David Perdue: Too Extreme for Georgia

On Tuesday, David Perdue triumphed over longtime representative Jack Kingston in the Republican runoff for Saxby Chambliss’ U.S. Senate seat. The former Dollar General CEO has never run for political office, a distinction he has made the central theme of his campaign. Perdue has boasted that he is a “different kind of candidate,” but we’ve seen a candidate like him before: 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

The similarities between Romney and Perdue are striking: both CEOs, both millionaires, and both completely out of touch. Romney, however, was accused by right-wingers of being one thing Perdue clearly isn’t: moderate. Perdue has made no attempt to seem even relatively moderate and has dragged his extremist ideals as far to the right as he can. Make no mistake: he will not represent Georgia. Instead, he’ll represent those like him: wealthy, anti-immigrant and anti-equality.

Perdue already has proven that he is wrong for Georgia. He signed the FAIR Pledge, a pledge created by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) Task Force, vowing to oppose not only a pathway to citizenship for undocumented students but also any increase in work visas for legal immigrants. He is also anti-choice and anti-equality. With nearly 10 percent of Georgia’s population identifying as Latino and over 260,000 Georgians identifying as LGBTQ, Perdue would have a duty to represent all of his constituents—and that is a duty he won’t fulfill.

David Perdue has made it clear that he does not understand needs of Georgia’s diverse, changing population, which is why PFAW will help to make it clear that he is not the right choice for Georgia.
 

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New Hampshire Moves Forward With First Steps to Overturn Citizens United in Bipartisan Vote

Yesterday, Republican and Democratic state representatives in New Hampshire came together to pass a bill calling for a constitutional amendment to get big money out of our elections and overturn Citizens United. Since the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United that corporations have a First Amendment right to unlimited political spending, states all across the country have begun the process to put democracy back in the hands of the people.

During the first post-Citizens United presidential election, the American people were able to see just how distorted and outsized corporate and plutocratic influence has become in our democracy. Citizens United and related cases led to the rise of super PACs, limitless election spending, and “dark money” groups that are not required to disclose their donors. In the 2012 federal election cycle, super PACs received over $100 million from corporations. The top 32 super PAC donors, contributing an average of nearly $10 million each, matched the amount of the money that President Obama and Mitt Romney raised from small donors combined.

The bipartisan passage of HCR 2 in New Hampshire shows that ensuring our elections remain free from outside and outsized influence is not a Democratic value or a Republican value; it’s an American value. This is an issue that cuts across party lines and speaks to the core of our democratic principles. Fully 83% of Americans (85% of Democrats, 81% of Republicans and 78% of independents) support limits on how much money corporations can spend in elections.

Unprecedented public support for meaningful reform has already led to substantial progress in states all across the country, and a mounting public movement demanding a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and restore our democracy has emerged. Over 400 cities and towns, as well as 11 states, have called on Congress to send the states an amendment proposal that would overturn the disastrous decision. Last month, PFAW and ally organizations re-launched the “Declaration For Democracy” campaign, which helps identify and amplify the voices of public officials who support amending the Constitution to overturn Citizens United and related cases. Already, over 100 members of Congress have joined the cause in support of a constitutional amendment.

The New Hampshire bill now moves to the Senate side of General Court, where legislators will decide whether democracy is still for the people. Let’s make sure they again put democratic principles above party politics.

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The New March Madness: CPAC's Guest List

It's getting very hard to keep track of who is and is not allowed in the conservative movement these days. The issue of how much smaller the tent is getting always comes to a head at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, at which warring factions fight to keep each other off the guest list. In 2011, prominent anti-gay groups boycotted because the gay Republicans of GOProud were allowed to cosponsor the event. Last year, GOProud was banned but white nationalists and anti-Muslim extremists were allowed.

The guest list for this week's conference is even more byzantine. Following last year's bad publicity, the white nationalists have been disinvited. And anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller has been denied a panel slot, which she claims is because CPAC's organizers are "enforcing the Sharia." You know things are getting bad when CPAC has fallen to Sharia.

But excluding white nationalists and an anti-Muslim extremist doesn't mean that CPAC has suddenly become a friendly and open-minded place. This year, gay groups did get a consolation prize: a rogue, unofficial panel "A Rainbow on the Right." But don't look for any rainbows inside -- the conference still bars gay Republican groups from its official proceedings. And even without Pamela Geller, the conference will keep its strong anti-Islam tilt, hosting speakers who routinely attack American Muslims. And it's not just gays and Muslims. New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who vetoed a marriage equality bill in his state, has been deemed too liberal to speak at the CPAC. So has Virginia's Gov. Bob "Transvaginal Ultrasound" McDonnell, who apparently became some sort of leftist radical when he agreed to raise taxes to fund his state's highways.

So who was conservative enough to make the cut for CPAC? War on Christmas analyst Sarah Palin, unhinged former congressman Allen West, and orange birther crusader Donald Trump, for starters. Mitt Romney has also been invited -- presumably holding on to the right-wing makeover he underwent for his presidential campaign -- though he loses top billing to his former running mate Rep. Paul Ryan.

In many ways, CPAC is caught in exactly the same bind as the Republican Party. The party's leaders know that to survive in the long-term it must moderate its positions and expand its base. But they're still in the grips of an extremist fringe that just won't let that happen. Last year, fringe candidates like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock helped sink the GOP's hopes of gaining seats in the Senate. This year, strategist Karl Rove has threatened to launch primary challenges against fringe candidates in an effort to keep the party relevant. But in doing so, he's provoked the anger of the Tea Party, whose leaders correctly note that they're the only reason the GOP has any power at all right now.

This year's CPAC can be seen as a preview of the 2016 Republican presidential primary. The party's main movers and shakers are trying to keep their base happy by turning away leaders like McDonnell and Christie who have deviated, in however small a way, from the party line. But they're also trying to hide some of the most disturbing aspects of their party's fringe.

McDonnell got snubbed for daring to fund a transportation bill. In his place, CPAC will highlight Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who led the legal charge against the Affordable Care Act and who is running to be McDonnell's successor. White nationalists and Pamela Geller were ousted for being too far off the fringe, but Donald Trump, who's devoted himself to claiming that the nation's first black president isn't a real American, is a highlighted speaker.

As hard as CPAC's organizers may try, their guest list is still a mess. But the problem isn't just the guest list, it's what they're serving. They're trying to represent a movement -- and a party -- that wants the American people to think they got the message while still relying on extremists and insisting on a rigid orthodoxy. That's a tall order for any party. And they can't have it both ways.

This post originally appeared at the Huffington Post.

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GOP Electoral College Scheme Advances in Virginia

It’s been less than three months since the presidential election, but GOP leaders unhappy with November’s results are already developing a multi-state plan that would further disenfranchise voters in their quest to achieve victory in 2016. On Wednesday, Republican state senators in Virginia cleared the first hurdle in their push to fundamentally change how state Electoral College votes are allocated. The Associated Press reports that under the proposed bill, Virginia would:

[A]pportion electors according to which presidential candidate carries each of the state’s 11 congressional districts. The candidate winning the majority of districts would receive the two electoral votes not tied to congressional districts.

If this bill had been in effect in 2012, Mitt Romney would have walked away with 9 of Virginia’s 13 electoral votes, despite losing the popular vote in the state by nearly 150,000 ballots and four percentage points.

These Republican state senators, who are already under fire for their surprise redistricting scheme on Martin Luther King Day, are no strangers to cutting corners in their drive for political power. Alex Pareene at Salon points out a major motivation behind the plan:

You can see why they like this plan: It is effectively the same thing as mass disenfranchisement of minorities, but it doesn’t look as awful and Jim Crow-y. Instead of trying to take votes away from black and poor and Hispanic people — which led to some bad press and a bunch of lawsuits — these new proposals simply ensure that the votes of rural white people will count more…Electoral vote-rigging plans show a Republican Party that is finally acknowledging the reality that a majority of Americans don’t subscribe to its brand of conservatism.

Yet not all Republicans are jumping on board with these new pushes. In Pennsylvania, where a similar bill was proposed in 2011 and looks to be reintroduced later this year, some GOP officials worry that the plan could backfire. Pennsylvania Republican Party Chairman Rob Gleason, for example, is not sold on the idea:

“I was against it last year, and I am still not convinced it is the way to go. It puts a lot more pressure on the Congress members and could hurt their efforts to hold their seats,” said Gleason, an RNC member, here.

Commentators, such as Jamelle Bouie at American Prospect, see the potential massive political backlash against this electoral system rigging as the real thing the GOP needs be aware of. Bouie says:

[I]t tells you something important about the current Republican Party that—when it comes to winning elections—it’s more interested in changing the game than changing its policies.
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Is That Bryan Fischer or Mitt Romney?

Earlier this week, PFAW’s Right Wing Watch caught this rant by American Family spokesman and all-purpose bigot Bryan Fischer, who declared on his radio program that American Latinos voted Democratic in record numbers this year because “they want big government goodies.”

 Hispanics are not Democrats, don’t vote Democrat, because of immigration. That’s not the main reason why they vote for Democrats. It doesn’t have anything to do with lax immigration policy. It has to do with the fact that they are socialists by nature. They come from Mexico, which is a socialist country. They want big government intervention. They want big government goodies. It’s primarily about that.

Now, they want open borders, make no mistake, because they’ve got family and friends that they want to come up and be able to benefit from the plunder of the wealth of the United States just as they have been willing to do. Republicans can pander all they want to Hispanics, to immigrants, and it will not work. There is no way on Earth you’re going to get them to leave the Democratic party, it’s one reason we’ve got to clamp down on immigration.

Fischer’s racist diatribe echoes generations of right-wing innuendo about “handouts” for minorities. It also, as it happens, lines up pretty closely with the worldview of 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. In a call with donors today, Romney blamed his presidential loss on the “gifts” President Obama offered to African Americans, Latinos, women and young people. What “gifts” did he mean? Universal health care, contraception coverage, college loans and the DREAM Act.

The New York Times reported on the call:

A week after losing the presidential election to President Obama, Mitt Romney blamed his overwhelming electoral loss on what he said were big “gifts” that the president had bestowed on loyal Democratic constituencies — including young voters, African-Americans and Hispanics.

In a conference call on Wednesday afternoon with his national finance committee, Mr. Romney said that the president had followed the “old playbook” of wooing specific interest groups — “especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people,” Mr. Romney explained — with targeted gifts and initiatives.

“In each case they were very generous in what they gave to those groups,” Mr. Romney said.

“With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest, was a big gift,” he said. “Free contraceptives were very big with young college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008.”

….

“You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care, particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity, I mean, this is huge,” he said. “Likewise with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus. But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group.”

Sure, Bryan Fischer is more willing than Mitt Romney to say outright racist things. But the content of what they’re saying is pretty much the same. Bill O’Reilly put it even more clearly when he opined that “traditional America” was being lost to people of color who “want stuff.”

I have to guess this is not going to be the way for Republicans to win back non-white voters, women and young people, all of whom have been fleeing their party in droves.

PFAW

The Election Gives Obama a Mandate on the Supreme Court

The importance of the Supreme Court as an election issue – which was clearly predicted by pre-election polls – made itself clear in President Obama's overwhelming victory last night. Americans recognized that Mitt Romney would have driven the Court even further to the right, and they cast their votes accordingly.

Last month, People For the American Way, the Alliance For Justice Action Campaign, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights released a poll demonstrating that the Supreme Court was not only an important issue for voters, it was one that significantly favored President Obama over Mitt Romney.

A remarkable 63 percent of voters said the issue of who will serve on the Supreme Court was an important consideration in their vote for president. By a five-point margin, voters said they trusted President Obama over Mitt Romney to nominate Supreme Court justices. President Obama had an 18-point advantage among swing voters overall and a 26-point advantage women swing voters.

The survey also explained why: What most concerned voters – a full 54 percent – was that Romney would nominate justices who would consistently favor corporations over ordinary Americans. After all, Romney very openly said that he would nominate Justices like John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito – the solid backbone of the current Corporate Court. And every corporate-funded hit job TV viewers were assaulted with just served as reminder of their handiwork and what more Justices like them would do to our country.

So it was no surprise that President Obama, Vice-President Biden, and Senators-elect Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts), Chris Murphy (Connecticut), and Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) reminded voters of the importance of the Court during the campaign.

Conservatives will try to say the election tells us nothing about the Court. Like Karl Rove on Fox News when the election was called, they will try to wish the hard numbers away, but they can't. Yesterday, the American people repudiated the conservative vision of the Supreme Court, giving President Obama a clear mandate to nominate strong progressives to restore the nation's highest court as a place where Americans can be confident in Equal Justice Under the Law.

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Endorsements Cite Supreme Court

As we await the results of today's elections, it is important to remember that the next president will likely be able to nominate multiple Supreme Court Justices which could cause dramatic shifts in the ideological make-up of the Court. Do Americans want a more diverse Supreme Court with justices committed to a balanced approach that treats all Americans fairly or do they want justices who, like the current far right majority on the Court, routinely favor large powerful corporate interests over the rights of individuals? The implications are huge.

A review of a large number of editorial boards that have weighed in on this subject are evidence that Americans understand the magnitude of what is at stake here.  That being said, a giant number of regional and student newspapers as well as a significant number of national newspapers have endorsed President Obama for reelection. And an overwhelming majority of  these endorsements cite the Supreme Court as an enormous contributing factor to keeping President Obama in office due to very real fears that the ever-flip-flopping Mitt Romney will be forced by his radical Republican electorate and team to nominate justices who intend to overturn Roe v. Wade, expand special interests' power like in the the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, and guarantee an extremist conservative majority.

From the Washington Post to the New York Times to the Economist, publications of every political stripe cite the concerns over what a Romney Court would do to women, the LGBT community, immigrants, and the rights of the common American as reason to deny Romney the presidency.

Be sure to check out PFAW’s new report on the Court’s importance.

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Importance of the Supreme Court in the Upcoming Election

As Election Day approaches, voters need to keep in mind one of the most important powers given to a president: the ability to nominate Supreme Court Justices. Judicial nominations take even more precedence in this election due to the fact that four current justices are in their seventies, making it likely that the next president will have the opportunity to nominate at least one or two justices, putting major progressive reforms along with a list of other issues at risk with the possibility of even one additional conservative justice to the Court. The stakes are highest for progressives because Breyer (74) and Ginsburg (79, the most likely to retire) tend to lean liberal in their decisions and a conservative-leaning replacement for either would give disproportional amounts of power to the conservative wing of the Court.

Romney has pledged to nominate individuals that align with extreme right-wing justices like Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Chief Justice John Roberts. Under the guise of securing “greater protections for economic liberty and greater scrutiny for regulation” and “judicial modesty,” a more conservative Court would ultimately limit the expansion of gay rights, further extend corporate influence in politics, attack women’s reproductive rights, and threaten the recently upheld healthcare legislation.

To understand the implications of a Supreme Court under Romney, one only needs to look at Romney’s choice of chairman of his Judicial Advisory Committee: Robert Bork, a right-wing extremist and advocator for Constitutional “originalism”, a radically conservative way to interpret the Constitution. Bork opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Roe v. Wade, and in 2007, Romney declared, “I wish he were already on the Supreme Court. He’s the kind of brilliant conservative mind that this court could use.” Clearly, Romney intends to shift the Court’s further to the right with nominations similar to Bork.

President Obama has been quite vocal regarding his opponent’s intentions with vacancies on the Supreme Court. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Obama made it clear that a Romney/Ryan administration would be in a position to overturn Roe v. Wade through the Supreme Court. In a recent appearance on the Tonight Show, President Obama again highlighted the importance of having a diverse Court especially when it came to Roe v. Wade. The President also recently emphasized the importance of the Supreme Court and marriage equality in the coming years during an interview with MTV, expressing opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act and hoping for its eventual overturning.

A more conservative Supreme Court would lead to a radical reinterpretation of the Constitution and a dramatic attack on equal opportunity and rights. If Romney is elected, this sort of Court would almost certainly become a reality.

Click for PFAW’s new report on the Court’s importance.

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New PFAW Report on the Importance of the Supreme Court in the 2012 Presidential Election

This week People For the American Way released a new report on the importance of the Supreme Court in the 2012 presidential election.

With less than a week until Election Day, the report highlights what is at stake for the future of the Supreme Court and its impact on the lives of individual Americans. Covering the potential impact on issues ranging from civil rights and workplace fairness to laws about money in politics and basic voting rights, the report examines pivotal court cases decided by the Roberts Court and analyzes the likely impacts of a Court shaped by Governor Mitt Romney.

As Romney himself notes, a Romney Court would include more justices like Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia--the Justices who brought us Citizens United, who slammed the courthouse door shut on women fighting pay discrimination, and who consistently twist the law beyond recognition to rule for corporate interests over the rights of individual Americans.

The appointment of just one new conservative Justice would have profound consequences. As the report notes:

“With so many cases affecting nearly every aspect of our lives being decided by slim majorities – often just one vote – the stakes for Supreme Court nominations couldn’t be higher.”

With lifetime time appointments and the power to eliminate critical rights, a Supreme Court nominated by Mitt Romney is just too dangerous -- and too extreme -- for America.

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The Supreme Court is a Winning Issue for Obama

Legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky writes in the LA Times that the Supreme Court is a critical issue in the presidential campaign, although candidates don't always talk as prominently about it as they do other subjects. But if you care about any number of issues, you should care about the Supreme Court. He writes:

So why are the candidates ignoring this issue? Their advisors probably have told them that voters don't care, or at least that it is unlikely to matter to the crucial undecided voters. But this may well be creating a self-fulfilling prophecy because voters won't care unless the candidates choose to make the composition of the courts an important election issue.

But I have seen that audiences do care greatly about the future of abortion rights, the corrosive effects of money in politics, the rights of gays and lesbians to marriage equality and so many other issues that are decided by the courts. All this and so much more will turn on who picks the next Supreme Court justices.

Indeed, a recent survey and two focus groups conducted by Hart Research Associates for People For the American Way, the Alliance For Justice Action Campaign, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights demonstrate that the Supreme Court is an important issue for voters, one that significantly favors President Obama over Mitt Romney.

The survey results show that a majority of independent voters and presidential swing voters say the issue of who will serve on the Supreme Court is an important consideration in their vote this year. According to the survey, what most concerns voters - a full 54 percent  - is their worry that Romney will nominate justices who will consistently favor corporations over ordinary Americans.

Independent voters have greater confidence in President Obama than they do in Mitt Romney with respect to Supreme Court nominations. The president has an 18-point advantage among swing voters. Independent women prefer Obama over Romney on this score by 19 points. Among women swing voters, that advantage grows to 26 points. The survey analysis explains:

The president's advantage over Romney rests on two main elements. First, voters believe Obama (61%) is much more likely than Romney (39%) to appoint justices who "would uphold the progress we have made on civil rights and women's rights." Second, most voters trust Obama (59%) rather than Romney (41%) to choose justices who "will protect the rights of average people, not just the wealthy and powerful." Among swing voters, Obama enjoys commanding advantages of 55 points and 49 points, respectively, on these two dimensions.

That is why Vice President Biden brings up the Supreme Court in venues ranging from the vice presidential debate in Kentucky to campaign rallies in Iowa. That is why President Obama talked about the Court in a recent Rolling Stone interview published last week.

That is also why Romney and his campaign are bending over backwards to pretend his Supreme Court Justices won't do exactly what he's promised the far right they will do.

Romney knows that the Supreme Court is a winning issue for President Obama.

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