people for the american way

How the Shifting Cuban Vote Can Change History

The Pew Research Center reported last week that the partisan affiliations of Cuban Americans are shifting dramatically as the younger generation coming of age in the United States is affiliating with the Democratic party rather than the GOP.

The shift in the Cuban population — which long leaned Republican — is helping to create a larger shift to the left among Latino voters. Studies of the Cuban population in Florida mark 2004 as the turning point when the number of registered Republicans in Miami-Dade County began declining dramatically. In 2000, 75 percent of Florida Cubans voted for George W. Bush; in 2004, 71 percent voted for Bush; and in 2008, 65 percent voted for McCain. But in 2012, Obama won 49 percent of the Cuban vote in Florida, compared to Romney’s 47 percent, the first time in recent history that a Democratic presidential candidate has outpolled the Republican in that demographic.

This shift provides a powerful example of the increasingly pivotal role of the Latino community in national elections. If Cuban Americans had voted in 2000 in the same patterns as they vote now, the outcome of the 2000 presidential election — which was decided by a handful of votes in Florida (and a bad Supreme Court decision) — could very well have been different, as would our history.

These changes are reflected in the larger Hispanic/Latino community. While the percentage of Latinos may be small, this community is growing fast and increasingly provides the margin to put progressive candidates over the top.

That’s why it makes such a dramatic difference when progressives reach out to the community and hold Republicans accountable for their anti-Latino, anti-immigrant rhetoric. Watch below some of PFAW’s ads that have engaged Latino communities in recent elections.

PFAW

Unpacking Hobby Lobby & Other SCOTUS Decisions: PFAW Member Telebriefing

Yesterday, People For the American Way members participated in a special telebriefing to discuss the Supreme Court term that wrapped up this Monday and to unpack some of the critical decisions handed down by the Court this year. The call, which was kicked off by PFAW President Michael Keegan and moderated by Director of Communications Drew Courtney, featured Senior Fellows Jamie Raskin and Elliot Mincberg, as well as Executive Vice President Marge Baker.

Discussing Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, Raskin explained the case and the damaging implications of the 5-4 decision. Highlighting the “extreme and extravagant” claim made by Hobby Lobby that its religious rights were violated, Raskin described the court’s decision that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act covers “closely held” corporations and noted that this creates a “dangerous expansion of corporate personhood.” Raskin described how this exemplifies the Court in the Citizens United era, where the far right Justices regularly find ways to rule so they can enhance the power of corporations.

Mincberg also provided background on RFRA and explained how the law was distorted and expanded in this decision far beyond what anyone had in mind when it passed by an enormous bipartisan majority 20 years ago.

Members wanted to know what actions can be taken to help address the imbalance in the Court and the troubling decisions made by the Roberts’ Court in the last few years. Baker addressed the issue of rebalancing the Court, emphasizing the importance of presidential elections on the Court’s make-up.

The telebriefing also covered the recent decisions in McCullen v. Coakley, NLRB v. Noel Canning, and Harris v. Quinn, underscoring the Court’s decisive move to the right.

Listen to the full audio of the telebriefing for more information.

 

PFAW

"Citizen Koch" Premieres Nationwide (And We Highly Recommend It!)

All around the country, the important film "Citizen Koch" is premiering in cities large and small. Find a screening near you!

The movie tracks the effects of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that lifted a century-long ban on corporate election spending by looking at the standoff in Wisconsin between state employees and GOP Governor Scott Walker. During his election and recall campaigns, Walker was bankrolled by billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, demonstrating the torrent of unlimited, anonymous political spending by corporations and billionaires that was unleashed through this Supreme Court decision. As the film follows this story, it also shows the fracturing of the Republican Party and proves how Citizens United fundamentally changed how our democracy works.

After a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise funding, and even losing its public television distributor, the movie finally comes to theatres this summer. The process that led to it being pulled from public television airwaves illustrates exactly what “Citizen Koch” depicts—that money buys not only action, but also silence. As Buddy Roemer, whose presidential run is chronicled in the film, stated, “Sometimes it's a check. Sometimes it's the threat of a check. It's like having a weapon. You can shoot the gun or just show it. It works both ways.”

People For the American Way hosted the DC premiere of the documentary film “Citizen Koch” at the Washington’s West End Cinema Friday night to a sell out crowd. Friday’s premiere was followed by a panel discussion with one of the documentary’s Academy Award-nominated filmmakers Tia Lessin, along with PFAW’s director of outreach and partner engagement Diallo Brooks and PFAW president Michael Keegan. After the screening, the audience participated in a question and answer session on the effects of big money in politics and what different organizations and mobilized citizens are doing to reverse the effects of Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United and McCutcheon.

 

PFAW

PFAW Files Amicus Brief Supporting Fair Trials for Undocumented Immigrants

Last Thursday, People For the American Way, joined by the UC Hastings Appellate Project (HAP) and the ACLU of Southern California, submitted an amicus brief to the California Court of Appeal in Velasquez v. Centrome, Inc. dba Advanced Biotech, a toxic tort case brought by an undocumented immigrant that resulted in a gross denial of justice.

Wilfredo Velasquez filed a lawsuit against a chemical manufacturer seeking damages for medical expenses after contracting a devastating lung disease due to exposure to one of the company’s toxic chemicals while on the job. During the jury selection process, where prospective jurors are questioned to discover potential biases, the trial judge wrongly disclosed Mr. Velasquez’s immigration status to the entire jury pool, despite the fact that it was not relevant to any issues in the case. The disclosure appears to have harmed Mr. Velasquez’s pursuit of justice: Even though the jury ultimately found the chemical manufacturer negligent, it awarded no damages to Mr. Velasquez. He effectively lost his case. The court refused to grant a mistrial for its error in possibly tainting the jury, and Mr. Velasquez appealed the verdict. 

PFAW submitted its amicus brief in support of a new trial for Mr. Velasquez because of the highly prejudicial nature of the court’s wrongful disclosure of his citizenship status, explaining, “Rather than protect against prejudice, the judge’s statement unnecessarily injected prejudice into the [jury] selection process, making it impossible to know whether Mr. Velasquez received his constitutionally guaranteed fair trial by impartial jurors.” Given the ongoing hostility towards undocumented immigrants, as chronicled by PFAW’s Right Wing Watch blog, PFAW’s brief urges the appellate court to find that when a trial court erroneously discloses a litigant’s citizenship status to the jury during voir dire a new trial must be awarded.

Read the full text of the amicus brief for more information
 

PFAW

North Carolina GOP Senate Candidate Thom Tillis Marginalizes Minority Communities

In an interview recorded in September 2012, North Carolina Speaker of the House and U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis compared the growing population of African Americans and Latinos to a stagnant “traditional population of North Carolina and the United States.”

In an interview highlighted by Talking Points Memo, which first spotted the 2012 interview, a spokesman for Tillis claimed that “traditional North Carolinians refers to North Carolinians who have been here for a few generations.”

If you listen to the full context of Tillis’ remarks, however, it is clear that he was referring to the “traditional population” as a group distinct from the “Latino population” and the “African American population.”

Right Wing Watch points out that “traditional population” and “traditional Americans” are frequently used by anti-immigrant extremists as euphemisms for “white population.” For instance, in The Social Contract, a journal founded by an influential anti-immigrant leader, the term is used in a 2012 essay by Brenda Walker when she says, “Traditional Americans are assailed by affirmative action and benefits for illegal aliens, which are not available to citizens.”

In speaking of the “traditional population,” Tillis stands alongside people like William Gheen, founder of anti-immigrant group Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, who said that immigration reform would create a situation in which “traditional Americans, like those who that have been here for hundreds of years in descendancy, will no longer govern our own nation.”

It is true that North Carolina’s African American, Latino, and Asian American populations are growing faster than its white population. For instance, the Latino population in North Carolina grew by 111.1 percent from 2000 to 2010, increasing from 4.7 percent of the population to 8.4 percent. Yet Tillis has consistently worked to marginalize Latinos, by cutting spending on education, opposing healthcare reform, and supporting a restrictive voter identification law ironically called “VIVA.” That’s why People for the American Way is working in North Carolina this year to make sure Latino voters know the threat posed by Tillis’ extreme agenda.

Last year PFAW’s Spanish-language advertising helped spur turnout among Latinos in Virginia’s gubernatorial elections, and did the same in many 2012 battleground contests. As we look to the 2014 elections, Tillis’ actions and statements marginalizing the Latino community will represent a real challenge to his standing in an increasingly powerful voting bloc.

PFAW

PFAW Calls Senate Hearing on VRA Legislation an “Important Step"

WASHINGTON –Chairman Patrick Leahy announced yesterday that the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on June 25 on the Voting Rights Amendment Act (VRAA), legislation intended to repair damage done by the Supreme Court last year in Shelby County v. Holder. People For the American Way's Executive Vice President Marge Baker released the following statement:

“Chairman Leahy and the Judiciary Committee should be commended for taking an important step toward correcting the damage done by last year’s Shelby decision. The right to vote is the most fundamental right in our democracy, which is why we need a modern, effective Voting Rights Act to protect it. We urge the Senate to move quickly on this, and the House to follow suit. With another national election looming, now is the time to move forward to protect the right to vote for all.”

The day of the Senate hearing will mark one year since the Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in its Shelby decision. While a bipartisan group of House members joined Chairman Leahy to introduce the VRAA in January, the House Judiciary Committee has yet to schedule a hearing.

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PFAW Report Exposes Deceptive New Religious Right Strategy

WASHINGTON –  Right-wing groups that oppose advances in marriage equality and reproductive justice have increasingly embraced a new tactic to push their agenda: the claim that opposition to them on policy amounts to oppression of their religious beliefs. A new report from People For the American Way exposes how the anti-gay, anti-choice Religious Right uses false and misleading stories to portray itself as a victim of religious persecution and intolerance. 

The report, “The Persecution Complex: The Religious Right’s Deceptive Rallying Cry,” illustrates how Religious Right activists and elected officials have attempted to portray the increasing unpopularity of their stances on a number of cultural issues as evidence of oppression of their religious faith and represent themselves as the only holdouts in a society that is turning its back on moral values.

“Religious Right leaders hold themselves up as the victims,” stated People For the American Way’s President Michael B. Keegan. “This is a powerful talking point, even if not true. We need to expose these distortions for what they really are—an attempt to protect the Right’s ability to discriminate and push its policy preferences on the rest of us.”

The report explores a number of myths that have become widespread on the Religious Right, despite having little or no basis in reality:

  • Two middle school girls are forced into a lesbian kiss as part of an anti-bullying program
  • An Air Force sergeant is fired because he opposes same-sex marriage
  • A high school track team is disqualified from a meet after an athlete thanks God for the team’s victory
  • A Veterans Affairs hospital bans Christmas cards with religious messages
  • A man fixing the lights in a Christmas tree falls victim to a wave of War-on-Christmas violence
  • An elementary school student is punished for praying over his school lunch
  • A little boy is forced to take a psychological evaluation after drawing a picture of Jesus

None of these stories is true.

These unfounded stories feed into a narrative that portrays conservative Christians as the victims of LGBT rights, reproductive justice, religious pluralism and secular government. This narrative, in turn, has fueled the legislative and legal efforts to turn back any progressive advances.   

“Using the resonant rhetoric of religious persecution, bolstered by often-bogus stories of purported anti-Christian activities, the Religious Right has attempted to tip the balance away from pluralism and accommodation to a legal system that allows individuals and businesses to broadly exempt themselves from policies they disagree with,” the report states. “Even when that means trampling on the religious rights of others.”

Read the full report here.

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Spanish-Language Radio Ad Challenges Tillis in North Carolina

People For the American Way is launching a Spanish-language radio ad today challenging North Carolina Senate candidate Thom Tillis and his extreme stances on education, healthcare, and tax breaks for the rich. The ad will air starting today in Charlotte, Greensboro, and Raleigh.

“Thom Tillis has pushed an extreme agenda throughout his career,” said Randy Borntrager of People For the American Way. “He’s given tax breaks to the most privileged of our society while raising taxes on middle class families, and wants to roll back critical health care protections for families. Thom Tillis’ dangerous agenda is too extreme and Latino voters deserve to know what is at stake this election.”

The ad is the latest in PFAW’s campaign to connect with Latino voters in key states, exposing the extreme views of GOP candidates. (An English translation of the ad is available below. You can hear an English version of the ad here.)

ROSA: Como mamá, como mujer, como Hispana,
yo no apoyo al republicano Thom Tillis.
Y no lo haré ¡nunca!
Porque jamás apoyaré a una persona que recorta los fondos públicos a la educación y reduce el gasto social en salud.
¡¿Pues quién se cree este señor?!
Es obvio que no entiende, ni valora, la importancia de la educación, y no apoya el futuro de nuestros hijos.
¡Pero eso sí! Apoya los recortes en impuestos para yates y aviones de los ricos. 
Thom Tillis, ¡por favor!
Hay que ordenar sus prioridades.
Además, quiere quitarle el seguro médico a quienes lo tienen.
El seguro médico que yo ¡y SIETE MILLONES de norteamericanos! por fin tenemos, y que nos protege a nosotras y a nuestra familia.
Carolina del Norte es nuestro hogar.
Y el republicano Thom Tillis está en contra de todo lo que es importante para las familias Hispanas. Empezando por un mejor futuro para nuestros hijos.
Y si él está en contra de eso, yo estoy en contra  de él.
¡Así de fácil!
VO DISCLAIMER:
Este mensaje es pagado por People For the American Way, (www.pfaw.org) y no está autorizado por ningún candidato o comité de candidato. People For the American Way es responsable por el contenido de este anuncio.

In English:

ROSA: As a mom, a woman, a Hispanic, I do not support Republican Thom Tillis.
And I never will.
Because I will never support a person that cuts public education funds and reduces social spending on health.
Who does this gentleman think he is?
It's obvious that he does not understand nor value the importance of education and doesn't support our kids future.
But what does he do? He supports tax breaks for the rich with yachts and airplanes.
Thom Tillis, please!
Set your priorities straight!
Plus, he wants to take away health insurance from those who have it.
The health insurance that I, and seven million Americans, finally have, and that protects us and our families.
Look, North Carolina is our home.
And Republican Thom Tillis is against everything that's important for Hispanic families. Starting with a better future for our kids.
And if he's against that, I'm against him.
As easy as that!
VO DISCLAIMER:
Paid for by People For the American Way (www.pfaw.org) and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. People For the American Way is responsible for the content of this advertising.

PFAW, a national group protecting civil rights and civil liberties, has worked in multiple local, state, and federal campaigns to engage Latino voters.

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How PFAW Members Answered Right-Wing Extremism in 2013 -- And Will Keep Fighting!

The Tea Party has full control of Congress in its sights, but PFAW members standing side by side can defeat them and defend liberty, justice and The American Way.

How PFAW Members Answered Right-Wing Extremism in 2013 - And Will Keep Fighting!

PFAW supporters fought back against the rise in right-wing extremism we saw in 2013. Standing side by side, PFAW members will be ready to defend the American Way once again in the important year to come. (Watch the video.)

Thank You from PFAW Founder Norman Lear

Please take a moment to watch this end-of-the-year thank you message for you and all of PFAW's wonderful supporters around the world from PFAW founder Norman Lear:

year end donate

PFAW

People For the American Way Endorses Rob Zerban for Congress

Washington, DC – People For the American Way today announced its endorsement of Rob Zerban for Congress. Zerban is a strong progressive who is running to defeat Rep. Paul Ryan in Wisconsin’s 1st District.

“Rob Zerban is a great candidate and will make a great representative of Southeast Wisconsin in Congress,” said Randy Borntrager, Political Director of People For the American Way. “Rob knows what it will take to rebuild the American middle class. He’s committed to preserving the social safety net while building a strong economy where businesses can thrive.

“At a time when the Republican party is embracing extremism at all levels, Rob will be a strong voice for all Wisconsinites. Rob’s opponent, Paul Ryan, joined with Missouri Rep. Todd Akin in an attempt to redefine rape, and is now hoping to carry his party’s War on Women to the White House as vice president.

“Ryan is also the architect of the GOP’s disastrous plan to destroy Medicare and trash the social contract. Ryan’s now peddling that plan to the nation as the Republican candidate for vice president, but he also has to face the voters of his own district. America can’t afford to have Paul Ryan in the driver’s seat for our economy, in the White House or in Congress.”

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2012 Federal Candidate Endorsements

Arizona | California | Colorado | Connecticut | Florida | Illinois | Iowa | Hawaii | Maine | Massachusetts | Minnesota | New Hampshire | New Mexico | New York | Ohio | Pennsylvania | Rhode Island | Texas | Vermont | Wisconsin

NATIONAL

obama

PFAW supports the re-election of President Barack Obama.

www.BarackObama.com

ARIZONA

carmona

Richard Carmona, running for Senate in Arizona – Carmona, a solid progressive, is a Vietnam War veteran, recipient of two Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars, and the former Surgeon General of the United States. This election represents a rare opportunity to convert Arizona into a genuine swing state for years to come.

www.CarmonaForArizona.com

raul

Congressman Raul Grijalva, running for Congress in Arizona’s 3rd District – Mr. Grijalva is the current representative for Arizona’s 7th District but is running for reelection in the 3rd District due to redistricting. The son of a migrant worker from Mexico, Grijalva was first elected to the House in 2002. Grijalva has been a strong progressive voice in the House, standing up for the rights of all Americans.

www.StandWithRaul.com

sinema

Kyrsten Sinema, running for Congress in Arizona’s 9th District – Sinema has extensive experience serving Arizonians as a former member of both the Arizona House and theArizona Senate. A People For the American Way endorsee, former PFAW Foundation board member, and member of the Young Elected Officials (YEO) Network, Sinema has been a dogged advocate of civil rights for all Americans.

www.KyrstenSinema.com

CALIFORNIA

lowenthal

Alan Lowenthal, running for Congress in California’s 47th District – First elected to the California state Senate in 2004, Lowenthal currently represents California’s 27th District as a state senator. Lowenthal received the Rivie Award from the Friends of Los Angeles River (FoLAR), an organization dedicated to restoring the natural habitat surrounding the L.A. River, for his promotion of environmental stewardship. He has received endorsements from a variety of progressive organizations and PFAW is proud to join them.

www.AlanLowenthal.com/2012

rogers

Lee Rogers, running for Congress in California’s 25th District – A nationally-known podiatrist and expert on health policy, Dr. Rogers has vowed to use his extensive healthcare experience to promote sensible measures that will protect Social Security and Medicare, improve the quality of care for all Americans, and shift towards a preventive emphasis for treatment. Rogers faces Republican incumbent Bud McKeon, who was first elected in 1992.

www.LeeRogers2012.com

huffman

Jared Huffman, running for Congress in California’s 2nd District – Huffman is a Democratic member of the California State Assembly, where he has served since 2006. Huffman has an impressive progressive record in the legislature and has vowed to continue his fight for accessible healthcare, equality, women’s rights, and investment in education in the U.S. House. Huffman served his local community for 12 years as a member of the board of the Marin Municipal Water District.

www.JaredHuffman.com

ruiz

Dr. Raul Ruiz, running for Congress in California’s 36th District – Dr. Ruiz is a medical doctor and Latino activist who won the 2009 Influential Latino of the Year Award from the Inland Empire Hispanic Image Awards in recognition of his community work. Ruiz is running against Republican incumbent Mary Bono Mack, in a very tight contest. 

www.DrRaulRuiz.com

bera

Dr. Ami Bera, running for Congress in California’s 7th District -- A medical doctor and former county health official, Dr. Bera is uniquely positioned to advance strong, progressive healthcare solutions.  Dr. Bera most recently served as the Sacramento County Chief Medical Officer, where he fought to expand access to affordable healthcare.

www.BeraForCongress.com

chen

Jay Chen, running for Congress in California’s 39th District – Chen has an impressive background as small business owner, intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, and community activist. His opponent, incumbent Rep. Edward Royce, has repeatedly co-sponsored a bill that requires all governmental services be English-only, has tried to end the Voting Rights Act, opposed much-needed governmental regulation of the mortgage industry in the wake of the Recession, and is a proponent of Arizona’s draconian new anti-immigrant law.

www.ChenForCongress.com

takano

Mark Takano, running for Congress in California’s 41st District -- A Martin Luther King Visionaries Award winner, Takano has extensive experience at the community level and embraces a series of sensible, progressive policies that will better the nation. Takano’s election will help bring diversity to the U.S. House and advance progressive causes at the national level.

www.MarkTakano.com

COLORADO

pace

Sal Pace, running for Congress in Colorado’s 3rd District – Pace currently represents Colorado’s 46th District in the state House, a position he’s held since 2008. While a state representative, Pace has worked with both parties for the good of Colorado, fighting for good paying jobs, and accountability and transparency in the state government.  Pace is exactly the type of leader we need in Washington.

www.PaceForColorado.com

miklosi

Joe Miklosi, running for Congress in Colorado’s 6th District – Currently a member of the Colorado State House, Miklosi is now running for Colorado’s 6th District against Mike Coffman,  a proud member of the Tea Party Caucus.  Colorado’s 6th District has been labeled the most competitive district in the nation.  Miklosi has vowed to fight for every woman’s access to birth control and a woman’s right to choose.

www.JoeMiklosi.com

CONNECTICUT

murphy

Congressman Chris Murphy (D-CT), running for Senate in Connecticut – Murphy has been a trendsetter for progressivism in Connecticut – in 2005 he was one of the first co-sponsors of a bill that made Connecticut only the third state to legalize gay marriage (the bill was upheld by the state Supreme Court in 2008). Murphy faces business magnate Linda McMahon of World Wrestling Entertainment fame, and is sure to be outspent as McMahon pours her personal fortune into her campaign.

www.ChrisMurphy.com

FLORIDA

grayson

Alan Grayson, running for Congress in Florida’s 9th District – A self-described “congressman with guts,” Grayson gained notoriety when he worked as a specialist in whistleblower fraud causes directed at Iraq War contractors. Grayson filed a suit under the False Claims Act which became the only successful prosecution of those who illegally profited from the war.  He is a proven force for progressivism and the People For the American Way is happy to lend him our support.

CongressmanWithGuts.com

frankel

Lois Frankel, running for Congress in Florida’s 22nd District – A former Mayor of West Palm Beach and Florida state representative, Frankel was named one of the top 10 progressive candidates to watch in the 2012 Congressional elections by Democracy for America. Frankel has a strong record of promoting civil rights for all Americans. The 22nd District is a competitive district and represents a great opportunity to elect a proven progressive champion.

www.LoisFrankelForCongress.com

ILLINOIS

gill

David Gill, running for Congress in Illinois’ 13th District – Illinois’ 13th Congressional District, while typically a Republican stronghold, has been rendered competitive due to recent redistricting, presenting an excellent opportunity to help shift the seat to Democratic control. An emergency room physician, Dr. Gill is a respected medical expert who will bring his knowledge to bear on healthcare policy – among other things, Dr. Gill has vowed to uphold and expand Medicare.

www.Gill2012.org

IOWA

vilsack

Christie Vilsack, running for Congress in Iowa’s 4th District – Vilsack was Iowa’s first lady from 1999-2007, and if elected will become the first-ever female member of Congress from Iowa. She is facing Rep. Steve King, a five-time Republican incumbent and one of the national leaders of the anti-immigrant movement.  It is important that progressives around the country lend her their support.

www.ChristieVilsackForIowa.com

HAWAII

hirono

Congresswoman Mazie Hirono (D-HI), running for Senate in Hawaii – A former lieutenant governor of Hawaii, Hirono has consistently advocated for the affordability and accessibility of healthcare for all Americans and has sponsored numerous bills promoting these goals. Meanwhile, her opponent -- former Hawaii governor Linda Lingle – supports a cluster of regressive policies: as governor she ended Hawaii’s Immigrant Health Initiative and vetoed a bill that would have legalized civil unions, and she now supports regressive spending and tax cuts that will harm the middle class. Hawaiians face a stark choice this November.

www.MazieForHawaii.com

MAINE

pingree

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-ME), running for reelection in Maine’s 1st District– In 2010, Pingree became the first woman ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Maine, a year in which she was also a PFAW and PFAW Voters Alliance endorsee. Pingree advocates for affordable healthcare, the promotion of viable alternative energy sources, and the protection of veterans’ benefits.

ChelliePingree.com

MASSACHUSETTS

warren

Elizabeth Warren, running for Senate in Massachusetts – Warren has extensive knowledge of finance policy, serving as chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel, a group responsible for overseeing the operations of the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP). Warren subsequently became the primary advocate for a federal entity dedicated to protecting consumer rights, leading to the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2010. Warren is in a hotly contested race to unseat Republican incumbent Scott Brown, who is facing his first reelection effort this year.

www.ElizabethWarren.com

MINNESOTA

graves

Jim Graves, running for Congress in Minnesota’s 6th District – Graves, a successful businessman, is running to unseat Republican incumbent Michele Bachmann, a well-known Tea Party extremist. People For the American Way is proud to lend him its support. His victory will represent a strong refutation of the right-wing extremism that has taken over much of the Republican Party.

JimGraves.com

NEW HAMPSHIRE

shea-porter

Carol Shea-Porter, running for Congress in New Hampshire’s 1st District – In 2006, Shea-Porter became the first woman elected to Congress from New Hampshire after winning an upset victory against her Republican opponent. Now seeking to regain her former House seat, Shea Porter has vowed to protect veterans’ benefits, oppose deficit reduction measures that harm the poor and middle class, preserve essential social welfare programs, and expand investment in education.

www.SheaPorter.com

kuster

Ann McLane Kuster, running for Congress in New Hampshire’s 2nd District -- Kuster has a long history of promoting progressive change in New Hampshire through her legal career, community work, and progressive advocacy. She supports LGBT equality, including the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. Her race is expected to be extremely competitive.

www.KusterForCongress.com

NEW MEXICO

heinrich

Congressman Martin Heinrich (D-NM), running for Senate in New Mexico – Congressman Heinrich was first elected to the U.S. Congress from New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District in 2008, becoming the first Democrat ever to represent that district. Sabato’s Crystal Ball – a prestigious website run by the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics -- said in March that Heinrich’s race will be one of eight that will effectively decide which party controls the Senate next year.

www.MartinHeinrich.com

NEW YORK

bishop

Congressman Tim Bishop, running for reelection in New York’s 1st District – After a long career in education, Bishop became involved in politics in 2002, running for and winning a seat in the U.S. House as a representative for New York’s 1st District. He is a top-rate progressive advocate running in one of the most competitive Congressional districts in the nation – he won reelection by a mere 593 votes in 2010.

BishopForCongress.com

shinagawa

Nate Shinagawa, running for Congress in New York’s 23rd District -- If elected, Shinagawa, along with Grace Meng, will become the first Asian American representatives in Congress from the Northeast. Shinagawa, a strong progressive, is a longtime participant in People For the American Way Foundation’s Young Elected Officials (YEO) and Front Line Leaders Academy (FLLA) programs.

www.NateShinagawa.com

meng

Grace Meng, running for Congress in New York’s 6th District –  Meng  has represented New York’s 22nd District in the state legislature since 2009.  Meng has promised to fight for good jobs, safe neighborhoods, and quality schools in Washington.  Meng was a public interest lawyer and has vowed to fight for unions and against the war on women. 

GraceForNewYork.com

schreibman

Julian Schreibman, running for Congress in New York’s 19th District – Schreibman has an impressive record of governmental service, including serving as a federal prosecutor and as the legal counsel for the CIA, where he helped prosecute terrorists responsible for several U.S. embassy bombings. Schreibman is running against Chris Gibson, who supports the Romney-Ryan austerity budget and who voted to defund Planned Parenthood. People For the American Way is glad to support Schreibman in what will undoubtedly be a tight race.

JulianForNY.com

OHIO

brown

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), running for reelection to his second term – Sen. Brown has served Ohioans for over 30 years, in the General Assembly, as Secretary of State, and in the U.S. House and Senate. Now, as the senior senator from Ohio, Brown occupies a crucial position that he has consistently used to bolster progressive causes on the national stage.

www.SherrodBrown.com

sutton

Congresswoman Betty Sutton, running for reelection in Ohio’s 16th District – Sutton has represented Ohio’s 13th District in the U.S. House since 2007 but will be running in the 16th District against Republican incumbent Rep. Jim Renacci due to redistricting. Sutton has advanced progressive causes throughout her career, which began when she became the youngest woman ever elected to the Ohio House in 1993.

www.BettySuttonForCongress.com

PENNSYLVANIA

boockvar

Kathy Boockvar, running for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 8th District – Running in what will be one of the most competitive U.S. House races this election cycle, Boockvar, a strong progressive, faces Independence Hall Tea Party endorsee and incumbent Republican Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick, who has a 0% rating from both NARAL and Planned Parenthood, a 100% rating from Right to Life, and voted to strip funding from Planned Parenthood.  Despite this, Fitzpatrick labels himself “one of the most independent members of Congress.”

www.Boockvar.com/

trivedi

Dr. Manan Trivedi, running for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 6th District – Dr. Trivedi is an Iraq War veteran and a physician at Reading Hospital and Medical Center in Pennsylvania. Trivedi advised the Obama campaign on healthcare policy and has recently been named one of Democracy for America’s “Dean Dozen,” the most prestigious endorsement a candidate can receive from that organization.

www.TrivediForCongress.com

RHODE ISLAND

whitehouse

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), running for reelection to his second term –Sen. Whitehouse, first elected to the Senate in 2006, has been a strong progressive voice in Washington: he opposes the unnecessary and regressive austerity of the Romney-Ryan budget, and has vowed to protect Medicare and Social Security and promote economic initiatives that bolster the middle class.

www.WhitehouseForSenate.com

TEXAS

castro

Joaquin Castro, running for Congress in Texas's 20th District -- Joaquin Castro currently represents the 125th District in the Texas House of Representatives. Born and raised in San Antonio, Castro was on the national stage at the Democratic National Convention introducing his twin brother, San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, who delivered the convention keynote address. Rep. Castro is a member of People For the American Way Foundation's Young Elected Officials (YEO) Network.

www.castroforcongress.com

VERMONT

sanders

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), running for reelection to his second term -- Sen. Sanders has been a stalwart advocate of progressive values throughout his years of service and is a powerful force for progressivism in national politics.

www.Bernie.org

WISCONSIN

baldwin

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), running for Senate in Wisconsin – Baldwin has served Wisconsin for over 25 years, as Dane County Supervisor, a member of the Madison Common Council, a state representative and a member of the U.S. House. If elected this year, she will become the first openly LGBT member of the U.S. Senate.

www.TammyBaldwin.com

pocan

Mark Pocan, running for Congress in Wisconsin’s 2nd District – A Young Elected Officials Network  member and current representative of Wisconsin’s 78th District in the state legislature, Pocan was recently named one of the top 10 progressive candidates in the country by Democracy for America. Pocan, who was first elected in 1999, has a proven record of promoting progressive causes.

PocanForCongress.com

kreitlow

Pat Kreitlow, running for Congress in Wisconsin’s 7th District – Kreitlow is a former state Senator and the first of his family to graduate from college.  In March 2010, his opponent, Incumbent Sean Duffy, told attendees at a town hall that he still “struggles” even though he was making $174,000 on a Congressional salary.  Duffy has refused to do any televised debates with Kreitlow, even though he wanted 20 debates when he was running for the same seat in 2010.

KreitlowForCongress.com

zerban

Rob Zerban, running for Congress in Wisconsin’s 1st District – Zerban is running to unseat Rep. Paul Ryan, who is also the Republican vice presidential nominee (Wisconsin law allows Ryan to simultaneously maintain a House reelection bid while running for vice president). This election has great symbolic importance and, with progressive support, a Zerban victory would serve as a definitive refutation of Ryan-esque fiscal policy that will resonate around the nation.

www.RobZerban.com

PFAW Report: Predatory Privatization Puts Citizens and Communities at Risk

 Washington, DC -- State and local budget crises and the election of anti-government ideologues have left taxpayers and communities increasingly vulnerable to predatory “privatization” of government services and public infrastructure. “Desperate government is our best customer,” says one finance company executive specializing in the privatization of public infrastructure. A new report from People For the American Way documents that the push to privatize public services and assets often reduces the quality of services, burdens taxpayers and threatens democratic government.

A copy of the full report, Predatory Privatization: Exploiting Financial Hardship, Enriching the One Percent, Undermining Democracy [pdf] is available here: http://site.pfaw.org/pdf/Predatory-Privatization.pdf

“The combination of budget deficits, anti-tax ideology, and financial predators can be deadly to the interests of citizens and communities,” said People For the American Way President Michael Keegan. “Right-wing anti-government and anti-union ideologues are exploiting tough economic times and taking advantage of desperate public officials. The public picks up the tab but gives up control and accountability. The public good should never be on the auction block. If citizens are not vigilant, they will end up paying a terrible long-term price for deals to plug short-term budget holes. ”

Among the examples examined in Predatory Privatization:

  • In 2009, the city of Chicago sold revenues from the city’s parking meters to a group of companies led by Wall Street giant Morgan Stanley. Investors got the right to control parking meter revenues for 75 years. Not only did the city give up revenue, but it actually has to pay the private company whenever a street is closed for repairs or for a street fair; the company claims city taxpayers already owe it almost $50 million.
  • Republican officials are pushing to privatize more prison operations, even though private prisons often end up costing taxpayers more. The multi-billion-dollar private prison industry has an incentive to increase the numbers of prisoners incarcerated and to keep people locked up as long as possible – and spends millions to lobby state legislators.
  • Investors are lining up – and lobbying legislators – to get their hands on the billions of dollars spent on public education. Many schools are being privatized despite very mixed results. Many investors rake in millions even though many students in these private schools do much worse than their traditional counterparts.
  • Indiana turned over its toll road to foreign firms for 75 years. Fine print in the contract has required taxpayers to reimburse investors when Indiana waived tolls for safety reasons during a flood. The contract allows the company to raise tolls every year; they doubled during the first five years of the 75-year contract.


The report also gives individuals advice on how to protect the public interest by responding strategically to privatization schemes, including a set of crucial questions that public officials should be forced to answer before voting on any proposal.

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Top Romney Adviser Backs Bachmann Witch Hunt – PFAW Calls on Romney to Stand Up to McCarthyism

Washington, DC – As Mitt Romney leaves on a six-day international trip meant to bolster his foreign policy credentials, People For the American Way is calling on him to reject recent comments by his own foreign policy adviser, John Bolton.

Yesterday during an interview with anti-Muslim activist Frank Gaffney, Bolton defended Rep. Michele Bachmann’s ongoing McCarthy-esque attacks on Muslim-Americans serving in the U.S. government. Bolton’s comments, first reported by PFAW’s Right Wing Watch, place him at odds with prominent Republicans including Sen. John McCain and House Speaker John Boehner, who have both repudiated Bachmann’s unfounded allegations about “deep penetration” of the U.S. government by the Muslim Brotherhood and her targeting of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s aide Huma Abedin.

“Mitt Romney is traveling to Europe to prove that he has the foreign policy chops to be President,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. “But first he needs to deal with a foreign policy problem of his own right here at home. Five members of Congress, led by Rep. Michele Bachmann, are targeting Muslim-American public servants in an old-fashioned witch hunt. Their dangerous and unfounded accusations are resonating halfway across around the world and undermining American diplomacy in the Middle East at a critical moment.

“Top Republicans like Speaker Boehner and Senator McCain have denounced Bachmann’s ‘dangerous’ efforts, and even her former campaign manager ripped her ‘outrageous and false charges,’” said Keegan. “Now one of Romney’s top foreign policy advisers is backing Bachmann’s witch hunt, but Romney hasn’t said a word.

“If Romney can't stand up to Michele Bachmann at home, how could he ever be a world leader?” asked Keegan. “Bachmann’s witch hunt is endangering the lives and livelihoods of hard-working Americans while undermining diplomacy abroad. Romney needs to take a stand on this basic issue at home or his foreign policy trip will be a failure before it ever gets going.”

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Earlier this week, People For the American Way called on Boehner to remove Bachmann from the House Intelligence Committee, where she is privy to sensitive national security information.

Activists Deliver 1.9 Million Petitions Calling for Constitutional Amendment to Protect Democracy

Today, concerned citizens and organizations delivered 1,959,063 signatures calling for overturning Citizens United and related cases by amending the Constitution. The petitions were delivered in connection with hearings held by the Constitution Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee to examine the impact of Citizens United, Speech Now and related cases and the need for constitutional remedies to restore the democratic promise of America. The millions of Americans whose names appear on these petitions reflect the deep-seated public concern about the state of our democracy and the growing grassroots movement to restore government, of, by, and for the people.

Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way:

“The interests of the American people should be front and center in our elections, and today, 1.9 million Americans made that point loud and clear. But despite the message we sent Congress today, all over the country, our voices are being drowned out by the powerful corporations and the super wealthy. Short of changing who sits on the Supreme Court, amending the Constitution is the only way to undo the damage done to our democracy by Citizens United. The American people overwhelmingly support that idea, and by holding these hearings, our elected representatives are honoring the millions of Americans who are calling for a Constitution that ensures that “We the People” means all the people, not just the privileged few.”

Leslie Watson Malachi, Director of African American Ministers in Action, a program of People For the American Way:

“This petition drive proves that our collective voice can be the spark of change. Because millions of people have signed their names to proclaim that our democracy is not for sale, this grassroots movement has the power to take back our elections and ensure government by people through fair and transparent elections. We’ve made it clear to our elected representatives that a constitutional amendment is necessary to uphold that ideal. These hearings show how far this movement has come.”

Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen:

“The choice is simple: We can have a working democracy, in which the people rule, or we can have a Citizens United-facilitated plutocracy, in which giant corporations and the super-rich dominate elections. Rescuing our democracy requires that we overturn Citizens United and other decisions that constitutionalize the “right” of corporations and the super-rich to buy elections. With no prospect of the Court revisiting the damaging decisions it has inflicted, we need a constitutional amendment to reestablish the simple principle that Democracy is for People.”

Justin Ruben, Executive Director of MoveOn.org Political Action:

“We've seen this summer how a handful of billionaires are trying to buy the election. That's one of the reasons nearly 700,000 MoveOn members have spoken out in favor of overturning Citizens United, getting big money out of our elections, and preventing our democracy from being sold to the highest bidder.”

Becky Bond, Political Director of CREDO Action:

“How can the American people have an equal voice in our democracy when corporations are flooding the political system with millions in secret campaign donations? We must pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, end corporate personhood and help get shadowy money out of politics for good.”

Bob Edgar, President & CEO of Common Cause:

“Super PACs have transformed our elections into the sport of kings. Billionaires and corporations are pooling unlimited sums of money into joint accounts, pledging astronomical sums in support of or opposition to candidates, and recklessly drowning out the voices of the American people. These corporations and mega donors are motivated by an expectation of influence and access, often at the expense of the public interest. We cannot afford to auction off our vibrant democracy to the highest bidder.”

Lisa Graves, the Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy/ ALECexposed.org:

"While billionaires are openly writing million-dollar checks to Super PACs, millions more is being secretly funneled to front groups whose ads may affect who wins and wields power over people and policy. Deceptively named nonprofit groups are becoming the Swiss bank accounts of elections, receiving secret multi-million dollar gifts that buy ads to influence how Americans vote. We may never know the true identity of those attempting to buy our elections through such shadowy groups -- whether they are corporations or people, domestic or foreign -- but we do know American democracy is increasingly for sale and that's why We the People are demanding that the Constitution be amended to fight this corruption."

Peter Schurman, Campaign Director at Free Speech For People:

“For a campaign we all knew would be difficult, the Senate hearing today is a major milestone: it shows that the growing movement for a constitutional amendment is starting to make a dent in Washington. It's time for Congress and the states to overrule the Supreme Court and make it clear that we the people, not we the corporations, are in charge of American democracy.”

Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, National Field Organizing Director, Move to Amend

"In community after community citizens are making clear through ballot initiatives and resolutions that they want their elected representatives to pass an amendment to overrule the Court by abolishing corporate personhood and the doctrine of money as free speech. These hearings are one step toward achieving that amendment, and we won't stop our efforts until the majority of the members of Congress are behind us and show that they understand that their job is to serve the people, not corporations or the privileged few."

David Levine, American Small Business Council CEO and Co-Founder:

“Business leaders would rather invest their money to create jobs than have to compete with big business bank accounts to be heard, and they are fighting back. More than 2,000 business leaders have joined the American Sustainable Business Council's (ASBC) Business for Democracy campaign to fight for a constitutional amendment that overturns the Citizens United decision.”

Eric Byler, President of the Coffee Party Board of Directors:

“Public awareness about money in politics is growing rapidly and crossing all cultural and political divides. Just like the founders of this nation, we are responding to an abuse of power by elite profiteers who feel entitled to govern over people. The task before us is to finish what our founders started — not to start a revolution but to complete one — by amending the Constitution and reestablishing the right to self-governance for people; not profiteers.”

Blair Bowie of U.S. PIRG:

“For nearly forty years, the Supreme Court has been driving us down a road that will inevitably dead end in the demise of American democracy. In equating money with speech the Court rejected the notion that in a democracy the size of your wallet should not determine the volume of your voice. Instead it enshrined the rights of artificial entities and ultra-wealthy individuals to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens in a flood of often secret cash. Ultimately, we can only get out of this judicial rut by amending the U.S. Constitution to clarify to the Supreme Court that the first amendment was never meant to be used as a tool for special interests to co-opt our democratic process. Today’s hearing and the massive citizen mobilization across the country since Citizens United show that the American people are ready to turn this car around.”

Stephanie Taylor, Co-Founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee:

"An unprecedented amount of secret money is already surging through our political system because of the Citizens United ruling. As we’re demonstrating today, there is huge public support for passing a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Americans want to take our democracy back from big corporations and billionaires. Passing this amendment is a critical first step.”

Bob Fertik, President of Democrats.com:

“The Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United was catastrophic for American democracy. The American people now see the results in the form of endless TV attack ads, most of which are aimed at destroying President Obama. The Super PAC Billionaires who bought these ads remain largely anonymous, like hidden puppeteers pulling on strings. One million members of Democrats.com are united in our determination to pass a Constitutional Amendment to overturn Citizens United and replace Super PACs and other corrupt election money with clean public funds. Money out, voters in!”

Christopher Campbell, Wolf PAC:

"Our democracy is in serious trouble. It's time to change that. It's time we end the corporate takeover of our government. The only way to do that is to bypass the corporate-owned Congress and Supreme Court – and pass a constitutional amendment. We must pass a 28th Amendment saying that corporations are not people and they do not have the right to buy our elections."

Larry Cohen, President of Communications Workers of America:

“Our electoral process should be about the rights of individuals to participate in our nation's politics. That's what democracy looks like. The Communications Workers of America commends elected officials at every level of government who are fighting to restore fairness to our political process. The role of money in politics must be completely overhauled. Today it dwarfs everything else and is distorting our democracy. Working with other progressive organizations, CWA is committed to stopping the flow of secret cash to political campaigns and making it clear to all dollars are not speech. This effort will require constitutional changes and other measures to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates for secret spending and today enables billionaires to buy our nation’s elections. We also will work for the public financing of elections, because without these very real changes, the one percent will continue to control our politics.”

Natalie Foster, CEO of Rebuild the Dream:

"Throughout U.S. history, whenever something in our democracy hasn’t been working, we’ve amended the Constitution. We’ve amended the Constitution to protect and extend the right to vote. Even basic rights we take for granted, like freedom of speech, are from amendments. Now, we must get big money out of our politics. This is another moment to make history and form a more perfect union together. "

 

The vast majority of Americans oppose Citizens United and related cases, and a grassroots movement calling on public officials to take action is growing stronger. This year, 51 organizations submitted a letter to congressional leaders calling for these very hearings, and more than 1,800 public officials from 41 states are already on record in support of constitutional remedies. More information on the effort to amend the Constitution can be found at www.united4thepeople.org.

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PFAW Calls on Speaker Boehner to Remove Michele Bachmann from Intelligence Committee

Washington, DC -- People For the American Way is calling on House Speaker John Boehner to remove Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and two other members from their seats on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence after a series of irresponsible allegations against U.S. government employees.

Intelligence Committee members Bachmann, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland and Rep. Thomas Rooney were among the five Republican representatives to sign a letter to federal agencies baselessly alleging that a number of public servants, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s aide Huma Abedin, have ties to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. The letter relied largely on phony information peddled by anti-Muslim activist Frank Gaffney.

Last week, Speaker Boehner called the accusations “pretty dangerous,” but refused to say whether he’d remove Bachmann and the others from the Intelligence Committee. Abedin has reportedly been placed under police protection after receiving a threat over the weekend.

“Michele Bachmann has never been a model of responsibility, but this latest attack is one step too far,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. “Members of the House Intelligence Committee are entrusted with classified information that affects the safety and security of all Americans. That information should not be in the hands of anyone with such a disregard for honesty, misunderstanding of national security, and lack of respect for her fellow public servants.

“Speaker Boehner was right to call out Rep. Bachmann’s dangerous and irresponsible rhetoric. Now he should act on those words.”

PFAW’s Right Wing Watch has put together a brief history of Rep. Bachmann's conspiracy theories.

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Gridlock or Bust: How the Senate GOP Has Abandoned Its Own Nominees for the Sake of Obstruction

To: Editorial boards and journalists

From: Marge Baker, Executive Vice President, People For the American Way

Subject: Gridlock or Bust: How the Senate GOP Has Abandoned Its Own Nominees for the Sake of Obstruction

Date: July 19, 2012

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell got into a shouting match on the Senate floor, each of them accusing the other of purposefully stalling Senate business.

One of them was right. The other was making flimsy excuses.

Senate Republicans under McConnell’s leadership have routinely stalled the government’s business even on matters on which they agree with Democrats. Nowhere is this clearer than in the obstruction of  nominees to the federal courts, particularly those with strong bipartisan support. And nowhere is that clearer than the senseless filibuster of the nomination of Oklahoma’s Robert Bacharach to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Bacharach has the strong support of both of Oklahoma’s Republican senators. He was approved by a strong bipartisan majority in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Yet McConnell, citing a nebulous so-called rule named after South Carolina segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond, refuses to hold a vote on Bacharach’s confirmation. (Under Senate rules, the majority cannot schedule a vote without the consent of the minority party. Denying that consent for President Obama’s judicial nominees has been standard operating procedure for McConnell. This quiet filibuster is usually hidden from the public unless the majority calls for a cloture vote to end it.)

Oklahoma’s Robert Bacharach and the 20 other highly qualified judicial nominees awaiting confirmation deserve swift up-or-down votes from the full Senate.

McConnell is misleading Americans on the extent of his own obstruction.

In their exchange yesterday, Sen. McConnell accused Sen. Reid of “basically trying to convince the American people that it’s somebody else's fault, that the Senate is not doing the basic work of government.”

The Senate is not doing the basic work of government. But the blame for that lies squarely on the shoulders of McConnell and his party.

Look at the progress on the confirmation of President Obama’s judicial nominees: the average federal court nominee under President Obama has waited 103 days after committee approval just for an up-or-down vote from the Senate. The average wait for George W. Bush's nominees at this point in his first term was just 34 days. The result is that only 153 Obama nominees have been confirmed so far, compared with 197 Bush nominees at the same point in his term. While Bush cut the judicial vacancy rate by over one third during his first term in office, Obama is set to end his first term with more vacancies than he started with, capping off a historically long period of high vacancy rates.

McConnell, unsurprisingly, has been trying desperately to hide these numbers. In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times yesterday, he and Sen. Charles Grassley claimed that the Senate today “already has confirmed 152 of his lower-court nominees, compared to only 119 of Bush's under similar circumstances.”

What they call “similar circumstances” is what the rest of us would call “apples and oranges.” The senators are comparing the confirmation rate in Obama’s first term to that in Bush’s second term – when, because of a cooperative Senate he had many fewer judicial vacancies to fill.

McConnell is prioritizing obstruction over the wishes of his fellow GOP senators.

Tenth Circuit nominee Robert Bacharach of Oklahoma has the strong support of both of his home-state GOP senators. In fact, Sen. Coburn has publicly spoken out against the needless obstruction of Bacharach’s nomination, calling McConnell’s delays “stupid.” Bacharach’s position is similar to that of First Circuit nominee William Kayatta of Maine, who is being filibustered by the Senate GOP despite support from home-state Republican senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.

Both nominees received bipartisan support in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Both have earned the American Bar Association’s highest rating.

Yet Kayatta has been waiting for a Senate vote since April and Bacharach since June. And if McConnell continues to have his way, neither nominee will even reach a Senate vote this year. Why? The Minority Leader arbitrarily announced last month that he would block all Circuit Court nominees until after the presidential election.

Sen. McConnell is trying to fool the American people with his creative statistics and denials. Under his leadership, the Senate GOP has become a force of gridlock, stopping even routine government business at every opportunity. If Sen. McConnell wants to prove that current Senate dysfunction is not the fault of his party, he can start by allowing a vote on Robert Bacharach.

Press contact: Miranda Blue, media@pfaw.org, (202) 467-4999

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Editorial Memo: In Fight over Maine Judicial Nominee, a Perfect Storm of Senate Dysfunction

To: Editorial boards and journalists
From: Marge Baker, Executive Vice President, People For the American Way
Subject: In Fight over Maine Judicial Nominee, a Perfect Storm of Senate Dysfunction
Date: July 12, 2012

How far will Senate Republicans go to obstruct government business in the final months before the presidential election? The fight over a noncontroversial Maine judicial nominee, which is coming to a head this week, shows just how far.

The struggle to confirm Maine’s William Kayatta to the First Circuit Court of Appeals is a perfect illustration of the Senate GOP’s commitment to obstruct all progress that might in any way help President Obama – even if it means throwing members of their own caucus under the bus. Maine’s Republican senators both strongly support Kayatta’s nomination. He was approved overwhelmingly by a bipartisan majority of the Senate Judiciary Committee. (The only no votes were from Utah Sen. Mike Lee, who is voting against all nominees in protest of President Obama’s recess appointments and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who objected to Kayatta’s role on an ABA panel that had the nerve to find Elena Kagan “qualified” for the Supreme Court).Yet his nomination has been waiting on the Senate calendar since April 19. And if Kayatta is not confirmed before the Senate leaves for its summer recess, the seat he’s been nominated to fill could be left open for more than a year.

What should be a fairly straight-forward job for the Senate has turned into an election year struggle of wills – at the cost of Americans who rely on fully functioning courts and a Congress that does its job.

Here’s how it happened.

Last month, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took the extraordinary step of announcing that Republicans would block all votes on all circuit court nominees between now and Election Day. This wasn’t welcome news to some Senate Republicans who have circuit court nominees who they are eager to put on the bench in their states. William Kayatta from Maine has the backing of Senators Snowe and Collins, and Robert Bacharach from Oklahoma has the support of Senators Coburn and Inhofe. Snowe and Collins have said they would support cloture to end the filibuster of Kayatta. Collins said in a statement that “It simply isn’t fair that Bill [Kayatta], who would be a superb judge, now appears to be caught up in election year politics. “ Coburn was more blunt, publicly stating, “I think it’s stupid.”

At the same time, Senate Republicans announced that they would continue to allow votes on district court nominees -- as if that were some great concession on their part instead of a basic part of their job. But it turns out that even that one bare promise was an empty one: For the past two months, the confirmation of judicial nominees has slowed to virtually a standstill, with an average of less than one vote per week.

This week, for example, Senate Republicans have allowed just one judicial confirmation vote: on a district court nominee in Tennessee. In fact, over the past eight weeks there have been only seven confirmations, of five district and two circuit court nominees. Both circuit court confirmations required a cloture vote to overcome Republican filibusters, after which the decidedly noncontroversial nominees were easily confirmed – one even by voice vote.

By contrast, during the same period preceding George W. Bush’s reelection campaign, the Senate confirmed nearly four times as many judges: 25 (20 district and five circuit). Under the “regular order” established during the Bush administration, the Senate should be holding at least three to four confirmation votes each week. Failing to move at that pace will mean that the Senate simply won’t be able to keep pace with the nominees being reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Kayatta is now one of 18 highly qualified pending nominees who have been approved by the Judiciary Committee and who have been waiting for a simple up-or-down vote from the Senate. These are not controversial picks: 15 were approved by the Judiciary Committee with strong bipartisan support, and ten have been waiting for a floor vote since April or earlier.

The filibuster of Kayatta, who has been waiting since April 19 for a Senate vote despite enthusiastic support from his Republican home-state senators, is a perfect illustration of this mindless obstruction.

Kayatta is extraordinarily well qualified to be a circuit court judge

  • An ABA panel unanimously found him well qualified, its highest possible evaluation.
  • He has more than 30 years’ experience as a law firm attorney (and partner since 1986) specializing in complex civil litigation at both the trial and appellate levels.
  • He is a recognized legal leader in Maine: He has served as chairman of the Maine Professional Ethics Commission, chairman of the Maine Board of Bar Examiners, and president of the Maine Bar Association.
  • He has argued two cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court appointed him a Special Master in a water rights case of original jurisdiction. This is a powerful indication of the Court's confidence in his legal abilities.
  • Throughout his career, he has maintained a substantial pro bono practice. In 2010, he received an award from the Maine Bar Foundation for pro bono service on behalf of low-income Mainers. He has also received awards from the Disability Rights Center of Maine, the Maine Equal Justice Partners, and the Maine Children’s Alliance for his pro bono representation of disabled Maine children.


Delaying a vote until after the election will harm people throughout New England

  • With only five active judgeships, the First Circuit has the fewest judges of any circuit. As a result, any vacancy there is felt most acutely.
  • The senior judge who Kayatta would replace has agreed to carry a full caseload only until September. If the confirmation vote is delayed until after the election, that judge’s cases will have to be divided up among the current judges this September, only to be reallocated yet again a few months later once Kayatta is confirmed.


Kayatta has earned strong bipartisan support

  • He has the support of President Obama and both of Maine’s Republican senators.
  • The Judiciary Committee approved his nomination with only two no votes.
  • This is exactly the kind of destructive partisan recklessness that has driven Sen. Snowe to retire and which will make it harder for a Republican to be elected as her replacement.


On both the circuit and the district court level, Republicans are needlessly blocking votes on eminently qualified, consensus nominees whose only “flaw” seems to be that they were nominated by President Obama. It’s time Senators rolled up their sleeves and did the business of the country they were sent to office to do.

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PFAW Congratulates Board Member Dolores Huerta on Presidential Medal of Freedom

People For the American Way President Michael Keegan issued the following statement congratulating PFAW board member Dolores Huerta, who was yesterday named a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom:

“Dolores Huerta is an inspiration to all who work to make our country a fairer, freer and more just place. She has dedicated her life to fighting for the downtrodden and speaking for those whose voices are too rarely heard. Her tireless work on behalf of working people, women, immigrants, gays and lesbians and others has improved – and continues to improve -- countless lives. We are enormously grateful for the leadership and guidance she’s provided to People For the American Way, and we couldn’t be prouder for her to receive this honor.”

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civilian honor. According to the official announcement from the White House, others to receive the honor along with Huerta include former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, singer and poet Bob Dylan, astronaut and Senator John Glenn, writer Toni Morrison, and former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

“All of us at People For the American Way congratulate Dolores Huerta on this great honor,” said Keegan. “There is no one who could be more deserving.”


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