Today, under the banner of the Coalition to Protect Wisconsin Elections, a group of seventeen grassroots nonprofit organizations including People For the American Way gathered in the Wisconsin Senate Parlor to protest a batch of anti-democracy voting rights and campaign finance bills slated for Senate consideration tomorrow. The event included voters with their mouths taped shut to symbolize their voices being silenced by the proposed legislation as well as speakers from a range of progressive organizations, including PFAW regional political coordinator Scott Foval.
Speakers expressed opposition to a legislative package that will restrict access to a free and fair vote, allow unfettered spending on so-called political “issue ads,” and reduce transparency on reporting political activity in Wisconsin, including:
• Senate Bill 324, restricting early voting hours and banning the option of weekend voting like “souls to the polls” drives organized by faith communities.
• Senate Bill 267, making it more difficult for people to register to vote early.
• Senate Bill 655, repealing current law to allow lobbyists to contribute directly to legislators starting April 15 of election years, even while the legislature is in session; lowering the bar for disclosing political contributions; and allowing unlimited Internet political activity without disclosure to the Government Accountability Board.
• Assembly Bill 202, requiring poll observers to be allowed as close as three feet to poll workers, despite numerous complaints of harassing and intimidating behavior in recent elections.
Also under consideration, but not yet added to the official Senate calendar, is Senate Bill 654, which would rewrite the rules for disclosing political “issue ads” ahead of an election. And currently seeking sponsors but not yet introduced is a bill that would eliminate same-day voter registration.
These bills could do serious damage to our democracy. In 2012, hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites cast their ballots early. Several municipal clerks, who are responsible for administering elections, offered extended hours for voting to allow working people to participate in their democracy by casting their votes after work or on weekends.
In addition, the proposed new disclosure requirements would allow nearly unlimited, undisclosed political ad spending, both in broadcast and on the Internet, as well as increased allowances for solicitation activity for political bundling by political action committees and political conduits.
But “We, the People” are fighting back. Check out the video of today’s event below:
Still reeling from the demise of Arizona’s “right-to-discriminate” bill, Michele Bachmann said last week that she is tired of gay people “bullying” her and the American people.
The Minnesota congresswoman told talk show host Lars Larson in an interview at CPAC that the gay community distorted the Arizona bill by making it about gay rights — even though the bill’s sponsor himself said it was about same-sex marriage.
“There’s nothing about gays in there, but the gay community decided to make this their measure,” Bachmann said. “And the thing that I think is getting a little tiresome is the gay community have so bullied the American people and they have so intimidated politicians that politicians fear them and they think they get to dictate the agenda everywhere. Well, not with the Constitution you don’t.”
She added that gay people and “activist judges” are trying to take away her freedom: “If you want take away my religious liberties, you can advocate for that but you do it through the constitutional process and you don’t intimidate and no politician should give away my religious liberties or yours.”
Michele Bachmann says she thanks God for the Koch Brothers, the billionaire duo who have contributed tens of millions of dollars to conservative causes. During an interview at the Koch-sponsored Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last week, Bachmann defended the pro-GOP mega-donors against recent criticism from Senate majority leader Harry Reid.
The Minnesota congresswoman claimed that more wealthy donors would give to conservative causes if progressives weren’t “intimidating people from giving money to our cause” and suggested that people who criticize conservative donors be tried under the anti-organized crime RICO Act.
Bachmann told conservative talk show host Lars Larson that she thanks God for the Kochs and their giving:
I just thank God that there’s a billionaire or two on our side. All the billionaires seem to be on the radical left, so I’m glad that we have a couple on ours. I hope we get a few more that are willing that come out but realize also this is an intimidation movement, I’m sure that the donors on our side don’t like to have their names vilified and that’s what this is about, intimidating people from giving money to our cause, that’s it. There’s something called the RICO statute, the racketeering law, that should be applied against them for doing this.
After telling CPAC attendees that President Obama is coming for their cars and furniture, Dinesh D’Souza stopped by Sandy Rios In The Morning to claim that Mitt Romney would have defeated Obama if voters only watched D’Souza’s film, 2016: Obama’s America.
“I believe if every American had seen that film, Obama would not have been re-elected, I really believe that,” he said, warning that the president is ushering in America's decline.
D’Souza, who in previous interviews has claimed that Obama is “actively supporting” terrorist attacks by “radical Muslims” and “is weirdly sympathetic to Muslim jihadis,” told Rios that the president is more interested in fighting conservatives in the US “using the instruments of the state” than fighting Russian president Vladimir Putin and “Islamic radicals.”
D’Souza: I believe if every American had seen that film, Obama would not have been re-elected, I really believe that. We tested the movie on focus groups, it would make people violently anti-Obama once they watched that film. The problem of course was Romney and the fact that he had his own strategy and his strategy was—
Rios: Never say anything bad about Obama.
D’Souza: Well, no. He had a group of experts and consultants and they told him, ‘This is how you win the election,’ and so he went with it. But look, I’m very proud of the film. I think that’s interesting about that film is that many people thought it would be in a sense irrelevant after the election, it’s an election-type film, but it’s more relevant than ever now. If you want to see what’s going on in the Ukraine, you’ll see that what’s really going on—the reason Obama is not opposing Putin is he doesn’t want to. Obama has a view that America shouldn’t be this big fat bully in the world, he’d like to see China have more power, Russia have more power, Brazil, India; he’s going for what I call a multipolar world to replace the world of one superpower, us. That’s his goal.
D’Souza: With Obama you get this idea that his real enemies, from his point of view, it’s not Putin and it’s not Islamic radicals, it’s us. He’s waging a kind of war, a political war if you will, using the instruments of the state against conservatives and he’s good at that war and he’s fighting it aggressively. I don’t believe in this idea that Obama’s an amateur, he’s a bungler; no he’s very effective at what he wants to do.
Many in the anti-immigrant movement felt slighted by this year’s CPAC, which they claimed did not devote enough time to their cause. Center for Immigration Studies director Mark Krikorian lamented to the Washington Post that the American Conservative Union “pushed out” groups like his from the event; while others, including Phyllis Schlafly, Rep. Steve King, and Frank Gaffney held their own alternative event across the street.
But they needn’t have worried. Even if the ACU was trying to appear more moderate on the issue of immigration – chiefly by hosting a panel featuring conservative immigration reform advocates – anti-immigrant rhetoric was still plentiful at the event. After all, CPAC welcomed the sponsorship of ProEnglish, an anti-immigrant “English only” group run by a white nationalist, even while refusing to include groups representing LGBT and atheist conservatives.
And then, there was plenty of anti-immigrant commentary from the main stage, notably from Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann and Ann Coulter. But some of the biggest anti-immigrant applause lines came from Graham Ledger, an anchor on the new Washington Times-connected One America News network, who argued that conservatives needed to unite to oppose multiculturalism and implied that schools no longer teach "the American culture."
“How about we make the case for one common language?” he urged. “How about we make the case for a secure southern border? How about teaching the American culture in schools?”
Last week at CPAC, American Family Radio host Sandy Rios interviewed Rob Tappan, the director of external relations at Koch Industries, which was a top sponsor of the conservative summit. Rios asked Tappan about Senate majority leader Harry Reid’s recent criticism of Charles and David Koch’s exorbitant spending on behalf of right-wing political groups, including Americans for Prosperity (AFP).
Since AFP is obviously a front group for the Koch brothers, Rios asked the Koch Industries spokesman, “Are you guys—now you’re running ads in Michigan? I’m sure that you’re doing things in other states too, where are some of the other hotspots we might not know where you guys are placing some of your ads against Obamacare?”
Tappan tried to clarify that he Koch Industries and AFP are separate entities, but it was clear that both Tappan and Rios understood that the groups are not really different at all.
“We are certainly very supportive of them from a resource standpoint as well as a philosophical standpoint, we love AFP and all of the things that they do,” Tappan added. “Make no mistake, Charles Koch and David Koch are very simpatico with everything that AFP does as well as any one of a number of organizations that they support and try to help flourish.”
Religious Right talk show host Kevin Swanson railed against the Disney film Frozen on Wednesday, accusing Disney of using the movie to turn children gay.
Swanson told cohost Steve Vaughn that Satan is using the movie “to indoctrinate my 5-year-old to be a lesbian.”
Swanson: Man, how many children are taken into these things and how many Christians are taking their kids off to see the movie Frozen, produced by an organization that is probably one of the most pro-homosexual organizations in the country? You wonder sometimes, I’m not a tinfoil hat conspiratorialist, but you wonder sometimes if maybe there’s something very evil happening here. If I was the Devil, what would I do to really foul up an entire social system and do something really, really, really evil to 5- and 6- and 7-year-olds in Christian families around America?
Vaughn: I would make a movie.
Swanson: I would buy Disney. If I was the Devil, I would buy Disney in 1984, that’s what I would have done.
Vaughn: Then you would start making all these nice little movies that throw little things in there that make sin look enticing, in fact some of the worst of sins, make it look enticing or at least to start to indoctrinate slowly, turn the heat up on the frog in the pan.
Swanson: Friends, this is evil, just evil. I wonder if people are thinking: “You know I think this cute little movie is going to indoctrinate my 5-year-old to be a lesbian or treat homosexuality or bestiality in a light sort of way.” I wonder if the average parent going to see Frozen is thinking that way. I wonder if they are just walking in and saying, “Yeah, let’s get my five-year-old and seven-year-old indoctrinated early.” You know they’re not, I think for the most part they’re oblivious. Maybe they do pick up on pieces of it but they just don’t get up and walk out.
Swanson also criticized Disney for its opposition to the Boy Scouts of America’s ban on openly gay troop leaders, saying that parents should know that the company, along with public schools, is aiming to have “their children indoctrinated” into “the lifestyle of sodomy.”
He added that it would be the “worst nightmare” of parents to have their child “turn into a sodomite.”
Swanson: I’m guessing the majority of American parents don’t want their little boys turning into sodomites, at this point. if you were to interview, stick a microphone in front of most parents dropping their kids off at the average K-6 school in Colorado where they’re sporting their GLSEN signs everywhere, but if you just interview them and you ask them: “Is your vision for this little 6-year-old boy, 8-year-old boy, 9-year-old, 10-year-old boy that he turn into a sodomite?” My guess is that 60 to 70 percent of them would say, “that would be my worst nightmare.”
Of course that changes over time and it does change, everything is slipping here. You feel it slipping, can’t you? You feel the whole sexual thing slipping down and it’s affecting boys. I think the position of parents with 18- to 22-year-old boys tends to change, especially as they’re being indoctrinated by Disney and others.
American society I think is going to fracture on this one. The Boy Scouts are the fault line, you got six percent leaving, you got Disney pulling funding. This is fracturing our society and I can see how it might, I can see how some parents might be very strong, they don’t want their children indoctrinated in any way into the lifestyle of sodomy.
Vaughn: And if you fall into that camp, you got to get them out of Sodom, you got to bring them home.
BarbWire, the new conservative website run by Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber, today posted a Heritage Foundation article called “Four Businesses Whose Owners Were Penalized for Their Religious Beliefs.”
But Barber added his own editorial flare to the article by adding an image of an anti-Semitic Nazi poster which reads, “He who wears this symbol is an enemy of our people,” to describe the supposed persecution of business owners in the US who discriminate against gay customers.
The Topeka Capital-Journal today provides some interesting backstory to U.S. Senate candidate Milton Wolf’s boast that his “firearm of choice is the Ruger SR-556,” a semi-automatic rifle.
According to the Capital-Journal, Wolf bought the weapon six months before announcing that he would primary incumbent senator Pat Roberts. After the purchase, he thanked the seller for “helping Karrie and me get into the big black scary gun community.”
At least one prominent Kansas Republican isn’t buying Wolf’s act. Anne Hodgdon, whose husband sold Wolf the rifle, told the newspaper, "It bothers me when people feel they have to own sexy guns to be a Second Amendment patriot. It was part of Milton Wolf creating an image for himself. He's playing a role.”
Wolf, the primary challenger to three-term U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, speaks about buying a lifetime membership in the National Rifle Association, discloses possession of a Kansas concealed-gun permit and reveals his wife, Karrie, to be a more accurate shot than himself.
In the same breath, the Leawood physician identifies his favorite assault weapon and assures voters not everyone in his family thinks like distant cousin Barack Obama.
"My firearm of choice is the Ruger SR-556," he said. "I have hatred towards no man — only towards bad government that destroys our freedom."
At campaign stops, Wolf didn't repeat reasoning he shared with a federal firearms salesman for buying a pair of Ruger carbines six months before entering the race.
"Thanks again for helping Karrie and me get into the big black scary gun community," Wolf said in an email to the seller. "We'd love to give them a test drive with you guys sometime soon."
Anne Hodgdon, a prominent Kansas Republican, said she was uncomfortable with Wolf's repeated campaign references to the SR-556s. Her husband, J.B. Hodgdon, sold the weapons to Wolf. Wolf sent a note confirming the acquisitions in April and his campaign went live in October.
"It bothers me when people feel they have to own sexy guns to be a Second Amendment patriot," Anne Hodgdon said. "It was part of Milton Wolf creating an image for himself. He's playing a role. There are people buying into it."
Wolf, a physician, is still facing a scandal over his posting of x-rays of gunshot victims on his Facebook page.
He frequently uses the issue of gun rights to attack President Obama, who is his second cousin. In September, the Christian Post conveyed this anecdote :
"It's true, Barack Obama and I are cousins. And I would guess because of that you may wonder if I'm the real deal or not. You may have a little concern about me. Let me assure you that I am from a branch of the family that has actually read, understands and believes in the constitution," declared Wolf.
"In fact, I think I'm everything that's wrong with Barack Obama's America. I've got a wife, a job and a gun," he continued, before adding that he has several guns, not just one.
We’ve watched every speech at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), and posted highlights of many of them here on the blog. But we don’t want to ignore the equally important stories that have been playing out behind the scenes of the American Conservative Union’s annual gathering.
Here are five stories you shouldn’t miss from this year’s CPAC:
5) So Much For Diversity
Despite everything we hear about how the GOP is really making an effort this time to attract non-white voters, very few CPAC members bothered to show up for the summit’s panel on minority-outreach.
Ironically, the panelists repeatedly said that the first step to solving the GOP’s demographic problem would be for Republican candidates to show up in communities of color. But it seems conservative activists don’t even seem all that interested in attending a panel at the National Harbor hotel.
4) Shaming Poor People
Rep. Paul Ryan showed off the latest version of “compassionate conservatism” when he attacked liberals for providing people “a full stomach and an empty soul.” He also suggested that parents who take advantage of programs offering free meals to hungry schoolchildren don’t really care about their kids.
“Once I heard someone say what was important to him as a boy was that he didn’t want school lunch, he wanted a brown bag because the brown bag that he brought with his lunch in it meant that his mom cared about him,” Ryan recalled.
3) Corporate Takeover
It is no surprise that the American Conservative Union advances a pro-corporate agenda, or that the group is being rewarded handsomely for it. Slate’s Eli Clifton reports that the ACU takes huge donations “from some of America’s biggest and least popular industries: guns, big oil, and cigarettes.”
Perhaps more importantly, the ACU promotes the tobacco industry when new regulatory measures are proposed. The ACU publicly defended the interests of the tobacco industry when the FDA proposed imposing restrictions on menthol cigarettes. Responding to a July 2013 invitation for public input from the FDA, the ACU wrote to express its “strong opposition to the establishment of the Food and Drug Administration of a tobacco product standard for menthol in cigarettes.” The ACU also used its influence to promote legislation benefiting the oil and gas industries. In addition to contributions from the Anschutz Foundation, funded by oil tycoon Philip Anschutz and the Koch brothers, Chevron contributed $20,000 to the ACU Foundation in 2010. The oil and drilling industry found no shortage of support from the ACU. In December 2011 the ACU wrote to Rep. Jim Jordan, then-chairman of the Republican Study Committee, urging Jordan and all members of the House to support the “Jobs Through Growth Act,” which would “reverse the absurd finding of EPA that carbon dioxide is a ‘pollutant.’ ” “The bill would also expedite the construction and operation of the Keystone XL Pipeline,” said the ACU letter. The bill gained 59 co-sponsors but died in committee.
Along with the many inevitable jokes about how climate change can’t exist because it is cold in the winter, CPAC also hosted industry-backed panels that labeled climate change science “modern witchcraft” and “human racism.”
2) Respectable Conservatism?
Is CPAC becoming more mainstream and less crazy?
While many of the Right Wing’s most fringe and conspiratorial activists appeared at the CPAC alternative “The Uninvited” — which viewed CPAC as too liberal and infiltrated by the Muslim Brotherhood — CPAC was nonetheless kicked off by Ted Cruz and featured key speeches from characters such as Donald Trump, Ann Coulter and Sarah Palin.
Discredited right-wing conspiracy theories about Benghazi and the IRS have become fully embraced by even “mainstream” GOP figures and were mentioned frequently throughout the convention. While there may be some extreme right-wing activists who are upset with CPAC, that in no way makes the event more “moderate.”
In fact, in what has become almost an annual tradition, while the event shut out groups representing gay and atheist conservatives, it welcomed the sponsorship of an anti-immigrant group led by a white supremacist.
1) Anti-Gay Activism Is Alive And Well
Despite reports that CPAC is becoming more welcoming to gay people and gay rights supporters, anti-gay politicians and rhetoric were still a major factor at the summit. CPAC barred the gay conservative group GOProud from sponsoring or having a booth at the event. The much-touted “compromise” merely allows GOProud members to attend as individuals, which the GOProud founder dubbed an “unconditional surrender.”
Staunchly anti-gay organizations such as CitizenLink (the political arm of Focus on the Family) and the Liberty Alliance, however, were top sponsors. Another sponsor, Tradition, Family, and Property, an ultraconservative Catholic youth group, distributed anti-gay fliers that depicted GOProud as a rainbow-colored beaver undermining the conservative movement.
Main stage speakers didn’t hold back either.
Oliver North urged the GOP to fight marriage equality with the same tenacity as the fight against slavery. He also suggested that by repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the Obama administration is treating military service members like “laboratory rats in some radical social experiment.”
While conservative talk show host Michael Medved admitted that he supports the right of gay couples to adopt children, he said that conservatives must continue to oppose marriage equality and even denied that same-sex marriage has ever been banned. “There’s never been a state in this country that has ever banned gay marriage, that’s a liberal lie,” he said.
And Dr. Ben Carson, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, won raucous applause for his denunciation of gay “extra rights,” specifically the right to marry.
As in yesterday’s CPAC panel on climate change, another panel called “Can American Survive Obama’s War on Fossil Fuel?” featured an hour of climate change skeptics berating environmentalist straw men.
In a memorable moment, Alex Epstein of the Ayn-Rand worshipping Center For Industrial Progress – who was sporting an “I <3 Fossil Fuels” t-shirt – said that it was silly to ask if humans are behind climate change, because that assumes that "if man did change climate, it would be a bad thing.”
Epstein added that if you are worried about man-made climate change, you are displaying “a prejudice against the man-made” or as he likes to put it, “human racism.”
He went on to present the straw-man argument that people who are concerned about climate change are against development and ignore the benefits of industrial advances. While greenhouse gasses might warm the planet “a little bit, and warm is generally nice,” he said, the “most important effect of fossil fuels” is to ensure that people like him can move to “the best climate we can,” in his case Southern California.
Last year, Epstein claimed in a Fox News interview that “fracking is actually incredibly good for our environment.”
CPAC today invited conservative commentator Ann Coulter to debate “liberal” journalist Mickey Kaus, who ended up holding the same right-wing views on immigration reform as Coulter, and who even praised ultraconservative GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions. The two tried to outdo each other in bashing supporters of immigration reform, but it was hard to top Coulter.
Coulter attacked MSNBC for “celebrating the browning of America.” “But if you don’t celebrate it you’re a racist,” she added. “It’s going to be people who are not from America who are going to be in theory funding older, white people who are getting to their Social Security and Medicare age. I don’t think that can last, at some point they’re going to say, ‘Screw it.’”
“I used to think everything was about sex, now I realize everything is about immigration,” she added later. Coulter praised Mitt Romney for taking the “most aggressive” stance on immigration and called on the GOP to nominate another staunchly anti-immigrant candidate.
Coulter ended with this call to arms: “Amnesty is forever and you got to vote for the Republicans one more time and just make it clear; but if you pass amnesty, that’s it, it’s over and then we organize the death squads for the people who wrecked America.”
UPDATE: During a press conference with Eagle Forum head Phyllis Schlafly, Coulter compared the increasing Latino population to rape:
“My favorite network for humor is MSNBC. They’re always sneering, demographics are changing. No this isn’t a natural process,” Coulter said. “It’s like you’re being raped and the guy is telling you ‘my penis is in you.’ No, you’re raping me. Demographics are changing by force. There is nothing natural about it.”
“I also don’t think you can remind people enough Democrats have not been winning people through their dazzling arguments,” Coulter said. “They have changed the voters and in the 2012 election, if the country had not changed, by force, on purpose, by people trying to harm this country, i.e. Ted Kennedy, Romney would have won a larger landslide against Obama than Reagan won against Carter in 1980, because he won 4 points more of the white vote. Back in 1980, the country was nearly 90 percent white now.”
Last year, Ben Carson grouped gay people with the likes of the pro-pedophilia group NAMBLA and “bestiality supporters” as nefarious forces trying “to change the definition [of marriage].” Carson later apologized for the remarks, but today at CPAC the potential presidential candidate sang a different tune, saying that he will “continue to defy the PC police who have tried in many cases to shut me up.”
“I still believe that marriage is between a man and a woman,” Carson said to applause, and denied that he ever compared homosexuality to bestiality. “Of course they’re not the same thing. Anybody who believes that is a dummy, but anybody who believes somebody who says that somebody said that is a dummy, that’s the problem.”
“Of course gay people should have the same rights as everyone else,” Carson continued. “But they don’t get extra rights, they don’t get to redefine marriage.”
Michele Bachmann denounced immigration reform in her speech at CPAC today, warning that "Wall Street and big business" are "clamoring for amnesty" in order to turn the US into "a country of dependency and the welfare state."
South Dakota state representative Jenna Haggar gave a spectacularly awkward speech to CPAC yesterday, in which she said that President Obama and his "big government progressive policies" are using "handouts and welfare" to make "generations of Americans dependent on the government."
Haggar, who serves alongside her father in the State House, said that unlike Americans today, the people who settled South Dakota and the Midwest never needed government aid (she may want to read about the Homestead Acts).
Obama is changing American values, Haggar added, lamenting that "we live under the imperial president His Highness Barack Hussein Obama, mmm mmm mmm."