American politicians know amazingly little about their constituents’ viewpoints, and tend to believe their constituents are far more conservative than they really are. Political scientists at two major universities surveyed nearly 2,000 candidates for statewide legislative office across the U.S. and uncovered a vast disconnect between what candidates’ believe on political issues, and what constituents in their districts actually believe. The researchers, David E. Broockman of the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley and Christopher Skovron of the Department of Political Science, University of Michigan, compared legislative candidates’ perceptions of mass opinion in their districts on issues like same-sex marriage, universal health care and funding of government programs with actual district-level opinion. They found that politicians are generally fairly wrong about their constituents’ views. Both liberals and conservatives overestimated how conservative their constituents are, but conservatives’ perceptions were exceptionally distorted. Conservative politicians overestimated the conservatism of people in their district by more than 20 percentage points. The study authors write, “For perspective, 20 percentage points is roughly the difference in partisanship between California and Alabama.”
While Virginia State Senator Henry Marsh, a 79 year old African-American civil rights advocate and a Democrat, was out of the state attending President Barack Obama’s inaugural ceremonies, Virginia’s Republican legislators seized the opportunity afforded by his absence to rush through a vote on a new Congressional redistricting map that maximizes the number of seats safe for Republicans. Virginia’s legislature is evenly split with 20 Republican members and 20 Democratic members, but while Marsh was out of town, there were 20 Republicans and 19 Democrats present to vote. Republicans seized upon that short window of time when they had a voting advantage to take a vote on the redistricting measure. It passed by a single vote, 19-20 with 19 Democrats voting against it, and handed an electoral advantage to Republicans. Virginia Democrats said they would challenge the measure in court.
Main Source: Talking Points Memo, January 21, 2013
Republicans, finding themselves less able to win elections on the merits of their candidates and policy positions, are continuing to tinker with election processes at the state level to disadvantage voters who disagree with their policies and dislike their candidates. In 2010 and 2011, Republicans worked frenetically in state legislatures to pass so-called “voter ID” laws, which, just prior to the election, were officially outed as a strategy to make voting harder for the people most likely to vote against their candidates: African Americans, the elderly, the poor, students and those with disabilities. As voter ID laws were increasingly discredited and blocked by the courts, Republicans started working on a new strategy: REDMAP, short for “Redistricting Majority Project,” an effort to skew the redistricting process to assure Republicans maintain their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives even though more Democrats than Republicans are now casting ballots across the country. The GOP’s REDMAP strategy involves a plan to win control of state legislatures. Once they achieve that, they initiate an aggressive gerrymandering campaign to redraw the states’ electoral maps and create districts that are completely safe for Republicans. But beyond eliminating competitive elections in Congressional races, a new part of the GOP’s strategy is to change the rules about how the states apportion their electoral college votes. The new strategy will magnify the effect of Republican votes in the Electoral College in future elections. The GOP wants to change the current winner-take-all rule for apportioning electoral college votes to instead apportioning electoral votes based on the winner in each individual Congressional district within the state. The change would hand beleaguered Republicans a huge process advantage over Democrats. As an example, if the GOP’s hoped-for rule had been in place in Pennsylvania in the November, 2012 election, for example, Mitt Romney would have won 13 of that state’s 20 electoral college votes, even though Obama won the state with 52 percent of the popular vote.
Main Source: Huffington Post, January 17, 2012
The wording of the union-killing bill Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed this week was taken virtually word for word from “model” legislation crafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a stealth lobbying group for corporations. The Natural Resources Defense Council has calls ALEC “Corporate America’s Trojan Horse in the States.” ALEC is essentially an exclusive club for state-level legislators and corporate representatives that masquerades as a charitable, non-profit group. ALEC charges legislators just $50 a year to join, while corporations pay anywhere from $7,000 to $25,000 a year. In return corporations get ongoing opportunities to have their lobbyists hobnob closely with thousands of state legislators. ALEC puts on corporate-sponsored confabs at tony beach and golf resorts where lobbyists get plenty of face time with state legislators and influence them to introduce their favored legislation in state houses back home. Legislators never intentionally reveal that the bills came from ALEC when they introduce them. One of ALEC’s highest legislative priorities has been passing so-called “right to work” (RTW) bills across the country to slash the political power of unions.
The Palm Beach Post ran a blockbuster story November 25 in which several former high-up GOP officials admitted that “Voter ID” laws and a law cutting back early voting were GOP tactics aimed at suppressing the Democratic vote in Florida. Former Florida Republican Governor Charlie Crist and Jim Greer, former chair of the Florida Republican Party, both admitted that the GOP’s push to enact “Voter ID” laws out of a purported concern for voter fraud was really a ruse to block Democratic voters from the polls. Greer told the Palm Beach Post, “The Republican Party, the strategists, the consultants, they firmly believe that early voting is bad for Republican Party candidates…It’s done for one reason and one reason only.” Greer said Republican staffers and consultants told him ,”We’ve got to cut down on early voting because early voting is not good for us.” Wayne Bertsch, who coordinated campaigns for GOP candidates for local offices, also admitted the reasons GOP officials gave for advancing voter ID laws were bogus. Crist said while he was in office as Florida’s governor, Republican Party leaders contacted him to discuss curtailing early voting hours as a way to suppress turnout among Democratic voters. Crist has since left the GOP and is now an Independent. Greer has been indicted for using a phony campaign fundraising operation to pocket $200,000. But the Post also found another GOP-affiliated consultant, who asked not to be named who confirmed that the true purpose behind enacting voter ID and a law to cut back on early voting in Florida were meant to suppress Democratic turnout in the general election.
Karl Rove, whom Vanity Fair called “one of the most powerful unelected officials in the United States,” is facing criticism and derision after his two well-funded super pacs, American Crossroads and the more secretive Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (“Crossroads GPS”), proved surprisingly ineffective after Democrats largely emerged victorious in the 2012 general election. Rove, a Republican political strategist who famously once dreamed of creating a “permanent Republican majority” in U.S. government, helped create the two groups which together sucked in over $300 million in the last election cycle, mostly from billionaires hoping to influence the election’s outcome. Crossroads GPS, which refused to make public the names of it’s super-wealthy donors, blanketed the U.S. with attack ads against Democratic candidates in which the group made notably false and misleading claims against candidates. Despite spending vast amounts of money, however, Rove’s groups were ultimately unable to influence the outcomes of the November 6 elections. Rove has spent the last week defending his super PACs and scrambling to devise a new strategy for boosting Republicans’ fortunes in elections nationwide. Rove served as former president George W. Bush’s deputy chief of staff. Since leaving the government, he has worked as a political strategist, consultant and a paid speaker. Rove’s normal speaker’s fee in 2010 was $60,000, but he has had his appearances canceled on several occasions due to protests.
In a Nov. 7 article titled “Five ways the mainstream media tipped the scales in favor of Obama,” Rich Noyes of Fox News thrashes the major media as the sole cause Obama’s victory. Noyes faults the networks for reporting on the gaffes Romney made during his trip to Europe. He points to Mother Jones’ reporting of the sensational “47%” video in which Romney denigrated millions of Americans who don’t pay income taxes, saying the “networks hyped it as a sensational sex scandal.” Noyes whines that the major news networks failed to report on Obama’s “You didn’t build that” comment, when in reality the networks engaged in appropriate journalism by refusing to take that remark out of context like the Republicans insisted on doing. Noyes complains that Romney was “pounded with partisan fact-checking,” when the media was forced many times to correct errors and mis-statements Romney frequently made, including his bizarre repetition of an easily-verfiable geographical error he repeated no fewer than five times during the campaign that “Syria is Iran’s route to the sea.” Noyes also faults the debate moderators, the lack of clarity over what happened in Benghazi and reporting on the state of the economy for Romney’s defeat. He faults everyone but the GOP itself.
In the aftermath of the presidential election, some vendors at outlets like CafePress and Zazzle are starting to shift their marketing strategies to keep capitalizing on bitterness and hatred. They are starting to discount their racist, anti-Obama bumper stickers and swag denigrating “other” types of people. The price of a sticker featuring a photo of President Obama that says “Somewhere in Kenya, a village is missing its idiot,” for example, has been cut from $5.00 to $3.75. But merchandise exploiting the battered emotions of the millions of angry, racist and hyper-religious people who lost the election is starting to appear, and it’s not cheap. A pack of 100 refrigerator magnets that yelp “Obama Won, America Lost! Nation in Distress — Only God can Save Us” is going for a whopping $200, and a 50-pack of stickers with a graphic that depicts the phrase “No White Guilt” is selling for an insane $140.00.
Former Arizona state senator Kyrsten Sinema made history November 6 when she became the first openly atheist female ever to be elected to Congress. Sinema, 36, replaces Rep. Pete Stark of California as the only other openly atheist person ever to have served in Congress. Stark, who will turn 80 this year, represented a district near San Jose, California. While holding office in 2007, he went public in about his lack of belief in God. In spite of this admission, he won re-election twice, making huge in-roads for non-believers’ representation in Congress. Stark’s coming out about his lack of belief in God helped paved the way for Sinema’s election. Sinema will represent Arizona’s 9th Congressional district, which includes parts of Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa, Chandler, Tempe and Paradise Valley. Sinema, a former Mormon, is also openly bisexual. While Stark was elected to office prior to admitting he was an atheist, Sinema is the first candidate ever in U.S. history to run openly as a non-theist and get elected.
Big food, candy and chemical companies are pouring tens of millions of dollars into fighting California’s Proposition 37, which would require foods be labeled as to whether they contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Genetically-modified foods have their DNA artificially altered in a laboratory, for example Monsanto genetically engineered a type of sweet corn to make it also contain an insecticide. GMOs have been linked to allergies, organ toxicity and other ailments. The problem is, consumers are in the dark about whether the foods they buy contain GMOs because food producers have not been required to identify foods that contain them. Monsanto has paid over $4.3 million to fight Proposition 37, followed by DuPont, ($4 million), Pepsi ($2.1 million), Bayer ($2 million), Dow ($2 million), Coca Cola ($1.69 million), Nestle ($1.46 million) and ConAgra Foods ($1.1 million). Other companies working to defeat the disclosure law include familiar household companies that dominate the grocery stores, like Campbell’s Soup, General Mills, Bumble Bee (tuna), Hershey’s, Heinz, Kellogg, Kraft, Land O’Lakes (butter), McCormick (spices), Nestle (cocoa), Tree Top (apple juice), Smuckers (jam), and Welch’s (grape juice). The big food and chemical companies have hired former tobacco industry operatives to apply big Tobacco’s playbook to fight the initiative. Hiring out professional PR flacks to oppose the measure also distances the companies from the unpopular effort and helps shield their valuable brands from backlash. The “No” campaign is using the tobacco industry tactic of hiding behind a front group made to appear as though it is made up of small businesses, family farmers and the like, to give the public the impression that the anti-37 effort is a “grassroots” campaign by real people. Far from it. The “Yes on 37” campaign points out that many of the wealthy companies secretly bankrolling the fight against Prop. 37 are the same ones that for years assured Americans that cigarettes were safe, and DDT and Agent Orange were harmless.
General Motors publicly rebuked Mitt Romney over a misleading Ohio radio campaign ad that wrongly infers GM is planning to move U.S. auto manufacturing jobs to China. The ad’s narrator states, “Under President Obama, GM cut 15,000 American jobs, but they are planning to double the number of cars built in China, which means 15,000 more jobs for China. And now comes word that Chrysler plans to start making Jeeps in, you guessed it, China.” GM spokesman Greg Martin said “We’ve clearly entered some parallel universe during these last few days. No amount of campaign politics at its cynical worst will diminish our record of creating jobs in the U.S. and repatriating profits back to this country.” Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, similarly tried to limit the damage Romney has done to his company’s reputation after Romney lied at a campaign event October 27 when he wrongly stated Jeep was moving all its manufacturing jobs to China. Marchionne sent an email out to employees reiterating that “Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China. The numbers tell the story…Those include more than $1.7 billion to produce the successor of the Jeep Liberty and hire about 1,100 workers on a second shift by 2013.” Earlier this month, the Salt Lake City Tribune, the leading newspaper in the most Republican state in the U.S. and in the heart of Mormon country, endorsed Barack Obama for president, calling Romney “shameless” and suggesting the GOP presidential nominee will say whatever he thinks he must to win votes.
GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney openly lied — again — at a campaign event in Defiance, Ohio Thursday, October 25, when he told a crowd of about 12,000 that Jeep is considering shifting all of its North American production to China. “I saw a story today that one of the great manufacturers in this state, Jeep, now owned by the Italians, is thinking of moving all production to China,” Romney said. The statement is verifiably false. Chrysler’s vice president of communications, Gualberto Ranieri, publicly corrected Romney in a blog post on the company’s website. “Let’s set the record straight,” Ranieri wrote, “Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China.” Representatives from Romney’s campaign said candidate had misread the first two paragraphs of a Bloomberg news report that discussed the manufacture of Jeeps for the Chinese market. The article started out by saying Fiat, the company that now owns Chrysler, “plans to return Jeep output to China and may eventually make all of its models in the country.” It said that Chrysler and Fiat are evaluating additional production sites in China, not that they are shifting their output from North America to China. Despite being publicly called out on the purported error by Chrysler, neither Romney nor his campaign workers have corrected the erroneous statement. Quite the contrary — the Romney campaign has built on it. Romney has created a new campaign ad around his misleading statement. The ad says, “Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China. Mitt Romney will fight for every American job.” The Salt Lake City (Utah) Tribune, a conservative newspaper in the home of Mormonism, endorsed President Obama in an October 19th editorial titled “Too Many Mitts”, that called Romney the Republican Party’s “shape-shifting nominee.”
Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) has asked the Internal Revenue Service (pdf) to investigate a Texas church after the pastor posted a message on the church’s marquee urging people to “VOTE FOR THE MORMON, NOT THE MUSLIM! The “Mormon” reference is to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church. ABC News reported that the sign is an obvious reference to President Barack Obama, whom many conservatives believe is a “secret Muslim” even though President Obama says he is a Christian and attends church with his family. According to ABC News, Ray Miller, the pastor of the Church of the Valley in Leakey, Texas, said he put the sign up because “he feels strongly about the election.” The church sign violates U.S. law, however, which prohibits tax-exempt organizations, including all churches, from endorsing political candidates.
Source: Americans United for Separation of Church and State press release, October 23, 2012
For most people, it’s a given that politicians lie, but even with such universally low expectations for candidates, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney stands out. The brazenness and persistence of Romney’s lying has drawn notice from all quarters. This isn’t just the perception of wild-eyed liberals, either. In October, 2011, Matt Welch of Reason.com, a right-leaning publication that supports free markets, wrote about Romney’s prodigious lying in an article titled “Mitt Romney’s Lying Problem”. An October 8, 2012 Forbes.com article noted Romney’s large number of lies and reversals in positions on policies. Even far right-wing Republican former House Speaker Newt Gingrich openly called Mitt Romney a liar on CBS News’ “The Early Show.”
Mitt Romney’s prodigious lying exceeds anything ever seen before in American politics, by all accounts. Given this, one overall question remains: How can Romney be so comfortable with such lying? Most average Americans would recoil at the idea of spewing as many lies as Romney has, let alone doing it in the white-hot spotlight of the national and global media. So what has given rise to a person like Romney, who so verifiably, consistently and freely lies the way he does? And how does this square with his Mormon religion, which, at least in print, preaches that complete honesty is necessary for salvation?
Rush Limbaugh called her “brilliant.” The Tea Party made a movie about her. Ron Paul says she “tells the truth” and GOP vice presidential pick, Rep. Paul Ryan once said that “more than anyone else, she explained the morality of capitalism and the morality of individualism” to him and inspired him to run for office. The woman about whom all these hard right wingers gush is Russian immigrant Ayn Rand, a political philosopher and novelist whose books and writings promote objectivism, a philosophy that holds that people should elevate their own self-benefit over all else. Rand believed that the there is no obligation whatsoever to care for your fellow man, and that the only real moral imperative is pursuit of your own happiness and self-interest, even at a high cost to others. Rand believed that people should be unconcerned with those who are less fortunate. But the politicians and right wingers who extoll the virtues of Rand and he extraordinarily hard individualist philosophy also ignore the fact that she was an atheist who scorned churches and the concept of God. “I am against God,” she once stated. “I don’t approve of religion. It is a sign of psychological weakness…I regard it as evil.” Some even regarded Rand as a psychopath after she praised serial murderer William Edward Hickman as her ideal man and a “superman” who exemplified her philosophy of ultimate self-centeredness. In 1927, Hickman kidnapped and gruesomely dismembered a 12-year-old girl named Marion Parker, returning her torso to her parents with her eyes wired open after he extorted $1,500 in ransom from the child’s father.
A Republican legislator from Pennsylvania inadvertently confirmed what liberals have long suspected: that so-called “voter I.D.” laws are a political strategy to help Republicans win more elections. While speaking at a meeting before the Republican State Committee in Hershey, Pennsylvania on June 23, Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai proudly listed the Republican Party’s accomplishments in the state while the party controlled both the governorship and the legislature. His list included enacting a “Castle Doctrine” act (a “shoot first” law like the one George Zimmerman claimed shielded him from prosecution after killing unarmed Florida teen Trayvon Martin earlier this year) and regulations that make it harder for women to obtain abortions. Then Turzia added, “Voter ID, which is going to allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania. Done.” Democrats pounced on Turzia’s statement as evidence showing that co-called “Voter ID” laws are really a strategy to suppress liberal votes and help put Republicans in office. Republicans have long argued that requiring citizens to show photo ID at the polls is necessary to maintain the integrity of elections, but opponents point out that voter fraud is an almost non-existent problem. In their practical implementation, voter ID laws have had the effect of wrongfully disenfranchising legitimate voters across the country, and making voting more difficult for members of discrete groups that tend to lean more Democratic, like city dwellers, students, minorities and the elderly.
Colorado citizens had a rare opportunity to vote for a candidate who openly rejected corporate, PAC and special interest funding, and they took it. Jovan Melton, a Democrat who made the honorable but unusual decision to publicly turn down special interest PAC money, appears to have won his election. As of Wednesday, June 27, 2012 — the day after the election — Melton had a 51 vote lead in his district. If he is declared the winner, he will have no opponent in the general election, assuring Colorado’s General Assembly of having one more representative who pledged to only be beholden to constituents. Ken Gordon, founder of CleanSlateNow.org, the new and unique responsive-government organization that backed Melton and has been working to get him elected said, “Our slogan is ‘People…Not Money.’ Huge piles of campaign cash are profoundly undermining our democracy, so we made a major effort to help Melton. We mailed 8,000 pieces of campaign literature, and volunteers made 11,054 calls. However, it was not the amount of literature that we sent or the number of calls that made the difference; it was the power of the message. People want to be represented by elected officials who work for them and not big special interest contributors. It was the power of that message that made the difference.This race was a demonstration project. Americans do not have to accept the inevitability of big money dominating our political process. Citizens can use the power of their vote to fight against the influence auction that American politics has become.” CleanSlateNow.org is a non-partisan organization that opposes special interest money from both the left and the right. They support candidates who do not take special interest money, and they educate the public on the issue of big money in politics. Their website maintains the only known public list of state and national candidates who do not take special interest contributions.