Working America organizers and members were among those pounding the pavement, showing up with clipboards at everywhere from zoos to parades to Cleveland Indians games, talking to Ohioans about how a fair district amendment would make politicians more accountable to their constituents.
It was a close call. On the first July 3 deadline, Voters First turned in an initial batch of 450,000 signatures – only 385,000 were required. Unfortunately, a review from the Secretary of State’s office invalidated nearly half of the signatures.
Things looked bleak, but organizers and volunteers put the pedal to the metal to gather an additional 300,904 signatures before the final July 29 deadline. With 750,000 in, there’s a strong chance that the initiative will clear the threshold and Ohio will get to make their voice heard on adding a Fair Districts amendment to the state constitution.
This effort wasn’t backed by a political party, or by an influx of SuperPAC dollars. It was powered by citizens like Mary Ann from Cleveland, who attended or helped organize 12 signature gathering events. It was built by Nancy in Painesville, who redoubled her efforts after the initial July 3 disappointment and helped push the initiative over the edge. It was supported by Sylvia, another Clevelander who hosted meetings in her home to get her friends and neighbors involved.
All the volunteers who showed up at Farmers Markets, drive-thrus, grocery stores, libraries, and sports games with petitions in hand helped make this happen.
We’ll keep you updated as the signatures move through the approval process. Until then, a hearty congratulations to Voters First, the League of Women Voters, Mary Ann, Nancy, Sylvia, and the rest of the great team that is fighting to give power back to the people.
A second judge issued a permanent injunction for Act 23, Wisconsin’s voter suppression law, ensuring that the policy will not be in effect for the General Election in November. If left unchecked, Act 23 would have remained one of the most restrictive voting laws in the country.
Dane County Circuit Court Judge David Flanagan ruled the law unconstitutional on Tuesday, saying that the requirement to show specific state-issued photo ID in order to vote creates a “substantial impairment to the right to vote.”
Kenneth Mayer, a political scientist for University of Wisconsin-Madison, estimated that 301,000 Wisconsinites do not have the ID that Act 23 requires voters to show at the polls. This law could have effectively disenfranchised 9.3 percent of registered voters in the state, including:
17 percent of white men and women
55 percent of African-American men and 49 percent of African-American women
46 percent of Hispanic men and 59 percent of Hispanic women
78 percent of African-American men age 18-24 and 66 percent of African-American women age 18-24
Act 23 was in effect for one Wisconsin election: the presidential primaries in February. It was during that election that Gil Paar, an Air Force veteran from Racine, was not allowed to use his VA card as sufficient ID:
Judge Flanagan is following up on a temporary injunction he issued in March, an action he took because according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel “the plaintiffs – the Milwaukee branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera – were likely to succeed in their arguments.” Another judge, Richard Niess, also issued a permanent injunction in March.
We are incredibly grateful to the efforts of advocates like the NAACP and Voces de la Frontera for creating the conditions for this judicious action to protect the voting rights of Wisconsinites. In other states, groups like the League of Women Voters, ACLU, and our brothers and sisters in the AFL-CIO are engaged in legal and advocacy battles to restore the rights threatened by the coordinated, nationwide, corporate-backed, GOP-lead War on Voting.
The huge export of American jobs (some 6 million manufacturing jobs in the past decade) by U.S. corporations has become a focal point of the presidential campaign. Today, a new report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) outlines how Republican Mitt Romney’s proposals would “encourage and further accelerate the outsourcing of American jobs to foreign countries.”
While today’s current corporate tax laws offer tax incentives to firms that move jobs overseas, companies still face some U.S. tax obligations on their foreign profits. But Romney’s proposal would completely exempt all overseas profits by American companies from U.S. taxes. That would, writes Seth Hanlon, CAP’s director of fiscal reform, “exacerbate the worst features of our current tax system.” Romney’s tax-free scheme would:
Enhance the tax code’s rewards for moving jobs and investments overseas;
Provide a gratuitous windfall to some of the very companies that have already shifted jobs and profits overseas; and
Further invite the offshore tax haven abuse that deprives the U.S. Treasury of tens of billions of dollars in revenue every year.
What are we talking about in windfall dollars? According to Hanlon, exempting overseas profits from tax would provide a tax cut for multinational corporations of $130 billion over 10 years. When combined with Romney’s proposal to slash the top corporate rate from 35 percent to 25 percent, which would cost more than $900 billion, it pushes the total corporate tax cuts in the Romney plan to more than $1 trillion.
Romney claims that U.S. firms would use the $1 trillion tax cut to create jobs in the United States. That’s either a naive and Pollyannaish view of corporate commitment or a cynical campaign lie. My bet’s on the latter. Here’s what Hanlon has to say.
His theory is based on the flawed belief that some of the world’s largest corporations would invest more in the United States if only they had more cash at their disposal. Yet large corporations already are holding onto near-record levels of cash—$1.7 trillion at the end of 2011—and are also able to borrow at historically low rates. Given a windfall tax cut on their foreign earnings, they are likely simply to buy back shares or pay dividends to investors.
There’s precedent for that prediction. That’s exactly what happened, says Hanlon, when Congress enacted a one-time “tax holiday” for foreign profits in 2004:
Corporations used the tax-amnestied profits for share buybacks and dividend payouts rather than investment or job creation in the United States. Many corporations claiming the tax break actually shed jobs.
The report also deals with other corporate-friendly aspects of the current tax code and how Romney’s plan would make them even friendlier (click here for the full report). In addition, it contrasts President Obama’s agenda—including the Bring Jobs Home Act—on corporate taxes to Romney’s tax swag bag for corporations. Obama proposes:
A minimum tax on corporate profits to ensure that multinational corporations cannot avoid taxes by exploiting tax havens;
Curtailing tax deductions that subsidize foreign investment; and
Denying deductions for expenses associated with outsourcing jobs abroad while providing a 20 percent credit for “insourcing.”
President Obama’s international tax plan and that of his presidential rival Romney offer a clear contrast. By exempting the foreign profits of U.S. corporations from U.S. tax, Romney’s plan would reward and potentially accelerate the shift of jobs and profits overseas. President Obama’s plan, by contrast, helps level the playing field for job creation here at home.
One of my other identities is Alec Dubro, Policy Analyst, a fancy way of saying telecommunications blogger for Speed Matters. Last March I posted Telecoms quietly waging war on the right to a phone, which detailed the stealthy, but amazingly successful, lobbying campaign that AT&T and Verizon have been waging in statehouses across the country to end public regulation of landline phones.
Did you know that in at least four states you no longer have the right to have a phone installed in your house? And that number will grow.
Yesterday, we noted a report that detailed the extent of these lobbying efforts. Twenty states have ended or limited conditions on carriers, and 14 more states are considering it. The reason for this wave of deregulation, wrote professor and technology expert Susan Crawford, is changing technology, money and a lack of political resistance.
“…the phone companies,” said Crawford in Wired, “seeing how expensive it would be to upgrade their networks to fiber, are fleeing their copper wires and focusing entirely on wireless access – leaving the wired field almost entirely to essentially unregulated cable companies.”
So, rather than invest in American and improve landlines – which carry not just telephone, but broadband and TV – AT&T and Verizon have chosen to evade any civic responsibility. This hits rural America particularly hard, especially in areas where wireless is spotty and broadband speeds are already low.
And guess who’s helping AT&T and Verizon bulldoze their way through state legislatures? Why, my evil namesake and nemesis, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the tool of the right wing and the Koch Brothers.
For instance, in California, AT&T are pushing S.B. 1611 which, among other things, seeks to eliminate a provision of the California Code which ensures, “our universal service commitment by assuring the continued affordability and widespread availability of high-quality telecommunications services to all Californians.” In other words, if they don’t want to sell you a phone line – because you’re too remote, or live in a dodgy neighborhood – they don’t have to.
California does, of course, have a progressive tradition, but AT&T and ALEC are fighting hard. According to one pro-consumer blog, “there are at least 120 AT&T lobbyists working in the state capital Sacramento, one for every California lawmaker.” Plus, the bill’s chief sponsor is Rep. Alex Padilla (D-20th Senate District), who “has received more contributions from AT&T than from any other corporation in both the 2006 and 2010 elections.”
ALEC has distributed similar legislation around the country, and three bills appeared in the Northeastern states of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. But, as Alternet reported:
“…a coalition, including the Communications Workers of America (CWA), the Working Families party, and the AARP managed to stop the bills, which would’ve resulted in cost hikes, lost jobs, and service cut-offs for “less profitable” customers—disproportionately senior, rural, or low-income customers who use basic phone service.”
So, if you want to keep that phone – or at least if you want your parents to keep it – spread the word and fight AT&T, Verizon and ALEC. (The other ALEC, not me.)
One out of every eleven Pennsylvanians may have lost their right to vote. In the city of Philadelphia, that’s closer to one in five.
The new voter-suppression law that Pennsylvania’s legislature recently passed might mean that as many as 758,000 registered voters could get turned away at the polls. That’s more than the margin in the last presidential election, the last Senate election, the last gubernatorial election and the last race for state Attorney General. And the law hits the poorer families, seniors, college students and racial minorities the hardest, tilting the political balance away from them. And the new law isn’t the only thing standing between Pennsylvanians and their right to vote, reports Eric Andrew-Gee at the New Republic:
…It’s worth noting that Pennsylvania Republicans are not only making it harder for poor, black registered voters from casting their ballots—they’re also trying to make it harder to register in the first place. According to a lawsuit by two progressive non-profits, the state government has not been giving out voter registration forms at public assistance centers of late, in contravention of federal law. The evidence is troubling: in 1995 and 1996, public assistance centers got 59,462 voter registration applications. In 2009 and 2010, they got just 4,179.
No wonder state Rep. Mike Turzai, the Republican majority leader in the state House, recently bragged about the power of the voter-suppression laws he supported in front of the state’s Republican party committee.
Pennsylvania is just one part of a nationwide push to limit who can register and vote. Through a variety of methods, state legislators have made it a project to pull the ladder up after themselves and make it harder for people to participate in the democratic process. Just look at the shoddy voter purge in Florida for a perfect example: the state, under the guidance of Gov. Rick Scott, tried to knock 180,000 registered voters off the voter rolls, putting the burden on them to prove that they’re actually eligible. The attempted purge hit plenty of eligible voters, and disproportionately affected Latino voters. The state is finally releasing the names of the people it tried to remove. Florida and many other states have proven themselves incapable of actually dealing with the repercussions of laws and policies they’ve passed. (And yet Colorado and other states have political leaders rushing to follow in Florida’s footsteps.)
The sick thing about this is that this isn’t just about the people who should be eligible to vote, but who the law bars from the polls. It’s about making it more difficult and onerous to take part in the process by which we pick our leaders. In short, it’s another factor in the demoralization strategy.
Efforts to reduce (or enlarge) the electorate may be very important even if they don’t change a presidential election. There are thousands of important elections in the United States, and turning over even a single Senate seat can be critical for national policy, just as turning over a state legislative chamber (or even a few seats) might be important for state policy, or a city council election or school board race can be for local policy… on a more basic level, it’s critical for democracy: a polity just isn’t very democratic if it disenfranchises large portions of its population.
Hewlett Packard, CVS Caremark, John Deere, MillerCoors, and BestBuy made the decision to end their association with the secretive organization as more of their political activities have come to light. ALEC, which produces “model bills” to promote corporate interests nationwide, was involved in the creation of Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB 1070, Scott Walker’s union-busting budget in Wisconsin, education privatization in Pennsylvania, and most infamously the Florida so-called “Stand Your Ground” gun law.
And those are just the tip of the iceberg. ALEC has operated nearly unchecked for almost 40 years. Its current membership includes hundreds of state legislators, and prominent alumni include dozens of members of Congress, from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to Vice Presidential-hopeful Senator Marco Rubio.
Whatever issue you care about, from health care and consumer protections to voting rights and the environment, ALEC has produced and passed a piece of legislation that impacts your life and your work – usually for the worse. And consumers aren’t standing for it anymore.
“Over the last few weeks, we have closely followed the issues surrounding the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and have heard from numerous stakeholders expressing their views,” wrote CVS Caremark Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Larry Burton in an email to ColorOfChange staff, “As a result, after careful consideration of the available information, CVS Caremark has discontinued its membership in ALEC.”
Despite these recent gains, ALEC membership still includes some of the world’s most powerful corporations, including Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, Pfizer, State Farm, AT&T, and Altria (formerly Philip Morris). Legislators from every state in the country remain ALEC members and continue to push legislation developed specifically to advance corporate interests. But the more the public knows, the less they like about ALEC, and the less tolerance they have for its twisted vision of democracy.
I’ve spent the last month collecting these signatures, and I’m going to keep collecting to ensure that we have enough valid signatures. After all, this little-known initiative could be the most crucial item Ohioans vote on this fall.
The current system for redistricting in Ohio allows for blatant gerrymandering – a term for drawing districts that make sense for politicians maintaining power, but not for citizens. The most recent redrawing of district lines, really pointed out to me the need to have an independent commission be in charge of the process. Districts need to be competitive and they must keep communities together. To redistrict for political reasons is not fair to Ohioans.
That’s why I spent the last month circulating petitions every chance I got: I went to an art festival, stood outside a local freestanding Farmer’s Market, talked with folks heading to a Cleveland Indians game, worked the line outside an event for President Obama, and attended the Cleveland Pride Parade, each time armed with a smile and plenty of petitions.
In particular, my time at the Indians game and the market stand out to me. Not only do I love being out and about in the city, admiring its attractions, but I also appreciated the chance to bring this issue to everyday people who were eager to sign. Meshing the opportunity to talk about this redistricting initiative with the chance to experience my favorite things of Cleveland was priceless.
At each event, people offered an overwhelmingly positive response to this effort. Folks are happy to sign the petition – just taking a few moments to explain it to them is so worthwhile – and are looking forward to voting for it in November. Moreover, they are grateful for the chance to be a part of changing the redistricting process. I also spoke with a couple members from the League of Women Voters who mentioned they had been working on this issue for years, and who expressed appreciation that we are helping with this effort.
I know how they feel – I am so thankful to be part of this campaign, too. Even when folks don’t want to sign (which doesn’t happen often), I’m glad that I have the opportunity to at least educate them about this issue. I enjoy feeling part of something larger than myself, especially when that something – redistricting – is critical for the future of Ohio.
The icing on the cake was a meeting at the home of fellow activist Sylvia with other Working America members who had also been circulating petitions in other parts of the city. I was inspired to know that I’m not alone, and I was astonished by all the good people taking action for a change in the redistricting process. Their energy sustains me and makes me hopeful.
I am incredibly grateful that the canvasser from Working America came to the door a few months back. Signing up as a member and getting more involved has given me a wonderful feeling of being a citizen and engaging in democracy. This redistricting effort is multiplying that feeling tenfold. We can’t stop until we get this on the November ballot, and then we will definitely make sure it passes.
Please join me in this campaign! Contact Stephanie at 216-781-3032 or email@example.com if you’d like to sign a petition or circulate your own.
The Republican-backed, corporate-funded war on voting rights took a hit today in Michigan. Governor Rick Snyder vetoed three voter suppression bills that had been passed by both houses of the legislature. His justification? He didn’t want to disenfranchise, even accidentally, any Michigan citizens.
The bills were:
House Bill 5061 – Requiring photo ID for first voter registration or to obtain an absentee ballot. Progressive and civil rights activists strongly opposed this bill as a way to disenfranchise low-income and minority prospective voters. “I am concerned (the bill) could create voter confusion among absentee voters,” Snyder said.
Senate Bill 754 – Instituting severe limits on third-party groups that want to register voters, like the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote. The measure is similar to one in Florida that was blocked by a federal judge.
Senate Bill 803 – Requiring residents to check off a box on their ballot affirming that they are U.S. citizens.
Karla Swift, the President of the Michigan State AFL-CIO and fellow critic of Snyder said in a statement:
Governor Snyder did the right thing today by vetoing a controversial package of laws designed to make access to the ballot box more difficult. This is a great day for all Michigan voters, and the labor movement commends the governor for standing up to extremists in his own party.
This is a dramatic departure from the policies of many of Snyder’s colleagues. Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan, Rick Scott of Florida, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania and several others were all elected in the Tea Party wave of 2010, and on many issues have acted with near coordination. Walker and his radical legislature passed a voter ID bill that is currently legally enjoined, and Scott’s voter purge in Florida and practical expulsion of voter registration groups has attracted widespread criticism. Many of these bills have been influenced or supported by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and its member legislators (that is certainly the case in Pennsylvania). Governors and their allies are using easily disproven myths to justify these reactionary laws, passing them in state after state with little media attention.
So why is Snyder, a Republican governor in a state with top-down Republican control of state government, vetoing these bills?
Let’s get one thing clear: while we’re pleased with this particular action, this does not absolve Gov. Snyder of instituting other regressive, anti-worker, anti-democratic policies. This does not make him a “moderate” – we’re still talking about the man behind Public Act 4, the emergency financial manager law that allows the governor to effectively abolish local government and public contracts as he sees fit. The measure was just used to impose (not negotiate) an unfavorable contract on Detroit public school teachers.
But it does mean that the voter suppression issue has been exposed and made public such that Snyder – a consummate politician – didn’t want to be associated with it. And even as we fight Snyder and hits allies for Michiganders’ right to bargain collectively and control their own local governments, the crack in the Republican front in the war on voting rights is a victory unto itself.
Working America member Mary Karscig from Shaler, Pennsylvania, is fed up with the Corbett agenda. Since he arrived in office, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has used his post to make deep, painful budget cuts, including a nearly $900 million cut to public education, while leaving loopholes and corporate handouts intact.
In Pennsylvania, 70 percent of corporations pay no income tax thanks in part to the “Delaware tax loophole,” which allows those corporations to set up headquarters in Delaware, which has different tax laws. Oftentimes this headquarters are nothing more than a P.O. box, or a building smaller than a supermarket. The Delaware loophole and other loopholes cost Pennsylvanians $4.4 billion last year.
Mary understands that it isn’t rocket science: why do average Pennsylvanians pay their fair share only to see their school budgets slashed, while companies can legally shirk their responsibility – and with the Governor’s blessing, no less? Her letter to the editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Close the loophole,” is below:
Pennsylvania schools and social services can be helped by collecting taxes from corporations currently sliding by in the Delaware loophole. Although corporations are subject to a corporate net income tax, 71 percent of corporations in Pennsylvania pay no tax to Pennsylvania. Why? Because many corporations establish their “home office” in Delaware, a state whose tax laws require no tax payment to other states. Such home offices often equate to a post office box or file drawer. Is it legal? Yes. Is it fair? No!
These corporations often pay lower taxes than a family making approximately $36,000 a year pays. What will happen when the middle class is wiped out and no tax base exists? We must genuinely close the Delaware loophole now; collect the taxes owed to Pennsylvania; and restore funding to health care, social services and education. This will provide jobs for many people, including people like my son who could not find a job in education and returned to school to earn his master’s degree in education. He is now overwhelmed with student loan debt.
To aid our schools and essential social services and to preserve accompanying jobs, everyone needs to pay his or her fair share, not just the middle class.
The computer company Dell has become the latest corporation to end their affiliation with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the shadowy organization that creates “model bills” to further corporate agendas.
After nearly 40 years of operation, the true nature of ALEC has become exposed to the public more recently due in part to its involvement in controversial legislation like Wisconsin’s union-busting Act 10, Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB 1070, and Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” la.. Groups including Common Cause, Progress Now, Color of Change, the Center for Media and Democracy, and various unions have been increasingly vocal in their calls for corporations and legislators alike to disaffiliate with ALEC.
Dell is the 21st corporation to end its affiliation, following Johnson & Johnson last week. Four non-profit groups like the Gates Foundation and 55 elected officials have left the group in the last year.
Some major corporations like AT&T and State Farm have not budged from ALEC despite pressure. NewsCorp, the parent company of Fox News, also remains a member.
To learn more about the American Legislative Exchange Council, check out ALECExposed.org, or follow #alecexposed on Twitter. Our good friend, Alec Dubro, “the Real Alec,” will be doing coverage of ALEC for the Main Street Blog.