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Cuomo May Face Challenge From The Left

For New York progressives, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) is Governor 1 Percent.

On economic issues, Cuomo has been no liberal Democrat. He’s cut taxes on the wealthy, sparred with New York City mayor Bill de Blasio over a minimum-wage raise, and cut funding for state education. Former NY assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D) told Vox about Cuomo: “He’s adopted the philosophical and political posture that the problem with government is overtaxing and overspending. How is that different from a Tea Party conservative?”

And now, Cuomo’s fiscal conservatism has earned him admonition from progressive groups in New York. Specifically, the New York Working Families Party (WFP), — a growing political party made up primarily of liberal activists and labor unions — will most likely nominate a candidate to challenge the governor in the November general election.

The Working Families Party will hold its convention this weekend, where it is expected to nominate its own candidate, rather than endorsing Cuomo. “Unless there is a significant new development in the next 24 hours, I don’t expect the state committee to endorse the governor,” Karen Scharff, co-chair of the WFP, told The New York Times.

Instead, the party will likely throw its support behind Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham law professor and former staffer for Howard Dean during his failed presidential bid.

Teachout told the Times about the election: “Voters in New York want a real choice, and right now, with just Astorino and Cuomo — they seem to just be fighting about who can give more tax breaks to billionaires.”

This news comes on the heels of Mayor de Blasio — a friend of WFP — lobbying the group on behalf of Governor Cuomo.  The New York Daily News reported Tuesday that de Blasio met with leaders of WFP and labor union officials to convince them Cuomo deserved their support.

Ironically, when Cuomo was first seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in 2010, he wanted nothing to do with The Working Families Party. In 2010, he urged WFP – which was under scrutiny by federal prosecutors at the time — to not nominate him as the party’s candidate.

Today, the tables have turned.

And considering just how many votes WFP can deliver to Cuomo, it’s no wonder he wants to secure the party’s nomination.

According to a recent Quinnipiac poll of New York voters, Governor Cuomo leads Republican challenger Rob Astorino by a margin of 57 percent to 28 percent. But the same poll shows that if Cuomo is matched up against Astorino and a hypothetical third candidate from the Working Families Party, the governor’s support would shrink significantly: He would receive just 37 percent, while 24 percent would favor Astorino and 22 percent would back the WFP candidate.

Nevertheless, Cuomo and his Democratic camp are confident about their chances in the general election. A Cuomo spokesman told The New York Times about the governor’s challengers on the left, “The governor just finished a Democratic convention where he was endorsed by every credible progressive official and labor leader in New York.”

Photo: Pat Arnow via Flickr

 

GOP Congressman Breaks With Party On Marriage Equality

In Pennsylvania, the tide is turning on same-sex marriage. Earlier this week, U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent (R), who represents Pennsylvania’s 15th congressional district, announced his support of same-sex marriage in a statement released by his office.

“I suspect that that view will prevail over time, so much so that I suspect that in a few decades people will look back on all this and say, ‘what was all the fuss about?’” Dent told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Dent’s announcement comes a week after U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III struck down Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage. After the decision, Governor Tom Corbett (R) — an outspoken opponent of marriage equality — declined to challenge the court’s decision.

Dent, a moderate whose district includes the city of Allentown, often breaks with the rest of the GOP. In January 2013, for example, Dent bucked the more extreme members of the Republican Party and voted to raise the debt ceiling. He has also expressed timid support for raising the federal minimum wage, as long the bill is paired with other job-creating measures (he previously voted for a minimum-wage hike in 2007).

Dent previously backed Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Law, and similar measures in Congress. But now, the congressman argues, his position on the issue has shifted to reflect the opinions of his constituents.

“The American public’s views on this issue have shifted. So have mine,” he said in the statement.

Dent’s evolution on the issue may better align him with young people and women, two voting blocs that have been elusive for GOP candidates in recent years.

A recent Quinnipiac poll shows that Pennsylvania voters support same-sex marriage by a 57 percent to 37 percent margin. Women in the state support marriage equality in larger numbers, 60 percent to 34 percent. And voters aged 18 to 29 expressed overwhelming support: 80 percent back same-sex marriage, while just 15 percent oppose it.

Aside from political pragmatism, Dent argues his conservative ideology also explains his decision to evolve on same-sex marriage. For Dent, it is a small-government issue.

“Life is too short to have the force of government stand in the way of two adults whose pursuit of happiness includes marriage,” Dent said.

He further expounded on this idea in his interview with the Inquirer. “At the end of the day, it struck me that it’s important that we protect individual liberty and there should be a more limited role of government in these types of matters,” Dent told the paper.

Photo: Fight Colorectal Cancer via Flickr

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5 Republican Leadership Conference Speakers Who Should Embarrass Republican Leaders

Donald Trump

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

Bachmann, Cruz, Robertson, Trump, West… the Republican Leadership Conference is getting the band back together!

For the low, low price of $189.00, right-wingers of all stripes can enjoy three full days of presentations by conservative firebrands at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans this weekend. And the lineup does not disappoint.

In a list that reads like a “who’s who” of Tea Party Republicans, the bill at this year’s conference shows just how sharp a right turn the Republican Party has taken in recent years. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal is set to kick things off Thursday evening, followed by Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson and rising Tea Party star Ben Sasse (R-NE).

And that’s just the opening-day appetizer.

As an organizer of the event described it in 2011, the RLC is “designed to showcase the top Republican leaders and ideas in the country — to talk about limited government, fiscal responsibility and rebuilding the American economy.” Apparently, the Republican Party is now being led by reality stars and Michele Bachmann.

Here’s a look at five speakers who will get a shot at remaking the Republican Party in their own intellectual image this weekend:

Phil Robertson

Duck Dynasty

AFP Photo/Dimitrios Kambouris

Undeterred by the scandal surrounding his homophobic and racist comments, Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson has seized on his persona as a straight-talking, evangelical Southerner who speaks to the heart of the American conservative. On Thursday, he’ll have the opportunity to speak to his supporters face to face at the conference.

One can only hope Robertson’s address will turn to his thoughts on homosexuality, which he previously spoke about in a widely read interview with GQ. In that piece, Robertson told Drew Magary:

It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus, that’s just me.

I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there,” he explained, when asked about homosexuality and sin. “Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.”

Donald Trump

To kick the fiery rhetoric meter up to 11, the conference will welcome the country’s most famous birther to address the crowd on Friday. If this year’s CPAC event in Washington, D.C. was any indicator of what to expect from The Donald, he’s not going to be timid.

At CPAC, Trump offered this theory about immigration reform: “Immigration, we’re either a country or we’re not, we either have borders or we don’t; you have a border, you have a country and if you don’t have a border, what are we, just a nothing? A nothing.”

Allen West

Allen West 427x321

Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr.com

At this point, it should not be a surprise that former congressman Allen West fits right in with the Republican “leadership.”

In recent weeks, West has been up to his old tricks as a right-wing blowhard. Last week, he questioned the patriotism of wounded veteran and current U.S. congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) appointed Duckworth to the new Benghazi select committee.

“I just don’t know where her loyalties lie,” West said of Duckworth. “You know, for her to have been a veteran, a wounded warrior for the United States Army, she should know that this is not the right thing. And hopefully, you know, she will remember the oath of office that she took as an Army officer and not the allegiance I guess she believes she has to the liberal progressives of the Democrat Party.”

Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Likely preparing for another presidential run, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum is sure to raise a few eyebrows if he speaks about what separates him from other potential GOP candidates.

In the 2012 presidential race, Santorum distanced himself from the average GOPer, saying about birth control: “One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country.”

“Many of the Christian faith have said, well, that’s okay, contraception is okay,” he piled on. “It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

Michele Bachmann

Finally, the RLC will welcome Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Bachmann, who plans to retire at the end of her current term, will nonetheless continue to guide the party down her own ideological path, it seems. (She is speaking at the RLC!)

That path includes conspiracy theories. Plenty of them.

There was the time she suggested that Hillary Clinton paid off ex-CIA acting director Michael Morell — because his Benghazi testimony did not match Bachmann’s theories about the attacks. Or when she argued that President Obama was actively supporting al Qaeda, which she used as evidence to prove the world is coming to an end.

Or her speech at CPAC, in which she shared her thoughts about immigration reform. “Wall Street and big business” are “clamoring for amnesty” in order to turn the U.S. into “a country of dependency and the welfare state,” Bachmann said.

So, with that, welcome to the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference. And welcome to the future of the Republican Party.

Poll Roundup: Democrats Rise In Wisconsin

As the 2014 midterm elections draw closer, pollsters across the country will begin releasing masses of data and their predictions of who will control the House of Representatives, the Senate, and statehouses across the country. We’ll put those predictions in focus and provide a brief summary of key polls. Here’s our roundup from the week of May 16:

Wisconsin:

With the Wisconsin gubernatorial election six months away, Democrat Mary Burke is now within the margin of error in her race against Republican incumbent Scott Walker. According to a Marquette University Law School poll, the race is a virtual dead heat: Both Burke and Walker have the support of 46 percent of registered voters, while 6 percent are undecided. Among likely voters — those who are certain they will vote in the November election — Walker leads 48 percent to 45 percent, which is within the margin of error.

Burke has risen in the polls since Marquette last published data on the race; in March, Walker led 48 to 41 percent among registered voters. The Real Clear Politics average of the polling data further illustrates  Burke’s rise, showing Walker with a 2-point advantage, down from 7 points just last month.

Iowa: 

According to Public Policy Polling, the five-way Republican Senate primary in Iowa now has a clear frontrunner: Hog-castrating state senator Joni Ernst. According to the new poll, Ernst leads the crowded race handily: 34 percent of Republican voters back Ernst, while her closest challenger, former energy CEO Mark Jacobs, receives just 18 percent support. The survey follows an overall upward trend for Ernst, who enjoys 33.7 percent support according to an aggregation of polls on the race by The Huffington Post.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, the Democrat who will face the Republican nominee in the general election, seems to have noticed Ernst’s rise in the polls. Braley still leads by 6 points in a general election poll, but nevertheless his campaign has shifted focus toward Ernst. In a recent memo, Braley senior advisor Jeff Link wrote that the Ernst campaign “embraced the most radical, right-wing positions imaginable.”

Mississippi:

In the nastiest campaign of the primary season, a recent Citizens United Political Victory Fund poll shows Tea Party-backed state senator Chris McDaniel now leading six-term incumbent Thad Cochran in the state’s Republican Senate primary. The poll has McDaniel ahead of Cochran 43 percent to 39 percent — just within the 4.4 percent margin of error. The poll, however, is an outlier compared to other surveys on the race. The Real Clear Politics average, for example, shows four of the last five polls on the race favor Cochran.

With the election just two weeks away, nothing in this race is set in stone—30 percent of those polled, for example, responded that they either do not know McDaniel or have no opinion of him when asked if they viewed him favorably.

This is sure to change. As a scandal surrounding McDaniel supporters who illegally broke into a nursing home to videotape Cochran’s bedridden wife deepens, more and more Mississippians are bound to recognize his name. Whether or not this negative press will prove to be his Achilles heel remains to be seen.

 New York:

Democratic incumbent Charlie Rangel isn’t prepared to let cracks in his campaign push him into retirement after 23 terms. Rangel is prepared to fight — and he’s winning, according to the polls. Rangel leads his closest Democratic primary challenger, Adriano Espaillat, by nearly 10 points according to a New York Times/NY1/Sienna College poll released this week. Rangel has the support of 41 percent of likely voters, while Espaillat trails with just 32 percent.

Just two years ago, Rangel narrowly defeated Espaillat in the Democratic primary. And this year, Rangel saw Espaillat poach key endorsements from both the United Federation of Teachers and New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

Nevertheless, the political institution that is Charlie Rangel doesn’t look like it is going to crumble easily in this election cycle.

 Photo: IanMichaelJohnson via Flickr

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Meet The 5 Democrats On Trey Gowdy’s Benghazi Panel

Pelosi Benghazi

AFP Photo/Win Mcnamee

Here we go again.

Her hand forced by Darrell Issa, Trey Gowdy and other House Republicans, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) nominated five Democrats to the select committee created to re-investigate the 2012 Benghazi attacks. The number-one goal for these Democrats, it seems, is to keep pressure on Gowdy and their Republican counterparts. It’s sure to be no easy task.

To that end, Pelosi chose members of her caucus who have been involved in previous Benghazi investigations. Pelosi’s five appointees have unique knowledge of the events, and will have to use it to challenge Republican talking points.

As The New York Times notes, if Gowdy raises issues that have been noted previously, these seasoned Democrats will be able to dismiss them as frivolous. If he introduces new evidence of wrongdoing, they will be able to raise questions about why it was not unearthed by agencies that have already investigated the attack.

In short, as Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) put it: “We need someone in the room to simply defend the truth.”

Here’s a look at the Democrats charged with defending the truth on the newly formed Benghazi panel.

Elijah Cummings

elijah cummings

If there is one lawmaker who knows what to expect from a Republican-led investigative panel, it’s Rep. Elijah Cummings. Cummings is a veteran. As the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, he has sparred with Republicans like Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) for countless hours over investigations into the IRS and Benghazi.

So, Elijah Cummings has a game plan for what lies ahead. He told The Huffington Post on Wednesday that his primary goal is to identify which pieces of information Republicans seek to investigate. This will, according to Cummings, limit conspiracy theories that may balloon if the parameters of the investigation are not defined.

Additionally, Rep. Cummings says he is fully ready to search for the truth, but he cannot ignore false narratives that have already been pushed by House Republicans.

“I’m looking for the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Whatever that is,” he said. “But you gotta keep in mind, you cannot disregard what we have seen, and that is allegations being made unfairly and in many instances untruthfully, and then there’s a search for the facts to back them up. So what that does is it puts us in a situation where it’s very difficult to have trust.”

Adam Smith

adam state

Photo: Washington State Dept. of Transportation via Flickr

Washington’s Adam Smith may be the most cynical Democrat nominated to the special committee. Smith, ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, has made his disdain for the various probes into the events of Benghazi very well known. In 2013, for example, he labeled the Benghazi investigation a “political witch hunt.”

“Republicans in Congress have turned the death of an ambassador and three other Americans into a political witch hunt. For nearly eight months, we have watched Republicans desperately and obsessively search for a scandal, which has not appeared,” Smith said in May 2013.

For Smith, the new panel is more of the same. In a press conference Wednesday, he lamented the formation of the investigative committee, but said he would do his best to set the record straight. “This is a committee that should not have been formed,” he said. “But since the Republicans chose to form it, I think we have to participate to do our best to bring out the correct arguments.”

Adam B. Schiff

Like Smith, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-CA) argued that Democrats should not give any credibility to this new committee. Schiff, a member of the influential (especially in terms of the Benghazi investigations) Intelligence Committee, called the new effort a “colossal waste of time” on Fox News Sunday this month.

“We’ve had four bipartisan investigations already,” he told host Chris Wallace. Noting that another investigation will further waste taxpayer money, he added, “I don’t think it makes sense, really, for Democrats to participate…I think it’s just a tremendous red herring and a waste of taxpayer resources.”

Nevertheless, when Pelosi tapped him for the role on the committee, Schiff agreed. He made note of his reservations in a statement released Wednesday, writing: “I’ve been involved in the investigation into Benghazi from day one as a member of the Intelligence Committee because like every other American I want to know what happened, why it happened, how we can keep it from happening again, and I want to bring to justice those that perpetrated this horrible attack. But almost 18 months later, and after 8 reports from House and Senate committees and the Accountability Review Board, the questions that this select committee purports to investigate have been asked and answered time and time and time again.”

Linda T. Sanchez

Linda Sanchez

Photo: John Taylor via Flickr

Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) is currently the ranking Democrat on the House Ethics Committee. Her attitude toward the Benghazi committee seems to put the emphasis on the families affected by the attack.

She said in a statement about her appointment: “Although I am disheartened that we are putting the families affected by this tragedy through this partisan exercise, I am committed to looking at the evidence and making decisions based on what that evidence shows.”

Despite her receptiveness, Sanchez has her reservations about keeping partisanship out of this committee.

“Leaving politics out of the room is going to be a challenge for this committee, but our responsibility to the American people is to carefully analyze the facts, and not just make up allegations,” her statement continues. “I hope my Republican colleagues will adhere to the same principles.”

Tammy Duckworth

Tammy Duckworth

Photo: The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare via Flickr

Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) may be the perfect Democrat for the new Benghazi committee. Duckworth is an Iraq War veteran who currently serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Committee on Oversight and Government reform. In her role on both, Duckworth has spent time investigating the terror attacks in Benghazi.

Importantly, Duckworth is prepared to play up her military experience in her new role. In a press conference accepting her position on the committee, Duckworth said: “I sat in a committee where the testimony of a man [Retired Adm. Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] with over 30 years of military experience on whether or not there were capacities for military aircraft to make it to Benghazi in time was questioned by someone with no military experience, questioning his judgment as a military commander.”

“I want to make sure that no American diplomat, no American life, no American servicemember is ever put in the same kind of jeopardy where we don’t have the resources there to protect them as they carry out this nation’s business around the world,” she added.

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WATCH: Chris McDaniel Attempts To Explain Break-In Controversy, Stumbles Painfully

Mississippi Senate candidate Chris McDaniel (R) was peppered with questions this week about his campaign’s relationship with a right-wing blogger who illegally photographed incumbent Senator Thad Cochran’s bedridden wife after breaking into her nursing home.

One can assume the interview did not go as planned for the McDaniel camp.

McDaniel sat down with radio host Paul Gallo and discussed, among other topics, his campaign’s non-involvement with the accused blogger, Clayton Kelly. There are no explicit ties between the McDaniel campaign and Kelly, but questions remain about inconsistencies in their attempt to distance themselves from the blogger.

First, there was the apology phone call placed by McDaniel’s campaign manager, Melanie Sojourner. Prior to the story breaking on a large scale, Sojourner called the Cochran campaign to condemn Kelly’s actions. At the time the call was placed, it had not been reported that Cochran’s wife was Kelly’s target, which raised questions about why Sojourner was already reacting to the crime.

“There was some stuff several months ago where this guy was doing some insane stuff online. We found out about it,” Sojourner said in the voicemail, “and Chris and I immediately sicced a bunch of volunteers trying to find out who was the source of just a lot of ugly rumors and nasty stuff and we wanted it squashed.”

To make matters worse, McDaniel gave a different account of what his campaign knew about Kelly’s action when he was pressed on the issue by The Hill’s Alexandra Jaffe. “I don’t guess I’ve been awake long enough to see what’s happened,” McDaniel told The Hill

So, it’s fair to see why there is some confusion — at the very least — about what the McDaniel campaign knew about this illegal break-in and when they knew it. 

McDaniel’s radio interview Tuesday only further muddied the waters.

“I can explain it,” a noticeably uncomfortable McDaniel said repeatedly, as Gallo pressed him with questions about the inconsistencies. “In April, we received some sort of notice that there was a video floating around about Kay and Thad,” he said. “I’ve never laid eyes on the video, but what I was sure of is that that was not anything that our campaign was going to be about.”

“You can’t absolutely positively tell me it’s not somebody from your staff and you just don’t know it,” Gallo begged McDaniel.

“It’s really simple. There’s nothing here. It’s just a fiction you guys are creating,” McDaniel responded.

Finally, it blunt terms, McDaniel told Gallo: “Our people have nothing to do with this.”

If McDaniel had made this clear the first time he was asked about the video, his campaign may have avoided this entire snafu. But now, with all of these glaring inconsistencies, McDaniel has more than just his opponent questioning what he knew about this crime and just what the remainder of his campaign is “going to be about.”

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Screenshot via YouTube

How A Refreshing ‘Business Candidate’ Succeeds Where Many Others Failed

Tom Wolf is not the typical businessman-turned-politician.

By most accounts, the previously little-known executive from York, Pennsylvania, is going to win the upcoming Democratic gubernatorial primary and cruise to victory over embattled GOP governor Tom Corbett in the November general election. That prospect alone separates him from other businessmen and women who seek public office — most of whom fail, badly.

So what’s behind his successful campaign?

Wolf’s appeal as a candidate seems to lie in his upbeat campaign, which ultimately has roots in his previous career as CEO of a building products distributing firm, The Wolf Organization Inc. His sophisticated understanding of how government should function was also shaped by his time in the private sector.

Unlike other politicians (such as Mitt Romney) who tout their business acumen as a primary rationale for holding public office, Wolf fully acknowledges that running a business and running a state government are two completely different jobs.

“Government has the task of doing things, a lot of things, that businesses don’t have to do, like ensure a good public education for every child in Pennsylvania; roads and bridges; providing a safe environment; providing a legal system,” Wolf told the Central Penn Business Journal last August. “These are public goods that by definition are outside the purview of private enterprise, so the mission of government is very different from business.”

While the two jobs are very different, for Wolf, their paths necessarily cross — and that’s not a bad thing. Warming to this theme, Wolf explained later in the interview why he views government as a necessary and beneficial force in the private sector.

“I’ve been running a business, and I depend on a lot of things that government needs to deliver on. I depend on employees who are products of a really first-rate education system,” he said. “I depend on good roads, I depend on bridges that are not falling down, I depend on communities that are safe and are places where my employees, my customers and my vendors want to live.”

With his poll numbers through the roof, it’s fair to say that Wolf’s positive campaign message has resonated with Pennsylvania Democrats.

But there are more obvious benefits to being a prosperous businessman when running for public office. Wolf’s advertising, for example, is so far unmatched by primary opponents who cannot pour the same amount of their own money into the race. He’s dumped $10 million of his personal cash into the campaign so far, $4.5 million of which was secured through a personal loan.

That loan has been seized upon by Wolf’s detractors. Republican strategist Ray Zaborney is convinced that the loan controversy will have lasting effects. As Zaborney told National Journal,  “The danger for Wolf and Democrats is the question of whether this is just scratching the surface, or is there more to come. Will Democrats be able to sort it out in five weeks? Probably not.”

Before the mudslinging began, Wolf explained why his self-funded blitz really worked to his advantage.

Like business and government, name recognition through advertising and an inspiring campaign narrative do not work well without each other, the Democrat told Ben Jacobs of The Daily Beast.

“Usually people take a look at people who do [self-fund], say ‘Now you’ve got name recognition but I don’t like your story,’” Wolf said. “But people seem like to like what I did.”

 Photo: Tom Wolf via Flickr

Dave Brat: The Anti-Immigrant Thorn In Eric Cantor’s Side

After an April phone call between President Barack Obama and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), two conflicting stories of their conversation emerged.

According to the Obama administration, the call was pleasant: The president wished Mr. Cantor a happy Passover and the two briefly discussed immigration reform.

For Cantor’s camp, however, the call was an overreach on the part of Obama, who had just issued stern words about the GOP’s inaction on immigration. “The president called me hours after he issued a partisan statement which attacked me and my fellow House Republicans and which indicated no sincere desire to work together,” Cantor said in a statement after the call. “After five years, President Obama still has not learned how to effectively work with Congress to get things done.”

It was confusing.

But one thing about the bizarre turn of events was clear: Cantor, who is poised to be the next Speaker of the House, was not going to be viewed as bowing to the Democrats on the immigration debate.

Dave Brat, Cantor’s Republican primary challenger, may well be the cause of Cantor’s pushback on the issue.

The libertarian-minded Brat, it seems, has tapped into populist sentiment among a number of Republicans in Virginia’s 7th district, which primarily consists of conservative Richmond suburbs. Brat earns cheers from audiences across the district when he shares his Tea Party-inspired campaign platform of empowering small business, attacking what he sees as Cantor’s big-business agenda, and emphasis on his view of the Constitution and the “rule of law.”

Brat appears to have peeled some Republican voters from Cantor, who won a primary in 2012 with nearly 80 percent of the vote. On May 10, Tea Party activists booed and heckled Rep. Cantor as he tried to defend his record at his own district’s Republican convention.

Brat is hoping that his platform — featuring his staunch resistance to immigration reform, which he often calls “amnesty” — speaks to those Republicans who booed Cantor at the convention.

“Why does big business want amnesty? Why does The Chamber [of Commerce] want amnesty? Because it’s cheap labor,” Brat told a friendly crowd in Henrico, VA. “Big business gets cheap labor and what do you get?” Brat continued.

“The shaft!” an overzealous audience member screamed.

Brat, a professor of economics and ethics at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, VA, then turned to his area of expertise: “Who’s going to pay for the unintended costs that’s going to come with amnesty? Who’s going to pay for the education, Medicare, food stamps, Medicaid? Is big business going to pay those bills, or are you? You’re going to pay those bills,” he said.

In other words, Brat seemed to suggest, immigrants are lazy and will inevitably end up on government assistance. Leaving aside the apparent xenophobia and questionable economics, there is significant irony in Brat making immigration an issue in the race.

For starters, Eric Cantor and other House Republicans may talk about passing immigration reform, but have taken no action on the issue. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) will not bring the already passed Senate immigration bill to a vote on the House floor until he has majority support from his own party — which he does not have.

Furthermore, in an op-ed published in Roll Call on Wednesday, Tea Party Express co-founder Sal Russo offered an impassioned plea for Congress to act on immigration reform. “We need to make the 11 million people who are here illegally obey the law, pay taxes and come out of the shadows,” Russo argued.

While Russo stopped short of calling for “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants, it’s clear the co-founder of one of the largest Tea Party groups in the United States now backs some pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

With at least some elements of the Tea Party lining up more closely with the Republican “establishment” on the immigration issue, why does a candidate like Brat continue to hammer an incumbent like Cantor? Perhaps because it’s an issue he can use to seem further right than the Majority Leader — a common campaign tactic of Tea Party candidates.

Photo: Republican Conference via Flickr

How The Tea Party Won Before Tuesday’s Primaries Began

The battle for the soul of the GOP is on in 2014, as pundits assured us, and the so-called Republican establishment was determined to push back the extremist Tea Party.

It was a believable narrative. In reality, however, the Tea Party had won before the primaries began. The once-fringe movement has successfully driven the GOP so far right that candidates from the “establishment” are scarcely distinguishable in most cases from their supposedly more radical counterparts. For the latest evidence, look no further then Tuesday’s Republican primaries.

In Nebraska, the Tea Party-backed candidate, Ben Sasse, handily defeated his primary challenger, State Treasurer Shane Osborn. Tea Party support for Sasse was clear: Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, Utah senator Mike Lee, and FreedomWorks PAC all provided him with endorsements. What remained unclear was which candidate in Nebraska was truly more right wing.

Osborn ran a campaign that, by any measure, was directly in line with the Tea Party brand of conservatism. For example, he supports a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, while the GOP-led House of Representatives has seemingly given up on that cherished cause.

“Shane supports the full repeal of Obamacare because he believes that health care decisions should be left to those most qualified to make them—patients and their doctors—without government interference,” reads Osborn’s campaign website. The Spring legislative agenda drawn up by Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), meanwhile, includes no action on repeal.

And at a moment when the CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is calling on the House to pass immigration reform, Osborn touted his right-wing position on the issue. “Shane Osborn believes the first step to solving our immigration problem is fully securing our southern border,” his website says. “He believes we cannot grant citizenship by way of amnesty to those who have illegally entered the United States.”

In fact, Osborn used those issues during the campaign to attack Sasse, arguing that the anti-establishment challenger was not conservative enough. “Nebraskans are learning that Ben Sasse isn’t the candidate he’s pretending to be [and] on the most important issues of the day, from immigration to Obamacare, Sasse is no conservative,” Osborn’s campaign said in a statement.

Ironically, an endorsement from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) ultimately doomed Osborn. Despite his unflinching conservatism, the seal of approval from McConnell — a symbol of the GOP establishment — sent Tea Party groups fleeing from his candidacy. For example, FreedomWorks, the influential libertarian fundraising group, initially endorsed Osborn but later threw its support behind Sasse — after McConnell offered his endorsement.

Because Tea Party groups can now expect Republican candidates to adhere to their far-right views, it seems, ideology no longer guarantees an endorsement. Even the perception of being part of the “establishment” can now ruin a candidate with the FreedomWorks crowd.

In West Virginia, the race to replace Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, who is running for the Senate, followed a similar narrative. Carpetbagger Alex Mooney won the race, declaring a victory for the Tea Party. But did the voters in West Virginia have the chance to reject a Tea Party-aligned candidate?

Former U.S. International Trade Commissioner and state legislator Charlotte Lane, who finished third in the race, seems to have hit all the popular Tea Party notes in her primary campaign. According to her website, Lane supports a full appeal of Obamacare, staunch opposition to groups like Planned Parenthood, and opposition to President Obama’s “war on coal.”

According to the Charleston Gazette, Mooney said in his victory speech last night that he would “fight against the Affordable Care Act, the ‘war on coal,’ and to protect traditional values.”

In races like those that took place Tuesday night, the Tea Party had them all in the bag before the first votes were cast.

Photo: Ted Cruz via Flickr

The Marxist Pope? Limbaugh Slams Francis’ Call For Legitimate Wealth Redistribution

Add another statement by Pope Francis that may sound a little too liberal to Sarah Palin. Speaking to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and other UN executives Friday, Francis offered an economic vision for the world consistent with his previous statements about the global economy — and horrifying to American conservatives.

Most notably, Francis called for the “legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the state, as well as indispensable cooperation between the private sector and civil society.”

Addressing executives who oversee the UN’s network of humanitarian offices, Francis reflected on the UN’s sustainable development goalsAs he has in the past, the pontiff called for an end to the “structural causes” of poverty by challenging economic norms. 

“Future sustainable development goals must therefore be formulated and carried out with generosity and courage, so that they can have a real impact on the structural causes of poverty and hunger, attain more substantial results in protecting the environment, ensure dignified and productive labor for all, and provide appropriate protection for the family, which is an essential element in sustainable human and social development,” the pope said, as quoted by Vatican Radio.

Within a matter of hours, right-wing pundits pounced on the comments. Luckily, Rush Limbaugh was able to properly explain the complex Catholic principle of subsidiarity and charity to the “Marxist” pope, as termed by the radio host.

“The pope is demanding the United Nations somehow use its influence to get member states to redistribute wealth. That’s Marxism. That’s socialism,” the right-wing blowhard said Friday. “That’s not charity. The church is the place where that kind of thing, charity, should come from. And he is in charge of that.”


Limbaugh, it seems, may be getting his understanding of Catholic social teaching from the Ayn Rand-inspired Paul Ryan (R-WI). In fact, he is a great admirer of Ryan’s.

“We have a guy on the ticket now who knows how to answer the playbook ideologically,” Limbaugh said of the supposed budget wonk after he was tapped as Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012. ” This is why I’m a little jazzed by this. There is a conservative on the ticket — a proud, bold, unashamed, unapologetic conservative. And not just a ‘fiscal’ conservative, a small-government conservative. Not all fiscal conservatives equal small-government conservatives. This guy is a small-government conservative.”

Photo: thierry ehrmann via Flickr

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WATCH: Stephen Colbert Interviews Vampire LARPing Candidate Jake Rush

Florida congressional candidate Jake Rush, who made headlines earlier this year when his vampire role-playing hobby was exposed, discussed politics, Florida’s third congressional district, and — of course — vampires with comedian Stephen Colbert in an interview on Thursday’s Colbert Report.

“[Rush] is running on a platform of traditional marriage, strict constitutionalism, strong national defense, and repealing Obamacare,” Colbert said of the Tea Party-backed Rush in his introduction. “[He] is everything you could want in a congressman — and maybe more than you do.”

Surprisingly, Colbert’s mockery of Rush’s past as a role-playing vampire was not the most embarrassing part of the interview. When pressed on actual issues, Rush badly stumbled. “[Incumbent congressman] Yoho vowed to oppose any military action against any country that is not a direct threat to the United States,” Colbert said. Unflinchingly, Rush responded: “Isn’t that ridiculous?”

Colbert then begged, “What country would you have military action against that is not a direct threat to the United States?”

“For instance, the battle in Syria,” Rush responded. “There’s an adage in military and law enforcement: You never want to have to take the same ground twice,” said Rush.

“Like going into Iraq twice?” Colbert asked.

“Right,” Rush responded.

Colbert then pressed him: “Which one of those should we not have done?”

Stumped, Rush replied: “I don’t know. Wars are complicated.”

After Colbert’s tounge-in-cheek questions about foreign policy and Florida’s “fighting third” congressional district, the host got to the pressing issue at hand: “Sir, for the record, are you a vampire?” Colbert asked.

Rush, slightly amused, responded with a simple “no.”

The full interview is below.

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Screenshot via Hulu

Good Company: 5 CEOs Who Support A Higher Minimum Wage

Subway

Subway CEO Fred DeLuca offered a common sense answer on Wednesday when asked about a possible increase to the minimum wage.

“Over the years, I’ve seen so many of these wage increases. I think it’s normal,” DeLuca told CNBC, adding: “It won’t have a negative impact hopefully, and that’s what I tell my workers.”

But DeLuca went further than just saying he would welcome a wage increase. If it was up to him, he explained, wages would be increased automatically to account for inflation. “I personally think that if I were in charge of the government, I would index the minimum wage to inflation so that way everybody knows what they can count on,” Deluca said. “The employees know they’re going to get increases on a regular basis. The management knows that they’re going to have to pay a little bit more with inflation.”

DeLuca is not the first CEO to hold this position. Here’s a look at five notable CEOs who share DeLuca’s call for the a higher federal minimum wage:

Photo: Candy Girl via Flickr 

Gap CEO Glenn Murphy 

GAP logo

Similar to Fred DeLuca, Glenn Murphy sees a wage increase consistent with inflation rise as a no-brainer. Unlike DeLuca, Murphy just went ahead and guaranteed the increase for his workers.

In February of this year, he announced he would increase to $9.00 the minimum hourly rate paid to his workers. By next year, that rate will increase to $10 an hour.

Murphy said in a statement when announcing this plan: “To us, this is not a political issue. Our decision to invest in frontline employees will directly support our business, and is one that we expect to deliver a return many times over.”

In his role as CEO, Murphy oversees Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Athleta stores. A total of 136,000 workers are employed by the company, with 90,000 employees in the United States.

Photo: FuFuWolf via Flickr

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz

Howard Schultz has a good record when it comes to treating his workers fairly. He offers health benefits to all of his employees, for example. Starbucks also started the Create Jobs for USA initiative, which sought to collect donations for small businesses.

Schultz also backed a small minimum-wage increase when the issue was being debated early last year. Schultz told MSNBC in March 2013: “On balance, I am a supporter of the minimum wage going up,” he said. “We’ve got to be very careful what we wish for because some employers — and there could be a lot of them — will be scared away from hiring new people or creating incremental hours for part-time people as a result of that wage going up.”

But Schultz’s timid support of a wage increase was not enough for him to back Seattle’s — Starbucks’ home city — $15-an-hour minimum wage increase. He told the Puget Sound Business Journal that it would have “unintended consequences.”

Ben & Jerry’s Ben Cohen And Jerry Greenfield

Ben and Jerrys

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield are noted philanthropists, not just through their work with the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, but with the way all workers at the company are treated in the workplace.

According to Ben & Jerry’s website, the decision to pay workers nearly twice the national minimum wage does not stem from a desire for profits, but from a commitment to economic justice.

They write:

Ben & Jerry’s commitment to economic justice starts with our employees. That’s why we’re committed to paying all of our Ben & Jerry’s Vermont full time workers a livable wage – enough to allow for a quality of life that includes decent housing, health care, transportation, food, recreation, savings, and miscellaneous expenses.

Every year, we recalculate the livable wage to make sure it’s keeping up with the actual cost of living in Vermont. In recent years, Ben & Jerry’s livable wage has been nearly twice the national minimum wage, landing at $16.13 in 2013.

Photo: Scott Lynch via Flickr

Costco CEO Craig Jelinek

Costco

For Craig Jelinek, support for a minimum-wage hike is just common sense, good business.

When Democrats and President Obama were pushing for the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, Jelinek threw his support behind them, touting business expansion as reason to increase the wage. “Instead of minimizing wages, we know it’s a lot more profitable in the long term to minimize employee turnover and maximize employee productivity, commitment and loyalty. We support efforts to increase the federal minimum wage,” Jelinek said in a statement on March 5, 2013.

“At Costco, we know that paying employees good wages makes good sense for business,” Jelinek continued. “We pay a starting hourly wage of $11.50 in all states where we do business, and we are still able to keep our overhead costs low. An important reason for the success of Costco’s business model is the attraction and retention of great employees. ”

Photo: DHJung via Flickr 

Fashion Designer Eileen Fisher

Finally, fashion designer Eileen Fisher has, for years, used her company as a means to further her message of sustainability and social justice.

Around 70 percent of Fisher’s clothing, for example, is made with organic cotton. Her website explains: “Farmers are not exposed to chemical sprays. Instead of using herbicides and pesticides, they pull weeds, trap bugs, rotate crops and use companion plantings such as corn to attract beneficial bugs and lure away pests.”

Fisher’s commitment to social justice extends to support for a living wage.

Fisher wrote in a May 2012 statement: “Since I started the company in 1984, we’ve manufactured some of our most core fabrics in New York City factories. We honor the enormous contribution of the women and men who produce our clothes. Raising New York’s minimum wage to $8.50 an hour would be a step on the path to acknowledging the positive difference they make in the success of our company and all brands who engage local labor in their supply chains.”

Debunked: 5 GOP Obamacare Talking Points That Have Bitten The Dust

Obama

The New York Times reported Wednesday that a large majority of people who signed up for Obamacare have paid their premiums on time. While these numbers vary based on the state and the type of plan, The Times says around 80 percent of those who signed up are paying, which is required for insurance coverage to start.

And, just like that, another Republican talking point about the Affordable Care Act has been debunked.

This idea that Obamacare beneficiaries would not pay their premiums, effectively dooming the young law, is in good company. A number of Republican talking points about Obamacare have bitten the dust recently. From the completely outlandish — death panels, government-funded abortions, etc. — to the notion that the Obama administration would never hit its enrollment target, they’ve ranged in viability, but have all nonetheless evaporated.

Here’s a look back at five anti-Obamacare talking points that have inevitably been disproved.

AFP Photo/Saul Loeb

No One Will Sign Up 

Ted Cruz Tea Party

The line was repeated ad nauseam by Republican detractors of the president. But — not surprisingly — saying it over and over didn’t make it come true.

There was the time House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said: “Above all, this report is a symbol of the failure of the president’s health care law… It is a rolling calamity that must be scrapped,” after the initial low enrollment numbers were released. Or when Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) tweeted: “106,185 people enrolled in Obamacare. 108,713 attended the 2010 NBA All-Star Game in Cowboys Stadium. .”

At the end of March, the White House released enrollment numbers that exceeded its initial goal of seven million. By the end of the first open enrollment period, signups were skyrocketing, eventually closing at above eight million.

Still, this hasn’t stopped some conservative pundits from questioning the success of the law. Charles Krauthammer, for example, now subscribes to the conspiracy theory that the numbers were fabricated by the administration.

“These guys go six months without any idea what the numbers are, and all of a sudden it’s to a decimal point,” Krauthammer actually said on television.

AFP Photo/Andrew Burton

A Lack Of Young People Will Cause A ‘Death Spiral’ 

This one had all the ingredients of a good GOP talking point: plausibility, an appeal to business thinkers, and a snappy catchphrase like “death spiral.” But these elements didn’t make it a reality.

Obamacare’s death spiral would occur, conservatives posited, because the number of old and sick people who signed up for coverage would not be offset by young, healthy people also signing up through the exchanges, causing premiums to rise and the entire program to spiral down the drain. But, thanks to the way the law was written, the so-called death spiral was never likely. And now it’s clear that health premiums are on pace to increase at the same rate as they were prior to the law being passed.

Furthermore, the final enrollment numbers show that 28 percent of those who enrolled via the federal exchange were between the ages of 18 and 34. While this number of “young invincibles” fell short of the administration’s initial target, it should be more than sufficient to prevent the law from collapsing.

Millions Will Lose Their Health Insurance

Henry Waxman

This talking point, which perhaps reached its pinnacle when Newsmax reported that 100 million people could lose insurance under Obamacare, was largely disproved by a paper prepared for Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

The paper concluded that a grand total of 10,000 individuals, in just one state, would lose coverage and not have a viable option to replace their health care plan.

“The assertion that the law will cause five million individuals who currently have coverage in the individual market to go without coverage in 2014 is baseless,” the report read. “Of the reported 4.7 million people who receive cancellation notices, 2.35 million should have the option to renew their 2013 coverage. An additional 1.4 million should be eligible for tax credits through the marketplaces or Medicaid, which will provide them more comprehensive coverage at lower rates. Of the remaining individuals, only 10,000 individuals in 18 counties in a single state would be unable to access a catastrophic plan, and many of these individuals may sign up for coverage through their state exchange.”

Furthermore, under the new law, the uninsured rate in the United States has dropped, according to a recent Gallup poll. According to the poll, the April 2014 uninsured rate is down 1.6 percent from March and currently sits at 13.4 percent. That is also the lowest number Gallup has ever found since they began tracking the rate in 2008.

 Photo: Charlie Kaijo via Flickr


Death Panels 

This one, advanced by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, was certainly a whopper. So much so, in fact, that it was granted the title of “Lie of the Year” by PolitFact in 2009.

The death panel idea originated from a provision in the initial Affordable Care Act that would allow Medicare to pay for doctors and patients to discuss living wills and end-of-life treatment. To Palin, this was tantamount to the government holding a death panel to decide whether or not senior citizens are allowed to live.

Palin’s campaign, while ridiculous, did have important political ramifications: In 2011, the Obama administration deleted all references to “end-of-life” care from the provision in the bill.

Premium Prices Will Soar 

Health Care Premium

The final talking point is somewhat connected to the previously discussed “death spiral,” but deserves its own recognition. This one, offered again and again by Republican pundits like Sean Hannity, holds that insurance premiums for businesses and individuals will rise at an exponential rate because of the health care overhaul. Double-digit increases in health care premiums were expected by the right. It was going to be a disaster, they assured.

Well, disaster averted.

According to the USA Today, insurance rates are slated to rise by about 7 percent next year — similar to the rise expected without the Affordable Care Act.

“The double-rate increases we’ve been hearing are probably exaggerated,” Dave Axene, a fellow with the Society of Actuaries, told USA Today. “That’s not what we’re seeing from the actuarial organizations — I guess we’re being a little bit more optimistic.”  

Image via The Kaiser Family Foundation

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New Study: 2014 Graduating Class Faces Extremely Tough Job Market

In June 2009, the U.S. economy stopped its downward slide and began expanding, effectively ending the “Great Recession.” But with meager expansion of the U.S. economy over the past five years, young people and recent college graduates looking to enter the workforce are increasingly disadvantaged.

These were among the issues raised in a recent paper by the Economic Policy Institute, which sought to measure the disproportionately disadvantaged situation recent college graduates are in due to the economic downturn. Importantly, the study notes there is nothing specifically linked to the Great Recession that puts young people at a disproportionately high disadvantage in today’s job market. Rather, the study explains, young people always suffer special difficulty during periods of economic downturn. The “Great Recession” happens to have had an extremely harsh effect on the young because of its length and the anemic economic recovery in the aftermath.

The study reads: “Unemployment of young graduates is extremely high today not because of something unique about the Great Recession and its aftermath that has affected young people in particular. Rather, it is high because young workers always experience disproportionate increases in unemployment during periods of labor market weakness—and the Great Recession and its aftermath is the longest, most severe period of economic weakness in more than seven decades.”

Furthermore, the number of unemployed and underemployed young people has decreased since the recession ended, but has not returned to pre-recession levels. “For young college graduates, the unemployment rate is currently 8.5 percent (compared with 5.5 percent in 2007), and the underemployment rate is 16.8 percent (compared with 9.6 percent in 2007),” the study notes. These numbers for high school graduates further increase: “For young high school graduates, the unemployment rate is 22.9 percent (compared with 15.9 percent in 2007), and the underemployment rate is 41.5 percent (compared with 26.8 percent in 2007).”

 

Watch: The Craziest Political Ad Of 2014?

Iowa Senate hopeful Bob Quast may have been dethroned as the star of the craziest 2014 political ad. That honor may now belong to the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) local 1776, a Pennsylvania union that represents wine and spirits workers in the state.

A new ad paid for by the UFCW explains — not ironically — that if beer and wine are sold in convenience stores in the state, Pennsylvania children will literally die.

The Republican-backed liquor privatization plan would get the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board out of the sale and wholesale of beer and wine. The UFCW, which represents state liquor store workers, is expected to spend over $300,000 to publicly oppose the plan.

Television ads, like the one below, are apparently a part of their push to oppose liquor privatization.

“That would be so dangerous for kids,” one woman says to another in the ad, “having alcohol available in so many places.” The other responds: “I read the same kind of law in North Carolina is killing one child every week.”

Ironically, as mediatrackers.org notes, North Carolina currently has a lower rate of teen drinking and teen binge drinking than Pennsylvania does.

The kicker, however, comes at the end of the ad, when the two women are discussing the money involved. “It’s about greed, pure and simple,” one of the actresses says. “Well, it only takes a little bit of greed to kill a child,” the other concludes.

Lawrence Lessig Launches ‘MAYDAY’ SuperPAC For Campaign Finance Reform

Political activist and Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig is taking a leap into the political money game, with the specific intention of reforming campaign finance laws by 2016.

On Thursday, May 1, Lessig launched the MAYDAY Citizens’ SuperPAC, a Political Action Committee that will seek contributions from small donors concerned with putting an end to America’s slide toward plutocracy.

“The ultimate aim is to spend enough to win a majority in Congress committed to fundamental reform by 2016. We’ve spent the last year gaming out how much that would cost. I think it is feasible and possible — if we can take these first steps successfully now,” Lessig wrote about the project on his blog.

The project will be funded similar to a Kickstarter campaign: Lessig claims if small contributions total $1 million after one month, a large donor will match the amount. If the PAC raises $5 million in the following month, another wealthy donor will match that amount. The small donors will only be charged if the goals are hit.

It’s a leap, Lessig admits, but it’s a political cause with near-universal appeal. In fact, Lessig is counting on small donations from across the political spectrum. “Our polls show that more than 90 percent of Americans believe it’s important to reduce the influence of money in politics,” Lessig recently told Moyers and Company. “And that’s true for Republicans as much as Democrats and Independents. This is just a universal view.”

Lessig’s commitment to align America’s left and right on this issue has been a constant throughout his career. Lessig, who serves on the advisory boards of Creative Commons and the Sunlight Foundation, was also a strong supporter of the Occupy Wall Street movement. In 2011, prior to the first tents being pitched in Zuccotti Park, Lessig penned what The Atlantic called the movement’s “handbook”: Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress — and a Plan to Stop It. As a shock to the leftist “Occupy” movement, in December 2011 Lessig called for Occupy Wall Street to join forces with the Tea Party

“Those people have the same recognition of corruption in the system,” he said. “Think a few steps ahead and build the movement that could change America.”

Today, Lessig is optimistic about the influence his new project can have on U.S. elections.

“It is impossibly hard to imagine raising $1 million in 30 days, even as a contingent commitment (meaning, you only get charged if we hit the goal),” Lessig wrote. “I get that. But we’ve got to try. For if we succeed, we can change the story of this democracy; we can give people a sense that we can actually claim it back. And we can build a momentum, I believe, that no billionaire’s SuperPAC could defeat.”

Photo: Joi Ito via Flickr 

John Boehner’s Attitude Is The GOP’s Latest Excuse To Block Immigration Reform

First it was opposition to the “amnesty.” Then came concerns that President Obama would never actually “secure the border.” But now House Republicans’ excuse to kick immigration reform further down the road focus on an unlikely foe: House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).

The new complaint comes after Boehner criticized his fellow House Republicans and their attitude toward immigration reform at an event with a Rotary group in Middletown, Ohio.

“Here’s the attitude: Ohhhh. Don’t make me do this. Ohhhh. This is too hard,” Boehner said about his fellow House Republicans.

While Boehner reportedly received laughs from the audience, some Republican House members view the display as new evidence that the Speaker cannot be trusted.

“He’s speaking off the cuff and speaking from his heart but he needs to realize that we are his team, we are his flock,” Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) told the Washington Examiner. “And he needs to be a good shepherd.”

Speaker Boehner did try to “clarify” his remarks on Tuesday, pivoting back to criticisms of President Barack Obama (which is always popular with House Republicans). “I wanted to make sure the members understood that the biggest impediment we have in moving immigration reform is that the American people don’t trust the president to enforce or implement the law that we may or may not pass.” Boehner then made clear that his intention was not to “mock” members of his own party. “There was no mocking, you all know me,” Boehner said during a news conference in Washington on Tuesday. “You tease the ones you love.”

But not every member of the Republican majority in the House has accepted Boehner’s explanation.

“I think he tried to clarify things and I appreciate him trying to do that,” Rep. Salmon told the Examiner Tuesday. “But more frequently over the last several months the Speaker has made off-the-cuff comments. I think if he wants to keep our devotion and support then he needs to be a lot more disciplined.”

Boehner’s quick pivot back to criticizing President Obama, after being challenged by members of his party, perhaps shows how little he actually wants immigration reform to pass.  He does, after all, have the support of a number of outspoken House Republicans on the issue. The fourth ranking House Republican, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), told the Spokane Statesman-Review recently that there is still hope for immigration reform to be voted on in the House by this summer. “I believe there is a path that we get a bill by August,” McMorris Rodgers told the newspaper. “We’re going to have to push that this is legal status, not amnesty.”

Furthermore, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) recently wrote to Boehner, urging him to bring immigration reform to a vote in the House. In the letter, King challenged Republicans who criticize the “amnesty clause” in the House version of the immigration bill already passed by the Senate.

King wrote: “As to the issues of legalization and citizenship for undocumented immigrants, I fully understand and appreciate the argument that illegal behavior should not be rewarded. The reality though is that we are not going to deport 11 million immigrants.”

There’s also the reality that Speaker Boehner could bring H.R. 15 — the House version of the Senate-passed immigration bill — to a vote whenever he likes. If he did, he would likely have the votes to pass it. While some chalk this up to Boehner’s adherence to the “Hastert Rule,” it’s important to note that he has invoked this rule selectively, breaking it repeatedly when convenient.

As America’s Voice, an immigration advocacy group, put it in a recent press release: “No amount of blame shifting can distract from the simple truth that the House could pass immigration reform if Republicans turned their rhetoric into actual bill text and actual floor votes.”

So, as House Republicans continue to shift blame and fight among themselves, the likelihood of immigration reform being passed gets increasingly smaller. In fact, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) recently released the House Republicans’ spring legislative agenda– and it ignores the immigration bill altogether.

AFP Photo/Jim Watson