Anger at the so-called Monsanto Protection Act — a biotech rider that protects genetically modified seeds from litigation in the face of health risks — has been directed at numerous parties in Congress and the White House for allowing the provision to be voted and signed into law. But the party responsible for anonymously introducing the rider into the broad, unrelated spending bill had not been identified until now.
As Mother Jones’ Tom Philpott notes, the senator responsible is Missouri Republican Roy Blunt — famed friend of Big Agrigulture on Capitol Hill. Blunt even told Politico’s David Rogers that he “worked with” Monsanto to craft the rider (rendering the moniker “Monsanto Protection Act” all the more appropriate). Philpott notes:
The admission shines a light on Blunt’s ties to Monsanto, whose office is located in the senator’s home state. According to OpenSecrets, Monsanto first started contributing to Blunt back in 2008, when it handed him $10,000. At that point, Blunt was serving in the House of Representatives. In 2010, when Blunt successfully ran for the Senate, Monsanto upped its contribution to $44,250. And in 2012, the GMO seed/pesticide giant enriched Blunt’s campaign war chest by $64,250.
… The senator’s blunt, so to speak, admission that he stuck a rider into an unrelated bill at the behest of a major campaign donor is consistent with the tenor of his political career. While serving as House whip under the famously lobbyist-friendly former House Majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) during the Bush II administration, Blunt built a formidable political machine by transforming lobbying cash into industry-accomodating legislation. In a blistering 2006 report, Public Citizen declared Blunt “a legislative leader who not only has surrendered his office to the imperative of moneyed interests, but who has also done so with disturbing zeal and efficiency.”
By: Natasha Lennard, Salon, April 5, 2013
In Missouri, it would be a felony to propose gun control. Oklahoma wants to protect students from science. Really
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal wants Republicans to stop being the stupid party — but apparently the memo hasn’t gotten out to state legislatures around the country.
February has been a banner month for truly silly and anti-intellectual bills in state capitals across the country. Well, mostly across the South and Midwest. Some of these bills are based on the idea that birth control is poison, and that students should not fail for arguing in biology class that dinosaurs and humans coexisted. Others would stop gun control efforts by making it a felony to try to enact gun control.
This is not the Onion: Here are some of the actual proposals.
1. Let corporations vote!
In Montana, state Rep. Steve Lavin introduced a bill that would allow corporations to vote in local elections, taking the idea that “corporations are people” to new heights.
Think Progress reports that the bill was tabled earlier this month. But under the proposal, “if a firm, partnership, company, or corporation owns real property within the municipality, the president, vice president, secretary, or other designee of the entity is eligible to vote.”
2. Criminalize gun control!
In Missouri, state Rep. Mike Leara believes even proposing gun control should be illegal. So he has proposed legislation that would make it a felony for “any member of the general assembly who proposes a piece of legislation that further restricts the right of an individual to bear arms, as set forth under the second amendment of the Constitution of the United States.”
“I filed HB 633 as a matter of principle and as a statement in defense of the Second Amendment rights of all Missourians,” Leara told Buzzfeed. “I have no illusions about the bill making it through the legislative process, but I want it to be clear that the Missouri House will stand in defense of the people’s Constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”
3. Birth control is poison
The full state Senate in Oklahoma will take up a measure to allow companies to strip birth control and abortion coverage from employer healthcare plans under a bill that unanimously cleared the committee level last week.
“Notwithstanding any other provision of state or federal law, no employer shall be required to provide or pay for any benefit or service related to abortion or contraception through the provision of health insurance to his or her employees,” the bill reads.
That would put the law in conflict with the Obamacare provision that mandates contraception coverage in employee group insurance plans, unless the company in question meets the religious organization that qualifies for an exemption.
The state senator who proposed the bill said the idea came from one of his constituents, identified as Dr. Dominic Pedulla. The Tulsa World calls him “an Oklahoma City cardiologist who describes himself as a natural family planning medical consultant and women’s health researcher.” He told the paper he stopped offering his insurance plan because it required contraception coverage.
“Part of (women’s) identity is the potential to be a mother,” Pedulla said. “They are being asked to suppress and radically contradict part of their own identity, and if that wasn’t bad enough, they are being asked to poison their bodies.”
4. Read Ayn Rand or stay in high school
The chairman of the education committee in Idaho’s Senate introduced a bill earlier this month that would make students read — and pass a test — on “Atlas Shrugged” as a requirement for a high school diploma.
Then he backed away from the bill, saying he was just trying to make a point. The senator, John Goedde, told the Idaho Spokesman-Review he was “sending a message to the State Board of Education, because he’s unhappy with its recent move to repeal a rule requiring two online courses to graduate from high school, and with its decision to back off on another planned rule regarding principal evaluations.”
Why that book? It “made my son a Republican,” he said, then adding, “well, he’s not a practicing Republican. But it certainly made him a conservative.”
5. Meanwhile, make the teachers question science
In Kansas, the state Board of Education will vote on new science standards this year, so the legislative jockeying has begun. A bill before the House Education Committee would make schools include evidence against climate change in science classes.
According to the bill, science teachers would be required to “provide information to students of scientific evidence which both supports and counters a scientific theory or hypothesis.”
As the Topeka Capital Journal notes: “The bill says instruction about ‘scientific controversies’ should be objective and include ‘both the strengths and weaknesses of such scientific theory or hypothesis.’ The only controversy identified in the bill is ‘climate science.’”
There is no specific sponsor on the bill, which carries the committee’s name. The committee is controlled by Republicans.
In Oklahoma, however, go right ahead and argue that humans and dinosaurs roamed the earth at the same time. On a 9-8 vote last week, the Oklahoma Common Education committee approved the so-called Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act.
If the bill becomes law, it would make it illegal for biology teachers to fail students who write papers against evolution, climate change and other theories with near 100 percent approval in the scientific community.
“I proposed this bill because there are teachers and students who may be afraid of going against what they see in their textbooks,” said state Rep. Gus Blackwell to Mother Jones.
By: David Daley, Executive Director, Salon, February 24, 2013
“Not An Isolated Incident”: Todd Akin Tied To Religious Paramilitary Right-wing “Domestic Terrorist”
New documents show Missouri GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin donated to the political campaign of a violent antiabortion activist named Tim Dreste, whose ties to Akin we reported on earlier this week.
Dreste, as the Riverfront Times described him, was a “domestic terrorist, religious fanatic, [and] paramilitary right-wing nut.” In 1999, Dreste was convicted in federal court of making “true threats to kill, assault or do bodily harm” to abortion doctors. Before that, as we reported, Akin popped up in several groups led by Dreste, who was one of St. Louis’ most prominent pro-life activists until his conviction. Dreste was also chaplain in the militia that Akin praised in a letter just a few months before the Oklahoma City bombing.
Now, as it turns out, Akin was one of only a handful of contributors to Dreste’s 1993 run for the Missouri state House. Then-state Rep. Todd Akin’s campaign gave Dreste $200, according to campaign finance records, making him Dreste’s third largest contributor, tied with a pro-life PAC. The records were obtained by Progress Missouri from the secretary of state’s archives and provided to Salon.
Dreste’s campaign brought in only $2,325 in cash contributions that year, so Akin’s donation represents about 8.6 percent of his total haul. There are only seven other itemized donors (those who give under $100 don’t have to be listed individually), including two pro-life groups and two other candidate committees. Dreste ran for the state Legislature four times, but 1993, a special election, was his best showing, when he captured 35 percent of the vote.
Defenders of Akin — Akin spokesman Rick Tyler declined to comment for this story — might note that Dreste wasn’t convicted for another five years, so Akin couldn’t have known how radical he was in 1993. But Dreste was well known in Missouri at the time for his controversial stunts.
Akin’s contribution came in October of 1993, but in March, “Dreste was the talk of the anti-abortion and abortion-rights camps when, after the murder in 1993 of Dr. David Gunn in Florida, he carried a sign asking, ‘Do You Feel Under the Gunn?’” St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Jo Mannies wrote in 1995. Gunn’s murder was a watershed moment in the volatile abortion wars of the decade, but Dreste used it to make an implicit threat against other doctors. Specifically, he showed up outside the clinic of abortion provider Dr. Yogendra Shah with the sign: “Dr. Shah, do you feel under the Gunn?” Mannies also noted: “Wearing a hat adorned with shotgun shells, Tim Dreste is a familiar sight among the anti-abortion protesters who regularly picket the Hope Clinic for Women in Granite City.”
In May of ’93, the Post-Dispatch published a controversial letter to the editor from Dreste in which he accused gay people of spreading AIDS-infected blood. “Further, Operation Rescue’s leaders have continuously disavowed violence as a means to achieve their goals, while animal-rights groups destroy medical testing facilities and militant homosexuals invade church services and spread AIDS-infected blood in legislative chambers, all the while being cheered on by the left for standing up for their cause,” Dreste wrote.
He concluded: “As this area’s leader for Operation Rescue, I have only one response: Throw some extra bunks into Manuel Noriega’s and John Gotti’s cells; we’ll soon join them.” It turned out to be prescient.
Of course, it’s possible that Akin, a committed anti-choice activist who was arrested multiple times while protesting abortion clinics in the 1980s and defended a woman convicted of battery against an abortion nurse, somehow missed all of Dreste’s controversial activities. Sean Soendker Nicholson, the executive director of Progress Missouri, doesn’t think so. “This isn’t an isolated incident. No amount of threats of violence or extremism encouraged Akin to cut ties with Dreste.”
By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, October 25, 2012
Rep. Todd Akin, the controversial Missouri Republican running for the U.S. Senate this year, isn’t exactly a champion on the issue of women’s health. He is, after all, under the impression that women can magically “shut down” unwanted pregnancies caused by “legitimate” rapes.
One might think, then, that Akin would try to avoid women’s issues altogether, focusing his attention elsewhere. But it appears the right-wing congressman just can’t help himself.
Since Missouri GOP Senate nominee Todd Akin’s comments about “legitimate rape” rarely causing pregnancy, he has attempted to do damage control with women voters. he noted, in an apology ad, that he has two daughters and wants “tough justice for predators.” He trumpeted his women for Akin coalition.
But a new comment isn’t likely to help his efforts to appeal to women voters: Akin noted that his opponent, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, was more “ladylike” during the 2006 campaign.
Oh good, Todd Akin wants to present himself as the arbiter of whether women are, in his estimation, “ladylike” enough to meet his discerning standards.
In this case, Akin told the Kansas City Star that McCaskill, as far as he’s concerned, “had a confidence and was much more ladylike” six years ago.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 27, 2012
Yesterday, the National Republican Senatorial Committee announced in a statement that it might yet fund the candidacy of Representative Todd Akin as he tries to unseat Senator Claire McCaskill in Missouri. “As with every Republican Senate candidate, we hope Todd Akin wins in November and we will continue to monitor this race closely in the days ahead,” said NRSC executive director Rob Jesner. (In August, the NRSC claimed that “if [Akin] continues with this misguided campaign, it will be without the support and resources of the NRSC.”)
Will the NRSC actually go through with this, and thus likely bring American Crossroads and other big-money outside groups into the fray? I reasoned yesterday that this won’t happen, because (1) Akin probably can’t win, so this would be a waste of resources, and (2) it would tar other Republican candidates also funded by these groups.
The NRSC’s flip may indicate it has some data showing Akin can actually prevail, a worrying thought indeed. But make no mistake—if the NRSC does jump in behind Akin again, it will create enormous pressure on several Republicans running for Senate, particularly incumbents.
As soon as the NRSC statement went out yesterday afternoon, Democrats began the inevitable guilt-by-association campaign. “All Republican candidates across the country are now going to have to answer for their party’s support of Akin,” said Senator Patty Murray, chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “In case you were wondering whether the Republican party was anti-woman, now you know…they are,” tweeted Matt Canter, the group’s communications director.
Today, the DSCC found an ingenious and more direct way to implicate some incumbent Republican Senatorial candidates in the Akin fiasco, particularly Senator Scott Brown. It’s common for high-profile senators to raise money for the NRSC, in part so that it may help fund the candidacies of lower-profile challengers. (Like, say, Akin). The DSCC noted today that Brown has helped raise a whopping $3.7 million for the NRSC this cycle.
Since Brown previously called Akin’s comments “outrageous, inappropriate, and wrong,” and asked him to withdraw from the Senate race, the DSCC is calling on Brown to get his money back from the NRSC and denounce Akin once again:
“There should be no doubt that a vote for Scott Brown is also a vote for an anti-woman party that supports extremists like Todd Akin,” said Guy Cecil, Executive Director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “Todd Akin’s views represent the official position of the Republican Party, and a vote for Brown is a vote to inflict that anti-woman agenda on the entire country. Brown’s silence speaks volumes. Brown should immediately demand his money back and renounce the party’s decision to embrace Todd Akin.”
Renouncing Akin again might be easy for Brown—though he hasn’t yet done it—but asking for that large chunk of money back won’t be. And if Brown doesn’t, Elizabeth Warren can now fairly say Brown helped fund Akin’s candidacy. This is an incredibly tough position for Brown, and it’s a squeeze likely to be put on other candidates in the days ahead if the NRSC actually pulls the trigger. (The DSCC is similarly targeting Nevada Senator Dean Heller, too, as he’s locked in a tight re-election battle and also raised money for the NRSC).
The NRSC might still back Akin, but the polls will have to look awful, awful good—because it’s making life a lot more difficult for a number of other candidates who still have a chance to win.
By: George Zornick, The Nation, September 27, 2012