Category Archives: Congress

On Ignoring Trump’s Tweets – Time to Attack GOP’s Bad Policy Proposals

It’s time for Democrats and others who do not support Trump’s proposed agenda and that of the GOP that now controls Congress, to start talking about the issues facing our country. Many of the programs and laws that progressives have put in place to help people and make America a better place to live are now  under threat of being reversed and lost.

It’s time to stop responding to Trump’s inane and diversionary tweets (and other comments) as Jack Shafer on Politico writes in a post entitled “Stop Being Trump’s Twitter Fool” As Shafer says:

“By this time you’d expect that people would have figured out when Donald Trump is yanking their chain and pay him the same mind they do phone calls tagged “Out of Area” by Caller ID. But, no. Like Pavlov’s dog, too many of us leap to object or correct the president-elect whenever he composes a deliberately provocative tweet …”

It’s time to refocus on America and protecting the advances made by Democrats over the years. Trump has dominated the media for the last year and a half with his reality TV show hype and rant. The media was taken in by it as well as the Democratic Party. He has snookered many Americans into voting for him based on short soundbites that says little about what he would do.

We do know however the broad outline based on years of right wing proposals in Congress and Trump seems to be in the their camp on most of these proposals. Have no doubt –  the agenda of the far right, the tea party and GOP conservatives will be advancing through Congress now with Trump winning the Presidency and Republicans controlling both the US House and US Senate. There is no sense that the Republicans will be restrained or reasonable in their moving forward. And there is no longer someone in the White House to veto their proposals.

It’s time to now aggressively go on the offense and work to change the discussion to where they are vulnerable. It’s time, for example,  to emphasize how they are threatening human health and our planet by proposing to ignore or reject the Paris Climate Agreement. We need to aggressively reduce carbon pollution, not work to produce more while enriching coal and oil companies and  generating more pollution. We need to shift to a post carbon economy.

Push them on the national minimum wage not being raised because of Republican opposition since 2009, stuck at $7.25 and no automatic adjustment for inflation. The current minimum wage is a starvation wage, not a living wage. It is an affront to human dignity and decency and Republicans should be ashamed. Push for a $15/hour minimum wage.

Talk about how cutting taxes for the wealthy like the inheritance tax and income taxes is just going to further increase income inequality. The country more and more is a plutocracy where a wealthy few are running it. Electing a so called billionaire who has used the anger of working families to get elected by offering them change he never really defined is a recipe for being hoodwinked.

Talk about how their continuing to propose to privatize medicare and social security will hurt millions of low income people. That is not caring for working families – it is merely following the agenda of those that want to extract more profit for the few at the top of medical corporations and pharmaceutical companies. Health care is a human right and should not turn wage earners into pawns to extract money from to further enrich the wealthy.

Talk about how Democratic economic policies will help working families while Trump’s are focused on helping the already wealthy 1% and corporate America.

Talk about how to educate our children, not make schools into profit machines to enrich the few by using public money for private schools and charter schools.

The change we need is to talk about the impact of his proposed policies, not his personality since we’ve seen that is not effective even if what is said is true. Talk about how Democratic polices  make life better for working families while Republican policies have been a driving force for wealth creation by the 1% at the expense of the 99%.

It’s time to move forward  by emphasizing where the GOP and Trump are  not helping working families. Do this by proposing an aggressive agenda to raise the minimum wage, push for Green jobs and protect public health and safety and welfare from corporate greed.

If Congress won’t do this then work at the state and local level to push these issues and involve the public in building  support for voting the GOP out of Congress in 2 years and replacing them with Democrats who really are working to help the people of America.

It’s time to get to work!

Will Complacency and Progressives Let Trump Win the Presidency?

Michael Moore in his comments to Bill Maher at the Republican National Convention makes a strong point. Complacency by Democrats and independents who think Trump has no chance of winning and then not voting could tip the election to Trump.

Voter turnout has been going down in our elections as voters disengage. Progressives will contribute to this problem by not voting for Hillary and continuing to dwell on her negatively rather than looking at her pluses compared to Trump.

There is no way progressives win with a Trump victory. Progressives can put pressure on Hillary and Democrats in Congress if we take back the Senate and the House. Nothing will happen positively with a Trump win and Republicans holding both houses of Congress.

Some of us have lived through numerous Republican Administrations and seen the power of the presidency. And as President  Obama has shown the President does have the power to affect a lot of things despite not controlling Congress. including Supreme Court nominations and who gets appointed to run the Government and executive orders. But a President Trump combined with a Republican House and Senate would be a wipeout for Democratic programs and American society in general, reversing decades of progressive action.

We win by being involved, not by sitting on the sidelines and complaining or disengaging. Turnout for Protest votes like Brexit have consequences. Who turns out to vote can have tremendous impacts. Younger voters were expected to vote “remain” but voted in lower numbers than older voters.

The same impact of low voter turnout by particular groups supporting Democrats happened in the US in the 2014 Senate and Governor’s race resulting in the US Senate being taken over by the Republicans. As Sam Wang noted in his post in the American Prospect entitled “One reason the Democrats Lost So Big in Midterms:Exceptionally Low Voter Turnout”:

A larger question is why voter turnout hit a new post-World War II low. Compared with 2012, the number of votes cast dropped by about 42 percent. Democrats lacked a coherent message, de-emphasized their own policies in immigration and health care, and sidelined their highest-profile messenger, Barack Obama. Instead, issues such as Ebola and ISIS dominated the news. Relative media inattention to the election may have depressed turnout more than usual. These and other factors affecting turnout are inherently difficult for pollsters to anticipate. In 2014, the Midterm Curse, which this year afflicted both pollsters and Democrats, was in all likelihood caused by exceptional voter apathy.

Lower voter turnout by Democrats  this year could help Trump become President despite lagging in the polls. Some of the reasons for lower democratic voter turnout could include:

  • Lack of a strong motivating message by Democrats that Hillary will move forward strongly on addressing issues like income inequality, increasing job creation, opposing bad trade agreements, funding educational opportunities and expanding health care for all.
  • Progressives sit on the sidelines upset because Bernie Sanders was not nominated.
  • Progressives vote for a third party candidate like Jill Stein.
  • Democrats think there is no way someone like Trump can be elected and don’t bother to vote.
  • Young voters who supported Bernie Sanders become disenchanted and don’t vote.
  • Voter suppression efforts prevent enough Democratic voters from voting in key states
  • Progressives and others believe FOX News, Roger Ailes and other right wing media that Hillary is “evil” and don’t vote.
  • Progressives and others help spread the right wing message that Hillary is “evil” and cause others to not vote.
  • Conservatives continue to believe Trump represents the middle class rather than the 1% he really represents.

There can be other reasons also but the real challenge is convincing Democrats and independents that this election is a change election and that Hillary is the change agent. Put the blame for income inequality on Republican tax policy. Lowering taxes on the wealthy as Trump proposes will only make things worse.

Not raising the minimum wage means that more people may have jobs but can’t afford basic things like food and housing in the current economy. Trump and Pence oppose raising the minimum wage. Hillary has proposed significantly raising the minimum wage to $15/hr.

Trump and the Republicans oppose acting on climate change and support continued mining of coal for producing energy. Hillary proposes shifting to green jobs and renewable energy.

Hillary has proposed overturning Citizens United with a Constitutional Amendment to help get Big Money Out of Elections while Trump has been silent on this and Republicans oppose any changes.

These and other issues point to a clear difference in the direction the country would move under their Presidency. Hillary’s positions represent a significant change from the direction Trump wants to go and that Republicans have so far prevented us from going.  Elect Hillary and boot the Republicans out of Congress and the people of America can really move forward to a better American future for all, not just the 1%. That is real change!

Senate Republican Leadership Continues to Block Electronic Filing of Campaign Finance Reports

Republicans who are in the majority in the US Senate and in the leadership continue to block electronic filing of Senate campaign finance reports required by the Federal Elections Commission (FEC). US Senate candidates only file quarterly reports. Currently the US Senate reports are the only campaign finance reports on the Federal level not filed electronically with the FEC. They are first filed in paper copies with the US Senate, copied and then transferred to the FEC. This significantly delays by 2-3 weeks or more the public and media being able to get timely reporting of campaign contributions and spending.

Democrats joined by Republicans and Independents continue to try to get the US Senate to join the computer age and file copies electronically with the FEC.  Senator Jon Tester of Montana in February 2015  filed SB 366 – the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act. Some 45 Senators have signed on to date – 32 Democrats, 11 Republicans and 2 Independents.

This is not a new issue but Majority Rules wrote about this seven years ago, including “US Senators Still Trying to Figure out Computers and the Internet ” and “An Open Letter to Senator Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell“.  Senator Cantwell has since signed onto this legislation both in this Congressional session and the previous one. Senator Patty Murray for some reason has not. She should.

The Center for Public Integrity in a 2015 post entitled “Senators resist the internet, leave voters in the dark” noted that:

In a throwback to the age of typewriters and snail mail, Senate candidate must still, by law, submit their official campaign finance reports on paper.
A bipartisan bill — known as the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act — would force Senate candidates to file digitally, just as presidential candidates, U.S. House candidates and political action committees have done for nearly a generation.
Paper campaign finance records are more difficult to analyze and aren’t readily available to the public for days after being filed. Digital records are publicly accessible and easily searchable from the moment they’re submitted to FEC officials.

Some Senators have decided to voluntarily file electronically. In the same Center for Public Integrity post it was noted that 20 Senators were listed as also filing their second quarter 2015 reports digitally -16 Democrats, 2 Republicans and 2 Independents.

As GovTrack.us notes:

These reports are important because they list how much money candidates have raised and from which individuals/sources. This transparency in turn can help reveal potential conflicts of interest and indicate which issues an incumbent or potential politician may prioritize while in office. For example, on the presidential race, these numbers have revealed which candidates rely more on Super PACs versus individual donors, or which candidates billionaires have donated to.

The Congressional Budget Office has calculated that the bill would save approximately $500,000 per year through factors such as reduced printing costs.

If your Senator is not a supporter of SB 366 urge them to do so. The public has a right to campaign finance information in a timely manner. In fact while they are at it they really should be doing monthly reporting, not quarterly. Washington State has been doing monthly disclosure by candidates for years and it helps citizens see who is supporting candidates and where money is being spent.

Federal Elections Commission dysfunctional and not doing its job

The Federal Elections Commission is clearly dysfunctional and not able to do its job. It is helping to foster public cynicism and disgust with the current political process. Comprised of two Republicans and two Democrats it is gridlocked in partisan politics and seems like a deer caught in the headlights – unable to move or respond. It’s decisions are repeated tie votes or no action.

One of the recent glaring examples is their continued non response to what are called “ghost corporations” funneling money into political campaigns and skirting public disclosure of donors and public accountability. The Washington Post in several recent articles has focused light on the issue arising out of the 2011 US Supreme Court corporate “Citizens United” decision which opened the floodgates on money in elections.

A March 11, 2016 Washington Post article entitled “How ‘ghost corporations’ are funding the 2016 election” by Matea Gold and Anu Narayanswany  outlines the situation:

“The 2016 campaign has already seen the highest rate of corporate donations since the Supreme Court unleashed such spending with its 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision.
One out of every eight dollars collected by super PACs this election cycle have come from corporate coffers, including millions flowing from opaque and hard-to-trace entities, according to a Washington Post analysis of federal campaign finance filings.
So far, 680 companies have given at least $10,000 to a super PAC this cycle, together contributing nearly $68 million through Jan. 31, The Post found. Their donations made up 12 percent of the $549 million raised by such groups, which can accept unlimited donations.

The main problem is that many of these PAC donations are untraceable and allow donors to be anonymous while making multi-million dollar donations. The ghost corporations in question making the donations  only list a corporate name and an agent, leaving the public with no idea who is trying to influence the election.

This is a reason why the US Supreme Court’s corporate Citizens United decision needs to be overturned. Sixteen states so far have urged Congress to amend the US Constitution to say that money is not free speech, corporations do not have the sames rights as people and all campaign money must be regulated and disclosed.

Washington State this November is voting on Initiative 735 to become the 17th state to urge Congress to amend the US Constitution to overturn the corporate Citizens United and othed decisions which have opened the anonymous floodgate of corporate and other dark money in elections.

Two recent cases provide clear evidence that the Federal Elections Commission is broken

Two recent decisions by the Federal Elections Commission provide clear evidence that the Commission is broken and nonfunctional just like Congress. On split partisan votes it took no action on two separate cases.

As the Washington Post reported in an article entitled, “FEC deadlocked on allegations that Gingrich used 2012 campaign to sell books“:

“Former House speaker Newt Gingrich will not face a Federal Election Commission investigation into allegations that he broke federal law by using his 2012 presidential campaign to promote books that he and his wife wrote, documents released Friday show.

…The FEC’s top attorney recommended in 2013 that the agency investigate Gingrich, but the case languished and the six-member commission eventually deadlocked along partisan lines in June, with the three Republican commissioners voting against an inquiry.

The general counsel’s initial review found evidence of seven violations of campaign finance laws, the FEC documents show. Among the findings: Gingrich’s campaign staff and the employees of his production company at times swapped duties as the then-candidate was holding concurrent campaign rallies and book-signing events….

The general counsel also found evidence that the campaign’s resources benefited Gingrich personally, noting that his campaign website included more than 80 links to the Gingrich Productions website, along with blog entries promoting book signings and movie screenings. Many of the links went to pages urging supporters to buy books written by Newt and Callista Gingrich.”

The second case also was decided on a split partisan vote, meaning no action was taken on what clearly appeared to be political action and avoidance of reporting of campaign donations. As the Washington Post reported “How a film about Obama’s communist ‘real father’ won at the FEC “ was also won because of a partisan split. It is a revisit of the Hillary Clinton case that was decided in the so called “Citizens United” decision by the US Supreme Court which opened the floodgates on money in elections since then. The film in that case mailed also right before the election was  “Hillary:  the movie”

As the Washington Post post reported:

“Four years ago, voters in Ohio and a few other swing states opened their mailboxes to discover a documentary they’d never ordered. “Dreams From My Real Father” posited that the president of the United States was not the son of Barack Obama Sr., but of Frank Marshall Davis, a Communist activist and poet who moved to Hawaii late in life ….

In 2014, a progressive activist named Loren Collins filed a Federal Election Commission complaint against Gilbert, arguing that the filmmaker had a responsibility to disclose his donors. The FEC finally weighed in last month, and in a typical 3-3 split decision — by law, the FEC is perpetually split between Democratic and Republican commissioners — Gilbert’s DVD mailing was considered “press,” not subject to donor disclosure, comparable to any political documentary.

“With the right framing, even the most dishonest, smear-mongering attacks can skirt FEC regulations under our current regulations,” said Collins. “His mailing cost at least $1 million, and that could’ve been paid for by Mitt Romney or Donald Trump, and there’s no way to know. Taken together with [the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision], this could have very serious negative ramifications. The general counsel’s report might as well be an instruction manual on how to avoid the transparency that comes with public disclosure of financiers.”

Asking a Commission composed of partisan politicians divided evenly between Republicans and Democrats in a clearly highly charged partisan Washington DC atmosphere is a sure way to have more gridlock. If anything the decisions need to be made by those without a direct stake in a partisan outcome. Time to restructure the FEC to  enable it to make decisions. The simplest  solution is to add a fifth member chosen by the other four members. Another alternative is to remove partisan politicians  and to have the issues decided by a panel of judges. Clearly the current  system is broken.

 

Press Release – Initiative 735 Passes 254,000 Signatures, Moves Closer to Qualifying

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

Contact Gabe Meyer                                                                                              Campaign Director, WAmend
gabemeyer@wamend.org                                                                                                   or Steve Zemke
Field Director, WAmend
stevezemke@wamend.org

SEATTLE — WAmend, the sponsor of Initiative 735, announced today that supporters have now collected over 254,000 signatures to get on the 2016 ballot in Washington State. A minimum of 246,273 signatures are required by December 31st to file with the Secretary of State. WAmend is aiming to submit 320,000 signatures to cover duplicate and invalid signatures and assure success in qualifying. Continue reading

Press Release – Initiative 735 Passes 239,000 Signatures 12/1/2015

For immediate release:
For more information:
Gabe Meyer – Campaign Director
GabeMeyer@WAmend.org
Steve Zemke – State Field Director
 SteveZemke@WAmend.org
Campaign phone – 206-547-9961
Initiative 735 Passes 239,000 Signatures

 Supporters of Initiative 735 in Washington State have now collected over 239,000 signatures on Initiative 735. A minimum of 246,273 valid signatures is required to file with the Secretary of State by December 31, 2015. WAmend (Washington Coalition to Amend the Constitution), the sponsor of Initiative 735, is targeting to get 320,000 signatures to cover duplicate and invalid signatures.

Continue reading

Initiative 735 to Amend the Constitution to Overturn the Corporate “Citizens United” Decision Builds Momentum

Supporters of Washington State  Initiative 735 have now gathered over 179,000 signatures as of October 20, 2015. The minimum number of valid signatures needed to be filed with the Washington Secretary of State by December 31st, 2015 is 246,372.

The campaign target goal is to gather 320,000 signatures to cover duplicate and invalid signatures, including those who signed who are not registered voters. Two measures which made it onto the Nov 2015 ballot had invalid rates of 10% (I-1366) and 14% (I-1401). There have been other initiatives that have had as high as 20% which is why I-735 is targeting getting a minimum of 320,000 signatures.

The official ballot title and summary of I-735 as written by the Washington State Attorney General is below:

Ballot Title
Initiative Measure No. 735 concerns a proposed amendment to the federal constitution.

This measure would urge the Washington state congressional delegation to propose a federal constitutional amendment that constitutional rights belong only to individuals, not corporations, and constitutionally-protected free speech excludes the spending of money.

Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes [ ] No [ ]

Ballot Measure Summary
The measure would urge the Washington state congressional delegation to propose a federal constitutional amendment clarifying that constitutional rights belong only to individuals, not corporations; that spending money is not free speech under the First Amendment; that governments are fully empowered to regulate political contributions and expenditures to prevent undue influence; and that political contributions and expenditures must be promptly disclosed to the public. The measure would urge the legislature to ratify such an amendment.

View Complete Text PDF

Initiative 735 is an initiative to the Washington State Legislature. The Legislature according to the Secretary of State has 3 options:

“Initiatives to the Legislature, if certified, are submitted to the Legislature at its next regular session in January. Once submitted, the Legislature must take one of the following three actions:

    1. The Legislature can adopt the initiative as proposed, in which case it becomes law without a vote of the people;
    2. The Legislature can reject or refuse to act on the proposed initiative, in which case the initiative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election; or
    3. The Legislature can approve an alternative to the proposed initiative, in which case both the original proposal and the Legislature’s alternative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election.”

Supporters of I-735 expect that I-735 will not be passed by the Legislature but will go onto the November 2016  ballot. The states of Montana and Colorado have both had similar measures on the ballot which passed by 74% of the voters. Fourteen other states have passed measures by their Legislatures.

Washington is trying to be the 17th State to urge Congress to put a constitutional amendment back to the states to vote on that would overturn the corporate Citizens United decision. It takes a 2/3 vote of Congress and a 3/4 vote by the states to pass a US Constitutional amendment. It is not  easy to pass a constitutional amendment but so far there have been 27 added to the Constitution.

You can read more about the campaign and volunteer to help get signatures or make a contribution to support I-735 by going to www.WAmend.org. The initiative is using volunteer signatures gatherers and needs more help. If you want to help overturn the corporate Citizens United decision this is how you can help.

 

Volunteer Signature Gatherers are Collecting Signature for Initiative 735

A grassroots volunteer signature gathering effort is underway in Washington State for Initiative 735. Initiative 735 is sponsored by WAmend – a coalition of citizen groups working for a US constitutional to overturn Citizens United and other US Supreme Court decisions that have unleashed a flood of money by large donors and special interest groups and corporations.

WAmend is pushing tor an amendment that would declare that corporations are not people and money is not free speech under the US constitution. It wants all political donors to be disclosed and not kept secret and wants the US and states to have the power to regulate money donated in political campaigns.

Volunteers are collecting signatures in 2015 to place Initiative 735 before the Washington State Legislature next year. Valid voter signatures from  8% of those who voted in the last Governor’s race are required to qualify an initiative. That is 246,372 for this cycle.  I-735 is targeting to collect 330,000 signatures by the end of the year to cover invalid signatures, including those who sign more than once or who are not registered voters.

If the Washington State Legislature does not enact I-735 it will be placed on the Nov 2016 General Election Ballot. The Legislature can place an alternative on the ballot and voters would vote first to pass an initiative and then pick one of the two versions.

If you would like to sign the initiative you can go to the I-735 website at www.WAmend.org and request a petition be sent to you if there is not a location nearby where you can sign. You can also volunteer to join the campaign and help collect signatures. Volunteers are critical to the success of this effort and are greatly appreciated.

The official ballot title, summary and a link to the actual initiative is below:

Ballot Title
Initiative Measure No. 735 concerns a proposed amendment to the federal constitution.

This measure would urge the Washington state congressional delegation to propose a federal constitutional amendment that constitutional rights belong only to individuals, not corporations, and constitutionally-protected free speech excludes the spending of money.

Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes [ ] No [ ]

Ballot Measure Summary
The measure would urge the Washington state congressional delegation to propose a federal constitutional amendment clarifying that constitutional rights belong only to individuals, not corporations; that spending money is not free speech under the First Amendment; that governments are fully empowered to regulate political contributions and expenditures to prevent undue influence; and that political contributions and expenditures must be promptly disclosed to the public. The measure would urge the legislature to ratify such an amendment.

View Complete Text PDF

Initiative 735 is in response to the big money in our election process. Big corporations, wealthy individuals and other special interest groups through the sheer impact of possessing lots of money have the ability to dominate the electoral process in our country . Initiative 735 asks that Congress help end this dominance of the electoral process by big money by passing a resolution to the states for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and other court decisions. Three quarters of the States would need to ratify a constitutional amendment for it to be valid.

2015 Washington State Minimum Wage to Increase to $9.47/hr.

Washington State’s minimum wage will increase 15 cents on January 1, 2015 to $9.47 per hour.  Every year Washington State’s minimum wage increases based on inflation increasing the  Federal Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) over the last 12 months ending Aug. 31 of each year.  Initiative 688 passed by voters in 1998 was the first state in the nation to add the requirement that the minimum wage each year must be increased based on inflation.

The National Conference of State Legislatures  website has a list of all states and what their minimum wages will be next year. They note that nine states will have an increase based on their state laws requiring they be indexed to inflation. These state are Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, and Washington. Oregon will have the second highest state minimum wage after Washington State next year at $9.25 per hour.

The current Federal minimum wage is $7.25. Twenty nine states and the District of Columbia next year will have a higher  minimum wage than the Federal minimum wage. Attempts have been made in Congress to raise the Federal minimum  wage which is not indexed to inflation but have been rebuffed by Republicans who have taken the approach to oppose any legislation being pushed by President Obama.

The Federal minimum wage was last increased on July 24, 2009 – over five and a half years ago. The wage increase was part of passage of the Fair Labor Practices Act.  As the US Department of Labor notes “The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor standards affecting full-time and part-time workers in the private sector and in Federal, State, and local governments.”

President Obama has proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Republicans who are more concerned about supporting corporate America than working families  have repeatedly opposed such legislation. President Obama in a direct attempt to circumvent Republican’s negative approach to addressing America’s problems  like income equality hurting those on the bottom of the economic ladder, signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for those working for Federal contractors to $10.10 per hour.