News & Notes

Morning Reads: “Could We Become Mississippi?”; Vermont Moving Toward Single-Payer Health

Good morning! Here are some of the stories we’re reading on a beautiful spring morning in NYC… 

Apathy –> Charles Blow writes in the NYT that we should be outraged by the fact that it’s easier than ever to buy an election but getting harder to cast a vote, and laments the reality that younger and poorer people are less likely to turn out in midterm elections.

Could we become Mississippi?” –> At Slate, Jamelle Bouie cautions that changing demographics could continue to push white America further to the right.

Single-payer –> Vermont is moving in that direction. Sarah Kliff explains for

Are we doomed? –> Emily Atkin at ThinkProgress: “Senator Threatens To Block Nominee For Top Climate Post Because She Accepts Climate Science.” ALSO: Students at Florida State University charge that their economics department, which is largely funded by the Koch brothers, is becoming home to climate change-denying professors without any credentials in climate science.

Shocking police overreach haunts Southern city” –> At Salon, Spencer Woodman tells a remarkable story of a how a federal law enforcement grant “incentivized a police department to go nuts on drug arrests — and terrorize its community.”

Good move –> A universal pre-K bill advanced out of committee in California, clearing the first hurdle to its passage. Sharon Bernstein reports for Reuters, via The Raw Story.

Welfare and dependency –> Wal-Mart would only need to raise prices by around 1 percent to move off the public dole by paying its workers enough that they wouldn’t need foodstamps, according to a study reported by HuffPo’s Alexander Kaufman.

Don’t know much about history –> Heritage Foundation chief Jim DeMint seems to think the federal government had little to do with freeing the slaves. He must have been out the day they discussed that whole Civil War thing in history class.

Guns or butter? –> At Truthout, Mary Zerkel on the “Global Day of Action on Military Spending,” a tax-day campaign for smarter budget priorities.

Progressive cities –> At Bloomberg View, Francis Wilkinson wonders why liberal cities tend to have such large black-white pay gaps.

Full circle –> Brian Beutler reports for TNR that Republican policy types are struggling to come up with a replacement for Obamacare that doesn’t look a whole lot like… Obamacare.

Not exactly rocket scientists –> In Minnesota, two suspected burglars were arrested after one of them accidentally pocket dialed the cops on his cell and they spoke about their crime while the line was open. Via: AP.

Morning Reads: SEC Bosses Too “Timid” to Target Wall Street Fraud; $15 Minimum on SF Ballot?

Good morning! Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant 149 years ago today. It took a while for word to get around that the war had ended – the last American killed in the conflict is believed to have been mortally wounded during a May 13 skirmish in Texas (not counting a Civil War buff in Virginia who died in 2008 when an old cannonball he was restoring exploded).

Time to expose the CIA’s dark side” –> An LAT editorial calls for the release of the Senate’s report on CIA torture in order to “confront the abuses of our past.”

Nihilists –> Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick reports that Virginia Republicans seem to be willing to shut down the state’s government rather than expand Medicaid.

Tentative and fearful” –> A retiring Securities and Exchange Commission trial lawyer says that his bosses are too timid — and too concerned about getting cushy jobs after their government service ends — to go after Wall Street fraudsters. Robert Schmidt reports for Bloomberg.

LIZ!! –> John Nichols writes for The Nation that regardless of whether she runs in 2016, Senator Elizabeth Warren is showing Dems how to speak to the American public’s economic insecurities.

The rent is too damn high –> At TomDispatch, Laura Gottesdiener looks at what happened when Wall Street became a top landlord in New York City. Spoiler alert: it’s not a pretty picture.

 It’s the plutocracy, stupid –> That’s the short version of Vanderbilt University scholar Larry Bartels’ WaPo piece looking at a forthcoming study measuring “economic elite domination” in US politics.

Speaking of which –> In the NYT, Mark Liebovich writes about wealthy politicians jumping through hoops to make it seem like they know what it’s like to struggle to make ends meet.

Renewables –> MoJo’s Tim McDonnell reports that investment in renewable energy is down, but points out that it’s not all bad news.

Your profession has been vilified, scapegoated, mined for profit, and deprofessionalized” –> An open letter of apology to America’s teachers from Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg, at HuffPo.

People have opinions –> They have lots of them about that couple rescued at sea when their young daughter became ill. Michael O’Hare says it’s a perfect example of moral hazard among wealthy people. At Slate, fellow sailor Diane Selkirk defends the couple’s decisions. And TNR’s Mark Oppenheimer takes note of their online exhibitionism, writing that it’s “bizarre” how “the Kaufmans made a show of such a go-it-alone adventure.”

Time for a raise –> SEIU filed paperwork this week to get a $15 minimum wage on the November ballot in San Francisco. The mayor and the city’s Chamber of Commerce aren’t pleased with the move, reports John Coté for the SF Chron.

Sweeteners for their patrons –> Alan Ota reports for Roll Call that House Republicans may hold their noses and extend emergency benefits for the long-term jobless — if they’re attached to corporate tax cuts.

Food fight –> At a tense hearing on the Hill, Eric Holder once again tangled with Rep. Louie Gohmert, who in a previous exchange famously told Holder, “The attorney general will not cast aspersions on my asparagus.”

Change your passwords! –> A huge security bug was uncovered that could allow bad guys to access your “secure” data. Listen to CNN’s Heather Kelly and do it ASAP.

You sexy thing –> Researchers using a new DNA analysis technique resolved a scientific debate by confirming that homo sapiens and homo neanderthalensis — aka Neanderthals — did interbreed, reports Haaretz.

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Sherman Alexie’s Young Adult Novel Pulled From Curriculum in Idaho Schools

Last week, the largest school district in Idaho removed Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian from its curriculum in response to parents’ complaints that the book referenced sex and masturbation, contained language that some found offensive and mocked Christianity.

Even though history tends to frown on censorship, we ban a lot of books. Between 2000 and 2009, the American Association of Libraries (ALA) reports, Americans “challenged” over 5,000 books — meaning that a particular group with an objection sought to remove them from the shelves of a local library. And that number represents only challenges that the Association is aware of; it estimates that the actual number of challenges is four to five times greater. According to the ALA, Alexie’s novel was the second most “challenged” novel of 2012, the most recent year for which the association released a report on controversial books. The Captain Underpants series, by Dav Pilkey, came in first.

Sherman Alexie on Living Outside Cultural Borders
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is semi-autobiographical, chronicles a 14 year-old Native American’s attempt to escape generational poverty by switching high schools. It won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature in 2007 and was described in a New York Times book review as the “best work yet” from the already acclaimed Alexie.

“The book is widely taught in high schools across the country because of its appeal to reluctant readers,” the National Coalition Against Censorship wrote yesterday in a letter to the Meridian, Idaho, school district, located near Boise. The letter was also signed by publisher Little, Brown Books. “The novel addresses vital issues such as the struggles of young adulthood, the search for personal identity, bullying and poverty. It is ultimately an uplifting story of triumph by a boy with few advantages.”

“Decisions about school materials should serve all students in the school,” the letter continued. “This can best be accomplished if decisions about what to include in libraries and classrooms are based on sound educational grounds, not because some parents or board members do or do not agree with the message or content of a particular book.”

The Idaho Statesman reported that the school board meeting where the decision was made was attended by roughly 100 people, many of whom spoke against the novel. But a high school student delivered a petition to the board signed by 35o students who wanted to keep it. The board voted 2-1 to pull the book from the curriculum, where it was part of an optional, “supplemental” reading list.

Gretchen Caserotti, director of public libraries in Meridian, spoke out against restricting the book during public meetings. “Reading about another person’s life can help teens understand another individual’s experience as well as possibly see a piece of themselves in the book,” she told “Indeed, Sherman Alexie’s book has been read by thousands of teens who identified with the alcoholism, the bullying, the puberty as well as the actual themes of identity, family and friendship. The objections from these well-meaning adults are not about the themes of the book, but rather specific instances that are part of the narrative.”

Bill Moyers Essay: The Bane of Banned Books
Since the controversy started, she said, the book has been in high demand in Meridian.

In 2012, Alexie’s novel shared the ten most-challenged list with Toni Morrison’s critically acclaimed Beloved; in 2011, it shared the list with classics To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, and Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley. Bestsellers like The Hunger Games and the Twilight series, as well as Fifty Shades of Grey, also made the list.

New Study: 72 Percent of Fox News Climate Segments Are Misleading

This post first appeared at Mother Jones.

According to a Pew study released last year, 38 percent of US adults watch cable news. So if you want to know why so many Americans deny or doubt the established science of climate change, the content they’re receiving on cable news may well point the way.

According to a new study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, misinformation about climate science on cable news channels is pretty common. The study found that last year, 30 percent of CNN’s climate-related segments were misleading, compared with 72 percent for Fox News and just 8 percent for MSNBC. The study methodology was quite strict: segments that contained “any inaccurate or misleading representations of climate science” were classified as misleading.

By far the worst performer was Fox (this is hardly the first study to associate this channel with sowing reams of doubt about climate change). Notably, the UCS report found that “more than half” of the channel’s misleading content was due to The Five, a program where the hosts regularly argue against climate science. For instance, Greg Gutfeld, one of the show’s regular co-hosts, charged on September 30 that “experts pondered hiding the news that the earth hadn’t…warmed in 15 years, despite an increase in emissions. They concluded that the missing heat was trapped in the ocean. It’s like blaming gas on the dog if the ocean was your dog.” (To understand what is actually going on with the alleged global warming “pause,” and why the deep oceans may well explain part of the story, click here.)

You can watch Gutfeld’s comments here:

As Gutfeld’s statement suggests, one of the standard Fox practices was sowing doubt about scientists themselves. On February 13, 2013, for instance, Sean Hannity commented, “I don’t believe that this global warming nonsense is real,” and then went on to mention “phony emails” from climate scientists. (If you want to know what was actually up with those emails, read here.)

Fox’s two most accurate programs with respect to climate science were The O’Reilly Factor and Special Report with Bret Baier. As the UCS study put it, “O’Reilly and Baier’s programs, although also airing a number of segments containing inaccurate statements about climate science, were responsible for nearly all of the network’s accurate coverage.”

In contrast to Fox, the study found that MSNBC was overwhelmingly accurate in its coverage, and also devoted a great deal of attention to climate change. That was particularly the case for programs hosted by Chris Hayes, whose All In With Chris Hayes featured 30 segments about climate change. When MSNBC did err, the study found, it was because hosts or guests “overstated the effects of climate change, particularly the link between climate change and specific types of extreme weather, such as tornadoes.”

CNN provides the most interesting case in the analysis. In general, the network was usually accurate; when it erred, however, it tended to be because climate-denying guests had appeared in “debates” the network hosted over the reality of climate change. Take a January 23 debate on Out Front with Erin Burnett, for instance, in which Erick Erickson of RedState (then a CNN contributor) claimed that “the 1950s had more extreme weather than now.”

Overall, the UCS report calculated that if CNN had not hosted misleading science debates, it would have improved its accuracy rating to 86 percent. “The biggest step that CNN could take to increase the accuracy of the information it provides to its viewers,” the study concluded, “is to stop hosting debates about established climate science and instead host debates and discussions about whether and how to respond to climate change through climate policy.”

Chris Mooney is a science and political journalist, podcaster and the host of Climate Desk Live. He is the author of four books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science.

Morning Reads: Study Finds Most Fox News’ Climate Segments Inaccurate; “Chris Christie Is Toast”

Good morning! Here are some of the stories we’re reading on a gloomy morning in NYC…

Two-faced –> Eli Clifton reports for Salon that while Big Pharma was publicly backing the ACA, it was privately funneling big bucks to the law’s opposition.

Pay some attention to that man behind the curtain –> At The Atlantic, Peter Beinart argues that megadonors have become more important than the candidates themselves, and should be scrutinized like candidates by the media.

Conflicting stories –> Al Sharpton doesn’t deny that he worked as an FBI informant, but according to Erin Durkin of the NY Daily News he disputes the circumstances reported by The Smoking Gun.

A little knowledge is dangerous –> The Monkey Cage’s headline says it all: “The less Americans know about Ukraine’s location, the more they want U.S. to intervene.”

Fairly unbalanced  –> Just 28 percent of Fox News’ climate segments were accurate, according to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Ninety-two percent of MSNBC’s coverage was accurate, and CNN fell in between with an accuracy rate of 70 percent. Chris Mooney reports for MoJo. 

Not helping –> In the US, there are ten times as many mentally ill people behind bars as there are being treated in state hospitals, according to MoJo’s Stephanie Mencimer.

Chris Christie is toast” –> At Politico, The New School’s Jeff Smith writes that federal prosecutors have latched onto members of Christie’s inner circle, and he’s likely to face a long streak of bad news as a result.

That’s incoherent –> Newt Gingrich argues that getting rid of all campaign finance regulations would, “overnight, equalize the middle class and the rich.” Emily Swanson tries to figure out what he’s talking about for HuffPo.

Robbing workers of wages, benefits, and job security—and stealing revenues owed to government” –> David Bensman looks at the rise of “contingent employment” for TAP.

Won’t help someone without hurting someone else –> Kansas lawmakers responded to a state Supreme Court ruling that poor schools weren’t receiving adequate funding by tying new money to a conservative wishlist of education deforms, including stripping the state’s teachers of their right to due process. Brad Cooper reports for The Kansas City Star.

Missing the forest for the trees –> CAF’s Dave Johnson on the persistence of the right’s trumped up “IRS scandal,” and the real scandal of groups that engage in electoral politics calling themselves “social welfare organizations” to shield their donors.

That’s just wrong –> Mississippi’s bizarre, conservative Christian-friendly sex ed curriculum has gotten some attention of late. At TNR, Jonathan Cohn notes that it mandates that kids be taught that homosexuality is illegal, despite the fact that the Supreme Court struck down all state sodomy laws over a decade ago.

Hillary’s “communist dress” and Putin “doing macho things” –> At Media Matters, Ben Dimiero looks at five years of eye-popping Fox Nation headlines.

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Morning Reads: Climate Change Deniers Kill Study; Rand Paul: Cheney Pushed to Invade Iraq for Halliburton

Good morning — and a happy 60th birthday to Jackie Chan! Today is World Health Day so try to do something healthy — do it for the world.

Supreme oligarchy –> In his latest for WaPo, E.J. Dionne nicely captures the damage inflicted by the Supreme Court in Citizens United and McCutcheon.

Unearthed –> MoJo’s David Corn dug up a 2009 video of Rand Paul saying that Dick Cheney pushed for the invasion of Iraq so that his former company, Halliburton, could rake in big profits.

Climate change denialism –> The journal Frontiers in Psychology published a peer-reviewed study that concluded that people who think climate change is a hoax are more likely to believe in other conspiracy theories as well. But the study was later retracted under legal threats. Elaine McKewon, one of the study’s reviewers, tells the story at The Conversation.

“Tea Party’s great dunce-off” –> That’s the headline on Digby’s Salon piece about Ted Cruz and Rand Paul vying to lead the tea party wing of the GOP. She says that Cruz is winning the contest handily.

So much for Bush v. Clinton in ’16 –> In an interview that’s unlikely to win over GOP primary voters, Jeb Bush said on Sunday that many unauthorized immigrants come to this country as an “act of love” for their families, and deserve our compassion. Ed O’Keefe reports for WaPo.

Stealth fix –> At The Daily Beast, Mike Tomasky writes that it’s significant that House Republicans fixed what they saw as a problem with Obamacare — and it’s telling that they did it in such a way that their members didn’t have to take a vote.

Your own opinion and your own facts –>’s Ezra Klein looks at research revealing that objective facts really don’t matter in political debates.

Is Charles Koch un-American? –> At the Blog for Our Future, R.J. Eskow gets Thomas Jefferson’s take on the billionaire’s political activism.

Generational class war –> Dean Baker points out at Beat The Press that a big chunk of the very modest problems in Social Security’s finances result from rising inequality, not greedy geezers.

He really said that? –> Michael Hayden, Bush’s head of the NSA and CIA, said that Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Diannne Feinstein was “too emotional” about the CIA torture report. Annie-Rose Strasser reports for ThinkProgress.

Kinder, gentler? –> Isaac Chotiner has a contentious interview with a typically combative Rahm Emanuel — who insists that he’s matured over the years — over at TNR.

A happy update –> A couple of weeks ago, we brought you the story of a homeless woman who was charged with two felonies for leaving her kids in her car while she went for a job interview. John Prager reports that $89,000 in donations have since rolled in to help her pay her legal fees and get her family back on their feet.

Grassroots movements –> At In These Times, Bhaskar Sunkara argues that while Venezuela’s protest movement is a genuine grassroots uprising,  people still need to consider “who is mobilizing and what they’re fighting for.”

Global Warming: Myth or Hoax?” –> So reads the Chyron as “Neil deGrasse Tyson” tries to educate the crew from Fox and Friends in a Saturday Night Live sketch aired this weekend.

ExxonMobil Will Keep Doing As It Pleases, Thank You Very Much

Earlier this week, under pressure from shareholder activists, ExxonMobil published its estimate of how much regulations aimed at blunting the impact of climate change would hurt the company’s bottom line.

Some environmentalists thought this would be a good thing, assuming that ExxonMobil would put a positive spin on any future regulation, instead of complaining that it could hurt profits, which they figured would shake shareholder confidence. If the fossil fuel giant indicated that it would be able to make money despite the prospect of new regulations — such as a carbon tax or an emissions cap — it would undermine the argument of politicians who claim that protecting the planet kills jobs.

But ExxonMobil did something different. The company said regulations such as a carbon tax won’t hurt its bottom line because…  they aren’t going to happen. (Ironically, it made these statements on the same day that the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its report describing the devastating effect climate change could have on human society if we don’t do something to stop it very, very soon.) MORE

How ‘McCutcheon’ Will Make Raising the Minimum Wage Even Harder

This post originally appeared at Demos.

The last two weeks have further intensified the pernicious effect of the dominance of the donor class on the interests of most Americans.

In McCutcheon v. FEC, the Roberts Court continued the trajectory of Citizens United and struck down aggregate contribution limits of $123,200 (already more than double the median household income). Wealthy donors, who already hold unbelievable sway in Washington, can now give up to $3.5 million to federal parties, candidates and committees. This will bring a flood of cash; Demos projects that elite donors (those at over, or within 10 percent of the contribution limit) will give over a billion more in campaign contributions through the 2020 cycle as a result. MORE

Morning Reads: Jon Stewart Rips McCutcheon; Ryan’s Roadmap May Set Up Wall Street’s Next Crash

Good morning — and happy Friday! Today marks a tragic moment in our history — it’s the 46th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.


Spooks –> Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to make that report on CIA torture under Bush — a report that the CIA has been desperate to keep under wraps — public. Greg Miller and Adam Goldman report for WaPo.

Ryan’s roadmap to another crash –> The Nation’s George Zornick points out how Paul Ryan’s budget plan would increase the risk of another financial meltdown.

Speaking of Wall Street –>At AlterNet, Marshall Auerback looks at the “high-tech ripoff” of high frequency trading.

We’re! Number!… 70? –> Nick Kristof looks at the Social Progress Index and finds that despite its wealth, the US “ranks 70th in health, 69th in ecosystem sustainability, 39th in basic education, 34th in access to water and sanitation and 31st in personal safety.”

Death penalty –> At Truthout, Thom Hartmann asks whether GM should get the death penalty for keeping its cars on the road with a faulty ignition switch that resulted in at least 13 deaths — a switch that costs just 57 cents.

Two Americas –> According to the Urban Institute, states that expanded Medicaid through the ACA have seen their uninsured populations fall by four points, to 12.4 percent. Those that refused the expansion reduced their rate of uninsured by one and a half points, to 18.1 percent.

A really bad week –> TNR’s Alec MacGillis: “This Is What Life in a Plutocracy Looks Like”

Sexual orientation –> A federal judge has ruled that existing civil rights law may protect gays and lesbians from employment discrimination — a position courts haven’t taken in the past. Chris Geidner reports for BuzzFeed.

Out of touch Dems –> Rep. James Moran (D-VA) complained that he and his colleagues “can’t even afford to live decently in Washington” on their measly $174,000 salaries, reports Caitlin MacNeal for TPM. And David Sirota catches a senior aide to NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo saying that people making $500,000 a year are merely “upper middle class.”

The final frontier –> Scientists think they’ve discovered a lake of warm water beneath the icy surface of one of Saturn’s moons. Kenneth Chang reports for the NYT.

Headline of the day –> “Rogue alcoholic court reporter kept writing ‘I hate my job’.”

Morning Reads: Welcome to John Roberts’ Plutocracy; Drug Warriors Losing Battle for Hearts and Minds

Good morning — and a happy 80th to Jane Goodall! In 2009, she spoke to Bill about her conservation efforts and her hopes for our planet.

Here are some of the stories we’re reading this morning…

The big one: McCutcheon.

In other news…

Appearance of corruption –> Mitch McConnell’s campaign manager, Jesse Benton, may get caught up in a bribery investigation launched after an aide to Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann charged that Benton, while working on Ron Paul’s 2012 campaign, had been involved in buying an endorsement for Paul from an Iowa state senator. Patrick Caldwell has the story at MoJo.

Fort Hood and the costs of war –> In the aftermath of a mass shooting by a soldier reportedly suffering from PTSD, Juan Cole surveys the damage done to our troops by America’s “wars of choice.”

Time is of the essence –> The Nation’s Rick Hertzberg argues that we can only adapt to a changing climate without a huge amount of pain if we start right now.

And we thought you had to graduate from Congress –> George Washington University announced that it will offer a post-graduate degree in lobbying, reports Michelle Cottle in The Daily Beast.

Lawfare against teachers –> A major lawsuit backed by billionaire education “deformers” could have profound impacts on our public schools. Salon’s Josh Eidelson talks about Vergara v. California with Stanford University education scholar Linda Darling-Hammond.

Retaliation –> 250 UPS drivers who staged a 90-minute walkout to protest the firing of a co-worker were themselves fired. Anne-Rose Strasser has the story at ThinkProgress. 

Bad news for America’s drug warriors –> Pew surveys “America’s new drug policy landscape,” and finds broad support for treating drug offenders instead of prosecuting them.

Plutocrat primary –> The Atlantic’s Molly Ball on the GOP’s sordid “Sheldon Adelson suck-up fest.”

Speaking of shady plutocrats –> At New Economic Perspectives, former banking regulator William K. Black offers ten lessons that we “must learn” from recently deceased Charles Keating and the scandals that surrounded him.

“I am a human shield” –> Katie Klabusich pens an open letter to lawmakers from an abortion clinic escort for Truthout.

Oblivious white people –> At AlterNet, Deborah Small looks at the ongoing dispute over economics and culture between Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jonathan Chait and concludes that white America “is oblivious to the truth about black poverty.”

Maybe the squirrels are slower in the Buckeye State –> A small dog — a Chihuahua-Dachshund mix — burrowed his way out of a fenced-in yard in Killeen, Texas, only to be found three days later in Hamilton, Ohio. Only little Corbin knows how he made the trek, and he’s not talking. Via: AP.

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The Court’s Decision on ‘McCutcheon’ Will Empower the Oligarchs, Say Reformers

This artist rendering shows the Supreme Court Justices. (AP Photo/Dana Verkouteren)
An artist's rendering shows the Supreme Court Justices. (AP Image/Dana Verkouteren)

The Supreme Court further opened the doors of our democracy to big money in its ruling today in McCutcheon v. FEC. In a five-four split along ideological lines, the Court ruled that overall limits on individual campaign contributions were unconstitutional under the First Amendment. The Court left in place the cap on donations to a single candidate that conservative donor Shaun McCutcheon also challenged in the case. In a concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas moved to strike that limit down as well.

“I was disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision today,” said Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who, along with former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), enacted the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act in 2002. Many of the provisions of that Act have since been rolled back by Supreme Court decisions, including the 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC. “I am concerned that today’s ruling may represent the latest step in an effort by a majority of the Court to dismantle entirely the longstanding structure of campaign finance law erected to limit the undue influence of special interests on American politics.” McCain said he worried that the ruling would lead to a spate of campaign finance and corruption scandals.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) denounced the ruling saying it would fundamentally undermine American democracy. “The Supreme Court is paving the way toward an oligarchic form of society in which a handful of billionaires like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson will control our political process,” he said in a statement.

Heather Gerken on Dollars v. Democracy
Legal scholar Heather Gerken, who teaches election and constitutional law at Yale — and who spoke with Bill Moyers about the case last October — said today’s decision would have far-reaching effects on our campaign finance system. “The Court downplays the significance of its decision, but they are wrong to do so. If the Court understood how money runs through the political system, they could not have offered such reassurances. This decision is going to cause the parties to restructure how they finance elections going forward, and we’ll all feel the effects for years to come.”

At The Daily Beast, Lawrence Lessig, a reform advocate and law professor at Harvard University, argued that the decision didn’t take the framer’s intent into account in its narrow definition of “corruption” as a quid pro quo exchange of cash for policy between donors and politicians. Corruption, he writes, can also occur when politicians are dependent on one class of citizen. “Already we have a system in which Congress is dependent upon the tiniest fraction of the 1% to fund its campaigns. I’ve estimated the number of relevant funders is no more than 150,000 (about the number of Americans named ‘Lester.’) If aggregate contribution limits are struck, that number will fall dramatically,” he wrote.

The decision outraged good government groups, who have been working since 2010 to stem the flow of special-interest money into politics following Citizens United. In that decision, the Court’s conservative majority held that money is speech, and that the federal government could not restrict it by limiting “third party” campaign spending by corporations and unions. That ruling gave rise to super PACs and the dark money groups that deep-pocketed wealthy donors use to funnel money to support politicians who share their interests.

“[N]o regular person can compete with Charles and David Koch.” — Robert Weissman, Public Citizen
“The Supreme Court in the McCutcheon decision today overturned 40 years of national policy and 38 years of judicial precedent,” said campaign finance reformer Fred Wertheimer, who heads Democracy 21, a nonprofit group working to protect fairness and integrity in elections. “The Court’s decisions have empowered a new class of American political oligarchs. These Court decisions [Citizens United and McCutcheon] have come at the enormous expense of the voices and interests of more than 300 million Americans.”

“Yes, you and I now have the ‘right’ to spend as much as we want, too. But no regular person can compete with Charles and David Koch,” wrote Robert Weissman, president of the good government advocacy group Public Citizen. “There are literally only a few hundred people who can and will take advantage of this horrendous ruling. But those are exactly the people our elected officials will now be answering to.

“That is not democracy. It is plutocracy. Today’s reckless Supreme Court ruling threatens so many of the things we love about our country. No matter what five Supreme Court justices say, the First Amendment was never intended to provide a giant megaphone for the wealthiest to use to shout down the rest of us.”

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich echoed these sentiments in a Facebook post, writing that the decision will allow wealthy individuals to purchase “unparalleled personal influence in Washington,” “drowning out the voices of ordinary citizens.” He added: “This is the most brazen invitation to oligarchy in Supreme Court history.” Reich called for an amendment to the Constitution stating that “(1) money is not speech under the First Amendment, (2) corporations are not people, and (3) we the people have the right to set limits on how much money individuals and corporations can spend on elections.”

Morning Reads: SCOTUS Strikes Down Campaign Limits; Republican Asks How Equal Pay Will Help Men

Good morning! Here are some of the stories we’re reading on a somewhat slow news day…

Stat of the day: 42 percent — reduction in Kentucky’s uninsured population as a result of Obamacare, according to TPM.

SCOTUS finally sticks up for the rich –> In another blow to our already minimal campaign finance regulations, the Supreme Court struck down aggregate contribution limits in McCutcheon. Andy Kroll has the details at MoJo. 

Illegal –> A federal appeals court ruled that Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s last-minute voter purge was illegal. Josh Israel reports for ThinkProgress. 

Theeeey’re back! –> Cameron Joseph reports for The Hill that “senior officials from former President George W. Bush’s administration are wading into the fight over the Republican Party’s direction and future.”

Related? At HuffPo, Luke Johnson notes that March was the first month since July of 2002 in which no US troops died in combat.

Strike? –> At MSNBC, Bill McKibben suggests that climate scientists stop issuing reports about the looming catastrophe of climate change until we listen to what they’ve said already.

Out-of-control crime –> A survey of 1,088 fast-food workers found that 89 percent of them report that they’ve been a victim of wage theft at one time or another. Tiffany Hsu has the story at the LAT. 

So much for that anti-poverty agenda –> Paul Ryan released his latest budget “roadmap,” and at Slate, Jamelle Bouie notes that “instead of new poverty reforms or anything else to showcase the congressman’s interest in low-income Americans, it contains the usual barrage of tax cuts for the wealthy, financed by massive cuts to the social safety net.” ALSO: Igor Volsky turns a critical eye to the roadmap’s claims about Obamacare for ThinkProgress. 

Progressive cities –> Katrina vanden Heuvel in The Nation: “On Universal Pre-K, de Blasio Shows Democrats How to Lead From the Left.”

Freedom of hate –> Buzzfeed’s Tony Merevick reports that Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant is likely to sign a bill — similar to the one Arizona’s Jan Brewer recently vetoed — giving social conservatives special rights to discriminate.

Working America needs a rival system –> At Salon, Edward McClelland argues that workers in the capitalist West benefited hugely from communism during the Cold War because competition with the Soviets forced our elites to spread around the prosperity.

Deadly crackdown –> The militarization of the US-Mexico border is resulting in more migrant deaths, reports Nora Caplan-Bricker for TNR. 

Compassionate conservatism –> Texas Governor Rick Perry ordered prisons in the Lone Star state to ignore a federal law, signed by George Bush, that was designed to cut down on prison rape. Perry says the measure is too burdensome. David Edwards reports for The Raw Story. 

Buddhist Wiccan cop” –> Words one doesn’t often see together, but apparently there is one in Los Angeles, and she’s suing for harassment and gender discrimination according to the Woodland Hills Patch. 

The only Republican at a Senate hearing on the Paycheck Fairness Act” –> It was Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander, and he wanted to know how the equal pay bill would help men. A gobsmacked Laura Bassett reports for HuffPo. 

End of an era –> Charles Keating, a central figure in the 1980s Savings and Loan scandal — for which bankers actually went to jail — died at age 90. Robert McFadden recalls those events for the NYT.

Serious religion –> In South Carolina, the woolly mammoth’s designation as the official state fossil is being held up over an amendment thanking God for creating it, according to Reuters.  And Starbucks has apologized to a Louisiana woman after she complained that a barista had drawn satanic symbols in the foam of her skinny vanilla latte — Ed Kilgore swears the story isn’t an April Fool’s prank.

NY Disappoints on Campaign Finance Reform

The Working Families Party has called Albany’s failure to pass major campaign finance reform legislation, which would have provided public matching funds for small donations in all state races, a “lost opportunity to fix our broken political system.”

“The reason we lost, at the end of the day, is that the governor did not meaningfully support his own proposal,” New York’s Working Families Party Executive Director Dan Cantor said in an email.

As part of New York’s 2014-2015 budget, which passed last night, the state will only adopt a limited pilot program this year that provides public financing for candidates running for state comptroller.

Cantor says the pilot program is “almost surely designed to fail … It will in no way advance the agenda that we have fought for since 2010.” MORE

A ‘Smoking Gun’ in TN Pols’ Anti-UAW Campaign?

Workers assemble Volkswagen Passat sedans at the German automaker's plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. Workers at the plant will decide in a three-day vote Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, whether they want to be represented by the United Auto Workers union. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig, file)

Workers assemble Volkswagen Passat sedans at the German automaker's plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig, file)

In February, workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tenn., plant voted by a narrow margin against joining the United Auto Workers (UAW). In the weeks leading up to the election, during a heated anti-union campaign by outside “pro-business” groups, Republican state lawmakers had held press conferences threatening to withhold incentives from the company if workers opted to join the union. It was widely reported that Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam may have made similar threats, but according to Nashville’s local News Channel 5, “the governor had emphatically denied rumors heard by Democratic lawmakers that state incentives were tied to Volkswagen rejecting the UAW.”

But yesterday, the station reported that it had uncovered documents that appear to contradict the governor’s statements. Phil Williams reports, “documents leaked to NewsChannel 5 Investigates offer conclusive proof that the Haslam administration wanted a say in the automaker’s deal with organized labor — in exchange for $300 million in economic incentives to help VW expand its Chattanooga operations.” MORE

Morning Reads: How the Right Took Over Arizona; Another Cheney Talking Point Bites the Dust

Good morning! It’s April Fool’s Day — try not to get too crazy out there.

Saber-rattling –> Russian military drills 150 miles east of Finland are making the Finns nervous, report Alexander Smith, Alastair Jamieson and Albina Kovalyova for NBC News. On the other hand, The New York Times writes, “…the German government released a statement saying [Vladimir] Putin told Chancellor Angela Merkel in a telephone call that he had ordered a partial withdrawal of Russian troops massed on Ukraine’s eastern border, a source of great tension with Western governments in recent weeks.”

Cheats –> At The Atlantic, Matthew O’Brien looks at the trillions of dollars US multinationals have stashed overseas, and says that another repatriation tax holiday won’t bring them back to our shores. RELATED: A report by Sen. Carl Levin found that the equipment giant Caterpillar “used complicated corporate maneuvers to avoid $2.4 billion in U.S. taxes by parking profits in a unit in Switzerland.”

Torture didn’t help find Bin Laden –> So concludes that controversial Senate report on the CIA’s Bush-era War on Terror programs, according to the AP. Another Cheney talking point bites the dust.

Kleptocracy –> In Arizona, lobbyists approved nearly $1 million in funding for a private prison company that lobbyists pushed for but state prison officials said they didn’t need. Craig Harris and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez report for The Arizona Republic.

Reverse revolving door –> A former Motorola saleswoman in charge of a “government agency overseeing funding for emergency communication projects in the San Francisco Bay Area” relied on “significant misrepresentations” to hand her old employer a $50 million contract with little competition, according to McClatchy’s Greg Gordon and Lydia Mulvany.

Deeply held principles? –> Molly Redden reports for MoJo that Hobby Lobby’s retirement fund is invested in contraception manufacturers.

Is the tide turning? –> Dean Baker writes in The Guardian that the ACA is giving people the security to leave their jobs, and says that may have a positive impact on stagnant wages. This may have something to do with support for the law exceeding opposition in the WaPo/ABC News poll for the first time since 2009.

Pot won’t save Dems –> At AlterNet, Steven Rosenfeld says that while having marijuana legalization on a ballot does increase turnout, it won’t be an issue in enough states to make much difference in this year’s midterms.

Environmentalism pays –> California utility customers will receive credits representing their share of the money raised by the state’s cap-and-trade system. David Baker reports for The San Francisco Chronicle.

Call it North Carolina, West –> James Oliphant with an interesting #LongRead in National Journal about how the far-right took over Arizona’s government.

Chilling dissent –> Charles Davis reports for Vice on a fruitless but intimidating two-year FBI investigation of nonviolent political activists in the Midwest.

Why are we paying their workers? –> At The Nation, Michelle Chen argues that the $2.13 federal minimum wage for tipped workers is a huge ripoff for both workers and restaurant patrons.

Millennial “wealth-gap” –> “For households headed by someone 40 years old or younger, wealth adjusted for inflation remains 30 percent below 2007 levels on average,” reports Jeanna Smialek for Bloomberg.

Reprieve — We told you last week about the Mississippi woman who was scheduled to be executed for a murder to which her son had confessed. Fortunately, the state’s Supreme Court ordered a new trial, reports Arturo Garcia at The Raw Story.

Corporate-Americans tussle over beliefs –> OKCupid has blocked Firefox browsers from accessing its site after Firefox manufacturer Mozilla appointed a new CEO who had been a vocal supporter of California’s anti-gay Prop 8. Sam Biddle has the story for ValleyWag.

“The brighter side of spite” –> Evolutionary researchers are looking at how spite may have played a role “in the origin of admirable traits like a cooperative spirit and a sense of fair play.” Natalie Angier reports for the NYT.

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