Fighting the Right

Voter suppression remains a hot topic in Virginia

Governor McDonnell purports to remedy disenfranchisement with voter ID executive order, but another disenfranchised group, ex-offenders, remains vulnerable.
PFAW Foundation

Questionable Ethics In Issa'a Zeal to Score Political Points

Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) has been targeting the Obama administration since his earliest days as chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and recently he’s been waging a political witch hunt against Attorney General Eric Holder surrounding the Fast and Furious gunrunning operation. In the course of the investigation, Rep. Issa requested documents which the AG was prohibited by law from releasing, and for that, Rep. Issa successfully campaigned to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.

Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed an ethics complaint with both the Office of Congressional Ethics and the Department of Justice, alleging that in his zeal to embarrass the Obama Administration, Rep. Issa may in fact have violated House ethics rules as well as federal wiretap laws.

According to CREW:

Rather than releasing the warrant application to the media directly, which would clearly have been prosecutable, Rep. Issa inserted the information into the Congressional Record. This way, he shielded his otherwise illegal conduct behind the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution. Evidence also suggests Rep. Issa or his staff may have directed reporters to the Congressional Record to ensure the information contained in the leaked warrant application was discovered and further publicized. Such actions, which could constitute “republication” of the material, might not be subject to the same constitutional protections.

CREW also argues that there is precedent for holding Rep. Issa accountable for his potential violation of the wiretap statute, and that a refusal to do so would bring even more discredit to the House leadership than Rep. Issa’s botched and politically-motivated Fast and Furious investigation already has.

PFAW

Romney Continues to Refuse Financial Transparency

A New York Times editorial published yesterday takes aim at Mitt Romney’s continued obfuscation regarding his tax returns. Shirking a precedent embraced by previous presidential candidates, including his father, George Romney, the GOP nominee has yet to fully disclose the extent of his foreign investments and tax havens.

“Mr. Romney has resisted all demands for more disclosure, leading to growing criticism from Democrats that he is trying to hide his fortune and his tax schemes from the public. Given the troubling suspicions about his finances, he needs to release many more returns and quickly open his books to full scrutiny.

The 2010 tax return showed that the blind trust held by his wife, Ann, included a $3 million Swiss bank account that had not been properly reported on previous financial disclosure statements. (The account was closed by the trust manager in 2010 who feared it might become embarrassing for the campaign. He was right.) It also showed that Mr. Romney had used a complex offshore tax shelter, known as a blocker corporation, to shield the investments in his I.R.A. from paying an obscure business tax.

The use of that technique by wealthy taxpayers and institutions, long been blasted by Congressional tax experts as abusive, costs the treasury $1 billion a decade.”

Romney’s pattern of dishonesty extends beyond his personal finances. He has yet to fully explain the terms upon which he parted with the Bain Capital, the private equity firm he helped create. Although he claims he left the firm in 1999, just last month “his trust reported receiving a $2 million payment from Bain as part of unpaid earnings from his work there”. (New York Times) Recent reporting by AP and Vanity Fair raise even more questions about the millions that Romney has stashed away in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.

President Obama has recently returned from a bus tour under the banner of “Betting on America” – placing trust and reinvesting in American industry. The contrast with Mitt Romney couldn’t be clearer.

Romney’s campaign slogan is “Believe in America”, but an apt subtitle may as well be…”but invest somewhere else.”

PFAW

Making voter registration easier in New York

Voter Empowerment Act seeks changes that would make the state’s outdated registration process more efficient and accessible.
PFAW Foundation

A Different Reality for Romney's Mega-Donors

Top-dollar donors to Mitt Romney’s campaign gathered last weekend to hobnob with the candidate at three fundraisers in East Hampton, N.Y., including an event at the massive home of billionaire David Koch. With the price of admission around $75,000, the scene near the gates isn’t surprising, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The line of Range Rovers, BMWs, Porsche roadsters and one gleaming cherry red Ferrari began queuing outside of Revlon Chairman Ronald Perelman's estate off Montauk Highway long before Romney arrived, as campaign aides and staffers in white polo shirts emblazoned with the logo of Perelman's property -- the Creeks -- checked off names under tight security.

What is surprising, however, is how out of touch the upper echelon of the 1% is with the economic conditions faced by most Americans and their resistance to policies that will help level the playing field. The attitude of indifference to the plight of working families in favor of perpetuating failed trickle-down economics and maintaining the established order were summed up by a Romney contributor:

"I don't think the common person is getting it," she said from the passenger seat of a Range Rover stamped with East Hampton beach permits.

"Nobody understands why Obama is hurting them.

"We've got the message," she added. "But my college kid, the baby sitters, the nails ladies -- everybody who's got the right to vote -- they don't understand what's going on. I just think if you're lower income -- one, you're not as educated, two, they don't understand how it works, they don't understand how the systems work, they don't understand the impact."

There are lots of college kids, baby sitters and nail ladies in America who are probably paying higher tax rates than the woman quoted above. Fortunately, as she said, they have the right to vote.

PFAW

US Reps decry Florida purge

In a letter written to House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith, Ranking Member John Conyers and 15 colleagues stress the need for a formal review.
PFAW Foundation

Republican Fundraiser Illustrates the Sham of "Non-Coordination"

Mitt Romney raised a lot of money this weekend at a gala fundraiser in the Hamptons, where guests such as the Koch brothers paid up to $50,000 to attend. But according to the Huffington Post, one particular presence that weekend was not on the official guest list: Karl Rove.

Rove was in town to speak at a luncheon promoting his super PAC, American Crossroads, and his affiliated nonprofit group. Because American Crossroads spends its contributors’ unlimited donations on ads supporting Mitt Romney (or attacking President Obama), the Romney campaign and Rove are prohibited by law from “coordinating” with each other.

As far as the law is concerned, however, “coordination” is defined narrowly at best. With the Romney event unable to sponsor Rove’s luncheon, Solamere Capital, a private equity firm founded by Romney’s son Tagg along with Romney’s chief fundraiser Spencer Zwick, footed the bill. Many of the attendees at Rove’s luncheon, scheduled the day before the official retreat weekend, were also at the campaign fundraiser. As one fundraiser who was at the retreat noted, “It was not a coincidence that the Solamere conference took place in the same city just before the retreat began.”

Thanks to Citizens United, corporations and wealthy individuals and special interests can bypass the $2,500 maximum that campaign committees can accept and instead give unlimited amounts to super PACs like American Crossroads, which in turn spent about $300 million this year to support the GOP. Although in its flawed ruling the Court may have intended such outside groups to be independent, the facts just don’t support that notion:

"This kind of activity [by Rove] is the last thing the Supreme Court had in mind when it ruled that spending by an outside group had to be 'totally independent' and 'wholly independent' from a candidate the group is supporting with expenditures," Fred Wertheimer, the president of Democracy 21, said in an interview. "The FEC lives in a pure fantasy world in the way it attempts to define coordinated activities as not being coordinated activities."

Citizens United has left us in quite a campaign finance mess – and a constitutional amendment to overturn that decision and related cases is the only path forward to fairer and more transparent elections.

PFAW

PFAW Staff Video on PeoplesTestimony.com

Under the banner of United For the People, a new web platform launched today to collect and amplify the growing grassroots movement in America that is calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s flawed 2010 decision in Citizens United and restore the balance of influence in our elections to the people.

At www.peoplestestimony.com, the American people, good government organizations and elected officials can record a short video about how their lives are affected by money in politics and the outsized influence in our elections enjoyed by corporations and wealthy special interests – and what we can do about it.

Here is one such video, by PFAW staff:

 

To see the rest, and to find out how to submit your own video, visit www.peoplestestimony.com.

PFAW

Senate Judiciary Committee shines light on voter suppression

Proposed bill would amend federal criminal law to prohibit deceiving voters about when to vote and the qualifications for voting. It would also prescribe federal criminal penalties for doing so.
PFAW

Clergy File IRS Complaint Against ALEC

The formal complaints against the American Legislative Exchange Council are mounting. A group of clergy in Columbus, OH have filed a complaint with the IRS alleging that ALEC violated its tax-exempt status by “significantly misrepresenting its activities to the IRS, the states, and the public in order to advance a legislative agenda — an agenda largely crafted by the organization’s corporate members — that elevates commercial gain for a few over the well-being of society’s less fortunate.”

ALEC is an ultra-conservative organization that works to shepherd pro-corporate, lobbyist-drafted bills into model legislation to be introduced in statehouses around the nation. Their extreme agenda seeks to bolster corporate profits by privatizing public resources, defunding public education, damaging the environment and attacking working families.

As such, Clergy Voice, composed of 18 pastors from mainstream Christian churches, believes that such an organization has no right to the same tax status reserved for charitable organizations:

“It has angered a lot of us that there is this group of the big and powerful in terms of industries and the extremely wealthy that is courting legislators to pass cookie-cutter legislation that really favors their particular interests,” said the Rev. Eric Williams, spokesman for the group and pastor of North Congregational United Church of Christ on the Northwest Side.

Earlier this year, Common Cause submitted a similar whistleblower complaint against ALEC to the IRS.

PFAW Foundation

PFAW Welcomes Nuns On the Bus

PFAW staff and supporters welcomed home the Nuns on the Bus as they arrived in Washington, DC following a two-week tour through nine states. The Catholic sisters went on tour to stand in solidarity with those living in poverty and to push back against the Ryan Budget, which further enriches the wealthiest Americans while slashing vital programs that help our neediest citizens.

The nuns drove through nine states to help spread the word about how the Ryan Budget, which passed the House this year, harms the most vulnerable American families, and does so -- in the words of the nuns -- in violation of Catholic teaching.

Speakers at this afternoon’s rally condemned those in Congress who voted to perpetuate a political system that benefits the privileged few at the expense of the many, limits participation in our democracy in order to maintain an established system that protects the powerful and fails to show compassion for all people. They coined the slogan “Reasonable Revenue for Responsible Programs – the Faithful Way Forward” to illustrate the priorities they would like to see adopted by Congress to help make our communities and country more just for all.

PFAW

United Conference of Mayors Calls for Overturning Citizens United

At their annual conference in Orlando, the U.S. Conference of Mayors unanimously passed a resolution in opposition to the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, which opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate and special interest spending on elections. Citing Justice John Paul Stevens and the dissenters in the Citizens United case, the mayors’ resolution declares the need to “broaden the corruption rationale for campaign finance reform to facilitate regulation of independent expenditures regardless of the source of the money for this spending, for or against a candidate.” Finding compelling “fundamental interests” in “creating a level playing field and ensuring that all citizens, regardless of wealth, have an opportunity to have their political views heard,” the Conference of Mayors resolves that corporations should not receive the same legal rights as natural persons and that “urgent action” be taken to reverse the impacts of Citizens United in opening the door to unlimited independent campaign expenditures by corporations that undermines “free and fair elections and effective self-governance.”

The resolution calls on other communities, jurisdictions and organizations to pass similar resolutions. So far over, over 250 municipalities have already passed resolutions calling for amending the Constitution to overturn Citizens United and related cases and returning the power to influence our elections to the people. And more than 1600 public officials have gone on record in support of constitutional remedies to overturn the decision. More than 100 organizations have come together under the umbrella of United For the People to press for amending the Constitution to address the harm caused by Citizens United and related cases.

PFAW