people for the american way

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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PFAW Report: The Anti-Gay Lobby’s Pro-Bullying Agenda

As students around the country participated Friday’s “Day of Silence” to show solidarity with bullied LGBT children and teens, anti-gay activists continued to step up their efforts to prevent schools from protecting bullied students.

A new report from People For the American Way details the efforts of right-wing activists and organizations to prevent school districts from implementing strong anti-bullying policies that protect LGBT and LGBT-perceived students.

The full report can be found online at: http://www.pfaw.org/rww-in-focus/updated-big-bullies-right-wings-anti-anti-bullying-strategies

“It’s no secret that anti-gay bullying is a growing problem in our schools,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. “Yet anti-gay activists are determined to keep parents, teachers and administrators from confronting the problem.

“It's almost unbelievable that there are organizations dedicated to opposing anti-bullying programs, but they're out there and stronger than ever. These groups are so determined to fight every step of progress for LGBT rights that they’re willing to hurt children and teens in the process. That’s just shameful.”

The new report supplements a PFAW investigation released last year, updating it with the latest activities of the anti-anti-bullying movement, including:

  • The Tennessee legislature moved forward on a “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which would prohibit teachers from discussing homosexuality.
  • Anti-gay groups fought anti-bullying measures in states across the country, including Arizona, Minnesota and West Virginia.
  • Prominent Religious Right groups rallied against the Day of Silence: the Family Research Council called it “a cover for the promotion of homosexuality,” the American Family Association accused it of “hijacking of the classroom for political purposes,” and Focus on the Family said it was all about “indoctrination.”
  • Several anti-gay activists blamed the gay rights movement for the suicides of LGBT teens.
  • Anti-gay groups attacked positive portrayals of LGBT teens in the show “Glee,” accusing the show of “radical homosexual promotion,” “deviant sexuality” and “demonic manipulation.”

Click here to read the full report.

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Romney and Bork, a Dangerous Team: People For the American Way Campaign Exposes Romney’s Embrace of Judicial Extremism

Today, People For the American Way launched a major new campaign – including a website, a web ad and an exclusive report – exposing Mitt Romney’s dangerous agenda for America’s courts.

The campaign highlights Romney’s choice of Robert Bork to lead his constitutional and judicial advisory team. By allying with Bork, a jurist so extreme he was rejected by a bipartisan majority of the U.S. Senate 25 years ago, Romney has sent a clear signal that he means to drag America’s courts even farther to the right, endangering many of the civil rights, liberties and economic protections won by the American people over the past five decades.

The ad, Don’t Let Romney Bork America, and the report, Borking America: What Robert Bork Will Mean to the Supreme Court and American Justice, can be viewed at www.RomneyCourt.com.

“The debates over health care and immigration have reinforced the importance of the Supreme Court to all Americans,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. “However, few are aware of the extreme agenda Mitt Romney has for the High Court – an agenda exemplified by his close alliance with Robert Bork.

“In 1987, People For the American Way led the fight to keep Judge Bork off the Supreme Court,” Keegan continued. “25 years later, we are as relieved as ever that we succeeded. When Bork was nominated, Americans across the political spectrum rejected the dangerous political agenda that he would have brought to the bench – his disdain for modern civil rights legislation, his acceptance of poll taxes and literacy tests, his defense of contraception bans and criminal sodomy laws, his continued privileging of corporations over individuals. Since then, he has dug his heels even deeper into a view of the law that puts corporations first and individuals far behind.

“It is frightening that a quarter century after Robert Bork’s jurisprudence was deemed too regressive for the Supreme Court, a leading presidential candidate has picked him to shape his legal policy.”

People For the American Way Senior Fellow Jamie Raskin, the author of the report, added: “The return of Robert Bork and his reactionary jurisprudence to national politics should be a three-alarm wake-up call for all Americans. In his work on the bench as a judge and off the bench as a polemicist, Bork has consistently placed corporations above the government and government above the rights of the people. The idea that Bork could be central to shaping the Supreme Court in the 21st century is shocking because he wants to turn the clock back decades in terms of the civil rights and civil liberties. His constitutional politics are even more extreme today than in 1987, when a bipartisan group of 58 senators rejected his nomination to the Supreme Court.”

The new report and ad review Bork’s record from his days as solicitor general to President Richard Nixon to his turn as co-chair of the Romney campaign’s committee on law, the Constitution and the judiciary. Highlights of Bork’s career include:

  • Consistently choosing corporate power over the rights of people. As a judge, Bork regularly took the side of business interests against government regulators trying to hold them accountable, but the side of the government when it was challenged by workers, environmentalists and consumers pressing for more corporate accountability.
  • Opposing civil rights, voting rights, reproductive rights, gay rights and individual free speech. Bork disparaged the Civil Rights Act of 1964; defended the use of undemocratic poll taxes and literacy tests in state elections ; disagrees with the Supreme Court ruling that overturned sodomy laws; and believes that the government should be able to jail people for advocating civil disobedience.
  • Advocating censorship and blaming American culture first. Bork promotes censorship to combat what he calls the “rot and decadence” of American society, saying “I don’t make any fine distinctions; I’m just advocating censorship.” He writes that “the liberal view of human nature” has thrown American culture into “free fall.”
  •  Rejecting the separation of church and state. Bork rejects the science of evolution, advocates legalizing school-sponsored prayer and has written that he wants to see the Constitution’s wall of separation between church and state “crumble.”
  • Turning back the clock on women's rights: Bork has argued against Supreme Court decisions upholding abortion rights and decisions upholding the right to contraception for single people and even married couples. He believes that the heightened protections of the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause don’t apply to women. As a judge, he authored a decision reversing the Secretary of Labor and holding that federal law permits a company to deal with toxic workplace conditions by demanding that female employees be sterilized or lose their jobs.

Learn more at www.RomneyCourt.com.


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Edit Memo: Debunking the GOP’s Spin on Judicial Obstruction

To: Interested Parties

From: Marge Baker, People For the American Way

Re: Debunking the GOP’s Spin on Judicial Obstruction

Date: March 13, 2012

Senate Democrats are taking action this week to call Republicans on their unprecedented obstruction of judicial nominees, which over the past three years has left far too many of our nation's courtrooms empty. On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed cloture petitions in an attempt to end the GOP filibusters of all 17 district court nominees currently waiting for Senate votes, most of whom have been stalled for over three months for absolutely no reason. And already, Senate Republicans have concocted a false spin in an attempt to cover for the mess they have helped to create in the federal courts.

Reid’s action is unprecedented: only two district court nominees were filibustered in the sixteen years of the Bush and Clinton presidencies. As of yesterday, nineteen of President Obama’s district court nominees have been filibustered.

If Republicans don’t back down and allow up-or-down votes on these nominees, the cumbersome cloture process will tie up the senate until early April – and it will become very clear to the American people that Republicans’ top priority is gridlock, not policy.

In response, Senate Republicans have united behind a message that seeks to blame President Obama for the gridlock they created. Their claim is that their unprecedented obstruction of judicial nominees is a direct response to President Obama’s recess appointments of a director for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and members of the National Labor Relations Board -- appointments that they neglect to mention were themselves necessary because of Republican obstruction.

This narrative is simply not true. Even a cursory look at the last three years shows that today’s Republican obstruction is not related to their fury at the president’s recess appointments. In fact, these unprecedented levels of obstruction have been going on since President Obama took office. By the end of 2011, before the recess appointments, President Obama's confirmed district court nominees had been stalled more than four times longer on average than President Bush's. That is the case today, as well.

The unjustified delays in 2009-2011 were hardly caused by recess appointments made in 2012.

Make no mistake: the Senate GOP’s obstruction of judicial nominees is part of a deeply cynical effort to create gridlock in Washington and to keep as many courtrooms empty for as long as possible in the hopes of having a Republican president fill them in 2013.

Our federal courts are now facing a historic vacancy crisis, and Americans are facing unjustified delays as they seek their day in court. Senate Republicans should ditch the false excuses for their obstruction, and start doing the job they were elected to do.

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

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Unbridled Republican Obstruction Forces Extraordinary Action on Judicial Nominees

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced today that he will file petitions to end Republican filibusters of 17 federal district court nominees. The extraordinary move highlights Senate Republicans’ unprecedented obstruction of judicial nominees. During the entire 16 years that Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were in office, there were only two filibusters of district court nominations. If Senate Republicans don’t relent on these 17 nominees, the cloture process could tie up the Senate through early April, with each nominee taking 30 hours of floor time under Senate rules.

“It is absolutely stunning that Republicans are willing to tie up Senate business for more than 510 hours just to make things more difficult for President Obama,” said Marge Baker of People For the American Way. “For the past three years, Senate Republicans have been slow-walking judicial nominees at every step of the process, ignoring the duties they were elected to office to perform and contributing to a historic vacancy crisis in our federal courts. Ultimately, it’s the American people, who rely on fair and functioning federal courts, who pay the price for these political games.”

At this point in George W. Bush’s presidency, the average district court nominee waited 22 days between approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee and a vote from the full Senate. Under President Obama, the average wait has been more than four times as long – over three months.

Currently, about one in ten seats on the federal courts is vacant, affecting access to justice for over 160 million Americans.

 

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50 Organizations Present Letter to Congress Requesting Hearings on Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United

CONTACT: Justin Greenberg, PFAW at (202) 467-4999 / media@pfaw.org or Dorry Samuels, Public Citizen at (202) 588-7742 / dsamuels@citizen.org

WASHINGTON – Reflecting the millions of Americans concerned about the undue influence wielded by corporations and wealthy special interests in our democracy, 50 organizations have jointly signed and presented a letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees requesting hearings to explore constitutional remedies to overturn the Supreme Court’s flawed decision in Citizens United v. FEC and related cases. This letter follows over 350 events in 49 states – from teach-ins to courthouse protests – organized by many of signing groups to call attention to the negative effects of Citizens United on the second anniversary of the decision.

“In Citizens United, the Court ruled that corporations are guaranteed the same free speech rights as real people to influence elections, thereby ruling that governmental restrictions on corporate spending to influence elections are invalid and unconstitutional,” the letter reads. While disclosure legislation may mitigate some of the damage of this decision, “Only amending the Constitution can fully secure the American people’s authority to regulate corporate influence in our elections and restore our democracy.”

“Americans have become increasingly distressed at the toxic effects of unrestrained corporate and special interest money that is influencing our political system,” and are demanding action from our elected representatives. So far in the 112th Congress, 13 constitutional amendment resolutions have been introduced, and dozens more have been passed at the state and local level. “As activists have mobilized and protested across the country,” the letter states, “it is time for Congress to explore in earnest the range of resolutions that have been introduced to undo the harmful effects of the Court’s decision,” and advance “the critical debate about how the Constitution should be amended to return our democracy to the people.”

Signatories to the letter include People For the American Way, Public Citizen, Common Cause, Communications Workers of America, MoveOn.org, Free Speech For People, Move to Amend, Public Campaign, Greenpeace and African American Ministers In Action. Please follow the links to the full letters to the House and Senate.

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PFAW Commends Ninth Circuit Ruling on Prop 8

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agrees with a lower court that California's anti-equality Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.

PFAW Applauds Obama's Endorsement of Constitutional Amendment

People For the American Way today applauded President Obama for his support for amending the Constitution to repair the damage done by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC and stop unlimited corporate spending to influence elections.

Groups Deliver Over 100,000 Petitions to NH Attorney General Urging Him to Investigate O’Keefe and Enforce Voter Fraud Laws

PFAW, Daily Kos and Granite State Progress delivered over 100,000 petitions to the NH Attorney General urging him to investigate James O’Keefe and enforce voter fraud laws

Press Conference and Petition Drop: Tell the New Hampshire Attorney General to Investigate James O'Keefe

On Thursday, February 2nd, a coalition of groups including People For the American Way, Daily Kos and Granite State Progress will deliver over 100,000  petitions to New Hampshire Attorney General Michael A. Delaney, calling on him to conduct a full investigation of the alleged voter fraud conducted by activist James O’Keefe.

Under Pressure, Boykin Withdraws From West Point Address

After an outcry from veterans, cadets and progressive groups, Jerry Boykin has withdrawn from West Point’s National Prayer Breakfast. Boykin, who was formally reprimanded by President George W. Bush for describing military efforts as a holy war against Islam while in uniform, became a fulltime anti-Muslim activist since leaving the military. People For the American Way president Michael Keegan criticized Boykin’s “hate-filled conspiracy theories,” the Council on American-Islamic Relations knocked Boykin’s promotion of “a host of false and misleading 'facts' about Islam” and VoteVets maintained that Boykin’s views are “inconsistent with current Army doctrine” and “disrespect the services of thousands of Muslim-Americans” who serve in the ilitary. Erick Eckholm of the New York Times reports:

Lt. Gen William G. Boykin “has decided to withdraw speaking at West Point’s National Prayer Breakfast” on Feb. 8, said a statement issued Monday by the academy’s office of public affairs. “In fulfilling its commitment to the community, the United States Military Academy will feature another speaker for the event.”



A similar controversy erupted last week, in the days before General Boykin spoke at the mayor’s annual prayer breakfast in Ocean City, Md. The general made no inflammatory statements about Islam, instead describing how prayer had helped him through dangerous military operations.

But Peter Montgomery, a senior fellow at People for the American Way, a liberal advocacy group, said the West Point invitation was a mistake. West Point, Mr. Montgomery said, would have given “a platform to someone who is publicly identified with offensive comments about Muslims and about the commander in chief.”

Right Wing Watch has documented Boykin’s long history of making inflammatory statements. Boykin has claimed that Islam “should not be protected under the First Amendment” and said that Muslims are “under an obligation to destroy our Constitution”:

He has also said that mosques should be banned in America and dubbed Islam “a totalitarian way of life” during an interview with far-right talk show host Bryan Fischer:

Moreover, Boykin has urged Christians should not engage in interfaith dialogue with Muslims and should instead “go on the offensive” against Islam. He has even directed his vitriol at President Obama, comparing him to Adolf Hitler and warning that he is using the health care reforms law to create a personal Brownshirt army:

With his extremist comments now receiving national attention, Boykin is now trying to disguise his views, calling Muslims a “precious people” and insisting that he respects “their right to worship.” But Boykin may have trouble walking back from his past incendiary statements as he once proudly proclaimed: “I am intolerant!”

Ohio Groups Meet with White House to Discuss Deepening Crisis in the Courts, Judicial Nominations

Cleveland, Ohio – Representatives from over a dozen Ohio social justice, legal and community action organizations from every part of the state participated in a conference call with White House staff today to discuss growing concern about the ongoing crisis in the federal courts.

A Movement Moment: Growing Support for Overturning Citizens United

Over 60 organizations have joined United For the People, a grassroots movement to overturn Citizens United v. FEC

Over 60 Organizations Join United For the People

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