Government By the People

Louie Gohmert's Bizarre Explanation Of Why Central American Gang Violence Is A Hoax

Speaking on a panel about immigration at conservative pundit David Horowitz’s “Restoration Weekend” last month, Rep. Louie Gohmert recounted a conversation he had with “a Hispanic border patrolman” which he said proved that the crisis of children fleeing to the U.S. border from violence in Central America was a hoax.

Insisting that “not a single child, young child, ever comes across unaccompanied” because many came with the help of smugglers, the Texas Republican said that the fact that some of the children were brought to the border by people affiliated with gangs shows that they were not actually fleeing gang violence.

Gohmert quoted the border patrolman, who he said told the children: “Now you may find some gringo who buys that stuff, but you and I know you paid a gang to bring you into this country, so don’t tell me you came to escape gang violence!”

Gohmert has previously claimed that the Central American children where lying about gang violence.

In the same panel discussion, Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana claimed that unlike “the way it worked traditionally in America,” today’s immigrants “come from countries where they look to the government, that’s their tradition is that the government takes care of them.”

“Now when it destroys their civilization, when it destroys their economy, they look for another place to go. And where do they come? They come here. And then what you see is a progressive lower standard of living.”

“Many of them now when they come they refuse to learn our culture, they refuse to learn our language, they refuse to build the skills necessary to be successful in America,” he added.

Susan B. Anthony List 'Defamed' Its Namesake With Controversial Mailer, Says Susan B. Anthony Expert

A top Susan B. Anthony expert is once again taking to task the anti-choice group Susan B. Anthony List for using the name of the women’s rights pioneer to push its anti-abortion political agenda.

What drew the latest criticism from Deborah L. Hughes, president of the National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House in Rochester, New York, was a pre-election Iowa mailer from the Susan B. Anthony List that looked like an official “public health alert” but that was in fact a slam on pro-choice Senate candidate Bruce Braley. SBA List vowed to spend $3 million in the 2014 election cycle to support Senate candidates who oppose abortion rights.

In an October 31 statement, Hughes said that SBA Lists’s “tactics repeatedly cross a line that is outrageous and inconsistent with who Susan B. Anthony was” and that Anthony’s “good character is being defamed by their actions.”

The recent activities of the Susan B. Anthony List, a 501(c)(4) organization, and its affiliated political action committee, the SBA List Candidate Fund, have raised concerns for the Anthony Museum & those dedicated to protecting the legacy of the great reformer.

The List’s assertions about Susan B. Anthony’s position on abortion are historically inaccurate. “We can make room for a different interpretation of history, and we certainly support political engagement,” says Hughes, “but their tactics repeatedly cross a line that is outrageous and inconsistent with who Susan B. Anthony was. Her good character is being defamed by their actions. People are outraged by their actions, causing harm to Anthony’s name and the mission of our Museum.”

The most recent example is an election mailer that voters in Iowa received this week. The outside of the mailer looks like an official announcement of a disease outbreak, “PUBLIC HEALTH ALERT: CHILDREN IN YOUR AREA ARE VULNERABLE TO A PUBLIC HEALTH THREAT THAT CONTINUES UNCONTROLLED. . .” Inside, it diagnoses that public health threat as the Democratic Senatorial candidate.

“Depending on how you feel about the political issue, you might say The List and this mailer are ‘brilliant’ or ‘horrific.’ That isn’t our issue,” says Hughes. “Our concern is that a national political lobbying group is using Susan B. Anthony’s good name for their benefit, and they are damaging her reputation in the process.”

This isn’t the first time Hughes has tussled with the anti-choice political group. Two years ago, she issued a statement clarifying that her museum was not related to the Susan B. Anthony List, saying that while she was “delighted that the once-reviled radical feminist has earned such a high place of honor and authority that everyone seems to want her for their champion” that people should “not be confused by political parties, caucuses, or groups that claim they know what Susan B. Anthony would say about a contemporary issue.”

In an interview with Bill Moyers, Hughes went into more depth about why she disagrees with SBA List’s insistence that Susan B. Anthony was an opponent of abortion rights. Other Susan B. Anthony experts have also disputed SBA List’s historical claims.

h/t The New York History Blog

Houston Pastors Say America Is Becoming A Police State Like Cuba and Vietnam

Last night's "I Stand Sunday" rally opened with remarks from some of the Houston pastors who had their sermons subpoenaed by the government as part of the lawsuit seeking to overturn the city's nondiscrimination ordinance, with pastors from Cuba and Vietnam warning that America was now falling under tyranny, just like the nations they had fled.

Magda Hermida declared that she and her husband had fled Cuba's police state because their rights to free speech and free exercise of religion were oppressed by the government only to discover that now the same thing is happening in America.

"This mayor wants to use her power to see the sermon of our pastor and use them against us," she said. "The police state this creates is that same that my husband and I experienced in Cuba."

Khanh Huynh echoed that statement, declaring that he and millions of others had fled Vietnam because "the freedom of speech and freedom of religion were among the first to be lost in Vietnam and now I'm facing the same marching boot of tyranny right here where I live."

Finally, Willie Davis railed against the city's nondiscrimination ordinance, asking "how can you call something right when it's all wrong" and declaring that since the city had no problem with anti-gay discrimination, the ordinance has ended up needlessly dividing the city because gay rights is not a civil rights issue.

"I'm deeply offended simply by this ordinance," Davis stated, because "it piggy-backs on the 1964 Civil Rights Act which has nothing to do with this [issue]." With the crowd giving him a standing ovation, Davis declared that they will continue to fight against this ordinance until it is repealed "for we know it's what's right in the sight of God":

Right Quietly Pours Money Into Montana, Hoping To 'Flip' Pivotal State Supreme Court

Conservative legal advocates from throughout the country have been quietly pouring money into a Montana state supreme court race, hoping to topple a court majority that has bucked the U.S. Supreme Court on campaign finance issues and could soon have a voice in cases with national implications involving abortion rights and LGBT equality.

The Right’s chosen candidate is Lawrence VanDyke, a former state solicitor general with a perfect pedigree for pro-corporate and Religious Right donors. Not only has VanDyke indicated his support for the U.S. Supreme Court’s dismantling of campaign finance laws and lamented that the current Montana high court is insufficiently “pro-business,” but, in his position as solicitor general, steered the state government toward taking positions against abortion rights, marriage equality and gun restrictions in other states.

What's more, in his writings as a law student, VanDyke was unguarded in his social conservative views, fretting about same-sex marriage, endorsing discredited “ex-gay” therapy and defending the teaching of anti-scientific “Intelligent Design” in public schools.

The Right Sees An Opportunity In Montana

At last month’s Values Voter Summit in Washington, the Family Research Council’s political action committee hosted a private $100-a-head reception featuring conservative luminaries including Rick Santorum, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, GOP congressmen Steve King, Vicky Hartzler and Mark Meadows, and congressional candidate Dave Brat of Virginia, who unseated former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in an upset primary election this year.

A flyer for the event announced that along with those national Republican politicians, FRC would be “showcasing a very important State Supreme Court candidate, Lawrence VanDyke of Montana, who we hope can flip the court in that state.”

VanDyke’s presence on the fundraiser’s roster was telling. As FRC’s flyer made clear, a VanDyke victory would change the ideological balance on a court that has been a thorn in the side of opponents of campaign finance reform and could soon be facing nationally watched cases on abortion rights and marriage equality.

VanDyke has not yet submitted a campaign finance report showing how much money, if any, FRC was able to bundle for him at the fundraiser, and his campaign did not respond to our inquiry about whether he was personally present at the Values Voter event. But a review of VanDyke’s campaign finance reports shows that his candidacy has attracted keen interest from out-of-state donors, including some of the country’s leading conservative legal activists.

[UPDATE: VanDyke's Oct. 20 fundraising report revealed some of the contributions from FRC and its allies.]

Since filing for the race to unseat sitting Supreme Court Justice Mike Wheat in March, VanDyke has raised about $78,000, more than one-third of which — roughly $29,000 — has come from 114 individual out-of-state donors. By contrast, Wheat has raised just under $85,000 for his reelection bid, only $1,100 of which came from just five out-of-state donors.

Among those who have contributed to VanDyke’s campaign are recognizable names in conservative legal circles. Kelly Shackelford, president of the right-wing legal group Liberty Institute (a major sponsor of the Values Voter Summit) contributed $100, while another top Liberty Institute official, Hiram Sasser, gave $320, the maximum gift allowable as of VanDyke's last fundraising report. Carrie Severino, chief counsel of the Judicial Crisis Network and a Harvard Law School classmate of VanDyke’s, and her husband Roger also each maxed out with $320 contributions. Thomas Spence, an official at the conservative Regnery publishing house also sent the maximum contribution to VanDyke’s campaign. Two employees of the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom have together contributed $370. Christopher Murray, a lawyer who served on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, also contributed $320.

Nearly $7,000 of VanDyke’s contributions have come from employees of the law firm Gibson Dunn, where Vandyke worked before entering public service. That includes $320 each from Theodore Olson, the conservative attorney argued the Citizens United case (but who has become better known as a marriage equality advocate), and controversial Bush appeals court nominee Miguel Estrada. VanDyke’s campaign also received $320 each from Eugene Scalia — the son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and a Wall Street reform-buster in his own right — and his wife.

Montana’s Cowgirl Blog notes that prominent Montana social conservatives Greg and Susan Gianforte — who fund creationist efforts and support anti-gay policies — have also each contributed the maximum amount to VanDyke’s campaign. He has also received the maximum contribution from the Montana Gas & Oil PAC and — in the form of an in-kind gift of catering — from the PAC’s treasurer, Dave Galt.

Cowgirl Blog also notes that VanDyke got a major assist last month from a newly created group called Montanans for a Fair Judiciary, which sent a statewide mailer in favor of his candidacy. The group, which was registered last month, is staffed by a former Montana GOP official and a corporate lobbyist for oil and gas clients, among others.

And just last week, a Washington, D.C.-based group called the Republican State Leadership Committee Judicial Fairness Montana PAC — an offshoot a national group funded by big business interests including the Reynolds tobacco company and Koch Industries — bought $110,000 worth of television ads supporting VanDyke and slamming Wheat as soft on crime. The group has also been mailing out leaflets accusing Wheat of siding with “environmental extremists.”

All of this attention from national activists and corporate backers has caught the attention of a group of six retired Montana Supreme Court justices, who signed a letter last week calling VanDyke an “unqualified corporate lawyer,” adding, "Given [his] background, Mr. VanDyke is an excellent corporate pick although that is obviously not good news for Montanans.”

MTN News reported:

The letter from the judges notes that VanDyke has received the maximum allowable campaign contributions from numerous out-of-state lawyers who represent major corporations, including more than 20 at the Gibson firm - including at least one who represented Citizens United.

"Corporations are buying judicial races because they want judges who will not hold them accountable," the draft letter from the retired justices says. "If the disinformation they are spreading successfully manipulates Montanans into electing an unqualified corporate lawyer, we will lose our fair and impartial court."

‘Changing The Face of the Montana Supreme Court’

While VanDyke’s personal connections seem to behind quite a bit of his financial support from out-of-state conservative leaders, his featured spot at the Values Voter Summit hints that the conservative legal movement and the Religious Right see an opportunity in his candidacy.

Montana conservatives have made no secret of their desire to pack the state Supreme Court with justices in their ideological mold. Last year, the Great Falls Tribune published leaked emails between conservative Republicans in the state senate discussing a “long term strategy” for displacing more moderate Republicans in the state legislature and “changing the face of the Montana Supreme Court.”

One lawmaker wrote of the need to “purge” the party of moderates, after which “a new phoenix will rise from the ashes.”

In 2012, Montana conservatives were able to elect the likeminded Laurie McKinnon to the state Supreme Court thanks in part to a dark money group called the “Montana Growth Network” run by a Republican state senator that spent at least $42,000 on her campaign — more than the candidate spent herself. The “Montanans for a Fair Judiciary” group that has been campaigning for VanDyke is linked to the firm that was employed by the “Montana Growth Network” to boost McKinnon.

National conservative groups have good reason to take an interest in the race as well.

Montana’s Supreme Court gained national attention in 2011 when it bucked the U.S. Supreme Court on the issue of campaign finance regulation, ruling that the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United did not invalidate Montana’s century-old ban on corporate spending in elections. The 5-2 decision, in which Justice Wheat joined the majority, openly defied the Supreme Court’s controversial ruling. One of the two dissenting justices wrote that the state court must follow the high court’s precedent but used the opportunity to excoriate the Supreme Court for its Citizens United logic. On appeal, the Supreme Court summarily reversed Montana’s opinion, ending the state’s corporate spending ban.

Montana’s Supreme Court may soon also be in the center of the legal debates on same-sex marriage and abortion rights. State anti-choice groups have indicated that they might challenge Montana’s abortion clinic buffer-zone bill in the wake of the Supreme Court’s striking down of a similar bill in Massachusetts. In addition, marriage equality cases are working their way through both state and federal courts in Montana.

A Movement Candidate

Although Montana’s judicial elections are ostensibly nonpartisan, VanDyke’s resume makes him seemingly a perfect candidate for conservative activists hoping to drag the state's high court to the right. At Harvard Law School, VanDyke was active in the conservative Federalist Society and wrote an article for the school’s law review favorably reviewing a book arguing for allowing public schools to teach anti-scientific Intelligent Design.

In an article for another school publication, VanDyke lamented that courts in Canada had been “forcing same-sex marriage on the populace” and warned of a “trend of intolerance towards religion as homosexual ‘rights’ become legally entrenched.” In the same article, he cited a study supporting debunked “ex-gay” therapy to support the “view that homosexuals can leave the homosexual lifestyle.” (The author of that study has since recanted.)

After graduating from law school, VanDyke clerked for D.C. Circuit Judge Janice Rogers Brown, perhaps the most stridently conservative of that court’s activist pro-corporate wing, known for her extreme opposition to government regulation and her writing of a prequel to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision. After a stint at Gibson Dunn, VanDyke became an assistant solicitor general in Texas and was named solicitor general of Montana early last year.

In public statements, VanDyke has indicated that he would have sided with the U.S. Supreme Court on Citizens United, defending the decision in a debate last month. And although his race is officially nonpartisan, VanDyke has made it very clear which side of the aisle he falls on, accusing his opponent of judging “like a liberal Democrat” and being “results-oriented” in his rulings — a loaded accusation favored by conservative activists.

VanDyke has also hinted that he would be more favorable to business interests on the court, touting an endorsement from the Montana Chamber of Commerce and saying, “I don’t think anybody who follows our court thinks it’s a pro-business court.” On his website, he backs efforts to “produce and preserve” natural resources, which he contrasts with his opponent's siding with preservationists in a dispute over drilling gas wells. In September, he spoke at a “Coal Appreciation Day” sponsored by a coal industry group.

VanDyke’s website also touts his support for the death penalty and an expansive interpretation of the Second Amendment, noting his work as state solicitor general defending a bill that would have invalidated federal firearms regulations on weapons manufactured and kept in Montana. (The law was ultimately struck down in federal court). In that position, VanDyke also pushed for Montana signing on to Alabama briefs in favor of overturning semiautomatic weapon bans in New York and Connecticut. At the time, he bantered over email with Alabama’s solicitor general, Andrew Brasher, about shooting elk with semi-automatic firearms, attaching a picture of himself hunting with “the same gun used by the Navy Seals.”

Ultimately, Montana signed on to both briefs, and VanDyke evidently made a useful connection as well: This year, Brasher contributed the maximum amount to his Supreme Court campaign.

VanDyke recently announced that he had been endorsed by the National Rifle Association.

In his role as solicitor general, VanDyke also worked on efforts to oppose same-sex marriage and abortion rights, including signing on to amicus briefs filed in other states.

VanDyke, meanwhile, is running on the message that he will follow “the law, not politics” and accusing Justice Wheat of being overly partisan. In the same interview in which he lamented that the current state supreme court was unfavorable to business interests, he said, “I have not promised anybody that I’m going to be a pro-business judge or that I’m going to be a conservative judge...I’m going to be a fair and balanced judge.”

Judicial Elections Draw More And More Big Money

Last year, Justice at Stake reported on the fast increase of spending in judicial elections, leading to judicial races seeming “alarmingly indistinguishable from ordinary political campaigns” and blurring “the boundaries that keep money and political pressure from interfering with the rule of law.”

Part of this increase was attributable to the 2010 Citizens United decision, which allowed outside groups to spend unlimited amounts supporting and opposing candidates. In the case of judicial elections, those candidates could be the ones deciding on the future of that very campaign spending.

It’s no wonder that the corporate right and the Religious Right have joined forces to back VanDyke’s candidacy. A little-noticed nonpartisan race in Montana could prove to be an effective long-term investment for a movement that’s trying to solidify a pro-corporate grip on the courts and win back lost legal ground abortion rights and LGBT equality.

This post has been updated to clarify the status of marriage equality cases in Montana.

Look Who Wants To Amend The Constitution Now: Ted Cruz Wants States' Rights Amendment on Marriage

Sen. Ted Cruz has spent the past several months railing against a proposed constitutional amendment to undo the Supreme Court’s decisions in Citizens United and related campaign-finance cases, which would restore to Congress and the states the ability to “set reasonable limits” on election spending.

Cruz has gone into full hyperbole mode over the amendment, claiming that the campaign to narrowly roll back what many legal experts believe is an erroneous interpretation of the First Amendment is in fact an effort to “repeal the First Amendment,silence pastors and imprison old ladies.

So, of course, it was no surprise at all yesterday to see Cruz himself proposing to amend the Constitution to reverse what he sees as an erroneous interpretation by the courts, this time on the issue of marriage. Roll Call reported on Cruz’s reaction to the Supreme Court’s "tragic" decision yesterday to decline hearing any marriage equality appeals, thus letting same-sex couples in several states get married:

While most Republicans shied away from commenting Monday on the Supreme Court’s historic decision to let stand a slew of lower court rulings legalizing gay marriage, Sen. Ted Cruz torched the court’s decision.

The Texas Republican called the decision “tragic and indefensible” and said he would introduce a constitutional amendment that would ensure states can ban gay marriage.

“By refusing to rule if the States can define marriage, the Supreme Court is abdicating its duty to uphold the Constitution. The fact that the Supreme Court Justices, without providing any explanation whatsoever, have permitted lower courts to strike down so many state marriage laws is astonishing,” he said in a statement.

“It is beyond dispute that when the 14th Amendment was adopted 146 years ago, as a necessary post-Civil War era reform, it was not imagined to also mandate same-sex marriage, but that is what the Supreme Court is implying today. The Court is making the preposterous assumption that the People of the United States somehow silently redefined marriage in 1868 when they ratified the 14th Amendment,” he said.

“Nothing in the text, logic, structure, or original understanding of the 14th Amendment or any other constitutional provision authorizes judges to redefine marriage for the Nation. It is for the elected representatives of the People to make the laws of marriage, acting on the basis of their own constitutional authority, and protecting it, if necessary, from usurpation by the courts.”

For the record, here is the section of the 14th Amendment that courts have been relying on to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

No, Ted Cruz, The #GetMoneyOut Amendment Wouldn't Censor SNL

Cross-posted from PFAW's blog.

Sen. Ted Cruz has been known to make some pretty outlandish comments about the Democracy for All Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment being debated in the Senate which would overturn decisions like Citizens United, but his latest may take the cake. “Lorne Michaels [of Saturday Night Live] could be put in jail under this amendment for making fun of any politician,” Sen. Ted Cruz claimed on the floor of the Senate this week.

Luckily, a number of more grounded voices were able to set the record straight about Cruz’s wild and inaccurate remark. Last night, CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin said:

I think [Cruz] is wrong… This amendment is simply about restoring the old status quo about campaign contributions… I think his point…really has very little, if anything, to do with the constitutional amendment that the Senate is debating.

Amendment sponsor Sen. Tom Udall clarified that “[n]othing in the amendment would permit the arrest of anyone for engaging in political speech,” and pointed out that the proposal intends to bring the country’s campaign finance rules back to what they were in 1975, when Saturday Night Live began.

Other responders were a little more fiery, including former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson, who on Monday published an op-ed with Sen. Udall in support of the Democracy for All Amendment. Simpson called Cruz’s remarks about Saturday Night Live “outrageous,” and urged Sen. Cruz to “read the damn amendment. That would be a wonderful thing.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders also joined the conversation on The Ed Show last night, noting that Sen. Cruz “sounds like he is on Saturday Night Live. It’s a very funny skit.” He pointed out that “Citizens United is a little over four years old; Saturday Night Live has been on the air for decades. And I don’t recall too many people on Saturday Night Live going to jail for making fun of politicians.” Sen. Sanders added that it’s a “preposterous argument” and “just another scare tactic.”

Indeed, as Sen. Udall said in a speech on the Senate floor yesterday, quoting People For the American Way President Michael Keegan:

‘A good rule of thumb in politics is that the scarier someone sounds, the more you should doubt what they’re saying.’ We heard some scary things in the last couple of days. Lorne Michaels is going to jail. And he’s sharing a cell with the little old lady who put up a $5 dollar political yard sign. Books and movies are banned. The NAACP, Sierra Club, and Moveon.org have been prohibited from speaking about politics. Scary stuff. But none of it is true. [emphasis added]

Here’s what is true: the proposed amendment is supported by 73 percent of voters, including a growing body of grassroots activists who have pushed for hundreds of state and local resolutions and who are making senators’ phones ring off the hook this week with thousands of calls expressing their support for fixing our democracy.

So if the best that amendment opponents like Sen. Cruz can do is to push wild-eyed myths about comedic producers being thrown in jail, it’s clear that the American people are winning this fight.
 

FRC Claims Citizens United Repeal Would 'Muzzle The Christian Viewpoint'

In a fundraising email today, FRC Action — the Family Research Council’s political arm — announced that it is “working closely with Senator Ted Cruz to take the lead” in opposing a proposed constitutional amendment to roll back Citizens United and related Supreme Court rulings that struck down federal campaign finance rules.

FRC president Tony Perkins has also picked up Cruz’s talking points about the subject, claiming in the email that an amendment restoring the power of Congress to regulate election spending would “scrap” the First Amendment and ultimately allow liberals to “quash our freedom of speech; to silence our calls for liberty and self-government; to muzzle the Christian viewpoint; to make the debate totally one-sided; to brainwash the next generation into believing that this is how it should be.”

In reality, the amendment would return to Congress and state governments the ability to place reasonable regulations on campaign spending, a power they had until very recently.

I thought I'd seen it all.

I thought the First Amendment was settled. I thought freedom of speech -- the fundamental bulwark of liberty at the very heart of our republic -- was so basic to our American way of life, no liberal would have the audacity to suggest scrapping it.

But I was wrong.

It's utterly outrageous to suggest gutting the First Amendment. It is critically important to our national life. Freedom of speech, especially political speech, sets us apart from most other countries in the world. It keeps liberty alive.

It seems Democrats want "free speech" to consist only of government-authorized speech.

They claim they want to cut back on the influence of "special interests" in election campaigns. But of course, the "special interests" they want to silence are organizations like FRC Action. They want to muzzle you and me.

This is not about "election accountability." This is a naked power grab.

This amendment to the Constitution would give the foxes the keys to the henhouse. Those in power -- whom FRC Action is committed to holding accountable -- would now have the ability to silence us, to gag us, to strip us of our right to fully engage in the political process.

Interestingly, if such a far-fetched alteration of our Constitution were to actually take place, there is a particularly strong group that would be protected -- the press! Democrats' liberal allies in the mainstream media would retain their free political speech, while organizations like FRC Action would lose theirs.

Maybe you're thinking: they can't seriously think such a proposal would make it through Congress. And you would be right: they don't.

This is a bald-faced tactic for firing up the Democrats' base -- to get more liberal voters to swarm the polls in the midterm elections this November.

But if we remain silent, if we simply sit and roll our eyes at the absurdity of it all . . . liberals in Congress will be emboldened to keep pushing in this deadly direction.

The Left would love nothing more than to quash our freedom of speech; to silence our calls for liberty and self-government; to muzzle the Christian viewpoint; to make the debate totally one-sided; to brainwash the next generation into believing that this is how it should be.

We're working closely with Senator Ted Cruz to take the lead in exposing this outrage and in challenging any attempt to rewrite our Bill of Rights.

The 10 Most Absurd Arguments Against The Udall Citizens United Amendment

While good-government groups have been calling for a constitutional amendment to reverse the Supreme Court’s dismantling of campaign finance laws since the day the Court handed down Citizens United in 2010, the issue has been largely off the radar of conservative activists – and has actually enjoyed broad bipartisan support in an array of polls and in state and municipal ballot measures.

It was largely off their radar, that is, until this week. This morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on a proposal by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., to send a constitutional amendment to the states restoring to Congress and state governments the ability to regulate the raising and spending of money in elections. In response, Republican politicians and conservative activists have kicked into gear and are starting to try out new talking points to get their movement to oppose efforts to lessen the influence of big money in politics.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, launched the misleading campaign two weeks ago when he warned a group of pastors that the Udall proposal would “repeal the First Amendment” and allow Congress to “muzzle” the free speech of clergy. In advance of the hearing today, conservative groups including the Family Research Council, Eagle Forum, Tea Party Patriots and the Home School Legal Defense Association started to mobilize against the amendment. Yesterday, the Heritage Foundation held a panel discussion to test out arguments against the amendment, featuring Bobby Burchfield, the attorney who argued the McCutcheon case before the Supreme Court, controversial former FEC chairman Don McGahn, and infamous voter-fraud conspiracy theorist Hans van Spakovsky .

Here, we’ve collected some of the most deceptive arguments that have been launched so far against the Udall amendment.

1. Democrats want to repeal the First Amendment!

When we first heard Ted Cruz  tell a stunned group of pastors that Democrats in the Senate were planning to “repeal the First Amendment,” we knew that we would be hearing that line again and again.

And we were right. Tea Party Patriots adopted the line in mobilizing its activists, as did the Eagle Forum. The Family Research Council claimed the Udall amendment would “strip political speech out of the First Amendment,” and von Spakovsky told the Heritage panel that the amendment would “roll back” the Bill of Rights.

Burchfield and McGahn both argued that the introduction of the constitutional amendment means, in the words of McGahn, that campaign finance law advocates are “admitting” that campaign finance regulations are “unconstitutional.”

On the surface, this is the opposition’s strongest argument, because it sounds so scary. But it’s just not true. Whether you support the Udall amendment or not, it’s dishonest to suggest that it would amount to a “repeal of the First Amendment.” Instead, proponents argue that it strengthens the First Amendment by undoing the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence declaring that spending on elections, including from corporate treasuries, cannot be limited. Proponents of the Udall amendment hold that this jurisprudence, including recent decisions in the Citizens United and McCutcheon cases, represented a radical reinterpretation of the First Amendment; undoing them would simply re-establish the ability of Congress and the states to set reasonable regulations on the raising and spending of money to influence elections.

2. Amendment supporters want to ‘silence critics’ and ‘cling to power’!

The Heritage panelists repeatedly claimed that the Udall amendment is an attempt to protect incumbency by preventing challengers from raising enough money to win elections. McGahn insisted that it was an effort by Democratic incumbents “desperately clinging to power.”

“They want to change the rules of the game and prevent people from criticizing them, not unlike England did before our revolution, and which led to our revolution,” he added.

The American Family Association’s Sandy Rios also invoked the American Revolution in an interview with von Spakovsky yesterday, saying, “The First Amendment, the rights to free speech – particularly the right to political speech – were the right to criticize the king, criticize the authorities over you.”

In a later interview with Rios, Tea Party Patriots spokesman Scott Hogenson even managed to connect the Udall amendment with immigration reform, claiming that both are part of a “larger, concerted effort to maintain the Democratic Party’s control of American politics and eventually move to one-party rule.”

In reality, it’s unlimited campaign spending that tends to be a boon for incumbents, who on average are able to raise far more than challengers. For instance, in Texas, a state with few campaign finance limits, incumbents who win on average raise more than twelve times the average amount raised by challengers. By contrast, in Colorado, which has relatively low individual contribution limits, incumbents on average raise less than three times what challengers are able to raise [pdf].

3. Liberals just want to protect the lame-stream media!

In his speech to the pastors' group, Ted Cruz seized on the Udall proposal’s stipulation that “Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress the power to abridge the freedom of the press” to claim that the amendment carved out an exemption to protect the New York Times.

Von Spakovsky also played up conservative conspiracy theories about the “liberal media,” telling Rios, “No surprise, there’s a glaring exception in this proposed amendment for the press. And that means that MSNBC or the New York Times Company, which are big corporations, they could spend as much newsprint or airtime as they wanted going after and criticizing candidates or talking about political issues.”

These arguments fail to recognize one key distinction, which is that there is a difference between the New York Times publishing an editorial (which would be protected under the proposed amendment, as it is now) and the corporate managers of the New York Times taking $50 million out of their corporate treasury to buy ads to influence an election (which would not be protected).

4. They’ll go after pastors!

Opponents of the constitutional amendment have also been trying to tie the proposal to the right-wing paranoia about the impending persecution of America’s Christian majority .

It’s no coincidence that Cruz rolled out his criticism of the Udall proposal at a pastors’ event organized by the Family Research Council, a main theme of which was the supposed assault on the religious liberty of Christians in America. Cruz told the pastors that the Udall measure would “muzzle” clergy and was being proposed because “they don’t like it when pastors in their community stand up and speak the truth.”

Likewise, McGahn said at the Heritage event that the amendment would endanger the religious liberty of clergy: “What about pastors and churches? This is an issue that comes up once in a while. Can the government get in there and tell a priest he can’t talk to his congregation because it may somehow have something to do with politics?”

This might be true if the proposal would, in fact, “repeal the First Amendment.” In fact, the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty would remain in place.

Of course, that didn’t stop the FRC’s Tony Perkins from somehow linking the Udall amendment to the imprisonment of a Christian woman in Sudan:

5. It’s like the Alien & Sedition Acts!

Along with comparisons to British control before the American Revolution, amendment opponents are trying to link the Udall proposal to the 18th century Alien & Sedition Acts.

In his interview with Rios yesterday, van Spakovsky claimed that “the last time Congress tried to do something like this was when they passed the Alien & Sedition Act in 1798 that criminalized criticism of the government.” Multiple GOP senators at today’s hearing, including Judiciary Committeee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley, repeated the talking point.

Of course, the amendment does nothing to reduce the right of individuals to criticize the government or politicians.

6. The polls are skewed!

When an audience member at yesterday’s Heritage Foundation panel asked about polls showing overwhelming opposition to the Citizens United decision, McGahn replied that the questions in the polls were “skewed.”

You can judge for yourself whether this question from a recent Greenberg Quinlan Rosner poll  – which found 80 percent opposition to the Citizens United decision  – is “skewed” on behalf of campaign finance law proponents:

(image via Buzzfeed)

7. What about disclosure?

In one of the least self-aware moments we’ve witnessed in the last few days, McGahn told the Heritage audience that campaign finance reform proponents could have just worked for tougher disclosure requirements, which the Supreme Court’s majority has consistently endorsed as a way to prevent corruption:

What’s interesting is the courts have upheld some disclosure of independent speech, which six months ago was supposed to be the answer, a year ago was supposed to be the answer – remember the DISCLOSE Act, Part 1 and Part 2? Well, that was supposed to cure all the ills in our democracy, but unfortunately I guess they’ve given up on that and they’ve moved to the more radical change, which is the constitutional amendment.

Of course, the DISCLOSE Act – which would have exposed the source of some of the “dark money” behind large campaign expenditures – was blocked by Senate Republicans. And McGahn, when he was at the FEC, fought hard against disclosure requirements proposed in the wake of the Citizens United decision, even though the decision explicitly sanctioned such requirements.

8. The poor don’t participate anyway!

Speaking to the Heritage audience, Burchfield  presented the curious argument that the Udall amendment would demand to "equalize debate among the haves and have-nots,” and since “the portion is small” of “those with limited means” who participate in electoral debates, this would require “severe restrictions.”

The rich do not advocate a single viewpoint. Think of Sheldon Adelson and George Soros, they don’t agree on anything. There are strong voices on the left and on the right, not just in privately funded campaign advertisements, but also in the broadcast and print media. Only a small portion of those with significant resources even bother to participate in the debate. And among those with limited means, the portion is small indeed. In order to equalize debate among the haves and the have-nots, severe restrictions would be necessary. The quantity and quality of discourse would certainly suffer.

The amendment under consideration doesn’t require that everybody be heard an equal amount; instead, it gives Congress and the states the ability to create a more even platform for those who wish to be heard, regardless of their financial means.  

Burchfield's reasoning echoes the arguments of voter-suppression proponents who claim that their laws only inconvenience people who don’t really care about voting anyway.

9. It’s voter suppression!

Although many of the advocates of unlimited, undisclosed money in politics are the same people pushing harmful voter suppression laws, Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas yesterday insisted that it’s actually amendment proponents who are advocating “voter suppression” and want to “silence” critics.

10. Blame Saul Alinsky!

Inevitably, anti-amendment activists have begun invoking the right-wing bogey-man Saul Alinsky.

Hogenson told Rios that the Udall amendment is “just taken right out of Saul Alinksy’s book, ‘Rules for Radicals,’ it just makes up a gigantic lie and perpetuates it, that somehow democracy needs to be restored.”

Von Spakovsky also invoked Alinsky in his interview with Rios, claiming that criticism of the enormous political spending of the Koch brothers is an Alinskyite plot: “What’s really going on here is, look, if you look at Alinsky’s ‘Rules for Radicals,’ one of the rules that he sets out is you pick a villain and you basically blame those villains for all of the problems. It’s a way of distracting the public, it’s a way of diverting attention, and that’s exactly what Harry Reid and the Democrats are doing here.”

Garrow: God Stopped Obama/Satan From Killing Me!

Speaking with Erik Rush last Friday, right-wing hoaxer Jim Garrow said that President Obama and his allies are killing his colleagues in the intelligence community in order to cover up Obama’s secret plan to nuke America.

He told Rush that while God didn’t protect his friends from Obama’s hit squads, God saved him from an assassination attempt: “They are being eliminated, now they tried to kill me a few days ago but it didn’t work because God intervened; we are not alone in this fight against lies and Lucifer and those people who would like to take down first of all the blessing of God from America but also take down America as an entity on the earth.”

Garrow also believes that God stopped Obama from nuking the US.

Klingenschmitt: West Point Chapel Desecrated By 'Acts Of Sodomy' Performed On The Altar

Earlier this month, two male West Point cadets were married at U.S. Military Academy's Cadet Chapel and "Dr. Chaps' Gordon Klingenschmitt is predictably disgusted because the altar has now been desecrated by having acts of sodomy performed upon it.

"When they take over the building," Klingenschmitt said, "that altar has now been desecrated; it's no longer sacred in the eyes of the Christians who believe the Bible because it's been consecrated with acts of sodomy performed on the Christian altar":

C. Boyden Gray Comes Up With Most Ridiculous Argument Yet for Filibustering DC Circuit

The former George W. Bush administration official who founded a group to push for the confirmation of Bush’s judicial nominees has come up with the most ridiculous justification yet for a possible Republican filibuster of President Obama’s three nominees to vacancies on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. In a Washington Times column today, C. Boyden Gray argues that Obama’s filling all the seats on the court is in fact a "drive to pack" the court and would “risk politicizing an institution that is – and should be – above politics” and lead to a loss of “collegiality” among the judges on the court.

Gray’s concern for the independence of the judiciary is admirable, but it’s interesting that he seems to have developed this concern only when a Democratic president started nominating judges.

In fact, Gray seems to have held the opposite view of what to do with the D.C. Circuit during the George W. Bush administration, when he founded and led an organization dedicated to getting President Bush’s most conservative nominees confirmed to the federal courts. Among the nominees Gray worked to confirm were current D.C. Circuit judges Thomas Griffith, Brett Kavanaugh and Janice Rogers Brown, who have given the court a serious right-wing ideological bent, and now- Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. In total, thanks in part to Gray, Bush had four nominees confirmed to the D.C. Circuit, filling all eleven of the twelve seats then available.

In contrast, President Obama has had just one nominee confirmed to the D.C. Circuit in his five years in office, bringing the total number of judges on the court up to eight out of eleven designated seats. This puts him far behind all of his recent predecessors in placing judges on the court. In fact, every president since Jimmy Carter, going through the process laid out in the Constitution, has had at least three nominees confirmed to the D.C. Circuit.

So, why does Gray think President Obama’s nominees would so unbalance the careful social order of the court? He cites the effort that Judge Harry Edwards, a Carter nominee, made in the mid-1990s to get judges on the court to work together across ideological lines, and Judge Edwards’ observation that “smaller courts tend to be more collegial.”  Which is a great argument for confirming judges who are skilled at working across ideological lines (for instance, Nina Pillard) but makes no sense as an argument simply not to let a given president fill seats on the court.

In the column, Gray also backs Chuck Grassley’s effort to eliminate the three D.C. Circuit seats to prevent President Obama from filling them and transfer two to other, less influential, circuits – a plan that has no backing in actual caseload data

If these are the logic-jumping lengths that conservatives have to go to justify their all-out obstruction of President Obama’s judicial nominees, maybe it’s time they just gave up and admitted that they just don’t want to let President Obama do his job.

 

How Big Money Bought North Carolina for Extremists

In the years since Citizens United, North Carolina has provided a clear example of what happens when a small number of corporate interests, allied with a far-right base, are allowed unbridled influence over elections.

Pat Robertson Marks 9/11 By Blaming Separation Of Church And State For Inviting Radical Muslim 'Fifth Column' Into America

Two days following 9/11 terrorist attacks, televangelists Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell blamed the attacks on “the pagans, the abortions, the feminists and the gays and lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way.”

Today, Robertson remembered 9/11 by attacking former president George W. Bush for calling Islam a “religion of peace.”

“They believe that anybody who doesn’t submit is at war with them and they are prime targets, and for the Western nations to welcome this fifth column into their midst is just committing suicide,” Robertson claimed.

“The reason is they have lost their faith in God, they have lost their faith in Jesus Christ, they don’t believe in what the Bible says and the core values of our society have gone away,” Robertson continued. “We’ve done it here in America, we’ve abolished prayer in the schools, we’ve taken out Bible-reading in the schools and little by little by little we’ve eroded the rights—we keep talking about separation and this that and the other.”

Watch:

Robertson made the remarks following a report by Dale Hurd which linked radical Islamic groups to liberals. “Muslims and the European left continue their strange political partnership; while they’re polar opposites when it comes to women’s rights, abortions and homosexuality, Muslims vote for the left while the left grows its constituency by encouraging Muslim immigration and the spread of Islamic values,” Hurd claimed. “America too has been knowingly trying to advance the cause of Muslim radicals in Syria and Egypt.”

AFA: DOMA Decision Will Lead to God's Judgment, Death of Marriage

American Family Association spokesmen Fred Jackson and Sandy Rios were despondent while reacting to the Supreme Court’s decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act. “It’s a big win for gay activists today,” Rios said, “it’s not a good day for us.”

“They kept shouting DOMA's dead, I thought that was pretty metaphorical, marriage is dead too, for the future of this country,” she added.

Jackson went even further and alleged that “God’s judgment will be upon us” as a result of the ruling.

Watch:

Conservatives Blame Evolution, Government for CT Shooting

The far right’s reaction to the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut continues to side into over-the-top rhetoric and conspiracy theories. The extremist group Oath Keepers released a statement claiming that the government is “complicit in the deaths of these children, and in fact an accessory to their mass murder” by promoting gun control laws:

This shooting is yet another tragic example of the failed, grotesque insistence on helpless victim zones where any crazed gunman can be assured of a large number of disarmed, undefended, helpless victims, all crammed into one place, where he can kill many children before an armed defender arrives from elsewhere. It is disturbing and sick that the federal government so hates the right of the American people to bear arms, and so hates their natural right to self defense, that the government insists on making them helpless, disarmed victims for anyone who cares to kill them. And in this case, all of the teachers and staff were willfully disarmed by the Federal Government, by force of law and threat of prison, to ensure that they would be disarmed and incapable of saving the lives of the children entrusted to their care.

That makes the Federal Government complicit in the deaths of these children, and in fact an accessory to their mass murder, by forcibly disarming (with the very real threat of prison) all the teachers, all the staff, and any parent who may have been on school property. That stupid law guaranteed the shooters would meet no immediate armed resistance, which is exactly what is needed to stop such an attack.

Randy Thomasson of Save California said that the shooting is “another example of societal degradation, a deadly consequence of promoting murderous abortions, godless evolution, and gratuitous violence,” urging schools to begin “teaching the fear of God” and arming “every school official”:

More than asking why this evil happened, we need to work diligently to prevent it. The innocents killed at Newtown are double the number of Columbine victims in 1999. We should be all the more grieved and all the more resolved to stop murders before they start. The answer is teaching the fear of God and love for God in schools and throughout society. Because mass murder is another example of societal degradation, a deadly consequence of promoting murderous abortions, godless evolution, and gratuitous violence. How opposite of teaching children that all people are worthy because they were created by God, that all innocent human beings deserve protection because they're made in God's image, and that every person is accountable to God when He judges the world.

Every school official should be armed and trained to repel these attacks upon schoolchildren. And every parent and every media industry decision maker should absolutely prohibit children from enjoying scenes that glorify violence and desensitize them to the taking of innocent human life.

WorldNetDaily columnist Vox Day didn’t play down the gun imagery in a column about “firing back at gun controllers,” insisting that the government is using the shooting to acquire dictatorial powers and “assassinate [Americans] at will”:

The television is full of weeping parents and pictures of angelic children. Facebook is afire with solipsistic women attempting to co-opt the tragedy for their own emotional gratification. Politicians wipe away fake tears and thunder about the need for “meaningful action.” Psychologists blather about the killer’s motivation and wonder if his murderous rage stemmed from inadequate toilet-training, psychotropic medications or his parent’s divorce. Conspiracy theorists note inconsistencies in the news stories and mark the suicide that always seems to be accompanied by reports of a second gunman.

We know the drill. This isn’t our first rodeo.

Americans who value freedom know that they cannot permit ignorant comments from the overly emotional about how “we must do something” to stand unchallenged. The political elite that seeks to disarm the American people is getting increasingly desperate, seeing how public support for gun rights has consistently grown in keeping with the federal government’s assertion of its right to fly armed drones over their heads and assassinate them at will. They are alarmed by the way in which all of their attempts to emotionally manipulate the American people into submitting to a blatantly unconstitutional disarmament have not only failed, but backfired.

The ruling elite is presently embarking upon a full-court press for gun control, the likes of which have not been seen since George W. Bush’s administration used the 2008 financial crisis to ram TARP down the throats of an unwilling American people and bail out his friends on Wall Street. But it isn’t working. It isn’t working because we know the drill.



Don’t give them an inch. Cut them no slack. Punch back twice as hard. When they bring the knife of emotional blackmail to the argument, draw your .50 caliber Desert Eagle of facts, logic and history and blow them away without mercy.

...

Ask them this: 800,000 law enforcement officers have killed 525 unarmed citizens with guns so far this year. Approximately 310 million private citizens killed an estimated 10,500 of their fellow citizens with guns over the same period of time. Given that a law enforcement officer is 19.4 times more likely to shoot and kill an unarmed American than a private citizen, if you genuinely care about reducing gun deaths, why aren’t you calling for the disarmament of law enforcement?

Rep. Huizenga Hopes Obama won't 'Misinterpret' the Election as an Endorsement of his Policies

After President Obama’s huge victory over Mitt Romney, conservatives are already trying to spin the results by insisting that his big win does not mean that Americans favor the agenda he actively campaigned on. For example, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said that voters actually elected Republicans “to be in charge” and resist tax increases while Weekly Standard columnist Fred Barnes claimed Obama “hardly has a mandate for anything,” like his tax policy, because it was a “status quo election.”

Naturally, Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI) told Tony Perkins last week on Washington Watch Weekly that President Obama and the House GOP may not come to a tax deal before the fiscal deadline because he fears that the Obama administration “is going to misinterpret this past election and say, ‘well we campaign on increasing tax rates, not just revenues but increasing tax rates, and maintaining our spending.’” Indeed, Obama did make raising taxes on high earners a top campaign priority and both post-election polls and exit polls found that 60 percent of support raising taxes on income over $250,000. But apparently, Huizenga believes that House Republicans, who actually received fewer votes than Democratic House candidates, get to decide for Obama how to interpret his victory.

Perkins: I think you’re right, no one really knows what will the effect of that be. It could actually have a—it’s certainly not going to have a positive effect upon the families that are paying that increased taxation—but in terms of the cuts that may be the only way we get to real cuts.

Huizenga: And that would be sad, frankly, that would be horribly sad, tragic and once again demonstrate how we don’t have the courage of our convictions. We know we need to go further, faster, when it comes to controlling our spending. I’m afraid that this administration is going to misinterpret this past election and say, ‘well we campaign on increasing tax rates, not just revenues but increasing tax rates, and maintaining our spending.’ That’s why I think you saw [AFL-CIO president] Richard Trumka and others all trot to the White House and extract these blood oaths that no reforms to any of the entitlement programs are allowed to be on the table and all these other things, and that’s just not reality.
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