Last year, University of Texas professor Mark Regnerus — author of a widely panned study on same-sex parenting that is nonetheless frequently cited on the Religious Right — helped launch a new group called the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture, which has since been publishing his research on topics including pre-marital sex, divorce, religion among college students and masturbation.
According to tax records filed this summer, the Austin Institute receives much of its funding from one donor: New York hedge fund honcho and social conservative mega-donor Sean Fieler.
The 2013 tax return for Fieler’s Chiaroscuro Foundation reports two grants to the Austin Institute, totaling $250,000. Although the public copy of Chiaroscuro’s tax return obscures the dates of its fiscal year, the organization’s 2010 return indicates that its tax year runs from January through December.
Meanwhile, the Austin Institute’s return reports that it took in just $205,000 in contributions between February and June 2013, indicating that a significant portion of its initial funding came from Fieler’s charity.
Fieler’s funding of the Austin Institute shouldn’t come as a surprise. To begin with, he is a trustee of the Witherspoon Institute, the Princeton-based think tank that kicked in $700,000 for Regnerus’ now infamous “New Family Structures” study. The study claimed to show that children raised by gay and lesbian parents suffer all sorts of harmful consequences like drug use and abuse, despite only actually studying two people raised by same-sex couples.
According to the Austin Chronicle, the new group was quickly dubbed “Witherspoon Institute South” — a name stemming from its staff’s plentiful ties to the Witherspoon Institute and the Religious Right.
The Austin Institute grants were among the biggest expenditures last year by Fielder’s Chiaroscuro Foundation, many of which went to groups fighting marriage equality and abortion rights. This year, recipients include Americans United for Life ($20,000), the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty ($260,000), the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), which fights pro-choice and LGBT rights initiatives at the U.N. ($20,000), the National Abstinence Education Foundation ($50,000) and the Susan B. Anthony List ($40,000). As ThinkProgress noted yesterday, Fieler’s foundation also gave $50,000 last year to Morality in Media for its increasingly quixotic anti-porn campaign.
In 2012, the foundation gave $20,000 to the National Organization for Marriage, but seems to have snubbed the group in 2013.
The Chiaroscuro Foundation is just the beginning of Fieler’s influence: Last month, RH Reality Check delved in detail into Fieler’s political spending, including his funding of the American Principles Project and his hand in political races across the country.
While Regnerus’ research at the Austin Institute has so far made less of a splash than his faulty same-sex parenting study, he has continued to lend his voice to the effort to stop marriage equality, including testifying on behalf of a same-sex marriage ban in Michigan this year. (That move caused some of his UT colleagues to distance themselves from his work.)
The Austin Institute’s most noticeable contribution so far is a viral YouTube video applying a pop-economics veneer to the Religious Right’s favorite target, the sexual revolution. The video explains (in economic terms, of course) how contraception led to women turning against each other while men became video-game playing slobs — the only solution to which is for women to band together to withhold sex until marriage.
And the Austin Institute seems primed to provide more research to conveniently reinforce the Religious Right’s policy views — a solid investment for a donor like Fieler.
UPDATE: A reader points out that the Bradley Foundation, a conservative group that includes the Witherspoon Institute's Robert George on its board and that also helped to fund Regnerus' "New Family Structures" study, also reported a $100,000 grant to the Austin Institute last year.
Sen. Ted Cruz has spent the past several months railing against a proposed constitutional amendment to undo the Supreme Court’s decisions in Citizens United and related campaign-finance cases, which would restore to Congress and the states the ability to “set reasonable limits” on election spending.
Cruz has gone into full hyperbole mode over the amendment, claiming that the campaign to narrowly roll back what many legal experts believe is an erroneous interpretation of the First Amendment is in fact an effort to “repeal the First Amendment,” silence pastors and imprison old ladies.
So, of course, it was no surprise at all yesterday to see Cruz himself proposing to amend the Constitution to reverse what he sees as an erroneous interpretation by the courts, this time on the issue of marriage. Roll Call reported on Cruz’s reaction to the Supreme Court’s "tragic" decision yesterday to decline hearing any marriage equality appeals, thus letting same-sex couples in several states get married:
While most Republicans shied away from commenting Monday on the Supreme Court’s historic decision to let stand a slew of lower court rulings legalizing gay marriage, Sen. Ted Cruz torched the court’s decision.
The Texas Republican called the decision “tragic and indefensible” and said he would introduce a constitutional amendment that would ensure states can ban gay marriage.
“By refusing to rule if the States can define marriage, the Supreme Court is abdicating its duty to uphold the Constitution. The fact that the Supreme Court Justices, without providing any explanation whatsoever, have permitted lower courts to strike down so many state marriage laws is astonishing,” he said in a statement.
“It is beyond dispute that when the 14th Amendment was adopted 146 years ago, as a necessary post-Civil War era reform, it was not imagined to also mandate same-sex marriage, but that is what the Supreme Court is implying today. The Court is making the preposterous assumption that the People of the United States somehow silently redefined marriage in 1868 when they ratified the 14th Amendment,” he said.
“Nothing in the text, logic, structure, or original understanding of the 14th Amendment or any other constitutional provision authorizes judges to redefine marriage for the Nation. It is for the elected representatives of the People to make the laws of marriage, acting on the basis of their own constitutional authority, and protecting it, if necessary, from usurpation by the courts.”
For the record, here is the section of the 14th Amendment that courts have been relying on to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples:
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. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Texas Supreme Court Justice John Devine joined the “Faith & Liberty” program recently to discuss his originalist judicial philosophy, which he said reflects the “intent of the founders,” unlike that of the progressives who now — thanks to the negligence of the church — control “the White House and almost every facet of government.”
“How do you react when you hear the Constitution as a living and breathing document?” host Dave Garrison asked Devine.
“Well, it’s just not what the intent of the Founding Fathers was,” Devine replied. “It’s like the Ten Commandments, if we would just stick to those basic principles our nation would be far better off and we would once again be the light on the hill. And unfortunately, the church has gone to sleep, many Americans have gone to sleep and we have allowed those with these progressive ideas to have the White House and almost every facet of government.”
Earlier this month, the Texas Observer dug up video of a speech given by Texas Republican state House candidate Tony Tinderholt — a Tea Party favorite who is expected to win and has received campaign help from Sen. Ted Cruz — sounding off about immigration at a July meeting.
Tinderholt said that “we are being thieved” by undocumented immigrants who are “taking the lifeblood of our country.” He conceded that immigrants want a better life, “but that better life for them is free stuff.”
He then suggested that the U.S. deploy the military to the southern border, starting a conflict in which “people are going to die.”
Sen. Ted Cruz is out with a new effort today opposing President Obama’s possible executive action preventing the deportation of many undocumented immigrants living in the U.S…and in the process is raising money and collecting email addresses for Sen. Ted Cruz.
In a new website and online video, Cruz incorrectly links the crisis of unaccompanied minors at the southern border with Obama’s executive order deferring deportation for DREAMers. A voiceover in the online video says, “we cannot hope to address the crisis on the border without first addressing the fundamental cause of it,” before showing a still shot of someone climbing over the border fence.
But luckily, Cruz is here to save the day! “Senator Ted Cruz is leading the fight to secure the border, stop Obama’s amnesty and celebrate legal immigration,” he voiceover says.
The website, “StopObamasAmnesty.com,” then leads visitors to give Cruz’s fundraisers their email addresses and to donate to Cruz’s joint fundraising committee. The committee has raised over $4 million so far in this election cycle, much of it during the government shutdown that he orchestrated.
This summer, Cruz successfully lobbied a number of GOP House members to block a bill to handle the crisis of unaccompanied minors on the border. So, once again, Cruz is fundraising off a problem that he personally prevented the government from trying to solve.
Four years ago, the Texas State Board of Education made national headlines when it worked with Religious Right activists like David Barton to create a set of new textbook standards that played up the role of Christianity in the nation’s founding and played down the role of slavery in the Civil War, among other questionable changes.
According to our friends at the Texas Freedom Network , a new set of social studies textbooks up for approval from the state school board contain many flaws that “reflect the ideological beliefs of politicians on the state board rather than sound scholarship and factual history.”
TFN convened a panel of historians to review proposed textbooks and found that a number of the board’s faulty claims had been absorbed into proposed textbooks. For instance, a number of books followed the board’s advice in making vague claims about Moses as a direct influence on the framers of the Constitution — a claim straight out of David Barton’s pseudo-scholarship.
The material presented in these textbooks on this issue seems to have been determined more by political concerns than considerations of good scholarship. On the one hand, the decisions of these textbooks seem to have been strongly influenced by the suggestions and requirements of the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE). For instance, that the Texas SBOE suggested in the 2009-2010 debate over curriculum standards that Moses influenced the writing of the nation’s founding documents and that several textbooks mention Moses’ influence on the Founders seems to be no coincidence. On the other hand, the frequently vague nature of the textbooks’ statements about the influence of Moses and other religious ideas and figures on the Founders seems to indicate that the publishers did not want to be held accountable by scholars are those critical of SBOE’s standards. Unfortunately, the result of this at once overly controversial and overly careful strategy is the failure to provide students with an understanding of the influence of religion on our Founders that rests on sound scholarship and captures the diversity of the Founders’ views. These textbooks too often settle for giving students vague impressions about the Founders and religion while denying them the crucial information necessary to evaluate these claims. The SBOE and these textbooks have collaborated to make students’’ knowledge of American history a casualty of the culture wars.
Other concerns that TFN’s reviewers found in the textbooks include:
- Some textbooks greatly exaggerate religious influences on the American founding, with some going so far as to suggest without substantiation that Moses was a major influence, that “the roots of democratic government” can be found in the Old Testament, and that “the biblical idea of a covenant … contributed to our constitutional structure.”
- While the textbooks largely make clear that slavery was the central cause of the Civil War, some give nods to neo-Confederate arguments first promoted after the war that “states’ rights” was the driving issue. Some also downplay the serious hardships faced by African Americans during segregation.
- Some textbooks reinforce negative stereotypes of Islam as a violent religion spread exclusively by conquest. One tells students, inaccurately, that “the spread of international terrorism is an outgrowth of Islamic fundamentalism,” ignoring the numerous examples of terrorism not related to Islam at all.
- Some textbooks suffer from an incomplete and at times inaccurate coverage of religions other than Christianity. For example, one textbook teaches students, inaccurately, that all Hindus are vegetarians. On other hand, coverage of key Christian concepts and historical events are lacking in a few textbooks, often apparently due to the presumption that all students are Christians and already familiar with that information.
- Reflecting concerns already noted about the curriculum standards by the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a number of textbooks present an uncritical celebration of the free enterprise system. They downplay or even ignore legitimate problems in capitalism and the role government played in the growth of the American economy of the 1800s.
- A number of U.S. History textbooks suffer from a general lack of attention to the experiences of Native American peoples and cultures and sometimes include biased or misleading information.
One textbook includes a biased even offensive treatment critical of affirmative action, including cartoons that jokingly suggest space aliens would qualify.
- Most textbooks offer scant coverage of the movement for LGBT equality, one of the salient civil rights struggles of the last half-century. One publisher links the gay rights movement of the late 1960s to society “spinning out of control.”
Sen. Ted Cruz has been known to make some pretty outlandish comments about the Democracy for All Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment being debated in the Senate which would overturn decisions like Citizens United, but his latest may take the cake. “Lorne Michaels [of Saturday Night Live] could be put in jail under this amendment for making fun of any politician,” Sen. Ted Cruz claimed on the floor of the Senate this week.
Luckily, a number of more grounded voices were able to set the record straight about Cruz’s wild and inaccurate remark. Last night, CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin said:
I think [Cruz] is wrong… This amendment is simply about restoring the old status quo about campaign contributions… I think his point…really has very little, if anything, to do with the constitutional amendment that the Senate is debating.
Amendment sponsor Sen. Tom Udall clarified that “[n]othing in the amendment would permit the arrest of anyone for engaging in political speech,” and pointed out that the proposal intends to bring the country’s campaign finance rules back to what they were in 1975, when Saturday Night Live began.
Other responders were a little more fiery, including former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson, who on Monday published an op-ed with Sen. Udall in support of the Democracy for All Amendment. Simpson called Cruz’s remarks about Saturday Night Live “outrageous,” and urged Sen. Cruz to “read the damn amendment. That would be a wonderful thing.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders also joined the conversation on The Ed Show last night, noting that Sen. Cruz “sounds like he is on Saturday Night Live. It’s a very funny skit.” He pointed out that “Citizens United is a little over four years old; Saturday Night Live has been on the air for decades. And I don’t recall too many people on Saturday Night Live going to jail for making fun of politicians.” Sen. Sanders added that it’s a “preposterous argument” and “just another scare tactic.”
Indeed, as Sen. Udall said in a speech on the Senate floor yesterday, quoting People For the American Way President Michael Keegan:
‘A good rule of thumb in politics is that the scarier someone sounds, the more you should doubt what they’re saying.’ We heard some scary things in the last couple of days. Lorne Michaels is going to jail. And he’s sharing a cell with the little old lady who put up a $5 dollar political yard sign. Books and movies are banned. The NAACP, Sierra Club, and Moveon.org have been prohibited from speaking about politics. Scary stuff. But none of it is true. [emphasis added]
Here’s what is true: the proposed amendment is supported by 73 percent of voters, including a growing body of grassroots activists who have pushed for hundreds of state and local resolutions and who are making senators’ phones ring off the hook this week with thousands of calls expressing their support for fixing our democracy.
So if the best that amendment opponents like Sen. Cruz can do is to push wild-eyed myths about comedic producers being thrown in jail, it’s clear that the American people are winning this fight.
In an appearance on the radio show “Point of View” last week, Rep. Louie Gohmert took issue with the use of the term “DREAMers” to refer to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.
“People here need to understand, it’s not just foreign people that have dreams,” Gohmert said. “They say, ‘Oh, they’re the DREAMers.’ We’ve got children of our own that have dreams that will never be realized.”
Gohmert went on to compare the thousands of Central American children who have come to the southern border of the U.S. after fleeing drug-related violence in their home countries to North Korean defectors, who he said make a “good neighbor” by comparison.
“And I mentioned that I’ve met with North Koreans before, children and people that they want their families to be free,” he said. “But they’re not asking us to bring millions of people over from Korea. They’re saying, help us make our own country safer. That would be a good neighbor.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry ran his campaigns for governor in close alliance with Religious Right leaders in the state, and he launched his 2012 presidential bid with a prayer rally organized by dominionist leaders. All that makes it a bit surprising that the “Take Back America” survey sent out by Perry’s political action committee RickPAC today does not ask about abortion, gay rights, or religious liberty, the big three of Religious Right groups’ organizing and fundraising efforts.
The email from Perry says “RickPAC is dedicated to electing conservatives who will work to secure our nation’s border, reduce the debt for future generations, and – unlike so many in Washington – focus on achieving results.” The survey asks recipients to choose “the top three issues that you believe are most important to people in your community.” The options given are:
A second question asks whether unemployment, high taxes, the cost of health care, or something else is the most important economic issue facing America today. Rounding out the survey are two yes-or-no questions asking whether low taxes promote economic growth and whether electing conservative candidates is important to getting America back on track.
The survey may reflect Perry strategists’ belief that potential donors to his PAC are more motivated by Tea Party issues than traditional social issues – as well as the fact that some Religious Right leaders and GOP strategists have been working hard to convince conservative evangelicals that lower taxes and small government are religious issues just like opposition to abortion and gay rights.
Perry may have a hard time mobilizing supporters for a second presidential bid, and not only because fellow Texan Ted Cruz is now a hero to right-wing activists. In the Washington Times on Monday, right-wing columnist Steve Deace slammed Perry in a column that began, “Hey, did you hear about the Republican governor running for president in 2016 who just hired two of the GOP consultants conservatives loathe the most?”
Deace said conservatives have been giving the “new” Rick Perry a second look, and were liking what they saw. But he says Perry has blown it by hiring Henry Barbour and Steven Schmidt, two consultants he says “rank in the top two of just about every grassroots conservative’s excrement list.” Deace quotes Richard Viguerie saying recently that “Governor Perry’s friends are the enemies of conservatives.”
Deace faults Barbour for using “despicable Obama/Alinsky type” tactics in helping Thad Cochran beat Tea Party favorite Chris McDaniel in a hotly contested Senate primary. And he slams Schmidt for criticizing Tea Party “kooks” and for working to get Republicans to endorse marriage equality.
“That means Mr. Perry, who began his 2012 presidential campaign with a national call to repentance (from sin) and the backing of several Christian conservative leaders, is now taking counsel from a guy that wants to celebrate what Christians believe to be immoral.”
Speaking of 2012, there’s some fine print at the bottom of the RickPAC email:
This email was sent by: Romney for President Inc., 138 Conant St., 1st Floor, Beverly, MA 01915.
This message reflects the opinions and representations of RickPAC, Inc., and is not an endorsement by Mitt Romney. You are receiving this email because you signed up as a member of Mitt Romney's online community …
This weekend, the Dallas Morning News ran a long investigative piece exposing for the first time an armed raid that state Attorney General Greg Abbott's office ordered on a Houston voter registration operation, Houston Votes, back in 2010. The aftermath played out like ACORN in miniature: Despite the fact that nobody at Houston Votes was charged with any wrongdoing, the organization folded under the pressure of Abbott’s investigation.
The story provides an interesting look at the mechanics of the GOP’s obsessive search for certain types of extraordinarily rare voter fraud in order to justify extreme measures making it harder to cast a ballot. And it also stars two people who have since become familiar names in the national effort to make it more difficult to vote: Abbott, who is now the GOP nominee for governor of Texas, and Catherine Engelbrecht, who now runs the national group True the Vote, but who got her start running a Texas Tea Party group called King Street Patriots.
The raid on Houston Votes was part of a larger campaign by Abbott to uncover what he calls an “epidemic” of voter fraud, in an apparent effort to build support for a restrictive Voter ID law in Texas. Abbott’s campaign hasn’t exactly been a success: According to MSNBC’s Zach Roth, “over the 13 years of Abbott’s tenure, his office can only cite two fraudulent votes that might have been stopped by the ID law.” In the meantime, Abbott’s effort has resulted in some strangely zealous prosecutions, including those of a group of Tea Party activists who tried to cast protest votes in a resident-less utility district.
Dallas Morning News reporter James Drew explains how a racially charged speech by Engelbrecht led to Abbot’s investigation of and raid on Houston Votes:
On an overcast Monday afternoon, officers in bulletproof vests swept into a house on Houston’s north side. The armed deputies and agents served a search warrant. They carted away computers, hard drives and documents.
The raid targeted a voter registration group called Houston Votes, which was accused of election fraud. It was initiated by investigators for Attorney General Greg Abbott. His aides say he is duty-bound to preserve the integrity of the ballot box.
His critics, however, say that what Abbott has really sought to preserve is the power of the Republican Party in Texas. They accuse him of political partisanship, targeting key Democratic voting blocs, especially minorities and the poor, in ways that make it harder for them to vote, or for their votes to count.
A close examination of the Houston Votes case reveals the consequences when an elected official pursues hotly contested allegations of election fraud.
The investigation was closed one year after the raid, with no charges filed. But for Houston Votes, the damage was done. Its funding dried up, and its efforts to register more low-income voters ended. Its records and office equipment never were returned. Instead, under a 2013 court order obtained by Abbott’s office, they were destroyed.
Fred Lewis formed Texans Together in 2006.
The nonprofit community organizing group used volunteers to register voters in 2008 under the name Houston Votes. It registered only about 6,000 people that year.
For the next big election, in 2010, Lewis wanted to register 100,000 new voters in Harris County. He knew he couldn’t hit that number with volunteers. Houston Votes decided to use paid workers.
By that summer, Houston Votes had come to the attention of the King Street Patriots, a Houston-based tea party group. At the group’s regular meeting in Houston, its leader, Catherine Engelbrecht, talked about the New Black Panther Party. She then played a Fox news clip of an unidentified black man saying: “We have to exterminate white people off the face of the planet.”
The clip was 5 years old. It came from a forum in Washington about media coverage of Hurricane Katrina. But after the clip ended, Engelbrecht showed a picture of a house in Houston. She said it was the office of the New Black Panthers, at Main and Dowling streets.
Dowling Street is infamous for a 1970 gun battle between police officers and African-American militants, one of whom was killed.
“Houston has a new neighbor,” Engelbrecht said. She added that a person outside the house appeared to be an employee of Houston Votes.
The house shown on the screen was the office of Houston Votes. It had nothing to do with the New Black Panther Party. And it was about 9 miles from Dowling Street.
Two weeks later, the King Street Patriots held another meeting. Paul Bettencourt, the former Harris County tax assessor-collector, was a guest speaker.
He said Houston Votes was worse at registering voters than ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Dozens of ACORN employees across the nation were convicted of voter registration fraud.
The next day, Bettencourt’s successor as tax assessor-collector, fellow Republican Leo Vasquez, held a news conference.
“The integrity of the voter roll of Harris County, Texas, appears to be under an organized and systematic attack by the group operating under the name ‘Houston Votes,’” he said.
Houston Votes had submitted about 25,000 voter registration applications. Vasquez said many were duplicates, or already registered. Only 7,193 were “apparently new voters,” he said.
Houston Votes later pointed to public records showing that at the time of the news conference, about 21,000 of the 25,000 who applied to register were already validated by the county and pending final approval by the secretary of state. Among those 21,000, the state had already given final approval to 7,193.
Vasquez announced he was referring the matter for “investigation and possible prosecution” to the Texas secretary of state and the Harris County district attorney.
The secretary of state, who advises local election officials on election laws, forwarded Vasquez’s information to the attorney general’s office on Sept. 14, 2010.
Abbott’s office opened a criminal investigation soon after.
Cathie Adams of the Texas Eagle Forum suggested last week that people are leaving states like Massachusetts for Texas as a result of their different marriage laws, and advised gay Texans and their supporters to simply leave the state.
During the Texas Values anti-gay press conference, Adams said that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is a reason for its population growth: “Texas is the fastest growing state in the nation and there is a reason for that, and part of that reason is traditional marriage.”
This is good for Texas families. We do not accept the homosexual agenda, that is what we are talking about here. If those who embrace that homosexual agenda want to move to a state that does embrace homosexual marriage, there is a state of Massachusetts that they could move to. But we are finding is that they’re not moving to Massachusetts, what is happening is that Massachusetts is declining in numbers, people are moving out of that state. So why in the world would Texas, that is growing and the fastest growing, want to join Massachusetts, that is declining. People are moving away, they are voting with their feet, out of Massachusetts. Yet, there are liberals who are trying to influence all of us in places like Hollywood and San Francisco. They want to change Texas.
Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly has similarly claimed that “many Americans are dissenting with their feet, by moving away from same-sex marriage states and into the many states that continue to recognize the value of marriage as being between only one man and one woman.”
The Religious Right group Texas Values announced its support last week for Texas’ appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals after a district court judge struck down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Pastor Charles Flowers, who vigorously opposed an anti-discrimination ordinance in San Antonio, joined Jonathan Saenz and other conservative activists to support the appeal and denounce what he called the “HLGC” community: “homosexual, lesbian and gender confused.”
Flowers said that the ban should be upheld as constitutional “because it is Texas law” and “because it is based on the notion that those who choose to practice a certain lifestyle cannot change and yet the preponderance of the evidence refutes that claim.”
In fact, he positioned himself as a spokesman for civil rights activists and proclaimed “a divorce between the Civil Rights Movement and the HLGC agenda citing irreconcilable differences.”
Later, he warned that gays “seek special rights and a protected opportunity to punish and persecute anyone not in agreement with their lifestyle choice.”
Here’s a round-up of last week’s Right Wing immigration hysteria:
First they cast aspersions on his asparagus; now Rep. Louie Gohmert’s critics are “questioning [his] manhood,” the Texas Republican reported today.
At the end of an interview with the American Family Association’s Sandy Rios today, Gohmert lamented that immigration reform proponents, such as the Chamber of Commerce, have tried to “get people belittling” him.
“Sometimes it feels like that Sandy, that you’ve got all these forces against you, you’ve got the chamber, tens of millions of dollars coming and trying to influence people against you and get people belittling you, questioning your manhood,” he said.
“Really? That’s never worked and it doesn’t, but it gets a little frustrating at times.”
Rep. Steve Stockman is beginning to think that his plan to impeach President Obama might be bad politics, so is now moving on to the brilliant plan of arresting former IRS official Lois Lerner for being what he calls “a word that rhymes with witch.”
In an interview with Newsmax’s Steve Malzberg yesterday, the Texas Republican said that while he still thinks President Obama has “done impeachable offenses,” he now sees that the president is “trying to use people like myself” to start impeachment proceedings that would reflect poorly on Republicans.
So, Stockman said, he’s focusing his efforts before the summer recess on pushing a House vote to arrest Lerner, a move which he may be able to take without the approval of GOP leadership.
When Malzberg asked him whether he thinks his arrest motion would garner the support of his fellow Republicans, Stockman replied, “Well, they said some things about jail and a word that rhymes with witch sometimes to me.”
He went on to criticize Lerner for being “insolent,” “in no way compliant,” and having “total disrespect for Congress.”
Judicial vacancies slow down courts’ work, drive up litigation costs, cause evidence to go stale, make it harder to settle civil cases, and even pressure defendants into pleading guilty, according to a report released this week by the Brennan Center. The report cites example after example of how not having enough judges erodes our nation’s system of justice. Everyone counts on having their day in court, a fundamentally American principle that is threatened by persistent vacancies. The report quotes Chief Judge William Skretny of New York’s Western District:
We don’t neglect the Seventh Amendment, the right to a civil trial. But we tell people, if this is what you want to do, it will take time to get there.
Heavier caseloads and backlog created by vacancies also take a toll on judges, reducing the amount of time they have to spend on each case.
Chief Judge [Leonard] Davis in the Eastern District of Texas described the situation in his district as “simple math.” With more cases “you have less time to give to [an individual] case,” he explained. “It affects the quality of justice that’s being dispensed and the quantity of work you can complete,” he added.
[Judge Davis] also highlighted the impact of the Sherman vacancy on the timing of sentencing. “It’s a hardship for the litigants,” he explained. “Due to the backlog and [the] vacancy [in Sherman], we have a very high population of criminal defendants, about 200, sitting in county jails, having pled guilty and waiting for sentences. They can’t get their cases processed.” He noted that inmates are typically housed in a county jail because there are no federal facilities available, which is more costly for the government and leaves inmates with fewer work and educational opportunities. “That’s not fair to [the inmates] and adds a great deal of unnecessary cost by having to house them for so long in county jail holding facilities,” he said.
As the report makes clear, vacancies have real impacts for all citizens. This is why PFAW supports the speedy confirmation of qualified judicial nominees to federal courts. Filling judicial vacancies with quality judges will reduce backlogs and costs while allowing the judicial system to better serve all Americans. Maintaining the third branch is one of the most important constitutional functions that the Senate performs.
Share this article:
As we’re dealing with the refugee crisis on the southern border, right-wing elected officials have amped up their inappropriate, inflammatory rhetoric to dehumanize immigrants and attack immigration reform:
Of course, elected extremists aren’t the only ones making outrageous statements:
The Right Wing's inflammatory rhetoric distorts the reality of the crisis, causing more conflict and damage.
Sen. Ted Cruz announced last week that his new “top priority” in Washington is to end President Obama’s deferred action program for DREAMers and start deporting undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
But to show that he is approaching his new top priority in a compassionate way, Cruz made a stop at the border this weekend to help Glenn Beck hand out his truckload of teddy bears and soccer balls to children who have come to the southern border fleeing violence in Central America.
Cruz and some of his fellow Republicans are doing their best to pin the influx of Central American children on Obama's deferred action for DREAMers — although the evidence shows that that is not the case — and to thereby frame deporting DREAMers as the solution to the child refugee crisis.
Cruz told Beck’s The Blaze network that “our country has always been a country of compassion, of humanity,” but “as long as that promise of amnesty is there, more and more children will come.”
“In my view, it is altogether appropriate that private charities and private churches are showing Christian love, are caring for these children,” he said. “But at the same time we need to eliminate the promise of amnesty.”