In today's New York Times, Jim Arkedis and Lindsay Mark Lewis of the Progressive Policy Institute (Lewis also previously worked for the DNC), warn that Super-PACS aren't just perverting the electoral system through millions in deceptive ads for or against the candidates they are secretly funded to support, but they may also pose an even more direct, more insidious threat to our democracy.
After acknowledging that even President Obama is now embracing the same shadowy-funded PACs he once claimed to eschew, as he refuses to "unilaterally disarm", there is a different between inclinations of left and right, in that one side generally works to increase voter turnout, while the other hopes to suppress it. The lack of accountability and the supposed "firewall" of separation between Super PACs and candidates creates a situation rife for the worst kind of dirty tricks and voter suppression in an atmosphere which is even more difficult to regulate than in the past (when such dirty tricks were already pretty easy to pull off without paying a price --- or, at least, without a price that could be paid before it was far too late).
Their warning is both compelling and ominous, particularly as we don't need to look very far into the recent past --- even here at The BRAD BLOG --- in order to find evidence in support of it...
Our own crack legal analyst Ernie Canning pulls together many of the strands we've been reporting here, for many months, on the Wisconsin GOP's attempt to dismantle voting rights in their state in advance of both the 2012 Presidential Election and, perhaps more importantly, before the upcoming recall elections of Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican state Senators.
It's all a part of the continuing "War for Wisconsin" which we've been covering in great detail here at The BRAD BLOG for quite a while.
If you've had any trouble keeping up, or missed any of the thrilling chapters in the state Republicans' if-ya-can't-beat-'em-disenfranchise-'em, take-no-prisoners assault on the voting rights of legal voters, Ernie puts it all together and brings you right up to date in an interview today by OpEdNews' Joan Brunwasser...
I don't necessarily care for the Affordable Care Act (ACA or "ObamaCare"), any more than any other non-disinformed, non-wingnut. Neither am I enough of a Constitutional expert to argue for or against its Constitutionality, which is currently being argued in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
But over the last several days, on Twitter, I've been asking to hear from folks who have been negatively affected by "ObamaCare" personally, in any way whatsoever. Given the fits and tortured distortions and twisted outrages that Republicans have been pretending to throw over the law, and its individual mandate requiring those who do not already have health insurance to buy some, I'm sure there must be many personal horror stories to relate, right?
I've got a lot of wingnuts and Breitbots who follow me on the Twitters, and they are usually all too happy to take whatever shots they can at me or Obama or anything else they can imagineer, even if they have to make shit up to do it. But, in this case, not a one of 'em was able to point to a single instance of being negatively affected personally by "ObamaCare" in any way. Go figure.
In Wisconsin, two Dane County Circuit Court judges, David Flanagan and Richard Niess both issued injunctions against the state GOP's polling place photo ID restriction ("Act 23") --- Flanagan's temporary, Niess' permanent --- after finding that the law was in direct violation of the WI state constitution's guaranteed right to vote.
Immediately after the first of those two injunctions, issued by Judge Flanagan in Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP v. Walker, the WI GOP filed an ethics complaint with the WI Judicial Commission, alleging that the judge had violated the WI Code of Judicial Conduct because he had signed a petition to recall Gov. Scott Walker (R) and failed to disclose that fact before issuing his ruling.
It's turns out that Republican Florida state Rep. Dennis Baxley is far more odious than we realized when, last December, we described him as, among other things, "reprehensible", "anti-American" and "democracy-hating".
It was just such a racially motivated killing that appears to have resulted in the shooting death of unarmed 17-year old African-American Trayvon Martin, by George Zimmerman in a gated community in Sanford, FL late last month. Zimmerman, who has admitted to shooting Martin --- just minutes after he is heard on a 911 call whispering "fucking coons" and being told by the dispatcher to not follow Martin --- is still a free man today, and still in possession of his gun and [see CORRECTION note below] concealed weapon permit, thanks in no small part to Baxley's law.
What follows is brief coverage of Baxley from MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show last night, including clips of his advocacy for the bill back in 2005, when he argued that "this is gonna be a safer state" and "this bill will stop crime in its tracks". Then, after that, we'll remind you why, and what, we had written about this despicable creep last December...
Once again, the host was RT's Liz Wahl. Here's what happened today...
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UPDATE: Wow. 438 756 comments on this video at YouTube in the 3 18 hours since it was posted there, where it has now been viewed more than 10,000 times during that period.
By the way, for those who have asked over there, the complete videos of what happened on Saturday in St. Charles, MO and the Saturday before that in Clarke County, GA, as referenced in the conversation above, are all posted right here.
Also, Brent Stafford, the Ron Paul supporter who was arrested outside the aborted GOP caucus in St. Charles, MO over the weekend, will be my guest on my KPFK/Pacifica Radio show Wednesday at 3p PT. It will stream live right here.
UPDATE 3/2/12: My KPFK/Pacifica interview with Stafford, mentioned above, is now posted here.
On Friday, an intermediate Wisconsin appellate court denied a request made by WI Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen (R), on behalf of Gov. Scott Walker's administration, to stay an order issued earlier this month by a Dane County Circuit Court that temporarily suspended the state GOP's polling place Photo ID law.
In Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP v. Walker --- the first of two cases within the past two weeks to result in an injunction on the voting restrictions, known as "Act 23," enacted by a Republican-majority last year --- Judge David Flanagan temporarily enjoined [PDF] enforcement of the law on the grounds that it was in violation of the WI Constitution's guaranteed right to vote.
As of now, that injunction will still stand. In the bargain, local election officials are now seeking to comply with Judge Flanagan's order, so that Photo ID will not be required at the polls in the statewide April primary elections, upcoming recall elections scheduled for May and June, or for the 2012 general election this November.
Unless the denial of a stay is promptly reversed by the partisan Republican majority on the WI Supreme Court, the ruling could have an immediate adverse impact on the ability of the state's controversial Governor, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and the Republican state Senators facing upcoming recall elections to retain office...
State Sen. Pam Galloway --- one of four Wisconsin Senate Republicans scheduled to face upcoming recall elections in the still-redounding blowback from the state GOP's assault on collective bargaining rights last year --- has announced her resignation today.
The result is that GOP's 17-16 majority over Democrats in the chamber prior to today (it had been a 19-14 majority until the first round of recall elections last year) is now gone.
For the moment, the chamber is now evenly split at 16-16. The GOP has lost sole control of the chamber.
Galloway is citing family health issues as the reason for her surprise resignation today. According to TPM's Eric Kleefeld, "Galloway won her Senate seat by a five-point margin in the 2010 Republican wave, defeating the incumbent state Senate Majority Leader in the traditionally Democratic Wausau district." She had been scheduled to face Assistant state Assembly Minority Leader Donna Seidel in the upcoming recall.
As per WI recall rules, the contest for her seat, the three other Senators and the offices of Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, will move forward as planned. The GOP will be allowed to replace Galloway on the ballot.
The dates for those elections are now set for May 8th and June 5th. The first date will be a recall primary for those races in which there is a contested nomination, otherwise that will be the actual recall election for that seat. The second date would then be the actual recall elections. As the race for the nomination to take on Walker himself is currently being contested by several Democrats, that historic election will be held on June 5th --- coincidentally, the same day as the California Presidential primary elections.
"I'm shaken up. I mean, I've never done anything like this before," 55-year old former U.S. Marine Tim Thompson said after being turned away from the polling place for refusing to show a Photo ID when attempting to vote on Super Tuesday under a new Tennessee restriction on voting rights passed by Republican lawmakers.
Last week, we told you about Thompson and his protest at the same Nashville polling place where he'd voted for years without incident. It was the first state election in TN in which state-issued Photo ID was required in exchange for the right to vote at a polling place.
Though Thompson presented his voter registration card as sent to him by the state, it was not enough under the new law to allow him to vote on a normal ballot. "I've used this for 37 years," the former Lance Corporal is seen on video telling the precinct supervisor at the poll. "This was good enough for my father. This was good enough for my grandfather, and I refuse to show you a picture ID," he said.
The new law was passed in TN despite tens of of thousands of legally registered --- disproportionately Democratic-leaning --- voters who lack the requisite ID now needed to vote. Many of them are likely to be disenfranchised this year. Among such voters we've reported on previously in the state: 96-year old Dorothy Cooper and 93-year old Thelma Mitchell, to name just two who had been able to vote for decades there without a problem --- even through the Jim Crow era --- until this year.
Today, documentary filmmaker David Earnhardt, director of the award-winningUncounted: The New Math of American Elections, shares his behind-the-scenes video of what happened before, during and after Thompson's protest. [FULL DISCLOSURES: Earnhardt happens to be the brother-in-law of Thompson, and we happen to appear in Uncounted, but it's an excellent film anyway.]
This short and inspiring documentary offers insight into the reasons for Thompson's protest. He explains that he hopes his fight to help restore the rights taken away from Tennessee voters may inspire others to stand up for our democracy, both in his state and elsewhere around the country where similar restrictions have recently been enacted.
In this video, Thompson is seen explaining to media on hand to interview him after he'd left the polling place last Tuesday: "When I took my oath, it was for all people, all Americans --- Republican, Democrat, black, white. It didn't matter what color you were or what religion you believed in. It didn't matter. It was for all Americans. That's what Marines fight for."
"I was willing to sacrifice my vote to stand up today and represent all the people that's not going to be able to vote," says Thompson. "Don't let your right to vote stop because these politicians have passed a law that limits your vote, that's exactly what they want to do"...
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But there is now more to the inspiring story, underscoring again how one person standing up for their rights really can make a difference...
Just heard from Mike Malloy, who's a bit under the weather today, asking me to fill in on his nationally-syndicated Mike Malloy Show tonight. So, as I scramble to prep last minute, I'll leave you all to add the analysis and context for the following item from NPR last week, which was just brought to my attention just last night...
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People announced it will appear before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva next week to seek support for its fight against voter identification laws enacted in U.S. states.
The civil rights organization says the laws are among several measures adopted by some states that violate the human and civil rights of minority voters by suppressing their participation in elections.
The NAACP and other groups also are fighting other election changes enacted by states, such as restrictions placed on third-party groups that register new voters and the reduction of early voting periods. Both measures traditionally have helped increase minority voter turnout.
The United Nations has no authority over American states, of course. And the international organization has often been pilloried by U.S. conservatives concerned about American deference to other nations.
But the NAACP is hoping to exert international pressure on states in the same way it did during the civil rights movement of the 1940s and 1950s, when the NAACP sought the U.N.'s support in combating Jim Crow laws and lynchings in the South.
"The power of the U.N. on state governments historically is to shame them and to put pressure on the U.S. government to bring them into line with global standards, best practices for democracy," NAACP President Benjamin Jealous told reporters Thursday. "There are plenty of examples — segregation of the U.S. to apartheid in South Africa to the death penalty here in the U.S. — of global outrage having an impact."
Democrats clearly feel they've got a potent campaign year issue in fighting back against what they've described, justifiably, as the "Republican Party's War on Women." In a fundraising email from Sen. Barbara Boxer's "PAC for a Change," the California Democrat writes:
My work is my words, and it is rare for me to admit that I need help expressing the depth of my feelings. But given recent events surrounding the vicious attacks on women's health in the Senate, in the House, and on the radio airwaves, I have turned to music to help me express why it is so crucial to elect more women who will stand up for our rights and for the respect we deserve.
The email includes a link to a music video meant to support her WinWithWomen2012.com campaign. The webpage for the campaign, described as "a Project of Barbara Boxer's PAC for Change," asks supporters to "Elect the most women Senate candidates in history," and highlights 11 different female Democratic U.S. Senate candidates who are set to be on this year's ballot.
The good news for voters, of late, keeps coming --- at least against the title wave of GOP voter suppression laws instituted around the country by Republicans since taking over legislatures and executive branches in 2010.
In addition to last week's temporary injunction of the Wisconsin's GOP polling place Photo ID restriction, and today's permanent injunction of the same law by a second judge in a separate complaint (both judges found the law in strict violation of the state Constitution's ironclad guarantee of the right to vote), today also saw the U.S. Dept. of Justice blocking a similarly disenfranchising Photo ID restriction enacted last year by Texas Republicans.
Currently, according to data supplied to the DoJ by the state of TX, more than 600,000 legally registered voters do not possess the type of ID that would be required to vote under the law passed last year, as previously set to take effect before this year's Presidential Election.
But it is the discriminatory effect of the new law which led the DoJ to nix the new changes to TX' voting laws.
Finding that the state's own statistics reveal legally registered Hispanic voters will be disproportionately disenfranchised by the TX law --- by anywhere from 46% to 120% over non-Hispanics, depending upon which set of a data submitted by TX is used for the analysis --- the DoJ rejected the statute under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. That section of the federal law requires preclearance for new election laws in certain jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination. Texas is one of those covered jurisdiction.
Today, the DoJ objected to the new law after determining that the state had not met it's "burden of showing that a submitted change [to an election law] has neither a discriminatory purpose nor a discriminatory effect"...
In an unambiguous finding stating that "the legislature and governor have exceeded their constitutional authority" and that "voter fraud is no more poisonous to our democracy than voter suppression," a second Dane County Circuit court in less than a week, has determined that the Wisconsin GOP's polling place Photo ID restriction on voters is in strict violation of the state Constitution.
Today, in his 12-page ruling on the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess found that "Act 23," the new law which strips voters of their right to vote unless they are able to produce a state-issued Photo ID at the polling place violates the WI Constitution's Article III which guarantees the right to vote to all state residents who are 18 and over (Section 1) other than in cases where the legislature may place restrictions on convicted felons and those adjudicated to be incompetent (Section 2).
"The motion documents reveal no disputed issue of material fact requiring further evidentiary proceedings. [The plaintiffs] present a purely legal issue ripe for decision," Niess declared in his ruling, stating that Article III of the state Constitution "is unambiguous, and means exactly what it says."
Last week, in response to a complaint filed the Milwaukee Branch of the NAACP, another Dane County Circuit Court Judge, Richard Flanagan, also ruled "Act 23" to be unconstitutional on a similar basis. He had issued a temporary injunction on the law in that case, in advance of the state's April primary elections. A trial is currently scheduled to begin on that complaint next month.
In response to both rulings now, the Republican State Attorney General has vowed to appeal, though both his legal and political basis for doing so may be quickly fading with today's second, nearly-identical finding from a second court.
There are also two complaints pending on a federal basis against the same Republican law in Wisconsin. In none of them has the GOP so far been able to demonstrate a case of voter fraud which might have been prevented by the new law. On the other hand, opponents have detailed a mountain of fact-based evidence demonstrating that otherwise legal voters will ultimately be disenfranchised if the law is allowed to take full effect in advance of this year's Presidential election, and as the state gears up for a new round of recall elections meant to unseat the very Republicans responsible for creating the state's new barrier to voting...
Another story in Maddow's otherwise excellent report, however, is the one about the 86-year old WWII Vet in Ohio who was unable to vote on a normal ballot Tuesday, because his Veteran's ID didn't have his address on it. According to the The Plain Dealer's coverage:
“My beef is that I had to pay a driver to take me up there because I don’t walk so well and have to use this cane and now I can’t even vote,” said Paul Carroll, 86, who has lived in Aurora nearly 40 years, running his own business, Carroll Tire, until 1975.
“I had to stop driving, but I got the photo ID from the Veterans Affairs instead, just a month or so ago. You would think that would count for something. I went to war for this country, but now I can’t vote in this country.”
It's a horrible story, but on this one, Maddow appears to have been in slight error in her coverage...