PEOPLE FOR BLOG

Oh, You Mean That "Random Person" Sitting Right Next To Me?

Cross-posted on Right Wing Watch

Just yesterday, the Washington Post noted the bizarre stranglehold that Grover Norquist and his anti-tax zealotry has over Republicans in Congress.

Today, during his weekly press conference, House Speaker John Boehner was asked by NBC's Luke Russert what he thought about Norquist's influence on Republicans, to which Boehner responded with a bizarre dismissal:

BOEHNER: Our focus here is on jobs. We're doing everything I can to get our economy going, to get people back to work. It's not often I'm asked about some random person.

RUSSERT: To your conference, is Grover Norquist a random person?

BOEHNER: Listen, our focus is on creating jobs, not talking about somebody's personality.

Ummm ...really? Because the last time we checked, it was rather uncommon for "some random person" to be seated right next to high-ranking GOP leaders like John Boehner:

PFAW

Boulder, Colorado Joins Call for End to Corporate Personhood

Citizens of Boulder, Colorado voted last night to pass a ballot measure calling for a constitutional amendment stating that corporations are not people and do not have the same rights as people to influence elections. The campaign was a grassroots effort organized by Move to Amend, a national coalition dedicated to abolishing corporate personhood and reversing the Supreme Court’s deeply flawed decision in Citizens United v. FEC.

“From Occupy Wall Street to Boulder, Colorado and every town in between, Americans are fed up with corporate dominance of our political system,” said Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, a national spokesperson for Move to Amend. “Local resolution campaigns are an opportunity for citizens to speak up and let it be known that we won’t accept the corporate takeover of our government lying down. We urge communities across the country to join the Move to Amend campaign and raise your voices.”

 

The national movement supporting a constitutional amendment is picking up steam. Yesterday, Senators Tom Udall and Michael Bennet (with additional cosponsors) introduced an amendment that would reverse the effects of the Citizens United decision, a move which according to PFAW’s Marge Baker, will will help ensure that “the American people – not deep pocketed corporations – [will] be the loudest voice when we choose our leaders.”

Voters in Madison and Dane Counties, Wisconsin approved a similar measure earlier this year, and voters in Missoula, Montana will have a chance to do so next week.

The ballot measures may be scattered across the country, but the message is clear: corporations are not people, and the flood of special-interest money that has hijacked our democracy needs to be stopped.

A complete list of all resolutions passed so far is available here.

PFAW

What do we need? JOBS! When do we need them? NOW!

Every day all over the country we hear that what the American people need most are jobs in our communities. President Obama has proposed a jobs bill that would help create these jobs while rebuilding crumbling infrastructure and make sure our teachers, firefighters and police officers stay employed doing the things that make this country safe and stronger.

Yesterday, People For the American way helped in the fight to create jobs by hosting a teleconference with our members, highlighting our ongoing work to support the President’s American Jobs Act and hearing from top White House officials about where we need to go to move the Act forward. We also had the privilege of attending a special White House meeting where the President, Vice President and top staff reiterated their commitment to putting Americans back to work. Their passionate words energized the progressive audience as we continue to engage in this very important fight.

The American Jobs Act is a proactive step in the right direction but faces conservative opposition. We need to continue to put the pressure on those that seek to put Big Business and the wealthy ahead of the children and families who will bear the brunt the far-right agenda.

For more information on the American Jobs Act visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/economy/jobsact
 

PFAW

Norton Thanks Issa for Pulling DC Bill

Yesterday we reported how eager Representative Darrell Issa was to override DC’s home rule when he introduced a bill to mandate new DC hiring practices. Just hours later, he pulled his bill off the markup schedule for his committee, where it had been fast-tracked. DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton:

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) called Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) today to thank him for pulling his bill on District of Columbia hiring practices, after D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown called and assured Issa that the city was moving forward with its own hiring reform legislation. During an affable phone conversation, Norton told Issa that she has long advised members of Congress who have concerns about local D.C. laws to speak directly with the mayor, council chair, or her regarding their concerns rather than to introduce legislation, and that she hopes that other Members will follow Issa’s example in this case of working directly with the city to address their concerns.

We must still remain vigilant in the House, because as Delegate Norton points out:

The current House Republican majority has been less open to working with the District and instead has moved aggressively on anti-home-rule legislation.

And in the Senate, remember that PFAW is still calling for a clean funding bill, and urges everyone to send the same message to the Senate.

PFAW

Letter to the New York Times: The GOP's War on the Courts

This letter to the editor from PFAW's Marge Baker was published in today's New York Times:

Re “G.O.P. Field Stoking Anger at U.S. Courts” (front page, Oct. 24):

Extreme anti-judiciary measures like those proposed by Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul, as well as Mitt Romney’s choice of the ultra-conservative failed Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork to head his legal team, are chilling reminders of the stakes of the 2012 presidential election.

But these are not far-off threats. The G.O.P. has already found a simple and immediate way to wage war on the federal judiciary: by obstructing the confirmation of new judges.

There are about 100 vacancies in federal courts throughout the country, a third of which are in districts so hard pressed that they have been designated “judicial emergencies.”

In spite of this, Senate Republicans have been confirming nominees at a record sluggish pace. The Senate is currently sitting on 23 nominees, virtually all of whom have strong bipartisan support. It simply defies reason that nominees who have received absolutely no opposition from either party are sometimes forced to wait months for a simple up-or-down confirmation vote.

A functioning independent judiciary is at the foundation of our democracy. But the religious right has often been wary of the judiciary’s power to act as a bulwark against efforts to crumble the wall of separation between church and state and to deny rights to women, gay people, religious minorities, workers and consumers. Unable to pass extreme measures like the ones being proposed by presidential candidates, the right has settled instead for quietly kneecapping the courts.

MARGE BAKER
Exec. V.P. for Policy and Program
People for the American Way
Washington, Oct. 24, 2011

PFAW

Corporate Political Spending: Relief through Consumer & Shareholder Pressure

Thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC which granted corporations the same rights as people to spend unlimited, undisclosed money to influence elections, the 2012 election cycle promises to bring the biggest flood of political spending from outside groups we’ve ever seen. Such outsized influence by a few corporations and special interest groups is a staggering reflection on the state of our democracy, and it’s clear that corporations are well on their way to becoming our elected officials’ primary constituency. If this pattern continues unabated, American citizens will be left in the dust.

A recent story by the Washington Post examines two studies showing that although special interests are likely to continue flooding the electoral process with political donations, many are beginning to realize that avoiding political spending altogether is good for government and good for business.

Americans are taking back our democracy by showing corporations that staying out of the political process is in their best interest after all. Under pressure from customers and shareholders, corporations are realizing that when they engage in political spending, they become a symbol of what they support – and the public-relations impact isn’t always positive.

When Target gave money in July to a pro-business group in Minnesota, the company thought it was helping its bottom line by backing candidates in its home state who support lower taxes. Instead, the retailer has found itself in a fight with liberal and gay rights groups that has escalated into calls for a nationwide boycott and protests at the company's headquarters and stores.

The potential for a consumer backlash has caused corporations to reevaluate the benefit of interfering in the political process, and some are banning it outright. The threat of a shareholder backlash looms large as well, and shareholders are beginning to demand disclosure of where their investments ultimately end up. The Corporate Reform Coalition, along with PFAW, has been a strong supporter of the Shareholder Protection Act, which would require corporations to disclose their political donations to their shareholders, preventing a company’s investors from indirectly contributing to a candidate without their knowledge.

Citizens United may have opened the door to a corporate takeover of our democracy, but through public pressure, reform such as the Shareholder Protection Act and ultimately a constitutional amendment enabling the government to limit corporate influence in elections, we can ensure that the American people retain the loudest voice in our democracy.

PFAW

Florida Students Get Lesson in Voter Suppression

The abhorrent new Florida election-law has snared its first public victim: A high school teacher who’s being fined a thousand dollars for failing to turn in voter registration forms she collected from her civics class within 48 hours.

Earlier this year, Governor Rick Scott and his Republican legislative allies amended the state’s election law to make it more difficult to both register voters and for citizens exercise their right to vote in upcoming elections. Recently, Secretary of State Kurt Browning, a Rick Scott appointee, wrote a letter to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi that asked her to impose the fine on Dawn Quarles, a high school government teacher.

Before the law was amended, people running registration drives were given 10 days to send their applications to election officials. Now, they have only 48 hours. The law isn’t just affecting civics teachers--thanks to the strict requirements imposed by the legislation the Florida League of Women Voters has ceased to conduct voter registration drives.

Additionally, the law decreases the number of early voting days, which were seen as aiding democratic-leaning constituencies during the 2008 election. Florida Republicans are trying to shape the electorate to their advantage by disenfranchising Florida voters, and whatever your political leanings, the new election law isn’t the American way.

PFAW

GOP Cabinet Member: Republicans in Congress Don’t Care About Jobs

In an interview with the Daily Beast, transportation secretary and former GOP congressman Ray LaHood comes right out and says it: the current Republican Congress cares more about defeating President Obama than about creating jobs.


LaHood is understandably most incensed about the GOP’s unwillingness to pass a simple infrastructure bill that would help repair the nation’s crumbling roads and bridge while creating thousands of jobs:


Even in the wake of a national report declaring 200 bridges structurally deficient, including one that brings tens of thousands of commuters from Virginia into Washington each day, and one that spans the home states of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner, Republicans are expected to maintain their wall of opposition to a new round of stimulus spending on infrastructure. The infrastructure bill would put thousands of people to work, says LaHood, “but because of their own personal political feelings against the president, they don’t want to hand him a victory.”


LaHood has been dropping hints for some time about his frustration, and last week he unloaded in the interview.


“The crowd that was elected the last time not only came here to do nothing, they also came to put down the president,” he says. “And the way to put him down is not to give him any kind of opportunity to be successful.”


He faults the Tea Party freshmen, but doesn’t let the GOP leadership off the hook, recalling McConnell’s remark that his No. 1 goal was to defeat Obama.
“Republicans made a decision right after the election—don’t give Obama any victories. The heck with putting people to work, because we can score points,” LaHood says.


He goes on to compare the current GOP Congress to his own freshman Republican class, the Newt Gingrich-led “Contract With America” class:
 

There were sharp edges in that GOP freshman class, but the difference is, “They didn’t come here to do nothing. They came here to vote on things, to make change for the positive…That’s not the fact with this crowd [Tea Party].”

LaHood is still a Republican. He’s clearly still proud of his role in Gingrich’s 1994 army – which certainly had plenty of faults. But he’s noticed an important and troubling shift in how his party is approaching its role in governing. It’s a shift that all of us, regardless of party, should take note of.
 

PFAW

Memo to House Republicans: Slogans Don’t Create Jobs

Later today, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA.) will bring to the house floor a non-binding resolution that reaffirms “In God We Trust” as the official motto of the United States. The move might not fit with the House Republicans’ insistence that their legislative agenda will focus solely on jobs, spending and deregulation, but it shouldn’t surprise political observers. Indeed, it’s now been 301 days since House Republicans took power, and they’ve yet to bring a comprehensive jobs bill to the floor. “In God We Trust,” meanwhile, has been the official motto of the United States since 1956, and it will remain the motto with or without this meaningless vote.

The arguments used to justify the vote are laughable. According to Roll Call, Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA.), who is sponsoring the legislation, believes the resolution is needed because President Obama once referred to “E Pluribus Unum” as the country’s motto. Additionally, Rep. Forbes asserts that the motto is absent from sections of the Capitol Visitor Center.

Back in May, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH.) reportedly told The Hill, “We’re pretty well committed to the House doing substantive work on the floor of the House.” The Speaker has also taken issue with “all of the commemorative resolutions that used to be brought to the floor of the House, some of them I thought were quite meaningless.” It’s difficult to see how a non-binding resolution reaffirming a motto doesn’t qualify as “meaningless.” It’s time for House Republicans to stop with frivolous resolutions and start working with Democrats to pass meaningful legislation to boost our economy.

PFAW

UPDATE: PFAW to Senate GOP: Leave DC alone

Last month, PFAW strongly encouraged the Senate Appropriations Committee to approve a clean DC appropriations bill. Now the fight continues in the Senate, where this week we expect the consideration of a “minibus” appropriations package including DC.

PFAW renews its call for a clean bill, and urges everyone to once again send the same message to the Senate.

DC residents and their elected officials should be the ones who determine what is best for their city, without the meddling of a Congress in which they have no vote. For a party that claims to be focused on getting the federal government out of people’s lives, many Republicans have been astoundingly eager to override DC’s home rule.

On the House side, Representative Darrell Issa is showing how eager he is to do just that. Representative Issa has introduced a bill to mandate new DC hiring practices, and he’ll mark up that bill in his committee on Thursday morning.

Seriousness of recent DC scandals aside, Representative Issa fails to recognize that this is a DC problem, one that DC itself is already investigating through the city council, the Office of Campaign Finance, and the US Attorney. DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton:

The bill represents a significant escalation of Republicans’ relentless attacks this Congress on the District’s right to self-government . . . [It] will not pass the committee quietly, and if it makes it to the House floor, we will make it very clear that Republicans, who profess to support local control of local matters, are focused on partisan, ideological fights, not addressing Americans’ top priority: jobs.
PFAW

Clarence Thomas Reminds Us (Again) Why the Supreme Court Matters

In a bit of good news, the Supreme Court today declined to hear the appeal of two Establishment Clause cases from Utah striking down as unconstitutional state-approved memorial crosses on public highways. But in dissenting from this decision not to take the case, Clarence Thomas has done us the favor of reminding Americans just how out of the mainstream he is.

While Thomas's dissent is an expansive critique of the Court's Establishment Clause jurisprudence, he does briefly remind readers just how far from the mainstream his views are.

Even if the Court does not share my view that the Establishment Clause restrains only the Federal Government, and that, even if incorporated [by the 14th Amendment to apply to the states], the Clause only prohibits "actual legal coercion," the Court should be deeply troubled by what its Establishment Clause jurisprudence has wrought. [emphasis added and internal citation removed]

Mitt Romney has made clear that he sees Clarence Thomas as the kind of jurist he would nominate to the Supreme Court. This is no surprise coming from someone who asked rejected Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork to lead his campaign's legal advisory team.

Thomas's dangerously narrow vision of the Establishment Clause is a good reminder of how much is at stake when Americans vote for president in 2012.

PFAW

Mississippi Personhood Campaign Draws More Scrutiny, Questions

Cross-posted on Right Wing Watch

With few Mississippi politicians speaking out against a proposed “personhood” amendment on the state’s ballot next week, Personhood USA is hoping that the Magnolia State will be the first to adopt its radical anti-choice legislation, which has been resoundingly defeated multiple times in Colorado. Personhood USA’s Keith Mason said on Friday that Mississippi’s Initiative 26, “looks like it’ll be the first one to pass in this country.”

Mississippi already has some of the most restrictive anti-choice laws in the United States. But opponents of the personhood initiative have started succeeding in educating voters over the far-reaching consequences of the proposed law, which would not only criminalize abortions without exceptions for rape, incest or health of the mother, but also potentially ban certain forms of birth control, the treatment of ectopic and problem pregnancies and in-vitro fertilization. One opponent of Initiative 26 said that polling shows that the more voters learn about the full impact of Initiative 26, the less likely they are to support it: “It’s the largest movement on numbers I’ve seen, in terms of the undecideds. It reverses the position…They’ve given us all the ammunition we need to defeat it.”

On Friday, Rachel Maddow discussed the grassroots campaign to defeat the personhood amendment and investigated the amendment’s radical roots – specifically, the role of Personhood Mississippi’s leader, Les Riley. As Maddow noted, Right Wing Watch first uncovered that Riley previously blogged for a secessionist group that wanted to create an independent theocratic state in South Carolina. In addition, Riley heads Mississippi’s far-right Constitution Party and is a past member of the neo-Confederate League of the South.

Maddow had as her guest Cristen Hemmins, who shared her story as a rape survivor who twenty years ago was kidnapped and raped by two men who shot her when she tried to flee. Hemmins told the Huffington Post that one of the bullets pierced her uterus, but if she had gotten pregnant and ifthe personhood law had been in effect at the time, she would have been prohibited by law from terminating the pregnancy.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

PFAW

Fetus' Rights > Women's Rights in Mississippi?

This Election Day, Mississippi voters will vote on Initiative 26 -- an amendment that would define every zygote or fetus from the moment of fertilization as a legal "person." It's the latest attempt to severely curtail women's reproductive rights. Not only are voters being asked to define embryos as people, this amendment will also outlaw the most common types birth control and in vitro fertilization and would open the door for criminal investigations of miscarriages. Mississippi, already home to some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, will now make it nearly impossible for women and their doctors to make informed and sound decisions. Initiative 26, if passed, will be one of the most damaging intrusions into women's reproductive health we've seen, even in a year marked by restrictive anti-choice bills. A number of organizations are working on fighting Initiative 26, including the Mississippi Nurses Association, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Mississippi and the Mississippi State Medical Association.

Fetus' Rights > Women's Rights in Mississippi?

This Election Day, Mississippi voters will vote on Initiative 26 – an amendment that would define every zygote or fetus from the moment of fertilization as a legal “person.”  It’s the latest attempt to severely curtail women’s reproductive rights.  Not only are voters being asked to define embryos as people, this amendment will also outlaw the most common types birth control and in vitro fertilization and would open the door for criminal investigations of miscarriages. Mississippi, already home to some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, will now make it nearly impossible for women and their doctors to make informed and sound decisions. Initiative 26, if passed, will be one of the most damaging intrusions into women’s reproductive health we’ve seen, even in a year marked by restrictive anti-choice bills.

A number of organizations are working on fighting Initiative 26, including the Mississippi Nurses Association, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Mississippi and the Mississippi State Medical Association. 

PFAW

PFAW Foundation Celebrates 30 Years of Defending Constitutional Values in New York

Earlier this month, Norman and Lyn Lear hosted a celebration of the organization's 30th anniversary with a party in New York City. And what a celebration it was!

Board members, supporters, friends and staff came together to toast three decades of defending the Constitutional values that are at the core of our nation.

Board member Alec Baldwin spoke about his involvement with the organization and why producing accurate information about the far Right is so important.

Norman Lear talked about why he founded the organization 30 years ago, and why our work remains relevant today.

And former President Bill Clinton stopped by to talk about the state of the country, the role of government and the time he almost became President of People For the American Way.  (He decided to run again for governor of Arkansas.  That seems to have worked out well...)

PFAWF President Michael Keegan, Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, PFAWF Co-founder Norman Lear, and Youth Leadership Programs Director Andrew Gillum


President Clinton, Lyn Lear, Michael Keegan and Board Member Alec Baldwin


Andrew Gillum, PFAW Board Member Carole Shields, President Clinton and PFAWF Board Member Rabbi David Saperstein



Board Member Ronald Feldman, Alec Baldwin, President Clinton and Andrew Gillum take their turns at the podium


President Clinton and Norman Lear greet each other ...


... and hug it out


Michael Keegan, Norman Lear and Alec Baldwin wish PFAW Foundation "Happy Birthday"


Norman at the podium with a commemorative 30th Anniversary print made specially for People For the American Way Foundation by renowned artist Ed Ruscha seen in the background

PFAW