PEOPLE FOR BLOG

Sen. Ron Johnson’s $10 million Deferred Compensation Raises Ethics Questions

Far-right Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) spent roughly $9 million of his own money last year to finance his senatorial campaign. Lucky for him, shortly after his campaign ended, he received $10 million in deferred compensation from the plastics company he used to run.

This alone would warrant some questions, but the details of the compensation package cast even more suspicion over the deal. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Unlike most deferred package deals, however, it appears that the company had not set aside a specified amount annually that would be paid out when he left the firm. Instead, Johnson said the $10 million payment was "an agreed-upon amount" that was determined at the end of his tenure with the company.

 Agreed upon with whom?

"That would be me," he said.

Is it just a coincidence that the amount Johnson spent on his campaign so closely matches the amount he received in compensation? Quite possibly, but it is also enough to provoke some legitimate questions. Long-standing campaign finance laws prohibit corporations from directly funding campaigns for federal office, and if it were to come out that Johnson was reimbursed for his expenditures it would be a major campaign finance violation. So how does Johnson respond to questions about his spending? Again, from the Journal-Sentinel:

The first-term Republican declined to say how his Oshkosh firm, Pacur, came up with a figure that so closely mirrored the amount he personally put into his campaign fund.

 “You take a look in terms of what would be a reasonable compensation package, OK?” Johnson said this week. “It’s a private business. I’ve complied with all the disclosure laws, and I don’t have to explain it any further to someone like you.”

And who is this “someone like you” that Ron Johnson doesn’t have to explain himself to? A reporter asking a legitimate question.

 

H/t to Brian Beutler at TPM

PFAW

Delegate Norton provides approps update, calls on her constituents and DC’s supporters to rally tomorrow

DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton had good news and bad news for us after yesterday’s meeting of the House Appropriations Committee.

Today, the House Appropriations committee rejected an amendment to strike the abortion rider from the fiscal year 2012 D.C. Appropriations bill. Norton is pleased that with the critical help of a new coalition of national organizations, no new riders were added to bill, but she said the "city cannot be satisfied until we have returned to the clean D.C. appropriations we achieved when Democrats controlled the House."

While we escaped new riders, the bill is still a problem, and by no means is DC out of the woods on any issue.

Delegate Norton continues:

Norton said that the DC Vote rally is especially timely because the D.C. appropriations bill was passed by the full appropriations committee today and is headed to the House floor with a prohibition on city spending for abortions for low-income women, which must be removed.

"Saturday's rally will make history and serve notice that all branches of government are responsible for protecting the District's rights to local self-governance, particularly its right to spend local funds as it sees fit," said Norton. Saturday will mark the first time I have seen residents and national organizations alike, assemble at the White House to call on an administration to step up to help protect the city's home-rule, and Saturday may well be the first time that a rally has been designed not only for protest, but for fun for all ages, complete with musical performances, poster face-making, and the like. Our families are enthusiastic supporters of democracy for D.C., but those with kids have trouble coming to rallies. A Saturday of fun and protest will be perfect for kids, parents, and the rest of us."

Please join PFAW, Delegate Norton, DC Mayor Vincent Gray, DC Vote, and rally sponsors at tomorrow’s White House Rally for DC Democracy.

Look for our signs and the PFAW and AAMIA logos!

PFAW

Court Lets Corporations Off the Hook For Failing to Warn of Their Dangerous Drugs

The second of the two business-friendly decisions issued by the Corporate Court today was PLIVA v. Mensing, a case involving a woman seriously injured by the generic drugs she took. Since the manufacturer knew that the risks were much greater than had been believed at the time the FDA approved its labeling, she sued in state court over its failure to warn of those risks. Today, the five conservatives ruled that she has no right to file such a lawsuit.

All prescription drugs must have warning labels that are approved by the FDA. Under a recent precedent, if a brand-name drug manufacturer fails to warn consumers of a known risk not on the label, it cannot avoid being sued in state court simply by saying its label was okayed by the FDA. Today's case was similar, except in this case it was a generic drug maker, calling into play a separate federal law that requires generics to use the same warning labels as brand-names.

Gladys Mensing developed a severe and irreversible neurological disorder as a result of her long-term use of a generic drug. At the time, the label indicated that the risk of a disorder of the type she developed was about one in 500 patients. However, according to Mensing, it turned out that the actual incidence was much higher, perhaps as high as one in five patients. Despite mounting evidence that the label greatly understated the risks, none of the companies that manufactured the drug proposed that the FDA modify the warning label.

According to the majority opinion, written by Justice Thomas, the generic drug maker cannot be sued in state court for failing to warn consumers because that state law is preempted by the federal "same label" law. They claimed that the company could not have changed its label without violating federal law. But further than that, they had no obligation to ask the FDA to update the label for the drug (a change that, if adopted, would have applied to the brand name and then, by extension, to the generic). Even if the generic drug maker had gone to the FDA, it could not have changed the label itself until granted permission by the federal government, so Ms. Mensing could not have been warned as required by state law. Compliance with both state and federal law is impossible, according to the majority, so the federal law must preempt the state one under the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution.

Justice Sotomayor's dissent (joined by Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan) harshly criticized Justice Thomas's reasoning. We do not know if it would really have been impossible for the generic drug manufacturer to have complied with state law by getting the FDA to approve a label change in a timely manner, because it did not even try. Justice Sotomayor writes:

We have traditionally held defendants claiming impossibility to a demanding standard: Until today, the mere possibility of impossibility had not been enough to establish pre-emption.

...

The Court strains to reach [its] conclusion. It invents new principles of pre-emption law out of thin air to justify its dilution of the impossibility standard. It effectively rewrites our [2009] decision in Wyeth v. Levine, which holds that federal law does not pre-empt failure-to-warn claims against brand-name drug manufacturers.

So as of today, the ability of a victim to collect under state law for failure to warn of a prescription drug's dangers depends on happenstance: whether the pharmacist happened to fill the prescription with a brand name or a generic.

Congress has acted over the years to make low-cost generics more widely available to the American people. Surely a result like today's was not its intent.

PFAW

Justice Thomas' Unethical Conduct Highlights Need for Reforms

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is generating quite a bit of attention these days. Questions abound – not from him, as he hasn’t asked a question during oral arguments for over five years – but from citizens concerned about the integrity of the Court.

Last week, the New York Times profiled Mr. Thomas’ relationship with wealthy corporate benefactors who often have business before the Court. Among them, a man Dallas real estate magnate named Harlan Crow, who generously offered Justice Thomas a $19,000 bible once belonging to Frederick Douglass, half a million dollars to Thomas’ wife so she could start a Tea Party group, and even generous contributions to museums featuring exhibits in the Justice’s honor.

Thomas has attended Koch-sponsored political fundraisers, which underwrite the very sort of front groups that now, thanks in part to Thomas’ vote in the Citizen’s United case, do not need to disclose their spending. And Thomas failed to recuse himself from three cases in which the American Enterprise Institute, which had given him a $15,000 gift, had filed a brief. It’s nice to get nice things, but if you sit on the Supreme Court of the United States, it is a serious problem if those gifts potentially influence – or appear to influence – your official conduct.

Perhaps the root of the problem is that the Judicial Conference Code of Conduct does not apply to Supreme Court justices. A movement is underway in Congress to address this gaping hole in our judicial ethical standards – a flaw that helps create an appearance that justice can be bought by the highest bidder. In a step to fix this flaw, Rep. Christopher Murphy (D-CT) is circulating a letter urging the House Judiciary Committee to investigate potential abuses by Justice Thomas and to consider applying the ethical code of conduct to the Supreme Court as a means to restoring the public’s faith in the integrity of the court.

Considering the concerns raised about Justice Thomas’ potential disregard of ethical boundaries, this call for an investigation is coming none too soon.

 

Check out an article on the subject in the Huffington Post by PFAW President Michael Keegan.

PFAW

Roberts Court Strikes Down Medical Privacy Law in Gift to Pharmaceutical Companies

A divided Supreme Court issued two business-friendly decisions today that demonstrate why, under Chief Justice Roberts, it is frequently called the Corporate Court.

In the first of these, Sorrell v. IMS Health, a 6-3 Court (the five usual suspects joined by Justice Sotomayor) struck down a common-sense medical privacy law passed by Vermont. As part of its comprehensive regulation of pharmaceuticals, the state requires pharmacies to retain certain information about prescriptions and the doctors that order them. Knowing that the drug companies would love to take advantage of this information in order to target doctors to sell more of their product, Vermont protected medical privacy by prohibiting the sale to or use of this data by drug companies without the prescribing doctor's authorization.

According to the Roberts Court, the law allows anyone else to use the data for any other purpose and therefore cannot be defended as protecting medical privacy. It therefore characterizes the law as targeting speech based on the identity of the speaker and the content of the message, thereby triggering heightened First Amendment scrutiny (which – surprise, surprise – the privacy protection law fails to meet).

Justice Breyer's dissent recognizes the Vermont law as the standard, commonplace regulation of a commercial enterprise. It doesn't prohibit or require anyone to say anything, to engage in any form of symbolic speech, or to endorse any particular point of view. It simply addresses a problematic abuse of the prescription data. As the dissenters point out, the federal and state governments routinely limit the use of information that is collected in areas subject to their regulation, as pharmaceuticals have been for over 100 years. Surely heightened First Amendment scrutiny should not be triggered by a law that, for instance, prohibits a car dealer from using credit scores it gets for one purpose (to determine if customer is credit-worthy) for another (to search for new customers).

The dissent states that the Court has never before subjected standard, everyday regulation of this sort to heightened First Amendment scrutiny. Yet this is not the first time that arch-conservative ideologues have taken everyday economic regulation and struck it down on the basis of freedoms enumerated in the Bill of Rights. In fact, the dissenters specifically warn of a return to

the bygone era of Lochner v. New York, in which it was common practice for this Court to strike down economic regulations adopted by a State based on the Court's own notions of the most appropriate means for the State to implement its considered policies.

With Lochner, ideologues routinely struck down consumer and worker protection laws as violating the Due Process Clause so they could impose their own policy preferences. Simply replacing Due Process with Free Speech does not suddenly make this radicalism valid.

PFAW

PFAW asks DC’s residents and supporters to head to the White House this Saturday

The House Appropriations Committee convened this morning at 9:30 am to consider the DC appropriations bill that the DC subcommittee passed last week. We are currently waiting for word on whether any DC riders were added, in addition to those already included in the bill concerning reproductive freedom and public education.

As PFAW continues to wait for news, I’ve asked DC residents and DC rights supporters from the greater metro area to join us at Saturday’s White House Rally for DC Democracy.

Dear PFAW Activist,

Washington, DC residents, who already lack voting representation in Congress, have been treated even more like second-class citizens by this Republican Congress, adding insult to injury.

Republicans used the budget deal earlier this year to attack DC home rule and District women's access to healthcare. They banned the use of local funds (NOT federal tax dollars) from being used for reproductive healthcare for low-income women.

Now, Republicans are threatening a series of "policy riders" on the DC appropriations bill for 2012 that would micro-manage the lives of DC residents from our classrooms to our safety to our health, having already passed more attacks on women's health and public education.

So much for the "party of small government."

Please join us, along with DC residents and DC rights supporters from the greater metro area, THIS SATURDAY, at 11:00am at the White House to tell President Obama to stand up for DC.

Let the president know that this attack on DC residents' fundamental rights is a deal breaker. Both he and the Democratic leadership in the Senate need to stand up for the nearly 600,000 residents of our nation's capital -- come out this Saturday and let them know it.

When: Saturday June 25, 2011, 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Where: Lafayette Square (outside White House), 16th & H St NW
Metro: Farragut West (Orange & Blue lines)

Click here to RSVP with our friends at DC Vote. We hope to see you there!

-- Jen Herrick, Senior Policy Analyst

PFAW and AAMIA continue to believe that enough is enough – the people of DC deserve a voice. For more information, please click here.

PFAW

Rep. Cummings Continues to Fight Foreclosure Crisis

Rep. Elijah Cummings, ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, sent a letter on Tuesday to the panel’s chairman, Darrell Issa, pressing the leader to subpoena six mortgage servicing companies. This is Cummings’s fourth letter to Issa urging the committee to take action on the foreclosure crisis. In it he notes particular alarm over increasing reports of U.S. service members and their families being illegally evicted from their homes and charged millions of dollars in unwarranted fees.

In February, Cummings and other Democratic committee members sent letters to ten mortgage companies, but only four responded with the requested documents. One company, MetLife, refused to voluntarily release any documentation and said it would only do so if ordered by a subpoena.

Particularly in light of the Committee’s unanimous vote in February of this year to investigate “wrongful foreclosures and other abuses by mortgage servicing companies,” it would be behoove Chairman Issa to grant Cummings’s more than reasonable request.

In these difficult economic times, millions of Americans are paying more than they can afford at the gas pumps, worrying about job security, and losing their homes because of fraudulent and mismanaged foreclosures. It is imperative that Congress fight to hold big banks and mortgage companies accountable for their role in pushing the country into economic crisis.

Chairman Issa must do his part by supporting his Democratic colleagues in their fervent commitment to investigating and responding to mishandled and deceitful mortgage practices. Protecting American families from abuse and other corporate wrongdoings that put their finances in jeopardy is not an issue to be dealt with by playing partisan politics. Congress has a responsibility to stand up for the American people and do everything in its power to get to the bottom of and put an end to the foreclosure crisis.

PFAW

NLRB Proposed Rule is a Victory for Middle Class

Workers, labor unions, and the American people celebrated a tremendous victory for middle class values on Tuesday when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a proposed rule protecting workers’ rights by eliminating excessive delays in workers’ votes on forming unions to represent them in the workplace. The ruling was a major step forward for the rights of workers given the growing anti-worker and anti-union sentiment which has been spreading across the country.

In brief, the proposed rule would allow workers to quickly vote on whether or not to organize a union: a process which has often taken months and sometimes years, if at all. As a result, private-sector union representation has fallen to an astonishing 6.9%, which is 30 points less than 50 years ago. By removing barriers from the unionizing process, the new rule would enhance workers’ access to fair votes on union representation.

As expected, the board’s proposal was met with sharp criticism from the pro-corporate Right. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Randy Johnson condemned the ruling as "…an attempt to, simply put, bully companies into relinquishing their free speech rights." Such criticism, however, comes as no surprise. We have repeatedly seen pro-corporate conservative interests sacrifice the needs and fundamental rights of hardworking Americans to the interests of maximizing profit-taking at all costs.

By proposing this new rule, the NLRB is not only giving workers a voice but also helping protect and rebuild America’s middle-class. As the national unemployment rate continues to linger around 9%, workers’ benefits are being cut, and millions fear losing their jobs and homes, CEOs and other corporate leaders remain locked in their ivory tower as they continue to rake in obscene profits.

Restoring and strengthening the American middle-class is not only important for individual workers and their families but should also be a national priority as we work to rebalance our economy and make it sounder and stronger than ever.

PFAW

Jose Antonio Vargas and the DREAM Act

Need more evidence for the necessity of the DREAM Act? Check out acclaimed journalist Jose Antonio Vargas’ New York Times piece about his life as an undocumented immigrant.

Vargas, who came into this country at the age of twelve, didn’t even know he was here illegally until he tried to get his driver’s license when he was 16. From that point forward, Vargas worked hard to prove himself in America, a task at which he succeeded in every way imaginable. Yet, despite working hard and becoming a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Vargas still has no way to legally live in the U.S. other than returning to the Philippines, a country he barely remembers, and sitting through a ten year waiting period before attempting to re-enter the country.

The DREAM Act would give hard-working young people who had no choice about coming into this country a chance to become full, productive citizens in a nation they know and love. Vargas had an amazing support network that allowed him the ability to succeed in spite of all the obstacles, something many do not have. The DREAM Act would remove barriers preventing many other young people in Vargas’ position from going to college, serving in the military, and productively contributing to society.

Vargas’ story is difficult to summarize, and I highly suggest you read the entire piece. But here’s an excerpt explaining why Vargas decided to take the very risky move to come forward with his story.

 

After so many years of trying to be a part of the system, of focusing all my energy on my professional life, I learned that no amount of professional success would solve my problem or ease the sense of loss and displacement I felt. I lied to a friend about why I couldn’t take a weekend trip to Mexico. Another time I concocted an excuse for why I couldn’t go on an all-expenses-paid trip to Switzerland. I have been unwilling, for years, to be in a long-term relationship because I never wanted anyone to get too close and ask too many questions. All the while, Lola’s question was stuck in my head: What will happen if people find out?

. . .

I’m done running. I’m exhausted. I don’t want that life anymore.

 

PFAW

Wal-Mart, Class Action, and Rules Without Remedies

One of the daunting realities of modern life is that we as individuals are confronted by far more powerful corporations. When we want to buy a product, get a job, or seek to hold a large corporation accountable for its misdeeds, our negotiating power is limited by the fact that we are individuals. In contrast, due to its eternal life, its being composed of thousands or even millions of people, and its many state-granted benefits such as limited liability, corporations have consolidated vast resources that would be impossible for any living person attain.

So when that corporation does wrong against individuals – when it engages in a pattern of illegal discrimination, sells defective products, or cheats its customers – the victims often are powerless to hold the corporation accountable unless they, too, can consolidate their resources.

That’s why class actions are so important – and why Big Business keeps asking the Roberts Court to sabotage people’s ability to band together in class actions. Earlier this term, the Corporate Court undercut class actions against consumer fraud in AT&T v. Concepcion. And Monday, it struck out against women employees seeing to hold Wal-Mart accountable for illegal employment discrimination.

Wal-Mart is the nation’s largest private employer. Several women sued the corporate giant on behalf of themselves and similarly situated women around the country - anywhere from 500,000 to 1.5 million employees. To sue as a class, they would have to show that they have claims typical of the whole group.

So that’s what they did. As Justice Ginsburg’s dissent pointed out, the district court that had certified them as a class had identified systems for promoting in-store employees that were sufficiently similar across regions and stores to conclude that the manner in which these systems affect the class raises issues that are common to all class members. The women showed that Wal-Mart has a national corporate climate infused with invidious bias against women. Wal-Mart’s policy is to have personnel decisions made by local managers, all of whom are products of that toxic corporate climate.

But the conservative majority’s 5-4 opinion, authored by Justice Scalia, went out of its way to overlook that obvious commonality, focusing instead on the differences that will inevitably be present when a corporate giant targets so many people. The Roberts Court accepted Wal-Mart's assertion that the women cannot be designated a class because the representative plaintiffs do not have claims typical of the whole group.

What this 5-4 opinion states is that Wal-Mart is so large – and the discrimination it has allegedly engaged in is so great – that its victims cannot unify as one class to hold the company accountable. Individuals or small groups are much less likely to have the resources to seek justice.

Large corporations may be licking their chops at the opportunities the Roberts Court has opened to them to violate the law. They realize that a rule without a remedy is no rule at all.

PFAW

Menendez Introduces Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill

Senator Robert Menendez, along with Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senators Richard Durbin, Patrick Leahy, Charles Schumer, and John Kerry, today introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2011. The bill creates a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who must meet strict requirements before waiting in line to become legal residents. The bill also addresses the continuing need for effective border security. Most notably, this bill includes the provisions for LGBT families outlined in the Uniting American Families Act, as well as the DREAM Act and AgJOBS. Here at PFAW, we’re very pleased to see such inclusive legislation being introduced.

America is a nation of immigrants, and our country’s history would be unfathomable without the men and women who have come here from all around the world. Comprehensive immigration reform will help the economy and create greater fairness and equality in our deeply flawed immigration system. We applaud these senators for their leadership in seeking to create a comprehensive and fair immigration policy. When addressing undocumented immigrants, the best thing our nation can do is to implement a stable path to legal citizenship, with equal opportunity for all, and that’s precisely what this bill does.

PFAW

YEO Network Meets with Obama Administration

UPDATE: The White House has posted some great video interviews with YEOs. 

Last Friday, 200 members of People For the American Way Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network visited the White House to talk with Obama administration officials and meet the president. The elected officials, all progressives under the age of 35, were able to discuss their concerns about issues including the economy, immigration, health care and education with highly placed administration officials including Council of Economic Advisors Chairman Austan Goolsbee, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra. The elected officials then attended an intimate reception with President Obama.

The White House has a blog post on the event here, and below are some photos by YEO staff and network members.

(Photo: YEO Network member)

Young Elected Officials at White House policy briefing (Photo: Matthew Lesser)

President Obama speaks to the Young Elected Officials Network (Photo: YEO Network member)

 President Obama greets Young Elected Officials (Photo: YEO Network member)

 The YEO Network's Women's Caucus at the White House (Photo: YEO Network member)


The YEO Network’s Black Caucus at the White House (Photo: YEO Network member)

PFAW

Huntsman Backer Seeks Gay Money with False Claim on Civil Unions

PFAW President Michael Keegan's recent Huffington Post commentary pointed out that former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, the latest to throw his hat in the GOP presidential ring, is more conservative than his media-generated image as a moderate. Here’s more evidence supporting Keegan’s claim that Huntsman’s campaign strategy is to try to be all things to all people: Huntsman supporters are making a big play for campaign contributions from LGBT donors -- but they aren't telling the truth about his record. 

According to Politico, California Log Cabin Republican official Charles T. Moran has sent a fundraising email that makes this claim:“Governor Huntsman signed into law Utah’s first Civil Unions legislation – a politically courageous move on his part given that state’s politics.”

That claim is simply false.  It is true that in 2009, Huntsman declared his support for civil unions, five years after he backed a state constitutional amendment that bans marriage and forbids recognition of any "other domestic union" that has the "same or substantially equivalent legal effect" as marriage. But civil unions never became law in Utah.

In 2008, Huntsman did sign a law, SB 299, that allowed local governments to have something like a domestic partnership registry as long as they did not describe it as a domestic partnership registry. That’s a far cry from a state civil unions law, which is still prohibited by a constitutional amendment that Huntsman supported.

PFAW

Huntsman Polishes His Magic Mirror to Show GOP Voters Whatever They're Looking For

Just who is Jon Huntsman? At this stage, he is whatever anyone hopes that he will be. As he prepares to officially join the gaggle of GOP presidential candidates, his campaign strategists seem to have adopted an "all-things-to-all-people" approach: play up his conservative credentials for Republican primary voters while courting general election voters by promoting his media image as the only moderate in the race. A CNN commentator, for example, calls him "the lone standard-bearer of the center-right in a crowded GOP field." Katrina Trinko, a reporter at the conservative National Review Online, sees this all-things-to-all-people approach as a potentially winning strategy:

It remains to be seen whether Jon Huntsman can successfully be all things to all men. But if, by stressing different parts of his record, he can successfully sell himself as a moderate to centrists and a conservative to hard-liners, he could be difficult to beat.

An analysis of Huntsman's record shows that, faced with the reality that he must appeal to the increasingly far right Republican base, he is quickly trying to jettison formerly held "moderate" positions. We agree with Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who has publicly rejected the notion that Huntsman is a RINO (Republican in Name Only), saying "there's no question he's a conservative."

It's worth noting that many Americans first met Huntsman when he introduced "my friend Sarah" Palin at the 2008 Republican National Convention, exulting that "history will be made tonight!" He praised her strength, tenacity, authenticity and originality, calling her a rebel and a renegade who is "not afraid to kick a few fannies and raise a little hell." Said Huntsman, "We are looking for a beacon of light to show us the way. We are looking for Sarah!"

Huntsman and the Religious Right: Ralph Reed's 'Great Friend'

There are plenty of reasons that former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed recently introduced Huntsman to a group of right-wing activists as "a good conservative and a great friend."

In 2009, Huntsman told a reporter that he has little patience for traditional "culture war" issues, saying "I'm not good at playing those games." That sounds like a promising and refreshing break from the norm of Republican presidential candidates, but in reality he has played those "games" devastatingly well. He made his efforts to make abortion completely unavailable to women a centerpiece of his address to Reed's "Faith and Freedom Coalition" summit:

"As governor of Utah, I supported and signed every pro-life bill that came to my desk," he said. "I signed the bill that made second-trimester abortions illegal and increased the penalty for doing so. I signed the bill to allow women to know about the pain an abortion causes an unborn child. I signed the bill requiring parental permission for an abortion. I signed the bill that would trigger a ban on abortions in Utah if Roe v. Wade were overturned."

Huntsman has also appealed to the public school-hating wing of the Religious Right. In 2007, he signed a statewide school voucher bill that provided up to $3,000 in taxpayer funds for students attending private schools. That was too much even for voters in conservative Republican Utah, who rejected the attack on public education and overturned the plan through a referendum.

At Reed's recent confab, Huntsman also joined the chorus of speakers warning Tea Party conservatives not to abandon social conservatives. The Republican Party, he said, should not focus on economics to the detriment of the fight to make abortion unavailable, saying that would lead to "a deficit of the heart and soul."

Huntsman and the Economic Right: A Full Embrace of the Ryan Budget

Huntsman, who is making his tax-cutting record as governor of Utah a major campaign theme, has praised Rep. Paul Ryan's radical budget proposal as a "very, very good one." Even though Republicans have been abandoning the Ryan plan in droves, Huntsman has said that he would have voted for the Ryan budget if he were a member of Congress. He has specifically embraced the Ryan budget's plan to essentially abolish Medicare, saying the size of the national debt required drastic policy changes. However, unlike some other Republican governors, Huntsman's concerns about the debt did not prevent him from welcoming federal stimulus funds.

He embraces the Tea Party's warnings about the economy and the suggestion that the nation is being destroyed by internal enemies. He says that America is "buying serfdom" with its deficit spending. Invoking Ronald Reagan's 1964 "A Time for Choosing" speech on behalf of Barry Goldwater, Huntsman says America is at a crossroads, with voters needing to choose "whether we are to become a declining power in the world, eaten from within, or a nation that regains its economic health and maintains its long-loved liberties."

As governor, Huntsman proposed abolishing corporate taxes altogether; campaigning in New Hampshire recently, he suggested that he would cut federal corporate taxes. The 2012 campaign, he says, will determine whether the nation will endure an economic "lost decade" or "unleash the economic magic."

Moving Right on Climate Change

This month the Salt Lake Tribune examined Huntsman's shift on climate issues. Four years ago, he supported a regional cap-and-trade program, saying, "If we do this right, our citizens are going to have a better quality of life, we're going to spawn new technologies and industries, and we're going to leave our most important belongings in better shape for the next generation." That was then, as the paper noted:

But now, in a political environment rocked by recession and a rowdy tea party, and with Huntsman's eyes on a possible presidential run in 2012, his position has evolved. He's still defending the science of climate change, but he has ditched his support for cap-and-trade.

Given that most of the GOP field is in full denial on climate change, Huntsman has gotten some credit for simply acknowledging reality. "All I know is 90 percent of the scientists say climate change is occurring," he told TIME magazine. "If 90 percent of the oncological community said something was causing cancer, we'd listen to them." But, he says, now "isn't the moment" to deal with climate change.
That led the Washington Monthly's Steve Benen to comment:

This is, in general, the worst of all possible positions. Much of the right believes climate change is a "hoax" and an elaborate conspiracy cooked up by communists to destroy America's way of life. These deniers have a simple solution to the problem: ignore it and pretend there is no problem. Much of the left takes the evidence seriously, is eager to address the crisis, and has a variety of possible solutions to the problem, including but not limited to cap-and-trade plans.

Huntsman apparently wants to split the difference -- he accepts the evidence and believes the problem is real; Huntsman just doesn't want to do anything about it.

To borrow his analogy, Huntsman has heard the collective judgment of 90% of the world's oncologists, but believes it'd be inconvenient to deal with the cancer or what's causing the cancer anytime soon.

Moderate Image, Conservative Reality

Huntsman's moderate image is based in large part on his 2009 endorsement of civil unions for gay couples. Five years earlier, when campaigning for governor, he had supported a state constitutional amendment that bans marriage and "other domestic unions" for same-sex couples. Huntsman's rhetorical shift did not find its way into any policy that offers legal protection for gay couples in Utah; he still opposes marriage equality, calling himself "a firm believer in the traditional construct of marriage, a man and a woman."

Huntsman has taken some heat from far-right activists who cannot tolerate the slightest sign of heresy against right-wing dogma. But former George W. Bush official Michael Gerson thinks Huntsman's moderate media image could actually help him by setting initial expectations low among GOP activists:

The media have often covered Huntsman as a liberal Republican -- a Rockefeller reincarnation. After all, he supports civil unions. He made it easier to get a drink at a bar in Utah. This easy press narrative gives Huntsman an odd advantage in a Republican primary: He is more conservative than his image. For many Republicans, he will improve upon closer inspection.

Huntsman's campaign is just getting under way, but his positioning is already clear. Tell Religious Right activists you're one of them by emphasizing your support for the most draconian anti-choice measures. Tell the Tea Partiers you're one of them by backing Paul Ryan's radically anti-government and anti-middle-class budget. And encourage more moderate Republicans to believe you're one of them by calling for civil discourse and offering rhetorical support for short-of-equality measures for same-sex couples. It's a calculated strategy that might make some sense politically, but it seems unlikely that trying to be all things to all people provides a path to victory through the restrictive gauntlet of the Republican primaries.

Cross posted on The Huffington Post

PFAW

Last week, I reported the need for vigilance over Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) repeal given pending action on the FY12 Defense Authorization bill in the Senate Armed Services Committee. Thankfully, the challenges we faced in the House did not materialize in the Senate.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network:

After a decade of discussions with the House and Senate Armed Services Committees and specific recommendations to the Hill, we welcome the Senate Armed Services Committee’s (SASC) decision to repeal Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) relating to sodomy. This action has been recommended by SLDN and several groups, including the Cox Commission, which includes distinguished legal scholars from the military and academia, as well as the Comprehensive Review Working Group (CRWG). The committee’s decision to amend Article 120 of the UCMJ is also timely and welcomed.

We were also pleased that provisions to delay ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal certification, as well as inject DOMA language into the bill, were not offered.

As we look toward the Senate floor and eventually the conference committee, keep in mind that we are two days away from the six-month anniversary of DADT repeal on June 22. The clock is ticking.

Servicemembers are still waiting. We’re all still waiting. We need swift certification and effectuation of DADT repeal.

PFAW