PEOPLE FOR BLOG

Massachusetts working toward positive electoral reforms

An election modernization bill (H 4139) intended to "strengthen vote-counting and voter registration processes" has passed the Massachusetts House, in stark contrast with attacks on voting rights dominating the news in many other states.

Under H 4139, 16- and 17-year-olds would be permitted to pre-register to vote upon getting a driver’s license, and come their 18th birthday their names would be automatically added to the voter list. Registration regulations would also be amended to permit voters to fill out an electronic registration form that they could then print, sign, and mail in.

If enacted, it would mark the first time in 20 years that lawmakers amended the state’s voting system. Massachusetts would join only a handful of other states in making a meaningful attempt to increase the number of young voters.

Representative Aaron Michlewitz (D-Boston), Chair, Joint Committee on Election Laws:

The bill is an example of common sense reforms that will keep our Commonwealth as one of the leaders in demonstrating a forward thinking electoral process.

Representative Ellen Story (D-Amherst):

If you start voting at an early age, you keep voting. If you don't start voting, you realize that you don't have to vote and you may not acquire the habit.

Avi Green, Co-Director of MassVOTE:

Pre-registration will help 20,000 teens get ready to vote every year. The online PDF of the voter registration form will make registering more convenient for everyone. Together, these reforms mark the biggest step forward to modernize elections since the Motor Voter law was implemented in 1994.

H 4139 now goes to the Senate.

PFAW Foundation

New Report Grades States' Response to Citizens United

A new report by the Corporate Reform Coalition released this morning grades each state's response to the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United, the flawed decision that opened the floodgates to unlimited, undisclosed spending by corporations and special interests to influence our elections. The decision forced 22 states to reexamine their laws on the books that limited such expenditures.

The report, "Sunlight State By State After Citizens United," examines how many states either repealed their corporate expenditure bans or declared them unenforceable in the wake of Citizens United. Montana is the notable exception, claiming that its law is still valid. That claim will be reviewed by the Supreme Court.

Other states have adopted more creative approaches to ensure that the public is informed about the outsized influence in our elections that corporations try to buy with their vast treasuries. For example, Alaska, California and North Carolina require the disclosure of the top contributors to political ads, and Iowa requires that shareholders be directly informed of corporate political spending.

The Corporate Reform Coalition, which is composed of more than 75 good-government groups seeking to combat undisclosed money in elections, evaluated each state's response to the Citizens United decision by scoring disclosure requirements related to political spending. While only a constitutional amendment to reverse the Court's decision can undo the damage of Citizens United, disclosure requirements are an important step toward a more transparent democracy.

AK, CA, CO, HI IA, IL, MA, NC, SD, VT, WA, WI and WV all received the top score. IN, SC, WY, NY and ND received the lowest scores.

You can read the report here.

PFAW

Voter suppression spotlight shines squarely on Florida

News out of Florida this morning suggests that, despite a warning from the Department of Justice, Governor Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner will proceed, and possibly expand, their sweeping effort to purge voters from the rolls.

The Miami Herald:

Gov. Rick Scott’s administration is positioning itself for a showdown with the U.S. Department of Justice for demanding that Florida cease searching for and purging noncitizen voters.

The DOJ gave Florida until Wednesday to respond to a letter, sent last week, that said the purge probably ran afoul of two federal voting laws.

Florida will respond, but it probably won’t quit its effort and will likely ask the DOJ to clarify its interpretation of the federal laws it cited.

Thousands of voters have already been targeted, with thousands more possible, for revocation of their right to vote should they not provide the requested proof of citizenship, despite the widespread concern that the state is using flawed day and that many are in fact eligible voters.

DOJ:

Our records do not reflect that these changes affecting voting have been submitted to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for judicial review or to the Attorney General for administrative review as required by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Accordingly, it is necessary that they either be brought before that court or submitted to the Attorney General for a determination that they neither have the purpose nor will have the effect of discriminating on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group under Section 5.

The Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections has instructed all 67 supervisors to comply with the DOJ order, but Governor Scott and Secretary Detzner appear to be moving forward, with DOJ and voting rights supporters thus likely very soon to sue.

Florida is already in court over HB 1355, the law commonly referred to by voting rights supporters as the “Voter Suppression Act.” Last week, Judge Robert Hinkle of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida issued an injunction blocking most of its worst provisions. It was originally sponsored by Representative Dennis Baxley, who has ties to ALEC.

Judge Hinkle:

Together speech and voting are constitutional rights of special significance; they are the rights most protective of all others, joined in this respect by the ability to vindicate one’s rights in a federal court. [. . .] [W]hen a plaintiff loses an opportunity to register a voter, the opportunity is gone forever. [. . .] And allowing responsible organizations to conduct voter-registration drives—thus making it easier for citizens to register and vote—promotes democracy.

The next hearing with Judge Hinkle is set for June 15.

Click here for more information from the parties involved in the case, and be sure to check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report (and more) by PFAW Foundation.

PFAW Foundation

Vitter Deprives Louisianans of Their Day in Court

Louisiana Sen. David Vitter has announced that he will not allow the Senate Judiciary Committee to even consider the nomination of Shelly D. Dick to a judgeship in the Middle District of Louisiana. He has not challenged her qualifications or provided any other substantive reason for his obstruction. Instead, he has cited the fact that there will be a presidential election in five months.

Under the practice of Chairman Patrick Leahy, the Judiciary Committee will not move forward on a nomination and hold a hearing unless both of the nominee's home-state senators submit their "blue slips," which signal their approval for allowing the committee to process and consider the nomination. Dick was nominated on April 25, and Sen. Landrieu quickly submitted her blue slip. However, the Baton Rouge Advocate is reporting that Sen. Vitter has chosen to obstruct the nomination.

"By any measure, I've bent over backwards to cooperate regarding President Obama's Louisiana nominees, which has resulted in all 10 before this being confirmed in record time," Vitter stated. "Now that it's a few months before a presidential election, however, I'm going to let the people speak before supporting any others."

There is some conjecture that Vitter's unexplained obstruction is political payback for the actions of his Democratic colleague Mary Landrieu to deny a blue to slip to a 2007 George W. Bush nominee – then-U.S. Attorney David Dugas – to the same court. At the time, she cited Dugas's decision not to intervene in an insurance fraud lawsuit following hurricanes Katrina and Rita. In contrast, Vitter has stated plainly that he is blocking President Obama's nominee not because of any problem with the nominee, but because it is an election year.

Although he now champions the right to obstruct a nominee this way, he demanded a very different standard when it was a president of his own party making the nomination. In February of 2008, he took to the Senate floor and demanded that if the Judiciary Committee did not act on the Dugas nomination, that the full Senate take it out of their hands and vote on the nomination directly.

In the unlikely event that someone were to make a similar motion with regard to Shelly Dick's nomination, one suspects that Sen. Vitter would be the first to object.

PFAW

Prop 8 Appeal Sent to the Supreme Court

This afternoon, the full 9th Circuit Court of Appeals declined to hear an appeal of the Prop 8 case.  In February, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit struck down Prop 8, finding California's revocation of the right of same-sex couples to marry same-sex marriage ban to be unconstitutional. The 9th Circuit's decision means that either the Supreme Court will take up the case or the 9th Circuit’s decision striking down the law will stand.

The appeals court ruling is on narrow grounds unique to California, where same-sex couples were left with all the state rights of marriage but not the name. It found that taking away gay and lesbian couples’ designation of “marriage” while leaving their rights unchanged did not serve any of the purposes put forth by its defenders. Instead, its only purpose and effect was to lessen a targeted group’s status and dignity by reclassifying their relationship and families as inferior. The Court did not address the larger question of whether gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry. While the Supreme Court will be presented with the narrower question as framed by the Ninth Circuit, it is impossible to tell, if it agrees to hear the case at all, whether they will rule on this principle or more broadly on the ability of states to deny lesbians and gays the right to marry.

PFAW Foundation

PFAW Helps Get Out the Vote in Wisconsin

PFAW staff, members and activists have been very busy in Wisconsin working to turn out every last progressive vote in the final days leading up to the June 5 recall election.

Here's PFAW Political Director Randy Borntrager at a field office with our great partners at Voces De La Frontera, who headed up canvassing efforts in the Latino community:

Here he is giving a radio interview:

And canvassing door to door with volunteers from Voces:

These are just a few images from GOTV weekend... as members of our team return home and things become less intense, we'll have more pictures to share with you from various activies and events from our Recall the Right campaign in Wisconsin.

 

PFAW

Recall Foes Resort to Cheating

Opponents of Wisconsin's recall elections have resorted to one of the Right's favorite dirty tricks to suppress the vote: deceitful robocalls.

Wisconsin voters are reporting that last night, the day before the recall election, a wave of vote-suppressing calls are being made around the state, targeting voters likely to oppose Governor Scott Walker. The call allegedly tells voters that if they signed the recall petition, there was no need to actually vote: "If you signed the recall petition, you do not have to vote because that would be your vote." 

Unfortunately, the deceitful robocall tactic is not new in Wisconsin. Last summer, a group told Wisconsin Democrats not to vote on election day and instead wait for an absentee ballot. 

Wisconsin voters, be aware. It seems that the folks who pretend to be so concerned about voter fraud are in fact trying to steal the election themselves.

PFAW

Texas Voter Purge Endangering the Status of Hundreds of Thousands of Voters

While Florida’s local election supervisors are rebelling against a flawed voter purge championed by Gov. Rick Scott, the Houston Chronicle reports that Texas is holding its own voter purge that could jeopardize the status of hundreds of thousands of registered voters. As noted in the People For the American Way Foundation report, The Right to Vote Under Attack, faulty purge programs “can effectively disenfranchise large numbers of eligible voters” and have been frequently used to accomplish partisan agendas, and the Chronicle has already found many instances of people being wrongfully purged from the rolls:

More than 300,000 valid voters were notified they could be removed from Texas rolls from November 2008 to November 2010 - often because they were mistaken for someone else or failed to receive or respond to generic form letters, according to Houston Chronicle interviews and analysis of voter registration data.



Statewide, more than 1.5 million voters could be on the path to cancellation if they fail to vote or to update their records for two consecutive federal elections: One out of every 10 Texas voters' registration is currently suspended. Among voters under 30, the figure is about one in five.

Texas voter registration rates are among the lowest in the nation, but Texas pays nearly twice as much to cancel voters - 40 cents per cancellation - as it does to register new ones at 25 cents.

State and federal laws require the nation's voter rolls be regularly reviewed and cleaned to remove duplicates and eliminate voters who moved away or died. But across Texas, such "removals" rely on outdated computer programs, faulty procedures and voter responses to generic form letters, often resulting in the wrong people being sent cancellation notices, including new homeowners, college students, Texans who work abroad and folks with common names, a Chronicle review of cancellations shows.
PFAW Foundation

Voter ID goes to court in Minnesota

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota along with the League of Women Voters Minnesota, Common Cause Minnesota, Jewish Community Action, and five Minnesota voters have challenged an amendment to the Minnesota constitution (HF 2738, sponsored by ALEC State Chairwoman Mary Kiffmeyer) because it would confuse some voters into believing that prohibited forms of identification, such as student or company ID, would be accepted. The plaintiffs argue that the amendment is “misleading and false” because the ballot language references “valid photo identification” while the amendment uses the phrase “government-issued.”

Charles Samuelson, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota:

Voting is one of the most important rights we have, and this amendment aims to take away that right from the most vulnerable, under the guise of a seemingly innocuous photo ID requirement.

Jon Sherman, Staff Attorney at the ACLU Voting Rights Project:

The Minnesota State Legislature isn't telling voters the truth about its proposed photo ID requirement for voting, and they have a right to know. Not only is this part of a wave of laws that have already had a severe impact on the right to vote nationwide, but this particular amendment effectively spells the end of Election Day registration, which significantly increases turnout.

The ballot language also fails to state that the amendment would create a new provisional ballot system for voters without acceptable ID and create a new verification process, dealing a potentially crushing blow to Minnesota’s existing Election Day registration.

Mike Dean, Executive Director of Common Cause Minnesota:

What Minnesotans need to know is that the greatest danger of this proposed amendment is the mandate to create a brand-new provisional ballot system. A provisional ballot is a not a real ballot, because it gets counted only after everything has been verified on the form or after the voter has returned to the county courthouse to show his or her government-authorized ID. That is one reason so many provisional ballots are never counted.

Although oral arguments have yet to be scheduled for the case, the plaintiffs hope that the court will act quickly with a decision coming before the Secretary of State’s office finalizes the ballot, expected in August. A similar voter ID measure recently failed to make November’s ballot in Missouri. Dean believes the Missouri case may guide the Minnesota Supreme Court.

For more information, click here and also check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.

PFAW Foundation

Justice Stevens: A Crack in the Foundation of the Citizens United Majority Opinion is Inevitable

One of the last acts of Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court bench that he sat on for nearly thirty-five years was to read a summary of his scathing dissent of the Citizens United v. FEC decision, aloud, stating repeatedly, in one form or another that corporations “are not themselves members of ‘We the People’ by whom and for whom our Constitution was established.” Unfortunately, this view, which the vast majority of Americans agree with, and which seems so self-evident, was not held by the majority of the court.

To read the decision aloud was noteworthy; justices typically do so on cases they believe have special merit. And Justice Stevens correctly understood then that Citizens United was just that.

Over two years later, as the effects of Citizens United take hold, as corporate and special interest spending flood the 2012 elections and overwhelm the political process, Justice Stevens revisited the topic at the University of Arkansas’ Clinton Schools of Public Service. As reported by the Huffington Post, Justice Stevens took to the lectern Wednesday to address the inherent legal contradictions that are still outstanding under Justice Kennedy’s lead opinion.

Stevens alluded to President Obama’s apprehension, voiced in his 2010 State of the Union Speech, that the decision would “open the floodgates to special interests -- including foreign corporations -- to spend without limit in our elections.” Stevens stated (emphasis added):

… the former professor of constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School [President Obama] made three important and accurate observations about the Supreme Court majority's opinion …

… third, the logic of the opinion extends to money spent by foreign entities. That is so because the Court placed such heavy emphasis on the premise that the First Amendment generally prohibits the suppression of political speech based on the speaker's identity. Indeed, the opinion expressly stated, “We find no basis for the proposition that, in the context of political speech, the Government may impose restrictions on certain disfavored speakers.”

Justice Stevens is correct that the logic of the Court’s opinion in Citizens United extends to permitting foreign corporations to make independent expenditures to influence U.S. elections. As he pointed out in his Citizens United dissent, the majority opinion’s failure to take on the issue of foreign corporate spending when striking down portions of the McCain-Feingold Act is a glaring omission, one that exposes the logical flaws in Kennedy’s argument. And as more cases like Bluman v. FEC arise – in which foreign nationals sought, and were denied the right to make electoral contributions and expenditures – the court will need to further clarify its position on why domestic corporations, and not other “speakers” have the right “to speak.” On the subject, Stevens reasoned:

in due course it will be necessary for the Court to issue an opinion explicitly crafting an exception that will create a crack in the foundation of the Citizens United majority opinion. For [Justice Alito's] statement that it is "not true" that foreign entities will be among the beneficiaries of Citizens United offers good reason to predict there will not be five votes for such a result when a case arises that requires the Court to address the issue in a full opinion. And, if so, the Court must then explain its abandonment of, or at least qualify its reliance upon, the proposition that the identity of the speaker is an impermissible basis for regulating campaign speech. It will be necessary to' explain why the First Amendment provides greater protection to the campaign speech of some non-voters than to that of other non-voters.

It is very possible that a plethora of cases like Bluman v. FEC will reach the district courts. And it’s very possible that the lower courts will begin to poke so many holes in the Citizens United rationale that the Supreme Court will have no choice but to revisit the case.

PFAW Foundation

PFAW Presents at 'Crisis in the Courts' Forum

Yesterday, PFAW’s Marge Baker joined a distinguished panel of legal scholars, federal judges and officials representing members of congress and the White House at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in Cleveland, OH to discuss possible solutions to the unprecedented vacancy crisis in the federal courts. Republican obstruction in the Senate has severely impaired the important work of the federal judiciary, with serious consequences for the American people. Fortunately, the White House has signaled a renewed focus on ending the stalemate and restoring the court system’s ability to swiftly serve those who seek justice in a court of law.

Panelists included:

• Marge Baker, Executive Vice President for Policy & Program, PFAW

• Hon. James S. Gwin, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio

• Christopher Kang, Senior Counsel to the President, Office of White House Counsel

• Jeremy Paris, Chief Counsel for Nominations and oversight, Chairman Patrick Leahy, Senate Judiciary Committee

• Michael Zubrensky, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Policy, U.S. Department of Justice

• Jonathan Adler, Johan Verheij Memorial Professor of Law and Director, Center for Business Law & Regulation, Case Western Reserve University School of Law

The panel was sponsored by The Cleveland –Marshall College of Law, National Coalition of Jewish Women, Ohio Coalition of Constitutional Values, Alliance for Justice, American Constitution Society for Law and Policy and People For the American Way.

PFAW

New Hampshire legislature embroiled in voting debate

The New Hampshire House and Senate have just reached a compromise on a proposed voter ID law, following disagreements over the implementation timeline and specific forms of ID.

The compromise combines the Senate’s version of the bill (SB 289) with the House amendments. SB 289 will serve in transition during the upcoming primary and general elections. The House version will take effect on September 1, 2013.

SB 289 allows those unable to provide ID to sign an affidavit. ID photographs would be taken at the polls, and student IDs would be accepted. The House affidavit option requires a signature from an election official. Only a driver’s license, non-driver’s license, Armed Services identification card, or passport will be accepted.

A vote on the compromise is expected next week.

Governor John Lynch vetoed a voter ID bill last year, opposing a similar limitation on ID forms, but he has stated that he might revisit the issue. The New Hampshire City and Town Clerks Association has opposed the House version, saying that "it will increase waiting time at the polls and (produce) a greater burden on elected officials and clerks."

The House and Senate have also locked horns over voter registration. SB 318 would alter residency requirements and make other voter registration changes that could have a profound impact, especially among the student population. Its lead sponsor, Senator Sharon Carson, is an ALEC member who also supports SB 289.

Opposition is strong:

This bill has several serious flaws. The proposed voter registration form includes references to motor vehicle laws. There was no explanation by the committee as to the reason for inserting only motor vehicle laws instead of all N.H. state laws such as tax laws, etc. The definition of domicile on the new proposed voter application form is different than the definition domicile affidavit form.

All eyes remain on the conference committee, which has yet to make a decision on the bill’s status.

For more information, check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.

PFAW Foundation

No Reason for DOMA, Says Appeals Court

 A federal appeals court in Boston today upheld a lower court ruling that called the key section of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” unconstitutional. Section 3 of DOMA bans the federal government from recognizing legal marriages between people of the same sex, meaning that it willfully discriminates against a set of married people when it comes to Social Security benefits, joint-filing tax breaks, military spousal benefits and immigration. When DOMA was passed in 1996 no states allowed gay and lesbian couple to marry – its provisions were purely theoretical. Today, marriage equality exists in six states and the District of Columbia, and DOMA actively harms thousands of married Americans – 100,000 couples, according to the court.

In its decision concluding that DOMA violates the Constitution, the unanimous First Circuit panel – two out of three of whom were nominated by Republican presidents – was cautious. The panel said that under First Circuit precedent DOMA doesn’t trigger “heightened scrutiny” – a tougher standard for the federal government to meet. It also declined to address any arguments based on the premise that lesbians and gays have a constitutional right to marry (as opposed to having their existing marriages recognized by the federal government).

But the court was clear that Section 3 of DOMA does not meet the “rational basis” test for upholding a federal law that denies equal protection to a group long subject to discrimination – in other words, there’s just no good reason for DOMA to do the harm that it does.

The court looked at several justificiations offered for the law by DOMA’s supporters and found that each comes up short. Supporters say DOMA will save the federal government money (reports say that it actually costs the government money…and saving money isn’t a good enough reason for legal discrimination in the first place); that allowing lesbians and gays to marry harms children (it doesn’t, and Section 3 of DOMA doesn’t affect these couples’ rights to raise children anyway); and just plain moral disapproval (Supreme Court precedent says this isn’t enough of a reason). And finally, the court takes on the constant argument of opponents of same-sex marriage: that somehow gay couples getting married will harm the institution of marriage for everyone else:

Although the House Report is filled with encomia to heterosexual marriage, DOMA does not increase benefits to opposite-sex couples--whose marriages may in any event be childless, unstable or both--or explain how denying benefits to same-sex couples will reinforce heterosexual marriage. Certainly, the denial will not affect the gender choices of those seeking marriage. This is not merely a matter of poor fit of remedy to perceived problem, but a lack of any demonstrated connection between DOMA's treatment of same-sex couples and its asserted goal of strengthening the bonds and benefits to society of heterosexual marriage.

This is the crux of any number of court decisions that have struck down barriers to marriage equality. The main reason given for many laws that seek to deny marriage rights to gays and lesbians is that same-sex marriage will somehow weaken marriage for everybody else. It’s a claim that just doesn’t hold water.

The First Circuit panel did, however, go out of its way to defend DOMA’s supporters even while rejecting the law.

The District Court judge whose ruling the appeals court upheld declared that DOMA was motivated by “irrational prejudice” toward gays and lesbians. The First Circuit explicitly refuses to go there, instead stating that while that may have been true for some supporters, others were motivated instead by what it characterizes as the non-biased wish to “preserve the heritage of marriage as traditionally defined over centuries of Western civilization.” Under recent Supreme Court precedent, they write, the wish to uphold tradition isn’t a good enough one for denying equal protection. But the Supreme Court can change that if it wants:

In reaching our judgment, we do not rely upon the charge that DOMA's hidden but dominant purpose was hostility to homosexuality. The many legislators who supported DOMA acted from a variety of motives, one central and expressed aim being to preserve the heritage of marriage as traditionally defined over centuries of Western civilization. Preserving this institution is not the same as "mere moral disapproval of an excluded group," and that is singularly so in this case given the range of bipartisan support for the statute.

The opponents of section 3 point to selected comments from a few individual legislators; but the motives of a small group cannot taint a statute supported by large majorities in both Houses and signed by President Clinton. Traditions are the glue that holds society together, and many of our own traditions rest largely on belief and familiarity--not on benefits firmly provable in court. The desire to retain them is strong and can be honestly held. For 150 years, this desire to maintain tradition would alone have been justification enough for almost any statute. This judicial deference has a distinguished lineage, including such figures as Justice Holmes, the second Justice Harlan, and Judges Learned Hand and Henry Friendly. But Supreme Court decisions in the last fifty years call for closer scrutiny of government action touching upon minority group interests and of federal action in areas of traditional state concern.

Recognizing that the Supreme Court will likely review its reasoning, the court stayed the decision, so it will not go into effect yet.

PFAW Foundation

Wal-Mart Drops ALEC

Wal-mart announced yesterday that it is ending their membership in ALEC, making it the 18th corporation to do so. The company also joins 4 nonprofits and 54 state legislators who have severed their ties to the organization.

Wal-Mart had been a member of ALEC since 1993, was a member of ALEC’s Corporate Board and was the co-chair of the recently-disbanded Public Safety and Elections Task Force – the committee responsible for advancing dangerous gun legislation like Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law around the country. Even as the nation’s largest seller of guns, Wal-Mart decided that the ALEC agenda is too extreme, going far beyond the free-market principles the organization claims to focus on:

"Previously, we expressed our concerns about ALEC's decision to weigh in on issues that stray from its core mission 'to advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets," Maggie Sans, Wal-Mart vice president of public affairs and government relations, said in a May 30 letter addressed to ALEC's national chairman and executive director.

"We feel that the divide between these activities and our purpose as a business has become too wide. To that end, we are suspending our membership in ALEC."

Wal-Mart’s task force participation also included Health and Human Services, Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development, and Tax and Fiscal Policy, according to documents obtained and released by Common Cause. These committees are responsible for developing model bills that undermine workers rights, insurance mandates, capital gains taxes for the wealthy and deregulating certain industries.

People For the American Way’s President and Director of African American Religious Affairs spoke out about Wal-mart’s decision in a statement released this morning:

“Wal-Mart’s decision confirms the growing consensus in the business community that ALEC does far more harm than good,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. “The 18 corporations that have stopped supporting ALEC’s dangerous agenda have made the right choice. Customers don’t want their paychecks going to support laws that disenfranchise and endanger their families and communities.”

“I commend Wal-Mart’s decision to listen to the thousands upon thousands of American voices who believe Wal-Mart had no place in an organization that tries to suppress the right to vote, promote discrimination and presents dangerous gun laws that are harmful to all,” said Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, Director of PFAW’s African American Ministers In Action. “When we stand together to make our voices heard, the movement we build cannot be ignored. ALEC’s extreme and undemocratic agenda has motivated a diverse movement that is growing stronger every day. One by one, our efforts are helping make our communities better for all families and especially those most vulnerable – those with special needs, our children and our elders.”

PFAW

Mary E. Gonzalez Wins Texas House Primary

People For the American Way is happy to congratulate Mary E. Gonzalez on her win last night in a Democratic primary in El Paso, Texas. She will run unopposed in November for District 75’s seat in the Texas State House of Representatives. Gonzalez, endorsed by PFAW Action Fund’s Young Elected Progressive program will be the only current openly gay member of the Texas state legislature.

Gonzalez won her primary with a decisive victory and garnered 52% of the vote. She has spent the past few years working in higher education with the University of Texas at Austin and Southwestern University. Additionally, she’s shown great leadership with her work as Co-Chair of the Board of Directors for Texas’ Queer People of Color organization.

Once elected, Gonzalez will join former State Representative Glen Maxey as the only two openly LGBT members to have served in the Texas House. Her election may show a cultural shift in what is still a largely conservative state and gives the Texas LGBT community a voice in the Texas state government. Her addition to the Texas State House of Representatives cuts the number of state legislatures without an LGBT official to 16.

PFAW