office representing the Fifth District of Newark, Delaware as a City Councilmember will be this Tuesday, April 17th. After serving two terms in the position for four years, Ezra decided against filing for re-election; he will not, however, be leaving the city council without having left his mark.

Among countless other progressive initiatives Ezra advanced throughout his terms, Ezra recently put forth a resolution in support of efforts to reverse the Citizens United decision, and to encourage public debate about the role that corporations play in American politics.  In a 5-1 vote on March 26, the resolution passed, and thus Newark, Delaware joined the long list of municipal and state governments that have called for overturning the Citizens United decision.

People For the American Way applauds the work of Ezra Temko by championing this movement, and the work of the affiliate People For the American Way Foundation’s YEO Network for having supported such a strong, young progressive.

PFAW

Wisconsin Recall Round-Up

Greetings from on-the-ground as we count down to the recall elections in Wisconsin!

PFAW prepared to re-launch our ground efforts here this week, with PFAW’s Randy Borntrager and Sergio Lopez stopping in to help Scott Foval, who is starting as the new PFAW Wisconsin Coordinator. They visited the state’s Government Accountability Board on Tuesday, the deadline for the filing of recall candidate signature petitions: photos are posted on PFAW Wisconsin's newly-updated

Facebook page

.

There are now four Democratic candidates vying to challenge Scott Walker for Governor, and the Republicans have a surprise challenger who has filed to run against him as well. Wisconsin Republicans are running "fake Democrats" against the six Democratic incumbents who are also up for recall, which We Are Wisconsin says may constitute election fraud.

Meanwhile, right-wing darling Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch decided to go ahead and speak before the CPAC Chicago event, even though she might be recalled 3 days before she is scheduled to appear.

News broke this morning in Roll Call that U.S. Senator Ron Johnson is just about to purge his DC legislative staff, possibly half his office, in order to move to a messaging strategy instead of writing good legislation for Wisconsinites. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has tapped Johnson to become the messaging liaison between the Senate Republican Caucus and apparent GOP Presidential nominee Willard Mitt Romney.

BREAKING: Today Wisconsin Democrats have revealed evidence of what they say is proof that WI Gov. Scott Walker held sole hiring and promotion responsibility for the accused felons on his staff in the John Doe investigation.

Looking ahead to next week, WeAreWisconsin.org is sponsoring Equal Pay Day events on Tuesday, April 17th, encouraging supporters to tell Terry Moulton and Jeff Fitzgerald to stop The GOP's War On Working Women now!

Check out PFAW Wisconsin's updated Facebook pag at and our new Twitter feed @PFAW_WI. We are posting daily on the hot news in the recalls and general elections from now through Election Day.
 

PFAW

Introducing Scott Foval

The People For the American Way political team was in full effect this week as we had the pleasure to go to Wisconsin and meet our new Wisconsin PFAW coordinator, Scott Foval. Wisconsin is ground zero for progressives to push back on right-wing attacks on workers and the entire progressive agenda. Scott has a long history in progressive politics and has been on many campaigns around the country, going back to the Iowa Coordinated Campaign / Bonnie Campbell for Governor Campaign in 1994. We welcome him to the PFAW team in such a crucial year. He’ll be working with We Are Wisconsin and our activists in Wisconsin. Be sure to say hi and help the effort if you are in, or visiting, Wisconsin!

PFAW

UPDATE: Virginia poised to tighten voter ID requirements

4/13/12: Good news! Governor Bob McDonnell has not yet signed SB 1.Instead, he sent the bill back to the Senate for several amendments:

But McDonnell, often mentioned as a possible vice presidential contender, sent the measure back to lawmakers, saying voters should be given more time - until the Friday after an election - to present proper identification.

McDonnell also proposed allowing officials to validate provisional ballots given to those without proper identification by comparing their signatures at the voting booth with those on file with the state election board in the absence of valid identification.

[ . . . ]

McDonnell's proposals in Virginia also include broadening acceptable identification to include community college identity cards and removing a clause relaxing the voter ID requirements if an election officer recognizes the voter.

The Virginia General Assembly will consider the amendments when the session reconvenes next week.

3/9/12: SB 1, which came down to a tie vote last week in the Virginia Senate, broken by Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling, has now passed the House. Expected to be signed by Governor Bob McDonnell, the new law will tighten voter ID requirements in the state by, among other provisions, removing the option for voters without ID to swear to their identity and replacing it with a provisional ballot that then forces voters to leave and prove their identity later but before their vote is counted. Read the Washington Post editorial and Virginian-Pilot column opposing the measure. The Commonwealth Institute reported on its costly implementation, a fact not lost on the state’s voter registrars.

There is no question that we have a lot of work to do to ensure that eligible Americans can exercise their right to vote. But the goal should be fair and honest enfranchisement, not the politics of distraction. Just as SB 1 did with its tie vote, voter ID has proven to be a political distraction.

Last fall’s 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, details just how harmful the politics can be.

“This report reveals just how the far the Right Wing is willing to go to win elections,” continued Keegan. “Eroding the achievements of the Civil Rights movement by disenfranchising voters is abhorrent. All Americans have a fundamental right to vote, and we need to be vigilant to make sure that ever eligible voter is ready and able to vote on Election Day."

It certainly appears that the Right Wing is behind SB 1. ALEC Exposed reports that its lead sponsor, Stephen Martin (R-11), is ALEC’s Virginia Chair, and the lead sponsor of its House companion (HB 9), Mark Cole (R-88), is also affiliated with ALEC. ALEC itself is a voter ID proponent.

ALEC, or the American Legislative Exchange Council, was the subject of its own Right Wing Watch: In Focus report. PFAW Foundation describes the organization as:

A one-stop shop for corporations looking to identify friendly state legislators and work with them to get special-interest legislation introduced. It’s win-win for corporations, their lobbyists, and right-wing legislators. But the big losers are citizens whose rights and interests are sold off to the highest bidder.

Regarding voter ID and election laws:

ALEC is directly tied to the emerging trend among state legislatures to consider voter ID laws. Using false allegations of “voter fraud,” right-wing politicians are pursuing policies that disenfranchise students and other at-risk voters,--including the elderly and the poor--who are unlikely to have drivers’ licenses or other forms of photo ID. By suppressing the vote of such groups, ALEC’s model “Voter ID Act” grants an electoral advantage to Republicans while undermining the right to vote. In addition, ALEC wants to make it easier for corporations to participate in the political process. Their Public Safety and Elections taskforce is co-chaired by Sean Parnell of the Center for Competitive Politics, one of the most vociferous pro-corporate election groups, and promotes model legislation that would devastate campaign finance reform and allow for greater corporate influence in elections.
PFAW Foundation

UPDATE: Former congressman, voting rights coalition, Marine speak out on voting problems in Tennessee

UPDATE: Efforts by the No Barriers to the Ballot Box coalition to repeal Public Chapter Number 23 have unfortunately stalled. Both SB 2139 and HB 2176 died in their respective committees.

Former US Representative Lincoln Davis thought that the Tennessee Primary on March 6 would be an Election Day just like any other for him and his wife, Lynda. But that was not the case when they made it to their polling place.

Without being notified, the Davises had been purged from the rolls, which appears to have been a mistake not of their doing but on the part of elections officials. Davis continues:

The incident has raised concerns about that mistake and a host of other election issues, including:

Lack of government-issued photo IDS for those over the age of 60, the end of early voting in Davidson County ahead of the previously agreed upon date, a Nashville judge who had been denied the ability to vote by an "improperly trained" poll worker, and provisional ballot documents that gave an incorrect phone number to voters.

Photo ID in particular has galvanized Tennesseans who support voting rights. The No Barriers to the Ballot Box coalition has come together in an effort to repeal Public Chapter Number 23. Also known as SB 16, this law was sponsored by Senator Bill Ketron and Representative Debra Maggart, both ALEC members.

Representative Mike Turner is championing repeal through HB 2176 (companion SB 2139), which recently passed the House State and Local Government Subcommittee. The Tennessean reporting:

“I hope that we start encouraging people to vote, because for the greatest democracy in the world, we have a very small number of people voting,” Turner told the panel. “I think this (law) discourages people to vote.”

The panel’s three Democrats were joined by Independent Rep. Kent Williams of Elizabethtown and Republican Rep. Bob Ramsey of Blountville in voting for the bill. All three votes against the measure came from Republicans.

Click here for more from The Commercial Appeal.

Before the vote was taken, veteran Marine Tim Thompson testified regarding the sacrifices he and fellow servicemembers have made in order to protect our right to vote – sacrifices that he believes are undermined by the current law.

Thompson has also told his story to Rachel Maddow.



For more information, 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.

PFAW Foundation

UPDATE: ID and assistance restrictions on tap for voters in Mississippi

UPDATE: HB 921, which passed the House in March, has now passed the Senate and gone into concurrence. It’s unlikely to go into effect before the November elections. HB 1315, which also got through the House, has died in committee in the Senate.

Last November, Mississippi voters approved by referendum a voter ID constitutional amendment. Because it requires enacting legislation, the House has passed HB 921. It must get through the Senate and Governor, and be approved by the US Department of Justice, before becoming law. Representative Bill Denny, an ALEC member, is its primary sponsor.

Representative Denny also sponsors HB 1315, which puts voting even further out of reach for those who are blind, disabled, or unable to read and write. Clarion Ledger, page 3:

After passionate debate, lawmakers passed 63-57 a measure that would set up rules on those who can assist a voter and how often. For instance, a Mississippi voter would have to get the assistance of two election officials, rather than just one, and if someone other than an election official were to assist those blind or otherwise disabled, that person must swear under oath he or she has followed the law.

Under that proposed law, those who aren't election officials are limited to helping 10 people. The measure also would require signed declarations of attesting witnesses.

The legislation connects with the voter fraud law, which carries up to five years in prison if convicted. The bill also connects with voter intimidation, which carries up to a year in jail.

Voters seeking assistance deserve strong legal protections, and those providing assistance should have their best interests at heart, but people who face already significant obstacles to enfranchisement shouldn’t be forced to climb even higher hurdles.

For more information, 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.

PFAW Foundation

DOJ takes step forward with latest hate crime indictment

October 28, 2009 marked a historic step forward in the fight for equality. With the signing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, President Obama sent loud and clear the message that freedom from violence is a right all Americans should enjoy.

In an ideal world, the law would never be used. But we know that there are victims who need protections based on sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and disability. And today, the first-ever indictment was handed down for a violation of the sexual orientation provision of the statute.

The indictment alleges that on April 4, 2011, [David Jason Jenkins, 37, and Anthony Ray Jenkins, 20] kidnapped and assaulted Kevin Pennington because of Pennington’s sexual orientation. According to the indictment, the defendants enlisted two women to trick Pennington into getting into a truck with the defendants, so that the defendants could drive Pennington to a state park and assault him. According to the indictment, the defendants then drove Pennington [to] a secluded area of the Kingdom Come State Park in Kentucky and assaulted him.

What happened to Kevin Pennington is an outrage. That this prosecution is possible is a success for the rule of law.

PFAW

ALEC's Self-Defense Doesn't Hold Water

Facing unprecedented public scrutiny and the beginnings of a mass corporate exodus, the American Legislative Exchange Council is on defense. This morning, the organization issued a statement explaining that they are a “pro-growth, pro-jobs” policy organization, and really can’t see what all the fuss is about. Here’s a snippet:

"For years, ALEC has partnered with legislators to research and develop better, more effective public policies – legislation that creates a more transparent, accountable government, policies that place a priority on free enterprise and consumer choice, and tax policies that are fair, simple and that spur the kind of competiveness that puts Americans back to work.

"At a time when job creation, real solutions and improved dialogue among political leaders is needed most, ALEC’s mission has never been more important. This is why we are redoubling our commitment to these essential priorities. We are not and will not be defined by ideological special interests who would like to eliminate discourse that leads to economic vitality, jobs and fiscal stability for the states."

Unfortunately for ALEC, these defenses simply don’t hold water. If ALEC’s idea of “discourse” means putting corporate lawyers together with state lawmakers at secret conferences to draft pro-corporate legislation; and “economic vitality” and “jobs” means suppressing the vote, locking up immigrants, busting unions and wrecking the environment – all measures designed to funnel money into the coffers of ALEC’s corporate members regardless of the damage to others – then there’s a lot more fuss headed their way. Here’s part of PFAW Foundation president Michael Keegan’s response:

“ALEC’s statement would have us believe that their policies promote ‘economic vitality,’ but it is difficult to see how policies that disenfranchise thousands of voters, create irrational gun laws like ‘Shoot First,’ promote fast tracks to prison for immigrants and endanger our health and safety by gutting environmental protections make any American better off. 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."

The full statement is available here.

PFAW Foundation

Romney’s ‘War on Women’ Gambit

So, Mitt Romney’s campaign has a new idea, which is that they will neutralize the media devastation caused by the GOP’s attacks on women by turning things around and accusing President Obama of waging a “War on Women.” So far, the one piece of evidence Romney’s team has been able to hustle up to back up their new claim is an out-of-context jobs number that Politifact has rated Mostly False.

Asked to explain their new tagline in more detail today, Romney’s advisers were at a loss.

In the meantime, Romney shows no signs of abandoning any of the GOP’s anti-woman policies. The candidates advisors told a reporter that they weren’t sure if their boss supports the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a landmark law – signed by President Obama – that ensures that women can sue for pay discrimination. Ledbetter fired back, saying, “If he is truly concerned about women in this economy, he wouldn’t have to take time to ‘think’ about whether he supports the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.”

Romney has done a 180 on reproductive rights, supporting extreme “personhood” measures and calling the Obama administration rule making sure women have insurance coverage for contraceptives an “attack on religious conscience, religious freedom.” When a firestorm erupted over Rush Limbaugh’s false and degrading attacks on Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, Romney simply said Limbaugh’s sexist slurs were “not the language I would have used.”

And of course Romney tapped Robert Bork, a vociferous opponent of feminism and reproductive rights, to head his advisory team on courts and the law.

If Romney wants to convince American voters that his opponent is the one waging a War on Women, he’s going to have an uphill battle.
 

PFAW