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.
At a meeting with Iowa state legislators yesterday recorded by the Iowa conservative blog Caffeinated Thoughts, Rick Santorum boasted that he proved himself as a strong leader when he opposed the 2003 Supreme Court decision striking down anti-gay “sodomy” bans. Without such leadership against LGBT rights, he warned, “life as we know it, particularly the family, is going to be on a very, very bad track over the long term.”
Addressing the controversy over so-called “religious freedom” measures in Arkansas and Indiana that were softened by legislators to make it more difficult to use them as a cover for discrimination, Santorum lamented that “what happened there was the media created a firestorm and leaders didn’t lead.”
“I’ve been through that firestorm,” he explained. “I go back 13 years to when I was in the Senate and stood up and said, ‘If the Supreme Court decides a case this way, then all these bad things are going to start happening.’ And I said we would have same-sex marriage in this country in ten years. I was wrong: it was five years. And I was put through a national wringer like no one had been put through and I have been put through over and over and over again because I am not going to back down from what I believe is the right course for our country.”
Although Santorum likes to claim that all of his dire predictions about the aftermath of Lawrence v. Texas came true, that isn’t exactly accurate. He told CNN at the time: "If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything."
“I always say, whether it’s religious liberty now or the marriage issue or a whole bunch of other things, we’re losing these arguments simply because we’re not making them,” Santorum said in Iowa. “We’re not making them because we’re intimidated from them. If that continues, then life as we know it, particularly the family, is going to be on a very, very bad track over the long term.”
He added that he was a strong leader during the Indiana and Arkansas controversies because he was “fighting for the truth and not the perversion that we saw the media try to ram down the public’s throat about what Indiana and Arkansas were doing.”
The American Pastors Network organized a Pennsylvania pastor summit last week featuring right-wing activists David Barton and Sandy Rios, along with video greetings from Mike Huckabee overlooking the valley of Armageddon. Sam Rohrer, president of both the Pennsylvania and American Pastors Networks, is a graduate of Bob Jones University and a former member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, where he authored legislation to direct millions of tax dollars into Christian schools. At last year’s March for Marriage, Rohrer warned that marriage equality will doom America to tyranny and “invite God’s judgment.”
Following “God’s promptings,” Rohrer ran for governor in 2010 and for the U.S. Senate in 2012. He did not win either of those races, but says “God used the statewide travels to deepen his relationship with many pastors across the state.”
Rohrer wants to build networks of conservative pastors in all 50 states. His “Stand in the Gap” radio shows have a growing Pennsylvania-based radio presence. Rohrer’s philosophy about church-state relations and his vision for the state networks he has set out to build are summarized in a pamphlet distributed at the conference:
The Biblical Relationship: Pastors and Government Leaders
The phrase “Ministers of God” is often used to describe pastors in the pulpits. Yet God also uses the title of “Ministers of God” to describe those in positions of civil government as referred to in Romans 13. This is a title God gives to those He raises up and both of these positions of authority are equally established by God to accomplish His purposes.
Pastors are charged with wielding the Word of God as an instrument of Truth, preaching the whole counsel of God into all of His institutions – the Home, Civil Government, and the Church to equip people to advance God’s design for society (II Tim. 4:2)
Government leaders are charged with wielding the Word of God as an instrument of Justice, promoting God’s moral law as the foundation of right and wrong, encouraging those who do well biblically, and executing judgment on those who break the law (Romans 13:3,4)
Rohrer writes that the relationship between pastors and government leaders is “biblical, not political.” The APN’s Ministers Together Initiative “seeks to restore the biblical relationship and commitment between the Pastor and the Government Leader to help each other, pray for each other, encourage each other and together commit to acting in obedience to the commands of scripture.”
The American Pastors Network, a Religious Right group hoping to organize networks of politically active evangelical pastors in all 50 states, met with Pennsylvania pastors at Lancaster Bible College on Thursday. The day-long event featured several national speakers like “historian” David Barton, activist Paul Blair of Reclaiming America for Christ, and right-wing broadcaster Sandy Rios, who as Kyle reported yesterday, urged participants to prepare for martyrdom.
The threat of anti-Christian persecution was a frequent theme at the U-Turn conference, which took its name and themes from a recent book co-authored by Barton and evangelical pollster George Barna. For example, Steve Scheibner, an American Airlines pilot who narrowly avoided being on a flight that was hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center, declared, “Persecution is coming.” But, he added, “It may be the best thing that’s ever happened to the church.” Another speaker, Dale Anderson, thanked “that rascal” Barack Obama for having woken up the church.
Paul Blair gave David Barton-esque remarks about the nation’s history and cited English jurist William Blackstone in arguing that there can be no valid law that is contrary to scripture. He declared that “Judge Roy Moore,” Alabama’s Supreme Court Chief Justice, is “a hero” for defying a federal judge’s decision on marriage equality. Blair said America is in its current state because too many pastors and people have been “sheep.” He insisted that marriage equality is a line that Christians must not allow to be crossed.
Barna was the Debbie Downer of the conference, reeling off pages of statistics designed to show the moral decline of America and the diminishing influence of the church in American culture. Among the statistics that seemed to land like a punch to the gut: only nine percent of born-again Americans have what Barna calls a “biblical worldview” – just over 51 percent of Protestant senior pastors make the grade. Barna decried the fact that so many pastors do not preach about current political topics.
Barton’s speech contained no surprises for anyone familiar with his shtick about the influence of colonial-era pastors on the country’s founding, the number of Bible verses supposedly contained in the U.S. Constitution, and his insistence that the Bible is filled with specific policy prescriptions, such as opposition to minimum wages and capital gains taxes. In fact, he said, the Bible includes 613 civil laws for running the country.
Barton cited principles of warfare taught at the Army War College to argue that the church is supposed to be on offense, not defense, in current culture war battles. Making that happen is the goal of those who are working to build the American Pastors Network, including Sam Rohrer, a former member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and a 2010 gubernatorial candidate, who serves as president of both the national and Pennsylvania networks.
Among the video presentations at the conference was a message recorded by Mike Huckabee in Israel, standing on a ridge overlooking the valley that he said would be the site of the battle of Armageddon. He stood on Mt. Carmel, the site of an Old Testament showdown in which Elijah showed up the prophets of Baal by having God rain down fire on an altar he had drenched with water. America, said Huckabee, needs pulpits willing to call down God’s fire.
Among the vendors doing a brisk business at the conference was the Institute of the Constitution, which promotes a Christian Reconstructionist ideology, and which has used its materials to train Tea Party activists in their vision of a radically, and biblically, limited role for the government.
In a speech Saturday to the far-right Awakening conference organized by Liberty Counsel, Rick Santorum told the audience of pastors and activists that it was up to them to save America by, in part, getting Bibles back in public schools.
“We are on a crossroads in American history, a crossroads that looks like we are heading down in a direction that, let’s be honest, no civilization has ever been able to recover from,” Santorum warned, adding that the nation needs to return to God.
“The left cannot be successful in a country of God-given rights,” he said. “It can’t. Because they want to be the purveyor of rights, and if God is the purveyor of rights, then they lose. We have an obligation to educate, to form, within our churches to preach, within our families to educate, and to fight within our schools. Why are Bibles no longer in public schools? Don’t give me the Supreme Court. The reason Bibles are no longer in the public schools is because we let them take them out of the public schools.”
He added a variation on President Obama’s campaign chant: “You say, ‘Well we can’t get them back in.’ Yes we can. Yes we can!”
Rep. Scott Perry, Republican of Pennsylvania, stopped by a “Defeat Jihad Summit” hosted by Frank Gaffney yesterday, to discuss the “conundrum” that he’s in about whether to vote for the Authorization for the Use of Military Force that President Obama has sent to Congress to formally approve the ongoing military actions against the so-called Islamic State.
Perry said that while he feels “duty bound” to stop the “growing scourge” of the Islamic State, he doesn’t want to sanction the use of force by Obama, who he claimed is “really working collaboratively with what I would say is the enemy of freedom and individual freedom and liberty and Western civilization and modernity.”
“And in that context, how do you vote to give this commander-in-chief the authority and power to take action when…you know in your heart that, if past performance is any indicator of future performance, that he won’t, and that he actually might use it to further their cause and what seems to be his cause and just drag you as a complicitor [sic] in it,” he said.
Potential Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum had an opportunity to speak at length to Iowa conservatives last week, when he guest hosted Steve Deace’s radio show on Veterans Day. The three-hour program gave Santorum plenty of time to muse on a variety of topics, including his admiration for segregation proponents Jerry Falwell and Jesse Helms and his belief that President Obama’s “greatest failing” has been his failure to end racism in America.
Santorum mentioned that he had recently been invited to speak at Liberty University, which led him into a tangent on how much he admires the school’s founder, the late Rev. Jerry Falwell. Although “how the press treated Rev. Falwell was not necessarily positive,” Santorum said, he found Falwell to be “completely gracious, warm [and] affirming.”
This made Santorum think of the late Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, who he said exhibited “probably the starkest contrast of what the press used to portray and what the reality was.”
“There was no one nicer than Jesse Helms,” Santorum said. “I mean, I don’t think a single Democrat would tell you that on a personal level, there was anybody that was more gentlemanly, more kind than Jesse.” (He might want to check with Carol Mosely-Braun on that.)
He added that the “breakup of any kind of cooperation” in government is happening because people like President Obama are failing to be gentlemen like Jesse Helms:
Later in the program Santorum took a call from a listener who complained that the media was giving less coverage to looting and vandalism in Ferguson, Missouri, than to “this police officer who has generally a pristine record in law enforcement" who "simply chose to defend himself.”
“I completely understand your position,” Santorum responded, before accusing the media and President Obama of fomenting “racial division” and “pitting one group against another.”
President Obama’s “greatest failing,” he added, was that he had the opportunity "to be a transformational figure from a racial point of view and he has abandoned the field.”
Voters across the country trying to cast votes in Tuesday’s elections ran into hurdles erected by Republican legislatures, governors and secretaries of state. Along with mechanical glitches and human error — which occurred in states with leaders on both sides of the political spectrum — voters faced new laws and policies that made it harder to vote.
In Alabama, a last-minute decision by the attorney general barred people from using public housing IDs to vote. Voter ID laws in North Carolina and Texas sowed confusion. Georgia lost 40,000 voter registrations, mostly from minorities. In all, the group Election Protection reported receiving 18,000 calls on Election Day, many of them having to do with voter ID laws. The group noted that the flurry of calls represented “a nearly 40 percent increase from 13,000 calls received in 2010.”
In the presidential election year of 2016, it looks unlikely that those problems will subside — especially if Congress fails to restore the Voting Rights Act. The two states that had the closest vote tallies in the last presidential election — Florida and Ohio — will go into the presidential election year with Republicans controlling the offices of governor and secretary of state and holding majorities in their state legislatures.
In Florida, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who won reelection yesterday, will be able to appoint a secretary of state and will enjoy the support of a veto-proof Republican majority in the state House.
In Ohio, controversial Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted won reelection on Tuesday, along with Gov. John Kasich. They’ll be able to work with a strengthened GOP majority in the state legislature.
In North Carolina, where a Republican legislature and governor have cracked down on voting rights, the GOP held onto its majority. Republican secretary of state candidates in the swing states of Colorado, Iowa and Nevada also won elections yesterday.
Two influential elections for voting rights also took place in states unlikely to be presidential swing states. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a national ringleader for advocates of restrictive voting laws, won reelection. In Arizona, which has been working with Kansas to defend their states' respective tough voting requirements, Republican candidate Michele Reagan also won her contest.
One exception to the trend is Pennsylvania, where Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, who backed a harsh voter ID law that has since been struck down in the courts, lost to voting rights supporter Tom Wolf. Although Wolf will contend with a Republican majority in the state legislature, he will be able to appoint a secretary of the commonwealth.
To: Interested Parties
From: Paul Gordon, Senior Legislative Counsel, People For the American Way
Date: September 15, 2014
Subject: Senate Needs to Confirm Pending Judicial Nominees
There is probably little more than a week before the Senate goes out on recess until after the election. One of the most important – and undoubtedly quickest and easiest – things it can do before then is confirm 16 judicial nominees, most of whom have overwhelming bipartisan support.
One of the most important responsibilities of the United States Senate is to maintain a functioning federal court system. District courts are the backbone of the American judicial system. They are where people turn when they feel their rights have been violated. “Having your day in court” is an essential part of the American ideal. But that ideal cannot be met if we don’t have enough judges to make it happen. Even if every vacancy in the country were filled tomorrow, it wouldn’t be enough: The Judicial Conference of the United States – the entity responsible for assessing the federal courts’ ability to effectively manage their caseloads – has urged Congress to create an additional 85 district court judgeships. So when an existing vacancy can be filled with a qualified nominee, it ought to be done with dispatch.
Right now, nominees for 16 such vacancies can be confirmed within the next few days. Seven of these were fully vetted and approved by the Judiciary Committee and have been waiting for a floor vote since June or July. Of these seven, all but one of them advanced without any opposition. Four alone are from Georgia: nominees who have the unanimous support of the Judiciary Committee’s Democratic and Republican senators. There are no more questions to ask of these nominees, except when they will be allowed to take up their judicial responsibilities and fill empty courtrooms in Georgia, New York, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.
The remaining nine were scheduled for a committee vote last week, having had their confirmation hearings back in July. They have been nominated for judgeships in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Missouri, Connecticut, and New Jersey. Four of them – nearly half – would serve in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, a state with so many vacancies that it alone accounts for 15% of the nation’s total, but Chairman Leahy was forced by the GOP to delay the vote. Republicans gave no reason for the delay, but they rarely do: Since President Obama took office, Republicans have exercised the right of the minority party to have a committee vote “held over” (delayed) by at least a week without cause for nearly all of his judicial nominees, part of their overall mechanism of obstruction. Fortunately, they are expected to get their overdue committee approval later this week.
There remains plenty of time to confirm all 16 nominees before the Senate goes out for its pre-election recess next week.
The fact that we are heading into an election is no reason not to hold these confirmation votes. In fact, in September of 2008, a presidential election year – and the twilight of George W. Bush’s presidency, no less – Democrats rushed several of his nominees through to make sure they got confirmed before recess (and before his presidency ended). Ten of Bush’s district court nominees were confirmed just one day after being approved by the Judiciary Committee. All ten had had their committee hearings earlier that same month – in some cases, during that same week. The confirmation votes took hardly any time at all, since all ten were considered and confirmed as a bloc by unanimous consent.
Interestingly, three of those 2008 nominees were from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, where four of the current 16 nominees could be serving by next week, if given the chance.
Republicans still have a chance to demonstrate that they can prioritize the functioning of the U.S. court system over their own partisan interests. But it seems unlikely. Since last year, the GOP has insisted that no judicial nominee, despite their bipartisan support, advance on the Senate floor without time-consuming cloture votes and roll-call confirmation votes. And it isn’t just the roll-call votes that take time (although each one can take nearly an hour). Without unanimous consent to waive the chamber’s time requirements, cloture votes cannot be held until two days after cloture petitions are filed, and each confirmation vote requires at least an hour of needless “post-cloture debate” even after the filibuster is broken.
If Republicans successfully prevent votes this month, the earliest the courtrooms will see some relief will be in a potential lame duck session. That means another two month wait until clearly qualified nominees are able to take their seats in courtrooms around the country. There is simply no good reason for such delay.
Glenn Grothman, the Wisconsin state senator and U.S. House candidate who is bravely fighting against the “war on men,” this weekend earned the endorsement of a man he calls his “soul mate”: former senator Rick Santorum.
The Wisconsin State Journal reports that Santorum announced his Patriot Voices PAC’s endorsement of Grothman on a joint conference call late last week, where the two “praised each other for their devotion to conservative principles.”
State Sen. Glenn Grothman snagged a high-profile endorsement this week when he won the backing of previous GOP presidential hopeful and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, from Pennsylvania, and his Patriot Voices PAC.
During a Thursday conference call with reporters, Grothman and Santorum praised each other for their devotion to conservative principles. Grothman talked about how Santorum won him over when they first met during Santorum’s unsuccessful bid to become the 2012 presidential nominee.
“When I met him, I felt we were almost soul mates,” Grothman said. “It’s kind of an odd thing.”
Along with exposing the “war on men” being waged by “gals” in the workplace, Grothman has defended Uganda’s harsh anti-gay law, tried to make abortion a crime even if it would save the life of the pregnant women, claimed that women earn less because "money is more important for men," wanted to officially classify single parenthood as a factor in child abuse, goes out of his way to bash Kwanzaa, and is a leader in pushing for blatantly political voter suppression laws.
In other words, exactly the sort of politician who would find an ally and soul mate in Rick Santorum.
On today's "Pray In Jesus Name" program, Gordon Klingenschmitt reacted to last month's ruling striking down Pennsylvania's ban on gay marriage by declaring that the judge who issued the ruling was controlled by a demonic spirit that led him to "conspire against God."
As Klingenschmitt explained, whenever people "invite the Devil to rule our hearts," it results in "a demonic spirit of sexual immorality" manifesting itself through their sinful behavior. And that is exactly what happened with "tyrant" Judge John Jones III, who, driven by a "demonic spirit of pride," sought to "conspire against God" by tossing Jesus and the Bible on the ash heap of history with his marriage ruling.
But Klingenschmitt has a message for Jones: "Judge and Satan, you will end up on the ash heap of history and not Jesus and the Bible."