The movie tracks the effects of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that lifted a century-long ban on corporate election spending by looking at the standoff in Wisconsin between state employees and GOP Governor Scott Walker. During his election and recall campaigns, Walker was bankrolled by billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, demonstrating the torrent of unlimited, anonymous political spending by corporations and billionaires that was unleashed through this Supreme Court decision. As the film follows this story, it also shows the fracturing of the Republican Party and proves how Citizens United fundamentally changed how our democracy works.
After a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise funding, and even losing its public television distributor, the movie finally comes to theatres this summer. The process that led to it being pulled from public television airwaves illustrates exactly what “Citizen Koch” depicts—that money buys not only action, but also silence. As Buddy Roemer, whose presidential run is chronicled in the film, stated, “Sometimes it's a check. Sometimes it's the threat of a check. It's like having a weapon. You can shoot the gun or just show it. It works both ways.”
People For the American Way hosted the DC premiere of the documentary film “Citizen Koch” at the Washington’s West End Cinema Friday night to a sell out crowd. Friday’s premiere was followed by a panel discussion with one of the documentary’s Academy Award-nominated filmmakers Tia Lessin, along with PFAW’s director of outreach and partner engagement Diallo Brooks and PFAW president Michael Keegan. After the screening, the audience participated in a question and answer session on the effects of big money in politics and what different organizations and mobilized citizens are doing to reverse the effects of Supreme Court decisions like Citizens United and McCutcheon.
Many Americans celebrate Earth Day by planting trees, organizing a citywide trash pickup, or talking about the consequences of climate change and the ongoing threat it creates for our planet. But on Earth Day yesterday, all four Republican candidates for Senate in North Carolina used the opportunity to deny that climate change is real. TPM reports:
Fittingly, all four Republican candidates in the North Carolina Senate race were asked on Earth Day if they believed climate change is a proven fact. And all four candidates said "no."
The question was asked during a GOP primary debate on Tuesday night. The candidates, House Speaker Thom Tillis, Rev. Mark Harris, Dr. Greg Brannon, and nursing practitioner Heather Grant, in response to the question, said "no."
This is not the first time Republicans have denied the existence of climate change and it will likely not be the last. But the fact that all four candidates agreed underscores the GOP extremism in the North Carolina Senate race and serves as yet another example of a political party increasingly divorced from reality.
The Washington Post reports today that Sheldon Adelson – the casino magnate who spent, with his wife, more than $92 million in the 2012 elections – is in the market for a 2016 GOP presidential candidate to support.
After throwing reams of money at losing candidate Newt Gingrich in the last election, Adelson is now looking for someone he believes will be seen as electable by a country with swiftly changing demographics. He is already being wooed by GOP presidential hopefuls:
The change in attitude comes amid early jockeying by a lengthy list of aspiring Republican presidential contenders to win the affections of the billionaire, who is in the beginning stages of assessing the field.
“The bar for support is going to be much higher,” said Andy Abboud, Adelson’s top political adviser and an executive at the Adelson-run Las Vegas Sands Corp. He added, “There’s going to be a lot more scrutiny.”
This strategy would favor more established 2016 hopefuls such as former Florida governor Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. All four will descend this week on Adelson’s luxury hotel in Las Vegas, the Venetian, for an important step in what some are calling the “Sheldon Primary.”
Funny, I don’t remember learning about the “Sheldon Primary” in my high school civics class. But in our Super PAC-filled, post-Citizens United world of unlimited election spending, this seems to be the reality of how candidates who have a real shot are chosen. As Harvard law professor and activist Lawrence Lessig puts it,
We have a general election, but only after the funders have had their way with the candidates who wish to run in that general election.
With Adelson essentially interviewing potential candidates, it begs the question: will our presidents be working for the people who elected them, or will they increasingly serve as the puppets of billionaire benefactors?
When a tiny fraction of the country’s wealthiest people are able to hand-pick candidates, it’s doubtful that we’ll have a government that focuses on the priorities of everyday Americans. A democracy simply doesn’t work if the voices of those of us who aren’t having swanky private dinners with presidential hopefuls are drowned out by the few who are.
Today House Republicans led by Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) voted to delay the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. In case you haven’t been keeping track, this is the House GOP’s 50th vote to dismantle Obamacare.
In a speech last week at a DNC event, President Obama joked,
“You know what they say: 50th time is the charm. Maybe when you hit your 50th repeal vote, you will win a prize. Maybe if you buy 50 repeal votes, you get one free.”
On Monday, in the wake of Governor Jan Brewer’s decision to veto her state’s anti-gay “freedom to discriminate” bill, People For the American Way president Michael Keegan wrote in a Huffington Post op-ed that we are continually asked to believe the “new, no-nonsense Republican Party” has finally taken to heart the “dangers of embracing extremism.” However, he writes:
“…there seems to be a Grand Canyon-like gap between what everyone knows the Republican Party should do and what they actually do. Time after time, we see that they just can't help themselves. We all know the embarrassing, crazy uncle who shows up at the family reunion. It seems like all of those crazy uncles have now banded together to control the Republican Party.”
And with their 50th vote to undermine Obamacare, it seems pretty clear that the Republican Party isn’t going to be able to rein in those crazy uncles anytime soon.
Dissatisfaction with “establishment” Republicans has been a consistent theme at this year’s Values Voter Summit, and it reached new heights at a Saturday morning breakfast session hosted by the Heritage Foundation and its more overtly political arm, Heritage Action.
Sen. John McCain has been a favored punching bag, no doubt for having had the temerity to criticize the “Teavangelical” favorite son, Ted Cruz. An audience member asked whether Heritage was planning to do something to take out South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, referred to by the questioner as “John McCain’s lapdog.” Heritage Action Chief Operating Officer Tim Chapman said that Heritage Action has “steered clear” of primaries since its bread and butter is working on Capitol Hill, but said the group’s materials are often used in primaries, and he praised the work of groups like Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund.
Regarding Graham, Chapman told the questioner “I am with you” and said he would like to see some “good accountability" applied to Graham. He said he hoped one of the conservative members of the South Carolina House delegation might step up to take on Graham. Chapman slammed Republicans in Congress as “close to failing," saying the average Republican score on the group's congressional scorecard is only 67 percent, something that has "rankled a few feathers on Capitol Hill."
Chapman complained that Republican leaders were preparing to cave to Obama in the current standoff: “As we speak, Republican leaders are speaking to the White House and they are cutting a deal and I promise you the deal is going to be total garbage.”
“We are at the point right now where we are seeing a complete cleavage away from the Republican Party of the conservative movement,” he said. “You are going to see massive upheaval in the next election on all fronts…We have an opportunity to take over the party and it will be in the next election cycle.”
WASHINGTON – In response to the bill passed by House Republicans yesterday that cuts $39 billion over ten years from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), People For the American Way’s African American Ministers in Action (AAMIA) released the following statement:
The GOP’s vote to slash our nation’s food stamp program can only be described one way: heartless.
More than one in seven Americans rely on food stamps. Many of those receiving assistance through the program are our country’s most vulnerable members: children, seniors, people with disabilities, and families struggling to make ends meet. Playing politics with the lives of low-income men, women, and children is disgraceful. Especially at a time when so many families are struggling to recover from the recession, threatening basic access to food is the worst kind of partisan politics.
The members of AAMIA are extremely disappointed in and strongly condemn this callous vote.
People For the American Way's African American Ministers in Action represents an ecumenical alliance of 1,500 African-American clergy working toward equality, justice and opportunity for all.
A new fundraising pitch from Family Research Council President Tony Perkins comes in a black envelope with a photo of a door cracking to allow light into the darkness and the message, “URGENT: God has opened a door to STOP America’s decline.” The letter inside, dated July 1, portrays the “scandals” surrounding the Obama administration – including the discredited IRS and Benghazi “scandals” hyped by right-wing media and GOP members of Congress – as an act of God:
The opportunity we have prayed for may be here . . . if we seize it.
As I witness the astounding scandals exploding within President Barack Obama’s administration, I believe Almighty God—who founded America and saved us through trials before—may be giving the American people an opportunity to stop today’s tyranny.
I believe He may be giving us an open door to turn back the plans of today’s arrogant big government: a secularist, anti-faith tyranny that is trying to snuff out religious freedom and biblical influence in the United States.
The letter calls for abolishing the IRS and opposing the enforcement of “ObamaCare,” and urges donations to help FRC:
Work with Congress and government officials to stop “hidden scandals” such as the Obama administration’s attempt to drive Christian values and religious freedom out of the military . . . impose the principles of the Employment non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) which attack Christians in the workplace who refuse to affirm immoral sexuality . . . and more.
Perkins’ letter hypes the now-disproven claims that the IRS was waging jihad against conservatives:
We now know that the IRS was selectively auditing—harassing a growing number of ministries, conservative groups, Tea Party groups, and others who opposed President Obama.
The IRS threatened to remove the tax-exempt status of these citizens! These attacks by the IRS threatened to financially cripple them, costing them untold sums of money just to defend themselves against the IRS agents. The common link: ministries and organizations targeted for audits had stood against President Obama’s secularist, antireligious freedom agenda.
Actually, what we know is quite the opposite. The IRS “scandal” has evaporated as more evidence has some to light. Even some Republican officials have admitted as much. According to the New York Times, “Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri, said that in retrospect, suggestions that Mr. Obama had orchestrated an I.R.S. attack on his political enemies were unwarranted.”
In addition, Perkins’ letter says a State Department “cover-up” in connection with the assassination of American officials in Benghazi, Libya “might have saved the election for President Obama. Yet it might render him paralyzed in his second term.”
Perkins says that FRC intends to “turn the tide of the past five years.”
The scandals will help show Americans why the Bible is right when it cautions against big government. Because of sin, power corrupts, and concentrated power corrupts completely. Bit government will always see God as a rival and try to replace Him, attacking God’s people and Biblical values and principles.”
Actually, as journalist Jonathan Chait wrote in New York magazine in late June, “the entire scandal narrative was an illusion.” It lives on, of course, in the world of far-right activists and conspiracy theorists like Tony Perkins.
The latest fundraising pitch from the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins blasts “the national Republicans” whom he says are “running away from the natural and biblical definition of marriage, flocking to the radical side in support of same-sex ‘marriage.’”
Perkins’ letter insists that allowing same-sex couples to get married is dangerous to religious liberties, to the next generation, and “dangerous to civilization itself.” Perhaps worst of all is that Obama’s “machine” would benefit from the GOP alienating its conservative base:
Sacrificing our values, and their distinctives as a Party, will send millions of voters packing. One terrible side effect: President Obama’s machine will be stronger than ever. Their radicalization of American public policy will intensify.
But be assured that Perkins “cares deeply” about gay people:
Please understand: this is no vendetta. We care deeply about those who engage in either heterosexual sex outside of marriage or homosexual behavior in any context. Both are immoral and unhealthy. We want what is truly best for them and for our nation.
What is truly best for them is a lifestyle of biblical morality. (emphasis in original)
Perkins calls for a “massive outpouring of outrage from principled conservatives” and urges supporters to sign a petition to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. And, of course, to send a check.
The GOP seems to be stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Responding to last month’s Republican National Committee “autopsy,” the leaders of thirteen right wing organizations sent a letter this week to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus to “strongly recommend” a reaffirmation of the 2012 National GOP Platform—including strident opposition to marriage equality.
On the question of young voters and marriage equality, the letter states that “Republicans would do well to persuade young voters why marriage between a man and a woman is so important rather than abandon thousands of years of wisdom to please them.” The letter also explicitly warns the GOP leadership that “an abandonment of its principles will necessarily result in the abandonment of our constituents to their support.”
It seems like those right-wing groups will get their wish: the Washington Post reports that the RNC’s Resolution Committee passed a resolution reaffirming the 2012 platform yesterday which will be voted on by the full RNC tomorrow.
This incident highlights the degree to which the Republican Party is caught in a trap of its own making. Despite a dawning awareness that moderate voters reject the extreme agenda of the Right, the GOP can’t escape the reactionary anti-gay ideology that it’s exploited for so long.
The extent to which just how thoroughly the Religious Right's agenda dominates the 2012 GOP platform was helpfully exposed last night when David Barton appeared on GBTV to brag that the platform is "the most conservative in my lifetime," revealing that he personally "made 71 motions to add to this platform and 70 of them got passed":
People For the American Way today called on GOP presidential candidates to speak out against the inclusion of a white nationalist leader this week at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference.
The conference—which will be addressed by Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and other GOP leaders— will be hosting Peter Brimelow, the founder of VDARE, a white nationalist website which frequently publishes the works of anti-Semitic and racist writers. Brimelow, an immigrant from Great Britain, has expressed fear of the loss of America’s white majority, blames non-white immigrants for social and economic problems and urges the Republican Party to give up on minority voters and focus on winning the white vote. He said that a New York City subway is the same as an Immigration and Naturalization Service waiting room, “an underworld that is not just teeming but also almost entirely colored.”
“It’s shocking that the CPAC would provide a platform for someone like Brimelow,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. “Responsible GOP leaders should speak out against the bigotry and hatred that Brimelow and VDARE push on a regular basis. That’s doubly true of anyone who aspires to the presidency of the United States. Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum need to make it perfectly clear that they won’t be silent when they’re confronted with racism and anti-Semitism.”
VDARE has published the work of people like Robert Weissberg, who says that black and Hispanic students are responsible for problems in the American education system, Marcus Epstein, the Youth for Western Civilization leader who karate-chopped a black woman after calling her a n****r (and later pled guilty to assault), and J. Philippe Rushton of the eugenicist Pioneer Fund.
“The inclusion of Brimelow is all the more galling given the fact that another group, GOProud, was excluded from the conference simply for advocating equality for gay people,” said Keegan. “CPAC should make very clear that hatred has no place in our civic discourse.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center lists VDARE as a White Nationalist hate group and notes that “VDARE.com’s archives contain articles like ‘Freedom vs. Diversity,’ ‘Abolishing America,’ ‘Anarcho-Tyranny — Where Multiculturalism Leads’ and ‘Why Immigrants Kill.”