New York

Gun Violence Prevention Legislation Advances, Newtown Unites, and the Gun Lobby Doubles Down

This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved gun violence prevention legislation with the support of Newtown citizens and other families across the nation. NRA officials, meanwhile, continue to rely on incendiary rhetoric and fear mongering.

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:

For more information about the Money Out/Voters In campaign or the Days of Action, please visit:


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.


Religious Right Rabbi Blames Hurricane Sandy on Gays, Marriage Equality

This post has been updated, 11/5/2012

Rabbi Noson Leiter of Torah Jews for Decency is blaming Hurricane Sandy on gays and lesbians, calling it “divine justice” for New York’s new marriage equality law. Torah Jews for Decency campaigned against marriage equality in New York and New Jerseyworked with Liberty Counsel and New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms in an unsuccessful lawsuit to overturn New York’s marriage law, and has joined with various other Religious Right groups on anti-gay campaigns.

Yesterday, Leiter appeared on Crosstalk, the flagship program of Vic Eliason’s Voice of Christian Youth America, alongside Neil DiCarlo, a candidate for New York State Senate, to discuss New York’s legalization of same-sex marriage.

Leiter asserted that the “the Great Flood in the time of Noah was triggered by the recognition of same-gender marriages,” adding that there are similar “messages in this particular storm for us.” “The Lord will not bring another flood to destroy the entire world but He could punish particular areas with a flood, and if we look at the same-gender marriage recognition movement that’s occurring, that certainly is a message for us to learn,” he said. “We have to learn that the Lord does watch what we do and if we don’t shape up He will deliver divine justice.” Leiter also suggested that God flooded Lower Manhattan because it is “one of the national centers of homosexuality.”


Later in the program, Leiter argued that the “LGBT radical homosexualist movement” threatens the survival of society and religious freedom and will even increase child abuse by giving molesters a “license to victimize” children and even “a certain degree of diplomatic immunity.”

Eliason: Rabbi Leiter, you have been passionately involved in the fight for biblical, moral values, why?

Leiter: I think that’s what the Lord wants us to do and if we do not we face an existential threat. There is an issue of the survival of morality being necessary for the survival of society, and that’s not just an issue that’s specific to marriage. In addition there’s an issue of religious liberty. The LGBT radical homosexualist movement is really the Avant-guard of Bible-haters of all different types, not just limited to the left. The advance towards homosexual rights and so-called marriage is not predicated on getting rights, and just thereby stepping on the rights of Bible believers. The purpose is to bash Bible-believers using their so-called rights as a pretext do so and that’s why it is so critical to oppose them because they’re not after something that they think is theirs, they’re after us.

Leiter: There are so many things that people could point out about the negatives aspects of the homosexual lifestyle that is being touted as being this wonderful idea that the media doesn’t talk about. We’re talking about victimization that goes on under the rubric of protecting people’s rights; they’re not interested in protecting people’s rights, they’re interested in giving people a license to victimize, particularly to victimize children, and we pick up the pieces on some of that. We know how hard this is hitting society. The crisis of child molestation is not independent of the intentional proliferation of unfettered homosexuality, they are definitely connected, it doesn’t meant that every molester is homosexual but many of them are, there is a disproportionate number that are homosexual males. They are in some cases being given a certain degree of diplomatic immunity because of their favored status centered around a common vice. That’s something that no state has a right to do.

UPDATE: Gov. Andrew Cuomo condemned the remarks in a statement today:

The comments made by Rabbi Noson Leiter that sought to link the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy to our state's embrace of marriage equality are as offensive as they are ignorant. This catastrophic storm claimed the lives of more than forty New Yorkers. This kind of hateful rhetoric has no place in our public discourse, and is particularly distasteful in times of tragedy. Our state is proud to offer equal rights to all our citizens, and we will never tolerate the use of a tragedy like Hurricane Sandy to promote a divisive and bigoted agenda. I call on Rabbi Leiter to apologize immediately for his hurtful comments.

Former Gov. George Pataki, a Republican, also took Leiter to task for his comments, while DiCarlo stood by the Rabbi:

Pataki called on fellow Republican Neil DiCarlo — who is running on the Conservative Party line for a state Senate seat from the Hudson Valley — to denounce the remarks of Rabbi Noson Leiter. DiCarlo opposes gay marriage, and the orthodox rabbi made the statements in support of his third-party candidacy.

“It’s simply incomprehensible that anyone could attribute the devastation and loss of life caused by Hurricane Sandy to divine retribution against the New York State legislature,” Pataki railed.

“It’s like blaming America’s belief in freedom for the attacks of Sept. 11,” Pataki added.


Pataki argued that because Leiter’s remarks were made in support of DiCarlo, the candidate “has a responsibility to repudiate them.”

Reached by phone, DiCarlo refused to take that step when asked repeatedly. He instead questioned Pataki’s motives.

“Ask Mr. Pataki why he endorsed my opponent, and why he is bringing this up two days before the election — and then I’ll answer your question,” DiCarlo said before hanging up.

The Right to Vote Under Attack, 2012 Update

Here we detail, as of October 6, 2012, except where otherwise noted, the latest efforts across the country to suppress the vote, as well as some encouraging successes in expanding the franchise.

Big Love at King’s College: D'Souza's Mistress Was Also Married

On the heels of a sex scandal, Dinesh D’Souza announced his resignation today as president of King’s College in New York. D’Souza, star of the nonsensical anti-Obama film 2016: Obama's America and defender of traditional marriage, was recently caught cavorting with a much younger woman while still married to his wife. And now to make matters worse, it appears that his mistress was also married.

UPDATE: Making voter registration easier in New York

More good news from New York: Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a new initiative that will expand access to voter registration.
PFAW Foundation

Young Elected Progressives Program Candidates

As we continue to reveal the 2012 endorsed candidates of PFAW’s Young Elected Progressives program, here are three more great individuals, 35 or younger, running for office: Andrew Gounardes (NY), Micah Z. Kellner (NY) and Tim Keller (NM).

Andrew Gounardes

Andrew Gounardes is running to represent Brooklyn in the New York Senate. He currently serves as a member of Community Board 10 in New York City and is an attorney for the Citizens Committee, a non-profit organization focusing on providing funds for neighborhood improvement. When in school, Gounardes was the first Student Advisory Member to the Panel for Education Policy in New York City and he later worked as a legislative aide to U.S. Senator Robert Menendez. If elected, Gounardes will use his leadership experience to pass legislation improving public education, campaign finance laws and more. Visit his website here.

Micah Z. Kellner

Micah Z. Kellner is running for reelection to the New York Assembly. He has been serving in the Assembly since 2007 and has proven to be a great progressive leader. Kellner is a member on several committees including the Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection and the Committee on Cities. He has been a strong advocate for the disabilities community, as well as for marriage equality and reproductive freedom. Kellner also has fought for increases in the quality of public education through increased funding and is a champion for the middle class, as well, with efforts to make housing more affordable for all New Yorkers. Visit his website here.

Tim Keller

Tim Keller is running for reelection to the New Mexico Senate. After graduating from college, Keller established Data Digital Divide, which helps land mine victims in Cambodia. Upon moving back home to New Mexico, he began working for Booz and Company, a management and strategy firm, and eventually rose to the position of Senior Manager. He has built up a strong record in office and with his business experience, has fought to put New Mexicans back to work and improve the economy. Keller was elected to the Senate in 2008 and has been named to multiple committees including: Education, Military & Veterans’ Affairs and is the Chair of Science, Technology & Telecommunications. Visit his website here.


Rep. Tom Reed's Racist Friends Ridicule His Opponent's Asian Ancestry (VIDEO)

Republican Congressman Tom Reed is running to represent the newly created 23rd district in upstate New York, which covers much of the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier. He has a strong ally in WYSL, a right-wing talk radio station near Rochester that broadcasts throughout much of the district. On the one hand, it’s great to have friends who run a big radio station:

But Reed’s radio buddies caused trouble for him on Friday when they repeatedly ridiculed the Asian ancestry of Reed’s opponent Nate Shinagawa, a Democratic county legislator and hospital administrator from Ithaca. Shinagawa is a third-generation Japanese America whose grandfather was interned in California during World War II, only to enlist in the Marines upon release.

But that stuff doesn’t matter to WYSL host Bill Nojay and owner Bob Savage. They think Shinagawa has a funny name and must not be from around these parts. Here’s what Nojay, Savage, and a producer had to say about Shinagawa last Friday:
Nojay: Now you should be impressed that I know how to pronounce Shinagawa. Shinagawa ready to face Reed. He’s the guy who won the Democrat primary. He hails from the People’s Republic.
Producer: He’s gonna lose, just because of his name.
Nojay: Now that’s not a particularly nice thing to say.
Savage (in a stereotypical, derogatory Asian voice): Xenophobic. Xenophobic.
As the three go on talking about how “Shinagawa is going to lose” and “hasn’t done anything with his life,” a song begins playing in the background – it’s the 1963 hit song “Sukiyaki” by Japanese crooner Kyu Sakamoto. With the song mocking Shinagawa playing in the background, Nojay and his producer reveal just how tight they are with Reed:
Nojay: If I made a contribution to Reed’s campaign, I wonder if I can get a refund. He doesn’t need the money anymore … Whoop, I shouldn’t have said that. He’s gonna get mad at me.
Producer: You’re gonna be getting a phone call.
Nojay: Alright. Send money now to Tom Reed’s campaign, he’ll make good use of it. Reed’s a great candidate. He does need our help.
You can listen to their segment below. Note that Nojay’s comment about the “People’s Republic” refers to Ithaca and is one of the few things from the segment that isn’t racist. The “People’s Republic” moniker is a popular, if lame, trope of conservatives who like to put down various college towns – especially Berkeley – as being out of touch with real America.
Nojay isn’t just a right-wing talker on WYSL, he’s also a candidate in the GOP primary for a newly drawn seat in the New York Assembly. When he and Savage realized on Monday that not everyone was laughing along with their racist jokes, they decided to play dumb and deny everything. I’ll have more on their cowardly, and implausible, denials shortly, but it’s important not to lose focus on Reed.
Reed hasn’t just appeared multiple times on Nojay’s show. He (or his campaign) is apparently in close contact with Nojay, who used his show to solicit funds for Reed’s campaign. And he had praise heaped upon him at the same time his radio buddies were mocking his opponent’s Asian ancestry.
Reed can’t just excuse himself from this controversy. He has a responsibility to publicly call out his buddies and say that their racism has no place in American politics.
[Right Wing Watch is a project of People For the American Way, whose affiliated PAC has endorsed Shinagawa]

Making voter registration easier in New York

Voter Empowerment Act seeks changes that would make the state’s outdated registration process more efficient and accessible.
PFAW Foundation

JCN's Wendy Long Resurfaces in Run for Senate

Once upon a time, there was a right-wing group called The Judicial Confirmation Network that was created "to ensure that the confirmation process for all judicial nominees is fair and that every nominee sent to the full Senate receives an up or down vote." 

Such a mission made sense back during the George W. Bush administration, when the group was founded ... but didn't work so well when Barack Obama was elected and suddenly the organization was fighting to ensure that his nominees didn't get confirmed.

Eventually, the JCN realized that it couldn't keep calling itself the Judicial Confirmation Network if it was actively working to prevent the confirmation of judges, so the name was changed to the Judicial Crisis Network and the group likewise wrote up a new mission statement.

Eventually, the original founders left, with Executive Director Gary Marx signing on with Ralph Reed's Faith and Freedom Coalition and Chief Counsel Wendy Long stepping down in order to "devote her time to her family and other causes."

Among those "other causes" to which Long is dedicating herself is a run for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in November.

Last month, Long won the endorsement of the Conservative Party of New York State and today secured the endorsement of the anti-abortion zealots over at the Susan B. Anthony List:

The Susan B. Anthony List, the influential pro-life organization, offered an early and enthusiastic endorsement for Republican Senate candidate Wendy Long this morning.

“There could not be a more clear contrast between longtime pro-life leader Wendy Long and EMILY’s List poster child Senator [Kirsten] Gillibrand,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, the group's president, in a statement ... “From her days as a Hill staffer to her time at Americans United for Life and her work on behalf of Supreme Court Justices who practice judicial restraint, Wendy has constantly been engaged in the fight for adherence to the Constitution and the right to Life laid out in the Declaration of Independence,” Dannenfelser said in the statement. “We look forward to having her back on Capitol Hill and adding to the number of pro-life women in the Senate.”


In her statement, Dannenfelser echoed Long's earlier criticism of Gillibrand for accusing Republicans of waging a "war on women."

“Wendy understands that the only ‘war on women’ is the one being waged against women of faith and conscience by the Obama administration and their allies in Congress and the abortion lobby. She has boldly called on Senator Gillibrand to end the assault on Life, conscience, and religious liberty.”

NOM's Roback Morse Says the 'Gay Lobby' is behind 'Rank Political Corruption'

Jennifer Roback Morse of the National Organization for Marriage’s Ruth Institute appeared on Breakpoint with Chuck Colson this week where she accused the “gay lobby” of “having an absolutely corrupting impact on the whole political process.” She claimed that the gay lobby, along with “rich, Republican, Wall Street guys,” have been able to “buy state legislators” in order to win their votes for marriage equality. “So all of these legislators across the country, it’s like they’re salivating over all this money they might get if they vote the way the gay lobby wants them to,” Morse said, “the gay lobby has figured out that they cannot win a voter referendum, they have never won a voter referendum, it’s easier to buy state legislators than it is to try to buy off a whole population.”

The National Organization for Marriage, of course, repeatedly pledges to spend millions of dollars raised from a handful of out-of-state donors in order to finance the campaigns of any legislator who opposes the legalization of same-sex marriage and support any challenger to a marriage equality supporter, but apparently Morse doesn’t consider the same efforts from her own group “rank political corruption.”

Morse: In a way most ominously something that happened earlier this year is the New York state legislature voted to redefine marriage and the reason I say that one was so ominous is because it was Republican votes that did that and it was rich, Republican, Wall Street guys who came in with a lot of money and said ‘we want to get this done’ and basically they dangled money in front of swing voters, state legislators, and said ‘we’re going to put money into your re-election campaign if you vote the way we want you to.’ Now I’m not just saying that, they wrote about that in the New York Times, they wrote about it in the New York Times, they bragged about it, and to me if that’s not political corruption, I don’t know what it is. I mean, that’s just rank political corruption. So all of these legislators across the country, it’s like they’re salivating over all this money they might get if they vote the way the gay lobby wants them to, so it’s having an absolutely corrupting impact on the whole political process. The gay lobby has figured out that they cannot win a voter referendum, they have never won a voter referendum, it’s easier to buy state legislators than it is to try to buy off a whole population, and that’s where they are, and that’s what’s going on around the country.

Ithaca Mayor, Member of PFAWF’s Young Elected Officials Network, Tells His Story on Rock Center

People For the American Way Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network supports the work of over 600 young, progressive elected officials around the country. One of them, 24-year-old Ithaca, New York mayor Svante Myrick told his story on NBC’s Rock Center last night:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Featured along with Mayor Myrick are two of his fellow YEO Network members – who are also his roommates: City Councilmember Eddie Rooker and County Legislator Nate Shinagawa.


PFAW Foundation

Ledyard, New York Town Board Fails to Uphold NY Marriage Equality Act

After meeting Monday night, the Town Board of Ledyard, NY has failed to address the Ledyard Town Clerk’s refusal to fulfill her lawful obligations and sign marriage licenses for same-sex couples. The meeting was held after People For the American Way Foundation, working with the law firm Proskauer Rose, LLP, sent a letter to the town supervisor demanding that the town clerk be directed to certify the marriages of same-sex couples or to resign. Additionally, People For the American Way Foundation has launched a petition calling on the clerk to do her job according to the law or else resign.

PFAW Foundation Demands that NY Town Clerks End Marriage Discrimination

People For the American Way Foundation and Proskauer Rose, LLP, a global law firm, sent a letter this weekend to the Ledyard Town Board, demanding that the town’s clerk fulfill her legal duty to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples -- something she has yet refused to do.

People For the American Way Applauds Marriage Equality in New York

In a welcome move for equality, the New York Senate passed a bill granting full marriage equality to all New Yorkers. The legislation makes New York the sixth and largest state where same-sex couples can marry.

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.

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.
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