Archive for April, 2013

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

Dark Money for a Vile Agenda

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

As wing-nut legislation sweeps across the nation, specifically the south, I hear more and more people ask, where did this nutty legislation come from? Folks find it hard to believe that in 2013, such legislation, not seen since 1850 is serious legislation today. Most of this legislation, is not reflective, of the people in the majority of these states, where such outrageous medieval laws are not only being discussed but enacted.

Then why is such an obvious minority view being cast on the people in state after state? One has to travel to the areas held by the Taliban to find similar draconian laws. Most of these laws are crafted by the American Legislative Exchange Cancel (ALEC). ALEC is a group of individuals who craft laws to solely benefit corporations and the wealthy and not the best interest of the middle class or the nation.

To understand the outrageous legislation sweeping the nation, one must look at recent elections and the motivations to steal them. How did Republicans win a 234-201 majority in the House of Representatives despite Democrats receiving more votes in congressional districts and races overall? How can a majority of votes not equal victory? One can point to redistricting as the main reason for disparity.

In the November election, over a million more Americans voted for Democrats seeking election to the U.S. House of Representatives than Republicans. But that popular vote advantage did not result in control of the chamber. It is amazing that an overwhelming popular vote advantage did not result in a Democratic majority in congress.

How did Republican dominate redistricting in 2010? The answer is simple. They relied on dark money and millions in corporate donations to achieve Republican-friendly maps across the nation. Those who gave this money, where rewarded in being able to write legislation, which is now sweeping across the nation.

Corporate tobacco giants Reynolds and Altria, each gave more than $1 million to the main Republican redistricting group, as did American Crossroads (Rove’s super PAC); Walmart and the pharmaceutical industry also contributed with big donations. More importantly, other donors, who gave to the nonprofits Republicans created, will never be disclosed – dark money.

In 2012, it appears that dark money did not do much in terms of returns in victories for Republican donor but it paid off quiet handsomely with donations dumped into redistricting in 2010.

Democrats were outspent 3-to-1 and did not prioritize winning state legislatures. They also faced a Republican surge in 2010.

Across the nation, Republican operatives, funded by dark money groups, drew the crucial lines which packed as many Democrats as possible into very small districts. The result: they were able to flip state’s congressional delegations in favor of Republicans by shocking disparity. The combination of party operatives, cash and secrecy also existed in many other states, including Tennessee, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio.

As demographics change, lines are shifted to make sure everyone is equally represented and to give communities a voice. Redistricting is supposed to protect the fundamental principle of one-person-one-vote. In order for Republicans to win, they undermined the votes of Democrats, especially African-Americans.

This strategy began in the run-up to the 2010 elections. Republicans poured money into local races. It was an efficient approach. While congressional races routinely cost millions, a few thousand dollars here and there can swing a campaign for a seat in the state legislature.

The Republican effort to influence redistricting overall was spearheaded by a group called the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC). For most of that time, the groups primarily mission was to serve as a vehicle for donors to influence state legislatures, key battlegrounds for regulations that affect corporate America. Its focus changed in 2010 to redistricting.

This effort was primarily financed by Walmart and tobacco companies, the largest funders in 2010 were the Chamber of Commerce and American Justice Partnership, giving a combined $6.5 million. Those two groups raise money from corporations and others but they do not have to disclose their donors.

As the 2010 heated up, the RSLC jumped into local races in many states. They made secret contributions keeping their involvement away from the attention of state voters. They simply funneled money into newly formed local nonprofit groups.

Twenty legislative bodies which were previously split or under Democratic control are now under Republican control due to excessive dark money spending in Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and North Carolina, among other states.

Next, Republicans drew new district maps, redistricting by Gerrymandering Democrats out of power. To fund the redistricting work, the Republican State Leadership Committee used its previously dormant nonprofit arm, the State Government Leadership Foundation. Dark money funded this effort and allowed to keep secret the identity of their donors.

Of course the group who performed the redistricting was paid with dark money and the redistricting process was so secretive, it is impossible to know the full extent of its activities.

Through the spring and summer, after the elections, legislators in charge of redistricting traveled the states holding public meetings, soliciting comment and proposed maps from citizens — though the Republicans on the committee would not produce draft maps themselves. This occurred in state after state. Fuzzy maps, no maps and incorrect maps cluttered the political landscape. This procedure was simply a ploy while the real maps were being devised in secret locations behind the scenes.

Specially crafted districts guaranteed big gains for the Republican Party. Now those in those states are paying the price for the elections bought by dark money. The legislation bought by this money are reaping misery on those living in these radical states.

Congress Acts to Ensure Their Smooth Travel

Saturday, April 27th, 2013

Washington – Yesterday, the House passed legislation that would let the government redirect millions of dollars to air traffic controllers’ salaries and expenses in a bid to end sequester-related furloughs that have caused flight delays around the country.

President Obama warned congress in February, that the Sequester would result in layoffs and airport delays. The congress did not seem to consider this fact until they realized the delays at the airports would affect them as they prepared to leave Washington for break; they acted quickly to end the threat to their weekend travel plans.

Members approved the Reducing Flight Delays Act 361-41.

The bill was sent directly to the White House for President Obama’s signature.

The vote is a victory for House Republicans, who had been pushing for a restructuring of the $600 million sequester cut to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to avoid air traffic controller layoffs. In contrast, Democrats were looking for a broader solution to the sequester that included new taxes.

Democratic leaders and other rank-and-file Democrats said they oppose the bill because it only deals with the FAA, and not the other social programs that are also seeing cuts because of the sequester.

Democrats correctly pointed out that the bill fails to address sequester-related cuts to Head Start, Meals on Wheels, federal housing aid, unemployment insurance, food inspections at the Food and Drug Administration and other social programs.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) agreed, and called the bill a Republican “hostage-taking.” She unsuccessfully asked the House to take up a bill terminating the entire sequester.

Just before the vote, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) hailed the Senate vote as a win for Republicans, and said the administration now seems to see the value of cutting less critical programs (school lunches, meal on wheels, head start programs, random layoff of millions).

But the bill only allows this money to be moved to pay for air traffic controller salaries and expenses in fiscal 2013.

The pain of the sequester will only get worse as congress refuses to do its job. This non-action is very popular with teabaggers and other anti-government groups.

TENNESSEE REACTIONARY AND RADICAL REPUBLICAN LEGISLATION

Friday, April 19th, 2013

The following critique of the Tennessee Republican “Radical Agenda” Legislation was written as a response to examples of National Republican wing-nut laws that will be used by Democrats against Republicans. The following is a close critique of the TNGOP wing-nut legislation by TNDP Chair, Roy Herron.

So, what about Tennessee?

If the national media thinks the above controversial bills

could impact races,

what if they look at what has been happening in Tennessee?

And if voters are disturbed over some of these proposals,

what if we communicate clearly

what the Republicans have been doing in Tennessee?

Here is a quick and only very partial list

of some of the Reactionary and Radical Republican legislation

in Tennessee in recent months.

WAR ON WOMEN.

1. FORCING CHILD RAPE VICTIMS TO BEAR RAPISTS’ CHILDREN. SJR 127, which already has been approved by the Republicans and goes before the voters in 2014, would remove any state constitutional protection for any woman, including child rape victims, allowing these Reactionary and Radical Republicans to force all victims to bear the rapists’ children.

2. FORCING WOMEN WHOSE LIVES ARE ENDANGERED TO DIE. SJR 127 also would remove any state constitutional protection for a woman to choose to end a pregnancy. The Republicans voted down an amendment that would have at least let women whose very lives are endangered to save their own lives.

3. FORCING VICTIMS TO WATCH ULTRASOUNDS. The Republicans have legislation, which they say they are going to delay a bit, which would force women to watch ultrasounds and/or to listen to a doctor describe the ultrasound before ending a pregnancy, no matter the circumstances or need.

4. VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN. Tennessee’s Republican Congressional Delegation, every Republican, voted “no” on the Violence Against Women Act.

5. WHAT ELSE?

WAR ON WORKERS.

1. HURTING INJURED WORKERS. The Republicans are passing legislation that will drastically slash and in many instances end compensation to injured workers. Another example of their “hurting the hurting.”

2. REFUSING MEDICAID FUNDS AND LEAVING 300,000 TENNESSEANS WITHOUT HEALTH CARE. The Republicans have refused to expand Medicaid, refused to accept billions in federal funds, leaving 300,000 workers and members of working families without health insurance and without health care. Make no mistake: it is the working people who are hurt by this. The politicians and the prisoners, the lawmakers and the law-breakers, have government health care. But the Reactionary and Radical Republicans refuse to let working people have what they have. Eight or so other states with Republican governors have opted to take the federal funds, but our Radical Republicans would rather Tennesseans have to pay for those states and other states to care for their citizens at our expense.

3. DENYING A LIVING WAGE. The Republicans are outlawing and preempting cities like Nashville and Memphis from joining many other cities and states that require a minimum wage above $7.25 an hour.

4. WHAT ELSE?

WAR ON CHILDREN.

1. STARVE THE CHILDREN. Legislation that would slash already minimal support ($185 for a mother with two little ones) for impoverished single parent or no-parent families if children do poorly in school continues to move forward. This “Starve the Children” bill has drawn national attention and would be another instance of Tennessee “leading” the country—in the wrong direction. The legislation is the brain child and the only child of a 44-year-old bachelor.

2. STARVE THE SCHOOLS. Legislation to take funds from public schools and give the tax dollars to private schools, including segregation academies and sectarian schools, this week may have been stopped for this year. Why? Because of strong Democratic opposition and because the out-of-state companies and entities pushing this may have over-played their hand for now by getting even greedier than some Republicans could stomach.

3. STEAL FROM THE SCHOOLS. A company with a major investor who stole millions on Wall Street and went to prison now is stealing millions from Tennessee taxpayers, thanks to a Republican law that gives our tax dollars to K-12, Inc., a “virtual school” company that takes our money but fails to educate our children.

4. ATTACKING OUR CHILDREN’S TEACHERS. The Radical Republicans have attacked our children’s teachers in a host of ways, including taking away their rights to representation in seeking better schools and conditions for the children. When they hurt our children’s teachers, they hurt our children.

5. CHARTERS GONE WILD. The Radical Republicans want to over-ride local school boards and have an ideologically-driven, politically-appointed board or band of Republicans order that local governments turn over tax dollars to out-of-state, for-profit companies who come with their hands out to profit from Tennessee’s taxpayers at the expense of our children.

6. WHAT ELSE?

WAR ON DEMOCRACY.

1-5. MAKING IT HARDER TO VOTE. The Republicans already have made it harder for People to vote by:

1. BIG GOVERNMENT IDENTICATION CARDS. New restrictions requiring big government ID cards.

2. LESS EARLY VOTING. Cutting back days to early vote.

3. FEWER VOTING LOCATIONS. Cutting back voting locations.

4. PURGING VOTERS. Purging law-abiding citizens from voting rolls (e.g., Rep. Lincoln Davis and Rep. Butch Borchert’s wife).

5. YOUR VOTES MAY NOT BE COUNTED. Even doing away with paper verification so you don’t know if your vote is counted.

6. APRIL FOOLISH: REPEALING THE 17TH AMENDMENT AND STEAING THE PEOPLE’S RIGHT TO VOTE. On April 1st, the Senate was about to play an April Fool’s Joke and take away Tennesseans’ right to vote for our nominees to run for the U.S. Senate. This was also the 100th anniversary of Tennessee ratifying the 17th Amendment that gave us the right to elect our U.S. Senators.

Democrats believe that the People should pick the Politicians, instead of the Politicians picking each other. But now the Radical Republicans want to steal the People’s right to vote to nominate our United States Senators.

Senate Bill 471/House Bill 415 came flying out of a Senate Committee on a 7-1 vote and is endorsed and supported by the Republican Speaker of the Senate. It was about to fly through the Senate until we Democrats fought back and demanded to be taken out of the bill. We think we will ultimately prevail, but the bill is not yet dead. In the words of Speaker Lois DeBerry, “You can’t make this stuff up.”

7. WHAT ELSE?

CONCLUSION.

The Reactionary and Radical Republicans

want to take us back a couple of centuries,

to the 1800s when the legislature picked our senators

until corruption and the people finally ended the practice

by Constitutional Amendment in 1913.

This is consistent with the legislation they passed

(with every Republican voting for it)

urging Congress to reject the Constitutional understandings

of the Supreme Court during the middle part of the last century

and to adopt those misunderstandings from the twenties—

citing two cases from the twenties, the eighteen-twenties (1820s).

(And no, I am not making this up.)

These Reactionary Republicans want to go back to a time

when African-Americans were property

and Women could not own property,

when Workers had few rights

and Children had none.

Now we know what Reactionary and Radical Republicans mean

when they claim to be for smaller government:

they want to take power away from the People

and let a small number of Republican politicians grab the power.

They want to make the government smaller

by taking the people’s tax dollars

and giving them away to their friends.

These are some of the worst bills and laws of recent months.

But I bet you also have some favorites.

Please share them.

And then let’s use the worst bills to let Tennesseans know what is happening to them.

And to elect Tennessee Democrats who will do right by the People.

Roy B. Herron, Chair

Tennessee Democratic Party

1900 Church Street, Suite 203

Nashville, TN 37203

roy@tndp.org

O 615.327.9779

F 615.891.7453

www.tndp.org

VOTE of SHAME: SENATE BOWS to NRA

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

Washington — In a 54-46 vote, in favor of tougher gun laws, a minority of the Senate defeated a compromise to expand background checks on firearms sales.

The following Democrats broke with their party and voted against the amendment: Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Max Baucus of Montana, Mark Begich of Alaska, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. The majority of Republicans voted against the amendment.

The package of gun laws was pushed by President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders in the aftermath of the Newtown school massacre in December.

Fierce opposition and lies by the powerful National Rifle Association led a backlash by conservative Republicans from gun “ignorant” states doomed the key proposals in the gun package.

After the votes, Obama angrily criticized the NRA and senators who voted against the expanded background checks for rejecting a compromise he said was supported by a strong majority of Americans.

“Instead of supporting this compromise, the gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill,” Obama told White House reporters.

Noting polls that showed 90% support for such a measure, Obama called it a “pretty shameful day for Washington” and wondered of Congress: “Who are we here to represent?” It was obvious that 46 Senators serve the NRA!

Rubio shamefully tried to deflect from the disgraceful vote by saying, “We have a violence problem”. No… we have a gun problem and the vote today showed who is beholden to the NRC and not the American people.

The Manchin-Toomey plan would have expanded background checks to include private sales at gun shows and all Internet sales, while continuing to exempt most sales between family members and friends.

Due to procedural steps agreed to by both sides, all the amendments considered Wednesday required 60 votes to pass in the 100-member chamber, meaning Democrats and their independent allies who hold 55 seats needed support from some GOP senators to push through the Manchin-Toomey proposal.

However, the NRA promised political retribution against supporters of tougher gun laws, and it called the expanded background checks a first step toward a national gun registry and government confiscation of firearms which is an obvious lie.

Will those who voted against the bill have to answer to voters during their next election?

Unicoi County Democratic Party Elects New Officers

Saturday, April 6th, 2013

The Unicoi County Democratic Party held reorganization today. The reorganization was conducted as a working lunch. Barbeque and fixings were catered by Jason Howze.

New Party Officers and Executive Committee members were elected. Mike K. Hampton was re-elected Chairman, Rick Smith was re-elected Vice-Chairman, Rob Martin was newly elected as Secretary and Virginia Hampton was re-elected as Treasurer.

The following Executive Committee members were elected; Bill Beckman, Gloria Mouton, Marvin Rogers, Phyllis Hawk, Bert Stephens, Evon Martin, John Hashe and Brooke Grant.

The reorganization was open to the public.