Grand Junction citizens march and protest outside the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce
The fortunes of the Grand Junction Colorado Area Chamber of Commerce are sinking this week alongside those of embattled councilman-elect Rick Brainard, an executive at West Star Aviation in Grand Junction, who faces criminal charges for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend during a domestic altercation April 6. Grand Junction Police arrested and charged Mr. Brainard just four days after he won election to the Grand Junction City Council. Appalled citizens have been marching, chanting, holding rallies and organizing phone banks to protest Mr. Brainard assuming his seat on Council. This week outraged citizens picketed the G.J. Chamber, which continues to stand steadfastly behind Mr. Brainard. Just days ago, Mr. Brainard resigned from the Chamber’s board, but the Chamber still backs him. Adding to the Chamber’s woes, this week, the City of Grand Junction voted to yank its $6,000 membership in the Chamber, saying the Chamber has changed from an economic development organization into an overtly political group. As if losing the City’s lucrative membership and being targeted with loud protests by Grand Junction citizens wasn’t enough, this week thieves targeted the Chamber stealing a number of copper backflow devices said to be valued at thousands of dollars. To top it all off, an alternative Chamber of Commerce announced its debut this week in town: the Western Colorado Latino Chamber of Commerce, with dues that are a fraction of the GJ Chamber’s dues, making the Latino Chamber far more accessible to smaller businesses.
Additional coverage: The Daily Sentinel publishes audio of calls from citizens to City Council over the Brainard issue
Photo credit: KREX-TV, Grand Junction
The saga of embattled city councilman-elect Rick Brainard continues to unfold in Grand Junction, Colorado as citizens continue to pressure Brainard to resign his seat on City Council. Brainard, 51, won election to the Grand Junction City Council on April 2, but on April 6 was arrested on charges of third degree assault and harassment after admitting to hitting his live-in girlfriend in the face in a domestic dispute. Brainard said in a police affidavit that he struck his girlfriend because she “needed to shut her mouth.” His remarks have drawn the ire of the community. Most of the sitting city council members signed a resolution calling on Mr. Brainard to resign his seat. The local paper, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, endorsed Brainard prior to his election, but rescinded its endorsement and published an editorial calling on him to reject his seat on Council. The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce also endorsed Brainard for office, but has so far refused to pull their support for him, saying he is “entitled to due process.” Brainard served on the Chamber’s board. Mr. Brainard so far has vowed to take his seat on Council despite the furor. He is scheduled to be sworn into office on May 6, coincidentally the same day that he is supposed to make his first court appearance in his assault case.
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Voter ID wasn’t enough; Republicans still tinkering with election processes to disadvantage voters on the other side
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 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.
Source: Palm Beach Post, November 25, 2012
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.
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.
Romney speaks to crowd in Defiance, Ohio (from YouTube)
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.”
Philosopher and author Ayn Rand in 1957 (Source: Wikipedia)
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.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 28, 2012
Jovan Melton, Democratic candidate for CO House, rejected PAC money and won
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.
An NBC investigative team has exposed historical and financial ties between many of the supposedly independent groups actively opposing Proposition 29, a measure to increase California’s tobacco tax by $1.00 per pack, and the tobacco industry. Collectively, groups against the measure have spent $46.7 million so far — over four times more than the amount spent by groups supporting the measure. Much of the money to oppose the measure came from cigarette makers Reynolds American and Philip Morris, laundered through groups that are seemingly independent from the industry, like Americans for Tax Reform, the Small Business Action Committee and the California Taxpayers’ Association. Tobacco industry documents now available on the Internet reveal these groups have historically received significant financial support from Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds and the Tobacco Institute. Political analyst Larry Gerston commented, “These kinds of transfers of money increasingly take place under a very dark shadow.” The strategy of burying tobacco industry involvement in ballot measure campaigns is revealed in a 1998 proposal by a political consulting group that worked for the Tobacco Institute on another cigarette tax fight.
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U.S. District Court Judge Amy Jackson, Washington, D.C.
A District Court in Washington, D.C, ruled (pdf) earlier this month that it is illegal for groups to keep secret who funds their political attack ads. At the heart of the case was a regulation promulgated by the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) in December of 2007 that required disclosure of the names and addresses funders who donate $1,000 or more to organizations for electioneering communications. But the FEC, in interpreting the law, deferred to the argument that keeping track of such donations would inordinately burden corporations. In attempting to clarify the law, the FEC created a huge loophole by promulgating a follow-up rule that allowed groups to circumvent disclosure provisions required by campaign finance laws, like the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, and the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling. The disclosure provisions in Citizens United have largely been overlooked. In Citizens United, justices wrote that “the public has an interest in knowing who is speaking about a candidate shortly before an election,” and “transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.” U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Jr. (D-Maryland) challenged FEC’s loophole in a lawsuit brought against the FEC in 2011.
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