PEOPLE FOR BLOG

Press Conference to Support the Shareholder Protection Act

Tomorrow, PFAW will join the Corporate Reform Coalition to support the Shareholder Protection Act, a valuable tool which will help improve transparency in the wake of Citizen’s United by requiring corporations to disclose their political donations to their shareholders. Often, shareholders of a corporation may be indirectly contributing to a political candidate that they don’t personally support through the corporation's political contributions, and might not even be aware of it.


A press conference announcing the bill will be held on Wednesday, July 13 at noon in the Capitol. Sen. Robert Menendez and Rep. Michael Capuano, who are the sponsors of the House and Senate bills, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal are slated to speak.

PFAW

Deceitful Robocalls Added to List of Dirty Election Tricks in Wisconsin

The Wisconsin GOP has been going to great lengths to sabotage efforts to conduct fair and open recall elections in Wisconsin. Instead of honestly putting their candidates against the Democrats and letting the voters decide between the two, they are running fake Democratic candidates in the primaries in an attempt to confuse voters and draw out the process. They have even distributed posters designed to encourage Republican voters to participate in the Democratic primary and vote for their planted candidates.

Adding to the list of dirty tricks, reports are surfacing that a “Right to Life” group is robocalling Wisconsin Democrats and telling them not to go to the polls today, and instead to wait for an absentee ballot to arrive in the mail. This is false, as July 12 is the last day to cast a vote in the Democratic primary, and there is not enough time to cast a vote by mail. Apparently, the robocalls are coming from a 703 area code (Virginia).

We do not know yet exactly who is ultimately responsible for these calls, and even if an individual is caught and takes the fall, we may never find out who’s really pulling the strings. Whoever they are, they are obviously people in synch with the right wing agenda of Governor Walker and the Koch Brothers. Disenfranchising voters by tricking them into not voting is a tried and true method of voter suppression. So is finding excuses at the polling place to keep certain people from voting, as GOP-pushed voter ID laws do. What all the tactics we see in Wisconsin have in common is that the right wing is pulling out the stops to prevent the people from exercising their constitutional right to remove them from office.

PFAW

Wisconsin News Round-Up, 07/11


Today's news from Wisconsin:

  • Democrats in the Wisconsin state legislature got their first look at the new district map, which shamelessly ignored the law and [] redistricted Democrats out of their districts. John Nichols at the Nation has a great piece explaining how the Republicans put their political interests above the law: for example, in flouting a law which requires the state legislature to wait until local governments have drawn their own maps, designed to ensure “communities are not cut up for partisan purposes.” Democrats are now suing, calling it a ‘naked power grab’, and with Democratic candidate Nancy Nusbaum being drawn out of her district by half a block[] it’s hard to disagree with that characterization. Currently, state legislature plans to vote on the maps next Tuesday.
  • Continuing on the theme of Republicans being unable to win on the issues, GOTV efforts are being made in several districts encouraging Republicans to vote for the fake Democrats in tomorrow’s sham primary.
  • From the Desperation Files, we have Luther Olsen and his campaign’s underwhelming attempt at spinning his dire fundraising numbers. His campaign has attacked Fred Clark for not having enough contributors in the district – despite that small, irrelevant fact that Clark has more contributors in the district than Olsen. I suppose that’s what happens when your opponent has over twenty times as many contributors as you do, Luther.
  • Concerns about the impact of the new voter fraud law (or, the Let’s Solve a Problem That Doesn’t Exist Law) on voter turnout continue to mount: Andrea Kaminski of League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Education Fund is worried that rumors about what to expect at the ballot will discourage voters. The city of Glendale will only be opening one of its polling places for tomorrow’s primary, although it will open all polling places for the August 9th general.
  • A nice look at the GOP candidates’ tax hypocrisy from the WisconsinGazette.com.
  • Finally, take a moment to think of poor Sen. Robert Cowles, who may be being bullied into supporting Walker’s radical agenda. Because while families are being forced to make sacrifices and struggling to make ends meet, the worst thing Robert Cowles has to fear is a primary challenge and fewer campaign contributions from big corporations. Don’t you feel sorry for him?

 

PFAW

Disclosure Critics are Missing the Point

Legislative efforts to combat the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizen’s United decision, which opened the door to unlimited, secretive spending by shadowy groups, have been having a tough time getting past corporate lobbyists and Republicans in Congress. First, Congress failed to pass the DISCLOSE Act, which would have shed light on the secretive groups that funnel corporate money into American politics. Then, last April they put up such a fuss about a leaked executive order that would require federal contractors to disclose their political spending that the order was put on hold.

Now, another effort to bring some accountability back into post-Citizens United elections is meeting with a predictable response. As reported by Mother Jones, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) introduced an amendment last Thursday to a defense authorization bill that would legislatively accomplish the proposed Executive Order’s goals. However, such proposals have been criticized by Republicans in Congress such as Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) for attempting to politicize the contract procurement process. Such critics are missing the point, as Rep. Eshoo points out, because “When contractors can spend money in elections, the contracting process is already politicized.”

PFAW

Ohio Republicans End All Pretense that Voter ID is About Fraud

As if  Republicans’ stated justification for Voter ID laws – to prevent the non-existent epidemic of voter fraud – wasn’t weak enough, a new proposal in the Ohio House has eliminated any pretense that these types of laws are not about suppressing the vote of those who typically lean Democratic.

Even if a voter is properly registered, she must cast her ballot in the correct precinct in order for it to count. Now, Ohio Republicans have inserted language into their voter ID bill stating that poll workers need not direct a voter to the correct polling place should they show up at the wrong location. According to Think Progress:

Allowing poll workers to refuse to help those who are legitimately confused about where they should vote opens the door for increased voter suppression. As state Sen. Nina Turner (D) pointed out, “Voting in the wrong precinct led to over 14,000 registered voters statewide to lose their vote in 2008.” Rating the statement “true,” Politifact reports:

[T]he second most common reason the ballot was not counted was because while the person was properly registered to vote in Ohio, they cast the ballot in the wrong county or precinct. In all, 14,335 such ballots were not counted for this reason, according to the Brunner report.

As the Cleveland Plain Dealer pointed out, mixing up precincts “most often occurs” in “urban and impoverished areas of the state,” leading Turner to sarcastically suggest of Republicans, “I guess the loss of votes for some doesn’t matter.”

This makes it absolutely clear that the Republicans and Gov. John Kasich have no interest in the “integrity of the vote.” They just want to make sure they get more of them, by any means necessary.

h/t Crooks and Liars

PFAW

Orrin Hatch: Poor People Should Take Responsibility

In the latest example of the GOP’s eagerness to throw working families under the bus to avoid placing even the slightest burden on the wealthy and corporations, Sen. Orrin Hatch has declared that poor people need to take more responsibility for relieving the country’s debt, because, after all, it would be unfair to tax the “daylights out of everybody around here.” “Everybody around here” presumably refers to Hatch and his fellow senators, who earn $174,000 a year and whose median net worth (as of 2009) was $2.4 million.

PFAW

Pawlenty Brags about Former Minnesota Government Shutdown; Hopes we Forget his Role in the Current One

Former Minnesota governor and GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty is trying to deflect criticism of his role in Minnesota’s current government shutdown by touting is role in a previous one.

Pawlenty’s out with a new TV ad that claims he “won” a 2005 shutdown that closed the state government for eight days, at an estimated cost to taxpayers of $4.68 million per day. Pawlenty’s choice to brag about the shutdown and claim victory is interesting. Pawlenty’s beef with Democratic legislators was that they wanted to raise taxes on the wealthy in order to keep the state’s health services intact – Pawlenty and Republicans in the legislature wanted to cut 27,000 people off the state's health care plan.  In the end, the two sides agreed to raise the state’s cigarette taxes in order to preserve essential social services and prevent the wealthy from paying more income taxes. This is the fight that Pawlenty claims he “won.”

The ad is part of a large effort by the Pawlenty campaign to whitewash his fiscal record as governor. While Pawlenty likes to claim that he left the state with a budget surplus, that surplus was largely just on paper. As the Wall Street Journal has reported, Pawlenty’s deferred payments and fuzzy math helped to make the state’s budget situation look a lot better than it was…laying the groundwork for the current deficit.

Watch the new ad:

PFAW

Supreme Court Shows Ideological Biases, Is It Still Nonpartisan?

The New York Times posted a must-read editorial highlighting activities by Supreme Court justices, that, particularly in light of the Court’s recent 5-4 decisions favoring corporate special interests over the rights of individuals, create a compelling case for an ethical code of conduct for Supreme Court Justices.

Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito Jr., for example, appeared at political events. That kind of activity makes it less likely that the court’s decisions will be accepted as nonpartisan judgments. Part of the problem is that the justices are not bound by an ethics code. At the very least, the court should make itself subject to the code of conduct that applies to the rest of the federal judiciary.

So many of the Supreme Court’s decisions this term have worked in favor of powerful corporate interests that it’s becoming almost impossible to ignore the ideological biases of the justices. The editorial discusses some of these worrisome rulings, including making it harder “for private lawsuits to succeed against mutual fund malefactors, even when they have admitted to lying and cheating,” and making it “more difficult for class-action suits in all manner of cases to move forward.” in the recent Wal-Mart case.

The federal judiciary was set up to put space between the legal system and political sphere, but it seems more and more that some justices have brought an intense ideological agenda to the bench. If the American people are to trust in the impartiality of the Supreme Court, its justices are going to have to be held to the very highest of ethical standards.

PFAW

Americans Support Tax Increases

We know the Republican view on taxes. In Minnesota, the government has shut down over Republican refusal to raise taxes on the fewer than 8,000 people making over $1 million. On the national level, Republicans are refusing to even consider raising revenue, threatening to let the U.S. default on its debt. But what about everyday Americans? Even with the influence of the anti-tax Tea Party, Americans strongly support raising taxes in order to decrease the deficit and reduce income inequality, as 19 polls taken since the beginning of the year show. Bruce Braley has the rundown:

A June 9 Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 61 percent of people believe higher taxes will be necessary to reduce the deficit.

A June 7 Pew poll found strong support for tax increases to reduce the deficit; 67 percent of people favor raising the wage cap for Social Security taxes, 66 percent raising income tax rates on those making more than $250,000, and 62 percent favor limiting tax deductions for large corporations. A plurality of people would also limit the mortgage interest deduction.

A May 26 Lake Research poll of Colorado voters found that they support higher taxes on the rich to shore-up Social Security’s finances by a 44 percent to 25 percent margin.

A May 13 Bloomberg poll found that only one third of people believe it is possible to substantially reduce the budget deficit without higher taxes; two thirds do not.

A May 12 Ipsos/Reuters poll found that three-fifths of people would support higher taxes to reduce the deficit.

A May 4 Quinnipiac poll found that people favor raising taxes on those making more than $250,000 to reduce the deficit by a 69 percent to 28 percent margin.

An April 29 Gallup poll found that only 20 percent of people believe the budget deficit should be reduced only by cutting spending; 76 percent say that higher taxes must play a role.

An April 25 USC/Los Angeles Times poll of Californians found that by about a 2-to-1 margin voters favor raising taxes to deal with the state’s budget problems over cutting spending alone.

An April 22 New York Times/CBS News poll found that 72 percent of people favor raising taxes on the rich to reduce the deficit. It also found that 66 percent of people believe tax increases will be necessary to reduce the deficit versus 19 percent who believe spending cuts alone are sufficient.

An April 20 Washington Post/ABC News poll found that by a 2-to-1 margin people favor a combination of higher taxes and spending cuts over spending cuts alone to reduce the deficit. It also found that 72 percent of people favor raising taxes on the rich to reduce the deficit and it is far and away the most popular deficit reduction measure.

An April 20 Public Religion Research Institute poll found that by a 2-to-1 margin, people believe that the wealthy should pay more taxes than the poor or middle class. Also, 62 percent of people believe that growing inequality of wealth is a serious problem.

An April 18 McClatchy-Marist poll found that voters support higher taxes on the rich to reduce the deficit by a 2-to-1 margin, including 45 percent of self-identified Tea Party members.

An April 18 Gallup poll found that 67 percent of people do not believe that corporations pay their fair share of taxes, and 59 percent believe that the rich do not pay their fair share.

On April 1, Tulchin Research released a poll showing that voters in California overwhelmingly support higher taxes on the rich to deal with the state’s budgetary problems.

A March 15 ABC News/Washington Post poll found that only 31 percent of voters publican policy of only cutting spending to reduce the deficit; 64 percent believe higher taxes will also be necessary.

A March 2 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 81 percent of people would support a surtax on millionaires to help reduce the budget deficit, and 68 percent would support eliminating the Bush tax cuts for those earning more than $250,000.

A February 15 CBS News poll found that only 49 percent of people believe that reducing the deficit will require cuts in programs that benefit them; 41 percent do not. Also, only 37 percent of people believe that reducing the deficit will require higher taxes on them; 59 percent do not.

A January 20 CBS News/New York Times poll found that close to two-thirds of people would rather raise taxes than cut benefits for Social Security or Medicare in order to stabilize their finances. The poll also found that if taxes must be raised, 33 percent would favor a national sales tax, 32 percent would support restricting the mortgage interest deduction, 12 percent would raise the gasoline taxes, and 10 percent would tax health care benefits.

On January 3, a 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll found that 61 percent of people would rather raise taxes on the rich to balance the budget than cut defense, Social Security or Medicare.

h/t Teagan Goddard

PFAW

Wisconsin Budget Takes Effect Today: Pros and Cons

The budget forced through the Wisconsin legislature by Republicans takes effect today, and there certainly will be some changes taking place throughout the state as a result. Regardless of the political drama that captivated the nation leading to this bill, what most people care about is how it will actually affect their daily lives. At the most basic level, people want to know if this bill leave them better off. For most Wisconsinites, the answer is a definite no.

This bill will make life more difficult for

  • Working families trying to raise kids (the bill reduces tax credits by $65m)
  • Anyone on Medicaid ($500m in cuts)
  • University of Wisconsin students (5.5% tuition hike)
  • Children of undocumented immigrants (no more in-state rates)
  • Middle school students who dream of going to college (a program that helps qualified students get financial aid)
  • Public servants of all kinds (retirement age raised)

There were, however, a few beneficiaries:

  • Former President Ronald Reagan (Feb. 6 is now "Ronald Reagan Day")
  • People who are rich enough or have enough rich friends to run for office without public financing (it’s no longer available)
PFAW

Wisconsin News Round-Up, 07/01


Today's news from Wisconsin:

 

PFAW

Issa's Committee Meets Perpetual Resistance

House Oversight & Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa is known for his particularly partisan investigations, despite his many promises to the contrary. Not surprisingly, the Obama administration is frequently in the crosshairs of Issa’s inquiries, that is, when he’s not trying to figure out how to increase profits for mega corporations.

It seems, however, that whenever Issa tries to make his case, Ranking Member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) is right there pushing back, producing reports - based in actual fact – and giving the American people the full, unvarnished story.

Earlier this year, Issa tried to blame Obama Administration regulation for high gas prices, but Cummings released a convincing report showing that speculation is a more likely cause.

Yesterday, in advance of Issa’s hearing on the ATF’s “Fast and Furious” gun-trafficking program – a hearing which Issa has kept narrowly focused on Administration actions – Cummings again produced a report suggesting that we would not be in this situation if not for lax federal statues that handicapped our agents’ ability to prosecute gun traffickers.

Issa will undoubtedly try to continue using the Committee to promote his agenda of slamming the Obama Administration and currying favors for his corporate friends. Fortunately, for the American people, Rep. Cummings will be there to continue setting the record straight.

PFAW

Last abortion clinics in Kansas shut their doors

Abortion is legal in the United States. But as of tomorrow, there will be one state where you can’t get one.

Tomorrow is when Kansas’s new TRAP (targeted regulation of abortion providers) regulations will go into place, forcing every abortion clinic in the state to close because none can meet the state’s onerous new rules. The AP elaborates:

The regulations tell providers what equipment and drugs they must stock and set space and temperature requirements for procedure and recovery rooms.

For example, rooms where abortions are performed to have at least 150 square feet of space, excluding fixed cabinets, and to keep their temperatures between 68 and 73 degrees. Each procedure room also must have its own janitor's closet with at least 50 square feet.

TRAP laws are one of the most effective ways states have to eliminate access to abortion without outright banning it. Proponents often say they are concerned with the safety of patients, but the substance of the regulations imply otherwise. Abortion is one of the safest medical procedures available – with or without a 50 square foot janitor’s closet available next door.

On the other hand, illegal abortions are incredibly dangerous. As states shut out opportunities for women to access and pay for safe and legal abortion procedures, more and more women may be driven to seek dangerous, illegal procedures.

For more on TRAP laws and other ways state legislatures are trying to make abortion all but illegal, take a look at our report on the war on women in the states.
 

UPDATE: In a last minute decision, one clinic will be allowed to stay open.

PFAW

Today's Supreme Court: Not Since the Gilded Age

There was once a Monty Python sketch about Dennis Moore, a confused Robin Hood wannabe who steals from the poor and gives to the rich. Minus the laugh track, that more and more seems to be the mission of the Corporate Court. The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne has a terrific column on this: "The Supreme Court's Continuing Defense of the Powerful."

The United States Supreme Court now sees its central task as comforting the already comfortable and afflicting those already afflicted.

If you are a large corporation or a political candidate backed by lots of private money, be assured that the court's conservative majority will be there for you, solicitous of your needs and ready to swat away those pesky little people who dare to contest your power.

After discussing some of the outrages of the arch-conservative majority, Dionne writes:

[P]ay heed to how this conservative court majority bristles at nearly every effort to give the less wealthy and less powerful an opportunity to prevail, whether at the ballot box or in the courtroom. Not since the Gilded Age has a Supreme Court been so determined to strengthen the hand of corporations and the wealthy.

People For the American Way Foundation recently submitted testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee analyzing the ominous pro-corporate tilt of the Roberts Court in the term that just ended.

PFAW

Will Immigration Authorities Stop Discriminating Against Same-Sex Marriages?

Last year, we wrote about Joshua Vandiver and Henry Velandia, a married couple who risked being separated because of discrimination in federal immigration laws. Vandiver, an American citizen, and Velandia, a Venezuelan, were married in Connecticut, but because the Defense of Marriage Act prohibits federal agencies from recognizing same-sex marriages, Vandiver was unable to sponsor Velandia for a green card, and Velandia was at risk of being deported.

Then, earlier this month, Immigration and Customs Enforcement quietly closed the case against Velandia – in a move that could set a powerful precedent for how immigration officials deal with cases of married gay couples. From the New York Times:

In a decision that could have far-reaching effects on immigration cases involving same-sex couples, federal officials have canceled the deportation of a Venezuelan man in New Jersey who is married to an American man, the couple’s lawyer said Wednesday.

Josh Vandiver, left, and his husband, Henry Velandia, outside the immigration court in Newark on Friday.

The announcement comes as immigration officials put into effect new, more flexible guidelines governing the deferral and cancellation of deportations, particularly for immigrants with no serious criminal records.

Immigration lawyers and gay rights advocates said the decision represented a significant shift in policy and could open the door to the cancellation of deportations for other immigrants in same-sex marriages.

“This action shows that the government has not only the power but the inclination to do the right thing when it comes to protecting certain vulnerable populations from deportation,” said the couple’s lawyer, Lavi Soloway.

The case has been closely watched across the country by lawyers and advocates who viewed it as a test of the federal government’s position on the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

Vandiver, a Princeton graduate student, and Velandia told their story in a video for the Daily Princetonian last year:

 

PFAW