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PFAW’s Money Out/Voters In Work Highlighted in CNN Article

Yesterday Ben Cohen (co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s) and Edward Erikson had a great op-ed at CNN.com connecting the student debt crisis with the broader issue of big money’s influence in our political system:

But the education system isn't broken -- it's “fixed.” If we're serious about tackling the issue of affordable education and student debt, we need to strike at the root of the problem -- the influence of money in politics.

Private corporations like Sallie Mae -- which own 15% or $162.5 billion dollars of total student debt -- rake in private-island-purchasing profits while students suffer.

Indeed, from student debt bills to workers’ rights legislation to environmental protections, policies that protect everyday Americans will continue to face uphill battles until we can limit the influence of wealthy special interests in our democracy.

Cohen and Erikson point out:

It's time to dam the deluge of cash and corporate influence in Washington once and for all….Thanks to the leadership by groups like People for the American Way, Move to Amend, Common Cause, Free Speech for People and Public Citizen, 16 states have passed referendums calling on Congress to take action and over 150 members of Congress support the amendment strategy.  (emphasis added)

And with so much amendment momentum at the state and local level, PFAW and allies are shifting our focus to Congress. As part of our “160 Summer” campaign, money in politics groups are working toward a goal of getting 160 members of Congress to sponsor an amendment resolution limiting the deluge of big money pouring into our elections by overturning Citizens United.  Has your representative already voiced their support?

As Cohen and Erikson put it, “This is our future and our fight to win.”

PFAW

Right Wing Watch Telebriefing on Anti-Immigration Activists

Last week, People For the American Way issued its latest Right Wing Watch: In Focus report on the stark choice presented to congressional Republicans: stand up for the comprehensive immigration reform supported by a strong majority of Americans, or stand with anti-immigrant extremists using lies and bigotry to derail it.

On Tuesday, we hosted a telebrieifing with PFAW members to discuss the report, the prospects for reform in the House of Representatives and how activists can help make a difference.

If you missed it, you can listen to the call here.

And, of course, take a look at the report itself, Congressional Republicans' Clear Choice on Immigration: Stand With Pro-Reform Majorities or Cave to Anti-Immigrant Extremists.

PFAW

DC Circuit Court Activist Toolkit

In June 2013, President Obama nominated three extremely well-qualified people to fill the three vacancies on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, a court that has been deemed “the second most important in the United States.”  As the nominees - appellate attorney Patricia Millet, Georgetown law professor and appellate advocate Cornelia “Nina” Pillard, and D.C. District Court judge and former public defender Robert Wilkins - make their way out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and towards the Senate floor, Senate Republicans are threatening to ramp up their partisan gridlock by blocking votes on any of them.

The far right has accused the president of trying to “pack” the courts just for making nominations to existing vacancies, as the Constitution calls for.  Senate Republicans have even introduced a bill to eliminate the three judgeships, just to keep President Obama from filling them.

In anticipation of the fight we expect to see this fall, People For the American Way has drafted an activist toolkit for concerned citizens across the United States who understand the importance of the courts, and who know we must stand up against Republican obstruction. Check it out here:

www.pfaw.org/DCCircuitToolkit

PFAW

Pat Robertson’s AIDS Ring Theory Makes Anderson Cooper’s RidicuList

Cross-posted from Right Wing Watch

Pat Robertson’s theory that gay men in San Francisco intentionally infect other people with HIV/AIDS using special sharp rings earned Robertson a spot on Anderson Cooper’s RidicuList last night.

Robertson made the comment on Tuesday’s broadcast of the 700 Club, which his producers then edited out of the version of the show posted online. Luckily, Right Wing Watch found the missing section of the video on the 700 Club’s YouTube account before the network yanked that as well. Since then, Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network has been trying desperately to remove our copies of the video from YouTube – an effort that has just brought more attention to Robertson’s comments.

In his RidicuList segment last night, Cooper played our video of Robertson’s comments, and for context added our clips of Robertson speculating that homosexuality is “related to demonic possession,” wishing for a Facebook “vomit” button to use on pictures of gay couples kissing; advising a man to “move to Saudi Arabia” so he can beat his wife; telling a woman whose husband cheated on her to not worry about it because “he’s a man”; and marveling at the popularity of “50 Shades of Gray” among women.

In a video posted today, Slate also explores CBN’s attempted cover-up of Robertson’s theory:

Sadly, we’re sure that we will have collected many more of Robertson’s unique insights by the time his next turn on the RidicuList  rolls around.

PFAW

New Poll Shows Overwhelming Opposition to Private School Vouchers

The annual PDK/Gallup poll records the highest level of opposition to private school vouchers in the survey's history.
PFAW

Keeping ALEC In The Spotlight

When the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council recently held its 40th annual meeting in Chicago, thousands -- including PFAW activists -- crashed the party.
PFAW

Durbin Questions Potential ALEC Backers on Stand Your Ground Laws


As the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) meets in a swanky Chicago hotel for its 40th annual summit this week, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) has raised some important questions for the corporations that may be funding the group.

Roll Call reports that Sen. Durbin, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee’s civil rights subcommittee, has reached out to more than 300 corporations that are possible ALEC funders to ask for their positions on “Stand Your Ground” laws.  Durbin announced last month that he will hold a hearing on these laws in the fall.

Because ALEC operates behind closed doors, it can be a challenge to expose the corporations, corporate trade associations, and corporate foundations backing its damaging work.  Durbin’s letter notes:

Although ALEC does not maintain a public list of corporate members or donors, other public documents indicate that your company funded ALEC at some point during the period between ALEC’s adoption of model “stand your ground” legislation in 2005 and the present day.

Despite the potential roadblocks, Durbin’s letter shines a spotlight on the clear link between ALEC, an organization that connects corporate lobbyists with state legislators, and the “Stand Your Ground” laws it helped to get on the books in over two dozen states.   And this is a critical connection to highlight, because as PFAW President Michael Keegan wrote last month, these are laws which “help create a climate like the one that encouraged George Zimmerman to use lethal force against an unarmed teenager.”

PFAW

From the Archives: Ken Buck's Extreme Record

As you may have heard, 2010 Tea Party candidate Ken Buck has decided to throw his hat into the ring for the 2014 Senate race in Colorado. Unfortunately for him, no one has forgotten the extreme record that led voters to reject him last time around.

PFAW

PFAW Crashes ALEC’s Party at Biggest Anti-ALEC Protest to Date


All photos by Scott Foval.

Bill Moyers once called ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) the “most influential corporate-funded political force most of America has never heard of.”  Today, PFAW is helping to change that – coming out in full force to shed some light on the harm ALEC’s extreme agenda causes to everyday Americans.

As ALEC holds its 40th annual meeting in Chicago, PFAW is there – along with ally organizations, labor groups, and advocates from around the country – to crash their party.  The protest happening now outside Chicago’s Palmer House Hilton is the biggest anti-ALEC protest to date. 

The mass of people at the rally underscores the growing momentum to expose and fight back against ALEC, which connects corporate lobbyists with state legislators to pass special interest legislation in all fifty states.  For four decades, ALEC has worked behind closed doors to get laws harmful to everyday Americans on the books – working against paid sick days, pushing tax policies favoring the rich, and helping “Stand Your Ground” become law in more than two dozen states.  As our signs say, “ALEC corporations write laws, real people suffer.”

And today, we’re calling them out.

PFAW

"160 Summer" Citizens United Amendment Update

We're working to get 160 members of Congress to sponsor one of the fourteen "Money Out" amendment resolutions that have been introduced so far in the 113th session.
PFAW

Tell the GOP: Yes or No Votes for Obama’s DC Circuit Nominees!

Now that we’re well into President Obama’s fifth year in office, there are no prizes for guessing what the GOP’s response is to a diverse slate of nominees to the critical DC Circuit Court of Appeals.

Obstruct. Obstruct. Obstruct.

Even before they were nominated, Republican Senators were laying the groundwork to block anyone nominated to the circuit. Now that President Obama has nominated three unquestionably qualified jurists with broad support from across the ideological spectrum…Republican leaders are still intent on denying them simple yes-or-no votes.

We’ve created a simple graphic to share on Facebook to let Republicans know you’re watching how they treat this diverse set of nominees. Click here to share.


PFAW

Revisiting McConnell’s Obstruction and the 2014 Kentucky Senate Race

The 2014 elections are quickly heating up in Kentucky. Two weeks ago, Tea Party candidate Matt Bevin announced his plans to challenge Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in the Republican primary, setting off a round of vicious attack ads from McConnell’s campaign almost instantly.  Even more troublesome for McConnell though than Bevin’s primary challenge is the prospect of a general election fight with Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who announced her candidacy in early July and who is expected to coast through the Democratic primary.  According to a poll released on July 31st, Grimes is leading McConnell by 2% in a potential head to head race, and is polling 15% higher amongst those who have heard of both candidates – McConnell, a longstanding incumbent, currently enjoys substantially higher name recognition.

Although Grimes and Bevin are polar opposites on the political spectrum, they both are in agreement on one thing: Senator Mitch McConnell is vulnerable.  Polling data released in April revealed that a full 54% of Kentuckians disapprove of McConnell’s job performance in the Senate, while only 36% approve.

Such numbers should not come as a surprise to any casual observer of the Senate.  McConnell is the king of gridlock, and has become the personification of DC dysfunction.  Kentuckians, like the rest of the country, have grown understandably fed up with his tactics.

Earlier this year, Public Campaign Action Fund explored McConnell’s obstruction in a report entitled, “Cashing in on Obstruction: How Mitch McConnell’s Abuse of the Filibuster and Other Senate Rules Benefits His Big Money Donors.” Among other findings, the report revealed that McConnell’s repeated and unprecedented use of the filibuster has benefitted the interests of his campaign backers.  The report’s case studies were particularly instructive.

In March of 2012, on the very day debate began on a bill that would have repealed Big Oil subsidies, McConnell received an astonishing $131,500 in campaign contributions from Texan oil donors.  Three days later, the bill was blocked by a filibuster.

In April of 2009, the House passed the “Helping Families Save Their Homes Act,” a bill that included a provision that would have granted bankruptcy judges more flexibility to modify mortgages for homeowners facing foreclosure, and that would have cost the country’s biggest banks billions of dollars in profits.  That provision failed to receive the necessary 60 votes to overcome a filibuster and didn’t make it into the Senate version of the bill.  Over the course of his career, McConnell has received $8.7 million in campaign contributions from Wall Street interests.

In 2010 and 2012, despite overwhelming public support for providing transparency in election spending, McConnell led the charge against the DISCLOSE acts, bills that would have closed current loopholes in federal election law and brought Citizens United-empowered “dark money” groups to light.  Those groups – 501c4 non-profits and 501c6 trade associations – spent at a 5:1 ratio in favor of Republicans like Senator McConnell over Democrats in the 2012 election cycle.

In March of 2010, John J. “Jack” McConnell (no relation) was nominated to the District Court of Rhode Island, after successfully litigating against asbestos, tobacco, and lead paint interests on behalf of consumers.  Jack McConnell faced substantial opposition from trade associations that represent those interests, like the Chamber of Commerce, and from Senator McConnell, who, after filibustering the nomination and delaying the vote so that it took a full 420 days to be confirmed, stated for the record he resented Jack McConnell’s “persistent hostility to American job creators.” Senator McConnell has received, it should be noted, $1.7 million in campaign contributions from the insurance industry alone.

McConnell’s career campaign contributions by sector
Source: Public Campaign Action Fund

Yet beyond obstructing the governing process to the benefit of his campaign backers, Senator McConnell has also pursued obstruction for the sake of gridlock itself.  As People For the American Way continues to report , McConnell’s treatment of judicial nominees has been particularly abominable.  The obstruction of Jack McConnell, a district court nominee, was not an aberration; it was part of a strategy of judicial obstruction that, under McConnell’s continued abuse of Senate rules, has become standard practice.  During the eight years that President George W. Bush was in office, only one federal district court nomination was filibustered, requiring the majority to file a cloture petition; so far under President Obama, Republicans have forced Democrats into 20 such filings for district court nominees. 

There’s a price to pay for unremittingly representing corporate interests, and for being the leader of an assault on the Senate’s functionality.  And the American public, and the state of Kentucky, are well of aware of who’s to blame.

PFAW

GOP Puts Politics Above Governance at First DC Circuit Committee Vote

Committee Republicans recycle their old caseload argument to justify a party-line vote against the first of three DC Circuit nominees.
PFAW

Large and Diverse Group Urges Senators Not to Block DC Circuit Votes

Nearly 100 organizations send a letter calling for senators to allow votes on all three DC Circuit nominees.
PFAW

The GOP War on Women: Judicial Edition

Earlier this year, President Obama nominated three brilliant jurists to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, the court that many people call “the second most important court in the nation.” It probably comes as no surprise that Republicans have already started laying the groundwork to obstruct their confirmation.
PFAW

Survey Finds Choice Is Make-or-Break Issue for Virginia Women Voters

Reproductive choice is a central issue for women who otherwise might not vote in the Virginia gubernatorial election, a new NARAL survey finds.  This is not good news for Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli, who once described himself as “the most aggressive pro-life leader in the Virginia Senate.”

In a survey of 600 largely Democratic “drop-off” women in the state – those who have voted in presidential years but not in other years – choice was a make-or-break issue among pro-choice women, with 57% saying they “would never vote for anyone running for president who opposes a woman's right to have a legal abortion, no matter how much I agree with them on other issues.” It was such an important issue, in fact, that after hearing choice-based messaging about the race between Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli, pro-choice drop-off women became significantly more interested in turning out to cast a vote in the election.

Politico reports:

“They found that statements about Cuccinelli’s position on abortion had a bigger effect among this group than any other issue in generating both the level of support and intensity for Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe. ‘Protecting a woman’s right to choose’ trumped health care, guns, transportation, spending and college affordability.”

And Cuccinelli’s track record on abortion rights is indeed bleak.  He pressured the Virginia Board of Health to pass a set of unnecessarily burdensome building regulations that threaten to close the majority of the state’s abortion clinics.  He supports the passage of radical “personhood” legislation giving fertilized eggs rights.  He attempted to defund Planned Parenthood in Virginia.  He has stated that his “ultimate goal” is to “make abortion disappear in America.”

Although Cuccinelli has tried to convince voters this year that his focus as governor would not be on social issues, he cannot hide his regressive, anti-choice beliefs from Virginia women who, according to the new data, will take their concern for protecting reproductive choice to the ballot box.
 

PFAW

Grassley's Own DC Circuit Numbers Fail Him

Even under Sen. Grassley's definition of caseload, his argument against filling DC Circuit vacancies falls apart.
PFAW

New Data Shows DC Circuit Caseload Continues to Rise

New statistics poke another hole in the GOP's assertion that the DC Circuit's three vacancies should remain unfilled.
PFAW