The news for 6/28/18 – Kennedy retirement and the plan to subvert our democracy
There’s no doubt you’ve already read a bunch of takes on yesterday’s Supreme Court news, but here are two stories, that read together, really explain the stakes: Hours after the Janus union ban decision was released yesterday, the Kochs announced a campaign (prepared very much in advance) to further silence the voices of working Americans. Hours after that, the Kochs announced a seven-figure commitment to making sure a justice like Neil Gorsuch–who sided against workers in this case and a fair democracy in others this term–gets nominated to replace Justice Kennedy (that’s in addition to this ad campaign another group already started).
In her Janus dissent, Justice Kagan wrote, “The First Amendment was meant for better things. It was meant not to undermine but to protect democratic governance—including over the role of public-sector unions.”
The Kochs–with the rest of the wealthy, overwhelmingly white donor class and the wealthy white politicians they support–know the key to maintaining power in an increasingly diverse and unequal country is to silence the voices of people that don’t look like them. They can’t win in a fair fight, so they make sure the fight’s not fair–whether that’s making it harder to vote, keeping workers from coming together to advocate for themselves, getting rid of commonsense campaign finance limits, or gerrymandering communities of color out of political representation.
As Demos said in its statement yesterday, “More broadly, Supreme Court rulings have shaped an electoral process in which the strength of our voices depends upon the size of our wallets—by gutting protections against big money in political campaigns, and for our freedom to vote.”
Americans deserve a justice who understands the Constitution protects all of us, not just the wealthy and powerful. None of the nominees on Trump’s “wishlist” meet that criteria or will have the fair-minded independence necessary for such a position. Indeed, they’re on the list precisely because they meet an opposite standard — a desire to consider further restricting the ability of people who are not wealthy from having a say in our elections and our economy. No Senator should support such a nominee.
Sen. Chris Murphy gets it: “Let’s call it like it is: the Supreme Court is turning itself into a political arm of the Republican Party. Weakening organized labor, upholding GOP gerrymandering, gutting voting rights laws.”
It’s important that Americans demand not just to be heard in this fight now, but a rewriting of rules to ensure that we strengthen our democracy not further weaken it. The nomination fight coming up is a piece of a larger struggle and win or or lose, that struggle will continue.
Ugh: “Meanwhile, the federal government agency tasked with protecting U.S. elections from foreign meddling struggled on Wednesday to even agree on narrow rules governing the size and format of certain disclaimers on digital political ads.”
“The federal prosecutor who has led the investigation into former Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) for more than three years is officially off the criminal corruption case, just as it appears to be finally heading for trial.”
This is good, read this story on an important trend this year: “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made rejecting corporate donations a centerpiece of her winning campaign to unseat a top House Democrat. But the message isn’t just resonating in liberal areas like New York City — it also worked for Conor Lamb.”
Great piece from Zach Carter on Ocasio-Cortez’s victory: “People listen to such fatalism because money really does matter in elections. If it didn’t, the richest and most powerful people in the world wouldn’t keep dumping fortunes into the political process. But not every district is the same. In districts and states where the Democratic Party holds an overwhelming advantage, the power of ideas can indeed overcome the power of money. Ocasio-Cortez just proved it.”
Thirty six homes in a Florida community are up in flames after a prescribed burn by a vendor hired by the state’s Fish and Wildlife Commission went wrong. This story notes that Rick Scott’s appointments to that commission, who had no wildlife commission, donated to his campaigns: “In his two campaigns for governor, Scott received more than $25,000 from five board appointees including $13,000 in two checks from Commissioner Robert Spottswood.”
CAP’s Seth Hanlon has this piece on the 2017 tax bill, a “product of Washington’s culture of corruption under Republican control.”
Come on: “President Donald Trump’s nominee to run the Internal Revenue Service owns real estate in a Trump-branded property in Hawaii, according to a Senate staff memo.”
“A Democratic Super PAC on Wednesday launched a multi-million dollar ad campaign targeting Republicans in a dozen battleground House seats, a major early investment in what is expected to be an expensive and fiercely fought midterm election.”
Today, Speaker Paul Ryan will attend a fundraiser for the man he hopes will replace him in Congress.
While the president’s former campaign manager was working withouthy pay, he was being floated $10 million by an oligarch from a hostile foreign country that interfered in our elections: “In an affidavit attached to the July 2017 application, an FBI agent said he had reviewed tax returns for a company controlled by Manafort and his wife that showed a $10 million loan from a Russian lender identified as Oleg Deripaska.”
T-Mobile CEO John Legere, who has a merger pending that needs government approval, keeps hanging out at Trump’s DC hotel.
“A new complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) urges the commission to investigate a string of revelations regarding the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) ties to sanctioned Russian officials, as well as the gun lobby’s shifting answers about just how much money it received from Russian nationals.”
LOL: “Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has deleted a photo of himself wearing socks with President Donald Trump’s face and the slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ after multiple groups said he was violating federal law.”
Scott Pruitt, embroiled in scandal, is retaliating against aides who spoke honestly about his abuse of power.
And, in a point of personal privilege, I’d just lift up that today is the 49th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, led by trans women of color who stood up and fought for their lives. Because of their courage, and so many after them, people like me can live honestly and completely. Earlier this year, as part of its “overlooked” obituary series, the Times wrote one for Marsha P. Johnson. Give it a read.
State lawmakers in Maine are still playing games with Clean Elections–trying to change the rules in the middle of the election–but, “The State Ethics Commission has crafted a short-term fix to sidestep a political logjam that is keeping public campaign financing from reaching candidates. But the commission, which administers these public funds under the Clean Elections Act, says lawmakers will have to address the larger problem in order to avoid possible legal challenges.”
“The Hotze brothers are fighting in Harris County civil court over the operation of a family business. If campaign contributions make any difference, one brother, Steven, a controversial and high-profile Republican standard-bearer, might have the upper hand. Hotze’s new attorney in the case is John Zavitsanos. He is a successful trial lawyer and also a prolific campaign donor to Judge Fredericka Phillips, who is hearing the case.”
Interesting story on a couple of West Virginia teachers who started a small-donor funded PAC: “During the thick of the statewide protests, Matt Stead and Don Scalise founded the Future of 55 political action committee as a means for educators and their supporters to put their money where their mouth is in the ongoing pursuit of better pay, benefits and policy for the state’s school employees.”
In Colorado, “Marijuana businesses, law firms, consultants and trade organizations spent at least $720,000 on lobbyists during the 2018 legislative session that ran through May 9, according to an analysis by The Gazette.”