Al Franken

Second day of Senate debate to #GetMoneyOut

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

PFAW and Allies Rally, Deliver 3 Million Petitions in Support of Amendment to #GetMoneyOut

On Monday afternoon People For the American Way joined partner organizations, Senators, and Representatives in a rally outside the U.S. Capitol in support of the Democracy For All Amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United and get big money out of politics. As the Senate begins debating the measure, PFAW and ally organizations teamed up to deliver more than three million petitions in support of an amendment.

The rally was kicked off by People For the American Way Executive Vice President Marge Baker (pictured speaking above) and Public Citizen President Robert Weissman. Speakers included Sen. Tom Udall (N.M.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Sen. Al Franken (Minn.), Rep. Ted Deutch (Fla.), and Rep. Jim McGovern (Mass.) Rally footage was featured on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell and in the Huffington Post.


Sen. Tom Udall (N.M.)


Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.)


Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.)


Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.)


Sen. Al Franken (Minn.)


Rep. Ted Deutch (Fla.)


Rep. Jim McGovern (Mass.)

At the rally, PFAW Executive Vice President Marge Baker said, “Today, more money than ever is flooding our democracy. But something else is also happening: everyday Americans are fighting back. Americans are no longer willing to settle for elections auctioned to the highest bidders.” You can watch her speech here.

The massive number of petitions delivered is just one of many indicators of the broad support for an amendment to get big money out of politics. Sixteen states, more than 550 cities and towns, and public figures including former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and President Barack Obama have already voiced support for an amendment. Recent polling found that nearly three in four voters (73 percent) favor it.

Organizations contributing petitions included People For the American Way, MoveOn.org, CREDO, Daily Kos, Public Citizen, Public Change Campaign Committee, USAction, Common Cause, Democrats.com, Free Speech For People, Coffee Party, Center for Media and Democracy, Brave New Films, Progressive Democrats of America, Sierra Club, US PIRG, Communications Workers of America, Wolf PAC, Move to Amend, Food and Water Watch, Corporate Accountability International, Greenpeace, Public Campaign, the American Association of University Women (AAUW), the League of Conservation Voters, and the Story of Stuff Project.

Get more information on PFAW’s Government By the People work here.

PFAW

People For the American Way Voters Alliance PAC Announces Endorsements for Federal Office

People For the American Way Voters Alliance PAC is proud to announce the endorsement of 10 progressive champions for federal office. Running in Maine, Iowa, Minnesota, Oregon, Michigan, South Dakota, Colorado, Hawaii, and Wisconsin, these candidates and officials are some of the best and brightest progressive champions in the country.

Read the full list of endorsements now.

PFAW

People For the American Way Voters Alliance PAC Announces Endorsements for Federal Office

People For the American Way Voters Alliance PAC is proud to announce the endorsement of 10 progressive champions for federal office. These 10 candidates and officials, representing a diverse and broad swath of constituencies, are some of the best and brightest progressive champions in the country.

Overall these candidates have fought against big money in politics, promoted economic fairness and equality for all, and called for increasing educational opportunities for workers and students. They are promoters of civil rights and voting rights, supporters of marriage equality and employment protections for LGBTQ Americans, and believe women should maintain choice over their own health decisions. Many are endorsed by multiple leading progressive, labor, civil rights, women’s rights, and equality organizations.

People For the American Way Voters Alliance PAC encourages all PFAW members to consider supporting these terrific candidates’ campaigns:

 

Shenna Bellows, Candidate for U.S. Senate, Maine

bellows

Shenna Bellows is challenging GOP Sen. Susan Collins to represent Maine in the U.S. Senate. The former executive director of ACLU of Maine and graduate of Emerge Maine’s candidate program, Bellows has been an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ equality and against ‘dark money’ in politics.

While serving ACLU of Maine, she built bipartisan coalitions to advance privacy and civil rights legislation, establishing Maine as a national leader in these policies. Bellows was also a leader of Mainers United for Marriage, the organization that fought for full marriage equality for same-sex couples, and she worked to restore same-day voter registration through the Protect Maine Votes campaign. Most recently, she organized a successful privacy campaign to require warrants for access to private cellphone communications, and led the opposition to warrantless drone surveillance.

Originally from Hancock, Maine, Bellows graduated Magne Cum Laude from Middlebury College, where she earned highest honors in economic and environmental sustainability. She carried her academic work abroad as an exchange student in Brazil, Costa Rica, and as a Peace Corps volunteer living in Panama. She has earned accolades for her work to advance women’s health and reproductive choice from the University of Maine Women’s Studies Department, Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center, the American Association of University Women, the Frances Perkins Center, and the Maine Democratic Party.

Bellows and her husband Brandon Baldwin live outside Manchester, in Augusta.

Visit Shenna Bellows’ campaign website for more details.

 


Congressman Bruce Braley, Candidate for U.S. Senate, Iowa

bellows

Congressman Bruce Braley currently represents Iowa’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, and is running for the open U.S. Senate seat currently held by his mentor, retiring U.S. Senator Tom Harkin. He established himself as a populist progressive, fighting for working Iowans, veterans, students, and seniors. His record of helping Iowans includes writing a tax cut for businesses that hire unemployed workers, helping small business owners compete for government contracts, advancing renewable energy programs, and his involvement in crafting the most recent Farm Bill.

Braley’s work on women’s issues includes voting for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, support of the Paycheck Fairness Act, and working to pass the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act. He has stated he believes women’s health decisions are best made by women and their doctors. He supported the Affordable Care Act, and has continued to suggest new ways to improve the program.

The son of a Marine veteran and a school teacher, Braley grew up in Brooklyn, Iowa. He worked his way through college to earn his bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University by working as a road construction worker, working at a local grain elevator, and waiting tables. He continued on to the University of Iowa to earn a juris doctorate. He practiced law in Waterloo for 23 years, representing struggling farmers, workers facing discrimination, small business owners and more. He has been elected to four consecutive terms in Congress, representing the first district since 2006.

Braley’s accomplishments include passing a tax break for businesses that hire veterans, taking on the Pentagon to secure back-pay that was initially denied to 800 Iowa National Guard members who served in Iraq, and reversing government regulations that threatened jobs in his district. He is married to Carolyn, with whom he has three children, that all live in Iowa.

Visit Bruce Braley’s campaign website for more details.

 


U.S. Senator Al Franken, Minnesota (Incumbent)

franken

When Al Franken won his race for the U.S. Senate against Norm Coleman in 2008 by 312 votes, he made the jump from celebrity to public official. He was well known as a former head writer for Saturday Night Live, best-selling author, and nationally syndicated radio host. Six years after being elected to office, he has established a reputation as a serious policy maker interested in serving all Minnesotans.

Only five days into his term, as a new member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Franken voted in favor of the first Latina to be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and took part in her confirmation. Over the years in the Senate, he has continued working hard for Minnesotans – and all Americans – authoring provisions of the Affordable Care Act, writing sections of the new Farm Bill, and fighting for net neutrality legislation. He has also devoted time to visiting the troops with multiple USO tours overseas.

Most recently, Franken has been an outspoken critic of big money in politics, criticizing the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizen United and McCutcheon decisions. Demonstrating his progressive view of women’s health, he has been an outspoken critic of the Hobby Lobby decision, even co-sponsoring legislation with fellow Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar to override the judgment’s effects.

The son of middle-class parents – a salesman and a real estate agent – Franken grew up in Albert Lea and St. Louis Park. He graduated from Harvard University, and eventually entered the entertainment business and wrote three New York Times best-sellers. His groundbreaking progressive talk radio show on Air America Radio reached 1.5 million listeners each week.

Franken has been married to his wife Franni for 37 years. They have two children and one grandchild.

Visit Al Franken’s campaign website for more details.

 


U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, Oregon (Incumbent)

merkely

As a working class son of a sawmill worker in rural Oregon, Jeff Merkley still lives in the community where he went to public high school. First elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008, he spent his first term working to give all Oregonians a fair shot at sustainable energy jobs, protection from Wall Street banksters, and health care for all.

Merkley worked side-by-side with Michigan Senator Carl Levin to strengthen the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act limiting risky trading by Wall Street banks. He championed a program to drastically reduce the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels, and create thousands of sustainable energy jobs, while simultaneously guaranteeing those workers can afford their health care through his support of the Affordable Care Act. He went after shady home mortgage lenders and worked to help millions of American families save their homes through a comprehensive home refinancing plan for borrowers that were underwater.

Merkley’s service in the Senate comes after a successful run as a national security analyst in the Pentagon and Congressional Budget Office, as a not-for-profit agency leader, and serving in the Oregon State Legislature for 16 years. During his term as Speaker of the Oregon House, he earned accolades from the public and press, with The Oregonian labeling one legislative session as "Oregon's most productive in a generation."

Merkley and his wife Mary Sorteberg have been married for twenty years and have two children.

Visit Jeff Merkley’s campaign website for more details.

 


Congressman Gary Peters, Candidate for U.S. Senate, Michigan

peters

Congressman Gary Peters currently represents Michigan’s 14th Congressional District, having won a hard-fought battle after redistricting for the seat in 2012. When the Senator Carl Levin announced his retirement, Peters threw his hat in the ring to run for the open Senate seat. He is well known around the state for his outspoken criticism of GOP Tea Party Governor Rick Snyder’s austerity measures. In his two terms in Congress, Peters has championed the revitalization of Detroit and its suburbs as his working-class constituents have suffered economically during the recession.

In his first 4 years as a congressman, Peters has used his business background to go after wasteful spending, fraud, and abuse in the federal budget, while also protecting Social Security and Medicare for working families and seniors and demanding access to vital public services for citizens. He has called out China and Japan for currency manipulation practices that harm American jobs, and pushed for more Michigan made products to be exported abroad.

Notably, Peters has worked to regulate Wall Street to prevent another financial crisis, and pushed through legislation to allow small business tax cuts and give small business owners greater access to credit. In Washington and at home, he has continued to promote the rebuilding of Detroit and fought to return advanced manufacturing jobs to Michigan.

Peters, whose father was a World War II veteran and school teacher and mother was a nurse’s aide and union steward for SEIU, grew up in Oakland county, a county he has represented for years — despite the redistricting. Working nights to put himself through school, he graduated Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa from Alma College; earned an M.A. in philosophy from Michigan State University, a J.D. from Wayne State University Law School, and an M.B.A. (Finance) from the University of Detroit Mercy. He was recently awarded an honorary doctor of humanities from Lawrence Technological University.

As a businessman and financial advisor for over 20 years, Peters helped families plan for their retirements and fund their children’s educations.

Peters joined the U.S. Navy Reserve and became a Seabee Combat Warfare Specialist, rose to Lieutenant Commander, and was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal for his service in the Persian Gulf during Operation Southern Watch.

Gary Peters, his wife Colleen, and their three children continue to live in Oakland county.

Visit Gary Peters' campaign website for more details.

 


Rick Weiland, Candidate for U.S. Senate, South Dakota

peters

Rick Weiland is running to win the open seat being vacated by retiring Senator Tim Johnson. He has been a solid progressive voice for change, operating a grassroots populist campaign, visiting all 300+ towns in South Dakota to build support across the state. He has been an outspoken critic of money in politics, and has championed a constitutional amendment to limit campaign spending as a foundation of his campaign.

Weiland has fought for a more robust Affordable Care Act, calling for access to Medicare for all through his Medicare Choice Act – the effect of which Weiland says would limit insurance price gouging and bureaucratic red tape. He has called on all of his opponents to go on the record in support of raising the minimum wage, and has criticized GOP cuts to Head Start and veterans’ programs in order to keep corporate tax loopholes in place.

Weiland’s experience prior to running for Senate includes leadership positions inside and outside of government. He is the former CEO of the International Code Council (ICC), spearheading its innovative green construction codes for commercial and residential buildings, published in 2012. He served as FEMA Regional Director for six states, coordinating disaster response and emergency response services following wildfires, floods, tornadoes, and the Columbine tragedy. In this position he also led a historic conference of 28 Native American tribes that created the Tribal Emergency Management Coordination Council, improving emergency services to underserved reservation lands. He also represented 85,000 senior citizens as South Dakota state director of AARP, advancing the Senior Bill of Rights and advocating on their behalf.

Weiland began his career working for then-Congressman and later Senator Tom Daschle from 1978 through 1996, when Weiland made an unsuccessful bid for Congress. He is a fifth generation South Dakotan, growing up one of five children in Madison – his parents are the owners and operators of the local ambulance service and funeral home that served the surrounding community. He is a graduate of the University of South Dakota.

Weiland and his wife Stacy are restaurateurs in Sioux Falls, have five children and one grandchild.

Visit Rick Weiland’s campaign website for more details.

 


U.S. Senator Mark Udall, Colorado (Incumbent)

udall

When Mark Udall was elected in 2008, the newly minted senator took office as the country was dealing with the after effects of the Bush administration. Udall took his responsibility seriously, working to bring what he calls “Colorado common sense” to Washington.

As a member of the Senate Armed Services, the Energy and Natural Resources, and the Intelligence Committees, he was a key leader in the fight to end the Pentagon’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, allowing LGBTQ service members to serve openly for the first time. He has been a vocal critic of the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program, and has pushed to hold intelligence officials accountable for the highly-criticized interrogation programs used during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and at the controversial Guantanamo Bay military detention facility.

Udall takes an “all-of-the-above” perspective on energy policy, recognizing the wide range of resources in Colorado. His leadership and knowledge of renewable energy sources was critical in implementing President Obama’s green energy and energy industry jobs programs. He pushed through the Credit CARD Act to protect consumers from predatory credit card companies, giving them free access to credit scores, and stopping the IRS from viewing taxpayers’ online profiles without a warrant. He has also been a supporter of the DREAM Act and has called for comprehensive immigration reform.

Prior to becoming Senator, as a five-term Congressman representing Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District, Udall voted against the rush to war in Iraq, and voted against the Patriot Act. He has been a vocal supporter of women’s right to self-determination in their health decisions, and fought for equal pay legislation.

The son of longtime Congressman and environmentalist Morris “Mo” Udall, and pilot and outdoorswoman Patricia Udall, Mark Udall is also the former director of Colorado’s Outward Bound non-profit leadership development program. He is a graduate of Williams College. He and his wife, environmental attorney Maggie Fox, have two children and live in Eldorado Springs.

Visit Mark Udall’s campaign website for more details.

 


State Senator Emily Cain, Candidate for U.S. House of Representatives, Maine-02

cain

As Maine’s youngest state House Democratic Leader, Emily Cain, a member of PFAW Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network, has established herself as a strong advocate for women and leader for expanding educational opportunities for all Mainers. She stands strong on these issues in her bid to replace Mike Michaud in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.

While serving in the state legislature, Cain fought to protect family planning services, to prevent restrictions on reproductive choice, and to get equal pay for equal work. As the youngest woman ever to be Maine’s Senate Minority Leader, Cain authored and passed landmark legislation to prevent the escalation of domestic violence. She passed legislation to make college more affordable, negotiated to route more funding to Maine schools, and overturned a veto by Governor LePage on her bill to support critical Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education programs. Fighting for equality, Cain also co-sponsored the 2005 non-discrimination law that extended basic protections to LGBT Mainers, and led the fight to pass the 2009 marriage equality law. Cain supported land conservation legislation, raised awareness of toxic chemicals in toys and household products, promoted green technology jobs, and voted to cut greenhouse gases and address climate change in Maine. For this work, Cain now has a 90% lifetime rating from the League of Conservation Voters.

In Congress, Cain will continue to fight for the environment and equality, and will champion the needs of women and children by investing in women’s health and reproductive rights, providing life-saving assistance for survivors of domestic violence, and ensuring quality education opportunities for children.

Cain has a bachelor of music education from the University of Maine, a masters of higher education from Harvard University, and is currently studying for her Ph.D. in higher education from the University of Maine. She and her husband Danny live in Orono.

Visit Emily Cain’s campaign website for more details.

 


Honolulu Councilman Stanley Chang, Candidate for. U.S. House of Representatives, HI-01

chang

Stanley Chang, a member of PFAW Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network, aims to be a true progressive in a crowded primary field. In the Honolulu City Council, he has led the effort to revitalize services for O’ahu and city constituents. He fought for record road repaving funding and uniform repair policies that prioritized maintenance while saving taxpayers millions of dollars. He worked hard on economic development for new businesses and existing businesses alike, streamlined access to basic services, and co-chaired the Counties of Hawaii Sister Cities Summit at APEC.

Chang’s agenda for Congress includes protecting the environment while investing in renewable energy resources and new jobs. He advocates for equality for everyone, supporting same-sex marriage in Hawaii and equal pay for equal work, and also defends women’s right to choose. His education plan includes investing in early education programs, ending predatory student loan practices, and expanding tuition for young people who invest in military service and other programs. He wants to expand benefits for veterans, ensuring the protection and expansion of Social Security for seniors, and wants to institute new legislation to prevent gun violence.

Chang has also been outspoken on lessening Wall Street’s influence on Congress, ending corporate tax loopholes and subsidies, and raising the minimum wage.

The son of two educators, Chang is a graduate of ‘Iolani School, Harvard College, and Harvard Law School, and practiced as a real estate attorney prior to entering public service.

Visit Stanley Chang’s campaign website for more details.

 


Kelly Westlund, Candidate for U.S. House of Representatives, WI-07

chang

A member of PFAW Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network, Kelly Westlund has taken on a tough fight against right-wing Tea Party GOP Rep. Sean Duffy. Westlund, vocal on big money’s influence in state politics, has been equally tough on Duffy’s voting record against working Wisconsinites. Westlund has been outspoken against mining deregulation in a fight for protecting environmental interests, and has drawn significant fire from right-wing interest groups for her progressive positions on economic, equality, and fair pay issues.

Westlund has been a city councilwoman in her hometown of Ashland from 2011-2014, is also a graduate of the Leadership Wisconsin program, and the first Emerge Wisconsin graduate to seek federal office. Previously, she was executive director of the Alliance for Sustainability, a nonprofit where she coordinated a regional pilot project with the Wisconsin State Office of Energy Independence designed to increase energy efficiency and renewable energy alternatives. She worked with local businesses and municipalities to reduce waste and promote more sustainability programs.

In her work, Westlund has repeatedly highlighted the problem of big money in politics during her congressional bid, pointing to Duffy as an example of a congressman controlled by big businesses and environmental polluters. She criticized Governor Scott Walker for not keeping his promise to create 250,000 jobs, and fought for a living wage and quality jobs for all Wisconsinites. She decried corporate subsidies and tax loopholes for corporations and instead supported social programs benefiting children, veterans, seniors, and people in need, including calling for an expansion of affordable health care for all Americans.

As a small business owner, Westlund helped build a strong local food system in Ashland, promoting farm-to-table events, strengthening community supported agriculture, wholesale markets, and distribution networks, and organizational efficiencies through the Bayfield Regional Food Producers Cooperative. To further strengthen and invest in the community, she helped local family farmers build sustainable food systems in Northern Wisconsin.

Kelly and her husband Caleb, a local carpenter, hunter, and fisherman, live in Ashland.

Visit Kelly Westlund’s campaign website for more details.

 

For more information about the PFAW Voters Alliance endorsement program, please email political@pfaw.org.

Where is Speaker Boehner hiding all the good bills like ENDA?

Senators who stood on the right side of history and voted for passage should be thanked. Senators who stood with anti-gay extremists should hear your disappointment. There are more instructions here and here, and you can always reach them by dialing 202-224-3121. As we move on to the House, if you have not added your name already, sign our petition now to keep the pressure on all of Congress to pass ENDA. The time is now!
PFAW

Anti-Bullying Protections Headed to Senate Floor

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is expected to bring the bill to the floor but has not released a date. People for the American Way will continue to monitor ESEA’s progress and the anti-bullying provisions it contains.
PFAW

Schlafly: Senate Should Move to Expel Al Franken

Eagle Forum’s Phyllis Schlafly believes that Al Franken never would have been elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008 if Minnesota had a voter ID law and that there is now “reason enough for the U.S. Senate to use its constitutional power in Article I, Section 5 to unseat Franken.” Franken won by a mere 225 votes against incumbent Norm Coleman, but Schlafly says in her latest column that it's because felons cast illegal votes to push him over the top and that only Voter ID laws, which she claims are beloved by minorities, can remedy the situation.

Schlafly cited a report by the right-wing organization Minnesota Majority; however, the study has been largely dismissed as “frivolous” by experts, who also note that voter ID laws will do nothing to stop convicted felons from voting illegally and that the report’s “data include cases associated with the 2010 election, and are not limited to cases involving felons who voted illegally.” People For the American Way’s report The Right to Vote Under Attack also observes that Minnesota’s “Supreme Court wrote in its decision affirming Franken’s victory that neither Franken nor his opponent claimed voter fraud took place and ‘found no allegations or evidence of fraud or foul play and no evidence to suggest that the Election Day totals from the precinct are unreliable.’” Not to mention, how would Schlafly know that nearly every single felon who voted in Minnesota supported Franken?

As we approach a major national election, we hear warnings about many kinds of vote fraud and possible recounts that might delay confirmation of who are the victors. We also hear from deniers who insist that vote fraud is a figment of the imagination of Republicans. It isn't; vote fraud is real.

Many instances of registration fraud schemes were carried out by ACORN, and some members were even tried and convicted. Although ACORN announced it was closing its doors, it reemerged under new names.

It's common knowledge that there are more registered voters in Philadelphia than there are people living in Philadelphia, because dead and moved-away voters have not been stricken from the list. Similar accusations have been made in a dozen other states. In Minnesota, we were entertained for weeks with news of the recounting of votes in the 2008 Minnesota election for U.S. Senate. Al Franken was declared the winner by 312 votes out of three million cast.

After all was said and done, Minnesota discovered that 289 convicted felons had voted illegally in Hennepin County, 52 had voted illegally in Ramsey County, and many others voted illegally who were dead or who voted multiple times. That is reason enough for the U.S. Senate to use its constitutional power in Article I, Section 5 to unseat Franken.



Minorities are actually among those most eager to implement photo ID. Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young said, "You cannot be part of the mainstream of American life today without a photo ID." The sponsor of Rhode Island's photo ID law was Harold Metts, who is the only African-American in the state senate.

Just think of all the many occasions when we all must show photo ID: when stopped by the police for a traffic violation, to make a credit card purchase, to check in for any medical treatment, to check into a hotel room, or to board an airplane. Isn't it just as important to assure that only American citizens are allowed to vote, and to prevent non-citizens from canceling out your vote, and to prevent crooks from voting twice or voting in the name of a dead person who is still registered?

When your vote is nullified by illegal votes, you are cheated just as much as if you were denied the right to vote.

President listens, supports anti-bullying legislation

Calls have been made for some time now for President Obama to officially support anti-bullying legislation. As of April 20, he stands strong behind the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act.
PFAW

Stop School Bullying Today

Please do your part by asking your senators and President Obama to support the Student Non-Discrimination Act.
PFAW

DOJ and DOE Resolve Harassment Allegations in Minnesota School District, Plus Call to Action on Bullying

On Monday, DOJ, DOE, six students, and the Anoka-Hennepin School District proposed an agreement resolving complaints of sex-based harassment of middle and high school students in the school district. And in Congress, we need you to take action on bullying.
PFAW

Senate Hearing Examines Indefinite Detention of Americans

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing entitled, “The Due Process Guarantee Act: Banning Indefinite Detention of Americans,” which shed light on controversial provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (NDAA).

That act, signed into law on December 31, 2011, codified some of the most extreme abuses of civil liberties that have been pursued following the initiation of the ‘War on Terror,’ the actions of which, under the current administration, are now engaged under the title, ‘Overseas Contingency Operations.’ The most striking provision of the NDAA affirmed a broad interpretation of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (2001) and stated that the executive has the power to detain anyone “who was part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities … without trial, until the end of the hostilities authorized by the [AUMF 2001],” which many interpret would permit even the indefinite detention of American citizens.

Although the current executive branch has pledged to not act upon these powers with respect to American citizens – President Obama signed the law with an adjoining statement, declaring, “my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens” – the potential for future administrations to engage in such clearly unconstitutional behavior, or for the Obama Administration to simply change its mind, is a danger that all Americans should be wary of.

Troubled by these possibilities, Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced the ‘Due Process Guarantee Act of 2011’ just hours after the final version of the NDAA was approved by the Senate. The bill seeks to amend the United States Code affected by the NDAA, effectively barring the executive from utilizing indefinite detention on American citizens without express approval from Congress to do so.

The hearing today regarded this remedial act; and there were fireworks to say the least.

Senator Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee and is the author of the bill, repeatedly called into question the effectiveness of the provisions in question. Alluding to her past experiences on the Intelligence Committee, Feinstein echoed the concerns of leaders of intelligence and domestic crime fighting agencies who have expressed their disagreement with the infringement of the Armed Forces into domestic security concerns.

Senator Patrick Leahy, before passing the gavel to Senator Feinstein to chair the session, spoke more broadly about the practice of indefinite detention in his opening statement, stating, “A regime of indefinite detention degrades the credibility of this great Nation around the globe, particularly when we criticize other governments for engaging in such conduct.”

The most heated portion of the hearing arose when Senator Al Franken objected to the testimony of Steven G. Bradbury, a former Bush Administration appointee invited by Senate Republicans to testify in favor of the indefinite detention provisions. Franken alluded to the ‘enhanced interrogation’ memos (more accurately called torture memos) that Bradbury authored – which were the subject of a Justice Department probe that concluded by seriously questioning the legal work of Bradbury and others - and stated, “it’s very difficult for me, frankly, to rely on your legal opinion today.”

To ensure that future generations of Americans are not subject to indefinite detention without charge or trial, which was deemed unconstitutional by the Hamdi Supreme Court decision in 2004, please contact your local Representative and Senators to express your opposition to the NDAA, and encourage them to co-sponsor legislation to make sure the law reflects our Constitution’s most essential values. ( H.R. 36702 in the House; S. 2003 in the Senate).

PFAW

PFAW Backs Ban on Foreign Electioneering in Wake of Citizens United

In response to the introduction of legislation by Senator Al Franken that would protect federal, state, and local elections from foreign influence, People For the American Way Executive Vice President Marge Baker said, "President Obama was exactly right when he raised the threat of undue foreign influence in US elections following the Supreme Court's irresponsible decision in Citizens United v. FEC."

Minnesota Supreme Court Rules for Franken

PFAW statement on the news that the Minnesota Supreme Court rejected Norm Coleman's challenge to the election results of the state's 2008 race for the United States Senate, making Al Franken the new senator-elect from Minnesota.
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