PEOPLE FOR BLOG

This is what a "non-political" event looks like?

Glenn Beck has said repeatedly that his "Restoring Honor" rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial today would be "non-political." To people who showed up in the crowd or listened to any of the speeches… well, let's just say that claim didn't exactly hold up.

Sarah Palin used her speaking slot to criticize President Obama and Alveda King, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King who has become a spokesperson for right-wing causes, made her opinions quite clear on issues from same-sex marriage to prayer in public schools.

See more coverage of the "Restore Honor" event at RightWingWatch.org.

PFAW

Claiming the Dream: Notes from Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" Event

I wasn't able to stay for all of Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally today (I missed Sarah Palin) but I was able to stop by for a significant chunk of the event.  And what an event it was.

There were a lot of people there.  Walking down from the mall, people were streaming in steadily for some time.  Once I got to the base of the Washington monument and looked down to the Lincoln Memorial, it really hit home.  There were thousands of people, filling up the area surrounding the Reflecting Pool up to the World War II Memorial, with more people camped out on the slope running up to where I was.



From my view, it was a slightly sickening distortion of the 1963 March on Washington: thousands of people praising diversity and freedom, unconcerned about their vitriol against our first African American president or about the vanishingly small number of people of color in the crowd.

But if I thought the rally was an affront to Dr. King's vision, the crowd was convinced that they represented its fulfillment.  King's name was invoked over and over again, and Beck and the other speakers repeatedly portrayed themselves as following in his footsteps.  I'm firmly convinced that few, if any, members of the crowd saw anything questionable about claiming King's legacy.

Beck's request that no one bring signs to the event was mostly followed, but I did find one gentleman walking towards the event with a Christian Flag.



Another couple had a sign calling for "One Nation Back to God."



And this person was displaying a flag of his own design, available for sale at FreedomFlag2012.com.



One of the most interesting things I saw were stickers that read "I Can See November From My House, Too!" sponsored by GOPride.org.  After seeing several people wearing the stickers, I asked where they came from.  They were being handed out at the Metro, and no one seemed to be aware they were sponsored by a conservative gay group.

PFAW

Glenn Beck: Educator? Prophet??

God is speaking through Glenn Beck... or so he and many other Religious Right figures would have us believe. Despite an historical animosity towards Mormons like Beck from the evangelicals who control the Religious Right, his efforts to become the leader of a "spiritual awakening" are being aided by Religious Right figures like David Barton, Jim Garlow and Ralph Reed.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photograph taken this morning by PFAW Foundation at the Kennedy Center. This is a tee shirt worn by a crowd member who showed up for tickets to the "Divine Destiny" event.

Beck's "Restoring Honor" event tomorrow will be preceded by a warm-up event at the Kennedy Center tonight called Divine Destiny. At tonight's event, Beck and others will present some good old fashioned revisionist history on "the role faith played in the founding of America." Tickets were to be distributed at 10am this morning, but so many people were already in line by 8:30pm on Thursday that tickets were gone far ahead of schedule -- talk about a "hot ticket!"

We need to seriously examine how Glenn Beck is perceived by the Right. According to a recent Democracy Corps study, among the Tea Party crowd, Beck is one of the most revered and highly regarded figures. According to the same study, Beck is more than a trusted commentator: he's an "educator." That's a chilling reminder that the hate-drenched right-wing propaganda Beck passes off as "history" is being swallowed whole by his millions of viewers and radio listeners. In Beck, the Right has added an atomic bomb to its arsenal in its war on science, history and reason. Beck insists that "progressives" -- whom he calls a "cancer" on our country -- "control the textbooks." He's an avid climate change denier. And with his attempt to "reclaim the civil rights movement" this weekend by holding a rally in the same spot as and on the anniversary of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech, he is twisting our nation's history to serve a scary agenda.  

Just the other night Glenn Beck aggressively attacked President Obama's Christianity -- fanning the flames of bigotry at a time when a whopping 18% of Americans think the president is a Muslim and some on the Right are trying to start a new "Birther-style" movement demanding proof of Obama's baptism. Is this the spirit of Dr. King's movement Beck is talking about reclaiming? 

One would think that as someone whose own faith has come under attack, Beck would be more careful about attacking others' religion. But in the messianic light in which he sees himself, he can do no wrong and commit no hypocrisy.  

Stay tuned. People For will be covering Beck's self-aggrandizing events in Washington, DC this weekend as well as Sunday's "early 9/12" Tea Party event. 

 

PFAW

So-called 'Ground Zero Mosque' -- Mayor Bloomberg on Daily Show says it's all about the elections

"This is plain and simple people trying to stir up things to get publicity, and trying to polarize people so that they can get some votes." (Discussion of Cordoba House project begins around 2:00 mark.)

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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PFAW

48 Congressional Candidates have signed the Pledge to Protect America’s Democracy—Find Out Where Your Candidates Stand

Last month, we started asking candidates for Congress to sign a pledge to support a constitutional amendment to reverse the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, and stop unlimited corporate spending in elections.

Today, we’re announcing the first batch of signers. 48 House and Senate candidates from across the country have signed the Pledge to Protect America’s Democracy—you can find out who’s signed, who’s refused and who’s on the fence using our handy candidate map. Then you can call the candidates in your state who haven’t signed yet and urge them to fight against corporate influence in elections.

Public Citizen, our partner in the campaign, put together this video about the pledge and why it matters:
 

PFAW

Right-Wing Front Group Attacks Iowa Congressman with Vicious Anti-Muslim Ad

This is sick.

Hatemongering against Muslims has reached the airwaves big time with the Right despicably promoting the view that Muslims exercising their constitutional right to religious freedom is tantamount to military conquest by terrorists.

The Atlantic reports:

The American Future Fund, an Iowa-based free-market conservative group, is airing a TV ad that goes a step beyond most of the criticism leveled at the Cordoba Initiative's Park 51 community center, warning that Muslims build mosques after military conquests and repeating Newt Gingrich's Pearl Harbor parallel.

The ad targets Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley for defending clear-cut First Amendment rights of the Muslims who are engaged in the project.

Watch it:

Think Progress revealed that the producer of this ad also produced the infamously racist Willie Horton ads that helped sink Michael Dukakis's presidential bid in 1988.

The response from Rep. Braley's campaign appropriately calls this effort out for the diversionary tactic it is:

Bruce Braley has been a leading voice for America's middle class families and holding greedy corporations like BP, Toyota and Wall Street executives accountable, so it's no surprise that shadowy special interests are going to resort to smear campaigns against him. Ultimately, voters need to look at the facts themselves and see that Bruce Braley has been listening, working hard and getting things done for Iowa's First District.

PFAW

When Will it Stop Being Cool to Be an Anti-Gay Republican?

Last night, Ken Mehlman, the man who orchestrated George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign--including, we can presume, its electorally popular anti-gay positions--came out as gay himself. Mehlman says he’s now working with American Foundation for Equal Rights to advocate for marriage equality.

The National Organization for Marriage immediately attacked Mehlman for “abdicating core Republican values.” But mainstream Republicans, whose bread and butter in recent years has relied on stoking anti-gay resentments, have been for the most part supportive of Mehlman personally and silent on his new advocacy work.

That’s not surprising. Earlier this week, People For’s president, Michael B. Keegan, wrote a piece in the Huffington Post on how anti-gay politics are increasingly confined to the Republican party’s extreme-right fringe…and the fringe is beginning to see the writing on the wall:

For years, the Right has watched its anti-gay agenda lose credibility as public acceptance of gays and lesbians has steadily grown and intolerance has declined. And that trend is going strong, as young people of all political stripes are more likely to know gay people and more willing to grant them equal rights and opportunities, including the right to marriage. A CNN poll this month found that a majority of Americans think gays and lesbians should have the right to marry--the first time gay marriage dissenters had slipped solidly into the minority in a national poll. Even in California, where Proposition 8 passed on the ballot in 2008, a poll earlier this year found a majority now support same sex marriage rights. Indeed, this change is even visible on the Right, where the fight against equality is being waged by an increasingly marginalized movement. Who would have ever thought that Ann Coulter would be booted from a right-wing conference for being "too gay friendly"?

Pam Spaulding points to a piece in the Frum Forum outlining the Far Right’s panic that gay-hating is rapidly becoming passé among mainstream political conservatives:

These swift changes in the GOP from gay bashing a la Patrick Buchanan’s 1992 convention speech towards tolerance and even support of gay equality is both astonishing and alarming to elements of the far right. Several prominent social conservatives have decried these changes. WorldNetDaily Editor David Kupelian recently wrote “Much of conservatism has now morphed into libertarianism…even high profile conservative warriors seem to be abandoning the gay issue” and went on to list recent examples of gay rights making progress within the GOP such as Glenn Beck’s announcement that gay marriage presents no threat to America, Ann Coulter addressing the gay conservative group GOProud, and CPAC’s refusal to ban GOProud. Social conservative Robert Knight bemoaned the fact that Republicans are increasingly supportive of gay equality in his column “Smarter than God”; and the American Family Association’s radio host Bryan Fischer also blasted Republicans for failing to sufficiently support the anti-gay cause.

This past week the Washington Blade even published an article titled “Conservatives take the lead in marriage fight” arguing that libertarian-leaning conservatives are advancing gay rights, perhaps more so than Democrats. Who would have thought in 1992 we would one day see Republicans lauded by the gay press?

This shift toward acceptance—and away from the divisive anti-gay politics exemplified by Bush’s campaign strategy—is clearly taking place. But it’s far from over. Even if mainstream conservatives are starting to shy away from anti-gay politics, the mess that the homophobic politics of the past decades has left is still here, and still harmful. If members of the party that exploited homophobia for years to create our strongly anti-gay status quo remain silent on gay rights, they condone discrimination.

The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy still keeps gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. Hundreds of hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation are committed each year—but all but 18 Republicans in the House and five in the Senate opposed the bill last year that expanded hate crimes laws to prevent these. 30 states have passed constitutional amendments prohibiting same-sex marriage—11 of these were put on the ballot in an effort to draw voters for Bush and his fellow Republicans in 2004.

Asked by the Advocate about his role in crafting the strategy that led to those 11 constitutional amendments, Mehlman said, “I can’t change that – it is something I wish I could and I can only try to be helpful in the future.”

Mehlman, whatever you think of his past actions, is right—there is a lot of positive work that needs to be done to undo the damaging anti-gay crusades of the past. It’s great that at least some in the Republican Party are beginning to accept gay people, or at least are refraining from being virulently homophobic. But they won’t be off the hook until they start working to actively undo the destructive policies of the past.

And, as Gabriel Arana points out, though Mehlman’s political change of heart was tied up with his own personal struggle, “you don’t have to be gay to do the right thing.”
 

PFAW

The Don’t Ask, Don’t tell policy has been denounced by a vast majority of Americans, rejected by the leaders of the military, and, if Republicans decide not to filibuster, will be finally on its way out in this year’s Defense Authorization bill. But, for now, the policy is still driving talented and dedicated Americans away from serving in the armed forces.

The New York Times yesterday interviewed several gay and lesbian current and former West Point cadets on the pressures of serving their country while hiding their identities. Katherine Miller is a 20-year-old cadet who left West Point this month after two years of being unable to follow both the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy and the Cadet Honor Code to “not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do.”

“It was a whirlpool of lies — I was violating the honor code every time I socialized,” she said in an interview.

Ms. Miller, who ranked 17th in her West Point class, wrote in her Aug. 9 resignation letter: “I have lied to my classmates and compromised my integrity and my identity by adhering to existing military policy. I am unwilling to suppress an entire portion of my identity any longer.”

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network has been releasing a letter a day this week from family members of those who have been harmed by Don’t Ask Don’t Tell to the Pentagon officials charged with surveying straight military spouses about the policy. Pam’s House Blend is posting all the letters.

The parents of an Army sergeant who was fired because of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell wrote:

As parents, this law offends us deeply. It tells us that our gay and lesbian children who are in uniform and putting their lives on the line every day, saving lives, are not good enough to serve their country. The law discriminates against family members, forcing fear and anguish into their lives. Our sons and daughters should be judged on their performance, loyalty to country and bravery, not their sexual orientation.

The partner of a Navy captain who survived the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon wrote:

As the numbness began to wear off, it hit me how incredibly alone I would have been had Joan been killed. The military is known for how it pulls together and helps people; we talk of the "military family," which is a way of saying we always look after each other, especially in times of need. But, none of that support would have been available for me, because under DADT, I didn't exist.

In fact, I would have been one of the last people to know had Joan been killed, because nowhere in her paperwork or emergency contact information had Joan dared to list my name.

Congress and the military may be on the path to repealing DADT…but as they meander down that path, injustices continue to pile up.
 

PFAW

Tea Party Candidate Ken Buck Leading in CO-Senate

Ken Buck, one of a handful of Senate candidates this year riding a wave of Tea Party support to victory in his Republican primary, is no stranger to extremism. Yet the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll in Colorado shows him leading Sen. Michael Bennet (D) in the U.S. Senate race, 49% to 40%.

It's still early and poll numbers are changing daily, but these latest results are all the more reason why it's important for the public to know that Buck, while running in his primary:

  • said voters should pick him because he does not "wear high heels" (his primary opponent was a woman),
  • said of Social Security and Medicare, "the idea that the federal government should be running healthcare or retirement or any of those programs is fundamentally against what I believe and that is that the private sector runs programs like that far better," and
  • questioned the constitutionality of Social Security, displaying a flawed Tea Party-understanding of the Constitution that even former Bush speech writer and conservative Washington Post op-ed columnist Michael Gerson thinks is scary and could be "toxic" for the GOP.

Buck also called the "progressive liberal movement" is the "largest threat" to the country, saying it poses a bigger threat than al Qaeda or Iran.

Senator Bennet is just one solidly progressive Senator facing a tough challenge from a radically far-right challenger. Just another piece of evidence that progressives have our work cut out for us this election. We here at People For hope you'll stand with us to rise to the challenge.

PFAW

The Long-Term Consequences of Hateful Politics

Suhail A. Khan, who served as a liaison to faith communities in George W. Bush’s White House, writes this week in Foreign Policy that he finds himself increasingly alone as a Muslim Republican. Many American Muslims have conservative values, Khan writes, but the GOP won’t win their support “until the party finds leadership willing to stop playing to the worst instincts of its minority of bigoted supporters”:

In recent weeks, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and other prominent Republicans have loudly voiced their opposition to the proposed Cordoba House project near ground zero in lower Manhattan, fanning the flames of a protest that has since spread into a more generalized criticism of Muslim institutions in the United States. But even before this month's controversy, the exodus of Muslim Americans from the Republican Party was nearly complete. In 2008, this country's more than 7 million Muslims voted in record numbers, and nearly 90 percent of their votes went to Obama.

It wasn't always this way. Muslim Americans are, by and large, both socially and economically conservative. Sixty-one percent of them would ban abortion except to save the life of the mother; 84 percent support school choice. Muslims overwhelmingly support traditional marriage. More than a quarter -- over twice the national average -- are self-employed small-business owners, and most support reducing taxes and the abolition of the estate tax. By all rights they should be Republicans -- and not long ago they were. American Muslims voted two to one for George H.W. Bush in 1992. While they went for Bill Clinton by the same margin in 1996, they were brought back into the Republican fold in 2000 by George W. Bush.

Kahn compares the GOP’s current alienation of Muslim Americans to the party’s history with Hispanics. George W. Bush won 44% of the Hispanic vote in 2004; in 2008, with the GOP ramping up its anti-immigrant rhetoric, only 31% of Hispanics voted for John McCain.

In the Washington Post today, former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson writes of what are likely to be the far-reaching unintended consequences of the GOP’s embrace of the Tea Party’s more nativist and xenophobic strands:

[A] question of Tea Party candidates: Do you believe that American identity is undermined by immigration? An internal debate has broken out on this issue among Tea Party favorites. Tom Tancredo, running for Colorado governor, raises the prospect of bombing Mecca, urges the president to return to his Kenyan "homeland" and calls Miami a "Third World country" -- managing to offend people on four continents. Dick Armey of FreedomWorks appropriately criticizes Tancredo's "harsh and uncharitable and mean-spirited attitude on the immigration issue." But the extremes of the movement, during recent debates on birthright citizenship and the Manhattan mosque, seem intent on depicting Hispanics and Muslims as a fifth column.

There is no method more likely to create ethnic resentment and separatism than unfair suspicion. The nativist impulse is the enemy of assimilation. In a nation where minorities now comprise two-fifths of children under 18, Republicans should also understand that tolerating nativism would bring slow political asphyxiation.

The Tea Party is undoubtedly on a bit of a roll. Last night, Sarah Palin-endorsed Tea Party candidates won (or look likely to win) Republican primaries in Alaska, Arizona, and Florida as did John McCain, who compromised many of his famed “maverick” positions to compete with a far right-wing challenger. And extreme right-wingers Sharron Angle, Ken Buck, and Rand Paul have already grasped their party’s nominations after campaigns tinged with racially divisive rhetoric.

The Tea Party movement is not all about the politics of fear and exclusion—but to the extent that it is, it may face a limited, if dangerous, shelf life. For many on the far Right, short-term political expedience trumps doing what is right; but doing what is wrong may have long-term political consequences.

 

PFAW

Anti-Muslim Rhetoric Having a Sadly Unsurprising Effect

From TPM:

The New York Police Department has confirmed to TPM that a cab driver in Manhttan was allegedly stabbed by a passenger who asked if the cabbie was Muslim, and says the incident is being treated as a hate crime. The suspect has been charged with attempted murder and other crimes.

Unfortunately, hateful rhetoric leading to violence is all too common and does not come as a shock. Let's hope that as the Right ratchets up the hate leading up to November's elections, the violence does not become widespread.

Read PFAW's statement on the Muslim community center in lower Manhattan.

UPDATE: The stabbing victim has issued a statement (article contains description of the attack) through the NYC taxi union.

"I have been here more than 25 years," Ahmed H. Sharif said in a statement. "I have been driving a taxi more than 15 years. All my four kids were born here. I never feel this hopeless and insecure before. Right now, the public sentiment is very serious (because of the Ground Zero Mosque debate.) All drivers should be more careful."

"While a minority of has-been politicians spew ignorance and fear, it's the working person on the street who has to face the consequences," added NYTWA [the drivers' union] Executive Director Bhairavi Desai. "This kind of bigotry only breeds more violence and makes taxi drivers all the more vulnerable on the streets where there are no bully pulpits or podiums to hide behind."

PFAW

New Groups Taking Advantage of Concealed Election Spending

Can we have the DISCLOSE Act now? USA Today reports that more than a dozen groups have been organized since June to take advantage of the lax election spending rules left by the Citizens United decision earlier this year…and most of them aren’t going to tell us who’s funding them:

In many cases, the public will not know who has funded the ads until long after they have aired.

"This is the new order of political finance," says Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money in politics. Outside groups can "sling mud with hidden money."

Since June 1, at least 15 organizations have launched these operations to influence congressional races, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.

In Mother Jones, Peter Stone explains one reason why corporate interests are jumping through hoops to influence elections without being noticed:

You might wonder: Given that Citizens United allowed companies, say General Motors or Aetna, to get involved in elections directly, why would they need to go through groups like BIPAC or the US Chamber of Commerce? The problem, says Larry Noble, a former general counsel at the FEC, is that the decision is so unpopular many companies may not want to be seen as taking advantage of it. (In the wake of President Obama's attack on the Citizens United ruling in the State of the Union address—he noted that it would allow special interests and "foreign corporations to spend without limits in our elections"—80 percent of Americans told pollsters they disagreed with the ruling.)

Then, there’s also the powerful example of Target, which taught corporations that it’s ok to give money to political causes—as long as you don’t get caught.
 

PFAW

WI-Senate, Ron Johnson's extremism takes aim at cultural center

Ron Johnson, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin running to unseat Sen. Russ Feingold, has been on a tear lately, apparently trying to out-crazy himself at every turn.

Yesterday I read that he was pushing an absurd theory of global warming being caused by sun spots -- part of his personal war on climate science. See, Johnson is a pro-corporate extremist who wants no regulation on polluters or protections for the environment that might get in the way of short-term profits for his corporate buddies. So, naturally, he has taken the view, "I absolutely do not believe in the science of man-caused climate change. It's not proven by any stretch of the imagination."

In the same TPM post by Eric Kleefeld, Johnson is quoted downplaying global warming by saying, "There's a reason Greenland was called Greenland, it was actually green at one point in time. And it's been, since, it's a whole lot whiter now." Ugh... *smacks forehead*

Now, Johnson's jumping into the Cordoba House/Park51 fracas.

From Steve Singiser at DailyKos:

"Those folks are trying to poke a stick in our eye," Johnson said. "I just hope the zoning officials and the city, the state revisit that, rezone that piece of property."

The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate continued: "If they don't do it I hope the construction workers in New York show their outrage and say we are not going to do that."

Pretty cheeky of a multi-millionaire to demand that an industry where unemployment is as high as 20 percent should voluntarily refuse work in order to buttress a right-wing talking point.

 

Right now the polls have Johnson running neck and neck with Sen. Feingold... One more example of just how real the threat is of right-wing extremism on the march in this year's elections.

PFAW

Disclosure Laws Under Attack

Even after the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision rolled back longstanding state and federal laws that attempted to limit corporate influence in democracy, opponents of any type of campaign finance rules have redoubled their efforts to weaken transparency in elections. Two right-wing political organizations and a business group recently sued to block the state of Minnesota from enforcing campaign disclosure and donation laws. They are seeking an injunction to prevent the implementation of the state's rule for corporations to disclose their political activities. In addition, they "seek to overturn prohibitions on corporations contributing directly to campaigns and parties." Currently, as a result of Citizens United, corporations can fund advocacy groups who can support and oppose certain candidates, but not the candidates themselves. If their lawsuit is successful, corporate financing of campaigns would expand to even greater levels.

Due to the state's current disclosure rules, donations from companies such as Target and BestBuy to the right-wing group MN Forward came to light. Without the DISCLOSE Act, organizations involved in federal elections are already able to conceal their donors, and President Obama recently warned against "a flood of attack ads run by shadowy groups with harmless-sounding names." "They don't want you to know which interests are paying for the ads," Obama said; "The only people who don't want to disclose the truth are people with something to hide."

If the plaintiffs in Minnesota (which includes a for-profit business and two conservative non-profits: the Taxpayers League of Minnesota and Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life) are successful, not only would corporations be allowed to hide their political financing from the public, but may even be able to directly contribute to the campaigns of candidates for public office.

It is already extremely difficult, especially without the DISCLOSE Act, to discover corporate financing of political groups. As a report by the Washington Post explains:

Long-standing IRS regulations require some groups to reveal their donors, and that is why the agency suddenly finds itself with what some might see as a more crucial watchdog role, stepping in to monitor disclosure in the absence of the FEC. But the IRS rules also have long-standing loopholes and, with limited resources and enforcement tools, the nation's tax collector is not set up to be a campaign regulator.

"The chances of the IRS being able to catch a violation of the tax law around campaigns is virtually nil," said Marcus S. Owens, a lawyer with Caplin & Drysdale who directed the agency's tax-exempt organizations division for 10 years. "Certainly if it happens, it's going to be well after the election has already ended."

As the assault on the remaining campaign disclosure laws intensifies, spending in elections is about to climb to new heights. Borrell Associates predicts that the Citizens United decision will lead to $400 million in new ads this election season, and that "political ad spending will reach $4.2 billion this year, double the $2.1 billion the firm estimated was spent in 2008."

But the most serious opponents of the effort to shed light on corporate financing in elections are obstructionists in the Senate: the Republicans who vote lock-step to prevent the DISCLOSE Act from coming up for an up-or-down vote. President Obama's call for the Senate to reconsider the DISCLOSE Act, which already passed the House, reminds us that the fight against the enormous corporate clout in our democracy is not over:

PFAW

The Price of Justice

The Brennan Center for Justice, Justice at Stake, and the National Institute on Money in State Politics released a startling report today on the skyrocketing cost of state Supreme Court elections. The amount of money spent on state judicial races in the 38 states that have them has more than doubled in the 2000-2009 decade compared to the decade before, the report finds—and most of it has come from big spenders with big agendas, such as the Chamber of Commerce and trial lawyers’ groups.

The sway of big money over judicial elections, the report argues, is only likely to intensify in the post-Citizens United world, where big spenders will be able to pour more money into judicial races while “using shell organizations to keep their role out of the public eye.”

Take the case of Louis Butler, a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice who was nominated to fill a vacancy in the court in 2004, and four years later ran for a full term. Shortly after losing the election in 2008, Butler described his experience in a panel discussion at Georgetown. NPR reports:

"Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce decided at that point that: 'OK, we've had this court for all these years, we never had to worry about how the court voted. We get this new guy on the court, and all of a sudden we lose these three cases,' " Butler said. " 'He's gotta go.' "

And go he did, with the help of ads that tried to portray Butler, a former public defender, as soft on crime. One ad sponsored by the manufacturers and commerce group, the state's largest business lobby, began this way: "When our children go to school, they need to be safe. In our homes and neighborhoods, we need to be safe. Our sheriffs and district attorneys are on the front lines, protecting us. And you know what? Our judges need to know they also must protect us."

Executives at Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state's largest business advocacy group, say they were only protecting themselves when they spent $1 million on television ads against Butler. James Buchen, an executive at Wisconsin Manufacturers, said the court under Butler had ruled to expand punitive damage awards and malpractice claims under a fragile 4 to 3 majority.

President Obama has since twice nominated Butler to a federal judgeship—and Senate Republicans have twice sent his nomination back.

Corporate courts—whether elected or appointed—don’t happen by accident. And after Citizens United, the fight to keep courts from having pro-corporate biases has become even harder.
 

PFAW