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GOP Members Of Congress Join Anti-Muslim Group ACT For America At Capitol Hill Briefing

ACT for America, the anti-Muslim group run by Brigitte Gabriel, held a legislative briefing on Capitol Hill today where it was joined by Republican members of Congress including Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan, Illinois Rep. Peter Roskam, and Arkansas Sen. John Boozman.

Gabriel posted pictures on Facebook and Twitter of Boozman, Bachmann and Gohmert speaking and of Roskam receiving the group’s “Patriot Award.” Duncan tweeted that he was planning on speaking to the gathering. Gabriel wrote that she had planned on presenting another award to Sen. Ted Cruz, but that he was unable to attend.

 

Gabriel also presented awards to Alabama state Sen. Gerald Allen, the author of that state’s bill banning the use of Sharia law, and Kansas state Rep. Peggy Mast, who introduced a similar bill in her state.

In addition to pushing meaningless Sharia bans throughout the country, Gabriel has gone after Muslim Student Associations at colleges and school textbooks that she deems too friendly to Islam .

She has also suggested the President Obama secretly a Muslim who is “not only pro-Islam, he’s pro-jihadist.”

A few months ago, Gabriel made the news when she berated a Muslim woman who asked her a question at a Heritage Foundation panel.

Across the Country Activists Support Amendment to #GetMoneyOut

 

While billionaires and corporations have been busy buying airtime to influence midterm elections, average Americans have been active in letting politicians know that they are sick and tired of big money in politics. As the Democracy for All amendment gets debated and voted on in the Senate this week, an ongoing grassroots push has helped shape the conversation.

On Monday over 3.2 million petition signatures calling for a constitutional amendment were delivered to Congress, gathered by more than two dozen progressive organizations. This diverse coalition includes groups such as the Communications Workers of America, MoveOn.org, Sierra Club, Daily Kos, CREDO Action, Common Cause, Corporate Accountability International, Public Citizen and People For the American Way.

More than 25 local actions have happened across the country, delivering petitions to the district offices of target senators in key states. These events have been hugely successful, with solid attendance at a small spirited event at Senator Murkowski’s office in Juneau, Alaska to a large rally at Senator Kirk’s office in Chicago, IL and a marching band that showed up to help provide support for an event at Senator Ayotte’s office in Portsmouth, NH.

These events have earned a great deal of  media coverage, so much so that most of the five remaining Democrats who have not cosponsored the Democracy for All amendment have now made commitments to vote for it – in large part as a result of the events in their states. Four even put out public statements in connection with the events.

Additionally more than 15,000 calls have been made this week to Senators’ offices asking them to support the Democracy for All amendment. These are only the reported calls, many more have likely been made without being counted. This is an average of over 300 calls per Senate office.

Perhaps most exciting of all – things are just getting started – this first milestone vote on the Democracy for All amendment marks the beginning of what will be a truly historic push to protect the promise of American democracy.

PFAW

Vic Eliason And Mat Staver Link ISIS Beheadings To LGBT 'Meltdown Of Morality'

On yesterday’s edition of “Crosstalk,” Voice of Christian Youth America’s Vic Eliason and Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver connected same-sex marriage in the U.S. to beheadings committed by the terrorist group ISIS.

Discussing recent marriage equality legal victories, Staver made his standard prediction that the legalization of same-sex marriage will pave the way for polygamy. Eliason responded by accusing gay rights advocates of destroying morality and biblical values, leading to a decadent, anything-goes society.

“People see something they want, they steal it or they kill somebody or behead them. Some of this stuff now that’s going on, the beheading, which has become literally a religious, I don’t know what you’d call it— it becomes a very sacred thing to the Islamics to behead somebody because that is a special right that is deserved by the infidels,” Eliason said.

Staver naturally agreed and said it was all President Obama’s fault: “Yeah, that’s exactly right. I think what we’re seeing today is a meltdown of morality. That’s what certainly President Obama has been pushing, he is very much pushing a disintegration of Judeo-Christian values not just here in the United States but he’s actively doing that around the country [sic] promoting abortion and same-sex marriage, he’s trying to do that in every way possible across the world.”

Proposed Texas Textbooks Channel David Barton, Attribute US Government To Moses

Four years ago, the Texas State Board of Education made national headlines when it worked with Religious Right activists like David Barton to create a set of new textbook standards that played up the role of Christianity in the nation’s founding and played down the role of slavery in the Civil War, among other questionable changes.

According to our friends at the Texas Freedom Network , a new set of social studies textbooks up for approval from the state school board contain many flaws that “reflect the ideological beliefs of politicians on the state board rather than sound scholarship and factual history.”

TFN convened a panel of historians to review proposed textbooks and found that a number of the board’s faulty claims had been absorbed into proposed textbooks. For instance, a number of books followed the board’s advice in making vague claims about Moses as a direct influence on the framers of the Constitution — a claim straight out of David Barton’s pseudo-scholarship.

The material presented in these textbooks on this issue seems to have been determined more by political concerns than considerations of good scholarship. On the one hand, the decisions of these textbooks seem to have been strongly influenced by the suggestions and requirements of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE). For instance, that the Texas SBOE suggested in the 2009-2010 debate over curriculum standards that Moses influenced the writing of the nation’s founding documents and that several textbooks mention Moses’ influence on the Founders seems to be no coincidence. On the other hand, the frequently vague nature of the textbooks’ statements about the influence of Moses and other religious ideas and figures on the Founders seems to indicate that the publishers did not want to be held accountable by scholars are those critical of SBOE’s standards. Unfortunately, the result of this at once overly controversial and overly careful strategy is the failure to provide students with an understanding of the influence of religion on our Founders that rests on sound scholarship and captures the diversity of the Founders’ views. These textbooks too often settle for giving students vague impressions about the Founders and religion while denying them the crucial information necessary to evaluate these claims. The SBOE and these textbooks have collaborated to make students’’ knowledge of American history a casualty of the culture wars.

Other concerns that TFN’s reviewers found in the textbooks include:

  • Some textbooks greatly exaggerate religious influences on the American founding, with some going so far as to suggest without substantiation that Moses was a major influence, that “the roots of democratic government” can be found in the Old Testament, and that “the biblical idea of a covenant … contributed to our constitutional structure.”
  • While the textbooks largely make clear that slavery was the central cause of the Civil War, some give nods to neo-Confederate arguments first promoted after the war that “states’ rights” was the driving issue. Some also downplay the serious hardships faced by African Americans during segregation.
  • Some textbooks reinforce negative stereotypes of Islam as a violent religion spread exclusively by conquest. One tells students, inaccurately, that “the spread of international terrorism is an outgrowth of Islamic fundamentalism,” ignoring the numerous examples of terrorism not related to Islam at all.
  • Some textbooks suffer from an incomplete and at times inaccurate coverage of religions other than Christianity. For example, one textbook teaches students, inaccurately, that all Hindus are vegetarians. On other hand, coverage of key Christian concepts and historical events are lacking in a few textbooks, often apparently due to the presumption that all students are Christians and already familiar with that information.
  • Reflecting concerns already noted about the curriculum standards by the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a number of textbooks present an uncritical celebration of the free enterprise system. They downplay or even ignore legitimate problems in capitalism and the role government played in the growth of the American economy of the 1800s.
  • A number of U.S. History textbooks suffer from a general lack of attention to the experiences of Native American peoples and cultures and sometimes include biased or misleading information.
    One textbook includes a biased even offensive treatment critical of affirmative action, including cartoons that jokingly suggest space aliens would qualify.
  • Most textbooks offer scant coverage of the movement for LGBT equality, one of the salient civil rights struggles of the last half-century. One publisher links the gay rights movement of the late 1960s to society “spinning out of control.”

American Religious Right Leaders Join Moscow Event, May Not Be Able To Avoid Foreign Policy

This week, a number of American Religious Right activists are participating an in international forum on “large families and the future of mankind,” which is organized and funded by a number of close allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin and kicked off its session at the Kremlin yesterday with the reading of a personal message from Putin himself.

Among the Americans speaking at the forum, according to a preliminary schedule, are the National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown, the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute’s Austin Ruse, Family Watch International’s Sharon Slater and representatives from Personhood USA, the Home School Legal Defense Association and the Christian Broadcasting Network.

Janice Shaw Crouse is also scheduled to attend, although possibly no longer as a representative of Concerned Women for America, a group critical of the Moscow conference with which she seems to have parted ways.

The conference was originally organized under the name of the Illinois-based World Congress of Families, but after Russia invaded Ukraine, the group began to lose support from its American allies and announced that it had “suspended planning” on the event, noting that it “takes no position on foreign affairs, except as they affect the natural family.”

In reality, very little but the official name of the conference seems to have changed. World Congress of Families officials Don Feder and Larry Jacobs are attending in their personal capacities, and insist that their group is not “financially sponsoring” the event and would not have its name attached to it. But WCF’s sponsorship was always nominal — the group has a very small budget of its own and instead acts as an agent for bringing together better-funded activists and organizations. Even before WCF dropped its official involvement, it had given credit to a number of Russian allies for funding the conference.

Although the focus of the conference is the promotion of “large families” (and with it the resistance to LGBT equality and abortion rights), it may be impossible for attendees to ignore the foreign policy implications of the event.

As we have noted, Putin played up the supposed dangers of LGBT rights in his efforts to prevent Ukraine from joining the EU — a geopolitical ploy that had dangerous consequences for the LGBT communities in Russian and Ukraine.

Constantin Malofeev, the oligarch who helped to organize and fund the conference this week, brought this up in his speech to the event yesterday, presenting the “propagation of homosexuality and gay parades” as a defining factor in the battle over Ukraine:

In Ukraine, which is our fraternal country, association with European Union was not signed last year because, in this case, the Ukrainians learned that they had to allow propagation of homosexuality and gay parades. So, the new regime in Ukraine, the first thing they did was to allow a gay parade in Kiev. So we are defending our position. We are protecting fathers, mothers and children.

He also attacked the United States for including Yelena Mizulina, the force behind many of Russia’s harsh new anti-gay laws, on its economic sanctions list. (Putin ally Vladimir Yakunin, who along with his wife Natalia also spoke at and helped fund the conference, is another U.S. sanctions target).

And if we are part of the sanctions for Ukraine. But Madam Mizulina was included in the sanctions as one of the first, and this is just because she defends the family values.

And as Richard Bartholomew points out, today’s schedule includes a panel titled “Family Policy in Ukraine: Conclusions and Warnings for Russia.”

An ever-present theme at the first day of the conference was the idea of Russia as a bulwark protecting the world against the U.S. and Europe’s encroaching liberalism. The Moscow Times writes that the theme came up in both Yakunin and Mizulina’s remarks:

In choosing conservative values, Russia represents "the final hope" for the modern world, which has been corrupted by the Western debauchery of individualism, consumerism and globalization, participants of a Moscow forum agreed Wednesday.

Yakunin, whose wife Natalya moderated the proceedings, attended the forum, taking to the stage to talk about Russia's departure from the Western model of development that, according to him, does not lead to either material or spiritual well-being.

Mizulina, who chairs the Duma's committee on family, women and children's issues and has advocated a law requiring women to get their husband's permission in order to have an abortion, lashed out at the West.

"I am sure that in contemporary Europe it would not be possible to hold a forum like this," Mizulina told the audience after reading a welcome note from State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin.

"Even if they are held there, they are not hosted at the Kremlin, like in Russia, but somewhere on the outskirts," she said.

Majority Senate Vote for Amendment to Get Big Money Out of Politics is Historic Milestone for Democracy

WASHINGON — Today a majority of the Senate voted in support of the Democracy for All Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment that would overturn decisions like Citizens United and allow Congress and the states to set reasonable limits on money in elections. While there were not sufficient votes to pass the proposed amendment, the vote itself represents a historic step forward for the movement to restore the power in our democracy to the people. People For the American Way Executive Vice President Marge Baker released the following statement:

“Less than five years after the Citizens United decision sparked national outrage, we have seen the movement to get big money out of politics go from local, grassroots organizing to a vote in the United States Senate. Today’s historic majority vote is a remarkable milestone for this movement and a platform for taking the fight to the next level. The debate in the Senate this week is a debate that Americans across the country who are passionate about fixing our broken democracy have wanted to see.

“The fight for a constitutional amendment is never easy. It’s not supposed to be. The women’s suffrage amendment ratified in 1920 was first introduced in Congress in 1878. But the grassroots activists pushing for this — who made more than 15,000 calls to Senate offices on the amendment this week alone, who have pushed successfully for hundreds of state and local resolutions, and who have signed more than 3.2 million petitions — aren’t afraid of a tough fight.

“We know that powerful, entrenched interests will continue to try to block the amendment, but we won’t stop pushing until it becomes a reality. Anyone who doubts that underestimates the American people.” 

###

Third day of Senate debate to #GetMoneyOut

While America's foreign policy challenges and other critical issues dominated the Senate floor on Wednesday, debate on the Democracy for All amendment continued for a third day. Those opposed to getting money out of politics are even sounding like they're on our side. They ignore the fact that their points are very much among those that inspired Democracy for All in the first place.
PFAW

Jerry Boykin Is 'Being Persecuted, Literally' For Being A Benghazi Conspiracy Theorist

Family Research Council executive vice president Jerry Boykin said in an interview on “Washington Watch” yesterday that people like himself who believe in discredited conspiracy theories surrounding the 2012 Benghazi attacks are facing “persecution” because no one believes them and dares to think there are political motivations behind their accusations.

“The plight of not only the young service men and women in trying to ensure that their government is going to come and get them, but there is a plight of persecution today of those of us who want to stand up and demand that there be accountability on this,” he told FRC president Tony Perkins. “They’re persecuting us, the leftist media is coming out with all kinds of accusations about what our intent is.”

“We’re being hammered by the media now, being persecuted, literally, by the media as being on a witch hunt and being people that are not willing to accept the truth that has already come out. The truth hasn’t come out yet.”

Boykin insisted that no one has investigated the Benghazi attack yet…even though, as Media Matters notes, the House Intelligence Committee, along with “the State Department's independent Accountability Review Board (ARB), the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and the House Armed Services Committee” have all “repeatedly debunked right-wing Benghazi myths that have persisted since the attacks, including the falsehood that a ‘stand down’ order was given to troops stationed in Tripoli and the myth that the administration lied about the attacks having been caused by an anti-Islam YouTube video.”

But who cares what four — including two GOP-led — panels found, because Boykin knows the truth and won’t rest until investigators agree with him.

He also made the extraordinary claim that his goal in promoting Benghazi conspiracy theories “is not to go after Hillary or the president.”

Rep. Chris Smith Claims Obama Ignores Religious Persecution Overseas, Only Cares About 'The LGBT'

Yesterday on “Washington Watch,” the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins said that the violent persecution of Christians in the Middle East is closely connected to “the religious intolerance that is growing here at home” under the Obama administration.

His guest, Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., agreed with his assessment of Obama’s purported “animus towards promoting religious freedom.”

The congressman alleged that the Obama administration is ignoring anti-Christian persecution because White House officials are either nonreligious or hostile to religion. According to Smith, they only care about “the LGBT, the abortion that is being promoted so aggressively overseas.”

No, Ted Cruz, The #GetMoneyOut Amendment Wouldn't Censor SNL

Cross-posted from PFAW's blog.

Sen. Ted Cruz has been known to make some pretty outlandish comments about the Democracy for All Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment being debated in the Senate which would overturn decisions like Citizens United, but his latest may take the cake. “Lorne Michaels [of Saturday Night Live] could be put in jail under this amendment for making fun of any politician,” Sen. Ted Cruz claimed on the floor of the Senate this week.

Luckily, a number of more grounded voices were able to set the record straight about Cruz’s wild and inaccurate remark. Last night, CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin said:

I think [Cruz] is wrong… This amendment is simply about restoring the old status quo about campaign contributions… I think his point…really has very little, if anything, to do with the constitutional amendment that the Senate is debating.

Amendment sponsor Sen. Tom Udall clarified that “[n]othing in the amendment would permit the arrest of anyone for engaging in political speech,” and pointed out that the proposal intends to bring the country’s campaign finance rules back to what they were in 1975, when Saturday Night Live began.

Other responders were a little more fiery, including former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson, who on Monday published an op-ed with Sen. Udall in support of the Democracy for All Amendment. Simpson called Cruz’s remarks about Saturday Night Live “outrageous,” and urged Sen. Cruz to “read the damn amendment. That would be a wonderful thing.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders also joined the conversation on The Ed Show last night, noting that Sen. Cruz “sounds like he is on Saturday Night Live. It’s a very funny skit.” He pointed out that “Citizens United is a little over four years old; Saturday Night Live has been on the air for decades. And I don’t recall too many people on Saturday Night Live going to jail for making fun of politicians.” Sen. Sanders added that it’s a “preposterous argument” and “just another scare tactic.”

Indeed, as Sen. Udall said in a speech on the Senate floor yesterday, quoting People For the American Way President Michael Keegan:

‘A good rule of thumb in politics is that the scarier someone sounds, the more you should doubt what they’re saying.’ We heard some scary things in the last couple of days. Lorne Michaels is going to jail. And he’s sharing a cell with the little old lady who put up a $5 dollar political yard sign. Books and movies are banned. The NAACP, Sierra Club, and Moveon.org have been prohibited from speaking about politics. Scary stuff. But none of it is true. [emphasis added]

Here’s what is true: the proposed amendment is supported by 73 percent of voters, including a growing body of grassroots activists who have pushed for hundreds of state and local resolutions and who are making senators’ phones ring off the hook this week with thousands of calls expressing their support for fixing our democracy.

So if the best that amendment opponents like Sen. Cruz can do is to push wild-eyed myths about comedic producers being thrown in jail, it’s clear that the American people are winning this fight.
 

Second day of Senate debate to #GetMoneyOut

When Senators returned to the floor on Tuesday for the second day of debate on the Democracy for All amendment, supporters continued to build a strong case for getting money out of politics, while the opposition ramped up its hyperbole.
PFAW

Michael Peroutka Suggests That Obama Is A Greater Threat Than ISIS

The Institute on the Constitution’s Michael Peroutka — who is currently the GOP nominee for a seat on the county council in Anne Arundel County, Maryland — made his weekly appearance on “The Steve Deace Show” on Tuesday, where he somehow managed to blame President Obama for the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

He appeared to hold Obama responsible for a plank in Iraq’s Constitution, adopted in 2005, which reads that “Islam is the official religion of the State and it is a fundamental source of legislation.”

“We have somebody who calls himself president, chief executive, who says that we’re no longer a Christian country," he said, referring to remarks Obama made in 2006. "Well, think about that, if we’re no longer a Christian country and we see under Sharia law, we actually fight for Sharia law in Iraq — because for the Iraqis to adopt their constitution, which we shed our blood for, their constitution is based on Sharia law. Here we have Americans dying so that we can create and support and uphold some other form and understanding of law and government."

Peroutka wondered why someone who doesn't adhere to Christian nationalism would be upset about beheadings committed by ISIS.

“If we’re no longer a Christian nation, then why would we be upset about beheadings?” he asked. “Beheadings are all right in that other law form. We have become our own enemy by jettisoning principles on which our country was built.”

Discussing ISIS with guest host Rebecca Maxwell earlier in the interview, Peroutka seemed relatively unconcerned, suggesting that Obama was a greater threat to the country.

“Saddam Hussein, for example, he never tried to rob me of my right to property or to self-defense,” Peroutka said. “But Barack Hussein Obama does that almost constantly, when he’s not playing golf. So, my point is, the threats to American liberty and American life and our way of life, I really don’t think are foreign. I think they’re domestic.”

No, Ted Cruz, The #GetMoneyOut Amendment Wouldn’t Censor SNL

Sen. Ted Cruz has been known to make some pretty outlandish comments about the Democracy for All Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment being debated in the Senate which would overturn decisions like Citizens United, but his latest may take the cake. “Lorne Michaels [of Saturday Night Live] could be put in jail under this amendment for making fun of any politician,” Sen. Ted Cruz claimed on the floor of the Senate this week.

Luckily, a number of more grounded voices were able to set the record straight about Cruz’s wild and inaccurate remark. Last night, CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin said:

I think [Cruz] is wrong… This amendment is simply about restoring the old status quo about campaign contributions… I think his point…really has very little, if anything, to do with the constitutional amendment that the Senate is debating.

Amendment sponsor Sen. Tom Udall clarified that “[n]othing in the amendment would permit the arrest of anyone for engaging in political speech,” and pointed out that the proposal intends to bring the country’s campaign finance rules back to what they were in 1975, when Saturday Night Live began.

Other responders were a little more fiery, including former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson, who on Monday published an op-ed with Sen. Udall in support of the Democracy for All Amendment. Simpson called Cruz’s remarks about Saturday Night Live “outrageous,” and urged Sen. Cruz to “read the damn amendment. That would be a wonderful thing.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders also joined the conversation on The Ed Show last night, noting that Sen. Cruz “sounds like he is on Saturday Night Live. It’s a very funny skit.” He pointed out that “Citizens United is a little over four years old; Saturday Night Live has been on the air for decades. And I don’t recall too many people on Saturday Night Live going to jail for making fun of politicians.” Sen. Sanders added that it’s a “preposterous argument” and “just another scare tactic.”

Indeed, as Sen. Udall said in a speech on the Senate floor yesterday, quoting People For the American Way President Michael Keegan:

‘A good rule of thumb in politics is that the scarier someone sounds, the more you should doubt what they’re saying.’ We heard some scary things in the last couple of days. Lorne Michaels is going to jail. And he’s sharing a cell with the little old lady who put up a $5 dollar political yard sign. Books and movies are banned. The NAACP, Sierra Club, and Moveon.org have been prohibited from speaking about politics. Scary stuff. But none of it is true. [emphasis added]

Here’s what is true: the proposed amendment is supported by 73 percent of voters, including a growing body of grassroots activists who have pushed for hundreds of state and local resolutions and who are making senators’ phones ring off the hook this week with thousands of calls expressing their support for fixing our democracy.

So if the best that amendment opponents like Sen. Cruz can do is to push wild-eyed myths about comedic producers being thrown in jail, it’s clear that the American people are winning this fight.
 

PFAW

Pat Robertson: 'Girl-On-Girl Movies' Make Young People Think They're Gay

Today on “The 700 Club,” a viewer asked host Pat Robertson how she should handle the news that her 21-year-old daughter is in a same-sex relationship. In response, Robertson gladly offered up some of his patented bad advice for the parents of LGBT kids.

“She needs somebody to help her get her identity straight,” he said. “She may not be right in this, she may have thought she has a crush on some older girl along the way and she’s actually homosexual when she’s not, I don’t know. Why is she that way? Was she molested when she was younger?”

After co-host Terry Meeuwsen lamented that people are “telling kids to explore, it’s crazy,” Robertson criticized “the girl-on-girl movies” where “they’re getting straight actresses to play lesbians and straight men to play homosexuals and if you say anything against homosexuality you are just hooted out of court.”

“You need to love your daughter and give her a chance to work this out because if she gets deeper and deeper in it, sooner or later she is going to be disillusioned and say, ‘this is wrong, I want to come out of it,’” he added.

Tony Perkins: 'Homosexual History' Among Schools' 'Liberal Landmines'

The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins wants parents to understand the grave dangers of public education before school starts this year, warning in his radio commentary today that schools are inundated with “propaganda on everything from sex education to homosexual history.”

He advises listeners to learn about the “liberal landmines” in public schools before educators work to “undermine what you believe.”

It may be the kids who are heading back to school — but it's parents who need to do their homework! Hello, I'm Tony Perkins with the Family Research Council in Washington. You've bought the books and you've packed their lunch, but there's one thing kids shouldn't leave home without and that is your values. These days, all sorts of negative influences are pushing their way into the classroom and undermining what you believe. Students are exposed to propaganda on everything from sex education to homosexual history -- and it's becoming tougher for parents to navigate the liberal landmines. FRC wants to help by giving parents some free back-to-school resources. Log on to tonyperkins.com today and you'll be able to download pamphlets like "Homosexuality in Your Child's School" or "Common Core Math" and "Common Core English." The only way we can help our kids tackle the tough questions is by getting involved in what they're learning. On family values, parents are more than our first teachers -- they're our last defense.

Campaign Finance Reform Key to Confronting Climate Change

The science is settled – climate change is here and is already happening. For the past three decades climate scientists have warned that we must dramatically reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to avoid catastrophic climate destabilization. And yet the United States has yet to pass the legislative framework needed to shift away from a carbon-based economy.  

With the threat of climate change staring us in the face, it’s not hard to understand why there has been so little progress on this issue: enormous political spending by the fossil fuels industry, which has prevented the passage of CO2 regulation. As our friends at Common Cause recently pointed out,  since the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United, political debate around climate change has changed significantly. Prior to the Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates to corporate spending in  elections, there was legislation with bipartisan support to put a market-wide cap on carbon dioxide pollution. The House of Representatives even passed a “cap and trade” bill in 2009. In 2000, even George W. Bush campaigned on climate change, although he reneged on his promise as soon as he got elected. Fast forward to 2014 – climate change is rarely mentioned by many members of Congress – and sometimes denied outright.

"The polluters give and spend money to keep polluting," says U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), quoted in a recent article by Public Citizen president Robert Weissman. "Not truth, not science, not economics, not safety, not policy, and certainly not religion, nor morality ‒- nothing supports climate denial. Nothing except money. But in Congress, in this temple, money rules; so here I stand, in one of the last places on Earth that is still a haven to climate denial."

Fortunately there’s a solution. The Democracy for All Amendment would give Congress and state legislatures the ability to set reasonable limits on the amount of money that can be spent in political elections. To date, over three million Americans have signed a petition calling for a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics, and dozens of organizations have begun collaborating around the need for campaign finance reform.

To deal with global challenges like climate change – the United States must be able to pass laws and lead with the best interests of the people in mind – not the best interests of multinational corporations. As many environmental groups now realize, the best way to combat climate change may be to pass campaign finance reform. 

PFAW

UPDATED: 'Cancelled' World Congress Of Families Kremlin Conference Begins Today, Possibly With Special Guest Star Brian Brown

Constantin Malofeev’s group has posted photos of one of today’s panels on Facebook, which show that Brian Brown did indeed present at the event.

Ted Cruz’s Favorite List of Political Donors is Missing One (Huge) Thing

In the ongoing Senate debate on the Democracy for All Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment that would overturn decisions like Citizens United, Sen. Ted Cruz has taken to waving around a list of top political donors that ranks Koch Industries as the 58th largest donor. But what Cruz has not been saying is that this list, compiled by our friends at the indispensable Center for Responsive Politics, has — by its own admission — a big piece of the puzzle missing.

The list details “heavy hitters,” organizations that have sent large amounts of money to candidates, parties, and PACs between 1989-2014. But the list points out that it doesn’t include dark money or other outside spending, such as money given to a super PAC. In the article’s own words:

It's also important to note that we aren't including donations to politically active dark money groups, like Americans for Prosperity, a group linked to the Koch brothers, or the liberal group Patriot Majority — because these groups hide their donors; see a list of top donors that we've been able to identify to such groups. We are working to revise this list to take into account the new realities of campaign finance created by the Citizens United decision, but as it currently stands, there are significant omissions.

When you do take into account outside spending, which exploded in the wake of the 2010 Citizens United decision, the picture changes dramatically. For example, the Koch-backed network raised more than $400 million in 2012 alone — a figure that towers over the $19.7 million in Koch Industry’s direct contributions over a 25-year period to candidates, parties and leadership PACs noted on the list Cruz references. In fact, the $407 million they funneled into 2012 political activity alone is more than the top six organizations on the list have sent to candidates, parties, and PACs in the past 25 years combined. And as Washington Post reporter Matea Gold noted earlier this year, “[T]he network of politically active nonprofit groups backed by the Kochs and fellow donors in the 2012 elections financially… matched the long-established national coalition of labor unions.” To put it simply: when you look at the full landscape of political spending, it would be difficult to argue that the Koch-backed network is not among the top “heavy hitters” in our democracy.

Sen. Cruz can continue to cherry-pick the stats he finds most convenient for his quest to block meaningful Congressional action on big money in politics, but the American people know better.

PFAW

Koch Brothers’ Libre Initiative Aims To Increase Conservatives’ Share of the Latino Vote

While President Obama announced a delay in taking executive action on immigration reform until after the 2014 elections, conservatives are pushing to expand their footprint in the Latino community. As Ed Morales wrote in this month’s The Progressive magazine, the Libre Initiative — which promotes itself as a nonprofit that provides social services and talks about helping Latinos achieve the American Dream, ensuring economic  freedoms, and promoting a “market-based” solution to immigration reform — is making it its mission to build ties between the conservative movement and the Latino community.

“On its website, the Libre Initiative tries to soften its image with a series of gauzy and polished short videos called "Share the Dream." They feature a New Mexico preacher named Pastor Mike Naranjo, who overcame alcoholism with self-reliance and religion. They also feature Libre's national spokesperson Rachel Campos-Duffy and [Daniel] Garza himself.

“With string music playing behind her and a picture of the sun shining on the Washington Monument, Campos-Duffy tells her family's personal story. Then she adds: "I'm worried that government programs that are supposed to help Hispanics are actually doing harm. . . . A sense of entitlement and dependency on government is starting to take over." (Campos-Duffy is married to GOP Representative Sean Duffy of Wisconsin.)

“Garza's three-and-a-half-minute video tells of how he and his family worked in the fields. "My father never took welfare," he says, but got ahead because of self-reliance. Garza warns that folks are "caught in dependency that government offers," which, he says, has "condemned their children to a life of mediocrity and subsistence. This is not the American dream. This is an American nightmare." Garza says: "Advancing economic freedom is the best way to improve human well-being, especially for those at the bottom." Taking an evangelical tone, he concludes: "The Libre Initiative is reaching the Hispanic community before they are lost forever."”

But as Morales also points out, Libre is funded by the Koch brothers, who actively work to prevent the advancement of causes that would greatly help Latinos by fighting against them, like voting rights protections, raising the minimum wage, and expanding access to healthcare.

“And when you look at Libre's funding, you see the tentacles of the Koch brothers, who have spent millions of dollars funding rightwing groups through intermediaries like Freedom Partners and an outfit called the "TC4 Trust." Libre is one of the recipients.

"Libre received $3.8 million from TC4 and Freedom Partners" in 2012, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And Yahoo News reported that Libre's Arlington, Virginia, headquarters "also shares a floor in the same office building as Freedom Partners."”

“Robert Maguire of the Center for Responsive Politics says this type of funding arrangement is typical of the Koch brothers. "The Koch network is unique because of the concentration of money and the lengths that they go to make the flows of money as complex as possible," he says.

“Two of the main issues on Libre's agenda are denouncing the Affordable Care Act and opposing increases to the minimum wage. Ironically, Latinos stand to benefit more from expanding access to health care and raising the minimum wage than many other groups.”

Despite the challenges, Libre’s access to the bottomless bank accounts of the Koch brothers means it’s a player progressives should take seriously — and a reminder that the votes of Latino citizens are not to be taken for granted.
 

PFAW

Michael Savage: Obama Is Wiping Out Americans Through Diseases Carried By Migrant Kids

Conservative talk show host Michael Savage said yesterday that Congress should impeach President Obama over his handling of unaccompanied minors crossing the southern border, saying that the president wants America to be “invaded by Third Worlders who are diseased.”

Savage said Obama is deliberately “dumping these children” in the U.S. so they can bring exotic diseases that will “wipe out” Americans.

As we have noted, there is absolutely no evidence of a connection between the Central American children and an outbreak of a respiratory illness in the Midwest.

Of course, Savage insists that he is “just asking the question” whether “Obama’s dumping of illegal aliens into America” led to an outbreak of disease.

“I can’t prove it,” he noted, before ranting against the “Stalinists” at the CDC who don’t believe his conspiracy theory.

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