The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and related rulings undermining the nation’s campaign finance laws opened the doors to massive corporate and right-wing spending. Nowhere have the results been more catastrophic than in North Carolina, where a right-wing takeover subjected state residents to an avalanche of far-right legislation targeting children, teachers, voting rights, and more.
Last year PFAW’s Miranda Blue and Calvin Sloan documented the far-right takeover of state politics that was funded by billionaire Art Pope with the help of GOP strategist and current U.S. Senate candidate from Virginia, Ed Gillespie. In 2012, Pope and his allies poured millions of dollars into elections for the state legislature and millions more to elect Gov. Pat McCrory.
Once they got into power, with Pope himself installed as McCrory’s budget director, North Carolina citizens were subjected to the full fury of a far-right, Tea Party-on-steroids legislative agenda. Education spending was slashed and thousands of teachers fired while tax dollars were diverted to school vouchers.
Hundreds of thousands of citizens were denied Medicaid and unemployment benefits while taxes were cut for the state’s richest residents. And in order to perpetuate the power of Pope’s puppets, one of the nation’s worst, most restrictive voting laws was put into place to disenfranchise voters, with an assist from the Supreme Court’s gutting of a key section of the Voting Rights Act.
But North Carolina has not given Americans only a terrifying look at what a Tea Party-run country would look like. It has also given us an inspiring example of grassroots organizing on behalf of a very different set of values. Led by Rev. William Barber, head of the state’s NAACP chapter, North Carolinans began “Moral Mondays” protests at the state capitol. They were dismissed as “morons” and outside agitators by right-wing legislators. One of Pope’s right-wing groups published personal information of protestors online.
But those efforts did nothing to squelch the Moral Mondays movement, which drew thousands of people to the weekly protests. Hundreds were arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience.
Now Barber and the diverse coalition he leads have put out a call to people across North Carolina and the rest of the country to come to Raleigh on February 8 for what they hope will become the largest civil rights gathering in the south since an interfaith, interracial group of people responded to Dr. King’s call to join civil rights marchers in Selma.
On Tuesday, Rev. Barber spoke to bloggers about Moral Mondays, the February 8 march, and the values-based “fusion” organizing that is sustaining the pro-justice movement in North Carolina. If you’re going to change America, he said, you have to change the south – with broad-based, locally led movements in every state.
Barber emphasized that his movement was not partisan – that many independents and Republicans have joined in the Moral Mondays protests against the extremist and unjust laws passed by the far-right faction that now runs the state government. What motivates the new coalition, Barber said, is a combination of the constitutional principle of the common good and the biblical principle of caring for the vulnerable. A few days before the march, a policy briefing will examine the moral, economic, political and social costs of the state’s regressive legislation.
One goal of turning February 8 into a national event, Barber said, is to discourage right-wing strategists who hope to duplicate Pope’s takeover and subsequent imposition of extreme policies that Barber describes as “constitutionally inconsistent, morally indefensible, and economically insane.”
You can find out more about the February 8 march at the event website.
Washington, DC – This week People For the American Way joined with ally organizations to mark Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the third anniversary of Citizens United v. FEC with events drawing attention to the dual threats of voter suppression and unlimited corporate and special interest money in politics. Under the banner of Money Out/Voters In, organizers are hosting “Day of Action” events in more than 76 cities in 33 states on and around the weekend of January 19.
Additionally, two reports highlighting new data on spending in the 2012 election season were released today. A report by Demos and the U.S. PIRG Education Fund provides a wide-ranging analysis of the role of money in the 2012 elections, and a report by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Center for Media and Democracy examines the role dark money nonprofits and shell corporations played in 2012.
“Voter suppression and unlimited corporate and special interest money in politics serve as barriers to full civic participation, transparency, and accountability,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President at People For the American Way. “Both stand in the way of democracy. We are excited to come together with our allies on this important weekend to signal our intentions to confront the multi-faceted assault on the voices of everyday Americans in our political system.”
“Big Money over Voters, or Voters over Big Money. The Kochs and Roves have made their choice, and they're in it for the long-term. Now We, the People are rising up to announce our choice: Money Out, Voters In,” said Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen. “With the actions on January 19, a growing movement calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, a guarantee of voting rights and a restoration of our democracy is announcing that we're in it for the long haul also, and we aim to win.”
“We are facing a dual attack on our democracy – everyday voters are being disenfranchised while corporations are being hyper-enfranchised,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “We need to fix the fundamentals of our political system if we want to get down to solving our long-term problems.”
“Our reports found clear evidence of what the vast majority of Americans already understand: political power in America is concentrated in the hands of an elite few,” said U.S. PIRG Democracy Advocate Blair Bowie. “It’s time for our leaders in Washington and across the country to take concrete action to build a democracy in which every citizen is truly a political equal. It’s time we make good on the promise of government of, by, and for the people.”
“Getting big money out and more voters in are two critical fronts in the ongoing fight for true political equality in America,” said Demos Counsel Adam Lioz. “We all deserve a meaningful voice in shaping the decisions that affect our lives, and we won't stand for being blocked by red tape at the polls or drowned out by millionaires and billionaires in the public square.”
“Big, secret money is corrupting our democracy. This was the most expensive election year in the world and one of the least transparent in decades, with nonprofit groups having more influence than ever before while keeping CEO and corporate donors secret,” said Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy and a former Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department.
“Since the Citizens United decision three years ago, voters have been clear in their disdain for this decision,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “The big question is whether our elected representatives will listen to those voices. Our goal is to build a wave of grassroots support so strong that they cannot ignore it.”
For more information about the Money Out/Voters In Days of Action, please visit http://www.moneyout-votersin.org.
Groups supporting the Money Out/Voters In effort include 350.org, African American Ministers in Action, Campaign for America's Future, Center for Media & Democracy, Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Coffee Party, Common Cause, Communications Workers of America, Consumer Action, CREDO Action, Demos, Free Speech for People, Friends of the Earth, Global Exchange, Hip Hop Caucus, League of United Latin American Citizens, Move to Amend, MoveOn, NAACP, National People's Action, National Women's Health Network, Oil Change International, Organic Consumers Association, People For the American Way, Public Citizen, Rootstrikers, Stamp Stampede, Sierra Club, Story of Stuff, U.S. PIRG, United for a Fair Economy, United Republic/Represent.Us.
A group of anti-gay pastors is heading to Houston to hold a press conference outside of the NAACP’s convention today, protesting the organization’s decision to endorse marriage equality. The Coalition of African American Pastors is led by William Owens, a Memphis preacher who has been a consistent advocate on behalf of state constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage and is a founding member of the anti-gay Arlington Group. Owens launched a new coalition, 100,000 Signatures for Marriage, to stop the “hijacking of the civil rights movement by homosexuals, bisexuals and gender-confused people” and to “speak out against President Obama’s support for this destructive agenda,” and is now alleging that Obama is snubbing African Americans for not speaking at the NAACP convention even though he held a gay pride event:
"He can have the gay pride celebration in the White House, he can have Lady Gaga in the White House, and he's in the White House today because of the civil rights movement and the price that was paid for civil rights," said the Rev. William Owens, the president of the Coalition of African-American Pastors, a group that opposes Obama's gay marriage stance. "He has met with the Latinos; he meets with everything except for the people who put him where he is."
He told the Christian Post today that he is going to the NAACP convention not only to protest Obama but also attack the group’s position on marriage equality, saying that the NAACP is abandoning “its roots” and must do what “Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., called on us to do,” which according to Owens is to oppose gay rights:
"We are calling on the NAACP, a beloved organization in our eyes, to reclaim its mission. The black church founded the NAACP, and it is not the organization for the advancement of gays and lesbians – whatever the merits of that movement. Return to your roots and stand with the black church on marriage. The black church in our eyes remains the conscience of America.
"To the board of NAACP we say, 'Do not worry about the money, God will provide.' Stand with the Church and the Bible and the natural law, as our brother with whom we marched, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., called on us to do."
The coalition demanded on July 3 that President Obama meet with the group to address his stance on same-sex marriage. So far, the White House has refused to acknowledge the group's request but leaders say they plan to "turn up the heat" by asking black Christians to sit on the sidelines for the time being.
"We have requested a meeting with President Obama and until he meets with us, we are going to ask black Christians to withhold their support until he personally hears our concerns," Owens, told The Christian Post in a recent interview.
"More than anything, this is an issue of biblical principles and President Obama is carrying our nation down a dangerous road. Many African Americans were once proud of our president but now many are ashamed of his actions."
Owens added, "You have to stand on the Word of God regardless of your race or political affiliation. If the president is serious about his faith then why would he not meet with men of faith of his own race?"
People For the American Way President Michael Keegan issued the following statement in response to the decision of the NAACP’s official endorsement of marriage equality this week:
“The anti-gay Right has continually tried to turn the LGBT community and the African American community against each other. The NAACP this weekend stood up and told them in no uncertain terms that their cynical wedge strategies won’t work. Many of the NAACP’s board members, including PFAW board member Julian Bond, are already powerful leaders for LGBT equality. I am heartened to see the organization, which has led the way on so many civil rights issues of our time, take this strong stand on equality for all.”