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.
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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.”
Calling the influx of Central American child refugees at the southern border an “invasion of our nation,” Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) told WorldNetDaily yesterday that “there are more people coming across the border than those we sent in invasion of France” in World War II.
“There are more people coming across the border than invaded France in World War II,” he said. “That is an invasion of our nation.”
Stockman denied that the situation was a refugee crisis because “there are many U.S. cities that have a higher murder rate than Guatemala.”
Rep. Louie Gohmert was among the speakers at last night's "Celebrate America" event, the three week long revival effort organized by "holy laughter" pioneer Rodney Howard-Browne, where he proved once and for all that God exists because "you couldn't get everything unless there was something that was the creator of everything."
Quoting an old friend from back in Texas, Gohmert said that he feels sorry for atheists because regardless of how smart they think they are, they have to admit that they believe "the equation that nobody plus nothing equals everything."
"How embarrassing for an intellectual to have to say 'yeah, I believe that,'" Gohmert said. "Nobody plus nothing equals everything."
"Well, you couldn't get everything unless there was something that was the creator of everything," Gohmert wisely concluded, "and that's the Lord we know":
Andrew Gillum is the Director of Youth Leadership Programs at People For the American Way Foundation.
Julián Castro, current mayor of San Antonio, was just confirmed in the Senate by a 71-26 vote to lead the Housing and Urban Development Department. Castro, one of the earliest members of People For the American Way Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network, is the first to become a Cabinet member.
I remember meeting Julián at our very first YEO convening in 2006, and being impressed with his passion to serve and better his community in Texas. We are incredibly proud of Julián and excited to see what he’ll accomplish in this new position. His proven leadership in fostering urban revitalization and economic growth make him a natural fit for this position, where he will be able to combat homelessness and help secure access to affordable, quality housing for more Americans.
Julián’s confirmation yesterday demonstrates how supporting young elected officials in our movement can reap tremendous results. I often say that YEOs are the state and local leaders of today as well as the national leaders of tomorrow. While Julián will be the first (former) YEO member to serve in a cabinet level post, I am sure he won’t be the last.
Speaking with Newsmax host Steve Malzberg yesterday about the influx of Central American children and families at the Southern border, Rep. Louie Gohmert implied that President Obama was orchestrating the crisis in order to recruit millions of people to cast fraudulent ballots for Democrats and seize Texas from Republican control.
“In the end, they have said that they want to turn Texas blue, they want to turn America blue,” he said. “And if you bring in hundreds of thousands or millions of people and give them the ability to vote and tell them — as Quico Canseco said, he had illegals in his district that were told, ‘If you want to keep getting the benefits, you have to vote, and President Obama’s lawyers are not going to allow them to ask for an ID, so go vote or you’re going to lose the benefits you’re getting now.’ That drives people to vote and it will ensure that Republicans don’t ever get elected again.”
The Texas Republican also told Malzberg that the Central American refugees, combined with the end of the gold standard during the Nixon administration, will bankrupt the country.
In an interview with WorldNetDaily this weekend, Rep. Louis Gohmert of Texas said that congressional Republicans should respond to President Obama’s threat of an executive order on immigration by “defunding anything” that the president “care[s] deeply about that’s not important to the American people” along with any agency that Gohmert thinks is breaking the law, including the White House itself.
Well, the Founders gave us the power of the purse. It’s going to take a lot of courage to stand up to the president and say, ‘We’re going to start defunding anything that you care deeply about that’s not important to the American people.’ We’re going to start defunding the Attorney General’s office. We’ve got a bill that would actually, and we’ve been pushing to get this into an appropriations package, it says anybody that’s in contempt of Congress can’t be paid their salary. We need to do that, we need to start eliminating money for any agency, including the White House, that is not following the law. And then you get their attention. That’s what the Founders anticipated.
And I know our speaker says, ‘Oh, gee, but we’re only one half of of one third.’ But we’re the most important half of the appropriations process, so if we don’t agree to an appropriation, it doesn’t happen. It’s time we took a stronger stand in that regard.
He also repeated his warning that the influx of Central American families and children at the border is turning the U.S. into a “third world country.” Speaking of efforts to transport children to facilites around the country, he said, "That's already the beginning of what you see in third world countries."
Texas State Sen. Dan Patrick, the GOP nominee for Lt. Governor, addressed Friday night’s session of the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority conference. Patrick said that America is a Christian nation, that politics is about building God’s kingdom, and that America’s policies must be grounded in the Bible.
Excerpts from Dan Patrick's remarks:
Patrick portrayed his resounding come-from-behind victory over incumbent David Dewhurst as God’s will. He said he started every campaign appearance by saying,
“’I’m a Christian first, I’m a conservative second, and a Republican third. And if our party ever turns our back on the word of God or the principles of Ronald Reagan, I will become an independent.’ And this is the key to the future of our party the future of our country and the future of this nation.”
He explains his victory this way:
“We were solid on the issues. We never backed up from being bold for Jesus Christ. And, most importantly, we worked hard, and we left the victory to God…if you really believe God, then you take him at his word that he’ll handle the victory. And if you’re in the middle of God’s will, then that’s where you’re supposed to be.”
It was a dirty campaign, he said, but he told himself, “If the Lord wants me to win, I’ll win, and if not, that means he has something else he wants me to do.”
“We have too many candidates, and too many elected officials, that think politics and serving is about them. It’s about Him, it’s about building the kingdom for Him. That’s why this nation has been blessed.”
Patrick said the world needs America to return to its roots as a Christian nation:
“We are a Christian nation. And the only way the world will survive is with a strong America. And a strong America will only be strong again if we stand on the word of God. Again, there’s a difference from believing in God and believing God. Even the Democrats believe in God. But when you believe God you must take him at his word and you can’t back up from that word. And that has to be the policy mindset of our elected officials. It should be biblically based, because every problem we have in America has a solution in the Bible. And that doesn’t mean we want a theocracy. But it does mean we can’t walk away from what we believe.”
Patrick said too many Republican candidates worry about offending voters. But, he said, “the left doesn’t even worry about offending God.” He added, “In fact, I would argue, that if you are a believer, and if you are a Christian conservative Republican and you won’t stand for your faith, that’s just as offensive to God. Because they may not know better, but we do.”
Patrick used the Texas governor’s race as an example of how “standing for God will keep us in power and win us the election in 2016.” He said “abortion queen” Wendy David lost Hispanic areas of Texas in her primary because Hispanic Catholics and evangelicals who “put God before party” will not vote for a Democrat who is “radical on the life issue.” To get Hispanic voters, he said, Republicans must stand for life, marriage, school choice, and economic opportunity.
He warned that “the left” will attack messengers who stand on the foundation of the Bible. But, he asked, “If we won’t stand for Christ, if we won’t stand for the word of God in the Bible, then who will?
America, he said, is thirsty for a leader who will not only talk about public policy but about strengthening families and values. He asked for money and prayers, saying that conservatives shouldn’t take Texas for granted, given that Democrats are putting resources into making it a battleground state.
“The job ahead is not easy. But Jesus said, ‘my yoke is easy.’ And if we all pull together, and we get up out of our church pews, and we get our pastors engaged, and we get our fellow Christians to register to vote and then get them out to vote. And we find leaders who are bold, then America has hope again.
And if we don’t, in our generation, in our time, then we will have failed our children, we will have failed our grandchildren, and we will have failed the world. And we will have failed, I believe, God’s belief and hope and wish that America is the country that He blessed to share the Word with the entire world.
So it’s on us. And I don’t want to put too much pressure on you. But it is on us. And I’m ready to do my duty, and I know you’re ready to do yours.”
Last fall, the city council in San Antonio, Texas passed a non-discrimination ordinance that added protections for sexual orientation and gender identity to the existing law. These sorts of non-discrimination ordinances exist in hundreds of cities all over the nation but, for some reason, David Barton is obsessed with lying about this one in particular, appearing recently on a program called "America Stands 2014: Election Coverage In The Spirit Of Faith" where he declared that in passing the ordinance, the city council had voted to "criminalize Christian beliefs and behavior" in the city of San Antonio.
Barton falsely claimed Christians who oppose gay marriage or criticize homosexuality are now barred from running for office and, if already serving in office, would be removed from their position, charged with a crime, and fined $500 a day, while also asserting that Christian-owned companies are now prohibited from doing any business with the city:
None of that is true, of course, as the ordinance passed by San Antonio simply prohibits city officials and departments from engaging in "discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, age, or disability" and explicit contains an exemption for religious organizations ... but that won't stop Barton from repeatedly lying about it.
While Rick Perry tried his best to justify the Texas Republican Party’s recent embrace of ex-gay therapy by making an awkward comparison of gay people to alcoholics, the chairman of the state party refuses to mount a defense of the controversial resolution.
“And I just make the point for anybody that thinks that may be the possibility: Do they think they can take a straight person to a psychiatrist and turn them gay?” Munisteri said.
Munisteri said he’s not the only one who opposes this plank in the party’s platform.
“My emails and phone calls to the office are running overwhelmingly opposed to that plank in the platform,” Munisteri said.
Munisteri said a group of Republicans at the convention led by his predecessor, Cathie Adams, were able to pass the reparative therapy resolution using a parliamentary trick.
“Because the way the platform works, once somebody calls the question on the platform it’s a parliamentary maneuver," Munisteri said. "The delegates are really forced to pass the platform as is, because if you don’t there is no platform.”
Yet another anti-immigrant activist is claiming that President Obama orchestrated the crisis at the southern border in order to push a vote on immigration reform.
Sean Dunagan of Judicial Watch tells the American Family Association’s OneNewsNow today that Obama “engineered” the influx of families and unaccompanied children in order to “make current immigration law look as cruel and inhumane as they possibly can to possibly build political support for some additional amnesty program”:
Dunagan suggests Obama is opening the floodgates to these young illegal aliens for purely political reasons.
"It seems to be that the administration is trying to make current immigration law look as cruel and inhumane as they possibly can to possibly build political support for some additional amnesty program," he says. "I absolutely believe that it's being engineered and exploited to try force action into bad policy decisions and bad votes on the issue."
Last week, Republican congressmen Steve King and Steve Stockman claimed that the influx of immigrants was part of an Obama administration plot to increase the Democratic vote . Anti-immigrant activist William Gheen has also claimed that the crisis was “orchestrated” by President Obama and George Soros.
On his program last week, Glenn Beck also claimed that the border crisis is part of a plot to pass immigration reform and to ultimately return Arizona to Mexico:
To his credit, Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies, one of the anti-immigration reform movement’s most prominent spokespeople, has pushed back on the conspiracy theory.