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Updated: 2 hours 48 min ago

Federal Judge Cites Lincoln in Striking Down VA's Ban on Marriage Equality as Unconstitutional

Fri, 02/14/2014 - 15:01

From US District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen's ruling [PDF] yesterday, finding that Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional under federal law (just as both Utah's and Oklahoma's bans were recently found)...

Almost one hundred and fifty four years ago, as Abraham Lincoln approached the cataclysmic rending of our nation over a struggle for other freedoms, a rending that would take his life and the lives of hundreds of thousands of others, he wrote these words: "It can not have failed to strike you that these men ask for just. . . the same thing---fairness, and fairness only. This, so far as in my power, they, and all others, shall have. "

The men and women, and the children too, whose voices join in noble harmony with Plaintiffs today, also ask for fairness, and fairness only. This, so far as it is in this Court's power, they and all others shall have.

While undoubtedly Virginia's law would have been found unconstitutional and overturned eventually anyway --- just like similar laws in all fifty states will be very shortly --- it arguably will have happened much faster there and (take note, conservatives) with much less cost to the taxpayers, thanks to the results of last November's elections. Yes, as we've been detailing for more than ten years now, elections really do matter.

Oh, and happy Valentines Day, Virginia...and everyone else!

[Hat-tip Mariah Blake at Mother Jones...]


Categories: Brad Blog

Mitch McConnell Tastes His Own Medicine in Attack Ad by Senate Conservatives Fund [VIDEO]

Fri, 02/14/2014 - 01:29

This is what politics now looks like inside the Republican Party, where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is staring down the double barrels of a very aggressive "Tea Party" primary challenge from Matt Bevin, and then a very close contest with Democratic general election candidate and Kentucky Sec. of State Alison Lundergan Grimes...

Remember, that ad is by fellow Republicans. In other words, the ridiculous and toxic (if too often effective) tactics they've been using for years against Democrats are now being deployed against each other.

As Josh Marshall said when flagging the ad above, "I guess you make your own bed." Or, perhaps, as the most most haunting movie ad ever said: "The call is coming from inside the house."

Good luck with that, Republicans. You are what you eat.


Categories: Brad Blog

'Green News Report' - February 13, 2014

Thu, 02/13/2014 - 18:33


 

IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Fossil fuels booming in the US --- literally --- with more new explosions this week; World's largest solar plant now open; Extreme winter weather again cripples the South; Extreme weather is extremely expensive and becoming more so; PLUS: Yes, climate change is coming for your Winter Olympics ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!

Please help us connect the climate change dots over your public airwaves!
PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE!
-->

Listen online here, or Download MP3 (6 mins)...

Link: Embed:

Got comments, tips, love letters, hate mail? Drop us a line at GreenNews@BradBlog.com or right here at the comments link below. All GNRs are always archived at GreenNews.BradBlog.com.

IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Church of England takes on 'giant evil' of climate change; Russian environmentalist jailed; No country will take tanker ablaze and adrift in Pacific; How much to fix climate change, and how much if we don't? Abrupt climate change: the 'expected unexpected'; CA to ban sale of polluting 'microbeads' in cosmetics; FEMA won't reimburse WV for chemical spill costs ... PLUS: Fusion energy breakthrough: US scientists achieve 'turning point' ... and much, MUCH more! ...

STORIES DISCUSSED ON TODAY'S 'GREEN NEWS REPORT'...

'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (Stuff we didn't have time for in today's audio report)...

FOR MORE on Climate Science and Climate Change, go to our Green News Report: Essential Background Page

  • Skeptical Science: Database with FULL DEBUNKING of ALL Climate Science Denier Myths
  • Warning: Even in the best-case scenario, climate change will kick our asses (Grist)
  • NASA Video: Warming over the last 130 years, and into the next 100 years:

  • Categories: Brad Blog

    Brad AND Desi on Abby Martin's 'Breaking the Set' [VIDEO]

    Thu, 02/13/2014 - 09:05

    I've been on Abby Martin's Breaking the Set on RT America a number of times (see here and here), but on Wednesday it was my first time being on the show along with the delightful Desi Doyen, my co-host on the Green News Report.

    In a 10-minute or so segment, we covered everything from California's current drought (its worst on record) to the madness of fracking during it, to the two recent toxic coal-related spills in WV, to the recent massive coal ash spill in NC, to the record storms and floods now devastating Great Britain, to the mainstream corporate media's shameful failures to connect the climate change dots on all of the above, and what the hell we ought to be doing about it all.

    Here's the full show. Desi and I start just after the 17:15 minute mark...


    Categories: Brad Blog

    MSNBC's Krystal Ball: 'I Don't Want Hillary Clinton to Run in 2016' [VIDEO]

    Wed, 02/12/2014 - 16:46

    I've never been particularly impressed with MSNBC's Krystal Ball. She's never come across to me as much more than a knee-jerk Democratic Party loyalist, willing to join too many others on the cable news net to offer various versions of the same predictable party line.

    Yesterday, however, she called for Hilary Clinton to not run for President in 2016, so as to make room for a more progressive candidate, one more appropriate to this moment...such as Elizabeth Warren.

    "I've come to a difficult realization," says Ball in the video monologue below. "I don't want Hillary Clinton to run for President in 2016. I do not think that she's the right person for this moment." And good on her for saying as much...especially on MSNBC...


    Categories: Brad Blog

    'Green News Report' - February 11, 2014

    Tue, 02/11/2014 - 18:54


     

    IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: British military deployed to combat extreme rain, flooding in UK; Oops - NC officials backtrack on water safety after massive coal waste spill; Another toxic coal waste spill into WV's drinking water; 2013 breaks record for billion-dollar extreme weather disasters; PLUS: We correct three --- count 'em, three! --- errors... All that and more in today's Green News Report!

    Please help us connect the climate change dots over your public airwaves!
    PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE!
    -->

    Listen online here, or Download MP3 (6 mins)...

    Link: Embed:

    Got comments, tips, love letters, hate mail? Drop us a line at GreenNews@BradBlog.com or right here at the comments link below. All GNRs are always archived at GreenNews.BradBlog.com.

    IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Heads up, Atlanta: new winter storm on the way; Too much winter, not enough propane in US; Oil industry double-dipping with government, insurance payments; Australia: weather service human-caused global warming responsible for record heat; WV chemical spill: 40% of homes still contaminated; BLM cheats taxpayers with giveaways to coal industry; Scientists criticize US decision to de-list wolves ... PLUS: Smear campaign: after scientist said weed-killer chemical was harmful, its maker pursued him ... and much, MUCH more! ...

    STORIES DISCUSSED ON TODAY'S 'GREEN NEWS REPORT'...

    'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (Stuff we didn't have time for in today's audio report)...

    FOR MORE on Climate Science and Climate Change, go to our Green News Report: Essential Background Page

  • Skeptical Science: Database with FULL DEBUNKING of ALL Climate Science Denier Myths
  • Warning: Even in the best-case scenario, climate change will kick our asses (Grist)
  • NASA Video: Warming over the last 130 years, and into the next 100 years:

  • Categories: Brad Blog

    Republicans Expand Renewed 'Block the Vote' Strategy in Florida

    Tue, 02/11/2014 - 15:39

    On the heels of Florida's Republican Sec. of State Ken Detzner blocking the usage of the student union at the University of Florida in Gainesville as an early voting site for the upcoming March special election, local Republican election officials elsewhere in the state are also working to reduce access to the voting booth this year (for certain voters).

    From Josh Israel at Think Progress...

    On a party-line vote, a Florida county's Republican majority Board of County Commissioners voted Tuesday to eliminate almost one-third of Manatee County's voting sites. The board accepted a proposal by Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett (R) by a 6-1 vote to trim the number of precincts, despite unanimous public testimony against the move - and complaints by the lone Democratic Commissioner that it would eliminate half of the polling places in his heavily minority District 2.
    ...
    In the public comment section of the meeting, all ten speeches strongly opposed the move. Representatives of the local NAACP and Southern Christian Leadership Council warned that the cuts would decrease voter turnout because voters would have to travel further to a polling place, especially among the elderly and people without cars, and noted that the cuts disproportionately affected minority-heavy precincts.
    ...
    Bennett assured the commission that if lines are longer in 2014 as a result of these changes, he would ask them to revisit the decision in 2015, before the 2016 elections.

    Manatee's Supervisor of Elections Bennett, as Israel points out, is no stranger to voter suppression. In fact, he seems to rather love it. While serving as a State Senator in 2011, he endorsed a Republican bill to limit early voting during the 2012 Presidential election by explaining: "I wouldn't have any problem making it harder. I would want them to vote as badly as I want to vote. I want the people of the state of Florida to want to vote as bad as that person in Africa who's willing to walk 200 miles...This should not be easy."

    Hmmm..."That person in Africa". Just a common turn of phrase, apparently.

    That 2011 bill was eventually passed, signed by Florida's Republican Gov. Rick Scott and successfully created hours-long lines for (certain) voters in the Sunshine State in 2012.

    As we noted in our coverage last week of SoS Detzner's recent refusal to allow thousands of UF students to vote early at their own student union --- forcing the many car-less students to try and vote at a polling location five miles away instead --- both Scott and his hand-picked Sec. of State "had once pretended to be embarrassed about the long lines they caused (and refused to correct) at the polls during the 2012 election".

    Those days of pretending to give a damn about voting rights must be over for some Florida Republicans, however, particularly with Scott up for re-election this year and his polling numbers looking fairly bleak against his likely challenger, former Republican Governor turned Democratic candidate Charlie Crist.

    * * *Please help support The BRAD BLOG's fiercely independent, award-winning coverage of your electoral system --- now in our ELEVENTH YEAR! --- as available from no other media outlet in the nation...


    Categories: Brad Blog

    80,000+ Furious 'Tea Partiers' Marched in Protest of Democratic Policies Over the Weekend

    Mon, 02/10/2014 - 18:50

    Oh, I'm sorry. Those weren't more than 80,000 'Tea Partiers' marching in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, over the weekend. Those were people peacefully demonstrating against the radical Rightwing 'Tea Party' policies of the North Carolina Legislature and Governor.

    Had they been 'Tea Partiers' protesting, of course, you would have already heard about the march, as it likely would have been featured by every news outlet in the nation, along with the repeated claim that such a massive gathering of angry voters portends disaster for Democrats this November.

    Such as these were not angry Rightwingers marching, however, the event barely made the "news" beyond North Carolina's borders. But it happened, whether the national, so-called "liberal media" covered it or not and, as these photos demonstrate, it was pretty damned huge...

    Saturday's protest was described as the "Moral March on Raleigh". It was both the 8th annual rally of the "Historic Thousands on Jones Street" coalition, so named after the street that houses the NC legislature, and an offshoot of the widespread weekly Moral Monday protests that cropped up in Raleigh and elsewhere in North Carolina in 2013, as organized by the North Carolina NAACP and other groups (such as Occupy Raleigh, Planned Parenthood-NC and the NC Association of Educators) in response to the radical rightward lurch of state policy over the past year or more.

    "Since North Carolina Republicans took over both legislative chambers in 2010," Think Progress summarizes in their coverage of the weekend march, "legislators have eliminated a host of programs and raised taxes on the bottom 80 percent, repealed a tax credit for 900,000 working families, enforced voter suppression efforts, blocked Medicaid coverage, cut pre-Kindergarten funding, cut federal unemployment benefits, and gave itself the authority to intervene in abortion lawsuits."

    Dave Johnson at Seeing the Forest provided a round-up of the broad local coverage, even as the national media, by and large, ignored the massive rally.

    According to Peter Montgomery at RH Reality Check, Rev. William Barber, President of the North Carolina NAACP and the keynote speaker at Saturday's event, "made 'higher ground' a theme of his remarks, contrasting the movement's public policy ideals with a litany of the 'mighty low' policies that became law after a far-right takeover of state government in the 2010 and 2012 elections."

    Montgomery detailed the marchers "five demands for state government that reflect the broad concerns of its coalition --- and the targets of right-wing leaders":

    1. Secure pro-labor, anti-poverty policies that insure economic sustainability.
    2. Provide well-funded, quality public education for all.
    3. Promote health care for all, including affordable access, the expansion of Medicaid, women's health, and environmental justice in every community.
    4. Address the continuing disparities in the criminal justice system on the basis of race and class.
    5. Defend and expand voting rights, women's rights, immigrants' rights, LGBT rights, and the fundamental principle of equality under the law for all people.

    "Multimillionaire Art Pope, a sort of home-grown Koch brother, had poured money into state elections," Montgomery explains. Pope, a longtime Koch Brothers associate and power-player in both the state and in the Koch's national Americans for Prosperity political operation, was named the state's Budget Director in 2012 by the Republican Governor Pat McCrory who Pope had paid handsomely to get elected that year.

    "Far-right Republicans took the governorship and a supermajority in the state legislature [in 2012]. And in 2013 they made the most of it, gutting spending on education, rejecting the expansion of Medicaid to half a million poor people, and passing one the worst anti-voting laws in the country. They raised taxes on poor people by abolishing the Earned Income Tax Credit for almost a million families and used the savings to fund new tax breaks for a handful of the state's richest residents. The governor violated a campaign pledge by signing a law that further restricts access to abortion," writes Montgomery.

    "North Carolina became, in short, the proving grounds for an untrammeled Tea Party approach to governance and what Barber calls 'extreme, constitutionally inconsistent, morally indefensible, economically insane policies.'," Montgomery says in his detailed report on the broad coalition that has come together via the "Moral" protests over the past year.

    Citing the four African-American students who "kicked off the 1960s civil rights movement by trying to eat at a segregated lunch counter at Woolworth's in downtown Greensboro," North Carolina, The Nation's Ari Berman reports, "it was fitting that North Carolina's Moral Monday movement held a massive 'Moral March' in Raleigh [on Saturday] which began at Shaw University, exactly fifty-four years after North Carolina's trailblazing role in the civil rights movement."

    The number of marchers was estimated to be between 80,000 and 100,000, though that number comes from rally organizers. No matter, its more than clear from the photos and videos [see the one posted below] that the march was fairly massive. It's hard to imagine it wouldn't have garnered topline coverage on cable news outlets and front pages of the nation's mainstream newspapers had it been a "Tea Party" rally.

    The organizers say they plan to continue to grow their Moral Monday rallies in the new year.

    "If today’s rally was any indication, the Moral Monday movement will be bigger and broader in 2014," reports Berman. "An estimated 15,000 activists attended the HKonJ rally last year, bringing thirty buses; this year, the NC NAACP estimated that 80,000 to 100,000 people rallied in Raleigh, with 100 buses converging from all over the state and country. It was the largest civil rights rally in the South since tens of thousands of voting rights activists marched from Selma to Montgomery in support of the Voting Rights Act."

    But, shhh, don't tell the mainstream national media about it.

    * * *

    If any further proof is needed that this not-Tea Party rally actually happened, here's video from the rally over Rev. Barber's remarks, as posted by the Charlotte News & Observer on Saturday...

    * * *Please help support The BRAD BLOG's fiercely independent, award-winning coverage of your electoral system --- now in our ELEVENTH YEAR! --- as available from no other media outlet in the nation...


    Categories: Brad Blog

    Republicans' Fraudulent Candidate Websites, Fundraising Merit Investigation, Prosecution

    Mon, 02/10/2014 - 10:05

    Last year, as we reported at the time, California Republicans who sought to sabotage the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act, sent out deceptive mailers to constituents at taxpayer expense directing them to a fake "Obamacare" website.

    This year, picking up on the idea that duping the public (committing fraud) is the key to their success, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) was recently found to have created at least eighteen websites built to appear to support Democratic candidates while, in actuality, using the sites to fund raise against those same candidates.

    The website seen in the graphic above, for example, appears to support Arizona Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick's re-election bid --- unless you are very careful to read the fine print. The site, AnnKirkpatrick.com, "might greet visitors with a welcoming photo of the Arizona congresswoman and a screaming 'Kirkpatrick for Congress' logo, but that design belies its true agenda," according to the Los Angeles Times. That agenda, they say, includes duping supporters of Democratic candidates into donating towards their defeat --- a tactic, which, the non-partisan Campaign Legal Center's senior counsel Paul S. Ryan describes as a "slam dunk" violation of Federal Election Commission (FEC) Rules.

    As we've recently been reporting, however, "slam dunk" violations of federal campaign finance laws and FEC rules are anything but a "slam dunk" when it comes to their actual enforcement by the FEC...

    There is a serious question as to whether the FEC will enforce rules that prevent such deceptive tactics.

    As Craig Holman, the Government Affairs Lobbyist for Public Citizen's Congress Watch explained during an interview last month with Brad Friedman on the KPFK/Pacifica Radio BradCast, the six-Commissioner FEC is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. Since 2008, Republicans have determined to use that split for little more than political advantage by nominating GOP Commissioners dedicated to holding up virtually any and all campaign finance policing by the federal agency. In the bargain, Holman explained, there has been a "nine-fold" increase in 3-3 deadlocked votes that have effectively blocked FEC enforcement of almost all federal campaign finance laws over the past five years.

    Campaign Legal Center attorney Ryan, who sees the GOP's new bogus "Democratic" websites as a "slam dunk" violation, is also the attorney who recently filed a complaint in U.S. District Court seeking to overturn what the plaintiffs describe as an "arbitrary" and "capricious" refusal by the three Republican FEC Commissioners to investigate apparent violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) of 1971 by Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS. That refusal, as the complaint details, occurred despite express findings by the FEC's own Office of Legal Counsel that Rove's Republican front group likely violated the law.

    While the 3-3 partisan deadlock is problematic, if, as the L.A. Times reports, the supporters of Democratic candidates have been duped into donating money for their chosen candidate's defeat via these new websites, there are remedies available that do not require an FEC ruling. Every state in the nation has laws to prevent fraud. Those laws not only provide civil remedies, but often treat such cases as a criminal offense.

    Last year, CA Attorney General Kamela Harris ordered at least ten fake "Obamacare" websites to be shutdown. She and other state attorneys general should undertake the same action with respect to these fraudulent candidate websites created by Republicans. Such actions should also include criminal investigations of those who are responsible for putting them up in what appears to be a very transparent attempt to defraud the voting public.

    * * *Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). Follow him on Twitter: @Cann4ing

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    Categories: Brad Blog

    Imagine That, Florida's Gov. Rick Scott and SoS Ken Detzner Are Still Trying to Suppress the Vote

    Fri, 02/07/2014 - 16:10

    Ian Millhiser notes today that Florida Gov. Rick Scott's hand-picked Sec. of State Ken Detzner is still working hard to keep certain voters there from voting in the upcoming special election in March.

    While both Scott and Detzner had once pretended to be embarrassed about the long lines they caused (and refused to correct) at the polls during the 2012 election, it turns out, even with Scott facing re-election this year, the pair are still working hard to suppress the vote in the Sunshine State...

    Gainesville, Florida, in an attempt to avoid the six-hour lines that characterized last Election Day, sought approval to use the University of Florida's student union as an early voting site. Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner denied the request, sparking outrage.

    Detzner justified the decision by claiming that the Reitz student union does not fit the list of eligible early voting sites, which was expanded last year to reduce lines. Now, municipalities can use fairgrounds, government-owned community centers, convention centers, stadiums, courthouses, civic centers, and county commission buildings. "The terms 'convention center' and 'government-owned community center' cannot be construed so broadly as to include the Reitz Union," the state's Division of Elections argued.

    Local officials contend that the Reitz Union qualifies as a government-owned community center, as it is part of a public university.

    "I'm very upset about this," Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards told the Tampa Bay Times. "I just can't understand why they feel the need to be so restrictive about where people are allowed to vote...This is strategic. They're worried about young people voting."

    Instead, UF students will have to travel more than five miles off campus in order to cast their vote in the March special election --- a difficult trip for a mostly car-less population.

    The Tampa Bay Times reports that the Reitz student union is "used as a regular voting precinct in county, state and national elections. About 50,000 students attend UF, and the city said the request to use the Reitz Union for early voting came from a group of students."

    Deirdre Macnab, president of the League of Women Voters, called the decision "jaw dropping".

    The Times quotes Senate Ethics & Elections Chairman Jack Latvala (R), described as the sponsor of SB 600, "the 2013 law that expanded early voting sites", claiming that "we really did not specifically allow for [early voting sites] to be on campus."

    However, HB 7013 (the companion bill in the FL House to SB 600, the one that was actually passed and signed into law) says nothing about disallowing early voting cites that are on campus. It reads specifically (see page 25 [PDF])...

    The supervisor may also designate any city hall, permanent public library facility, fairground, civic center, courthouse, county commission building, stadium, convention center, government-owned senior center, or government-owned community center as early voting sites; however, if so designated, the sites must be geographically located so as to provide all voters in the county an equal opportunity to cast a ballot, insofar as is practicable. In addition, a supervisor may designate one early voting site per election in an area of the county that does not have any of the eligible early voting locations. Such additional early voting site must be geographically located so as to provide all voters in that area with an equal opportunity to cast a ballot, insofar as is practicable.

    It would hardly be the first time Scott and Detzner managed to piss off local election officials in recent years. In 2012, by way of just one example, their attempted purge of supposed "non-citizen" voters (who actually weren't) sparked outrage among many of the state's county election officials. And, more recently, just last December, they faced a veritable mutiny by many of those county Supervisors of Elections (both Republican and Democratic), after Detzner issued a decree changing the rules for absentee ballot casting at the last minute to make it --- you guessed it --- harder for voters to cast their votes.

    * * *Please help support The BRAD BLOG's fiercely independent, award-winning coverage of your electoral system --- now in our ELEVENTH YEAR! --- as available from no other media outlet in the nation...


    Categories: Brad Blog

    Snowden on the Dangers of the 'Privatized' National Security State, in the Interview the U.S. 'News' Networks Didn't Bother to Show You

    Fri, 02/07/2014 - 09:05

    Almost three weeks ago, all three of the major Sunday network news shows --- NBC's Meet the Press, CBS' Face the Nation and ABC's This Week --- allowed very powerful elected officials, such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), to come on the air and claim, without evidence, that they'd seen "clues" suggesting former NSA contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden was, somehow, a Russian agent.

    The officials were required to offer absolutely no evidence for their extraordinary claims on the three major broadcast networks. Snowden was subsequently forced to strongly rebut the scandalous charges, which are apparently straight out of the Nixon/Cold War era playbook.

    While that sort of wholly substance-free red-baiting is now perfectly appropriate, seemingly, on network "news" shows, it's similarly remarkable that it seems those very same networks, and most of the others, obsessed with unsubstantiated bullshit claims about Snowden, failed to even note a full-length, detailed, substantive videotaped interview with Snowden on Germany television's ARD almost two weeks ago on January 26th.

    Interestingly, on the ARD website, where the exclusive interview was originally posted, a note on the page explains cryptically: "Due to legal reasons the video is only available in Germany." Huh. So it can't be watched there from here in the U.S. Okay. So, here's the full interview as posted at LiveLeak...

    Please decide for yourself if he's a "Russian agent", as based on his comments here and the actual public evidence that exists (none) to support the defamatory claims of the very powerful elected members of Congress. The entire interview is interesting and as fascinating as he is.

    I'm not sure if it offers a lot of new information, in regard to Snowden's leaks (as he notes several times during the conversation, he's leaving it to the journalists to decide what is newsworthy and what isn't from amongst the documents which he reportedly no longer even has), but there's one section I wanted to underscore, as it's something we've discussed here for many years. Namely, the dangers of privatizing our national security/surveillance state, which he speaks to very directly in the interview...

    INTERVIEWER: How does a young man from Elizabeth City in North Carolina, thirty years old, get in such a position in such a sensitive area?

    SNOWDEN: That's a very difficult question to answer. Um, in general, I would say it highlights the dangers of privatizing government functions. I worked previously as an actual staff officer, a government employee for the Central Intelligence Agency, but I've also served much more frequently as a contractor in a private capacity. What that means is you have private for-profit companies doing inherently governmental work, like targeted espionage, surveillance, compromising foreign systems. And anyone who has the skills, who can convince a private company that they have the qualifications to do so, will be empowered by the government to do that and there's very little oversight. There's very little review.
    ...
    INTERVIEWER: You worked for the NSA through a private contractor with the name Booz Allen Hamilton, one of the big ones in the business. What is the advantage for the U.S. Government or the CIA to work through a private contractor to outsource essential government functions?

    SNOWDEN: Contracting culture of the national security community in the United States is a complex topic. It's driven by a number of interests between primarily limiting the number of direct government employees, at the same time as keeping lobbying groups in Congress --- typically from very well-funded businesses, such as Booz Allen Hamilton --- the problem there is, you end up in a situation where government policies are being influenced by private corporations who have interests that are completely divorced from the public good in mind.

    The result of that is what we saw at Booz Allen Hamilton, where you have private individuals who have access to what the government alleges were millions and millions of records that they could walk out the door with at any time, with no accountability, no oversight, no auditing. The government didn't even know they were gone.

    For those who have been on a jihad against Snowden since his initial disclosures last year --- whether they are powerful elected officials from both major parties, like Feinstein and Rogers, neo-conservative Republicans who have long supported an all-powerful surveillance state in defiance of the Constitution, or Democratic loyalists of Barack Obama who are torturing themselves to find any reason to attack Snowden because they believe his allegations somehow hurt the President --- I'd love to hear what their defense is for privatizing our national security/surveillance "needs" to private, 100% unaccountable corporate interests.

    Specifically, I wonder, how it is that they justify the type of behavior that it has allowed, not just in the Snowden case, but, for example, in the planned 2011 multi-million dollar attack that was being prepared for launch against private U.S. citizens and journalists --- in this case, including myself and my family --- by intelligence contractors using taxpayer-funded tools developed for the so-called "War on Terror".

    Advancing a case that charges Snowden is the "bad guy" here, whether the argument is substance-based or created out of whole cloth (as most such arguments against him appear to be), succeeds only in supporting that kind of unaccountable, fascistic corporate/government structure which has proven to offer little, if any, benefits to the citizenry, but plenty of unrestrained power with which to counter pretty much everything otherwise known as "an American value" found at the heart of our U.S. Constitution.

    Remember, that privatized national security/surveillance state is not a bug to those private corporations profiteering off of it, it's a feature. Please recall the selling point written into the proposal [PDF] to pitch their so-called "Corporate Information Reconnaissance Cell" that three intelligence contracting firms had prepared for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, when the firms were hoping to win a $12 million contract to spy and commit espionage against people like me: "[W]ho better to develop a corporate information reconnaissance capability than companies that have been market leaders within the DoD and Intelligence Community."

    Who better, indeed.


    Categories: Brad Blog

    'Green News Report' - February 6, 2014

    Thu, 02/06/2014 - 18:09


     

    IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: No end in sight for coal ash waste spill in NC; Sniper attack exposes security vulnerabilities of aging US electrical grid; Fracking depleting water supplies in drought-stricken states; Tesla electric cars, now driving cross-country for free; PLUS: The Great Barrier Reef to become a sacrifice zone for coal ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!

    Please help us connect the climate change dots over your public airwaves!
    PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE!
    -->

    Listen online here, or Download MP3 (6 mins)...

    Link: Embed:

    Got comments, tips, love letters, hate mail? Drop us a line at GreenNews@BradBlog.com or right here at the comments link below. All GNRs are always archived at GreenNews.BradBlog.com.

    IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Record number of billion-dollar disasters in 2013; How to deconstruct the difficult math of Keystone XL's carbon footprint; USDA launches 'climate hubs' to help farmers with drought; Winter Olympics: downhill forecast in a warming world; From Occupy to climate justice ... PLUS: Big Coal’s ash mess follows its chemical spill. Is this some kind of bad joke? ... and much, MUCH more! ...

    STORIES DISCUSSED ON TODAY'S 'GREEN NEWS REPORT'...

    'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (Stuff we didn't have time for in today's audio report)...

    FOR MORE on Climate Science and Climate Change, go to our Green News Report: Essential Background Page

  • Skeptical Science: Database with FULL DEBUNKING of ALL Climate Science Denier Myths
  • Warning: Even in the best-case scenario, climate change will kick our asses (Grist)
  • NASA Video: Warming over the last 130 years, and into the next 100 years:

  • Categories: Brad Blog

    The BRAD BLOG at 10: 'White House Website Scrubbing'

    Wed, 02/05/2014 - 18:04

    I've been looking back at some of our most noteworthy stories over the years, in the course of reflecting on The BRAD BLOG's 10th Anniversary.

    As I was digging into the archives, I was reminded again that while many folks know us for our coverage of election integrity issues, voting machine problems, whistleblowers, etc., it was our scoop about a story concerning the George W. Bush White House in the lead-up to the 2004 President Election that was our first to "go national" and have a direct effect on the national political discourse.

    It was before we had even begun digging as deep as we eventually would on the e-voting beat, and the fallout from the story itself resulted in national pick-up by the MSM, pressure on officials and questions at White House press conferences, an academic study (years later) and, the most fun part, the Bush White House eventually being forced to spend what must have been an enormous amount of man hours restoring date to the White House website in the week before the actual election that year...

    That first BRAD BLOG story to be picked up by the national press occurred in autumn of 2004. During the Vice Presidential Debate that October between Dick Cheney and John Edwards, Cheney had pretended to express outrage after Edwards described the U.S. as "having taken 90 percent of coalition casualties" by that time in the Iraq War. Cheney pretended to be infuriated by the charge, and responded that it was "beyond the pale" that Edwards hadn't included the number of dead and injured Iraqis in his count of who had taken the most casualties, as if dead and injured Iraqis should have been included amongst what the U.S. considered to be its "coalition" in Iraq.

    Given that the Bush White House had long cited a list of countries (very few of them) which they had tricked into joining their so-called "Coalition of the Willing" --- many of those countries offered little more to the effort than a few dollars, or a handful of non-military advisers, just so the Bush White House could include them on its list --- I decided to check the White House website itself that night to see if Iraq itself was now listed amongst those "coalition" countries.

    Turns out, by the time I checked the White House's list that night --- their link to "Who Are the Coalition Members?" was still there --- the page itself had been disappeared without notice or explanation from the website. Thus the "White House Website Scrubbing" story was born. Democratic Underground ran a story of mine on it (and created the swell graphic seen at the top of this story), then then AFP picked it up, then Washington Post did too (Reuters didn't bother to notice until January of 2005) and soon WH reporters were asking Administration officials about it at all at press gaggles.

    It turned out that it was more than just that "Coalition of the Willing" page that we discovered had been disappeared from the White House website in the run-up to the 2004 Election. All sorts of inconvenient material --- such as the 2002 video of Bush announcing that he was "not that concerned" about Osama bin Laden (remember, this was pre-YouTube, when space and bandwidth for videos was at a premium) and other stuff they might otherwise have liked to keep from showing up in online videos by snarky jerks --- had also been unceremoniously removed from the White House website as they had geared up for that year's campaign. It was all done, as I reported at the time, in likely violation of the Presidential Records Act of 1978, the law passed after Watergate which made destruction of Presidential documents a violation of law.

    And then, just three weeks after our original report and continued ankle-biting, the White House was finally embarrassed enough that they relented and were forced, in the week before the 2004 general election, to spend untold hours restoring terabytes of documents, audio and video to the White House website. It was, perhaps, The BRAD BLOG's first clear victory.

    It was also an important lesson in the early years of the blogosphere, that persistence, careful fact-gathering and crowd-sourcing on important issues could move the needle one way or another. That was, of course, back when there were far fewer of us in this "business" and the blogosphere was routinely sniffed at, particularly by those in the MSM, as something far less serious than they.

    It would be another four years --- in 2008 --- when our contribution to this matter made it into the official history books, as a study at the University of Illinois Urabana-Champaign, "Airbrushing History, American Style" documented The BRAD BLOG's findings in an academic paper and confirmed the George W. Bush White House's apparent violation of the Presidential Records Act.

    Unlike too many in the mainstream corporate media who picked up our story as it happened in 2004, Scott Althaus and Kalev Leetaru, the authors of the Cline Center study at the University of Illinois, were kind enough to give us credit for having made the discovery and having documented for history in the first place.

    * * *

    See the most noteworthy stories from our "White House Website Scrubbing" series here.

    And please consider a donation to The BRAD BLOG, to help us continue this type independent reporting, trouble-making and muckraking for as long as possible!

    I'd be very happy to send a signed DVD copy of the award-winning documentary Murder, Spies & Voting Lies: The Clint Curtis Story by Patty Sharaf to supporters who either donate $50 or more below or, preferably, sign up for "Monthly Sustaining Support" at $20 or more. The film (which I'm in, but it's good anyway) tells the remarkable, funny and, yes, terrifying story of a Republican software programmer-turned-whistleblower's allegations of vote-rigging software said to have been requested at a very high level. It's based on the startling story we originally broke in late 2004 (also in our first year!) and continued reporting on for years thereafter.

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    Categories: Brad Blog

    'Jobs, Jobs, Jobs' and the GOP Lying About Them

    Wed, 02/05/2014 - 10:05

    [This article now cross-published by Salon...]

    We've long argued that the Republican Party is no longer a legitimate governing party. Never mind whether we agree with them on any particular policy issue, they are simply no longer a serious organization.

    That fact was underscored again on Tuesday and over the weekend, in light of the release of two different official reports, one from the U.S. State Department on the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline project and another from the Congressional Budget Office on the economic outlook in light of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or "Obamacare").

    Never mind whether you agree with the Republican position on either of those two policies. The fact that the party feels it necessary to blatantly lie about what's in each of those reports, specifically with regard to "job creation," in order to advocate for their own policy positions, underscores yet again that these are simply not serious people who are worth being taken seriously anymore...

    Keystone XL Jobs Lie

    If it receives approval from both the State Dept. and White House, the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would ship dirty tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada down to the Gulf of Mexico to be shipped overseas.

    After years of claims by Republicans that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would "create tens of thousands of jobs," we now have some hard numbers on that, at least from the U.S. State Department, if you choose to believe them.

    Last year, while pushing for the KXL, House Speaker John Boehner released a statement claiming that the pipeline "will create over 20,000 direct jobs and 100,000 indirect jobs." On Friday, as the State Dept. released its "Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement" on the project, Boehner once again released a statement re-iterating his previous claim that the pipeline would bring "more than 100,000 jobs".

    The trouble is, that's not true. At least according to the actual State Dept. report which was the occasion for Boehner's Friday statement.

    The report is long and in many pieces, so, naturally, it'd be too much to ask of the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives or anybody in his office to actually read it before issuing a statement about it. Nonetheless, it comes with a reasonably brief Executive Summary [PDF] (just 44 pages) in which it speaks directly to the issue of jobs in relation to KXL.

    In the section on "Economic Activity During Construction" (page 26), the report estimates that "Construction spending would support a combined total of approximately 42,100 jobs throughout the United States for the up to 2-year construction period."

    That sounds pretty good! Until one bothers to keep reading. "A job consists of one position that is filled for one year. The term support means jobs ranging from new jobs (i.e., not previously existing) to the continuity of existing jobs in current or new locations."

    Approximately 16,100 of those temporary jobs would be "direct jobs at firms that are awarded contracts for goods and services, including construction" and the rest, "approximately 26,000," would be the result of "indirect or induced spending". In other words, that would be "goods and services purchased by the construction contractors and spending by employees working for either the construction contractor or for any supplier of goods and services required in the construction process."

    So, in addition to people who work for suppliers (where they may already be employed prior to the approval of KXL), people who work at restaurants or motels near the construction site or for any of the suppliers, also count as "jobs" in this estimate. For example, the report cites "ranchers providing beef for restaurants and construction camps."

    Fair enough. Two years of jobs for those folks, many of whom will be able to continue working in the jobs they already have (so those jobs are not "created", per se, by the construction of the pipeline.)

    After it's built, however, either one or two years later, according to the very next section of the Executive Summary entitled "Economic Activity During Operations", the report states quite clearly [emphasis added]:

    Once the proposed Project enters service, operations would require approximately 50 total employees in the United States: 35 permanent employees and 15 temporary contractors.

    That's it. The Keystone XL Pipeline will offer 35 permanent jobs in the U.S. for the life of the pipeline, according to the U.S. State Department's final analysis.

    That's a far cry from Boehner's claim on Friday, after the report came out, that KXL would bring "more than 100,000 jobs...with it".

    Of course, Boehner's hardly the only one in the Republican Party disingenuously making such unsupported claims about KXL. Last year, GOP Chairman Reince Priebus took to Facebook to claim that "The Keystone Pipeline would create thousands of jobs." Last week, he took to Twitter to claim that "721,000 construction jobs have been lost, #Keystone remains unapproved."

    Perhaps Priebus was referring to something other than Keystone with that 721,000 number --- it's unclear from his tweet --- but if his message was unclear, that would be no accident. His quarter of a million followers on Twitter heard it loud and clear. He, like Boehner, was willing to lie to them in order to advocate for the pipeline --- a pipeline that would result in 35 permanent American jobs.

    Again, whether you support or oppose the pipeline doesn't really matter. Whether you feel temporary jobs are good enough, that's fine. But knowingly lying about the jobs that it will or won't "create" is what we find grotesquely offensive here.

    Obamacare Jobs Lie

    This one was a doozy. On Tuesday, a new report [PDF] on the economic outlook for the U.S. through 2024 was released by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Republicans couldn't wait to mischaracterize lie about what it said.

    As usual, Fox "News" lead the charge on behalf of Republican officials (who repeated the lie all day), claiming that "ObamaCare could lead to loss of nearly 2.3 million US jobs, report says".

    The National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) was just one of dozens of other official GOP mouth-pieces to echo the completely misleading claim...

    Non-partisan CBO report admits #ObamaCare is hurting the economy, will cost 2.5 millions jobs. http://t.co/wpIi1NfvV5

    — NRCC (@NRCC) February 4, 2014

    For the record, other non-Rightwing outlets also badly mischaracterized the report. The Republicans were very happy about that, and couldn't be bothered to correct the error.

    No, the CBO did not claim Obamacare would will lead to the loss of either 2.3 or 2.5 million jobs, as the Republicans lied all day on Tuesday.

    As the Washington Post's Fact Checker columnist Glenn Kessler explained in awarding three out of four "Pinocchios" to those who deliberately mislead about the CBO's projection on ACA-related employment numbers, "No, CBO did not say Obamacare will kill 2 million jobs."

    "This is not about jobs," Kessler explains. "It’s about workers --- and the choices they make."

    Here's what all the nonsense is about. Buried on page 123 of the 182-page CBO report, it states: "CBO estimates that the ACA will reduce the total number of hours worked, on net, by about 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent during the period from 2017 to 2024, almost entirely because workers will choose to supply less labor --- given the new taxes and other incentives they will face and the financial benefits some will receive."

    In other words, because premium subsidies and other incentives will be available, some workers will eventually be able to chose to not continue working, simply because they need the healthcare coverage afforded by their employment.

    "Specifically, CBO estimates that the ACA will cause a reduction of roughly 1 percent in aggregate labor compensation over the 2017--2024 period, compared with what it would have been otherwise," the report says. "The estimated reduction stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply, rather than from a net drop in businesses’ demand for labor, so it will appear almost entirely as a reduction in labor force participation and in hours worked relative to what would have occurred otherwise rather than as an increase in unemployment."

    As White House spokesman Jay Carney explained after the report was released on Tuesday: "At the beginning of this year, we noted that as part of this new day in health care, Americans would no longer be trapped in a job just to provide coverage for their families, and would have the opportunity to pursue their dreams," he said. "This CBO report bears that out, and the Republican plan to repeal the ACA would strip those hard-working Americans of that opportunity."

    This is about people choosing to not work as long in life or as many hours. (Moreover, those jobs could then become available to others still seeking more work.) In short, the CBO's numbers were not about the loss of jobs, at all. It's really not all that complicated, unless you'd like to lie to the American people about it.

    Now, you are welcome to disagree with the CBO numbers, or Carney's or Kessler's or our interpretation of them. (As usual, you don't need to simply trust us. We've given you the links to the actual reports. Read them and decide for yourself.) You are welcome to think it's an outrage that people might choose to work less when they are ill, because they don't have to keep working in order to pay for health care. You are welcome to hate Obamacare all you like and demand its complete repeal, just as you are welcome to call for the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, if you like the idea of shipping the world's dirtiest fossil fuel product across a continent of drinking water in order to ship gas to China.

    But when you've got to lie, repeatedly, about demonstrable, independently verifiable facts, then you are not a legitimate advocate that deserves to be taken seriously.

    The Republican Party has given up on advocating seriously for whatever policy positions they believe in. They are far past that, and have now simply taken to lying in hopes of scamming Americans into voting for them and buying into their policies.

    That is not the earmark of a serious policy-making organization, and it is for that reason that we --- sadly --- no longer regard the Republican Party as a legitimate political body.

    That's not good for America or for Democrats, for that matter. But it just happens to be the sad truth.


    Categories: Brad Blog

    'Green News Report' - February 4, 2014

    Tue, 02/04/2014 - 17:55


     

    IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Keystone XL pipeline moves one step closer to approval; Britain pummeled by record rain and floods; Another coal-related spill contaminates drinking water, this time in North Carolina; PLUS: The Arctic wins again --- for now --- as Shell Oil drops plans to drill this summer ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!

    Please help us connect the climate change dots over your public airwaves!
    PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE!
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    Listen online here, or Download MP3 (6 mins)...

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    Got comments, tips, love letters, hate mail? Drop us a line at GreenNews@BradBlog.com or right here at the comments link below. All GNRs are always archived at GreenNews.BradBlog.com.

    IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Great Barrier Reef to become sludge repository for Big Coal port; World's largest solar thermal plant opens in CA; Iceland taps magma for energy; Senate passes Farm Bill; Safe, Schmafe: Pesticides ok for kids?; Environment loses in Russia's race to Sochi; US food companies go GMO-free in EU; Chemical Safety Board underfunded, understaffed at critical time ... PLUS: Video: Wingnuts think Southern snow was faked by the government ... and much, MUCH more! ...

    STORIES DISCUSSED ON TODAY'S 'GREEN NEWS REPORT'...

    'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (Stuff we didn't have time for in today's audio report)...

    FOR MORE on Climate Science and Climate Change, go to our Green News Report: Essential Background Page

  • Skeptical Science: Database with FULL DEBUNKING of ALL Climate Science Denier Myths
  • Warning: Even in the best-case scenario, climate change will kick our asses (Grist)
  • NASA Video: Warming over the last 130 years, and into the next 100 years:

  • Categories: Brad Blog

    Have a Coke Ad and a Smile

    Mon, 02/03/2014 - 19:32

    Exactly as a twitterer from MSNBC had correctly predicted last week, the Rightwing is throwing a shit fit over an awesome, multicultural Super Bowl ad.

    Never mind that the Right had only pretended to be outraged by that tweet. And, sure, today's shit fit is over a different ad than the perfectly accurate and appropriate MSNBC tweet had predicted. But, otherwise, MSNBC was absolutely right. (And the cable channel's cowardly execs who felt it necessary to appease the loon RW extremists by deleting the tweet, apologizing for it, and then firing the person who wrote it, were pathetically and embarrassingly wrong.)

    The best ad of the day on Super Bowl Sunday --- and not only because it's proven MSNBC's fired twitterer correct --- wasn't the Cheerios ad of note (though it was awesome), it was this ad from Coca-Cola...

    Cool, right? Well, apparently not to the extremists who have taken over the mainstream Right in this country, including Glenn Beck who charges today that the ad was meant "to divide us politically"...

    "That's all this ad is," Beck said on his show this morning. "It's an in your face --- and if you don't like it, if you're offended by it, then you're a racist. If you do like it, well then you're for immigration. That's what it is. You're for progress. That's all this is --- is to divide people."

    Beck, who's not insane at all, says yesterday's "It's Beautiful" ad was somehow in contrast to Coca-Cola's famous 1971 "Hillside" ad.

    "Remember Coke used to do a thing and we'd all hold hands?," Beck asked. "Now it's, 'Have a Coke and we'll divide you.'"

    Yes. It's Coke that's changed. Not the Right itself. Really? Anybody honestly think the very same xenophobic wingnuts wouldn't be throwing the very same paranoid xenophobic shit fit today had Coke run an ad with multicultural people all holding hands together and singing on a hillside yesterday, instead of in 1971, rather than the ad they ran with multicultural people singing "America the Beautiful" yesterday? For that matter, the 1971 ad is pretty much the very same idea as the ad that ran yesterday, except yesterday's explicitly sang the praises of this country more and included the hashtag "#AmericaIsBeautiful"!

    Well, that's outrageous! Boycott!!!

    But, you know, to the Glenn Becks of the world, it's Coke that's changed over the last 40 years, not the fact that extremists on the Right have now been allowed to become the mainstream of their party.

    Here's the America-hating 1971 ad, in case any of the wingnut loon howler monkeys screaming about yesterday's Coke ad --- celebrating America as beautiful!!! --- weren't alive yet or have forgotten about it in the course of their Fox "News"-induced brainwashing of the last several decades...


    Peace.


    Categories: Brad Blog

    Polling Place Photo ID Restriction Law Costing Big Money for 'Small Government' Republicans in TX

    Mon, 02/03/2014 - 16:27

    Completely unnecessary polling place Photo ID restrictions enacted by so-called "small government conservatives" are costing taxpayers more and more big government money every day.

    In Dallas County, Texas, for example, where County Commissioners are wrestling with the Republican-enacted state law to restrict which legal voters will be allowed to vote, hundreds of thousands of dollars have already been allocated to try and help legally registered voters retain their right to vote in the upcoming March primary election, according to the Dallas Morning News. And it looks like they will have to spend still more.

    The cost of "small government conservatism" to taxpayers continues to mount in the Lone Star State, on outreach to voters and administrative necessities, as well as the cost of defending the voting restrictions in state and federal court...

    The state restriction on legal voters, enacted by TX Attorney General (and 2014 Gubernatorial candidate) Greg Abbot just hours after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the federal Voting Rights Act last Summer, is being challenged by the U.S. Dept. of Justice, as well as by Dallas County itself, which has joined the federal suit against the state.

    The law had been blocked several times after being found in violation of the Voting Rights Act over recent years, before SCOTUS gutted that part of the nearly 50-year old landmark statute. During previous VRA hearings on the law, however, the federal courts also noted that TX' version also appeared to violate the U.S. Constitution, as we detailed last year. With that in mind, The BRAD BLOG's legal analyst Ernie Canning has argued that the latest federal legal challenge to TX' voting restrictions will result in Constitutional problems for the state law. (To date, we should note, Canning's record has been spot on in regard to other legal predictions related to Photo ID restrictions elsewhere.)

    To be clear (since proponents of these laws like to ignore this point), like the majority of the states in the country, Texas already had reasonable Voter ID restrictions in place (as does the National Voter Registration Act), before they changed the law to limit the type of IDs that may be used for voting. For example, a state-issued concealed handgun permit is now allowed for voting purposes, but a state-issued student ID is not, for some reason. The problem, as usual, is not requiring some form of ID to register and/or vote, it's the requirement for very specific types of Photo IDs that millions of (largely Democratic-leaning) voters simply do not already own. In Texas, additional problems are related to the new ban on expired drivers licenses and the requirement for an exact name match between allowable Photo IDs and the voter's registration record.

    But until all the legal challenges are resolved one way or another, Dallas County Commissioners are worried about some 195,000 legal, registered voters they've been able to identify in their county alone who may have trouble voting in next month's primary. To date, the Commission has approved spending $275,000 to join the federal lawsuit against TX, and they have had to allocate another $145,000 for voter outreach to try and alert those whose IDs don't match identically with their voter registration that they may have a problem voting this year.

    "The first major mailing, sent on Jan. 24 at a cost of $79,000," according to the Morning News, "focused on name discrepancies that voters might have between their photo ID and the voter registration database. Such complications are more common among women, who are more likely to have changed their last names."

    The paper says that, according to officials, "By Friday afternoon, more than 14,000 voters had responded to the letter and updated their name in the voter registration database" But, they add, "that means many more of the 195,000 with potential name problems haven't responded."

    This week, the Commissioners will consider a new proposal "to spend up to an additional $165,000 on efforts to resolve voters' complications with improper photo ID and name discrepancies between required forms of identification."

    The Commission is made up of elected officials, all of whom are Democrats, except for the one lone Republican, Mike Cantrell, who opposed the County joining the federal lawsuit last year and, according to the Dallas Morning News this week, is concerned about the new County proposal to spend more money on expanded voter outreach.

    "We're not Washington," Cantrell told the paper. "We can't keep just throwing money at the problem."

    "Problem?" Um, what "problem", Mr. Cantrell? Your "small government" party has told Americans that polling place Photo ID restrictions were the solution, not the problem. What "problem" could you possibly be thinking of?

    * * *Please help support The BRAD BLOG's fiercely independent, award-winning coverage of your electoral system --- now in our ELEVENTH YEAR! --- as available from no other media outlet in the nation...


    Categories: Brad Blog

    Federal Lawsuit Filed Against FEC Seeks to Shed Light on Karl Rove's 'Dark Money' Donors

    Mon, 02/03/2014 - 09:05

    With Brad Friedman...

    After a recent three-to-three decision by a partisan-deadlocked Federal Elections Commission (FEC), Karl Rove may have thought he was off the hook for federal campaign finance violations by his Crossroads GPS organization. Two non-profit, good government groups, however, feel differently. Last Friday, they filed a federal lawsuit [PDF] against the FEC in hopes of forcing the agency to reverse its ruling, revisit the complaint against his group's 2010 electioneering, and to enforce federal campaign finance rules as specified by law.

    Late last Friday, Attorneys from the non-partisan Campaign Legal Center and the Public Citizen Litigation Group filed a civil complaint against the FEC in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C.

    The suit seeks to reverse what the plaintiffs describe as an "arbitrary" and "capricious" decision by the three Republican FEC Commissioners, in contradiction of the advice of their own staff attorneys, to dismiss the administrative complaint the groups had filed against Rove's organization. That administrative complaint charged that Rove's group violated federal campaign finance law during the 2010 election cycle.

    The votes by the three Republican FEC Commissioners effectively quashed any further official investigation into the allegations that Rove's group violated the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (FECA) when it spent the majority of its money during the 2010 election cycle on electioneering, but failed to register as a "political committee" with the FEC, as required by law. Their decision to shut down the investigation came after what the FEC's own staff attorneys found to be a likely violation of the federal campaign finance law.

    By dismissing the administrative complaint and shutting the door on the investigation, the Republican FEC Commissioners not only allowed Rove to keep, as a secret, the identity of donors of tens of millions of dollars used to support Republican Congressional campaigns in 2010, but effectively offered Rove carte blanche to conceal donor identities with respect to monies spent in subsequent elections, such as the 2012 election cycle in which Crossroads GPS "spent at least $71 million on federal campaign activity," according to the newly filed federal complaint.

    The plaintiffs charge that the FEC's deadlock was the result of "an impermissible interpretation of FECA," and the agency's own published guidelines due to an "abuse of discretion" by the Republican commissioners in a manner that was "otherwise contrary to law"...

    Shell Game

    While the suit was filed last week, the intention to file was first announced by Craig Holman, the Government Affairs Lobbyist for Public Citizen's Congress Watch, during an interview last month with Brad Friedman on the KPFK/Pacifica Radio BradCast.

    As Holman, one of four plaintiffs in the case, explained at the time, the number of deadlocked 3-3 votes at the FEC has increased "nine-fold" since 2008, effectively preventing enforcement of federal campaign finance laws over the past five years.

    In this instance, the three Republican FEC Commissioners, as alleged in the complaint, ignored detailed evidence against Crossroads GPS, as well as legal definitions provided by both statute and FEC rules. Their votes not to pursue any further action were also in direct contradiction with the recommendations of the FEC's own Office of General Counsel (OGC).

    During his BradCast appearance, Holman had asserted that the three Republican FEC Commissioners "rigged the math" in a desperate and convoluted effort to justify their determination that there was "no reason to believe" that Crossroads GPS --- one of the nation's largest sources of "dark money" contributions in federal elections --- is a "political committee" with the obligation to register as such with the FEC. Instead, Rove's group declares itself to be a non-profit 501(c)(4) organization which, according to laws governing the IRS, is reserved for organizations "exclusively" engaged in the promotion of "social welfare", rather than electioneering.

    Rove's 501(c)(4) designation allows him to conceal the identity of Crossroads GPS donors. By contrast, an FEC registered "political committee" is required to reveal the identities of its donors.

    Both the allegations in the federal complaint, as well as the express findings of a Nov. 21, 2012 Report issued by the FEC's Office of General Counsel, suggest that Crossroads GPS is a "political committee" hiding behind a self-erected, tax-exempt, non-profit 501(c)(4) façade. (To date, the IRS does not appear to have granted Crossroads GPS's application for approval as a 501(c)(4) organization.)

    Crossroads GPS was created in June of 2010 by Republican strategists Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie. It was a spin-off organization of "American Crossroads, a Section 527 political organization and FEC-registered independent expenditure-only political committee (a.k.a. 'super PAC')," according to the federal complaint.

    The two organizations, as described in the OGC's Report, "operate from the same address and share at least four corporate officers." While the groups admit to raising funds jointly, both the legal complaint and the OGC Report assert that a prime reason for creating the spin-off group was because, as acknowledged by Steven Law, the president of both organizations, "anonymity for donors to the 501(c)(4) was a valuable fund raising tool."

    In other words, the identity of donors who gave to American Crossroads would, legally, need to be disclosed. But donors to Crossroads GPS, under the scheme that Rove and Gillespie devised, would be able to remain anonymous.

    As noted in the federal complaint, Ken Vogel at Politico reported on Crossroads GPS, just after its 2010 formation: "A new political operation conceived by Republican operatives Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie formed a spinoff group last month that --- thanks in part to its ability to promise donors anonymity --- has brought in more money in its first month than the parent organization [American Crossroads] has raised since it started in March."

    Vogel went on to report that "a veteran GOP operative familiar with the group's fundraising activities said the spin-off was formed largely because donors were reluctant to see their names publicly associated with giving to a 527 group [American Crossroads]."

    The trick worked. After formation of Crossroads GPS in the summer of 2010, the money came pouring in --- tens of millions of it --- just in time to be used for that year's elections and, according to both the federal complaint and the FEC's own attorneys, to be used directly for electioneering activity in support of electing Republicans to Congress. That 2010 election would eventually bring with it a Republican House majority and the freshman class of so-called 'Tea Party' Congress members.

    As cited in the federal complaint, Rove himself appeared on Fox "News" before the election to call for donors who could legally give no more money to official Republican campaign committees, to give it to his groups instead.

    "What we've essentially said is, if you've maxed out to the Senatorial Committee, the Congressional Committee or the RNC and would like to do more, under the Citizens United decisions, you can give money to the American Crossroads 527 or Crossroads GPS," Rove explained at the time.

    Donors answered the call, and sought out the anonymity offered by Rove's "social welfare" organization.

    "On October 5, 2010," the complaint notes by way of just one example, "Crossroads GPS and American Crossroads announced a $4.2 million ad buy, targeting eight hotly contested Senate races. Seventy-five percent of the ad buy was paid for with funds from undisclosed donors."

    The complaint describes how the OGC "found that [Crossroads GPS] had spent at least $20.8 million on federal campaign activity...between June and December 2010 --- more than half of the $39.1 million Crossroads GPS reported to the IRS that it spent in 2010."

    The expenditure of "approximately 53 percent of...Crossroads GPS's spending in 2010," in and of itself, was "sufficient to establish that its major purpose in 2010 was the nomination or election of federal candidates," according to the OGC, which urged further investigation by the Commission to determine the full scope of the group's 2010 campaign spending.

    For their part, the three Democratic FEC Commissioners issued a Jan. 10, 2014 "Statement of Reasons" [PDF], detailing their justification for voting to follow OGC's recommendations to authorize further investigation of what they saw as "a clear-cut case" with respect to Crossroads GPS's "vast" political expenditures.

    However, since it takes four votes to move forward with an FEC investigation, the three Republican FEC Commissioners were able to bring the investigation of Rove's Crossroads GPS to a grinding halt. Their decision to dismiss the administrative complaint prevented the agency from enforcing federal "disclosure requirements", which the federal complaint describes as "essential to the health of our democracy."

    Rove's Math

    So how'd they get away with it?

    As detailed in the federal complaint, both the FECA law and U.S. Supreme Court decisions have established a two-pronged test for determining whether a "committee, club, association or other group of persons" is to be defined as a "political committee." The first part of the test, which is not in dispute as applicable to Crossroads GPS, is whether contributions received or expended exceeded $1,000 "during a calendar year".

    The second prong of the test, as established by the Supreme Court in Buckley v. Valeo (1976), is that the term "political committee" must be limited only to "organizations that are under the control of or the major purpose of which is the nomination or election of a candidate." [Emphasis added.] The "major purpose" test was established by the Court in order to shield groups from the effects of the FECA statute if they are simply "engaged purely in issue discussion".

    As lead plaintiff Public Citizen explained in its Jan. 31 press release in support of their lawsuit:

    In 2007, the FEC published a detailed policy laying out how the agency will determine an organization's major purpose. The policy provides that the FEC will consider public and non-public statements by the organization and the proportion of spending on "federal election activity," which includes spending on express advocacy (messages calling for a vote for or against a candidate) as well as electioneering communications and other materials that discuss the merits of a candidate immediately before an election.

    The FEC attorneys agreed that the amount of spending by Crossroads GPS on campaigns in 2010 should have required the group to register as a "political committee" with the Commission. Their report found that "Crossroads GPS's proportion of spending related to federal campaign activity is alone sufficient to establish that its major purpose in 2010 was the nomination or election of federal candidates."

    The GOP Commissioners, however, with the help of Rove himself, ignored those recommendations and invented a new way to decide how the "major purpose" of Crossroads GPS would be established.

    As Holman explained during his BradCast interview, the three Republican FEC Commissioners --- as seen in their own Jan 8, 2014 "Statement of Reasons" [PDF] for voting against any further action in the matter --- simply replaced the statutory definitions of law, as well as the FEC's own long-standing rules, in order to "rig the math".

    First, as Holman observed, "they counted for electioneering activity only express advocacy ads...in which the ad said 'vote for', or 'against', or 'elect'. They did not count...advertisements in which the ad doesn't actually say 'vote for', but it casts the candidate almost always in a very negative light right near the election, which is clearly designed to influence how one votes." In other words, the Republican FEC Commissioners insisted that a barrage of deceptive, negative attack ads directed against political candidates immediately prior to an election should not be counted as electioneering activity.

    Second, instead of examining expenditures during the "calendar year" of the 2010 election, as mandated by the FECA statute itself, the Republican Commissioners permitted Rove and Crossroads GPS to designate their own self-determined fiscal year as the period during which the group's "major purpose" should be determined.

    "Instead of actually calculating the expenditures by Crossroads GPS during the election cycle" itself, according to Holman, "Karl Rove decided he wants to pick as his fiscal year June 1, 2010 through May 31, 2011. That means that a little bit of the election cycle is in there, but mostly it's after the election when Crossroads GPS is doing more issue advocacy, rather than electioneering."

    With Rove's new math, the "approximately 53 percent" of total expenditures Crossroads GPS spent on elections in 2010 (and even that number was a low-ball estimate by the FEC's legal counsel), became watered down to a minority of its total expenditures, once the non-election year of 2011 was factored in to account for the Republicans' preferred "fiscal year" basis of spending.

    'Arbitrary, Capricious, an Abuse of Discretion, Otherwise Contrary to Law'

    "The Commission has unfortunately failed to adhere to its own policy on political committee status or to recent judicial decisions finding that policy to be valid and constitutional," the Democratic FEC Commissioners complained in their Statement of Reasons after the original administrative complaint was dismissed, courtesy of the 3-3 deadlocked vote.

    In so doing, the federal complaint charges, the FEC dismissal "rest[s] on manifest errors of law" and has denied the plaintiffs' ability to do their own jobs.

    Two of the plaintiffs in the case are the non-partisan, non-profit group, Public Citizen and its Legislative Representative, Holman. The complaint alleges: "One of Public Citizens' primary missions is...to combat corruption in the political system through election reform." Its members include voters who "reside in states and electoral districts where Crossroads GPS has engaged in spending to affect federal elections." The concealment of donor identity impairs those members' "informed exercise of the vote."

    The other two plaintiffs are ProtectOurElections.org (POE) and its attorney Kevin Zeese, Esq. POE "is a national collaboration of grassroots organizations that work together to provide oversight of elections and to advocate for campaign finance reforms," according to the complaint, which alleges that both POE and Zeese "rely on political committees public disclosure reports to evaluate the influence of money in politics."

    [Full disclosure of our own: POE is an off-shoot campaign of VelvetRevolution.us, a non-profit good government organization co-founded by The BRAD BLOG. We were not, however, involved with either the initial 2010 administrative complaint filed with the FEC against Rove's group, or the lawsuit filed last week in federal district court.]

    Both Holman and Zeese, as registered voters, seek redress from the impairment of their right to an "informed exercise of the vote."

    In response to a query from The BRAD BLOG, attorney Paul S. Ryan, Senior Counsel at The Campaign Legal Center stated that the plaintiffs are relying upon "informational standing" as established in the 1996 en banc decision by the full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeal in Akins v. Federal Election Commission.

    In that case, the court analogized a voter's right to campaign donor information to that of a party entering a contract. "If a party is denied information that will help it in making a transaction --- and a vote can be thought of as a kind of transaction --- that party is obviously injured in fact," according to the Akins court.

    The case also established that, before seeking relief with the court, an individual must first file a complaint with the FEC. "Only parties aggrieved by the dismissal of a complaint are entitled to challenge in court the Commission's refusal to enforce." Here, that occurred.

    The complaint also cites Orloski v. Federal Election Commission (1986), which establishes the right to challenge an FEC decision to dismiss a complaint that is based upon "an impermissible interpretation of the law." Here, the plaintiffs argue, that happened as well.

    They seek relief from the court as follows...

    WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs, by their undersigned counsel, respectfully request that the Court grant the following relief:

    a) Declare that the Commission’s decision to dismiss Plaintiffs’ administrative complaint was based on an impermissible interpretation of FECA, and was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and otherwise contrary to law;

    b) Order the FEC to conform to such a declaration within 30 days, see 2 U.S.C. § 437g(a)(8)(C);

    c) Award legal fees and costs of suit incurred by Plaintiffs; and

    d) Grant such other and further relief as this Court deems just and proper.

    If the case is successful, the FEC will be forced to reopen the investigation into campaign finance violations by Rove's "social welfare" organization. If that happens, Rove and his massive "dark money" scheme, as well as others like it which have sprung up in its wide, dark shadow, may be in danger of finally being forced into the light of day.

    As Public Citizen's President Robert Weissman noted in the groups official announcement of the suit last week, "If Crossroads GPS gets away with this, it will be an open invitation to every corporation and wealthy individual who wants to propel specific candidates into office. The voices of all those voters who don't have millions of dollars to spend on elections will not be heard."

    * * *Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). Follow him on Twitter: @Cann4ing

    * * *Please help support The BRAD BLOG's fiercely independent, award-winning coverage of your electoral system --- now in our ELEVENTH YEAR! --- as available from no other media outlet in the nation...


    Categories: Brad Blog

    Poll: Things Looking Up for PA Governor Tom Corbett's Re-Election Prospects!

    Fri, 01/31/2014 - 16:40

    Sure, Pennsylvania's Republican Governor Tom Corbett may be the dumbest in the nation, but the competition for that title is certainly fierce and tough to quantify.

    Who can forget his advice to women of the state back in 2012 that they should just lie back and "close your eyes" while being forced by his government to receive a vaginal ultrasound while the monitor must be pointed towards them before terminating a pregnancy? That was fun.

    Then there was his claim that same year, described as "ludicrous" to The BRAD BLOG by a longtime Keystone State election integrity expert, that the GOP polling place Photo ID restriction bill he signed into law was needed, in no small part, because some precincts in the state "come in with a 112 percent" turnout. Of course, that was completely untrue, but, hey, it sounded like actual information! That voter restriction law, as we reported recently, was permanently enjoined by a state court earlier this month after it was found to be in violation of the commonwealth's constitutional right to vote. The law, according to the court, would also have disenfranchised "hundreds of thousands" of legal voters in the bargain.

    But how could Corbett have known that? After all, when Corbett's own appointed Secretary of the Commonwealth Carol Aichele (another great mind and, coincidentally, the wife of Corbett's own Chief of Staff), was asked about it in court during the legal challenge to the law, she admitted, "I don't know what the law says." Hey, if the state's chief election official doesn't know how many thousands or millions of otherwise legal voters will be disenfranchised by a law, how should the Governor be expected to know any better?!

    But the news is not all bad for Gov. Genius, as a new poll out this week in advance of his exciting re-election bid this year details!...

    Fewer than one-fourth of Pennsylvania voters think Gov. Tom Corbett (R) should be reelected, according to a Franklin & Marshall College poll released Thursday.

    The survey found that only 23 percent of Pennsylvania voters believe Corbett has done a good enough job to deserve reelection, while 63 percent believe it's time for a change. Even among his own party, just 42 percent said he should be reelected.

    The overall numbers are actually an improvement for the governor since last fall, when just 20 percent said he deserved to be reelected. But the latest poll still shows Corbett faring considerably worse than fellow Republican Rick Santorum before Santorum lost his Senate seat by a historic 18 points in 2006. That spring 36 percent of voters thought Santorum deserved reelection, while 52 percent called for a change.

    See? Look up, Guv! Your 20% support for re-election last year is now up to 23%! You're moving in the right direction! If the numbers don't move fast enough for ya, well, what can we say? Just lie back and "close your eyes". Maybe it'll all work out well in the end.

    * * *Please help support The BRAD BLOG's fiercely independent, award-winning coverage of your electoral system --- now in our ELEVENTH YEAR! --- as available from no other media outlet in the nation...


    Categories: Brad Blog

    Football Fans Organize to Challenge NFL's Tax-Exempt Status, Billions in Govt Hand-Outs

    Fri, 01/31/2014 - 14:57

    In the lead up to this Sunday's Super Bowl XLVIII, an advocacy group calling itself SackNFLTaxBreaks.org announced its formation "to sack the National Football League's anti-fan behavior, its nonprofit tax-free status, as well as the overall government subsidization of the league."

    Co-founded by "New Orleans Saints fan Lynda Woolard" and Ryan Rudominer, "a proud shareholder of the Green Bay Packers, the NFL's only publicly owned team," the group says it hopes to "bring together supporters from associations, nonprofits, unions, corporations, government, journalism, think tanks, academia, the law, and leading advocacy organizations from across the political spectrum."

    Their advocacy, to date, is largely built upon a petition launched last year by Woolard calling on Congress to revoke the non-profit, tax-exempt status of the National Football League. Her petition, so far, has obtained more than 300,000 signatures.

    On their home page, the group notes that "Despite making $10 billion annually in profits, and paying Commissioner Roger Goodell a whopping $29.5 million dollars-a-year (15 times more than the nonprofit tax-free league gives to charity), the NFL receives a billion dollars annually in government assistance."

    The NFL is a separate entity from the individual teams in the league, which do pay taxes. At least two U.S. Senators, Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn and Maine independent Angus King (who caucuses with the Democrats), have recently "started a push to end" the NFL's non-profit status.

    While the movement to end the NFL's special tax breaks is relatively new, the issue of corporate welfare via professional sports has been the subject of previous, blistering critiques...

    Author Greg LeRoy, in his aptly named The Great American Jobs Scam (2005), cites Roger Noll and Andrew Zimbalist's Sports, Jobs and Taxes (1997) reveals how professional sports teams, owned by some of the wealthiest Americans, have duped both voters and locally elected politicians into publicly funding stadium and arena construction. As Noll and Zimbalist observed, "independent work on the economic impact of stadiums and arenas has uniformly found that there is no statistically positive correlation between sports facilities construction and economic development." Yet, the teams, citing their own paid economists, have consistently presented claims of jobs creation based upon what LeRoy describes as "faith-based economics."

    The result is a drastic enhancement of the values of the privately owned teams.

    One classic example involved George W. Bush, who, in 1989, invested $600,000 to purchase a share of the Texas Rangers baseball team. "Bush and his partners," LeRoy observed, persuaded "voters in...Arlington [TX] to approve a sales tax increase to pay more than two-thirds of the cost of a lavish new $191 million stadium and a surrounding development that included an amphitheater, shops, and restaurants. The lucrative deal," LeRoy added, "allowed the Rangers to collect rent from all the nearby facilities."

    In 1998, Thomas Hicks, a leveraged buy out billionaire from Dallas, purchased the team for $250 million. A scant nine years after Bush invested the $600,000, he got the mine while Arlington taxpayers got the shaft. His taxpayer-subsidized investment resulted in a sweet $14.9 million profit.

    * * *Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). Follow him on Twitter: @Cann4ing


    Categories: Brad Blog