Now anyone can spread his or her own ideas or point of view around town for cheap. ThoughtOnBoard, a simple product that puts free speech back in the hands of real people, launched a new e-commerce website just in time for the run-up to the 2012 general election. “Average working people can now take back their right to free speech with ThoughtOnBoard,” said Anne Landman, author of AnneLandmanBlog.com and inventor of ThoughtOnBoard. ThoughtOnBoard, a dry-erase sign that sticks to glass facing outward, lets you say whatever you want, whenever you want, and change it fast. Write or draw anything you want on it and post it in a car, home, shop, restaurant, garage or store window. Change it fast. It’s no censorship, no holds-barred free speech — the perfect way to weigh in on today’s quick-moving political campaigns. ThoughtOnBoard has a zillion uses. Use it to promote events, daily specials, say “Wipe your feet,” “Shh…baby sleeping.” The only limit is your imagination. ThoughtOnBoard has been sold locally for 22 years, and just recently launched into the world of e-commerce, making it more widely available. Check out the new ThoughtOnBoard.com website to see some of the fun and innovative ways people are using it.
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.
Dell Computers became the latest company to drop its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council, the right-wing group behind the spread of voter suppression laws and “shoot first” laws like the one invoked by George Zimmerman, the man involved in the Trayvon Martin murder in Florida. Deborah Albers, Dell’s principal social strategies, wrote in a letter to ThinkProgress, that the company “will not be renewing our participation” in ALEC. Albers is based at Dell in Round Rock, Texas.
CleanSlateNow.org is a unique Colorado group that is trying to help get big money out of politics by supporting candidates who don’t take special interest PAC money. Currently, only two candidates running for state office in Colorado have made the unusual and admirable public decision to turn down any and all special interest money. They are Jovan Melton, a Democrat, running for a House seat in District 41 (Aurora), and Jeffrey Hare, a Republican, running for a House seat in District 48 (Weld County). The two are running in primaries that are mail-in ballot elections, and so far thousands of people who have gotten ballots have not yet turned them in. The deadline for getting ballots in is 7:00 pm on Tuesday, June 26. Both races are extremely close, and a few votes either way could make the difference. Voters get few chances to vote for candidates who reject corporate money, and they certainly shouldn’t squander this chance. CleanSlateNow.org urges people living in these districts to cast ballots as soon as possible for these two admirable candidates and make sure to get their ballots in on time.
The Sparkasse Bank in Chemnitz, in eastern Germany, asked customers to vote on images they would most like to see on their MasterCards, and by far the winner was Karl Marx, the German philosopher who predicted the end of capitalism. More than one third of people voting selected Marx’s image. The bank reports that even people in western Germany were calling and asking to open bank accounts to get a MasterCard with Marx’s image on it. Reuters reports that a survey done in 2008 revealed that 52 percent of citizens living in eastern Germany thought the free market economy was “unsuitable” and 43 percent preferred to go back to a socialist system. NPR’s Planet Money, in a report on the Karl Marx MasterCard, asked people to suggest possible slogans to advertise the card. Some of the responses? “Che Guevara t-shirt: $15. Annotated copy of the Communist Manifesto: $10. Being able to demonstrate your ideological confusion every time you make a purchase: Priceless.,” “I don’t always seize the means of production from the bourgeoisie, but when I do, I prefer the Marx MasterCard,” “A Mastercard for the master race,” and my personal favorite: “Use it when you’re in the red.”
As corporations continue to flee the embattled American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC is struggling to stop the bleeding with a new a damage-control website called “IStandWithALEC.com,” that blames former Obama administrator Van Jones, George Soros and “Big Labor” for recent woes that have put the group on the hot seat. But as soon as ALEC put up its new site, the controversial group was met with yet another activist challenge: a hilarious, new competing one-page website with the very similar domain name, “IStandWithALEC.org,” that features pictures of Alec Baldwin and says, “I stand with Alec, not ALEC.” The site is filled with funny pictures of Alac Baldwin and statements contrasting how nice Alec Baldwin is and how mean ALEC is, like “Alec Baldwin created a scholarship for low income drama students…ALEC creates scholarships for corporations to funnel money to legislators,” and “Alec likes surfing the web naked,” but “ALEC wants you to pay 750% more for high-speed Internet.” The site asks visitors to “Join our efforts to stand up to front groups like ALEC!” The dueling websites make it clear that anti-ALEC activists aren’t cutting ALEC much slack these days, no matter what corporate PR strategy it tries to try and escape from its death spiral.
Johnson & Johnson announced it is ending its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the embattled right-wing bill mill charged with spreading “shoot first” laws like the one that drew attention in the killing earlier this year of unarmed Florida teen Trayvon Martin. J&J is the 19th company to flee ALEC, and held a seat on ALEC’s “Private Enterprise Board.” The company made the announcement after a petition and phone campaign by People for the American Way Foundation, the Color of Change and other groups gathered more than half a million signatures asking corporations to end their support of ALEC’s agenda. ALEC has been a driving force behind the spread of voter suppression laws across the country, like the law that led to the purge of legitimate voters from Florida’s voter rolls. The U.S. Department of Justice filed a formal lawsuit against Florida today to stop the purge. J&J issued a statement saying it did not “condone legislative proposals that could serve, even inadvertently, to limit the rights or impact the safety of any individual,” and that it worked with ALEC only on “matters that help create a climate that supports jobs and innovation in the U.S.” Other companies and organizations that have dropped their ALEC memberships include Coca-Cola, Pepsico, Kraft, Wendy’s, Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble, Yum! Brands, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Intuit, Mars, Inc., Arizona Public Service, and Kaplan.
The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board has agreed to investigate Common Cause’s complaint that the American Legislative Exchange Council engages in false and deceptive practices. Common Cause says ALEC has improperly failed to register as a lobbyist in Minnesota. Common Cause filed a complaint against ALEC in mid May, 2012 along with documentation the group says points to ALEC’s lobbying activities. Common Cause received a letter back from the Campaign Finance Board saying it would look into the group’s charges of improper activity by ALEC. The letter said the Board is unable to disclose information received from either party regarding the complaint, that it will review the status of the investigation in an executive session at its June meeting and will likely delay consideration of the matter until its July meeting. When the investigation is complete, the Board will release its findings publicly by posting them on its website, cfboard.state.mn.us.
Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has gained the distinction of putting forth the most bald-faced lies of any candidate ever while running for office. In March, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow devoted a entire 14 minute-long segment to Romney’s remarkable string of lies in which she acknowledged that expectations are low for politician’s honesty in general, but said that to win the presidency, “You have to not be a liar.” Maddow said, “The degree to which Mr. Romney lies all the time about all sorts of stuff and doesn’t care when he gets caught, is maybe the single most notable thing about his campaign.” Maddow documented a long list of statements Romney has made during his campaign that are contradicted by easily-verfiable facts, like his claims that the economy has gotten worse since Obama took over the presidency, or that he never called for a national health care law. Now a perennial politician, Romney has been a public figure for so many years, that there is a clear record of things he has said and positions he’s taken on issues, which makes it relatively easy to document whether what he says now about his past positions is true or not. Romney has dished out frank lies on a huge number of topics in this campaign alone: his record on gay rights, Obama’s trade and tax policies, the tax rate he himself pays, his job creation record, his record on abortion rights, his record as governor of Massachusetts, and many other issues. His string of lies is historic, even in the annals of particularly dirty U.S. politics.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is reportedly pulling strings behind the scenes to shut down dissent at its annual meeting this summer. The Alliance for a Better Utah, a Utah progressive group, reports that after it reserved space at the Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City for July 25-28 — the same hotel and dates where ALEC will hold its 2012 annual meeting — the hotel called back and canceled the group’s reservation. The Alliance for a Better Utah says ALEC is using its political clout to get the hotel to refuse to rent rooms to other groups it doesn’t like during its annual conference. A hotel spokeswoman would not comment on the pulled reservation. ALEC has been under greater scrutiny since it was linked to the spread of “shoot first” laws like the one cited in the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida. The good-government group Common Cause is seeking an investigation into the tax exempt status of ALEC, charging that ALEC is primarily a lobbying group and as such may be in violation of its tax exempt status.
This three-page document dated November 15, 2001, from Philip Morris’ online corporate document collection, argues that the federal government would be better off diverting funds from the U.S. Department of Justice’s 1999 lawsuit against the tobacco industry to concentrate on the fight against terrorism. The strategy leverages the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. as a reason to stop the government’s investigation into the major American tobacco companies’ decades-long conspiracy to defraud the American people about the links between smoking and disease. On November 29, 2001 (just days after this document was written) the investigative organization Center for Public Integrity revealed that then-House Majority Whip and tobacco industry ally Tom DeLay (R-Texas) had done the bidding of the tobacco companies by quietly inserting a clause into the Financial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001 (a bill rushed through Congress in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks) shielding U.S. tobacco companies from foreign lawsuits that alleged cigarette smuggling and money laundering.
A slew of major media outlets including the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal and CNN reported on a speech that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney gave on May 31 in front of the shuttered offices of Solyndra, the California-based solar panel manufacturer that went bankrupt after taking a $535 million loan from the U.S. Department of Energy — but they all failed to check on whether what Romney said in his speech was true. Referring to Solyndra’s government loan, Romney said, “An independent inspector general looked at this investment and concluded that the [Obama] administration had steered money to friends & family, to campaign contributors. This building — the half a billion dollar taxpayer investment — represents a serious conflict of interest on the part of the President and his team. It’s also a symbol of how the President thinks about free enterprise. Free enterprise to the President means taking money form the taxpayers and giving it freely to his friends.” But Romney’s statements are a bald-faced, easily-verifiable lie and it took days for the major media covering the speech to fact-check Romney’s statements after media watchdogs called them out.
The retail giant Wal-Mart is joining other big businesses in ending its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the conservative corporate bill mill that helps spread “shoot first” laws like the one linked to the killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. In a letter to ALEC, Wal-Mart Vice President Maggi Sans wrote, “Previously, we expressed our concerns about ALEC’s decision to weigh in on issues that stray from its core mission ‘to advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets’” Sans said. “We feel that the divide between these activities and our purpose as a business has become too wide. To that end, we are suspending our membership in ALEC.” Other large corporations that have already left the organization include Coca Cola, Pepsi, Kraft Foods, Intuit and others.
Under the guise of preventing voter fraud — a virtually nonexistent problem in Florida — the state of Florida is demanding tens of thousands of American citizens provide proof of citizenship to the state in person or lose their right to vote. Acting on a directive from Governor Rick Scott, Florida’s secretary of state sent letters to 180,000 voters to be stricken from the voter rolls unless they prove to the state that they are, in fact, citizens. Recipients were told they must attend an administrative hearing in person to provide proof of their citizenship. The list includes many people falsely flagged as non-citizens, including 91 year-old Bill Internicola, a World War II veteran who won a Bronze Star for bravery, and Maureen Russo, a 60 year old business owner who has been a registered voter in Florida for 40 years. ThinkProgress estimates that more than 20 percent of the voters flagged as non-citizens in Florida are actually full-fledged citizens. The massive purge of voters by Florida’s Republican administration comes at a time very close to the impending general election this fall, giving falsely-accused voters minimal time to correct the records. The purge also disproportionally affects Democrats. Two thirds of the supposed non-citizens on the purge list live in Miami-Dade County, which leans heavily Democratic. In response to information that legitimate citizens are being targeted for purging from the voter rolls, Gov. Scott defiantly vowed to intensify his efforts to remove voters from the rolls.
The retail internet behemoth Amazon.com announced it would cut its ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) after activist groups delivered a petition signed by over a half million people asking the company to ditch the conservative organization. The petitions were delivered at Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting in Seattle, Washington. They filled seven bankers’ boxes, and were collected by ColorOfChange.org, People for the American Way, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and other progressive groups. Amazon.com joined ALEC in 2011, and worked with them on tax issues. Amazon spokeswoman Mary Osako stated that “…[W]e’ve decided not to renew our participation in ALEC, in part because of positions that group took on issues unrelated to our business.” She did not say what the issues were. At the meeting, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos also promised to spend $52 million to improve working conditions at its warehouse facilities, including retrofitting them with air conditioning. ALEC is the legislative bill mill implicated in spreading legislation like the “shoot first” law that led to the Trayvon Martin case, voter ID laws that block people’s access to the ballot box, school voucher bills that direct taxpayer money to private and religious schools, and other controversial legislation that has been sweeping the country state by state.
Nurses led a rally in Chicago May 18 ahead the NATO summit to boost the idea of instituting a “Robin Hood Tax,” a tiny tax on financial institutions’ transactions that would be used to offset drastic cuts in education and social services, and provide health care to Americans. Also called a Financial Speculation Tax, the tax has the support of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, as well as President Hollande of France, Chancellor Merkel of Germany, Prime Minister Zapatero of Spain and other world leaders, as well as Nobel prize winning economists Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman. The Robin Hood Tax on bankers would be less than one-half of one percent on deals over $100, and would apply to transactions like trades in derivatives, stocks, bonds and foreign currency exchanges. The charge would total less than one half on one cent on every $100 worth of transactions. Most ordinary people worldwide would never feel it, but experts estimate it would generate hundreds of billions of dollars each year to fight poverty and support public services like education and health care. National Nurses United teamed with National Peoples’ Action and local community groups to organize the rally. The were joined by veterans, members of the Occupy Movement, unions and others. The rally was part of a “global week of action” in support of the Robin Hood tax, with rallies also happening in Europe, Africa and on Mount Fuji in Japan.
A guest post by Michele Swensen
The week prior to Senator Morgan Carroll’s May 2 introduction of SB 107 (The Fracking Safety Act) to the Senate Judiciary Committee, an oil drilling site near Windsor, Colorado, operated by Ranchers Exploration Partners based in Greeley, was issued a cease-and-desist order by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), which declared an environmental emergency. The site, located in unincorporated Larimer County above the Ridge West residential subdivision, the Poudre River and a lake, was declared a public health hazard after the drilling rig became unstable and brought up potentially toxic solid waste from the landfill upon which it was positioned. The COGCC had issued a drilling permit in September 2010, and state health officials were satisfied that the company had moved the drilling site sufficiently away from the landfill, based on a June, 2011 six-foot test drill over the site. Ranchers Exploration plans to move the drilling rig yet again to another site on the same property, ostensibly away from the old landfill.
The COGCC’s field inspection of the drilling site concluded that Ranchers Exploration failed to follow “most best management practices for drilling sites,” e.g., failing to build secondary containment for “storm water runoff, sewage, chemicals and other toxins that might flow off the drilling pad.”