lindsey graham

Who's Who At The Values Voter Summit 2015

Next weekend, GOP presidential contenders and top lawmakers will mingle with some of the most extreme Religious Right activists in the country at the Values Voter Summit, an annual event in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Family Research Council, the American Family Association, American Values, and others.

Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Mike Huckabee, Lindsey Graham and Ben Carson have all confirmed that they will be speaking at the event. Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Chris Christie and John Kasich have been invited but have not yet confirmed their attendance, according to the event’s website. Jeb Bush, who was snubbed by FRC at last year’s event, declined to attend but will send a video address. Donald Trump is the only presidential candidate to have publicly turned down the invitation, provoking the ire of FRC’s president, Tony Perkins.

Candidates who attend the Values Voter Summit choose to align themselves with some of the most radical activists and organizations working to dehumanize LGBT people, erode reproductive rights, demolish the separation between church and state, and eliminate First Amendment rights for religious minorities.

The Family Research Council routinely smears LGBT people with false and degrading pronouncements and campaigns for a United States ruled by the dicta of a small faction of fundamentalists Christians. Another principal sponsor of the summit, the American Family Association, has an equally extreme record.

In addition to the abhorrent record of the sponsors of this event, the presidential candidates will also be joined by a host of radical Religious Right speakers.

Below is an introduction to some of the people who will be sharing the stage with the Republican presidential hopefuls.

Tony Perkins

As the president of the Family Research Council, the summit’s main sponsor, Tony Perkins heads the organization’s efforts to erode gay rights, reproductive rights, and the separation of church and state.

FRC continually expresses hostility to the rights of Americans who don’t share his conservative brand of Christianity. Last year, Perkins suggested that the First Amendment’s religious liberty protections do not apply to Muslims, not surprising for the leader of an organization that once issued a statement that read, “[W]hile it is true that the United States of America was founded on the sacred principle of religious freedom for all, that liberty was never intended to exalt other religions to the level that Christianity holds in our country's heritage…. Our Founders … would have found utterly incredible the idea that all religions, including paganism, be treated with equal deference." He similarly suggested that Christians who support LGBT rights should not have the same religious freedoms as anti-gay conservatives because “true religious freedom” only applies to those whom he believes hold “orthodox religious viewpoints.”

Perkins has also overseen one of the most anti-gay platforms of any major political organization. FRC officials have expressed support for the criminalization of homosexuality not only in the United States, but also in Malawi and Uganda. Senior fellow Peter Sprigg once said he would “much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them into the United States because we believe homosexuality is destructive to society.”

Perkins himself frequently reflects the extreme views of his organization. He has:

Jerry Boykin

Family Research Council vice president and retired Army Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin sparked a controversy when, as a high-ranking official in the Bush Defense Department, he framed the fight against terrorism as a holy war between Christianity and Islam. He has since built a career as a Religious Right speaker, specializing in anti-Muslim rhetoric and anti-Obama conspiracy theories. He:

Mat Staver

Mat Staver is the founder and head of Liberty Counsel, which is the organization currently representing Kentucky clerk Kim Davis in her campaign to deny marriage licenses to gay couples in her county. At a previous Values Voter Summit, Staver claimed that progressives are using LGBT rights and secular government as part of an effort to “ultimately implode America” and that the “agenda of the homosexual movement” is to destroy freedom and western civilization. Staver has:

Jonathan Cahn

Messianic rabbi Jonathan Cahn is best known for his novel “The Harbinger,” which asserts that the 9/11 attacks were a result of America losing God’s protection due to its sins.  Cahn also:

Todd Starnes

Fox News commentator Todd Starnes has become notorious for filing false reports based on right-wing conspiracy theories, especially about the supposed persecution of Christians in America, which of course makes him a favorite “journalist” among conservative activists. Starnes has also:

Star Parker

Star Parker is a longtime Religious Right activist who is particularly active in anti-gay and anti-choice advocacy. She has called legal abortion a “genocide” on par with slavery and the Holocaust and blamed “sexual promiscuity” for nearly all financial and societal problems. At the 2011 Values Voter Summit, she claimed that God was getting ready to punish America for marriage equality and legal abortion. Parker has also:

David and Jason Benham

Twin brothers Jason and David Benham were catapulted to national attention when an HGTV show that they were set to star in was cancelled following revelations about their anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-Muslim activism. Since the show’s cancellation, the brothers have become martyrs in the eyes of the Religious Right, which has lifted them up as an example of the supposed persecution of conservative Christians in America. One or both of the brothers have:

  • Asserted that the LGBT equality movement is part of a “spiritual fight" between God and the “kingdom run by Satan
  • Compared themselves to ISIS victims
  • Urged the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, to deny permits to an LGBT Pride event, calling it a “vile” and “destructive” activity that “should not be allowed in our city”
  • Compared the fight against marriage equality to opposing Nazi Germany
  • Called an Islamic community center a “den of iniquity” and referred to Muslims as “the enemy attacking" America
  • Organized a prayer rally to coincide with the 2012 Democratic National Convention, declaring that America must repent for “homosexuality and its agenda that is attacking the nation”
  • Led protests outside of abortion clinics, praising anti-choice demonstrators for taking a stand at “the gates of hell” and confronting the “altars of Moloch”

Kim Davis

Kim Davis, the clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, became a Religious-Right folk hero this summer when she refused to allow her office to issue marriage licenses after the Supreme Court decision on marriage equality. Davis, saying that she was acting under “God’s authority” and wanted to use her county office to spread “God’s word,” spent five nights in jail after a federal judge found her in contempt of court for violating multiple court orders to begin issuing licenses. The viciously anti-gay group Liberty Counsel and its founder Mat Staver has been active supporters of Davis and have been representing her in court

At the summit, Davis will receive FRC’s “Cost of Discipleship” award, which previously went to Meriam Ibrahim, a Sudanese woman who was actually persecuted for her Christian faith. Tony Perkins, the president of FRC, has previously compared Davis’ experience to that of Ibrahim, who was imprisoned for converting to Christianity and was later granted asylum in the U.S.

Casey Davis

Casey Davis (no relation to Kim Davis) is another Kentucky clerk who has refused to grant marriage licenses to gay couples. Davis called the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality a “war on Christianity,” and vowed to go to jail — and even die — in order to protect his “freedom” to deny gay couples marriage licenses.

Brigitte Gabriel

Brigitte Gabriel is the founder and president of ACT! for America, where she works with local activists throughout the country to promote fears that Sharia law is taking hold in the U.S. and must be banned and to challenge textbooks that she believes are insufficiently critical of Islam. She makes frequent media appearances to warn of what she calls the “secret Islamification” of the West. Among other attacks on Mulsim-Americans, Gabriel has:

Pat Fagan

Pat Fagan is the director of summit sponsor the Family Research Council’s Marriage and Religious Research Institute. He has compared a UN report criticizing the Vatican over its handling of sexual abuse cases to Kristallnacht, the spate of violence in which Nazis attacked Jews and destroyed their property while German police turned a blind eye, and  has advocated for coming up with new names for gay marriage, such as “garriage,” “larriage” or “harriage,” so that when he says “marriage” it will be clear he means heterosexual marriage. He has said that Eisenstadt v. Baird, the Supreme Court ruling that allowed the distribution of contraception to unmarried people, may be “the single most destructive decision in the history of the Court,” explaining that “functioning” societies “punish” and “shame” people who have sex outside of marriage.

Erick Erickson

Erick Erickson is a Fox contributor and the editor of conservative blog RedState. Constantly pushing for the conservative movement to move further to the right, Erickson has:

Craig James

Former sportscaster Craig James joined the Family Research Council in 2014. In addition to claiming that Obama may secretly be a Muslim, James has:

Aaron & Melissa Klein

Aaron and Melissa Klein are the owners of an Oregon bakery who were sued for violating the state’s nondiscrimination laws when they refused to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. They have since become Religious Right martyrs and were featured by Sen. Ted Cruz in a campaign video. Aaron Klein has said that denying a cake to a gay couple was part of his fight against “Satan.”

Ed Vitagliano

As research director of the American Family Association, Ed Vitagliano is a vocal anti-gay activist. Not only does he believe “pray away the gay” works, but he also claims that gay rights will lead to the destruction of America.

Brent Bozell

Bozell is the Founder and President of the Media Research Center, which works to expose what it claims is rampant “liberal media bias.”

Bozell has:

The Constitution The Republicans Can't Stand

This post was written by PFAW President Michael B. Keegan and originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

If you are running for office as a Republican today, you have to mention your reverence for the Constitution at least as much as you mention your love for Ronald Reagan.

The Second Amendment-- every word should be taken literally because it was literally ordained by God! The First Amendment protects my right to discriminate against gay people! Neither the Constitution nor the Bible contains the word "Obamacare"!

But Republican politicians have a few glaring blind spots when it comes to the Constitution. One of those is the 14th Amendment, a pillar of our inclusive democracy, a key component of which Republican presidential candidates are now asking us to ignore or change.

In its infamous Dred Scott decision in 1857, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the descendants of enslaved people were disqualified from U.S. citizenship. After we fought a civil war, the U.S. ratified the 14th Amendment to the Constitution in 1868, which overturned Dred Scott in its opening lines, declaring, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

During the congressional debate over the 14th Amendment, both its supporters and detractors recognized that this birthright citizenship clause would apply to everyone born on U.S. soil, not just the descendants of slaves. In 1898, the Supreme Court ruled that even after the passage of the discriminatory Chinese Exclusion Act, the U.S.could not deny citizenship to Wong Kim Ark, a California-born son of Chinese immigrants, because the 14th Amendment guaranteed him citizenship.

Yet, anti-immigrant activists and their allies in the GOP are now fighting against this most American of constitutional principles.

In an immigration plan released this week, GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump called for ending birthright citizenship. No matter that he didn't say how he would do that(while most people acknowledge that it would take a constitutional amendment to change the policy, some claim it was never included in the 14th Amendment in the first place). His Republican rivals started jumping to join him. Scott Walker told reporters that he "absolutely" wanted to change the Constitution's definition of citizenship, adding, paradoxically, that "to me it's about enforcing the laws in this country." Ben Carson said it "doesn't make any sense" to allow "anchor babies." Bobby Jindal joined the fray. So did Lindsey Graham. Rand Paul and Rick Santorum had already expressed their support for undoing the citizenship provision, with Paul sponsoring a constitutional amendment to do so and Santorum saying the 14th Amendment doesn't even say what it says.

Jeb Bush has been getting unearned credit for acknowledging that birthright citizenship is a "constitutional right" that we shouldn't "take away" -- just a few days after implying that if he had a "magic wand" to change the Constitution he would use it to do just that. Similarly, John Kasich has renounced his previous support for repealing birthright citizenship, but now says he doesn't want to "dwell on it." Carly Fiorina's and Rick Perry's passionate defense of the 14th Amendment is that it would take too much work to change it. This is what now passes for moderation. What ever happened to defending basic constitutional rights?

The Republican presidential contenders' rush to badmouth a basic constitutional right -- in an apparent attempt to appeal to their supposedly Constitution-loving far-right base -- speaks volumes about what they really mean when they talk about constitutionalism. They use their pocket Constitutions for the parts that come in handy. The rest of it? Not so much.


'What's Wrong With Slavery?' And Jan Mickelson's Other Worst Pro-Confederacy, Anti-Immigrant, Anti-Gay Moments

If you are a presidential candidate, you spend a lot of time talking to people in Iowa. And if you’re a Republican, that means a lot of time on Iowa conservative radio, including popular programs hosted by right-wing activists Steve Deace and Jan Mickelson.

The fact that Deace and Mickelson have long histories of extreme rhetoric has not dissuaded Republican candidates from joining their shows. But Mickelson just upped the ante with comments he made on his program today.

Media Matters caught Mickelson proposing that undocumented immigrants in Iowa become “property of the state” and pressed into hard labor. When a listener called in to point out that Mickelson’s proposal “sounds like slavery,” Mickelson asked, “Well, what’s wrong with slavery?” Undocumented immigrants, he went on to say, are the ones who are enslaving American citizens:

It will be interesting to see if any of the GOP candidates who have been on Mickelson’s radio program recently — which, according to Media Matters’ count, includes Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Rick Santorum and Bobby Jindal — repudiate his remarks.

But the fact is that if these candidates were concerned about Mickelson’s rhetoric, they should have stopped going on his show long ago.

When Graham appeared on his program in June, Mickelson declared his allegiance to the Confederacy, as Graham scrambled to distance himself:

Mickelson has also backed Jim Crow-type voting laws.

Today’s comments are hardly Mickelson’s first foray into anti-immigrant extremism either. He has proposed barring undocumented children from public schools and said that if someone has a Hispanic name and is involved with the police, “I assume you’re not here legally.” After an interview with anti-immigrant activist Ann Corcoran, Mickelson promised to press every candidate he had on his show to oppose the U.S. resettlement of refugees from war-torn Muslim countries, which he said was an “act of jihad.” When he asked Rand Paul about it, Paul said the U.S. shouldn’t resettle Iraqi refugees because “we won the war.”

Mickelson’s anti-gay activism includes calling AIDS an “invention” of God to punish homosexuality and agreeing with former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad on the issue of homosexuality.

The Iowa talk radio host also enjoys promoting fringe right-wing conspiracy theories. Mickelson helped to bring the Jade Helm 15 conspiracy theory into the GOP mainstream, asking Paul on his program about the supposed federal plan to take over Texas .

And just last week, Mickelson was getting Rep. Steve King to entertain the conspiracy theory that a botched EPA mine cleanup in Colorado was a deliberate plan to pollute a river to create a Superfund site:

Republican candidates may try to avoid Mickelson’s show after today. But given their track record, we somehow doubt that they will.

2016 Republican Candidates Report

As the GOP embraces the reactionary politics and anti-government zealotry of the Tea Party, it is steadily purging “moderates” and empowering extremists. Nothing shows this trend more clearly than the lineup of Republican presidential candidates.

Meet The Republican Candidates Who Have Defended The Confederate Flag

Following the murder of nine people in an apparent hate crime in a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, on Wednesday night, many Americans, including prominent political figures, are calling for South Carolina to remove the Confederate flag from the North side of the state’s capital building. Gov. Nikki Haley, who defended the flag during her campaign for reelection last year and supported its placement because business leaders had not complained to her about its posting, said today that “the state will start talking about” the flag issue again following the shooting.

The following Republican presidential hopefuls have voiced their support for the Confederate flag to remain on government buildings and public property.

Lindsey Graham

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina came to the defense of the South Carolina Confederate flag display yesterday, describing it as an integral “part of who we are”

While Graham did admit to CNN that the flag has been “used in a racist way” in the past, he argued that “the problems we have in south Carolina and the world are not because of a movie or a symbol, it’s about what’s in people’s heart.”

He added that South Carolina’s “compromise” of having both a Confederate War memorial and an African American memorial at the state capitol “works.”

Mike Huckabee

Hoping to mobilize white evangelical voters against Republican “establishment” candidates in 2008, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee demanded his fellow candidates stop asking for the removal of the Confederate flag from government offices.

Huckabee had this to say: “You don’t like people from outside the state coming in and telling you what to do with your flag…if somebody came to Arkansas and told us what to do with our flag, we’d tell them what to do with the pole. That’s what we’d do.”

Rick Perry

During his last presidential campaign, Rick Perry came under scrutiny for his efforts to oppose the removal of the Confederate flag from display at the statehouse when he was lieutenant governor of Texas. In a March, 2000 letter to the Sons of Confederate Veterans obtained by the Associated Press, Perry wrote, “Although this is an emotional issue, I want you to know that I oppose efforts to remove Confederate monuments, plaques and memorials from public property.”

However, Perry seems to have begun to rethink his stance on Confederate symbols. In 2011, he opposed an effort to create Confederate flag license plates, and in an interview on Newsmax’s The Steve Malzberg Show this week Perry voiced his agreement with critics of the flag that “we need to be looking at these issues as ways to bring the country together. And if these are issues that are pushing us apart, then maybe there’s a good conversation that needs to be had about [it].”

States and Localities Fight Back Against Big Political Spending

Since the 2010 Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates for record-breaking levels of election spending, Americans have pushed for a change. According to a recent New York Times poll, 85 percent of Americans agree that the campaign finance system needs reform, from “fundamental changes” to a “complete overhaul.” Now Americans are going to their state and local governments to spearhead efforts to get money out of politics. 

 Over 125 bills regarding campaign spending have been introduced in 33 statehouses in the last few months, even in the conservative stronghold Texas. Some of these efforts have been bipartisan; Montana’s Democratic governor Steve Bullock collaborated with a Republican-controlled legislature to pass a bill that requires nonprofit “social welfare” groups to disclose their political spending.

 “When somebody's hiding in the shadows and gut-shoots you, you have a right to know who's taking a shot at you,” said Republican Montana state senator Duane Ankely.

  Americans are already working to fix the problem of big money in politics. More than 150 organizations have supported the Unity Statement of Principles which articulates the values underlying key solutions to ensure a democratic system of government where everyone’s voice is heard, everyone follows the same set of rules, and where everyone is held accountable. One important solution to the problem of big money’s influence in politics is a constitutional amendment that would overturn the Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United and let the American people establish reasonable limits on election spending.

  Sixteen states and more than 650 cities have passed resolutions urging Congress to adopt such an amendment. Activists in twelve states recently delivered petitions to their members of Congressmen asking them to support the amendment, and with 311,950 local petitions were delivered to district offices in California alone. Further, nearly three in four Americans support implementing a constitutional amendment. Presidential candidates, such as Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and even Republican Lindsey Graham, have all spoken in favor of campaign finance reform. The movement to get money out of politics already enjoys bipartisan support at all levels of government, and the stage is set for even more momentum, particularly around an amendment, moving into 2016.


Anti-Choice Leader: Abortion Ban's Rape Exception Is 'Abominable' but Politically Necessary

Sen. Lindsey Graham is pushing for a vote on a 20-week abortion ban, similar to one recently passed by the House. While he has the support of major anti-choice groups including the Susan B. Anthony List, Americans United for Life and the National Right to Life Committee, some in the anti-choice movement are balking at a provision that exempts rape survivors if they undergo a 48-hour waiting period.

At a press conference yesterday, LifeSiteNews confronted Graham and some of the bill’s supporters about the rape exception, which SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser said she accepted for political purposes even though it is “abominable.”

“No one should give up or give over a rape exception unless there is simply no chance of saving those other children,” she told the anti-choice outlet, adding that in drawing the line at 20 weeks, they’ve “excepted…most children” from the ban, but that “it’s a place that we can actually get the legislation through”:

Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser, who moderated the press conference and whose organization has been a prominent backer of the 20-week ban in its current form, said that she believes that rape exceptions are "abominable."

"I agree. I agree that the rape exception is abominable," she told LifeSiteNews. "I also know that with it, we were able to move forward, and we have the potential of saving 15,000 to 18,000 children a year. No one should give up or give over a rape exception unless there is simply no chance of saving those other children. I really believe that."

I also think that -- look at this bill, it's a 20-week bill. We left out every other child. We've excluded, and excepted, most children from this. So by the same argument, I reject that, but I also know that we've found a sweet spot that we can get common ground on, and it's a place where the country is, and it's a place that we can actually get the legislation through."

Dannenfelser told a conservative radio program after the House passed its version of the bill that she found the rape exception “regrettable,” “just wrong” and “completely intellectually dishonest,” but that politicians sometimes require them for “political” reasons.

John Kasich Kicks Off Presidential Bid By Addressing Religious Right Gathering

The Faith and Freedom Coalition, the Religious Right group led by disgraced right-wing lobbyist Ralph Reed, is holding its annual “Road to Majority” conference next week. Nearly every Republican presidential candidate has signed up for the event, and today, the FFC announced that Ohio Gov. John Kasich will be addressing the conservative summit.

Kasich recently made waves by tapping John Weaver and Fred Davis, two veterans of John McCain’s 2008 campaign, to work for his increasingly likely campaign for president.

The conference is cosponsored by radical right-wing groups such as Concerned Women for America, the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family & Property and the World Congress of Families, and will feature speeches from Religious Right favorites such as Reps. Steve King and Louie Gohmert, Fox News pundit Todd Starnes, Christian Broadcasting Network “reporter” David Brody, pastor Jim Garlow, rabbi Daniel Lapin and activists like Phyllis Schlafly, Lila Rose and Gary Bauer.

Clearly, no right-wing activist is too radical or corrupt for Republican presidential candidates to embrace, which is why Kasich, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Lindsey Graham and Carly Fiorina have no qualms about attending this event organized by someone like Reed.

Reed is best known for his involvement in the Jack Abramoff scandal, where he organized a Christian Coalition anti-gambling campaign in Alabama with the help of secretive funding from Mississippi tribes that owned casinos – who just so happened to be Abramoff’s clients that didn’t want business competition from the neighboring state. Reed denied knowing the source of the funding, even though investigators uncovered emails from Abramoff asking Reed to send invoices for approval from a Mississippi tribe which controlled major gaming interests. Abramoff later said that Reed “didn't want it out that he was getting gambling money,” adding that Reed was “a tap dancer and constantly just asking for money.”

Bob Vander Plaats: How Will Lindsey Graham Fight Radical Islam If He Won't Fight LGBT Rights?

Last week, after Caitlyn Jenner introduced herself on the cover of Vanity Fair, prominent Iowa talk radio host Steve Deace told Republican candidates that if they wouldn’t speak out against Jenner’s transition, “you might as well just forfeit the 2016 election now.” When CNN’s Dana Bash asked Sen. Lindsey Graham about Deace’s comments in an interview over the weekend, he responded that while he’s “a pro-life, traditional marriage kind of guy,” Jenner is “welcome in my party.”

He then addressed Deace directly: “Here's what I would say to the talk show host: In the eyes of radical Islam, they hate you as much as they hate Caitlyn Jenner. They hate us all because we won’t agree to their view of religion. So, America, we’re all in this together.”

All of this, unsurprisingly, did not go over very well with Deace, who addressed Graham’s comments yesterday during his weekly discussion of presidential candidates with Iowa social conservative activist Bob Vander Plaats, saying, “If you’re not going to defend the idea of male and female, you’re not going to defend any of those other things that you just claimed to be for, Sen. Graham.”

Vander Plaats, an influential force in Iowa Republican politics, agreed, saying that if Graham wouldn’t speak out against people like Caitlyn Jenner, he could never fight radical Islam.

“The thing of it is, you can go out and you can have empathy and compassion for Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner,” he said. “However, you have to be able to stand up and say, but God still created us male and female. That’s the basic point here.”

“That’s our issue with Lindsey Graham,” he added, “is that you can say you’re pro-life, you can say you’re for God’s design for the family in marriage, you can say that he created them male and female, but when you never take a stand on those issues, it’s awfully hard for us to trust, then, that you’re going to take a stand against radical Islam or any other domestic matter or foreign matter that may come up during a presidency. That’s why I think in Iowa not many people take Lindsay Graham seriously.”

Reuters Report: Voters Won't Let Billionaires Buy the Next Election

 With the 2016 national elections upcoming, wealthy donors supporting both parties are gearing up to throw hundreds of millions of dollars into the races; billionaires David and Charles Koch have already pledged to spend $889 million. But a report from Reuters shows that Americans, frustrated by the overwhelming influence of big money in politics, are organizing to fight back.

 In the Philadelphia mayoral race, three billionaires spent $7 million to elect Anthony Hardy Williams. In response, unions and community groups rallied around his challenger, Jim Kenney, organizing a march to stop the wealthy donors from “buying [their] next mayor.” Technological developments are making such organization easier: the creators of Crowdpac, an app that lets entrepreneurs gather funding towards donations, say that they want the app to be used to organize small donors to counteract the effects of billionaire spending.

  This is reflective of a wider trend in public opinion. Americans are sick of letting big money influence their elections; 84 percent say that money has too much influence in political campaigns today and nearly 3 in 4 Americans support a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision and limit campaign spending.

“There's growing public awareness about rich people trying to buy elections and that makes the task of winning all the more difficult," said Darrel West of the Brookings Institute.

  Americans have organized at all levels of government to get big money out of politics. Activists have held rallies and marches devoted to the cause and demanded that their representatives in Congress take steps to reduce big money’s influence. Five million of them have signed a petition calling for a constitutional amendment to limit the amount of money spent in politics. Sixteen states and more than 650 cities have already called for an amendment.

 President Obama is on board, and presidential candidates like Hillary Clinton, Lindsey Graham, and Bernie Sanders have expressed support for a constitutional amendment. Clinton and Sanders have also emphasized the importance of nominating Supreme Court Justices who would restore balance to the Supreme Court and restore the American people’s ability to impose reasonable limits on money in politics.

  The movement against big money in politics is gaining momentum as the election nears.



Right Wing Round-Up - 5/26/15

Lindsey Graham: Mike Huckabee Wrong About Boycotting Military Under Obama

Earlier this week, Sen. Lindsey Graham discussed his potential presidential campaign on Boston Herald Radio, where the hosts asked him about Mike Huckabee’s assertion that people shouldn’t join the U.S. military until President Obama leaves office and is replaced by someone who shows less “hostility toward the Christian faith.”

“In all due respect to Mike, who I like a lot: Join your military,” Graham said. “You’re not serving Barack Obama, you’re serving your nation. I’m a military officer, I retire in a month or so, I’m not going to speak ill of the commander-in-chief in that regard. I will take issue with his policies, but military service is not about an individual, it’s about a cause greater than yourself. Join and hold your head up high.”

The hosts also asked Graham about Ben Carson’s remarks linking gay people with pedophiles and “bestiality supporters.” Graham responded that Carson was off-base, adding that if the Supreme Court strikes down marriage equality bans, Americans should “move forward as a society” since there is no way to ratify an amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning same-sex marriage.

He also subtly slighted Richard Mourdock, the Indiana Republican politician who said pregnancy from the result of rape was a “gift from God” during the 2012 election.

Right Wing Round-Up - 5/6/15

Grassroots Organizing to Make Money in Politics a Key Issue in 2016

From a mailman flying a gyrocopter to the Capitol to protest big money in politics, to Hillary Clinton making the issue a centerpiece of her campaign, to Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Lindsey Graham being asked about their stances on campaign finance reform at Q&A events, it’s clear that money in politics is shaping up to be a major issue in 2016. Yesterday The Washington Post’s Matea Gold reported on the grassroots push to spotlight the topic of big money’s influence on our democracy:

[F]ive years after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision — which held it was unconstitutional to ban independent political spending by corporations and unions, and helped set off a financial arms race — there are signs that politicians are beginning to confront a voter backlash.

….For those who feel strongly about it, the 2016 primaries and caucuses — and the up-close access they bring to the presidential contenders — offer a ripe opportunity to elevate the topic.

In New Hampshire, nearly 500 people have volunteered to attend public forums and press the White House hopefuls about money in politics, Weeks said.

In an interview aired Friday on National Public Radio, PFAW Executive Vice President Marge Baker underscored the importance of top candidates elevating this issue:

"When the leading candidate for president says she's going to make reducing the influence of money in politics one of the four pillars in her campaign, you know that that's going to be a major issue in 2016," Baker said. "So this is a very, very big deal."

While there are many issues that divide Americans, addressing the big-money takeover of our political system is not one of them. That both Lindsey Graham and Hillary Clinton expressed support for an amendment to get big money out of politics in the past two weeks underscores the fact that fighting to fix our broken democracy is not only the right thing to do, it’s also good politics – across the political spectrum.


Lindsey Graham Says We Need an Amendment to Fix Money in Politics

At an event with a local television station in New Hampshire this weekend, Sen. Lindsey Graham was asked a question about what he would do to fight big money in politics. In his response, Graham pointed to the need for a constitutional amendment to address the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United:

Well, Citizens United has gotta be fixed. Y'all agree with that? You're gonna need a constitutional amendment to fix this problem. I was for McCain-Feingold, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that provisions in McCain-Feingold basically no longer apply.

You're gonna get sick of watching TV in New Hampshire. So the next President of the United States needs to get a commission of really smart people and find a way to create a constitutional amendment to limit the role of super PACs because there's gonna be like $100M spent on races in New Hampshire — which'll be good for this TV station — ripping everybody apart. You don't even know who the people are supplying the money, you don't even know their agenda. Eventually we're gonna destroy American politics with so much money in the political process cause they're going to turn you off to wanting to vote. [emphasis added]

This is not the first time Sen. Graham has spoken out against the big money takeover of our elections. In March, Bloomberg’s David Weigel wrote about a comment Graham made to a voter — again, in New Hampshire — about his desire to see some “control” over money in politics so it won’t “destroy the political process.”

While voicing support for an amendment is important, when the Senate voted in September on the Democracy for All Amendment, a proposal that would overturn decisions like Citizens United and help get big money out of politics, Sen. Graham voted against it.

So here’s a follow-up question for Sen. Graham: Will you back up your words with action? Will you work with your colleagues in Congress who are already pushing for an amendment and help tackle the issue of big money in politics? 


Lindsey Graham: Frightening People All The Way To The Presidency

For Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., stoking fear makes him an expert on national security. While no one doubts the threat of terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIS, Graham has played up wild fears as part of his naked political ambition...

Seriously? Republicans Target Birthright Citizenship Again?

This op-ed by Randy Borntager, Political Director of People For the American Way, was originally published at The Huffington Post.

After the vast majority of Republicans voted to shut down the Department of Homeland Security to oppose President Obama's immigration actions, and with Republicans blocking any hope of real immigration reform this Congress, it seems the anti-immigrant movement has instead decided to refocus its efforts on revoking the constitutional right to birthright citizenship.

Earlier this week, Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana decided to introduce a birthright citizenship amendment to the bipartisan Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015. The amendment so far has just one cosponsor -- Sen. David Perdue of Georgia -- and it's unlikely that it will be included in the final bill, but this decision to tack an unconstitutional, anti-immigrant measure onto an important bill shows the priorities of Sen. Vitter and the Republican Party.

Sen. Vitter claims that his birthright citizenship amendment would help curb the issue of "birth tourism," recently in the news surrounding Chinese mothers coming to California -- often committing crimes in the process -- so their children can be born in the U.S. It would seem more sensible to tackle this issue through targeting the middlemen who NBC reports "pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars tax-free," and the visa, tax, and marriage fraud that are often a key part of "birth tourism." Instead, Sen. Vitter and the many Republicans who support ending birthright citizenship are trying to use the issue as cover for their attacks on immigrants and attempts to revoke a core constitutional right.

The flaws of the conservative attacks on birthright citizenship have been well documented. First, it's blatantly unconstitutional. It's clear that the drafters of the 14th Amendment intended it to guarantee citizenship to everyone born in the U.S. The only exception -- in the words of one of the amendment drafter's, Sen. Jacob Howard -- is for people "who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States," as they are not, as the 14th Amendment requires, "subject to the jurisdiction" of the United States. Conservatives from Michael Gerson, a former George W. Bush adviser, to the anti-immigrant Lou Dobbs have viewed attempts to undermine birthright citizenship as unconstitutional.

It's also a terrible idea. Gerson wrote, "Anti-immigration activists often claim that their real concern is to prevent law breaking, not to exclude Hispanics. But revoking birthright citizenship would turn hundreds of thousands of infants into 'criminals'--arriving, not across a border, but crying in a hospital." The Migration Policy Institute also found that rather than decreasing the number of undocumented immigrants in America, as birthright citizenship activists claim, revoking the right would "likely increase dramatically" the number of people in the country without authorization, leading to the "establishment of a permanent class of unauthorized persons."

Sen. Vitter is not the only Republican promoting anti-immigrant bills instead of trying for real, bipartisan solutions on immigration. In January of this year, Rep. Steve King of Iowa re-introduced a bill aiming to repeal birthright citizenship. Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, Rep. Mike Coffman, and Rep. Joe Heck have all backed plans to revoke birthright citizenship in the past.

We need immigration reform. From improving the economy while reducing the deficit to ensuring that DREAMers and their families can live and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation, the benefits are endless. Not only have Republicans blocked comprehensive immigration reform when it had a real chance of passing, they're now trying yet again to bring up unconstitutional bills to drive their point home. That's not what responsible governing looks like, and for a party that says they're trying to attract more Latino support, they're certainly not shy about attacking immigrants for short-term political gain.


Lindsey Graham Tells Anti-Choice Activists: Need To Find 'Way Out Of This Definitional Problem With Rape'

Sen. Lindsey Graham, chief Senate sponsor of the GOP’s effort to undermine Roe by banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, spoke this morning to the Family Research Council’s “ProLifeCon,” about the House GOP’s decision to cancel a vote on its version of the bill that had been planned for today. The House leadership pulled the plug on the vote in response to protests from some Republican women who objected to a provision that exempted rape survivors from the ban only if they report the rape to police. Some anti-choice groups have objected to including a rape exception in the bill at all, a last-minute addition after the bill’s previous House sponsor, Trent Franks, implied that women who are raped rarely get pregnant.

Graham acknowledged that opponents of rape exceptions are being “intellectually consistent and honest about ‘the baby is the baby’” but argued that banning rape survivors from accessing abortion is a political impossibility: “Some of us who have these exceptions do so in a democratic society believing that there are some places we will not go.”

“I’m going to need your help to find a way out of this definitional problem with rape,” he told the audience, saying that his plan was to hold a Senate vote on a Democratic bill aimed at pushing back on state-level abortion clinic “TRAP” laws in order to show that it’s Democrats who are “extreme” on abortion rights.

“The rape exception will be part of the bill…We just need to find a way definitionally to not get us in a spot where we’re debating about what a legitimate rape is, that’s not the cause that we’re in,” he said.

This post has been updated with additional details of Graham's speech. 

Right Wing Round-Up - 1/8/15

Far-Right Furious After GOP Report Debunks Benghazi Conspiracy Theories

Fox News seems to be doing its best to bury the findings of a new report from the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee, which undercuts many of the wild accusations Fox News hosts made about the 2012 Benghazi attack. In fact, the report is the seventh official investigation into Benghazi, all of which cleared the Obama administration of wrongdoing, and follows a report from the GOP-controlled House Armed Services Committee, which also debunked many right-wing Benghazi myths.

Others on the right, however, seem content with blasting the report as part of an ever-growing plot to guard President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a conspiracy which now apparently includes the House Republicans.

Sen. Lindsey Graham dismissed the Intelligence Committee report as “full of crap” and a “complete bunch of garbage,” without bothering to rebut any of the facts laid out in the report, and demanded that Congress expand the eighth investigation by the House Select Committee on Benghazi. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the incoming head of the House Oversight Committee, also pledged to launch another investigation into Benghazi.

Breitbart Senior Editor-at-Large Joel Pollak continued to use attacks on Obama and Clinton that were directly undermined by the report’s findings, while Daniel Greenfield of FrontPageMag called the report a “joke” that shouldn’t have even have been released, suggesting that House Republicans are now part of a cover-up intended to benefit Clinton:

There is simply no such thing as accountability in government. The incestuously corrupt culture of government insiders and the smug political reporters who eat out of their hands make that impossible. No matter how many whistleblowers come forward, how many of the men and women on the front lines tell their story, a group of lawyers with red pens will huddle over a report and use technicalities and word games to ignore the whistleblowers and exempt their government superiors from blame.

Washington can never allow any accountability for Benghazi because once we look closely at the murder of four Americans we might just have to start looking at the thousands of soldiers who died or were wounded in Afghanistan for many of the same reasons; including being denied support to avoid offending Muslims.

The media can never allow any accountability for Benghazi because the buck stops with their chosen presidential candidate for 2016.

Conservative commentator Walid Shoebat’s outlet held the report up as proof that House GOP has been infiltrated by — you guessed it! — the Muslim Brotherhood. He even urged the Benghazi Select Committee to depose the Intelligence Committee chairman over the matter:

A soon-to-be released House Intelligence Committee report on the Benghazi attacks reportedly lets the Obama administration off the hook, concluding that there was “no deliberate wrongdoing” on the part of the administration relative to the attacks. A consequence of this is that Benghazi Select Committee chairman Trey Gowdy is being stabbed in the back by his Republican colleague, who chairs the Intelligence Committee.

Committee chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) is a figure who should be at the top of the list of individuals House Select Committee on Benghazi’s Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy should depose, as has reported. As for the issue of Muslim Brotherhood infiltration, Rogers has a history of running interference for it. In 2012, he dismissed legitimate questions by Rep. Michele Bachmann and insisted close Hillary Clinton adviser Huma Abedin is an “American patriot”.

Based on what is being revealed about the forthcoming Intelligence Committee report, that reality is even clearer.
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