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“The Koch Brothers’ Expanding 2014 Operation”: Democrats Are Now Running Against Two Parties

It’s a number that gives Democrats chills: $125 million. That’s the widely reported number reflecting how much the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity intends to spend on this year’s midterm elections. In practical terms, it means Democrats will effectively be running against two rivals: Republicans and the Republicans’ outside allies.

Reid Wilson reports today, however, that the scope of the AFP operation isn’t done expanding.

Americans for Prosperity, the on-the-ground wing of the network of conservative organizations spearheaded by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, will open new state chapters in South Dakota and Alaska in coming weeks, the group’s president said. In an interview, Tim Phillips said that would bring to 35 the number of states where AFP has permanent offices. […]

Phillips said early reports that his organization will dish out $125 million on the midterm elections understates the actual amount they will spend.

If you’re starting to see AFP as something resembling an actual political party, there’s a good reason – the lines have blurred. The Koch-funded group has hundreds of field operatives, just like a party. It’s opening field offices in dozens of states, just like a party. It’s focusing on GOTV operations, just like a party.

And, of course, it’s investing millions in anti-Democratic attack ads, just like a party.

But unlike other national far-right forces, the Kochs’ group (just like a party) also intends to help “influence the makeup of state legislatures.” Tim Phillips told the Washington Post,  ”A lot of times a local property tax battle will bring a whole new group of people out. It’s easier to get movement on the state level.”

All of this, incidentally, doesn’t include the AFP’s “action fund.”

Remember this one?

During a closed-door gathering of major donors in Southern California on Monday, the political operation spearheaded by the Koch brothers unveiled a significant new weapon in its rapidly expanding arsenal – a super PAC called Freedom Partners Action Fund.

The new group aims to spend more than $15 million in the 2014 midterm campaigns – part of a much larger spending effort expected to total $290 million, sources told POLITICO.

As we talked about at the time, the “action fund” will allow the Koch brothers and their donor allies to be more explicit in their backing of like-minded Republicans, while devoting more of their campaign dollars to actual campaign activities.

This isn’t to say the beneficiaries of the Kochs’ support always win; the results from the 2012 cycle clearly show otherwise. But we’re nevertheless looking a formidable political force that Democrats and the left will simply never be able to keep up with financially.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 18, 2014

July 21, 2014 Posted by | Election 2014, Koch Brothers | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Banana Republicans”: Appalling Content Of Policies Aside, When Not Torturing, They Lie, They Cheat, They Steal

If they can’t offer policies that a majority of voters will support without relentless brainwashing, they free up the billionaire beneficiaries of the policies they actually offer to help them buy elections.

If buying elections won’t give them a majority, they rig the districting so they can hold a minority of seats with a minority of votes.

If they can’t win even in gerrymandered districts, they try to keep Democrats from voting.

If they still lose, they resort to outright bribery.

In the latest case, they offered a Democratic state senator in Virginia – whose vote resulted in a tied chamber, giving the Lieutenant Governor the deciding vote – a cushy job for himself and a judgeship for his daughter if he’d resign, giving the GOP 20-19 majority.

Similar deals have been done recently in New York and Washington State, though in those cases the bribes were legislative leadership positions rather than external jobs.

I can confidently predict that a not a single elected Republican, and few if any Red-team pundits, will speak out against this grossly corrupt deal. If the state AG or the U.S. Attorney decide that it’s a prosecutable quid pro quo, Fox News and the National Review will howl about the “criminalization of policy differences.”

“Puckett” deserves to enter the language alongside “Quisling.”

The appalling content of its policies aside – the latest dirty trick is part of an effort to deny medical coverage to the working poor –  the modern Republican Party is a threat to the principles of republican government. Even when they’re not torturing, they lie, they cheat, and they steal.

Footnote And note the way the Washington Post uses the morally neutral “outmaneuver” to cover the payment and acceptance of a bribe. Did the Communists “outmaneuver” Jan Masaryk? Did the House of Guise “outmaneuver” the Huguenots on St. Bartholomew’s Day?


By: Mark Kleiman,  Professor of Public Policy at The University of California Los Angeles: Washington Monthly, Ten Miles Square; Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]; June 12, 2014

June 13, 2014 Posted by | Electoral Process, GOP, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“And May Has Only Just Begun”: 2014’s Most Outrageous Attacks On Women’s Health, So Far

It’s undeniable that American women are facing a dire crisis when it comes to reproductive healthcare. From 2011 to 2013, a record 205 abortion restrictions were enacted throughout the country – topping the total of 189 abortion restrictions enacted in the entire preceding decade. In 2013 alone, 39 states enacted 141 provisions related to reproductive rights, and half of those restricted abortion care specifically. Unfortunately, 2014 is right on trend so far. According to the Guttmacher Institute, legislators have introduced a combined 733 provisions related to sexual and reproductive health and rights so far this year, and it’s only May.

As the war on reproductive rights wages on, the types of restrictions proposed and passed in state legislatures have grown increasingly egregious and some, outright preposterous. Here are a few of 2014’s most outrageous laws so far:

1. South Carolina tries to extend “Stand Your Ground” to fetuses

Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law has been widely criticized, particularly in response to the deaths of unarmed black teens Travyon Martin and Jordan Davis. But a State Senate committee in South Carolina has apparently decided that not only do they support the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law, but that it doesn’t go far enough.

Last month, the committee voted to expand South Carolina’s “Stand Your Ground” law to specifically include fetuses. Proponents of the bill claim that the state’s current “Stand Your Ground” law isn’t broad enough to protect pregnant women who use deadly force to protect themselves and their fetuses – even though the law already authorizes the use of deadly force to protect oneself or another from “imminent peril of death or great bodily injury.”

What this expansion of “Stand Your Ground” would really do is apply personhood to fetuses by defining an embryo as an “unborn child,” a deliberate tactic to challenge Roe v. Wade and the right to a safe and legal abortion. No state has ever successfully passed a personhood amendment, and the American public continues to outright reject them, even in conservative states like Mississippi. Instead of openly championing the incredibly unpopular fetal personhood legislation, a South Carolina Senate committee has chosen “Stand Your Ground” as the in-road to this dangerous legal precedent that threatens women’s rights and access to reproductive healthcare.

2. Kansas lawmaker proposes a ban on surrogate pregnancy

Though abortion restrictions tend to get the most attention, the attack on women’s reproductive rights doesn’t stop there. A recent Kansas bill, championed by staunchly pro-life state Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook (R-Shawnee), would outlaw surrogate pregnancy. Kansas Senate Bill 302 would render all surrogacy agreements, whether verbal or written, null and void and would make it a misdemeanor to hire or work as a surrogate – an offense punishable with up to a $10,000 and a year in the county jail. Shockingly, Pilcher-Cook’s proposed bill isn’t the first in the nation, but is based on Washington D.C.’s highly restrictive laws regarding surrogate pregnancy. Even so, this bill appears unlikely to pass due to opposition from the Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita).

For those who struggle with infertility or have other health issues that preclude a safe and healthy pregnancy, surrogacy is one of the few options afforded to them in order to conceive and bear biological children. Attempts to ban surrogate pregnancy, whether legitimate or to “start a conversation,” reveal the paternalism that underwrites opposition to women’s reproductive rights. Women are perfectly capable of making their own reproductive decisions, whether to bear their own children, adopt, live child-free, have an abortion, or enter into a consensual agreement with a surrogate.

3. Tennessee votes to criminalize drug use by pregnant women

In response to a burgeoning drug abuse problem, the Tennessee legislature has passed a bill that would criminalize the use of narcotics by pregnant women and allow them to be prosecuted for assaultive offenses if their baby is found to be born “addicted to or harmed by the narcotic drug.” If signed by Republican Governor Bill Haslam, it would be the first law of its kind in the nation.

While the use of narcotics by pregnant women is obviously a health concern, prosecuting pregnant women for drug abuse is roundly opposed by major medical associations and reproductive rights advocates alike. Medical associations state that punitive measures like Tennessee’s bill do not improve pregnancy outcomes and advocates caution that criminalization will only deter drug-addicted pregnant women from seeking treatment or prenatal care, for fear of being arrested and incarcerated.

What’s more, this bill only criminalizes the use of illegal narcotics by pregnant women, which doesn’t account for the majority of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), a group of problems associated with drug use during pregnancy. According to the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health Dr. John Dreyzehner, 60 percent of babies born with NAS in Tennessee had mothers who had a prescription for the medication they were taking. This bill only criminalizes a certain type of drug use – and critics warn that it will hit black women the hardest.

Criminalization sets a dangerous precedent and hinders drug-addicted pregnant women’s access to vital healthcare and potentially life-saving treatment.

4. Louisiana bill would keep brain-dead pregnant women on life support against family’s wishes

On the heels of the tragic case of Marlise Muñoz, a brain-dead pregnant woman in Texas who was kept on life support for eight weeks against her family’s wishes, Louisiana lawmakers have advanced a bill that would force physicians in the state to keep a brain-dead pregnant woman on life support against her family’s wishes and regardless of how far along her pregnancy is. This bill essentially turns brain-dead pregnant women into incubators against their will, compounding the trauma that their families are likely experiencing.

Unfortunately, Louisiana isn’t alone. Twelve states currently have similarly strict laws that automatically invalidate a woman’s advanced directive about her end-of-life care if she is pregnant. While a provision that would have superseded pregnant women’s “do not resuscitate” orders was dropped from the legislation, Louisiana’s bill would still override the family’s wishes. It’s a dangerous law that destroys brain-dead pregnant women’s personhood and renders her family utterly helpless.

5. Alabama House votes to ban abortions at six weeks

In the last few years, unconstitutional fetal pain bills, which ban abortion at 20 weeks post-fertilization, have become increasingly popular in state legislatures. Nine states now have a 20-week abortion ban on their legislative books – and they’re all based on junk science. Even more egregious and outright unconstitutional are so-called fetal heartbeat bills, which outlaw abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected. This can be as early as six weeks post-fertilization, or a point at which many don’t even know that they’re pregnant.

Alabama is the latest state to jump onto this outrageous bandwagon, as the Republican-controlled House passed the Fetal Heartbeat Act and three other abortion restrictions. Similar to North Dakota’s six-week ban that was recently struck down by a federal judge, Alabama’s bill would make it a crime to perform an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected. Banning abortions at six weeks essentially criminalizes abortion itself, a move that is incredibly unpopular with the American public. Perhaps that’s why this bill ultimately stalled in the Alabama Senate.

Despite their unpopularity and blatant unconstitutionality, it’s unlikely given this political climate that we’ve seen the last of fetal heartbeat bans or other outrageous legislative attacks on women’s healthcare in 2014. After all, May has just begun.

By: Lauren Rankin, Rolling Stone, May 2, 2014


May 5, 2014 Posted by | Reproductive Rights, War On Women, Women's Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Night Of The Living Bigots”: Religious Discrimination Laws Are Just Zombie Jim Crow, Legalizing Anti-Gay Prejudice

Back in November, I wrote this piece on so-called “religious discrimination.” In short, a florist in Washington state refused to sell flowers to a gay couple for their wedding because it violates her religion. That’s right, she claims she won’t engage in the for-profit business of commerce because her religion tells her not to for certain groups of people. To quote “South Park’s” Mr Mackey “mkay.”

Now I thought maybe this was just a one-off. I mean sure, there are going to be a few folks, a few businesses around the country who won’t serve black people or maybe someone won’t photograph a gay wedding. But these types of things are few and far between, not the norm in society right?

Actually, while they happen more than you may think, as a part of the whole of American society, this isn’t some widespread thing popping up all across the country. What is rearing its ugly head up is the conservative movement’s insistence on using state legislatures to fighti what they claim is gay marriage’s “attack” on family values across the country. Lawmakers in Arizona, Kansas, Idaho, Tennessee, South Dakota and Maine have all debated and/or passed “religious discrimination” bills to protect for-profit businesses from having to serve gays and lesbians. The Arizona legislature just yesterday passed legislation and it’s now on its way to Gov. Jan Brewer.

I know, I know, the states are the incubators of democracy, where great ideas come from but this, my friends, is pure unadulterated crap. Jim Crow was supposed to have died a long time ago but like some horrid episode of “The Walking Dead,” Zombie Jim Crow has arrived with a vengeance.

Do conservatives actually think it’s OK to deny someone a meal, a photograph or a flower arrangement by using God as their reason? Will national Republican leaders try to pass similar legislation in Washington, D.C. or is it better for this type of Jim Crow foolishness to remain under the radar screen (in other words in the state legislatures)? I wonder how Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus feels about these types of bills being promulgated across the country. He is, after all, the national leader of the Republican Party right?

I really don’t have a problem if a business owner thinks I’m gay. I actually don’t have a problem if a business owner doesn’t like that I’m gay. But here’s the deal business owners of America: I have money and you have a for-profit business that opens its doors to the public. That means you that you don’t get to put up a sign in your window that says “We cater to heterosexual trade only” like this one from a Lancaster, Ohio business during Jim Crow. If I walk into your place of business and am willing to pay what you’re asking for your service or product, who I marry is none of your damned business. I’m a huge fan of equality. I don’t get to ask you if you’re a bigot and you don’t get to ask me if I’m, well, gay.

If you want to be a church, a non-profit or a private club, then you have the right to tell me you don’t want my money. That’s really stupid of you but hey, it’s your inalienable right to be stupid in America. I also have the right to tell my friends you don’t want my money because it’s gay money. And they get to tell their friends, and then we’ll treat you like we did Anita Bryant back in the 1970’s. That didn’t turn out so well for her.

I’m not angry about what’s happening in these state legislatures. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised frankly. Like I said, there are a lot of dumb people out there. But what no one in this country should be allowed to do is profit from bigotry. What no business in this country should be allowed to do is tell me their God tells them I’m a second-class citizen.


By: Jimmy Williams, U. S. News and World Report, February 21, 2014

February 24, 2014 Posted by | Bigotry, Discrimination | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Standing With The People”: Democratic Governors and Statehouse Candidates To Adopt Obama’s Minimum-Wage Message

Democratic governors and candidates competing in battleground states are planning to make a minimum-wage increase a centerpiece of this year’s campaigns, taking the baton from President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night, according to a memo shared with National Journal.

Raising the wage was a core part of Obama’s larger theme of boosting “opportunity” for all, and it’s a policy that Democrats running for statehouses think will help them politically, according to the memo from the Democratic Governors Association.

“No issue better crystalizes the broader debate between 2014 Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates than that of a minimum wage hike,” DGA Communications Director Danny Kanner says in the memo.

This is a big year for the Democratic Governors Association, given the number of Republican governors swept in during the 2010 wave who are now up for reelection.

Republican governors from Florida to Wisconsin have consistently opposed efforts to raise the minimum wage, and Dems think that choice will come back to bite the GOP. The DGA points to a recent Wall Street Journal poll showing 63 percent of Americans support raising the wage and a separate Quinnipiac poll showing a plurality of Republican voters agree.

While it’s not surprising that Democrats would echo the president on a central policy goal, raising the minimum wage has until recently been seen as the domain of the party’s progressive wing and an issue that candidates in battleground states might shy away from.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case when it comes to a handful of gubernatorial races, at least. In Maine, while Republican Gov. Paul LePage has vetoed legislation to raise the minimum wage, Rep. Michael Michaud, the presumed Democratic nominee, cosponsored a bill in the House to raise the wage nationwide.

Democrat Mark Schauer, who is hoping to oust Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, has proposed boosting the wage to $9.25 an hour and indexing it to inflation, and said he would make hiking it a top priority if elected.

In Iowa, Jack Hatch wants to go even further and raise the wage to $10.10, which would give the important political state the highest minimum wage in the country. Charlie Crist, the Republican-turned-Democrat former governor, who is running to reclaim his old seat in Florida’s statehouse, also supports setting the wage at $10.10.

Meanwhile in Illinois, where Democrats are hoping to defend Gov. Pat Quinn as he heads into a tough reelection battle, all four Republican challengers oppose Quinn’s proposal to boost the wage.

And Democrats think the message will resonate as well in redder states like Kansas, where they’re hoping to push aside Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

Kanner says Democrats will use the minimum wage to present a larger economic message.

“These are two starkly different economic philosophies, and the minimum wage debate makes that clear. In this case, Democrats are standing with the American people while Republicans, once again, thumb their nose at them,” he said.

By: Alex Seitz-Wald, The National Journal, January 29, 2014

February 3, 2014 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Minimum Wage | , , , , , | Leave a comment


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