New Jersey

PFAW Statement on the Passing of Sen. Frank Lautenberg

In response to the passing of U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg, the longest serving New Jersey senator, People For the American Way President Michael B. Keegan released the following statement:

“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid once called Sen. Lautenberg ‘one of the most productive senators in the history of this country.’ It’s not hard to see why.  Sen. Lautenberg was a true progressive hero, championing issues ranging from environmental protection to gun violence prevention.   He was not afraid to take principled stands on issues that affected everyday Americans, even when it was the unpopular position to take.

“We at People For the American Way are deeply saddened by his passing.  Our thoughts are with his family and friends, and we hope they can take comfort in knowing that America is a safer, healthier, more just country because of Senator Lautenberg’s life work.”

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Senate Confirms New Jersey’s Patty Shwartz After Year-Long Delay

WASHINGTON – The Senate confirmed Judge Patty Shwartz of New Jersey to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in a 64 to 34 vote today, over one year after her nomination was sent to the Senate floor for a vote. Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way, released the following statement:

“The absurd delay of Patty Shwartz’s confirmation is emblematic of a Republican Party determined to obstruct the American people’s business at all costs. Judge Shwartz is indisputably qualified and supported by New Jersey’s legal leaders and elected officials from both parties, including Gov. Christie and both of the state’s U.S. senators. The only thing stopping the Senate from voting on her nomination was a 13-month Republican silent filibuster supported by flimsy excuses.

“The delay in confirming Judge Shwartz is sadly not unusual. President Obama’s confirmed circuit court nominees have been forced to wait an average of 153 days from Judiciary Committee approval to floor vote. By contrast, George W. Bush’s circuit court nominees at this point in his presidency waited an average of just 37 days. This deliberate slow-walking of nominees is obstructing Senate business, exacerbating a vacancy crisis in our federal courts, and deterring highly qualified individuals from putting themselves forward to serve on the federal bench. 

“This summer, two more Third Circuit judgeships will become vacant. We hope that Senate Republicans will allow these vacancies to be filled in a timely manner.”

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PFAWF Releases Reports on Outside Election Spending in 21 States, Organizes ‘Money Out/Voters In’ Events Across the U.S.

Out of State Money Floods Contests in 2012

Washington, DC –  Today People For the American Way Foundation unveiled new state-by-state fact sheets detailing outside spending in U.S. Senate and House races in 21 states.  Each report analyzes the outside spending totals from Super PACs, dark money groups, and out-of-state spenders in the down ballot federal races from the 2012 election cycle.  The fact sheets reveal that, on average, a majority of outside election money in these states came from Super PACs.  And in every case, a vast majority came from organizations registered outside of the state.

The release of the “Outside Spending, Outsized Influence” reports coincide with the weekend marking Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the third anniversary of Citizens United v. FEC  to draw attention to the dual threats of voter suppression and unlimited corporate and special interest money in politics. The reports – a partnership between PFAWF and U.S. PIRG – are part of the Money Out/Voters In campaign.  As part of that campaign, People For the American Way Foundation, its affiliate People For the American Way, and other organizers across the country are hosting “Day of Action” events in more than 76 cities in 33 states this weekend. Members of People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council will be leading Money Out/Voters In events in Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia.

“Last year’s elections were far and away the most expensive in history,” said People For the American Way Foundation Executive Vice President Marge Baker.  “A major reason was the influx of outside, special interest spending in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC decision. When big money floods our elections, it dwarfs the ability of individual Americans to have their voices heard. Just as important, when politicians push laws to suppress the vote, we turn back the clock on decades on progress to expand and improve our democracy. We need to pursue the full range of remedies to address the problem of too much money in politics, including amending the Constitution to overturn Citizens United, and we need to stand up against the growing threat of voter suppression.  This weekend we are joining with allies across the country to call for a democracy that gets Money Out and Voters In.”

The states featured in the reports are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin.

For links to each report, please visit: http://www.pfaw.org/issues/outside-spending-outsized-influence-big-and-s...

For more information about the Money Out/Voters In campaign or the Days of Action, please visit: http://www.moneyout-votersin.org

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Still No Explanation From Grassley on Judiciary Committee Delays

This morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved five nominees to serve on federal district courts in New York, California and Florida and on the US Court of International Trade. A week ago, Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley postponed votes on all five nominations without giving a reason, a delaying tactic that he has used on 97 percent of President Obama’s judicial nominees who the committee has voted on.

Sen. Grassley did not explain the reason for the delay last week, when a coalition of Iowa and national groups urged him to stop such routine delays. And the reason remained unclear today, as all five nominees were approved without opposition.

These five nominees now join fifteen other federal judicial nominees awaiting confirmation votes from the full Senate. The Senate has made progress by scheduling confirmation votes on four unopposed district court nominees in the past week, but that small amount of progress isn’t nearly enough to fill the gaps in overworked federal courts. Seven of the nominees still waiting for votes would fill officially-designated “judicial emergencies.”

It would be easy, of course, for the Senate to hold votes on all of the remaining nominees before the end of the year. After all, most were approved by the Judiciary Committee many months ago. But Senate Republicans have continued to stall even nominees with strong bipartisan support. All the circuit court nominees waiting for votes have the support of their home-state senators, Republican and Democratic, and nearly all of the pending district court nominees were approved by the Judiciary Committee with unanimous or nearly unanimous bipartisan support. One circuit court nominee, New Jersey’s Patty Shwartz, has been waiting nine months just for an up-or-down vote from the Senate; Federal Circuit nominee Richard Taranto has also been waiting since March.

If the Senate fails to vote on these nominees during the lame duck, the confirmation process – from presidential nomination through floor vote – will have to start all over again next year.

Notable about the district court nominees approved by the Judiciary Committee today is that all are women or people of color, representative of President Obama’s efforts to bring diversity to the federal courts. The nominees also include New York’s Pamela Chen, who would become just the fifth openly gay person to be confirmed to a lifetime federal judgeship.

PFAW

New Jersey Legislature Poised to Pass a Resolution Calling for a Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United v. FEC

 Today, the New Jersey legislature is poised to pass A.R. 86, which calls for a Constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. FEC.

Diallo Brooks, Director of Field Mobilization at People For the American Way issued the following statement:

“The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and related cases have opened the floodgates to corporate and special interest spending in our elections, placing our democracy on the auction block for the highest bidder. Citizens United must be overturned. The American people understand this and are taking action through their local and state governments, by calling on Congress to send the states an amendment to overturn this terrible decision. Today, New Jersey will join a growing chorus of voices demanding that this necessary change becomes a reality.”

Since the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United in 2010, the movement to pass an amendment overturning the decision has grown across the United States.

  • Over 300 cities and towns across the country have passed resolutions of support.
  • 8 state legislatures have either passed amendment resolutions or called on Congress via sign-on letters (HI, NM, VT, MD, CA, RI, MA, and CT.)
  • Voters in Montana and Colorado will vote this year on resolutions challenging Citizens United.
  • 2,000 public officials have signed on to support an amendment, including President Obama, 98 Members of the House, and 29 Senators (list visible at www.United4ThePeople.org) • Fourteen resolutions were introduced in the House and Senate of the 112th Congress. • The 2012 Democratic platform supports and amendment. • 1.9 million Americans have signed petitions calling for an amendment. Coalition partners include: The American Dream Movement of Cape May County, BlueWaveNJ, Food and Water Watch, Free Speech For People, International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 877, New Jersey Common Cause, New Jersey American Federation of Teachers, New Jersey Communications Workers of America, New Jersey Citizen Action, New Jersey MoveOn Councils (Mid-Jersey, Essex, Hudson), New Jersey Main Street Alliance, New Jersey Public Interest Research Group, New Jersey Sierra Club, New Jersey Tenants Organization, New Jersey Work Environment Council, New Jersey Working Families Alliance, Public Citizen, South Jersey Democracy is for People, United Steelworkers District 4, Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of New Jersey For more information, visit www.United4ThePeople.org or www.PFAW.org/GovernmentByThePeople. ">www.United4ThePeople.org)
  • Fourteen resolutions were introduced in the House and Senate of the 112th Congress.
  • The 2012 Democratic platform supports and amendment.
  • 1.9 million Americans have signed petitions calling for an amendment.

Coalition partners include: The American Dream Movement of Cape May County, BlueWaveNJ, Food and Water Watch, Free Speech For People, International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 877, New Jersey Common Cause, New Jersey American Federation of Teachers, New Jersey Communications Workers of America, New Jersey Citizen Action, New Jersey MoveOn Councils (Mid-Jersey, Essex, Hudson), New Jersey Main Street Alliance, New Jersey Public Interest Research Group, New Jersey Sierra Club, New Jersey Tenants Organization, New Jersey Work Environment Council, New Jersey Working Families Alliance, Public Citizen, South Jersey Democracy is for People, United Steelworkers District 4, Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of New Jersey

For more information, visit www.United4ThePeople.org or www.PFAW.org/GovernmentByThePeople

African American Ministers Leadership Council Statement on the Passing of Rep. Donald Payne

Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, Director of People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council, issued the following statement on the passing of New Jersey congressman Donald Payne:

“We are all saddened to hear of the loss of Congressman Payne, who has been a leader and an inspiration to a generation of civil rights advocates. Congressman Payne, through his work in Congress and at the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus foundation, has done so much to make the voices and needs of African Americans heard in Washington.

“Congressman Payne, while an important voice for African Americans, was also an outspoken advocate for human and civil rights for all Americans and for people around the world. He will be missed, and his life and the values he stood for will continue to inspire.”

 

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Marriage Equality in New Jersey: With or Without Chris Christie

Yesterday, the New Jersey Assembly joined with the State Senate and passed a bill endorsing same-sex marriage in a 42 to 33 vote. If marriage equality becomes law, New Jersey will become the eighth state to destroy what the Assembly speaker called one of the “last legalized barriers to equal rights.”

In a pivotal moment, New Jersey lawmakers did more than stand up for the institution of marriage; they chose to begin legally recognizing and protecting the civil rights of every resident of their state. They showed that no matter who one loves, the state should not limit the ability to fully commit to that person. As Newark Assemblywoman Cleopatra G. Tucker put it, “I came to the conclusion that the people sent me here from my district, here to protect what’s right…To protect the rights of everyone.”

Unfortunately, Governor Chris Christie has sworn to veto the new legislation, insisting that the legislature subject the basic civil rights of their fellow citizens to a referendum.

Proponents of marriage equality are not accepting this alternative, and are preparing to form even stronger coalitions to override Gov. Christie’s impending veto. Polls indicate growing support for same-sex marriage among voters, a trend that will likely continue over the next two years, providing the support the legislature needs to override the veto.

New Jersey’s legislature made history by passing a marriage equality bill. Governor Christie should do the same by signing it into law.

PFAW

Attend a Rally to Save the American Dream this Saturday!

Events have been organized in cities and state capitols across the nation to show solidarity with workers in Wisconsin. Find the event or events nearest you.

New Jersey State Senate Defeats Marriage Equality Legislation

Today, the New Jersey State Senate rejected legislation that would grant same-sex couples the right to be legally married.

PFAW Memo: Election Results, the Far Right, and Fighting Back

Tuesday's electoral returns offered a mixed bag of results. A few bright spots managed to appear among some disappointing defeats, and politicians from both parties should consider them carefully before making rash, and perhaps costly, conclusions.

A Student of Uncommon Courage: Matthew LaClair

When Matthew LaClair heard his popular high-school history teacher tell students that only Christians will go to heaven, and that evolution has no basis in science, he knew something was wrong. Unlike most 16-year-olds, he knew it was his duty to do something about it.

Back to School with the Religious Right

The Religious Right continues to target public schools in a variety of ways that disrupt education and threaten religious liberty, according to a report released by People For the American Way Foundation (PFAWF). The report provides an in-depth analysis of the struggle over the future of our public education system by focusing on six categories: creationism; textbook controversies; sexuality education; religion and public schools; anti-gay activity and censorship.

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