Category Archives: Elections

‘This Needs to Happen All Over America’: Applause for Candidate Who Called Out Big Oil Donors

“Why do we need campaign finance reform? This. This is why.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 2-12-2018

West Virginia House of Delegates candidate Lissa Lucas was hailed as a model for congressional candidates across the nation after she read off the names of politicians taking money from the oil and gas industry. (Photo: Facebook/Screengrab)

When West Virginia House of Delegates candidate Lissa Lucas decided to take a stand against Big Oil’s pernicious political influence last week by rattling off the names of state lawmakers receiving massive campaign donations from the fossil fuel industry, she was swiftly and forcefully silenced.

Now, her story—first reported by journalist Russell Mokhiber in a piece for Common Dreams on Sunday—has become a viral sensation and a model for those looking to challenge the stranglehold corporate cash has on the American political system.

Watch the video of the incident, which has since garnered over 133,000 views on Facebook: Continue reading

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Striving for ‘Best Plutocracy Money Can Buy,’ Koch Brothers Plan to Dump $400M in 2018 Midterms

“This is why we need to overturn the terrible Citizens United Supreme Court decision and move to public funding of elections.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 1-28-2018

Photo: YouTube

Fresh off the passage of tax legislation that could net them over a billion dollars a year in additional profits, the oil moguls Charles and David Koch have now set their sights on the 2018 midterms, during which they are reportedly planning to spend around $400 million promoting right-wing candidates and priorities.

The news came as the Kochs and others within their sprawling network of deep-pocketed donors and politicians were preparing to gather for a secretive weekend conference in Indian Wells, California. Continue reading

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Pennsylvania Supreme Court Smacks Down GOP Gerrymandered Congressional Map

Decision hailed as ‘major victory for all Pennsylvanians’

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 1-22-2018

Thanks to the new decision, said the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, “The new maps could result in a delegation that more closely resembles the will of Pennsylvania’s voters.” (Photo: Penn State/Flickr/cc)

Pennsylvania’s high court on Monday ruled that the state’s gerrymandered congressional map “clearly, plainly, and palpably” violates the state constitution and ordered the state to draw up a new map to be used in the primary.

“The Pennsylvania Supreme Court today ruled in favor of voters choosing politicians rather than politicians choosing voters, and that is major victory for all Pennsylvanians,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause, which filed an amicus brief in the case. “The court order will result in new maps in time for the 2018 election so that voters will not be forced to face a fourth congressional election under these unconstitutionally gerrymandered congressional districts.” Continue reading

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Thanks to the North Carolina case, partisan gerrymandering’s day of reckoning may soon be upon us

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The word ‘gerrymandering’ comes from the name of Elbridge Gerry, Massachusetts governor in the 1800s. AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Christopher Beem, Pennsylvania State University

Gerrymandering was already shaping up to be an important issue this year, with huge implications for American democracy. But after the ruling this week on the North Carolina congressional map, the stakes have been raised still higher.

For the first time, a federal panel of judges ruled that a state’s map of its congressional districts was unconstitutional. The North Carolina map didn’t just give an advantage to Republicans – it manifested “invidious partisan intent.” The panel directed the state to draw the districts again by Jan. 24. Continue reading

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‘Genuine Menace’: Trump Calls in Lawyers to Block Publication of Embarrassing Book

The forthcoming exposé, which features interviews with West Wing insiders, raises questions about the president’s fitness for office and could be useful to the Russia investigation

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 1-4-2018

President Donald Trump is attempting to block a publisher from releasing a new “bombshell” book about his presidency. (Photo: Notions Capital/Flickr/cc)

President Donald Trump is attempting to block the release of a highly-anticipated “bombshell” book featuring interviews with members of his inner circle—including those who reportedly called him a “fucking idiot” and said “He’s not only crazy, he’s stupid“—by submitting a cease-and-desist letter to the book’s publisher.

In the letter to Henry Holt and Co., Trump attorney Charles J. Harder demands the publisher “immediately cease and desist from any further publication, release, or dissemination of the book,” including excerpts and summaries. Continue reading

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‘Anti-Trump Rhetoric Not Enough’: Bold, Progressive Agenda Demanded for 2018

“We must act together. And we must act strategically. 2018 is the year the people fight back like never before.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 1-1-2018

“Empty platitudes and anti-Trump rhetoric is not enough to win seats in Congress,” said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.). (Photo: Molly Adams/Flickr/cc)

As Republicans and President Donald Trump turn toward the new year with destruction on their minds, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) joined a chorus of voices in expressing the urgent need to reach beyond merely resisting the right’s agenda and articulate an inspiring alternative that will sweep progressives into positions of power.

“Here is a New Year’s resolution I hope you will share with me,” Sanders wrote on Twitter just before midnight on Sunday. “In 2018, we will not only intensify the struggle against Trumpism, we will increase our efforts to spread the progressive vision in every corner of the land.” Continue reading

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As Final Tax Scam Vote Looms, Demands for McConnell to Seat Doug Jones ‘Immediately’

“Alabama voters deserve to have their voices heard in this fight.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 12-13-2017

After “bigotry and hatred were defeated at the polls” in Alabama on Tuesday, progressives turned their sights toward defeating the GOP’s attempt to deliver a trillion-dollar tax cut to the wealthy, demanding that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) “immediately” seat newly elected Sen. Doug Jones before a final vote on the Republican tax bill.

Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF), said in a statement late Tuesday that Jones’s victory represents a repudiation of “the Trump-GOP agenda” and implored Republicans to “re-evaluate their support for the monstrous tax bill that will rip healthcare away from millions while raising taxes on middle class families.” Continue reading

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“We Don’t Want to Repress”: Police in Honduras Refuse Orders to Stamp Out Pro-Democracy Protests

“We are tired. And our job is to give peace and security to the Honduran people, not repress them. We want all Hondurans to be safe.”

By Jon Queally, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 12-5-2017

Photo: Heather Gies/Twitter

Amid widening violence and ongoing protests, members of the Honduras National Police force—including those within the U.S.-trained units known as the Cobras—say they are refusing  to obey orders from the right-wing government of the incumbent president, Juan Orlando Hernández, who has used the security forces to crackdown on demonstrators and imposed a curfew amid allegations of voter fraud in recent elections.

“We want peace, and we will not follow government orders – we’re tired of this,” a spokesperson for the police told reporters outside the national police headquarters on Monday. “We aren’t with a political ideology. We can’t keep confronting people, and we don’t want to repress and violate the rights of the Honduran people.” Continue reading

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We started a revolution over this once

Do you remember voting for lobbyists to decide who pays what in taxes? We don’t.

Photo: Daniel Huizinga/flickr

On Friday night, the Senate passed their version of the #GOPTaxScam. The bill, all 479 pages of it, was presented to the full Senate just hours before the vote. The vote was along party lines, with the one dissenting vote among the Republicans coming from Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee.

So, what was in this bill, and why did they vote on it before all the Senators could actually read through the bill? We’re glad you asked. First, what’s in it.

A lot of the bill is what you’d expect. For example:

  • The top individual rate is reduced from 39.6% to 38.5%, and the threshold at which the top rate kicks in is increased from $418,000 for a single/$480,000 for married filing jointly to $500,000/$1,000,000
  • The estate tax exemption is doubled, to $11 million for a single taxpayer and $22 million for married taxpayers.
  • The corporate rate is reduced from 35% to 20%.
  • The top rate on the income earned by owners of “flow through” businesses — S corporations and partnerships — is reduced from 39.6% to a shade below 30%.

Questions about these measure that we were forced to ask include; how is it that corporations are able to keep the tax deductions that have now been excluded from individual tax bases? Why is the corporate tax is now LOWER than the top individual rate? If corporations are people too, why is there ANY difference in these tax rates?

Then, there’s the “Why are these items in a tax bill, anyways?” parts. These include:

  • A provision that explicitly allows parents to use tax-free college savings plans, known as 529s, for a “child in utero.” This is essentially a personhood bill, setting a precedent for the legal definition of life beginning at conception.
  • The bill repeals the Johnson Amendment, which bans non-profit groups from engaging in political activism. This would mean that churches and the like could actively engage in elections without disclosing individual donors; think of it as Citizens United on steroids. This serves the purpose of blurring the lines between the separation of church and state, allowing the churches to donate and promote individual candidates in local and national elections, all while cloaked under the donation secrecy this provision allows.
  • Eliminating the individual mandate of the ACA. While this actually does deal with taxes (the fine for not being insured is paid as part of your taxes), removing the mandate means that younger and healthier people won’t buy insurance until they need it. These are the people who currently offset the cost of providing healthcare to the older and sicker people. Without this in place, premiums will rise dramatically more than the anticipated 10% over the next 10 years.
  • A provision that would open part of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, to oil and gas exploration. While this would raise revenue, it only amounts to $2 billion over the next ten years, at the cost of almost assuredly ruining the local environment and ecosystem. Additionally, it is worded in such a way that it is actually ILLEGAL to not drill, forcing Alaska to accept ANY drilling permits and fields desired.

Of course, the individual tax cuts are set to expire, meaning that the middle class will see a tax increase. And, what’s going to pay for these? The GOP mantra’s always been that tax cuts pay for themselves, but others, such as Marco Rubio, have already admitted that the tax reform is part one of a two-step process designed to defund and eventually dismantle Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security; the very programs designed to help the elderly, disabled and poorest members of American society.

Now obviously, a lot of these proposals don’t sit well with the electorate. So, why the rush to pass it? The GOP needs a victory. Even with controlling both houses of Congress and the White House, this administration’s been notably inept in getting meaningful things accomplished. Furthermore, the GOP donor class has stated that the campaign money will dry up if they don’t get the tax cuts they want.

Photo: Represent.US

So, who came up with most of the amendments? Lobbyists. Out of the 11,000 registered lobbyists in Washington, more than 6,000 said that they worked on taxes this year. That works out to 11 lobbyists for each member of Congress. Do you remember electing lobbyists to write our laws? We sure don’t.

We still have a chance to stop this. The House and Senate bills now go to a conference committee. The bill that comes out of that will need to be passed by both houses. The healthcare fiasco this summer proves that if we’re loud and persistent enough, our message gets through. And, with the bill only having 37% approval before the vote, there’s enough of us to make the message get through.

And what if it doesn’t? The last time that the GOP had won control of both houses and the presidency before 2016 was 1928. The new tax bill looks even more extreme than the policies put into place by the Republicans after the 1928 election. Does anybody remember what happened in 1929?

Another annoying historical factoid that you may wish to remember at a time like this: 244 years ago, a group of people decided that they weren’t going to pay taxes without proper representation, and what became known as the Boston Tea Party took place. This in turn led to a revolution, and the founding of this country.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

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How the tax package could blur the separation of church and politics

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If a House provision gets enacted, churches will be able to endorse – not just pray for – political candidates. Andrew Cline/Shutterstock.com

Susan Anderson, Elon University

The tax package pending in Congress includes a provision that would leave churches and other nonprofits, which by law must be nonpartisan, suddenly free to engage in political speech.

This measure, currently only in the House version of the bill, could potentially change charitable life as we know it.

As an accounting professor who teaches nonprofit taxation, I believe that this significant change deserves vigorous public debate and is too big to bury in tax legislation. Continue reading

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