WASHINGTON — Though the network of conservative groups funded by billionaires Charles and David Koch are better known for spending millions on top-tier Senate and gubernatorial races, they may be having a more durable impact at the local level.
A report released Thursday by the left-leaning Center for American Progress Action Fund compiles example after example of how Americans for Prosperity is mobilizing supporters to campaign against local tax increases and mass transit systems and for like-minded candidates running for school and county boards. Americans for Prosperity is a key player in the Koch-affiliated universe, with chapters in 35 states.
Among the local targets cited was a proposed tax increase to provide a permanent source of funding for the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. After Americans for Prosperity’s Ohio chapter mailed fliers, made calls, ran radio ads and knocked on thousands of doors, the proposal was defeated.
"There is no issue we won’t get involved in if you’re going to raise taxes," Eli Miller, director of the Ohio chapter, told a local NPR affiliate in April.
The CAP Action Fund report suggests that the Ohio effort was aimed less at protecting local pocketbooks and more at protecting Koch-affiliated business interests in Columbus. Georgia-Pacific Chemicals, a Koch Industries subsidiary, would have seen its property taxes go up at one facility if the levy had passed.
Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D), who leads the action fund, said that the Kochs are interfering with the ability of local communities to “determine what’s right” for them.
"The local business community was largely supportive of the zoo levy," Strickland told The Huffington Post. "It’s kind of ironic, because some of the people who in the past have perhaps been cheerleaders for the Kochs, as they have attempted to use their wealth in order to get conservative candidates elected to office, are now perhaps a little unhappy that the Kochs are behaving in ways that are not consistent with their goals — and that was certainly true with what happened in Columbus with regards to the zoo levy. They’re willing to spend whatever they need to cripple and limit government."
The report also highlights a fight over a proposed mass transit system in Nashville. The Amp, a 7.1-mile rapid transit bus project, never received the go-ahead after Americans for Prosperity’s Tennessee affiliate encouraged state senators to introduce a measure aimed at preventing cities from establishing rapid transit systems that would use separate road lanes. Though a coalition of business and community groups were in favor of the proposal, it fizzled.
The report argues that in the Nashville example, the Koch network was motivated by a belief that public transit would threaten the brothers’ oil and gas interests.
Almost no issue appears to be too small for the Kochs’ activists. Americans for Prosperity jumped into an Iron County board of supervisors election in northern Wisconsin to attack candidates opposed to an iron ore mine. The group also flexed its organizing muscle over a 1.75 percent food and beverage tax in Fremont, Nebraska, to fund emergency capital improvement projects and a 1 percent tax increase in Gahanna, Ohio, to prevent cuts to the local police force.
"What does David Koch know about the city of Gahanna?" Strickland asked.
The Kochs, he argued, “are willing to spend vast sums of unreported money to interfere with the decisions that should rightfully be made by local communities. If you look across the country, they are using their wealth to try to control what happens at the local level, to the detriment of schools, teachers, firefighters and infrastructure development. If they are successful, if they achieve their goals, it will be detrimental to the country because the decision-making is coming from the top down.”
Local education issues are another area arousing Koch interest. The network has worked to roll back efforts aimed at integrating schools in North Carolina and promoted school board candidates in Douglas County, Colorado, who supported abolishing teacher tenure, benching teachers’ unions, implementing voucher programs and paying teachers based on the subject and grade they instruct.
The CAP Action Fund report also flags a Huffington Post story about the Youth Entrepreneurs nonprofit, funded primarily by Charles Koch, which pays public school students to take courses espousing lower taxes and fewer regulations and deploring higher minimum wages and social welfare programs.
Strickland framed his group’s report as an effort at raising public awareness about the “selfish” motivations of the Kochs’ political involvement.
"I think there are many people, even in the communities affected by these efforts, who are largely unaware that these wealthy outside interests are having an impact on what happens there," he said. "The Koch brothers are looking out for themselves and their own economic interests, but they cloak that in a kind of political and economic philosophy that allows them to pretend to be high-minded in their motivations. Their motivations are selfish and people need to know that. Once people understand the threat to the democratic process and understand the source of that threat, we will be better able to help local communities protect themselves from these efforts."
Americans for Prosperity has a different take. It sees its local campaigns as a way to reach voters who wouldn’t otherwise show up for a federal election and bring them into the network.
"It’s a little frustrating when someone says, ‘Oh, this is a political effort about the U.S. Senate,’" Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips told National Journal in June. “They don’t look at the totality of what Americans for Prosperity is doing.”
"We’re genuinely a long-term effort," he added. "We’re not about some election cycle."
At least 15 Fox News personalities recently campaigned with organizations that were either created or heavily-funded by the billionaire Koch brothers.
The Koch brothers’ main political arm intends to spend more than $125 million this year on an aggressive ground, air and data operation benefiting conservatives, according to a memo distributed to major donors and sources familiar with the group.
The projected budget for Americans for Prosperity would be unprecedented for a private political group in a midterm, and would likely rival even the spending of the Republican and Democratic parties’ congressional campaign arms.
The group has already spent more than $35 million on ads attacking vulnerable Democrats in key Senate and House races, according to sources, including Sens. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Pryor of Arkansas. The $125 million projection comes from a memo obtained by POLITICO labeled as a “Confidential Investor Update” provided to major donors in March, but a source familiar with AFP called the figure a “very conservative estimate. We’re on track for more than that.”
An AFP spokesman declined to comment on its 2014 budget, but did not dispute the authenticity of the memo. It details the group’s efforts to beef up its field operation in key counties, and to deploy a new “closed-loop data system in which volunteer and membership information is automatically updated” for access by phone bankers and canvassers roaming neighborhoods with tablets.
The plans — combined with those of other groups in the sprawling political operation affiliated with the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch — more closely resemble the traditional functions of a national political party than a network of private nonprofit groups.
The goal of the network is a long-term movement to expand the political playing field for conservatives — both into new states and into non-traditional demographics including millennial, Hispanic and low-income voters.
AFP’s $125-million projected 2014 budget alone would also exceed the total 2012 fundraising hauls of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee or the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
As the Koch network prepares to gather its operatives and donors next month for an annual summer fundraising seminar, it’s implementing a series of adjustments based on lessons learned from 2012. In the run-up to that election, the network spent more than $400 million only to watch President Barack Obama win reelection and his Democratic allies retain the Senate.
Some megadonors wondered what their cash bought, and privately suggested they might look to spend their money elsewhere. The Koch operation undertook a forensic analysis of what went wrong designed partly to prove to donors that it could be trusted with their political donations going forward.
AFP identified “three key areas where the Left outperformed our efforts in the field,” according to the memo, which conceded they were “tough and painful lessons — but it’s important to remember that AFP is run like a business”:
• “Our data system was insufficient” and failed to quickly process information fed into it by thousands of canvassers and phone bankers contacting voters, causing “delays in updates, leading to some data inaccuracies during a critical phase of our organizing efforts.”
• “We were outmanned” by the left generally and Obama’s campaign, specifically, which, the memo notes “had 770 field staff on the ground” in Florida alone. By contrast, the memo notes that AFP and “other network partners” had about only 300 total field staff nationwide.
• “The Left had a superior messaging strategy and implementation that effectively identified their demographic targets, determined which issues resonated best with which groups, and delivered specific messages over TV, radio and online ads for those audiences.”
To remedy the messaging disadvantage, AFP developed “a sophisticated new media message-testing strategy to target specific demographics in specific locations we need to move on our issues,” according to the memo.
The resulting advertisements increasingly have used personal stories, often told by regular folks looking directly into the camera, to critique Democratic policies like Obamacare, and the politicians who support them. They’re part of a broader effort to project a kinder, gentler tone in espousing libertarian-infused government-slashing policies that sometimes risk coming across as coldhearted.
“If the presidential election told us anything, it’s that Americans place a great importance on taking care of those in need and avoiding harm to the weak,” reads the AFP memo.
Echoing Charles Koch’s opposition to the minimum wage, it asserts that free market, low-regulation policies “create the greatest levels of prosperity and opportunity for all Americans, especially for society’s poorest and most vulnerable.” Yet, the memo says, “we consistently see that Americans in general are concerned that free-market policy — and its advocates — benefit the rich and powerful more than the most vulnerable of society. …We must correct this misconception.”
The major contributors to the Koch network groups tend to skew much whiter and older than the population the groups are trying to reach. And while the emcee of the Koch donor seminars, Kevin Gentry, in April emailed a group of fundraisers for allied organizations that “we want our donors to be younger,” he added that “just doesn’t track with reality. So if we try to ‘force’ our donors to become younger – i.e., focusing our donor acquisition more at youth cohorts, we will likely have less efficient and less economically profitable fundraising.”
The Kochs’ major donors have shaken off any misgivings and returned in force, according to an operative who works with various groups in the Koch network. “They have been big with the early money and it’s obviously still flowing,” said the operative. “They’re up in all these states and their map keeps expanding.”
A Koch-backed nonprofit called the LIBRE Initiative — which is focused on educating “Hispanic communities about economic freedom principles and values such as free enterprise, limited government, and personal responsibility” — is hiring field directors in Colorado and Texas, as well as a coalitions coordinator and a “West Coast youth projects manager.”
Likewise, the Koch-backed youth advocacy group Generation Opportunity is looking to hire a slew of employees across the country — including state directors, events directors, digital staffers and volunteer coordinators — partly to “engag(e) the millennial generation to advance free market principles by growing grassroots networks that will supply advocates and local community volunteers.”
Plus, recruiting for data developers, engineers and analysts is brisk at both Themis, a nonprofit that supports the back-end data operations of Koch network groups, and i360, a for-profit company linked to Themis that provides similar services to Republican campaigns and party committees.
Perhaps the most significant organizational shift in Koch World is the increasing footprint of Freedom Partners, a nonprofit that served as a hub for other network groups in 2012, when it doled out $236 million to an array of conservative nonprofits. It’s now expanding its own operations, airing $2 million worth of ads last month targeting Democratic senators on Obamacare — a total expected to rise as the general election approaches. In the past eight months, Freedom Partners, which is technically a business league that receives dues of at least $100,000 from members, has doubled its staff. It now counts more than 100 employees and is on the market for a vice president of strategic communications to handle rapid response and a strategist to assist with its health care campaign.
“We’re really looking long term — beyond any given election cycle,” said Freedom Partners spokesman James Davis. “We’re focused on building out our capabilities to educate Americans on the benefits of a free society.”
Conservatives operatives are loath to publicly challenge the Koch network, because of its ability to steer huge amounts of funding. But some have complained privately that groups like Freedom Partners, AFP and others in the network aren’t having as much impact as their resources should allow because of their unwillingness in ads and other communications to explicitly urge the election of Republicans or the defeat of Democrats.
Instead, the groups, which cast themselves as nonpartisan, focus their ads on issue critiques, though they can sometimes seem just as hard hitting as the most aggressive negative ads.
An exception came in 2012, when AFP expressly opposed Obama. That year, the two nonprofits that constitute AFP, neither of which discloses its donors, spent $149 million — AFP’s biggest spending year since it was created with funding from the Kochs in 2004. But the source familiar with AFP suggested the $125 million 2014 budget included only the arm of AFP registered under section 501(c)4 of the Tax Code, meaning the group’s spending total could be far higher if the spending of the 501(c)3 Americans for Prosperity Foundation is taken into account.
According to tax filings, the two arms of AFP combined to spend a comparatively paltry $39 million in 2010 when the outfits were credited with helping Republicans harness the tea party protests to recapture the House of Representatives.
Mostly, though, the AFP donor memo touts the group’s role in recent conservative policy victories in five “model states” — Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina and Wisconsin — including enacting tax cuts, fighting Obamacare and restricting union power. This year, AFP is working to expand its program into eight new “pathway states,” including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, according to the memo.
Last year, AFP added new full-time chapters in South Carolina, Tennessee, Alaska, Louisiana and West Virginia — the latter three of which are home to competitive 2014 Senate races — and the memo boasts “we’re growing our full-time field presence in key counties and deploying a refined part-time staff infrastructure to optimize efficiency, reduce costs, and grow AFP’s volunteer base.”
But it makes clear, “AFP’s most significant near-term opportunity to advance policy is on the ground in the states, particularly those where the citizens, Legislatures and Governors are more supportive of free market issues.” The state battles, it concludes, have “a ‘ripple effect,’ influencing broader national policy.”
This is terrible news for the people of Wisconsin and also for the rest of us. Wisconsin laws are strict on the question of coordination between outside groups and a candidate’s campaign, with good reason. However, to Judge Randa, there is no possible good reason to suppress “speech.”
A federal judge ordered a halt Tuesday to the John Doe investigation into campaign spending and fundraising by Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign and conservative groups, saying the effort appeared to violate one of the group’s free speech rights.
In his 26-page decision, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa in Milwaukee told prosecutors to immediately stop the long-running, five-county probe into possible illegal coordination between Walker’s campaign, the Wisconsin Club for Growth and a host of others during the 2011 and 2012 recall elections.
“The (Wisconsin Club for Growth and its treasurer) have found a way to circumvent campaign finance laws, and that circumvention should not and cannot be condemned or restricted. Instead, it should be recognized as promoting political speech, an activity that is ‘ingrained in our culture,’” Randa wrote, quoting from a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.
More than 100 protesters and clergy members were removed from the Missouri Senate galleries on Tuesday, after they burst out into chants demanding the state accept Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. Missouri is one of 24 states that has not yet accepted the more than $2 billion in federal funds available to the Show-Me state.
The Springfield News-Leader reported that the protesters shouted, “Medicaid Expansion! Do it now!” and “Missouri Senate expand Medicaid, bring dignity, do your jobs!” Capitol police reportedly removed more than 100 people and arrested 23 clergy, delaying the Senate’s session by nearly an hour.
Gov. Jay Nixon (D) supports the expansion, which would provide insurance for tens of thousands of additional Missourians. But despite estimates that refusal to accept the funds would cost state hospitals hundreds of millions of dollars, the Republican-controlled legislature has not passed expansion legislation.
Watch it, courtesy of Progress Missouri:
Protesters in states across the country — including Georgia, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina — have been similarly making their voices heard to legislators who continue to block Medicaid expansion. Last month, a Virginia town hall forum with several Republican state legislators, organized by the anti-Obamacare Americans for Prosperity, was dominated by angry voters demanding the General Assembly accept the funds.
(HT: Kansas & Missouri Kossacks/DailyKos)
This story has been updated to include the fact that 23 clergy members were arrested.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans blocked an election-year Democratic bill on Wednesday that would boost the federal minimum wage, handing a defeat to President Barack Obama on a vote that is sure to reverberate in this year’s congressional elections.
The measure’s rejection, which was expected, came in the early months of a campaign season in which the slowly recovering economy — and its impact on families — is a marquee issue. It was also the latest setback for a stream of bills this year that Democrats have designed to cast themselves as the party of economic fairness.
The legislation by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, would gradually raise the $7.25 hourly minimum to $10.10 over 30 months and then provide automatic annual increases to account for inflation. Democrats argue that if fully phased in by 2016, it would push a family of three above the federal poverty line — a level such earners have not surpassed since 1979.
"Millions of American workers will be watching how each senator votes today. To them, it’s a matter of survival," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said before the vote.
He pointedly added, “For Republicans, this vote will demonstrate whether they truly care about our economy.”
Republicans, solidly against the Democratic proposal, say it would be too expensive for employers and cost jobs. As ammunition, they cite a February study by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that estimated the increase to $10.10 could eliminate about 500,000 jobs — but also envisioned higher income for 16.5 million low-earning people.
"Washington Democrats’ true focus these days seems to be making the far left happy, not helping the middle class," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
"This is all about politics," said No. 2 Senate GOP leader John Cornyn of Texas. "This is about trying to make this side of the aisle look bad and hard-hearted."
The vote was 54-42 in favor of allowing debate on the measure to proceed, six votes short of the 60 that Democrats needed to prevail. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., was the only Republican to cross party lines and vote “yes.” Reid switched his vote to “no,” which gives him the right to call another vote on the measure. No other Democrats opposed the bill.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who has been seeking a deal with other senators on a lower figure than $10.10, said Wednesday that she will continue that effort. Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who usually sides with Democrats, said he too favors finding middle ground.
But Democratic leaders have shown no inclination to do that — a view shared by unions that favor an increase and business groups that oppose one.
"We’re not going to compromise on $10.10," Reid told reporters after the vote.
In a clear sign of the political value Democrats believe the issue has, Democrats said they intend to force another vote on the increase closer to this year’s elections.
The White House issued a statement urging the bill’s passage and saying the administration wants legislation “to build real, lasting economic security for the middle class and create more opportunities for every hardworking American to get ahead.”
Supporters note that the minimum wage’s buying power has fallen. It reached its peak value in 1968, when it was $1.60 hourly but was worth $10.86 in today’s dollars.
The legislation is opposed by business groups including the National Council of Chain Restaurants and the International Franchise Association. The National Restaurant Association has hundreds of members at the Capitol this week lobbying lawmakers on several issues, including opposition to a higher minimum wage.
Also opposed were conservative organizations including Heritage Action and Americans for Prosperity, which is backed by Charles and David Koch. The billionaire brothers are spending millions this year to unseat congressional Democrats, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and his allies are casting them as unfettered villains.
Other Democratic bills that have splattered against GOP roadblocks this year would restore expired benefits for the long-term unemployed and pressure employers to pay men and women equally. Democrats plan future votes on bills easing the costs of college and child care.
Opposition from Republicans running the House makes it unlikely that chamber would debate minimum wage legislation this year.
According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, about two-thirds of the 3.3 million people who earned $7.25 an hour or less last year worked in service jobs, mostly food preparation and serving.
More than 6 in 10 of those making $7.25 or under were women, and about half were under age 25. Democrats hope their support for a minimum wage boost will draw voters from both groups — who usually lean Democratic — to the polls in November, when Senate control will be at stake. The GOP’s hold on the House is not in doubt.
Harkin’s bill would also gradually increase the minimum wage for tipped workers like waiters to 70 percent of the minimum for most other workers. It is currently $2.13 hourly, which can be paid as long as their hourly earnings with tips total at least $7.25.
The minimum wage was first enacted in 1938 and set at 25 cents.
Congress has passed nine laws slowly increasing it, including one each decade since the 1980s. The minimum has been $7.25 since 2009.
Yet more proof the obstructionist duncebuckets in the Republican Party and the policies they champion are bad for America’s morale.
They’d rather pander to the far-right whackos than use common sense, and that’s a crying shame.
h/t: Alan Fram at AP, via Yahoo! News
Illinois Senate Adjourns Leaving Fair Tax Act Untouched, Kills Term Limit Amendment | Progress Illinois
The Illinois Senate has adjourned for the day, leaving the Fair Tax Act untouched. Meanwhile, the GOP-backed amendment to impose term limits on state lawmakers died in the chamber Tuesday.
Despite a large rally by Illinoisans calling for a chance to vote on the Fair Tax Act and attempts by sponsor State Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) to drum up support in the House, the amendment was not called up for a vote in the Senate. The amendment, which would have installed a progressive income tax in the state, had to pass through the Senate today in order to even potentially meet the deadline to make it onto the November ballot.
“I want to make sure there is a path to victory in the House before advancing it out of the Senate,” Harmon said, according to the State Journal-Register. “There are Republicans who can, should and will vote for this amendment if given the opportunity. I have no doubt we will need a bipartisan roll call in the House, but I am confident we can achieve that.”
“There’s no point in calling it in the Senate for some sort of symbolic vote,” he added.
Advocates for a progressive tax in the state are voicing displeasure with today’s outcome, as seen in this statement by A Better Illinois campaign director Kristen Crowell:
While we are certainly disappointed with today’s results, the fight for a Fair Tax – which enjoys the support of 77% of Illinois voters – is far from over. Our statewide grassroots campaign, including more than 250,000 petition signatures and the support of more than 750 small businesses, faith leaders, labor and education groups, and civic and community organizations from every corner of the state brought us closer to implementing a Fair Tax in Illinois than ever before.
We are confident the days of forced poor choices between unfair, regressive taxation that disproportionately burdens the poor and middle class and continued draconian cuts to the vital investments Illinoisans expect and depend upon are numbered. The Fair Tax will continue to be an issue in the upcoming elections and in front of lawmakers again as soon as this year’s Veto Session.
Today is a sad day for democracy. This setback – while temporary – was clearly influenced by a well-financed, out-of-state smear campaign in which nearly $1 million was funneled into Illinois to mislead and distort the Fair Tax to both lawmakers and the public. Our research and our conversations with both voters and lawmakers make us supremely confident that Illinois citizens will ultimately end this unfair, antiquated tax system as the truth about a Fair Tax continues to become evident.
Meanwhile, conservatives are “celebrating” the lack of a vote on the progressive tax amendment, as seen in this press release by Americans for Prosperity:
In a second victory for working families and businesses in as many months, the proposal to amend the Illinois Constitution and allow for a progressive income tax is dead after Democratic leaders failed to muster enough support to call the legislation for a vote. AFP-Illinois led the grassroots charge against the tax by airing three cable TV and online ads, generating over 1,800 constituent calls to priority legislators’ offices, and mobilizing its activists throughout the state at fifteen town hall meetings and other grassroots events.
This stealth income tax increase was championed by Governor Quinn and Springfield’s Democratic leaders as yet another way to squeeze more cash out of Illinois taxpayers. With the backing of more than 60,000 Illinois grassroots activists, Americans for Prosperity-Illinois joined with legislators and partner organizations in an effort to show legislators the deep opposition to the proposed progressive income tax.
'AFP-Illinois gave voice to thousands of Illinois residents who deeply distrust the leadership in Springfield and know that changing our state’s constitution to allow for a progressive tax would open the door to continued tax increases in the future,' said AFP-Illinois State Director David From.
Governor Quinn and Speaker Madigan’s next goal is to make permanent the state’s temporary tax increase, a whopping 67 percent tax increase passed in 2011 that is the largest tax increase in Illinois history. Three years later Illinois has the worst credit rating in the nation, with billions of unpaid bills, a seriously underfunded pension liability, and the third highest unemployment rate in the country. After defeat of ‘millionaire tax’ and the progressive income tax, AFP-Illinois shifts full attention to blocking a permanent income tax hike.
'Just three years ago Illinois taxpayers were promised that the income tax increase was temporary, and now Governor Quinn has made making this temporary hike permanent the cornerstone of his fiscal policy,' continued From. 'The defeat of the millionaire tax and the progressive income tax shows that Illinois voters are fed up with the false promises of our politicians; AFP-Illinois and our thousands of Illinois supports can now shift our full attention to defeating Governor Quinn’s permanent income tax increase.'
The Republican-led push to impose term limits on state lawmakers, an idea that is supported by both GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner as well as Gov. Pat Quinn, failed to pass through a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday. But the issue could still get on the November ballot if Rauner’s petiton effort to limit state lawmakers to eight years in office and adjust the number of legislators in the general assembly garners enough support. He is expected to turn in the petition signatures on Wednesday.
Another potential amendment to hit November ballots looks to restructure the way Illinois political maps are drawn. Signatures for that effort are expected to be turned in Thursday. Both Rauner’s effort and the amendment to restructure state political maps are expected to see a court challenge.
Two other amendments will definitely appear on the ballot, however. One amendment looks to prevent voter suppression, while the other will strengthen the victims’ rights amendment.
Bad news out of Springfield: The A Better Illinois-backed Illinois Fair Tax Act is NOT headed to the ballot in November.
Also, the issue of term limits for state legislators and resizing the House [118 to 123] and Senate [59 to 41] (supported by BOTH Rauner and incumbent Gov. Quinn) being on the ballot is a no-go (for now).
Legislators total in Illinois (BOTH House and Senate) 177 currently, 164 if proposal somehow passes.
How bills in Illinois will pass (Simple Majority/60% Supermajority/66%/75% Thresholds) under the current and new proposals to resize the House and Senate:
Illinois TL/Resizing Proposal Bill Passages: House: 60/71/78/89 [New: 62/74/82/93] Senate: 30/36/39/45 [New: 21/25/28/31] #Twill— Justin Gibson (@JGibsonDem) April 30, 2014
Cliven Bundy, the lawless Nevada rancher whom conservatives touted as a champion of freedom akin to Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., said at a press conference attended by the New York Times yesterday that slavery helped the “Negro” people feel free by learning “how to pick cotton” and stop going to jail, collecting welfare and having abortions.“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.
“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”
Likely Republican presidential candidates including Rand Paul and Ted Cruz hailed Bundy’s cause and Nevada Republicans, including Senator Dean Heller, rallied around Bundy and allied militia groups. Colorado GOP gubernatorial candidate and former congressman Tom Tancredo said Bundy was defending the “rule of law” against the “anarchist” President Obama even while the rancher was in defiance of several court orders.
As it is often the case, Fox News took the lead in creating the new GOP rock star by fetishizing the Bundy armed standoff as a triumph of ordinary patriots who, in the mode of the Founding Fathers, stood up to evil Big Government…seeming to forget the Founders also played a role in quashing Shay’s Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion. Fox commentators like Sean Hannity and Todd Starnes touted Bundy even as the rancher’s group was making violent threats against the government.
Fox also took the lead in hailing Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson after he claimed that black people were well treated and “happy” during the Jim Crow era and that problems in the black community are only a result of government welfare.
No one should be surprised that a violent, militia-aligned, anti-government extremist turned out to be a racist nostalgic for slavery, and neither should anyone be surprised that Republicans jumped on his cause.
During the Iowa caucus campaign, two Republican presidential candidates signed a Religious Right group’s declaration which said the black family was stronger under slavery, and attacking government programs as slavery has become a common right-wing talking point.
Now that Republicans and Fox News commentators may move to distance themselves from Bundy, it will serve as a reminder for the next time the GOP decides to get in bed with an anti-Obama extremist for freedom’s sake.
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
#COSen: Photo Of Obama In Conservative Attack Ad Is Photoshopped From Hospital Trip After Aurora Shooting, Has Been Recut
WASHINGTON — President Obama and Colorado Sen. Mark Udall stand together looking dismayed in Americans For Prosperity’s latest ad attacking Udall over his vote for Obamacare.
There’s a reason for that, though a viewer wouldn’t guess it from the picture AFP, an outside group funded by the Kochs, uses in the ad. The image is from a July 2012 appearance Obama made with Udall, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, and other state officials at a hospital treating victims of the July 20, 2012, Aurora movie theater shooting.
The ad edits out the hospital and Gov. Hickenlooper from the original image.
Update: In a statement, AFP called the image “unfortunate” and recut the ad.
“The image used was an unfortunate oversight which was immediately corrected as soon as it was pointed out,” said AFP spokesperson Levi Russell. “The purpose of the ad is to continue to hold Senator Udall accountable for turning a blind eye to the more than 300,000 Coloradans whose insurance pans were cancelled due to ObamaCare, despite promises from President Obama and Senator Udall that they could keep them.”
The updated version can be seen here.
If old HuckaJesus really thinks that North Korea is that great, I would welcome him joining Dennis Rodman and moving over there so we could be rid of both of them here. From this Saturday’s “Freedom Summit,” sponsored by Citizens United and Koch-backed Americans For Prosperity.
Huckabee hit on everything from the issue with the rancher that he and his network continue to toss gasoline on, to Fast & Furious, to Benghazi, to the IRS, before finally going after the TSA and airport security, and then making the ridiculous comparison between citizens having the right to vote and the security required to enter the White House:
Speakers at the New Hampshire Freedom Summit, which was sponsored by Citizens United and Koch-backed Americans For Prosperity, included Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, all of whom would be top tier presidential contenders should they run.
Donald Trump also spoke.
"Feds Turn From Landlords To Warlords": Koch Groups Back Rancher Making Violent Threats Against Federal Gov't
Two affiliates of the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity are helping conservative media promote the cause of a Nevada rancher who has made violent threats against the federal government.
Cliven Bundy, a cattle rancher in Nevada, has refused to remove his animals from public property in violation of a federal court order.
In 1993, Bundy declined to pay government fees that are required in order to allow his cattle to graze on the public land. In 1998 a court order told Bundy to remove his cattle as part of an effort to protect an endangered desert tortoise in the area. He refused. In July 2013, a federal court order told Bundy to remove his cattle from the land or they would be confiscated. He disobeyed the order, and confiscation has begun. The government will auction the animals and use the proceeds to pay off the $1 million in fines that Bundy owes the government.
In recent comments to a conspiracy theorist’s radio show, Bundy said, “I haven’t called no militia or anything like that, but hey it looks like that’s where we’re at.” He added, “We got a strong army here, we have to fight.” Previously Bundy told the Las Vegas Sun that ”he keeps firearms at his ranch” and promised to “do whatever it takes” to defend his cattle being seized, adding, “I abide by almost zero federal laws.”
Earlier this week, protesters and members of the Bundy family had a confrontation with law enforcement, where a stun gun was used to subdue Bundy’s son, who had reportedly climbed on a dump truck when he assumed it contained cattle that had been killed during confiscation. Members of several militia groups have made their way to Bundy’s ranch, reportedly “to protect the Bundys from tyranny.”
Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the conservative non-profit group, was founded by and has been largely funded by billionaires Charles and David Koch. The Center for Media and Democracy reported that in its previous incarnation as Citizens for a Sound Economy, AFP received $12 million of its $18 million in funding from the Koch Family Foundation.
During the 2012 election, AFP spent $122 million in an effort to defeat President Obama and Congressional Democrats. AFP has also sponsored and organized bus rallies and town hall meetings to promote conservative ideas, including deregulation, tax cuts, and opposition to health care reform.
AFP has been at the forefront of spending in the 2014 election, launching several ads attacking the Affordable Care Act which have come under fire for inaccuracy by independent fact checkers. As of March, AFP had aired a reported 17,000 television ads.
Two of its local affiliates, Americans for Prosperity Nevada and Americans for Prosperity Colorado, have become active boosters of Bundy’s actions.
AFP Nevada’s Facebook page posted a graphic attacking the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for spending “one million dollars” to enforce the court order to round up Bundy’s cattle on federal land. Another photo attacked the Bureau for creating a designated “First Amendment Area” for protesters to gather in near the property.
On its Twitter page, AFP Nevada is more strident in its support of Bundy and in attacking the federal government.
AFP Nevada has promoted the hashtag #BundyBattle, which supporters are using to showcase their message. In one tweet, AFP Nevada posted a graphic attacking the cattle round up and said they had a “bone to pick” with the Bureau of Land Management.
Another AFP Nevada tweet attacked the “First Amendment Area” with a photo of cow manure and the caption “This is what we think about ‘First Amendment Areas’.”
AFP Nevada also promoted as a “must read” a blog post from conservative pundit Dana Loesch where she described the standoff as “harassment” from the federal government. The group also accused the BLM of “strategically regulating hard-working Americans out of business.”
AFP Colorado has reposted several of AFP Nevada’s tweets, and has posted commentary of its own about the issue. In one tweet, AFP Colorado has said that the “Fed militarizing of Nevada standoff is bound to fuel more sagebrush rebellion” and that ”Feds turn from landlords to warlords when Nevada rancher won’t bend his knee.”
AFP Colorado also reposted a tweet attacking the “First Amendment Area” from Paul Joseph Watson, a correspondent from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ Infowars.
Responding to the extremist group Americans for Prosperity, funded by the Koch brothers, the Kansas state legislature enacted legislation that strips teachers of due process and expands “school choice” (aka privatization of public schools and their funding). In the future, teachers may be fired without a hearing.
The legislature used the pretext of a court ruling to equalize funding to enact proposals that align with the far-right ALEC organization.
Destroying due process is called “reform.” Teachers may be unjustly accused and fired without a hearing. They may be fired because they taught both sides of a controversial issue or expressed a controversial view. They may be fired because the principal doesn’t like the way they look or doesn’t like their race or religion. No reason is needed because there will be no hearing.
Without any right to a fair hearing, you can be sure that the word “evolution” will never be heard in many districts, nor any reference to global warming. Nor will many classics of American literature be taught. Books like “Huckleberry Finn,” “Invisible Man,” “The Grapes of Wrath,” are risky and controversial. Now is exactly when the children of Kansas and the U.S. should be reading “1984″ and “Brave New World.”
“The bill is potentially a big victory for conservative Republicans because it gives them some educational reforms they have sought while putting more money into schools.
The reforms would:
• Foster school choice by allowing corporations to make tax-deductible contributions to scholarship funds so children with special needs or who come from low-income households could attend private school.
• Make it easier to fire teachers by eliminating their due-process rights.
• Relax teacher licensing when hiring instructors with professional experience in areas including math, science, finance and technical education.
“As the final bill was negotiated, lawmakers jettisoned an idea to block funding for Common Core academic standards.
“They also shed a plan that would have provided property tax relief for parents who home-school their children or send them to private schools. Lawmakers questioned whether the property tax break was constitutional and whether they knew its real cost.
“Urged on by conservative special interests such as Americans for Prosperity, Republican leaders pressed hard to eliminate due process rights for teachers.
“They say the proposal is intended to ensure that school administrators are free from regulations that would keep them from firing substandard teachers.
“If you talk to administrators, they want this,” said Sen. Julia Lynn, an Olathe Republican. “They want really good teachers to thrive. They don’t want to be in a position to protect those teachers who are under-performing.”
“State law had required administrators to document conduct and provide a hearing for teachers they want to fire after three years on the job.
“The bill means terminated teachers would no longer be able to request a hearing.”
The teacher-hating GOP extremists backed by ALEC/Koch Brothers are destroying education in this country.
The Tennessee Senate passed a bill last week that, if approved, would broadly ban mass transit projects in the region, an anti-transit effort that’s gotten some help in the state from Charles and David Koch.
On Thursday, the Tennessee Senate passed SB 2243, which includes an amendment that “prohibits metropolitan governments and any transit authorities created by a metropolitan government from constructing, maintaining or operating any bus rapid transit system using a separate lane, or other separate right-of-way, dedicated solely to the use of such bus rapid transit system on any state highway or state highway.” The amendment is aimed at Nashville’s proposed $174 million rapid bus system called the Amp, but would apply to any mass transit system proposed in Tennessee’s cities.
The Amp, a proposed 7.1-mile bus rapid transit system that would cut commute times along one of Nashville’s major corridors, has been staunchly opposed by the Tennessee branch of Americans for Prosperity, a lobbying organization founded in part by the Koch brothers. AFP’s Tennessee director told the Tennessean that SB 2243 was the result of a conversation he’d had with the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jim Tracy. In addition, AFP pushed the Senate to vote on the bill — efforts that led to StopAmp.org, one of the lead groups opposing the Amp, thanking AFP in a press release after SB 2243 passed the Senate. The transit system’s opponents say it would create traffic problems and safety issues due to its middle-lane location, a claim that a spokesman for the Amp Coalition disputes.
Holly McCall, Nashville’s Metropolitan Transit Authority’s spokesperson for the Amp project, told ThinkProgress AFP has kept a low profile throughout the campaign for and against the Amp. She said she’d suspected AFP was involved in the Amp’s opposition, but didn’t know for sure until StopAmp.org thanked the group in their press release.
“It’s pretty tough to fight that kind of money — AFP gets funds from the Koch brothers, and they’re billionaires,” she said. “We continue to work our local campaign, and we’re probably going to make some tweaks to the design — we’re interested in compromise, because if we don’t, our entire future transit plan is going to be dictated by people who live out of state.”
Nashville has a bus system, McCall said, but it’s not enough to transport people throughout the suburbs and into the city, especially not as the city grows. By 2035, almost 1 million new residents will come to live in the Nashville area, according to the MTA.
“It would be hugely transformational,” McCall said of the Amp. “If we don’t do it now, we’re going to be so far behind, and it’s really going to start to hinder our economic development and growth.”
Mike Schatzlein, chairman of the Amp coalition, said in a statement that the Senate’s passage of the bill was an overreach of its authority.
“The Senate basically took a local project that has been in development for five years and voted an amendment to kill it,” Schatzlein said. “The project is the first leg of a regional transit system, so this vote impacts all of Middle Tennessee.”
AFP has chapters in 35 states, and this isn’t the first time they’ve lobbied against local energy and transit initiatives. Last Summer in Georgia, AFP launched a “multi-pronged, grassroots driven initiative” that urged citizens to pressure members of the state’s Public Service Commission to reject an effort to require Georgia Power to expand its use of solar energy. That effort had won the support of members of the Atlanta Tea Party, who saw an expansion of solar in the state an expansion of their ability to choose where their power comes from, but AFP still claimed that the expansion would increase electricity bills and “reduce the reliability of every appliance and electronics gadget” in residents’ homes. Despite AFP’s efforts, the Georgia PSC ultimately voted in favor of requiring Georgia Power to expand its solar usage.
Koch Bros. group leader: "Extending Obamacare deadline takes health care from my children" | The Raw StoryWhat a whinebag she is.
MSNBC host Chris Hayes clashed with a state official for the Koch Brothers-funded group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) on Wednesday after she claimed that extending the deadline to sign up for the Affordable Care Act by two weeks would have a negative…
#MISen: UPDATED-Koch bros' fake "Obamacare victim" Julie Boonstra made to look even more foolish & exploited
My home town of Dexter has been in the national news a bit lately. It started when Congressman Tim “the Original Tea Partier” Walberg invited a resident of our Stars Hollow-like village, Julie Boonstra, to be his guest at President Obama’s State of the Union address as a “victim of Obamacare”.
From there, she was featured in an anti-Gary Peters ad by the Koch brothers’ front group Americans for Prosperity, an ad that has gotten more attention after being completely debunked than it would have gotten otherwise.
AFP doubled down, running another ad where Boonstra tearfully cries about being “silenced” by Gary Peters who questioned her veracity. Julie Boonstra may be the loudest “silenced” person this country has ever known.
Now Boonstra is making the news again after an excellent bit of journalism by Detroit News reporter Marisa Schultz tears her already debunked story to shreds:Boonstra said Monday her new plan she dislikes is the Blue Cross Premier Gold health care plan, which caps patient responsibility for out-of-pocket costs at $5,100 a year, lower than the federal law’s maximum of $6,350 a year. It means the new plan will save her at least $1,200 compared with her former insurance plan she preferred that was ended under Obamacare’s coverage requirements.
A Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan spokesman said the insurer welcomes a chance to help members understand their benefits and alleviate concerns.
“We are here to help people like Ms. Boonstra to work their way through adjusting to the health plans we are now offering them,” the Blue’s Andy Hetzel said. “If there are questions … they should call.”
Boonstra’s old plan cost $1,100 a month in premiums or $13,200 a year, she previously told The News. It didn’t include money she spent on co-pays, prescription drugs and other out-of-pocket expenses.
By contrast, the Blues’ plan premium costs $571 a month or $6,852 for the year. Since out-of-pocket costs are capped at $5,100, including deductibles, the maximum Boonstra would pay this year for all of her cancer treatment is $11,952.
When advised of the details of her Blues’ plan, Boonstra said the idea that it would be cheaper “can’t be true.”
“I personally do not believe that,” Boonstra said.
She cannot believe this very likely because she has been fed a pack of lies by groups who want to exploit her, a woman with life-threatening leukemia, to help achieve their crass political goals.
Americans for Prosperity and other conservative groups and individuals have accused Gary Peters, who wrote a letter to television stations playing the offensive ad to either force AFP to prove their claims or pull the ad, of exploiting the poor, innocent cancer patient. The truth of the matter is that Julie Boonstra IS being exploited. She’s being exploited by the Koch brothers and the chances are good she’s being exploited by her ex-husband. Julie Boonstra was once married to Mark Boonstra, a former chair of the Washtenaw County Republican Party. She is the mother of his children and co-owns a vacant lot with Mr. Boonstra’s next door to his Dexter home:
Screen shot from Washtenaw County Property/Parcel Lookup website
The fact is, Julie Boonstra will SAVE MONEY with the new plan that she moved to due to the Affordable Care Act. In fact, she’ll save over $1,200 annually. Her big fear about the “unpredictability” of when the bills will come due is all but laughed at by the insurance company spokesperson interviewed for the Detroit News article. Boonstra is literally complaining that she MIGHT have to pay more per month early in the year even though she’ll pay less over the course of the year. There is no risk whatsoever that she won’t be able to afford her medication which will cause her to die.
Ms. Boonstra claims that Harry Reid and Gary Peters owe her an apology. She certainly is owed an apology, but not from Peters or Reid. She is owed an apology from Charles and David Koch, Americans for Prosperity, Tim Walberg, and very possibly from her ex-husband Michigan Court of Appeals Justice Mark Boonstra. They are the ones exploiting a vulnerable woman with leukemia, making her the laughing stock of the country in the process, not the Democrats trying to make sure EVERYONE has access to affordable health insurance. Just like Julie Boonstra now has.
UPDATE: The Washington Post has downgraded Boonstra’s story from “Two Pinocchios” to “Three Pinocchios”:[O]ne cannot claim that a plan is “unaffordable” when over the course of the year it will provide you with substantial savings. Thus we are changing the rating on this ad from Two Pinocchios to Three Pinocchios.
Not sure why an outright lie doesn’t merit four Pinocchios but this is a start, I suppose…