1) Ted Cruz Believes George Soros Leads A United Nations Conspiracy To Eliminate Golf: In 1992, President George H.W. Bush joined the leaders of 177 other nations in endorsing a non-binding UN document known as Agenda 21. This twenty year-old document largely speaks at a very high level of generality about reducing poverty and building sustainable living environments. Nevertheless, Cruz published an article on his campaign website claiming that this non-binding document is actually a nefarious plot to “abolish ‘unsustainable’ environments, including golf courses, grazing pastures, and paved roads.” To top it off, Cruz lays the blame for this global anti-golf conspiracy at the feet of a well-known Tea Party boogieman — “The originator of this grand scheme is George Soros.”
2) Ted Cruz Wants To Gut Social Security: In an interview with the Texas Tribune Cruz labeled Social Security a “ponzi scheme” and outlined a three-step plan to gut this essential program. Cruz would raise the Social Security retirement age, cut future benefits, and implement a George W. Bush-style plan to privatize much of the program. In other words, in addition to forcing them to work longer for fewer benefits, Cruz would place retirees at the mercy of a fickle stock market. Had Social Security been privatized during the career of a worker who retired near the end of the Bush Administration, that worker would have retired with less money in their privatized account than they would have if they’d simply kept their money between their mattress and box spring.
3) Ted Cruz Wants To Party Like It’s 1829: The Constitution provides that Acts of Congress “shall be the supreme law of the land,” and thus cannot be nullified by rogue state lawmakers. Cruz, however, co-authored an unconstitutional proposal claiming two or more states could simply ignore the Constitution’s command and nullify the Affordable Care Act so long as they work together. Although the Constitution does permit states to join in “interstate compacts” that have the force of law, under the Constitution such compacts require the consent of Congress and can be vetoed by the President. Cruz falsely claimed that states do not need to meet these Constitutional requirements to undermine laws they don’t like.
4) Ted Cruz Is An Islamophobe: At a campaign event earlier this month, Cruz touted another of the Tea Party’s favorite conspiracy theories, claiming that “Sharia law is an enormous problem” in this country. Although it is common for far right politicians to claim that American law is somehow being replaced with Islamic law, these claims have absolutely no basis in reality. Few American courts have ever even mentioned Sharia or Islamic law, and those that have generally only do so in contracts or similar cases where a party before the court agreed to be bound by Sharia law.
5) Ted Cruz Campaigned On How He Helped Texas Kill A Mexican: Cruz’s very first campaign ad encouraged GOP primary voters to support him because he helped make it easier for Texas to kill an “illegal alien.” According to the ad, “Cruz fought all the way to the Supreme Court” after “the UN and World Court overruled a Texas jury’s verdict to execute an illegal alien.” In reality, the case Cruz won had nothing to do with whether Texas had the authority to kill this man. Rather, it concerned whether Texas could defy a treaty requiring it to inform foreign nationals who are arrested of their right “to request assistance from the consul of his own state.” Even North Korea honored this treaty that Cruz fought to undermine.
Weeks before the Obama administration’s immigration order to protect undocumented students is set to go into effect, a group of activists are launching a modern day “freedom ride” bus tour of the United States to highlight the ongoing civil rights struggles of undocumented people in America. The “UndocuBus,” which departed from Phoenix, AZ on Sunday, aims to protest officials who have targeted immigrant and Latino communities and the increased numbers of deportations and broken families at the hands of the federal government. Their destination is the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC.
Prior to the ride, many of the participants had chosen to hide their immigrant status. But, as a recent New York Times editorial noted, “weary of life in the shadows and frustrated by the lack of progress toward reform, [the riders] will be telling federal authorities and the local police: Here are our names. This is our plan. If you want us, come get us.”
Leticia Ramirez, one of the UndocBus riders, wrote in a Charlotte Observer op/ed:
When I first came here in 1994, families could go to the store or the park without looking over their shoulders. Now the parks in our neighborhoods have police cars just monitoring us…Everywhere we go now, we find harassment. It feels like everyone is looking and pointing at you just because you’re brown.
That environment is what drove me to get involved in my community. Now we’re teaching undocumented people that they have rights and we can come together to get our loved ones and neighbors out of immigration detention centers. In Arizona, we’ve learned that there’s no reason to be afraid when our community is united.”
In two weeks, DHS’s deferred action policy is slated to go into effect. The new order will grant DREAM-eligible youth the chance to apply for temporary reprieve from deportation and will allow them to apply for work permits after going through an application process. But this policy change only helps DREAMers, not their parents, family members, or other members of the 11 million unauthorized immigrants currently living in the U.S. The UndocuBus riders’ aim is to mobilize people across the country in support of comprehensive immigration reform.
As states fight to implement voter ID laws in time for the November election, it is becoming glaringly obvious that the current election system cannot handle the added burden of implementing voter ID laws. Judging from a new report on ballot design flaws by the Brennan Center for Justice and a recent study of chaotic election procedures in another swing state, Ohio, voters with or without an ID stand to be disenfranchised through a fragile bureaucratic maze likely to collapse under the extra burden of the new voter ID laws.
Pennsylvania, currently mired in a legal battle over its voter ID law, is one of the states facing an impossible logistical burden of getting voters the proper identification in the next 100 days.
During a call about the voter ID lawsuit Tuesday, State Senator Vincent Hughes (D-PA) stressed how unprepared Pennsylvania is to implement the law without disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of people.
“It is absolutely unequivocally clear that the state cannot pull this off by Election Day,” he said. “There’s not enough information or staff time to implement this in time, and it will cost the state an extra amount of millions of dollars to get this done.”
A state court is expected to rule on the law in August, giving the state just a few months to implement a voter ID structure certain to tax an already overtaxed system.
Hughes said he and other district officials have encountered many individuals who were given mixed messages about what kinds of identification were permitted and what exactly they needed to do in order to get the proper photo ID. He blamed the confusion on lack of training:
We don’t fault those staffers. This is completely brand new to them and not part of their historic responsibility. Their responsibility in PennDOT is to work on drivers licenses, not to focus on the proper info for photo ID measures. But what we do fault is the training that is clearly not occurring at the executive level for these individuals so they can do their job or do this new responsibility as part of this law.
What’s more, handling the number of voters who need the ID — a conservative estimate found more than 750,000 people without ID — is far beyond these offices’ resources.
“There’s no way PennDOT could process anywhere near that number of IDs, even if people could get the documents and the transportation to get there,” said Penda Hair, co-counsel for the voter ID lawsuit.
Pennsylvania has the lowest percentage of government workers in the nation. When Republicans took control of the legislature in 2010 and slashed public sector jobs, the number of government employees dropped by more than 3 percent in a year, among the sharpest declines in any state. Republican legislators now expect the remaining employees to take on even more responsibility with no preparation.
In a weak attempt to meet this challenge, the state may expand the hours of some PennDOT offices, many of which are only open two or three days a week and will only process ID applications within limited hours during the work day. But Hughes remains skeptical, pointing out the “hidden costs” of expanding office hours, coordinating services and data between offices and departments, which requires even longer hours from the reduced workforce.
In an interview with ThinkProgress, Strickland lambasted the laws — which require citizens to present some form of government-issued photo ID in order to vote — as a concerted GOP effort to suppress voters through a modern day poll tax:
STRICKLAND: The voter suppression efforts that we’re seeing in multiple states across the country is shameful behavior on the part of the Republicans in those states. It’s a national coordinated effort, in my judgement. They are doing it without shame. It is a threat to our democracy. [...] I think every Republican should be embarrassed at what’s happening within their party in terms of trying to deprive Americans of the right to vote. There is no question in my mind they are targeting poor people, and minority individuals, students, and some older people in terms of the requirements they are trying to put in place. [...] And there are minorities in this country that have a history of being deprived their legitimate right to vote, and we used to have the poll tax. In my judgment, requiring a photo ID and some of these other measures that are being suggested are equivalent to enacting a poll tax.
As of 2012, 10 states have put voter ID laws in place, though a full 11 percent of eligible American voters lack government-issued photo ID. Poor, minority, and elderly voters — who usually lean Democratic — are especially likely to fall into that group: 25 percent of African-Americans, 16 percent of Hispanics, and 18 percent of Americans over 65 don’t have photo ID and would be sent away from the polls.
As the Brennan Center for Justice noted in a recent study, advocates of voter ID laws often argue that the requirement does not disenfranchise poor voters because state-issued photo identification is available free of charge. But in 9 of the 10 states with voter ID laws, eligible voters must provide supporting documentation — at a significant cost — to then obtain the state-issued ID necessary for voting. And according to Strickland, this kind of deliberate Republican effort to disenfranchise poor voters is, in a word, “shameful.”
The Daily Caller Will Give You A Gun If You Find Their Hacker | The conservative website The Daily Caller will be giving away an FMK 9C1 high-capacity 9mm pistol to whoever can track down the hacker that trolled the site with porn ads on Monday. The gun — which comes specially engraved with the Bill of Rights — will be presented to any reader who can turn over the hacker’s name, allowing The DC “to hold them responsible.” Less tech-savvy readers can also win a gun by providing the “funniest and most inventive ideas” on what Tucker Carlson’s right-wing website “should do with the hacker when we find him.”
Thirteen Arizona county prosecutors are urging Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) to shut down the state’s medical marijuana facilities, which are allowed to seek permits under a 2010 state law, because medical marijuana is not permitted under federal law. Although public support for medical marijuana is currently at an all-time high, the Department of Justice continues to clash with states that have legalized marijuana for medical purposes — most notably in California, where the DOJ has targeted legal medical marijuana shops in an attempt to shut them down. However, Brewer will continue to implement her state’s law regardless of its split with federal policy.
The county attorneys signed onto the three-page letter written by Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk to express concern that Arizona’s medical marijuana dispensaries will be targeted by the DOJ in the same way that California’s have. Because the federal government is “vigorously enforcing the Controlled Substance Act by seizing and closing medical marijuana dispensaries in other states,” Polk wrote, the attorneys are concerned about Arizona business owners opening marijuana shops only to be hit with federal fines.
Brewer responded with her own letter, explaining that while she understands the concerns about legalizing marijuana trade for medicinal purposes, Arizona has the right to follow its own state law rather than bending to pressure from the DOJ:
BREWER: As previously noted, I did not support the passage of [the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act], and I share your concern regarding [the] implementation of the AMMA. Arizona voters, however, cast ballots in sufficient numbers to enshrine this measure into Arizona law. As such, I am duty-bound to implement the AMMA, and my agency will do so unless and until I am instructed otherwise by the courts or notified that State employees face imminent risk of prosecution due to their duties in administering this law.
Some lawmakers are working to address the disparity between federal law and state laws. A bipartisan group of Congress members introduced legislation to bridge the gap earlier this month, proposing a law that would allow individuals who are using marijuana for medical purposes in accordance with their state’s laws to better defend themselves against federal law. Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) also recently suggested that House Democrats may take up federal medical marijuana legislation after the upcoming election, noting that it is “really important” to make changes to the current federal law against medical marijuana to “prevent the federal government from acting to harm the safe access to medicinal marijuana provided under state law.”
In addition to Arizona, 16 other states and the District of Columbia have also legalized medical marijuana.
Extreme heat waves across the country have claimed hundreds of lives over the past few years, including at least 52 heat-related deaths between June 30 and July 6 alone. And prison inmates are especially at risk for succumbing to heat-related health issues, according to a federal court that has ruled in favor of an advocacy group that alleges Texas prison officials are violating prisoners’ constitutional rights with poor conditions during high-temperatures days.
Although federal courts have held that prison temperatures over 90 degrees are unconstitutional, the Texas Civil Rights Project claims that Texas prison facilities put their inmates’ lives in jeopardy by allowing indoor heat indexes to reach temperatures well over 100 degrees. Ten inmates of the state prison system died from heat-related causes over a ten-day period last summer, all of whom were housed in prison facilities without air-conditioning.
The Texas Civil Rights Project filed a lawsuit against state prison officials over the wrongful death of Larry Gene McCollum, who died last summer while serving just a two-year prison term. The advocacy group released a press release detailing the prison conditions at the time of McCollum’s death:
Mr. McCollum, 58, died of heat stroke in July 2011 at the Hutchins State Jail in Dallas after the indoor heat index reached almost 130 degrees. When Mr. McCollum was hospitalized after collapsing on July 22, 2011, doctors recorded his body temperature exceeded 109 degrees. That day, the high temperature in Dallas was 98 degrees with 79 percent humidity. The autopsy found he died from living “in a hot environment without air conditioning.”
Living areas in Texas Department of Criminal Justice prisons, including the Hutchins State Jail, are not air conditioned. When Mr. McCollum died, fans at the prison were broken or nonexistent, though officials knew temperature conditions were extremely dangerous. Prison policies prohibited Mr. McCollum from even having a cup to drink water from. When he arrived at the Hutchins State Jail, just weeks before his death, officers told him “welcome to Hell.”
In what the group’s director called “a huge victory for all Texas prisoners,” the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in their favor on Monday, determining that prison staff prison staff “were deliberately indifferent” to the conditions in the facility that contributed to McCollum’s death. The federal court agreed that extreme heat can violate prisoners’ rights.
This ruling may lead to significant reforms at Gov. Rick Perry’s (R-TX) Texas Department of Criminal Justice, where only 21 of the 111 units are fully air-conditioned. Considering the fact that extreme weather patterns are on the rise due to climate change, and heat-related deaths could increase by the thousands over the next few decades, prisoners can’t afford to wait for Perry’s appointees to address their substandard living conditions.
GOP Report Finds No Connection Between White House And ‘Fast And Furious’ | Despite insistence from GOP leadership that the White House was behind the so-called “Fast and Furious” gunwalking program, a report from House Republicans released Tuesday names five officials at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms as culprits in the misguided effort. All five were reassigned before the release of the report — the first of three. The indictments in the report contradict House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) insistence that the President invoked executive privilege over the Justice Department’s information on ongoing investigations to protect his personal interests. The indication, however, is that the upcoming reports will try to tie the President to the program. It will “address the unprecedented obstruction of the investigation by the highest levels of the Justice Department, including the attorney general himself,” according to the Republicans who wrote the report.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports:
[Former former Orie Melvin chief law clerk Lisa] Sasinoski referred back to an incident just before the 2003 general election when she claimed that Janine Orie, the judge’s sister and office manager, asked her to copy receipts and vouchers of her travels with the judge, to make it appear the judge’s other sister, Sen. Jane Orie, accompanied them in their campaign travels. In that way, they could get a check from the campaign treasury, write it out to Jane Orie for reimbursement, and she would then in turn provide the campaign cash to be used as street money. She explained that street money was used to encourage and help people get to the polls.
Now an employee of Justice Max Baer, Ms. Sasinoski testified that at the end of the 2003 election season, she told Ms. Orie Melvin that she could no longer participate in political activity. Two days later, she said Janine Orie demanded her court and building ID.
Another former clerk also testified that she experienced retaliation after she declined to work for Orie Melvin’s campaign on election day.
Special interests and the legislature’s GOP majority killed a constitutional amendment earlier this year that would have switched from elected appellate judges to a merit-based selection system.
The Scranton Times-Tribune, Philadelphia Daily News, and the Philadelphia Bar Association have called for Justice Orie Melvin to resign. While she has refused to do so, the Supreme Court has already split three-three on at least one case and may effectively mean major decisions will be made by lower court judges.
While voter fraud is exceedingly rare — a person is more likely to be hit by lightning than to commit it — then-Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White (R-IN) was convicted of it earlier this year. Now, a candidate for Pinal County Supervisor in Arizona has dropped out amid questions about who cast ballots on behalf of his long-deceased girlfriend.
The Arizona Republic reports:
A Pinal County supervisor candidate has withdrawn from the race in the wake of voter-fraud allegations involving a former companion who, records show, has continued to vote by absentee ballot in the five years since her death. John Enright, 66, had been seeking the Republican nomination for county supervisor of District 5, an area that includes Apache Junction and Gold Canyon. …
His statement made no mention of the scandal unleashed in an anonymous, undated letter sent several weeks ago to the Pinal County Recorder’s Office. As recently as this year, the letter alleged, someone had been filling out and mailing in absentee ballots addressed to a woman who died on Feb. 3, 2007. The woman, Sheila Nassar, and Enright lived together at the time of her death.
Enright has not been charged with any crime and told the Arizona press “I look forward to learning more about these allegations. If they are indeed formal allegations, I will defend myself. I very much look forward to clearing my name.”
But if Enright was indeed casting ballots in his late girlfriend’s name, he would be guilty of what the Pinal County Recorder called “an absolute act of fraudulent voting” — and a Class 6 felony.
Voter identification laws would have done nothing to prevent the sort of absentee ballot fraud alleged here. And the fact that this is already a felony shows that laws already on the books are clearly sufficient to punish this exceedingly rare crime.
Leading Anti-Immigration Congressman Promises To Sue Obama Over Directive Protecting Undocumented Youth
Rep. Steve King (R-IA), one of the right’s leading anti-immigration voices, is planning to sue the Obama administration after it announced that it would stop deporting undocumented students who were eligible for the DREAM Act.
In response, King, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, is promising swift action. In a tele-townhall late last week, the Iowa Congressman was asked about stopping illegal immigration. King said that he would soon file suit against the president “to command the president to enforce the law.”
KING:I want to stop the bleeding at the border. I want to shut off the job magnet. I want to force the president to enforce the law and this litigation that I’m bringing forward that will be filed sometime soon will be asking for a writ of mandamus to command the president to enforce the law. That’s a constitutional provision we can implement. We know the president doesn’t want to enforce it. He’s said he will not.
Despite King’s belief, the president’s immigration directive is eminently lawful. In fact, when the Supreme Court invalidated most of Arizona’s controversial SB 1070 immigration law last month, the majority opinion provided strong support for the new immigration policy.
Still, even if King’s lawsuit flops, undocumented youth could again find themselves in danger of being deported if Mitt Romney prevails in November. The campaign co-chair, Ray Walser, announced last month that Romney would “rescind” the immigration directive if elected.
- Senate Republicans successfully filibustered the nomination of Oklahoman Robert Bacharach, a nominee for the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. Though both of his Republican home state Senators had previously endorsed him as an excellent candidate, even they did not stand with him. Despite his earlier protestations that it is unconstitutional to filibuster judicial nominees, Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) successfully blocked an up-or-down vote on Bacharach’s nomination, by a vote of 56 yeas, 34 nays, and 3 present.
- Republican voters in Texas today will choose whether to nominate Lt. Governor David Dewhurst or former state Solicitor General Ted Cruz.
- Citing his attorney’s illness, Rep. Vern Buchnanan (R-FL) did not show up yesterday for a scheduled deposition in a civil suit by a former business partner who now alleges Buchanan — who is reportedly also under federal investigation — defrauded him.
- The Center for Public Integrity looks at how the Republican Governors Association’s Right Direction PAC is circumventing state laws banning corporate contributions.
- Florida’s Division of Elections director, a key figure in Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) failed voter purge, is stepping down, just two weeks before the primary elections.
- And finally, a 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll shows that even among college graduates, just 52 percent of Americans know that there are nine Supreme Court Justices.
Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union — joined by a local ACLU chapter and the Center for Reproductive Rights — sued Arizona over the state’s abortion ban, calling it the nation’s most extreme because it criminalizes almost all abortions after 20 weeks. Today, a federal judge upheld HB 2036, dismissing the ACLU’s request to block the law from going into effect on Thursday.
U.S. District Judge James A. Teilborg ruled that HB 2036, which Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) signed into law in April, will be allowed to take effect this week. The law criminalizes almost all abortions after just 20 weeks, even though a fetus generally isn’t considered to reach viability until week 23 or 24. There are no exceptions for pregnant women’s health except for immediate medical emergencies.
Nancy Northup, the president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, pointed out in a press release that Teilborg’s ruling contradicts the legal precedent for women’s right to privacy before their fetus reaches viability:
Today’s decision casts aside decades of legal precedent, ignoring constitutional protections for reproductive rights that have been upheld by the United States Supreme Court for nearly 40 years and threatening women’s health and lives. [...] Anyone concerned with the erosion of constitutional rights in the U.S. and the intrusion of government into the lives and private decisions of individual citizens should be profoundly disturbed by today’s decision.
The Guttmacher Institute has designated Arizona as one of the 26 states that are “hostile” to women’s reproductive freedom. Women’s health advocates are currently embroiled in a second lawsuit in Arizona to combat another anti-choice law, HB 2800, that seeks to defund the state’s Planned Parenthood clinics.
Despite the fact that HB 2036 has been upheld, Planned Parenthood Arizona confirms some good news for women in the state: the HB 2800 legislation that would have defunded Planned Parenthood’s health clinics is stalling. Just like Arizona’s abortion ban, HB 2800 would have also gone into effect this Thursday. However, a United States District Court has determined that Arizona needs to hold off on implementing the law at least until after a further ruling that will follow a court hearing scheduled for October.
In 2004, 9 votes per precinct pushed George W. Bush ahead of John Kerry in Ohio. But thousands are thrown out each election, according to a new report by the Cincinnati Enquirer.
The battleground state, which has predicted the winner of every presidential election since 1944 except Nixon vs. Kennedy in 1960, often comes down to a tiny margin of votes. In 1976, Ohio tipped the election to Jimmy Carter by only 11,116 votes out of nearly 4.1 million.
The Enquirer found the state tosses thousands of ballots every election due to bureaucratic confusion, clerical error and other factors. Urban counties are particularly vulnerable, such as Hamilton County, which contains Cincinnati:
In Hamilton County alone, hundreds of votes are routinely disqualified in major statewide elections because they are cast in the wrong precinct, often only feet from the correct location. Hundreds more votes have been tossed out for another relatively minor miscue: voters’ failure to seal an inner envelope containing their absentee ballot.
Provisional ballots, which a voter can cast if there is uncertainty over their registration, are much more common in Ohio than in any other state besides California. This can happen if a voter moved without changing registration or if the rolls show a typo in their name or address. In the 2008 presidential election, nearly 40,000 out of 207,000 provisional ballots cast were rejected. Urban counties hold the bulk of these provisional ballots:
Most of Ohio’s provisional votes are cast in five large urban counties: Hamilton, Cuyahoga (Cleveland), Franklin (Columbus), Montgomery (Dayton) and Summit (Akron). In November 2010, they produced 54,470, or 52 percent, of Ohio’s 105,195 provisional votes, and an even higher percentage of those that were discarded – 57 percent (6,748) of 11,772.
Smaller races are equally dysfunctional; the outcome of a Hamilton County judicial race in 2010 was delayed for 18 months due to lawsuits over votes that were rejected partly because poll workers could not find addresses or distinguish between even and odd numbers.
Over the years, Ohio has been hit with many lawsuits over voting procedures, most recently by the Department of Justice over the Legislature’s attempt to restrict early voting, a measure enacted after 2004, when Ohio’s polls were clogged with seven-hour lines on Election Day. The state is attempting to limit the early voting deadline for most Ohioans, the remnant of House Bill 194, which was repealed after outcry over provisions that killed early voting on the last weekend before an election and cut the requirement that poll workers direct voters to their proper precinct.
Since 2008, all 88 counties in the state have been working to improve the chaotic election system, preparing administration plans for November addressing the poll worker training and correct ballot filing procedures. However, the report concludes, “Unless voters take a more proactive approach about how and precisely where to vote, poll workers improve their performance over past elections or courts order new changes before Election Day, tens of thousands of ballots are likely to be disqualified.”
Pew Poll Shows Five-Point Swing Toward Pro-Gun-Control View After Colorado | A Pew Research Center for the People & the Press poll, taken after the Colorado shooting, shows that 47 percent of Americans say it is more important to control gun ownership, compared to 46 percent who say it is more important to protect the rights of Americans to own guns. While Pew calls this “no significant change” from April numbers, it does represent a 5-point swing since their previous poll, in which gun rights were prioritized over gun control, 49 percent to 45 percent.
To date, Rick Scott has authorized more than $888,000 for legal costs. Nearly $70,000 of that money was spent over the last two years fighting Obamacare in court, and that expense only ended thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling last month. Other suits have been filed in response to the state’s new welfare drug testing law, plans to privatize prisons through the budgeting process, and changes in the way the state manages its retirement plan. In all three cases the courts have sided against the Scott administration.
State governments finding themselves in court is nothing new, not even in Florida. But as the Orlando Sentinel explains, Scott’s administration is so far proving to be particularly litigious:
Legal challenges to new laws aren’t unusual in Florida. Gov. Jeb Bush tangled with the Florida Education Association over his school-voucher program; Gov. Charlie Crist was sued by the Legislature — successfully — over a gambling compact he negotiated with the Seminole Tribe. And in 2010, several suits overturned proposed constitutional amendments that Republican lawmakers had wanted on the ballot.
But observers in Tallahassee said the suits filed against Scott-approved measures far exceed other administrations’ legal woes. Friday, a new case was added to the list, with U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, along with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference announcing they would file a federal suit opposing some of the changes under the state’s new election law.
The Sentinel also points out that the $888,000 figure was calculated before several new suits were filed, including a case involving the state’s controversial voter purge program. And even though the Attorney General’s office has been able to handle most of the legal challenges, in several instances the state has had to contract out to expensive law firms in DC and Atlanta, costing taxpayers even more.
So Bacharach enjoys widespread bipartisan support, including support from the Senate’s most ideological wing. He should be a shoo-in for confirmation — except, of course, for the fact that the Senate is run by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY):
Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is forcing a vote Monday afternoon on Robert Bacharach, of Oklahoma, for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, a nominee considered to be highly qualified and noncontroversial. The move is a direct challenge to Republicans who have leaked plans that they will block all circuit court judges for the rest of the presidential election year.
But it is also Reid’s only option for moving forward on the circuit court nominees this congressional session, as Republicans cite a loosely defined Senate tradition of backing off from filling circuit court seats in the waning months of a president’s term, dubbed “The Thurmond Rule.”
The “Thurmond Rule” — which doesn’t actually do what McConnell says it does — is named for the late Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-SC). Thurmond is best known for delivering the longest filibuster speech in American history in order to block a civil rights bill.
Bruce Fennie, a Rochester-based federal lobbyist has raised at least $19,200 in “bundled” contributions for Brooks’ Congressional campaign and contributed the legal maximum of $2,500. Fennie is the only lobbyist bundler identified to date as having raised a significant amount for Brooks. And this support is nothing new — New York State campaign finance disclosure records show Fennie gave tens of thousands to her county races over the years.
Why is Fennie so enthusiastic about Brooks? One reason may be that, during her tenure as County Executive, almost all of his lobbying contracts over Brooks’ tenure have been with her county’s government. The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported in 2010:
Fennie, a former executive in Rochester for the communications division of Florida-based Harris Corp., and his three employees earned $660,000 last year representing five public-sector clients in Monroe County.
They were paid $260,000 by the Monroe County Water Authority, $160,000 by Monroe Community College and $80,000 each by Monroe County, the Monroe County Airport Authority and the Monroe County Department of Transportation, according to public disclosure reports he filed with the House of Representatives.
The Monroe Community College was the only such institution in the state of New York to be paying a federal lobbyist. And, the Democrat and Chronicle notes, Brooks even accompanied Fennie on a Washington lobbying trip in March.
While a Brooks spokesman told the paper that all of Fennie’s contracts were with “independent authorities that do not report to the county or the county executive,” and claimed none were with the county itself, the paper noted that that statement was apparently false. A ThinkProgress review of lobbying disclosure forms confirms that Fennie has directly represented the county since 2008 and receives $80,000 a year for his services.
While her campaign website boasts that Brooks is “well-known for her fiscally responsible leadership and commitment to best serving the interests of local taxpayers,” not everyone believes the county’s spending on Fennie’s lobbying firm was a good use of funds. In a 2010 column, Republican Rochester talk show host Bob Lonsberry observed that the apparently symbiotic relationship between Brooks and Fennie “smells” and “makes you wonder what the behind-the-scenes connection is.”
Neither Fennie nor the Brooks campaign responded immediately to a request for comment.
On Friday, Colorado federal Judge John Kane issued an order allowing a heating an air conditioning company to ignore federal rules protecting women’s access to birth control because the company’s owners are conservative Catholics. Judge Kane, however, relied on a very odd rule that does not exist in most of the country to hand down this decision. So while it would be disturbing if Kane’s injunction were finalized after several more rounds of litigation, the contraception-fearing employer in this case still has a number of hurdles to clear before that could happen.
Kane issued what is known as a “preliminary injunction” on Friday, which is an extraordinary order permitting a judge to temporarily suspend a law before they have time to fully consider the merits of a case. According to the Supreme Court, a judge cannot issue such an extraordinary order unless the plaintiff “establish[s] that he is likely to succeed on the merits” when the case receives a full trial. As Judge Kane explains, however, the Tenth Circuit (the federal appeals court that presides over Colorado and five other states) has refused to follow the Supreme Court’s rule in such cases. In the Tenth Circuit, a plaintiff can temporarily suspend a law merely by “showing that questions going to the merits are so serious, substantial, difficult, and doubtful as to make the issue ripe for litigation and deserving of more deliberate investigation.” In other words, while a judge is not supposed to issue this kind of order unless they are pretty convinced the plaintiff is going to win, Judge Kane issued his order after merely determining that this case is kinda hard.
Because of this relaxed standard, Kane gives a hat tip to the hardest question in this case, but spends no time discussing the correct answer to this question:
The government argues that as a for-profit, secular employer, Hercules cannot engage in an exercise of religion. Accordingly, the argument concludes, the preventive care coverage mandate cannot burden Hercules’ free exercise of religion. Plaintiffs counter, arguing that there exists no law forbidding a corporation from operating according to religious principles.
These arguments pose difficult questions of first impression. Can a corporation exercise religion? Should a closely-held subchapter-s corporation owned and operated by a small group of individuals professing adherence to uniform religious beliefs be treated differently than a publicly held corporation owned and operated by a group of stakeholders with diverse religious beliefs? Is it possible to “pierce the veil” and disregard the corporate form in this context? What is the significance of the pass-through taxation applicable to subchapter-s corporations as it pertains to this analysis? These questions merit more deliberate investigation.
There is a fairly strong legal argument that a twenty year old federal law would allow a religious organization, such as the Catholic church, to ignore a federal birth control law — although one of the most Republican courts in the country rejected a very similar argument just eight years ago. Judge Kane’s case, however, does not involve a church. It doesn’t even involve a Catholic-affiliated charity. This case involves whether a for-profit heating and air conditioning company can claim its religious beliefs are being tread upon.
It’s bizarre enough that five Supreme Court justices cannot tell the difference between a corporation and a person. For the plaintiffs to win this case, a judge will have to hold that a corporation can be Catholic.
About two years ago, my boss asked me to co-author a brief defending the Affordable Care Act in the first federal court to consider the law’s constitutionality. My response was more or less what any competent observer of the Constitution and Supreme Court precedent would have said at the time — “I’ll get right on it, but do we really think that it’s necessary?” Like pretty much everyone who practiced constitutional law in 2010, I overestimated either the integrity or the competence of many federal judges, and wrongly assumed they would each follow the constitutional text and nearly two hundred years of precedent establishing that Obamacare is constitutional.
As it became increasingly clear that many judges were more interested in their own ideology than they were in faithfully and impartially applying the Constitution, I became more and more involved in health reform’s defense. Throughout this effort, I believed this fight was essential to the millions of Americans who, unlike me, either cannot afford health insurance or who risk becoming uninsured because of their preexisting health conditions.
As it turns out, I spent those two years fighting for people exactly like me.
Three weeks ago, I left work in an ambulance and a great deal of pain. In the night that followed, doctors determined that I had a bowel rupture leaking digestive fluid into my abdominal cavity, and a truly outstanding surgeon removed about 8 inches of my small intestine. A few days later, my doctors told me I have Crohn’s disease, a chronic condition in which my immune system sometimes decides to go rogue and attack my own digestive tract.
The upshot of this is that, in one night, I transformed from the kind of patient health insurers drool over — a young, healthy man whose biggest medical expense in the last ten years was a broken toe incurred during a kung fu class — to what those same insurers deem a “high risk” patient. If I lost my job tomorrow, or if I left CAP and ThinkProgress to start my own business, it is very unlikely I would be able to afford health insurance once my current plan runs out. Indeed, without Obamacare, it is reasonably likely that I would not be able to obtain insurance at any price. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, however, the insurance industry’s practice of denying care to high risk patients like myself will soon be illegal.
So let’s be clear, there are people in this world who have the right to complain; I am not one of them. I have a wonderful girlfriend who took care of me when I was unable to sit up and when I had to get out of my hospital bed eight times in one night to go to the bathroom. I come to work every day and spend the next ten or eleven hours working to turn my moral values into a reality. I am blessed with hard working and dedicated colleagues who are some of my closest friends. And I’ve somehow managed to find an organization that is willing to pay me a salary and offer me generous health benefits to do this. I am one of the most fortunate people in the world.
But I am also deeply grateful that the Supreme Court did the right thing last month. Because of Obamacare, I will never have to know what it is like to fear that my next trip to the doctor could be a ticket to bankruptcy. And when the law takes full effect in 2014, millions of Americans just like me will wake up free of this fear for the rest of their lives.