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As Jeb Bush formally announces his presidential campaign today, People For the American Way launched a Spanish-language digital ad challenging his record of extremism. The ad highlights his opposition to raising the minimum wage and his stance against a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, two issues important to the Latino community.

The ad is running on social media and Univision.com, starting this morning, in Florida, Colorado, North Carolina, and Virginia.

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Why Do Republican Officials Keep Partnering With Christian-Nation Extremist David Lane?

In pursuit of conservative evangelical voters, GOP candidates embrace far-right political operative who is raising an ‘army’ to fulfill his ‘Christian nation’ vision

On Saturday, June 13, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley will host a day-long, Christians-only prayer rally organized by political operative David Lane. Lane, who organized similar events for Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, is trying to recruit 1,000 conservative evangelical pastors to run for office, which he believes would mobilize hundreds of thousands of election volunteers and lead to conservative election victories in 2016.

Lane prefers to work outside the glare of the national media. Although his close connections to Republican officials and presidential candidates have drawn some notice, the extremism of the agenda he is promoting deserves far more attention than it has received to date.

When one-third of the Republican National Committee took a nine-day junket to Israel in January with the American Family Association picking up the tab, things got a little ugly. Israeli media started asking questions about the extreme positions taken by AFA spokesman Bryan Fischer, including his claims that the First Amendment’s religious liberty protections apply only to Christians and that gays were responsible for the rise of the Nazi Party. In damage control mode, the AFA disavowed some of Fischer’s most inflammatory statements and took away his title – but not the radio show that continues to give him a bigotry-spewing platform. Meanwhile, the actual organizer of the trip, Christian nationalist David Lane, slipped out of the spotlight and got right back to building political alliances between high-level Republican politicians and conservative evangelical pastors, especially those in key primary states.

David Lane runs the American Renewal Project, which functions as a project of the American Family Association. Bad publicity over the Israel trip did not keep Lane from inviting all 168 members of the Republican National Committee to an Iowa Renewal Project “Pastors and Pews” event on March 9 and 10, which was headlined by two Republican presidential hopefuls, Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. Bobby Jindal, along with Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds. It didn’t prevent the RNC’s faith outreach arm from teaming up with Lane to present a breakout session at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in May. And it hasn’t kept Gov. Haley from endorsing Lane’s latest “Response” prayer rally.

Why David Lane Matters

David Lane promotes a vision of America as a nation founded by and for Christians; denounces court rulings upholding church-state separation; calls for Christianity to be established as America’s official religion with the Bible as a primary textbook in public schools; vehemently opposes legal equality for LGBT people; and demands the impeachment of judges who rule in favor of allowing same-sex couples to be legally married. Lane matters because these are not just the opinions of a far-right fringe figure. They are the explicit agenda of a political operative who is working closely with the highest leaders of the Republican Party. The explicit goal of Lane’s political organizing is to advance his particularly narrow and divisive vision of America. Republican politicians who embrace Lane in the hope of winging votes are playing with fire, giving credibility to his divisive worldview and troubling political agenda.

David Lane’s Worldview

In Lane’s worldview, there are essentially no gray areas: America will either be a Christian nation or a pagan nation and there will be no peace until we decide which. Judges who uphold the right of same-sex couples to marry must be impeached. The Supreme Court’s rulings upholding the separation of church and state have imposed a destructive secularism on America and must be reversed. Secularism and homosexuality are twin evils from which America must be rescued. This quote gives a pretty good summary of Lane’s worldview:

Who will wage war for the Soul of America and trust the living God to deliver the pagan gods into our hands and restore America to her Judeo-Christian heritage and re-establish a Christian culture?...

As to the future of America – and the collapse of this once-Christian nation – Christians must not only be allowed to have opinions, but politically, Christians must be retrained to war for the Soul of America and quit believing the fabricated whopper of the ‘Separation of Church and State,” the lie repeated ad nauseum by the left and liberals to keep Christian America – the moral majority – from imposing moral government on pagan public schools, pagan higher learning, and pagan media….

Christian America is in ruins…

You ask, “What is our goal?” To wage war to restore America to our Judeo-Christian heritage with all of our might and strength that God will give us. You ask, “what is our aim?” One word only: victory, in spite of all intimidation and terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory, America will ultimately collapse.

Lane has no patience for those who don’t see the world as he does. His message to lawmakers: “Vote to restore the Bible and prayer in public schools or be sent home,” he has written. “Hanging political scalps on the wall is the only love language politicians can hear.”

Lane’s emails to activists, often including garbled syntax and repetitive rhetoric, nonetheless give a good sense of his approach to the world. These are excerpts from a January 27, 2015 email from Lane:

  • “This struggle for the Soul of America is merely the ongoing battle since the beginning of time, “man says” or “God says.” God has said multiple times over thousands of years that homosexuality is wickedness – just like stealing or committing adultery, it is sin – but to double-down on the U.S. Supreme Court, in its omniscience, sanctioned and legitimized homosexual marriage in 2014 as a diverse and acceptable lifestyle, well inside the cultural norm.”
  • “God says” or man says” is the choice facing America. “We the people” must hold the Judicial, Legislative and Executive Branches of government accountable or be ready to answer to God; this is our point of no return. The secularist ideology is more than a mere political philosophy, dueling for ideological supremacy, it is a Weltanschauung (a world view), a religion. Secularism – the false idol instituted by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1963 – has finally bloomed, blossomed, and produced fruit, it’s stench is nauseating.

He made similar points in a January op ed for Charisma:

“More to the point, there can be no reconciliation of opposites, particularly the spiritual and the secular. Therefore, we need to establish if America is a pagan or Christian nation and get on with it- the sooner the better….We have to make the peace: either secularism of Christian values are going to reign supreme….The grandiosity and recklessness of the radicalized, secular United States Supreme Court in the last century is mind-blowing. The Court has birthed a full-scale catastrophe, corrupting 500 years of natural law and threatening America’s long-term, sustainable freedom. Congress has failed to fulfill its historic role to check and balance the judicial and executive branches of government. It’s up to us “we the people” to hold them accountable.”

Last November he told the Washington Times:

“Government is not going to save America. Wall Street is not going to save America. The Republican party is not going to save America. If America is going to be saved it will be done by Christian men and women restoring a Judeo-Christian culture to the country….

He argued that America was established as a Judeo-Christian nation and that separation of church and state was never meant to keep religion out of politics.

“There’s no truth to that, the Constitution says the state is to keep out of the church, it doesn’t say the church is to keep out of the state,” Mr. Lane said, adding that secularism is another religion that’s being imposed on Americans.

“It’s just a matter of somebody’s values are going to reign supreme,” Mr. Lane said, “It’s just a little minority imposing their values. It’s part of a spiritual battle. If we are going to survive as a nation, we have to have a spiritual resurrection”

Christian Nation Covenant versus Secularism/Paganism

“Secularism is paganism clothed in tolerance,” Lane wrote in a January 21 email, “its ubiquitous chant, ‘We are a pluralistic society,’ is not the same nation bequeathed to us by our Founders.” 

Lane’s belief that America is “a nation founded by Christians…for the Glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith” is not based on the people traditionally seen as the nation’s Founding Fathers – the authors of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. Lane looks back to the pilgrims and the Mayflower compact, and even further to the covenant declared by Robert Hunt, founder of the Jamestown, Virginia, colony in 1607:

“We do hereby Dedicate this Land, and ourselves, to reach the People within these shores with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to raise up Godly generations after us, and with these generations take the Kingdom of God to all the earth. May this Covenant of Dedication remain to all generations, as long as this ear remains, and may this Land, along with England, be Evangelist to the World.”

That covenant, Lane insists, “is still in force.” In May 2015, he ranted, “Egregious and scandalous is the Church’s submission to secularists,” and the abandonment of that founding “mission.”

“America was a Christian nation,” he says. But now, “America has boarded the wrong, secular train. Now we’ve lost our Judeo-Christian heritage and its byproduct – a Christian culture.”

“It’s evident we’ve lost the culture, and we’ve lost our heritage now,” he said in a fall 2014 interview.  “I mean, with Obama, you’ve got red ink as far as the eye can see, homosexuals praying at the inauguration, 55 million babies dead.” He sounded a similar theme in Charisma in January:

 “Ah, but what has godless secularism produced? Red ink as far as the eye can see: racism, injustice, the murder of fifty-five million babies, the advancement of the homosexual agenda, fatherless homes, an epidemic of drugs and crime and the widespread acceptance and usage of pornography, especially among America’s youth.”

Punishing and Purging Judges

Who is to blame for secularism and its attendant evils? According to Lane, it’s the Supreme Court, secularists in the schools, politicians who promote the secularist agenda – and pastors who don’t stand against all these evils. He complains that the “the Church didn’t even shudder when the Bible, prayer, Jesus, and the Ten Commandments were removed from the public schools in 1963.” And he says there was “not a peep from the Christian Church” in response to the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, when the church “should have initiated riots, revolution, and repentance.”

By ending Bible reading in public schools, he says, the Supreme Court removed the foundation for real knowledge and the transmission for wisdom and virtue. He wrote in August 2014:

Virtue is required for sustainable freedom. Secularists have successfully removed the transmission agent (The Word of God) for the accumulation of wisdom and knowledge, which created freedom in America. The nation is now basically biblically illiterate. Let’s be clear, the secularists and their priests — i.e., public education, higher learning, Hollywood and Media elite — have a coordinated, deliberate, sustained effort, a blitzkrieg, imposing an intolerant and aggressive false religion on America — Secularism.

This false god of Secularism — embedded in public education by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1963 — has glamorized, exalted and now normalized sin in America, creating a spiritually decadent, godless society.

This is why the work of Lane’s American Renewal Project is so urgent, he explained in a March 2015 email: “Unless Christianity resurrects in America and the moral underpinning restored, secularism’s amoral ideology will eventually collapse, along with Western Civilization.”

One response is to go after judges who don’t share Lane’s view of the Constitution. In October 2014 Lane told the Washington Post  that the American Renewal Project would “take aim at lower court judges who have overturned anti-gay marriage statutes and constitutional provisions.” Says Lane: “I want a fight over this,” he said. “I think the way to address it is to start removing these unelectable and unaccountable judges who are doing this to our country. They have no right to rule a free people. What they’re doing, it’s judicial anarchy.”

Lane has said he is looking for a member of the House of Representatives to introduce an impeachment bill. “The way we address this is we start removing unelected an unaccountable judges,” he said. “And then we remove the members of Congress who don’t vote to impeach them.” Lane was deeply involved in the 2010 purge of three Iowa Supreme Court justices who voted for marriage equality.

This approach to the courts is one reason Lane seems so fond of Huckabee, whose win in the 2008 Iowa caucus is often attributed to Lane’s efforts. (Evangelical strategist Doug Wead described Lane as “the mysterious, behind-the-scenes, evangelical kingmaker who stormed into Iowa in 2008 and tilted the whole thing from Romney to Huckabee.) Huckabee has signaled for some time that he would make attacks on “judicial supremacy” central to his campaign. His call for a rejuvenated nullification movement among the states has been taken up by Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and the state Supreme Court.

Republican Party Loves Lane

While Lane often expresses his contempt for “establishment” Republicans who don’t embrace his radical vision for a Christian America in which the Bible is a primary textbook in public schools, GOP officials like party head Reince Priebus attend and promote his events. Priebus was scheduled to participate in Lane’s trip to Israel in January before controversy flared; he ended up not making the trip, saying he needed to attend a funeral.

Indeed, Republican Party officials seem unconcerned with Lane’s extremism and are eager to make use of his network of conservative pastors. The invitation letter for the Israel junket came from Priebus himself; although he said it was not an RNC trip, committee members interested in participating were told to RSVP to the RNC’s Member Services department. Priebus praised David Lane by name in October during a television interview in which he reiterated the Party’s support for a federal constitutional ban on same-sex couples marrying, which would overturn marriage equality in every state that now recognizes it.

TIME reported that the RNC members’ trip to Israel was organized by the American Family Association and Lane’s American Renewal Project, “in concert with RNC faith director Chad Connelly.” When Right Wing Watch reported in August 2014 that Cruz and Huckabee were planning to appear at a Lane-sponsored event in Michigan, the RNC’s Connelly posted on his Facebook page, “My buddy David Lane is drawing the attention of the God-haters and left wingers, but I repeat myself, out there! We had a great Michigan event and I’m convinced that the faith component is what will bring our nation together!” Connelly’s post was shared by the American Renewal Project, as was one of Connelly’s photos from the event, with Connelly’s caption: “honored to speak and give my testimony to a terrific crowd of enthusiastic pastors at the Michigan Renewal Project last night!” A few days later, Connelly bragged, “The RNC was well represented tonight at the California renewal project conference….”

Lane returns the love by helping Republicans win elections. Last year, his American Renewal Project teamed up with four potential 2016 candidates – Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, and Mike Huckabee – to record radio ads urging “God’s people” to vote in the 2014 mid-terms. The ads were reportedly meant to run on almost 300 radio stations in more than 35 states. Those ads capped off the American Renewal Project’s 12-state strategy to turn out conservative evangelical voters in the 2014 cycle, a strategy that reportedly included a $2 million registration, education, and turnout ground game in North Carolina, Colorado, Iowa and Arkansas, states with key Senate races

Lane’s love for the GOP, however, is far from unconditional. In April 2013 he complained that the Republican Party establishment was not taking a strong enough stand against homosexuality and said there was a war for ideological supremacy – “the moral against the immoral” – within the Republican Party between “establishment moderates and the biblically conservative grassroot, precinct-level ground forces.” He has praised GOP officials who speak out against marriage equality, as he did when  Iowa State GOP Chair AJ Spiker wrote:

“While inclusion is important, elected Republicans (we all know the most recent example) and National/State Party leaders who embrace so-called same sex marriage are doing grave harm to our Party and the whole of society.

Lets not forget, so-called same sex marriage is an irreconcilable difference with the Republican PARty’s largest constituency…Committed Christians.

Matchmaker, Matchmaker

All of Lane’s events are designed to promote conservative GOP candidates by introducing them to networks of politically engaged conservative pastors who are willing to turn their churches into GOTV operations on behalf of the right kind of right-wing candidate. Lane claims those events have engaged some 15,000 pastors since he began conducting them in the 1990s.

Bobby Jindal is one beneficiary. In January, Jindal hosted “The Response,” the Lane-organized prayer rally that was modeled on a similar event that Lane put together in 2011 to help Rick Perry launch his ill-fated presidential bid. Two months later, Lane organized a meet-and-greet for Bobby Jindal with pastors in Greenville, South Carolina. Jindal has also accepted Lane’s invitation for his own trip to Israel this summer, where he will be joined by evangelical pastors from the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. Rand Paul talked about his own trip to Israel with Lane this past fall at a meeting Lane organized for Paul with a group of North Carolina pastors.

Lane also picked up the tab – reportedly a million dollars -- for a group of pastors from Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina (four early primary contests) to join Mike Huckabee on a European tour. It was a pilgrimage to Poland, London, and California to celebrate the leadership of Pope John Paul II, Margaret Thatcher, and Ronald Reagan. Right-wing blogger Bethany Blankley joined Huckabee’s European tour, on which the subpoena of Houston ministers’ emails and sermons were apparently cited to suggest American Christians were facing Nazi-like persecution. “On route to Auschwitz,” she wrote, “Lane reference similarities between 1930 Germany and 2014 America.” Huckabee said at Auschwitz that the horrors carried out by educated Germany “should be a sobering reminder that unless we stand against evil in our own time,” another Holocaust to another people group “will happen again.”

Lane, who calls himself a political operative, still tries to portray some of his events – like the Perry and Jindal prayer rallies, as spiritual and not political. But Huckabee was clear about the political benefits of his European junket:

“A lot of them asked the obvious question – sort of the 800-pound gorilla in the room: Why are pastors from Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada the lion’s share of participants on this trip?” Huckabee said. “And I think some of them probably honestly, and perhaps somewhat cynically, probably said, ‘Is it because you’re trying to secure their support, if, in fact, you decide to run?’ My honest answer was, ‘Fair enough. If I should run, would I like to have your support? Sure.’”

Also on the trip were people like Rich Bott, president of a Christian radio conglomerate, whose support could be very useful.

During the flap over RNC members’ trip to Israel, Lane told Ha’aretz that he made his first trip to the country in 2008 or 2009 and has since taken seven or eight trips, including the one with Rand Paul in 2013, abou which Lane says, “A lot of people believe that after Rand Paul went in January 2013, his views evolved and he saw how wonderful the Jewish people are.” Researcher Rachel Tabachnik reports that Perry has also taken one of Lane’s trips to Israel.

Lane’s American Renewal Project also hosted an event for Rand Paul in October 2014 with 400 anti-abortion pastors in North Carolina. At the event, which was closed to press except for Breitbart, Paul reportedly said that “a civilization cannot long endure that doesn’t respect life from the very beginning to the very last breath.”

“When we talk about freedom or liberty people say that can get carried away you can’t have too much of that. I tell people thought that the fabric of our country though wasn’t just liberty and freedom. It was liberty and freedom and tradition.”

In organizing these events, Lane works with other Religious Right leaders. Among those listed in promotional materials for an event in Michigan were right-wing radio host Dennis Prager, “historians” David Barton and Bill Federer, the American Family Association’s Don Wildmon, Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, former Congressman Bob McEwen, and Pastor Laurence White of the Texas Restoration Project.

Lane’s 2016 Political Strategy

Lane himself is not a pastor; he describes himself as a political operative. He believes America is in the sad state it’s in because pastors have not preached more aggressively, and conservative Christians have not been active enough in the public arena. He told the New York Times’ Jason Horowitz in March that his goal is to raise up “an army.”

Right-wing blogger Bethany Blankley quotes Lane saying, “With the retreat of evangelical pastors from the public square, it’s no accident that America’s city halls and statehouses are spiritually empty. The only currency to rebuild America is God’s economy rooted in righteousness – beginning with a contrite spirit for what we believers have allowed to happen to America.”

In 2016, Lane’s political strategy has two major prongs: one is using “Pastors and Pews” events, trips to Israel, and public prayer rallies to promote politicians he likes and mobilize political engagement by conservative evangelicals. During controversy over Israel trip, Lane told Ha’aretz, “The Lord gave me this model of mobilizing pastors to try and engage the culture. Somebody’s values are going to reign supreme. America was founded by Christians for the glory of God and the Christian faith.”

Lane clearly hopes these efforts to vet presidential candidates will help conservative evangelicals coalesce around a single champion. He says he will not endorse in the primary, but he has complained bitterly about Jeb Bush’s hiring of pro-marriage-equality campaign staff. Lane bemoans the fact that divided evangelical voters allowed McCain and Romney to take the GOP nominations in 2008 and 2012. He told the Houston Chronicle in 2013, “We’re going to try to eliminate the stuff that they [GOP leaders] do to us every four years, which is picking somebody who has no chance of being viable and they kill us off and we have the McCains and Romneys left.”

Lane ally Bob Vander Plaats of the Iowa Family Leader said in November that the only way that will happen will be through prayer that God will reveal to us… that’s the one we need to coalesce around.”  Lane said something similar to the Christian Examiner in January 2015.

“Only a merciful God can cause America to change, and God works through His people,” Lane said.

That’s why prayer is so important; people need God’s guidance about whom to elect, Lane explained.

In a March 3 email, Lane summed up the quest this way: “The challenge is this – can we find a man or a woman whose faith is so great that they will voluntarily abandon those things which men cherish, including their very life, to defend against the seemingly invincible omnipotence of secularism?”

The other prong of Lane’s 2016 strategy is an effort to recruit 1,000 conservative evangelical pastors to run for office themselves. Lane says he was inspired by his own pastor, Rob McCoy of Calvary Chapel in Thousand Oaks, California, who decided to run for the state assembly last year. McCoy won the Republican primary but was defeated in the general election. In both races he was outspent but managed to mobilize hundreds of volunteers. Lane figures that if he could replicate that experience on a grand scale, “would revolutionize the political process” and dramatically change the political climate in America.”

Here’s how he described the plan to the Washington Times in January:

“Our goal in 2016 is to have 1,000 pastors running for city council, county commissioner, school board, mayor, Congress — who attract an average of 300 Christian volunteers per campaign,” Mr. Lane explained.

“That would amount to a total 300,000 grassroots, evangelical, precinct-level conservatives — from the bottom up — in 2016,” he added. “It would change America for good, a step toward restoring the nation to our Judeo Christian heritage and reestablishing a Christian cultur.”

In January, Lane put on a recruitment and training session for pastors thinking about running for office. Jindal signed an invitation letter, which said, “There is a great need for the kind of leaders we read about in the Old Testament, ‘The Men of Issachar’ (1 Chronicles 12:32). We need such men and women of wisdom today who will accept the challenge to restore our Judeo-Christian heritage in America.” Jindal and Sen. Steve Lankford of Oklahoma were among the speakers at the event, which was held the day before “The Response,” the Lane-organized, Jindal-hosted prayer rally.

Lane says he sent an invitation to 100,000 pastors on his list, in which he spelled out his vision:

A thousand pastors running in 2016-and three to four hundred pastors winning their political races – would ignite a spiritual movement in the public arena of America not seen since America’s Founding. Again, the flock of God hungers for leadership in the battle for restoring America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and reestablishing a Christian culture.”

Among similar “Issachar Training” events Lane is holding across the country were a training for pastors in Las Vegas in April and one in Oklahoma City in May (featuring Ted Cruz and Sen. James Lankford).  Jindal will host an Issachar training in Charleston, South Carolina this Friday before Nikki Haley’s prayer rally and fellow presidential contender Mike Huckabee will host one in Orlando on July 9 and 10.

Funding Lane’s Christian-Nation Politicking

Lane’s American Renewal Project operates under the umbrella of the American Family Association, a nonprofit organization that is not required to disclose its donors. Lane has always refused to name the big donors who pick up the tab for flying pastors and politicians around the world, or picking up the meals and lodging for preachers to attend one of his state “Pastors and Pews” events with elected officials. But we know where at least some of Lane’s money is coming from.

 In 2013, the Christian Broadcasting Networks’ David Brody reported on one of Lane’s Iowa events. Brody’s story included short clips of comments by brothers Farris and Dan Wilks, who were identified only as members of Lane’s Pastors and Pews group. Brody introduced the brothers by saying, “The Wilks brothers worry that America’s declining morals will especially hurt the younger generation, so they’re using the riches that the Lord has blessed them with to back specific goals.”  Dan Wilks told Brody, “I just think we have to make people aware, you know, and bring the Bible back into the school, and start teaching our kids at a younger age, and, uh, you know, and focus on the younger generation.”  Brother Farris said, “They’re being taught the other ideas, the gay agenda, every day out in the world so we have to stand up and explain to them that that’s not real, that’s not proper, it’s not right.”

As Right Wing Watch reported in 2014, Farris and Dan Wilks made billions of dollars in the fracking business and have since become major funders of Religious Right organizations and groups associated with the Koch brothers’ networks. Farris also pastors a church founded by the brothers’ father, and his sermons make it clear that he shares much of Lane’s anti-gay, anti-secular, Christian-nation worldview, and has been inspired by Lane to do more to shape America’s future. RH Reality Check reported this year that the Wilks brothers’ are big funders of right-wing radio host Denis Prager’s right-wing propaganda site, Prager University.

Each of the brothers has, with their wives, set up charitable foundations: Farris and Joann created The Thirteen Foundation and Dan and Staci the Heavenly Father’s Foundation. The Thirteen Foundation in particular became a source of millions for right-wing political groups. According to the 2013 990 forms filed by the foundations with the IRS, The Thirteen Foundation gave 922,000 that year to the American Family Association. It is not clear how much of that was for Lane’s projects, but the filing from Heavenly Father’s Foundation is more explicit, reporting $750,000 to the AFA for three Pastors and Pews conferences.

Lane is, not surprisingly perhaps, a fan of today’s big-money approach to politics. Speaking about a post-Citizens United World, Lane told NBC News’s Perry Bacon in 2014: “The problem used to be, you had to raise $2,500 per person, so you had to come up with the bundlers. With Citizens United, I don’t think it’s as big of a hurdle. Now you can have somebody who gives $15 or $20 million into a super PAC and that changes the game.”

CBN’s David Brody as David Lane’s Personal Press Agent

David Lane has been careful over the years to manage his media presence, preferring with few exceptions to do his work beneath the radar of the national news. But he has often relied on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody, who calls Lane “a good friend,” to promote his events or videos, reported breathlessly by Brody as “exclusives.”

One good example of Brody serving as Lane’s public relations man came in a March blog post, in which Brody enthused about the upcoming event featuring Jindal and Cruz: “The influential David Lane has done it yet again, pulling together a big event in Iowa where the two soon-to-be presidential candidates will speak in front of a couple hundred pastors next week.”

Brody added a message directly to reporters:

“Hey mainstream media: you better pay attention to these events. These spiritual events are authentic as can be and here's some straight talk for the media as well: don't think that Cruz, Jindal, and others do these events for political purposes. They are both authentic Christians who believe every word of what they say when they talk to these pastors. They are NOT ashamed of the Gospel.

Will there be some political benefit? Well, of course but their heart is in the right place. And after all, God looks at the heart.”

Is it remotely possible that David Brody really believes that Cruz and Jindal do not go to Lane’s explicitly political events “for political purposes”?

David Lane, the GOP, Gideon and Rahab the Harlot

Lane ends just about every email and column with the question, “Will a Gideon or Rahab the Harlot please make a stand?” As RWW has noted, in the Old Testament, Gideon is called by God to defeat the armies of enemies of the Israelites and end the worship of false gods. Rahab the Harlot enabled the Israelites’ conquest of Jericho by helping two spies sent into the city by Joshua. She and her family were the only ones spared when the city was destroyed and every other man, woman and child was killed. Politicians who stand with Lane might consider asking him just what he means by his frequently repeated calls for a Gideon or Rahab to stand up among American evangelicals.

Appendix: A David Lane Primer

  • Argued that “homosexuals praying at the Inauguration” of President Obama in 2013 will provoke God’s wrath in the form of “car bombs in Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and Des Moines, Iowa.”
  • Feared that God might destroy the U.S. just as he punished Nazi Germany: “If we get judgment like Nazi Germany, I’m assuming we go to rebel, and God says ‘I’m done.’”
  • Urged conservative Christians to prepare for martyrdom in their fight to “save the nation from the pagan onslaught imposing homosexual marriage [and] homosexual scouts.”
  • Warned that homosexuality has created an unparalleled “moral crisis” and “threatened our utter destruction.”
  • Favorably quoted a Christian author who said that “same-sex marriage practiced universally is suicide. To survive gays and lesbians are parasites, depending for their cultural survival on couples that birth the next generation.”
  • Explained why homosexuality is a threat to freedom: “Homosexuality is debauchery. God’s loyalty and fidelity — that guard the nation — make sustainable freedom dependent on seeking virtue.”
  • Predicted that homosexuality will lead to the destruction of America: “Homosexual desire and marriage is unnatural and — more so — is a symptom of advanced cultural decay and precursor to the collapse of the Republican Party and the nation.... The mark of a decadent society is the exaltation and normalization of sin — which leads to the death.”
  • Said homosexuality is part of a Marxist “psychological conditioning” plot.
  • Attacked gay Republicans Richard Tisei and Ken Mehlman along with GOP marriage equality supporters Rob PortmanLaura Bush, Barbara Bush and Cindy McCain for trying “to impose homosexual marriage — and indecency — on Christian America.”
  • Compared Republicans who support marriage equality to politicians who backed slavery in the run-up to the Civil War.
  • Called the separation of church and state a “lie” and a “fabricated whopper” used to stop “Christian America – the moral majority – from imposing moral government on pagan public schools, pagan higher learning and pagan media.”
  • Claimed that while “America was a Christian nation” since its founding, now it must choose between being “a Christian nation or a pagan nation.”
  • Said America needs a “thorough cleaning from pornography, abortion, homosexuality, filth from TV and Hollywood, racism, and injustice.”
  • Asserted that the “false gods of multiculturalism, political correctness and secularism must be removed from Christian America.”
  • Disclosed that “our long-term strategy must be to place the Bible in Public Schools as the principle [sic] textbook of American education.”
  • Congratulated a pastor for exposing Mitt Romney’s belief in the “false god of Mormonism” during the 2012 GOP primaries.
  • Lamented that the “‘religion of secularism’ has produced red ink as far as the eye can see, homosexuals praying at the Inauguration, tax-funded abortion, homosexual marriage in several States, Evangelicals held in contempt, and God expelled from the classrooms of America — and the public square.”
  •  
  • Warned that while America has “grovel to the false god of Islam,” “America, a Christian nation in heritage and culture, is being dismantled brick by brick.
PFAW

PFAW and Allies Urge New Hampshire Governor to Veto Attack on Voting Rights

On Thursday, People For the American Way members and supporters in New Hampshire joined local election authorities, lawmakers, civil rights groups, and affected voters to call on Governor Maggie Hassan to veto SB 179 and end the rollback of voting rights.

The bill, SB 179, would require voters to live at the same address for 30 days before registering to vote, chipping away at the state’s same-day registration law, and also open up public access to private voter information at the local level.

Over 80 people packed the lobby of the Legislative Office Building, including many state legislators.  Speakers included State Senator David Pierce; Gilles Bissonnette, legal director for the ACLU; State Representative and Plymouth State University student Travis Bennett; moderator for the town of Freedom Don Johnson; and Manchester moderator and president of the Manchester NAACP Woullard Lett. They addressed the unconstitutionality of the 30 day waiting period, the fact that there is no evidence of a problem with “drive by voting,” and the bill’s disproportionate effects on students, the poor, and people of color.

 

PFAW

GOP targets Latinos’ ability to vote

This piece by People For the American Way Political Coordinator Carlos A. Sanchez originally appeared in Fox News Latino.

Even as a diverse coalition of Americans unite around the principle that voting rights are an essential American principle that needs to be protected, the Republican Party remains firmly committed to doing the opposite. Their continued push for policies that make it more difficult for people to vote disproportionately affects minority and young voters.

Republicans – including leading Presidential candidates – have for years been pushing initiatives that make it harder to vote. Jeb Bush supports states’ efforts to enact voter ID laws, and as governor, he restricted early voting and infamously purged 12,000 eligible voters before the 2000 presidential election. Marco Rubio asked, “What’s the big deal?” with voter ID laws. Scott Walker enacted what has been described as “one of the most restrictive voter ID laws in the country.”

Voter ID laws systematically target Latinos’ and other minorities’ ability to vote. In 2012, measures to restrict voting could have affected over 10 million Latino voters. A Brennan Center for Justice study reported, “In Colorado, Florida, and Virginia, the number of eligible Latino citizens that could be affected by these barriers exceeds the margin of victory in each of those states during the 2008 presidential election.”

And it’s no accident that these laws disproportionately affect Latinos. A separate study from last year found “a solid link between legislator support for voter ID laws and bias toward Latino voters, as measured in their responses to constituent e-mails.” And yet another study that was released earlier this year found that even in states without voter ID laws, Latinos were targeted: “Election officials themselves also appear to be biased against minority voters, and Latinos in particular. For example, poll workers are more likely to ask minority voters to show identification, including in states without voter identification laws.”

Some Republicans have explicitly made known their intentions of suppressing Latino and African-American voters in order to win elections. Over 30 years ago, ALEC-founder and co-founder of the Heritage Foundation Paul Weyrich spoke plainly:  “I don’t want everybody to vote…As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” Republican after Republican has continued in his footsteps: An Ohio GOP County Chair stated he supports limits on early voting because, “I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban – read African-American – voter-turnout machine.” Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai believed voter ID laws would “allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” Former GOP Precinct Chair Don Yelton used the “n” word as he tried to deny that a voter ID law in North Carolina was racist (and he explained that “the law is going to kick the Democrats in the butt”). Conservative activist and notoriously anti-immigrant Phyllis Schlafly said, “The reduction in the number of days allowed for early voting is particularly important because early voting plays a major role in Obama’s ground game.” Schlafly’s Eagle Forum endorsed Marco Rubio in his run for Senate (here’s a lovely picture of the two of them) and applauded Scott Walker for his opposition to legal immigration.

The Republican response to the growing power of minority voters could not be clearer: shut them out of the election process. Under the guise of fighting voter fraud, despite a striking absence of evidence that fraud exists, Republican-led chambers across our nation have moved in concert to restrict access through the polls for political reasons. It’s that simple.

What’s even more upsetting is to hear a group who claims to represent the best interests of a community choose to ignore the facts in favor of their funder’s agenda.  Daniel Garza, executive director of the Libre Iniative, said he’s fine with voter ID laws and that he doesn’t think Republicans are trying to suppress the Latino vote. Libre is a Koch-funded GOP shadow group that time and again turns its back on the Latino community – for example, Libre supported Republican candidates who opposed immigration reform in 2014. Garza’s support for voter ID laws is yet another instance of him and Republicans supporting a policy that’s devastating to Latinos.

It’s time for the Republican Party to end their campaign against voting rights—and for people like Daniel Garza to stop giving them cover when they do it.

Carlos A. Sanchez is the Coordinator of Political Campaigns for People For the American Way.

PFAW

North Carolina Pastor Speaks Out About Discriminatory Marriage Law

In response to a bill authorizing public officials to refuse to perform same-sex marriages becoming law in North Carolina this morning, Dr. Terence K. Leathers – a pastor at Mt. Vernon Christian Church in Clayton, North Carolina and a member of People For the American Way's African American Ministers In Action – released the following statement:

“Shame on our legislature for making this harmful and unnecessary bill become law. As a pastor, I believe this is not only a blow for the dignity of all North Carolinians but also a blow for true religious liberty.

“Governor McCrory did the right thing when he vetoed this bill, and the fact that our legislature overrode it shows just how far they will go in misusing the principle of religious liberty in order to discriminate. This is a sad day for our state.”

Last week, Dr. Leathers published an op-ed in The Huffington Post calling on the legislature not to misuse religious freedom to license public officials to discriminate.

PFAW

Fifth Circuit Upholds Extreme Abortion Restrictions in Texas

On Tuesday the Fifth Circuit federal appeals court upheld most of Texas’ stringent anti-abortion law, which could leave as few as seven clinics open in the nation’s second largest state. The U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked these restrictions in October; however, the Fifth Circuit’s ruling allows the law to stand, ushering in a likely wave of clinic closings for the Lone Star State.

The Associated Press explains how the law works:

 The decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allows Texas to enforce Republican-backed restrictions that require abortion clinics to meet hospital-level operating standards, a checklist that includes rules on minimum room sizes, staffing levels and air ventilation systems.

This decision represents an endorsement of a long series of right-wing initiatives to chip away at the rights protected by Roe v. Wade. By pushing unnecessary laws targeting abortion facilities, the Right can mandate costly renovations that create a needless economic strain on clinics. For example, the Texas law requires abortion clinics to abide by the same standards as hospital surgical centers, despite the fact that many clinics solely provide medical abortions, which do not involve surgery. The Supreme Court has said that states may not pass laws with the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion. But the court yesterday turned a blind eye to the obvious in order to further the Right’s anti-choice agenda.

A panel of three judges, all appointed by George W. Bush, delivered the decision, which will force facilities across the state to shut their doors and leave women hundreds of miles away from a licensed abortion provider. Verdicts from the ultra-conservative Fifth Circuit bench, like the decision in October letting Texas enforce strict voter ID laws, highlight the importance of who sits on our nation’s courts.  Although Fifth Circuit has two longstanding vacancies, Republican obstruction has prevented the filling of these seats. Tuesday’s decision further exemplifies the critical need for fair and just courts, particularly as right-wing legislators continue their relentless attack on the rights established by Roe.

PFAW

Late Night Host Draws Attention to Campaign Finance Issues

On June 4, Seth Meyers vocalized the growing frustration among Americans about the delayed candidacy announcement of Jeb Bush. On his talk show, Late Night with Seth Meyers, the host poked fun at Bush and the dysfunction of the Federal Election Commission (FEC), drawing attention to issues surrounding campaign finance.

 

Meyers is not the first to scrutinize Jeb Bush for his lack of clarity. A recent article in the New York Times explores the federal laws around candidacy, noting that “federal law makes anyone who raises or spends $5,000 in an effort to become president a candidate, and thus subject to fundraising, spending, and disclosure rules.” Yet because Bush has not declared as a candidate, he is not limited in the amount of money he can raise, and can continue to coordinate with his super PAC, Right to Rise, which he would not be able to do otherwise.

 

Jeb Bush’s antics are a good demonstration of the need for campaign finance reform. The majority of Americans agree that big money has too much influence on politics. But, as Seth Meyers indicated, the FEC is “dysfunctional,” even according to its own chairwoman, who has created a petition calling for new rules to regulate political spending. The FEC is meant to be a bipartisan organization, but that is also what causes its gridlock: the three Democrats and three Republicans cannot seem to agree on much of anything.


Two partner campaign finance reform groups, Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center, have filed formal complaints with the FEC challenging the legality of Bush’s tactics. Regardless of whether or not the FEC takes action as a result of these complaints, Governor Bush plans to officially announce his candidacy on June 15th. Either way, our broken campaign finance system will no doubt continue to serve as punchlines leading into 2016, hopefully setting the stage for real reform.

PFAW

Toomey Can Protect 3rd Circuit from Having Two Vacancies

Tomorrow’s hearing for Judge L. Felipe Restrepo’s Third Circuit nomination is occurring shortly before another vacancy opens on that same court, yet precedent shows that he can be confirmed in time to protect that court from having two vacancies at the same time.

When President Obama nominated Restrepo way back in November, it seemed unlikely that he would have to wait seven months just for his committee hearing. Unfortunately, Republican control of the Senate has caused the confirmation process to move slowly for all judicial nominations.

As a result, when the hearing occurs this Wednesday, it will be a mere three weeks before another vacancy opens on the same court on July 1. Considering that the vacancy that Judge Restrepo would fill has been formally designated as a judicial emergency, senators should be bending over backwards to confirm him before the next vacancy opens.

Fortunately, precedent shows that this can be done. Restrepo is helped by the fact that he is a known quantity – the Senate unanimously confirmed him to his current position just two years ago – and he has the bipartisan support of his home state senators.

Such an efficient process going forward would hardly be unprecedented. While no Obama circuit nominee has advanced from committee hearing to confirmation within three weeks, nine of George W. Bush’s circuit court nominees did. Notably, half of these nominations from the most recent GOP president were considered by a Senate controlled by Democrats.

  1. Roger Gregory, Fourth Circuit: 9 days (2001)
  2. William Riley, Eighth Circuit: 9 days (2001)
  3. Michael Melloy, Eighth Circuit: 18 days (2002)
  4. Jeffrey Howard, First Circuit: 12 days (2002)
  5. Consuelo Callahan, Ninth Circuit: 15 days (2003)
  6. Richard Wesley, Second Circuit: 20 days (2003)
  7. Michael Chagares, Third Circuit: 21 days (2006)
  8. Milan Smith, Ninth Circuit: 21 days (2006)
  9. G. Steven Agee, Fourth Circuit: 19 days (2008)

(The first one, Roger Gregory, was a unique case, since he had originally been a 2000 Bill Clinton nominee and recess appointee who was renominated by Bush.)

Fast forward to today: The clock is ticking toward July 1.

Just as Democrats and Republicans alike worked to confirm a number of President Bush’s circuit court nominees within three weeks of their committee hearings, Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey can work together to make this happen again. They both expressed strong support for Restrepo when he was nominated last year, and they can both see the harm to their constituents if the court has a second vacancy added to the already-existing judicial emergency.

Toomey has gotten a lot of bad in-state press criticizing him for his role in delaying Restrepo’s hearing for more than half a year. That delay is the reason there are only three weeks left before the next vacancy opens.

But with the Senate under Republican control, Toomey now has an opportunity to showcase his ability to influence Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and protect Pennsylvanians’ access to justice. A public statement by Toomey at the hearing on the pressing need for the Senate to act quickly to prevent a second vacancy on the court would send an important signal to his constituents, as well as to his Senate colleagues.

Ten of George W. Bush’s circuit court judges were confirmed by the Democratic-controlled Senate in his last two years in office, three of them by this same point in 2007. The count for the current Senate is zero. But with Toomey’s help, there could be a Third Circuit confirmation before Independence Day.

PFAW

What’s at Stake in the Supreme Court’s Fair Housing Case?

Although the case hasn’t gotten as much mainstream press attention as the forthcoming blockbuster rulings on marriage and on the ACA, the Supreme Court will be issuing a crucial decision on fair housing in the next few weeks in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project. A bad decision would reverse decades of positive decisions and progress in  fair housing.

As our nation learned during the riots of the 1960s, and is tragically re-learning today, segregation in housing is both a major cause and effect of our urban problems and inequality. Partly in response, Congress enacted the Fair Housing Act in 1968, with the explicit purpose to “provide, within constitutional limitations, for fair housing throughout the United States.” For almost four decades, every appellate court that has considered the issue and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under both Republican and Democratic administrations have interpreted the Act to prohibit conduct that has a discriminatory effect based on race, color, religion, gender, disability, or familial status without a good justification. The issue in Texas Department is whether the Court will overturn that standard and rule that you don’t have a case under the Fair Housing Act unless you can prove specific intent to discriminate.

Why is this important? On a practical level, requiring proof of intent will make fair housing enforcement much more difficult; as one court noted, “clever men may easily conceal their motivations.” More broadly, discrimination and segregation often result from policies that may not be motivated by specific bad intent but that build on historic and systemic patterns of discrimination and lock out racial and other minorities. The “disparate impact” test, which is the legal term for the standard based on unjustified discriminatory effects, has helped combat that problem.

For example, in one case a building policy that imposed a limit of two people per bedroom resulted in the effective eviction from a one-bedroom apartment of a young couple who had just had a child. The policy was challenged based on disparate impact. It turned out there was no good business justification for the policy, and 150 units were opened up for families with children as a result. Similar challenges to policies that excluded disabled veterans by requiring residents to have full-time jobs or zoning restrictions that excluded racial minorities by requiring large lot sizes have helped break down long-entrenched problems of discrimination and exclusion.

All eleven federal courts of appeal that have considered this issue since the 1970s have approved the disparate impact standard. As explained in a brief to the Supreme Court by former Republican and Democratic HUD appointees, HUD has also followed this standard for decades. As a former HUD official and career-long civil rights attorney, I know the importance of the disparate impact test. As I wrote in a law review article more than 35 years ago, “only by concentrating on effect can the issue of discrimination be realistically addressed at all.”

If the Supreme Court overturns the long-accepted disparate impact standard, the continuing problems of discrimination and segregation in our country will only get worse in the years to come. The outcome of this case will have an enormous impact on millions of people throughout America, and on the nature of who we are as a nation.

PFAW Foundation

Courts: An Opportunity for Mitch McConnell to Show He Can Govern

Late last week, conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt excitedly tweeted out a headline guaranteed to excite the far right Republican base:

@SenateMajLdr rules out … confirming any more President Obama circuit or SCOTUS judges.justices

But what Mitch McConnell had actually said was more ambiguous than that tweet (and the headlines it generated) suggested. In fact, it was not at all clear what he meant.

His spokesperson said over the weekend that McConnell had "said nothing of the sort." But the words of a spokesperson don't mean anything until they are matched by actions from the senator.

If the headlines were accurate, it would be a dramatic escalation in the GOP's partisan war against the efforts of Democratic presidents to fulfill their constitutional duty to fill the federal courts with qualified, fair judges. Indeed, it would make the 114th Congress the first and only one since the creation of the modern circuit court system in the 1890s not to confirm any circuit court judges.

The headlines said exactly what the radical base wants to hear. As Senate Minority Leader, McConnell clearly played to the base and used the Senate rules masterfully in order to significantly obstruct the confirmation process for all of President Obama's judicial nominees, regardless of what court they were nominated for, regardless of their record, and regardless of support from most or even all senators. McConnell damaged both the Senate and our country during this time.

But since becoming Majority Leader, McConnell has wanted to persuade Americans that he can actually run the Senate effectively and responsibly. However, making the Senate dysfunctional is not the mark of a responsible and effective Senate Majority Leader. The timely confirmation of federal judges is one of the most important tasks the Senate has, since the entire Third Branch of the U.S. government relies on the other two branches to keep it functioning. A dysfunctional Senate that will not confirm qualified judges in a timely manner threatens the American ideal of equal justice under law.

So after the headlines of the past few days, the eyes of the country are on McConnell, waiting to see if he will cater to the rabidly anti-Obama base and prevent votes on any circuit court nominees, or whether he will – as his spokesperson suggested – govern more responsibly.

Fortunately for him, he can make that clear quite easily, by scheduling a vote on Kara Farnandez Stoll, nominee to the Federal Circuit. Stoll was cleared by the Judiciary Committee without opposition more than six weeks ago, on April 23. No circuit or district court nominee has been waiting for a floor vote longer.

Another circuit court nominee – Pennsylvanian L. Felipe Restrepo, for the Third Circuit – will have his hearing before the Judiciary Committee this week. With the bipartisan support of his home state senators and having been confirmed to a district judgeship two years ago, Judge Restrepo is another clear consensus nominee. He should be approved quickly by the Judiciary Committee and sent to the Senate floor, where McConnell should schedule a timely vote for him, as well.

It would be the mark of a Senate Majority Leader who is willing and able to govern.

PFAW

#Democracy4All Reaches Important Milestone

People For the American Way and its pro-democracy allies have been working in Congress and the states to boost House and Senate cosponsorship of the Democracy for All constitutional amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens Unitedand get big money out of politics.

This week we watched as Democracy for All reached an important milestone – it now has as many House cosponsors, 130, as it did at the end of the previous Congress.

27 of them have come during the last six weeks alone, since we first launched the campaign:

Representative Pete Aguilar [CA-31]
Representative Joyce Beatty [OH-3]
Representative Robert Brady [PA-1]
Representative Kathy Castor [FL-14]
Representative John Delaney [MD-6]
Representative Suzan DelBene [WA-1]
Representative Marcia L. Fudge [OH-11]
Representative Tulsi Gabbard [HI-2]
Representative Sheila Jackson Lee [TX-18]
Representative William R. Keating [MA-9]
Representative John Lewis [GA-5]
Representative Ted Lieu [CA-33]
Representative Doris O. Matsui [CA-6]
Representative Betty McCollum [MN-4]
Representative Jim McDermott [WA-7]
Representative Gregory W. Meeks [NY-5]
Representative Grace Meng [NY-6]
Representative Seth Moulton [MA-6]
Representative Grace F. Napolitano [CA-32]
Representative Donald Norcross [NJ-1]
Representative Bill Pascrell Jr. [NJ-9]
Representative Scott Peters [CA-52]
Representative Collin C. Peterson [MN-7]
Representative Tim Ryan [OH-13]
Representative Robert C. Scott [VA-3]
Representative Albio Sires [NJ-8]
Representative John A. Yarmuth [KY-3]

The next step is 155 – if Democracy for All gets to 155, then it will have as many cosponsors as all House amendments from the previous Congress combined.

Click to find out if your Representative has signed on to Democracy for All.

And check out United For The People for ongoing coverage of the far-reaching amendment movement.

PFAW

We're Finally Talking About 2016's Most Consequential Issue

This piece was originally published in The Huffington Post.

Yesterday, in a speech in Texas on the importance of voting rights, Hillary Clinton made one of the most important remarks of her campaign so far: "We need a Supreme Court who cares more about the right to vote of a person than the right to buy an election of a corporation." It wasn’t the first time she’d made similar statements, and to let us know she meant it, her official twitter account posted the line a few minutes later.

She’s not the only Democratic candidate to talk about what she’s looking for in a Supreme Court Justice. Bernie Sanders said last month that he’d appoint judges who would overturn the Court’s decision in Citizens United. Martin O’Malley made a similar statement just this week.

In a universe that made more sense, it wouldn’t be news that Presidential candidates are talking about the kind of jurist they’d like to see on our nation’s highest court. It’s oft repeated (and true) that aside from going to war, selecting a Supreme Court Justice is the most important single choice any President makes in office.

Yet Democrats haven’t traditionally spent much time talking about what they’d like that choice to look like.

Certainly, we know what we don’t want in a Supreme Court Justice. We don’t want someone who will overturn Roe. Or someone who would give us a decision like Ledbetter. Or, generally, act like an unelected agent of the Republican Party. Near general election time, Democrats have used the Court as a reminder of the devastating impact that would come from allowing a Republican to place yet another conservative hardliner on the bench.

All of those fears are well founded. But progressives shouldn’t spend the campaign talking only about what we don’t want on the Court—now is the time to talk about what we do want.

For the last three decades, conservative have used presidential primaries to push Republican candidates to articulate a vision of the Supreme Court. Republican candidates have identified sitting Justices (mostly Scalia and Thomas) they’d use as models when choosing a nominee, decried the Court’s supposed liberal tilt, picked apart decisions they don’t like, and, above all, emphasized their commitment to placing “strict constructionists” on the bench. Republican primary voters and conservative leaders, focused on abortion, race, deregulation, law enforcement, and marriage have taken those statements into account when deciding which candidate to support for the nomination—and they’ve reaped substantial rewards for their efforts.

So it’s a welcome relief to see Democrats talking about the Court so much earlier, and better, than ever before. Thus far, that conversation has focused on the need to restore some balance to the Supreme Court and restore the American people’s ability to impose reasonable limits on money in politics, but that shouldn’t be the end. Hillary Clinton has emphasized the Court’s role protecting voting rights. Likewise, we progressives should ask, and hear, about the Court’s role as defender of civil liberties and equal justice. Candidates should share their vision of a court whose doors are open to workers and consumers vindicating their rights, and to environmental activists looking for government agencies to fulfill their commitments to ensure clean air and water.

Decades after our next President leaves office, his or her appointees to the Supreme Court (to say nothing of the lower federal courts) will be affecting our lives in ways we can’t possibly foresee. We should expect candidates to tell us what kind of values they’ll look for when they decide who those people will be—and we should applaud them when they do it well.

We’ve got months left in primary season, and plenty of time for a robust conversation about the Supreme Court. It should play out in debates and town halls and prepared speeches. And we’re already off to a good start.

PFAW

Reuters Report: Voters Won't Let Billionaires Buy the Next Election

 With the 2016 national elections upcoming, wealthy donors supporting both parties are gearing up to throw hundreds of millions of dollars into the races; billionaires David and Charles Koch have already pledged to spend $889 million. But a report from Reuters shows that Americans, frustrated by the overwhelming influence of big money in politics, are organizing to fight back.

 In the Philadelphia mayoral race, three billionaires spent $7 million to elect Anthony Hardy Williams. In response, unions and community groups rallied around his challenger, Jim Kenney, organizing a march to stop the wealthy donors from “buying [their] next mayor.” Technological developments are making such organization easier: the creators of Crowdpac, an app that lets entrepreneurs gather funding towards donations, say that they want the app to be used to organize small donors to counteract the effects of billionaire spending.

  This is reflective of a wider trend in public opinion. Americans are sick of letting big money influence their elections; 84 percent say that money has too much influence in political campaigns today and nearly 3 in 4 Americans support a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision and limit campaign spending.

“There's growing public awareness about rich people trying to buy elections and that makes the task of winning all the more difficult," said Darrel West of the Brookings Institute.

  Americans have organized at all levels of government to get big money out of politics. Activists have held rallies and marches devoted to the cause and demanded that their representatives in Congress take steps to reduce big money’s influence. Five million of them have signed a petition calling for a constitutional amendment to limit the amount of money spent in politics. Sixteen states and more than 650 cities have already called for an amendment.

 President Obama is on board, and presidential candidates like Hillary Clinton, Lindsey Graham, and Bernie Sanders have expressed support for a constitutional amendment. Clinton and Sanders have also emphasized the importance of nominating Supreme Court Justices who would restore balance to the Supreme Court and restore the American people’s ability to impose reasonable limits on money in politics.

  The movement against big money in politics is gaining momentum as the election nears.

 

PFAW

ALEC’s Secret Meetings Exposed in Georgia

Last week a local Atlanta television station went to an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) conference in Savannah GA to expose the secret relationship ALEC legislators have with corporate lobbyists. Watch the investigation unfold as ALEC’s staff scrambled to respond.

This investigation shows us firsthand how ALEC members are working in secret to develop policies that impact average Americans on behalf of corporate special interests without the public’s input. To learn more about ALEC, check out the PFAW Right Wing Watch report, “ALEC: The Voice of Corporate Special Interests in State Legislatures.”

PFAW

PFAW and Allies Tell Congress to #GetMoneyOut

Last month, as part of a multi-pronged campaign to boost House and Senate cosponsorship of the Democracy for All constitutional amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United and get big money out of politics, People For the American Way kicked off a campaign to send letters to Congress.

PFAW’s letter highlighted the grassroots momentum around an amendment:

While amending the Constitution is unquestionably a weighty matter—only warranted in rare and compelling circumstances—this is one of those moments in our nation’s history. The American people and their elected officials are increasingly speaking out about the need for an amendment. As of April 30, H.J.Res. 22 had 108 cosponsors,xvi and S.J.Res. 5 had 40 cosponsors.xvii The building momentum in Congress for an amendment mirrors the robust grassroots organizing taking place across the country at the state and local levels. Since the landmark Citizens United decision, 16 states and more than 650 municipalities, including large cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia, have gone on record supporting congressional passage of a constitutional amendment to be sent to the states for ratification. Transcending political leaning and geographic location, voters in states and municipalities that have placed amendment questions on the ballot have routinely supported these initiatives by large margins.xviii Five million American have signed their names to the amendment support petitions circulated by dozens of reform groups.xix The momentum to address the issue of big money in politics grows stronger by the day.

Since then, eight other organizations have sent their own letters to Congress.

U.S. PIRG:

The call for a solution is also clear. To return control of our elections to average constituents, we need an amendment to correct the Supreme Court’s misguided interpretation that money is speech protected under the First Amendment and reestablish the principle of protecting political equality. The drumbeat of support for this amendment has been heard loud and clear. 16 states and over 650 municipalities have gone on record against the flood of big money in our elections and called on their congressional delegations to pass the amendment and send it back to the states to be ratified.

Common Cause:

We cannot fully address the many challenges our country faces—jobs and the economy, energy independence, housing security, and many others—until we solve the root issue of money dominating politics. Passing a constitutional amendment is a critical way to elevate the voices of everyday Americans so that everyone, not just the wealthy few, can be heard.

American Association of University Women (AAUW):

American women fought too hard for their votes to count. Congress needs to get big money out of our elections—and put the focus back on the people—by passing a Democracy for All constitutional amendment.

MoveOn.org Civic Action:

It's a simple and direct solution to the problems of money in politics that were multiplied many times over by the Supreme Court's decisions in Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC. Since those decisions opened the floodgates of unregulated political spending, we've seen an already fragile system become even further compromised. As spending on elections increases dramatically, a small handful of the wealthiest Americans control a growing percentage of the campaign donations—locking out millions upon millions of regular Americans from our democracy.

Daily Kos:

The flow of money into our political system—and the associated effects on our democratic processes—has reached a crisis level. In the wake of Citizens United v. FEC, 558 U.S. 310 (2010), McCutcheon v. FEC, 134 S.Ct. 1434 (2014), and other damaging Supreme Court decisions that have left Congress and the states unable to enact election spending regulations, American elections have grown increasingly expensive.

Public Citizen:

America faces great and serious challenges – putting people back to work, addressing deepening inequality, averting catastrophic climate change, fixing our schools, ensuring quality and affordable health care for all, and much more. Our country has the wealth and wherewithal, and the creativity and conscience, to meet these challenges. But we will fall short unless we repair our democracy.

Greenpeace:

Climate change is a salient example of the outsized influence of special interest money and Congress’ failure to address issues of highest national importance.

Sierra Club:

For at least the last decade, it has been abundantly clear that the people responsible for polluting our air, our water, and our climate with toxic contamination are many of the same ones responsible for polluting our democracy with hundreds of millions of dollars in toxic money. Fortunately, big money campaign donors are not getting away with this corruption of our democracy without the American people putting up a fight.

Click to learn more about Democracy for All and how you can be part of the solution.

And check out United For The People for ongoing coverage of the far-reaching amendment movement.

PFAW