PFAW Member Telebriefing: What We Can Expect From the Right in 2015

On Friday PFAW members and activists joined senior staff on a telebriefing about the types of priorities and tactics we can expect to see from the Right in the coming year. PFAW Communications Director Drew Courtney kicked off the call with a description of the political landscape in the wake of the midterm elections, where right-wing politicians are “now holding the levers of power in critical decision-making roles.”

Executive Vice President Marge Baker discussed the “CRomnibus” spending bill, saying that the antics we have seen during the lame duck are a microcosm of what we’re going to see in the new Congress. She noted that the harmful special interest riders snuck into the bill, such as the Wall Street giveaway and the raising of limits on contributions to political parties, are examples of the kind of “strong-arming techniques” we are likely to continue to see going forward.

Senior Fellow Peter Montgomery also joined the call, noting that the Right has a sizable agenda for the new year — one that begins with right-wing activists’ hatred of President Obama. This agenda, he said, includes repealing Obamacare, impeaching the president, resisting “to the bitter end” the advancement of marriage equality, and fighting anti-discrimination laws. Montgomery noted that in the coming year, we can expect to see GOP politicians making their already-close ties with Religious Right figures even closer.

Regional Political Coordinator Scott Foval discussed the Right’s political work at the state level. He highlighted Michigan’s state house, where in only the past couple of weeks both a “right to discriminate” bill and an electoral college-rigging bill have been moving through the legislature. Foval pointed out that this type of legislation may surface in other states across the country. The coming year will provide many opportunities for PFAW members to get involved at the state level as citizen lobbyists, he said.

Speakers underscored that the answers to all of the issues PFAW members raised on the call — from the damaging spending bill riders, to the influence of the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) at the state and local level, to the disturbing revelations from the recently-released torture report — is to organize and advocate for the values we believe in.

You can listen to the full telebriefing here:

PFAW

WATCH: New Video Highlights GOP’s Absurdly Offensive Remarks About Immigrants

From accusing them of carrying head lices, scabies and other diseases across the border to saying they should be tracked like  “FedEx packages,” Congressional Republicans held nothing back in attacking immigrants on the campaign trail this year. Their remarks were a continuation of a long history of outrageous, offensive and dehumanizing rhetoric from Republican lawmakers about immigrants.

So ahead of President Obama’s immigration reform announcement tonight, American Bridge and People For the American Way released a new video calling out Republicans for their extremist remarks against immigrants and immigration reform. While the President’s executive order will probably affect only some of the millions of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., it seems likely we will hear more of the same from the Right Wing in the coming months.

PFAW

Ted Cruz Vows to Damage Texas Courts in Response to Obama's Immigration Action

In response to President Obama's upcoming action on immigration, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has vowed to retaliate by sabotaging the federal court system in his own state.

No, that's not how he phrased it, but that would be the impact of his vow. Yesterday in Politico, Cruz wrote how he thinks the Senate should respond to the president's policy decisions on immigration enforcement:

If the president announces executive amnesty, the new Senate majority leader who takes over in January should announce that the 114th Congress will not confirm a single nominee—executive or judicial—outside of vital national security positions, so long as the illegal amnesty persists.

While such a refusal to perform one of the basic functions of the Senate would harm the entire nation, the damage in Texas would be particularly severe. No state has more judicial vacancies than the Lone Star State. No state even comes close.

As of today, Texas is suffering from eleven current federal court vacancies, with another four known to be opening in the next few months. The White House has worked closely with Sens. Cruz and Cornyn to identify potential nominees, but progress has been slow: Only six of the vacancies even have nominees; three of these have not yet had their committee hearings.

But the other three – for the Eastern and Western Districts – advanced through the Judiciary Committee this morning and are now ready for a confirmation vote by the full Senate. All three would fill vacancies formally designated as judicial emergencies by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts. Confirming them would be a good start at addressing the vacancy crisis in Texas.

And that's what is it: a crisis. As we wrote earlier this month in a Huffington Post piece entitled Lame Duck Opportunity and Obligation: Confirm Judges:

The situation is even more dire in Texas, where the Senate has a chance to fill three vacancies in the Eastern and Western Districts. The Western District judgeship has been vacant since 2008, and the Judicial Conference has asked for five new judgeships there to carry the load on top of filling all the existing vacancies. Chief Judge Fred Biery discussed the need for new judges last year, saying, "It would be nice to get some help. We are pedaling as fast as we can on an increasingly rickety bicycle." Judge David Ezra, formerly of Hawaii, explained why he was moving to Texas to hear cases in the Western District: "This is corollary to having a big wild fire in the Southwest Border states, and fire fighters from Hawaii going there to help put out the fire."

The Eastern District of Texas is in similar need of getting its vacancies filled during the lame duck: Of the nation's 94 federal districts, only two have had more weighted filings per judgeship than the Eastern District, according to the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts' most recent statistics. Small wonder, then, that the Judicial Conference has asked for two new judgeships there: Even if every judgeship were filled, that just isn't enough. To make matters worse, two more judges in the Eastern District have announced their intention to retire or take senior status next year, making it all the more important to fill the current vacancies now.

Even if the three nominees are confirmed during the lame duck, as they should be, more vacancies in both of those districts will open up early next year. Texas would still have eight vacancies, a number that would rise to twelve in the next few months.

To express his fury at President Obama and rally his right-wing base, Cruz would work to make sure that all these vacancies remain unfilled, which would hurt a lot of innocent Texans.

PFAW

Kobach's New Rules Block 20 Percent Of Kansas Voter Registration Applications

In the run-up to the first general election in which Kansans have been required to provide one of a narrow set of “proof of citizenship” documents in order to register to vote, nearly 20 percent of voter registration applications in the state have been rejected or suspended, according to a Kansas political science professor.

University of Kansas professor Patrick Miller told Kansas City’s NPR affiliate last week that a large percentage of these suspended or rejected registrations are from independents, “essentially making the electorate more Republican”:

An even larger group than those who have had ID problems at the polls are those voters who haven’t yet proven U.S. citizenship, another provision of the new law. There are 22,468 voters whose registrations are suspended because they are lacking citizenship documentation, according to the Secretary of State’s office. That’s larger than the population of Prairie Village, a Kansas City suburb.

“This is a big change for Kansas. In 2010, we only rejected .03 percent of voter registration applications,” said Patrick Miller, a University of Kansas assistant political science professor. “Whereas in 2014, we’ve suspended or rejected almost 20 percent. That’s a massive increase.”

Of the nearly 22,468 suspended registrations, 18 percent are Democrats, nearly 23 percent are Republicans and a whopping 57 percent are independents, or unaffiliated. The new law has effectively made the electorate more partisan, Miller said.

“It’s filtering out independents, the swing voters, making proportionately the electorate more Democratic, more Republican,” Miller said. “In Kansas, the effect of this is essentially making the electorate more Republican, given that Republicans have a registration advantage here.”

The new Kansas law was championed by Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has also been in charge of implementing it. Kobach is facing his own tough reelection battle this year thanks in part to the mess created by his new voting restrictions.

Cross-posted from Right Wing Watch.

PFAW

Betting Against Latino Voters Is a Bad Move

This post originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

It's official. In case there was any doubt left, this election cycle shows that the GOP's hyped-up "rebranding" efforts with Latino voters have been all but abandoned.

Last month, we found out that Virginia GOP congressional candidate Barbara Comstock thinks immigrants should be tracked like FedEx packages. Rep. Steve King from Iowa, who previously shared his belief that most undocumented immigrants are drug runners with "calves the size of cantaloupes," is trying to link immigrants toISIS and Ebola. And Republican candidates across the country, including Tom Cotton in Arkansas, Scott Brown in New Hampshire, Terri Lynn Land in Michigan, and Pat Roberts in Kansas, are running anti-immigrant ads. "Illegal immigration is threatening our communities," warns one of Roberts' ads

Not exactly the kind of rhetoric one might expect from a party trying remake its image among voters who care deeply about immigration reform. But far more important than the failed rebranding efforts of an increasingly out-of-touch party is the harm done to real people whose lives are touched by these dehumanizing myths. Ads labeling immigrants a "threat" to other Americans and comments comparing immigrants to objects or rodents don't just go out into the abyss of TV land. They reach - and hurt - real people in communities across America.

Not only is this anti-immigrant bigotry morally wrong, it's also bad politics. Someone may want to tell Republican strategists about the research showing that these ads actually have a reverse effect. According to Latino Decisions, studies have found that "anti-immigrant rhetoric and ads do not mobilize Republican voters, but rather lead to higher turnout among Latino voters who are angered by this campaign strategy."

It's possible that the GOP is making a cold (and ill-advised) calculation that relying on nativist myths about the supposed "threat" of undocumented immigrants will turn out their base in the midterms and that Latino voters will forget all about it by 2016. But I'd imagine that it's pretty hard to forget being called a drug runner or being compared to a FedEx box.

Or maybe Republicans are thinking that they can simply ignore Latino voters in the midterms since their numbers are relatively small in the states with the closest races. But this is also a bad bet. Though Colorado seems to be the only state where the mainstream media is talking about Latino voters, there are actually six states - Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, and North Carolina - where the polling margin between the Senate candidates is smaller than the percentage of the eligible electorate that is Latino. 

And there is a very real possibility that Latino discontent with the GOP could cost them races in these states. For example, new polling this month shows that 77 percent of Latino voters in Colorado either believe that Republicans "don't care too much about Latinos" (37 percent), "take Hispanic voters for granted" (23 percent), or "are being hostile towards Latinos" (17 percent). In North Carolina, the numbers are similar. PFAW has been running Spanish-language ads in these and other key Senate states to make sure that when Republican candidates are spouting anti-immigrant rhetoric or pushing an agenda that harms Latino communities, voters hold them accountable on Election Day.

As Salon's Elias Isquith recently wrote, "The more Republicans attempt to turn anti-immigrant sentiment into a defining issue... the more they prove that the GOP is currently more of a faction than a national party interested in appealing to citizens of all 50 states." The Latino community, both immigrant and non-immigrant, is here to stay, and it's a growing, vibrant part of this country. So if the GOP wants to remain relevant, this so-called national political party has to start thinking about the whole nation and stop demeaning and alienating a large, and rapidly growing, swath of our country.

PFAW

2014 Midterm Elections: PFAW Holds Member Telebriefing with Political Strategist Jim Messina

With less than a week to go before this year’s midterm elections, People For the American Way hosted a telebriefing on Wednesday to update PFAW members and activists on the shifting electoral landscape in key races around the country. The call, which was moderated by PFAW President Michael Keegan, featured political strategist and President Obama’s 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina, as well as PFAW’s Executive Vice President Marge Baker, Political Director Randy Borntrager and Coordinator of Political Campaigns Carlos Sanchez.

With Democrats locked in a number of tight battles to maintain a majority in the Senate, Messina and Keegan emphasized how critical recent demographic changes in the U.S. are to mobilizing progressive voters. In particular, Messina cited the power of Latino voters on Election Day. As Messina outlined the battleground races that will likely have the biggest impact this year, Political Director Randy Borntrager discussed PFAW’s on-the-ground efforts to inform and turn out voters in key states like North Carolina and Colorado.

Executive Vice President Marge Baker spoke of recent Republican-backed restrictions enacted to curb voter turnout and disenfranchise particular groups, like students and communities of color, that have a history of supporting Democratic candidates. She also touched on the work PFAW has done to both help voters overcome these attempts to suppress their votes and our work challenging the flood of big money into elections.

Questions from callers centered on the need to overcome redistricting maneuvers and on the challenges of obtaining accurate polling information on key demographics.

You can listen to the full telebriefing here:

 

PFAW

House Lawsuit Against Obama Undermined by Congressional Research Service Report

Although House Republicans managed to keep it a secret until now, their transparently political lawsuit against the president was found to be baseless in early September by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. Part of the Library of Congress, the CRS provides neutral legal and policy research and analysis to Congress, including committees and individual members. The Constitutional Accountability Center's Simon Lazarus and Elisabeth Stein got a copy of the September 4 CRS report, and it may explain why the lawsuit, though loudly trumpeted, has not actually been filed.

In an article entitled The Congressional Research Service Finds that Boehner's Lawsuit Has No Legal Basis, Lazarus and Stein write:

Now, three months after the party-line House vote to green-light the lawsuit, no complaint has yet been filed. If this stretched out delay means that Boehner has actually redirected his sue-Obama gambit toward oblivion, the reason may be this unnoticed six week old CRS report. … [The] report actually targets a single instance of alleged agency delay and exercise of enforcement discretion - the Obama Administration's adjustments of effective dates for the Affordable Care Act's so-called employer mandate to offer employees ACA-complaint health insurance or pay a tax. This delay happens to be the basis - the sole basis - for the legal action against the President that Boehner outlined in July. Although shrouded in twelve pages of fine print and protectively bureaucratic phraseology, the report's bottom line is clear: not merely are the legal underpinnings of the Republicans' planned lawsuit weak; the report turns up no legal basis - no "there" there - at all.

So who in Congress requested this analysis of the CRS?

CRS reports such as this one are generated in response to requests by members or committees of Congress, though the CRS does not make public the identity of the requester or requesters. This particular report - of which House Democrats were unaware until it appeared - bears the earmarks of an inquiry, requested by the Speaker or his allies, to give some color of legitimacy to their charges of rampant presidential illegality. Instead, the result validates the lawyers' maxim not to ask a question when unsure of the likely answer.

The Republicans came up with the lawsuit gimmick as a sop to their base, who regularly characterize President Obama as a lawless dictator. It is typical of the irresponsible behavior we have seen from the House since the 2010 election.

And this is the party that wants to take over the Senate in next week's elections.

PFAW

New Spanish-Language Radio Ad Supporting Mark Udall Airs in Colorado

Starting today, a new Spanish-language radio ad supporting Senator Mark Udall will hit the airwaves in Colorado. The ad is part of a NextGen Climate and PFAW Spanish-language campaign to highlight the stark differences between Udall and GOP candidate Cory Gardner on issues important to Latino voters.

The radio ad underscores Udall’s support for immigration reform and environmental protections. It points out that Udall is “the only candidate who supports immigration reform” in the Senate race.

Latinos make up roughly 14 percent of the state’s electorate, and a recent poll of Latino registered occasional voters in Colorado showed that 89 percent are either “almost certain to” or will “probably” vote in the midterms, making this community a critical voice in the tight Senate race. PFAW and NextGen Climate have been working together in the state to engage and turn out Latino voters. The two organizations recently began airing Spanish-language TV ads in Colorado highlighting GOP candidate Cory Gardner’s record of supporting polluters and encouraging voters to cast their ballots for Udall instead.

You can read a transcript of the new radio ad, as well as an English translation, below.

Los republicanos nos quieren engañar acerca de quién es Mark Udall. Pero no lo lograrán. Mark Udall es un auténtico defensor de la comunidad.Udall ha luchado para mantener limpios el aire y el agua, protegiendo la salud de nuestros hijos. Además, él es el único candidato que sí apoya la reforma migratoria.

Tu voto es tu poder. ¡Votar ahora es muy fácil! Busca la boleta de votación que fue enviada a tu casa. Márcala y envíala por correo inmediatamente.¡Así de fácil! Confiamos en Mark Udall porque él nos dice la verdad y por eso, merece tú voto. Marca tu boleta y envíala por correo hoy mismo. El voto es tu poder. ¡Usalo!


VO Disclaimer: Pagado por NextGenClimate Action Committee, nextgenclimate.org. No está autorizado por ningún candidato o comité del candidato. NextGen Climate Action Committee es responsable por el contenido de este anuncio. Endosado por People For the American Way.

English translation of radio ad:

Republicans want to deceive us about Mark Udall. But they won’t accomplish it. Mark Udall is a champion for our community. He’s fought to keep our air and water safe – to protect our children’s health. Udall is the only candidate who supports immigration reform.

Your power is your vote. And now voting is easy! Search for the ballot that was mailed to your home. Just mark your ballot and mail it back immediately. It’s that simple! We trust Democrat Mark Udall because he tells us the truth – and that’s why he deserves our vote. Mark your ballot and mail it back today. The vote is your power. Use it!


VO Disclaimer:
Paid for by NextGen Climate Action Committee, nextgenclimate.org.  Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.  NextGen Climate Action Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising. Endorsed by People For the American Way.

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PFAW

Republicans Said What About Immigrants?

Today PFAW is releasing a new digital ad in Virginia highlighting GOP Congressional candidate Barbara Comstock’s dehumanizing rhetoric toward immigrants. Taking a page out of former gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli’s playbook, who has compared immigrants to rats, last month Comstock compared immigrants to FedEx packages.

Comstock said in a recent debate: “Fedex can track packages coming in here all the time. We can track people who are coming into the country, and we can do that right.”

Beginning today, the ad (pictured above) will run in Northern Virginia until Election Day, as will a Spanish-language version of the ad. The text above the ad notes:

Virginia Republicans continue to use dehumanizing and degrading language towards immigrants. Hold them accountable on Election Day, November 4!

Comstock’s comment is just the latest example from a political party that continues to alienate the Latino community with its demeaning rhetoric and harmful agenda. Despite what GOP candidates may believe, immigrants are not rats, or Fed Ex packages, or dogs, or drug runners. That’s why PFAW is working hard this election cycle — in states including Georgia, North Carolina, Colorado, and Wisconsin — to highlight for Latino voters the harmful track records of GOP candidates, and encouraging voters to keep that in mind when they cast their ballots on Election Day.

PFAW

Former President Clinton Calls Out McConnell for Support of Big Money in Politics

During a speech earlier this week supporting Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky, former President Bill Clinton drew attention to Sen. Mitch McConnell’s obsession with keeping big money in politics.

Clinton questioned McConnell’s commitment to public service in light of remarks McConnell made during a closed-door meeting to a roomful of billionaires in which he said that the day the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill passed was the “worst day” of his political life:

How can that be the worst day of your life, even if you thought it was a bad idea? That was worse than 9/11? That was than the day we had the biggest crash since the Great Depression?…Wouldn’t you feel sick if you spent 30 years representing Kentucky in the Senate, and the worst day of your life was when there was an honest attempt to limit black-bag operations from foreign billionaires from buying your elections?

It should come as no surprise to voters, then, that McConnell has pushed an agenda that routinely favors corporate interests over Kentuckians. His willingness to sacrifice the needs of his constituents to support big businesses was put on display when he helped to lead the opposition against the Democracy for All Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United that was voted on in the Senate last month.

McConnell’s careless remarks about his “worst day” say a lot about the danger of big money in our elections. Through public demonstrations, petition deliveries and rallies, PFAW members and local activists have been working hard to spotlight McConnell’s devotion to wealthy special interests, and show Kentuckians that their needs have never been his primary concern. Without limits on spending to influence elections by deep-pocketed special interests, corporations and the super wealthy are given free rein to buy elections and stack the political deck against the will of the American people. 

PFAW