FEC levels $219,000 fine for accepting over-the-limit contributions and a deeply discounted private flight.
FEC levels $219,000 fine for accepting over-the-limit contributions and a deeply discounted private flight.
First lady to high school grads: live your dreams Associated Press Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Updated 12:30 pm, Saturday, May 18, 2013 First lady to high school grads: live your dreams (AP) — First lady Michelle Obama has some advice for some Tennessee high school graduates: strike your own path in college and life and work to overcome inevitable failures with determination and grit.
This week in the war on voting is a joint project of Joan McCarter and Meteor Blades. • North Carolina 'ground zero' in fight against voter suppression: • Democrats introduce bill to reform and reauthorize the Election Assistance Commission: The EAC was created in the aftermath of the disastrous elections of 2000 as part of the Help America Vote Act. The agency is designed to assist state and local election officials to ensure smooth, accurate, and fair elections. Congressional Republicans have undermined the agency by holding up nominations and attempting to abolish the agency. The result of their assault on the EAC was seen in the unreasonably long lines, confusion, and disenfranchisement of thousands in the 2012 election. “There’s no magic solution when it comes to fixing how our elections are run,” said [Pennsylvania Rep. Robert] Brady. “Improving election administration has to be an ongoing effort, and the EAC is the only Federal agency equipped to assist our overworked and under-appreciated local election officials. We saw what happens when the EAC’s assistance is pulled in the last election. We owe it to the American people to not let that happen again.” • Black voting power grew between 2008 and 2012 and keeps rising: Not only did 2012 Black voters make the difference in several key swing states, including Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the biggest prize of all, Ohio, but Black voter turnout surpassed the White vote for the first time in history. The Census Bureau found that “About two in three eligible blacks (66.2 percent) voted in the 2012 presidential election, higher than the 64.1 percent of non–Hispanic whites who did so. This marks the first time that blacks have voted at a higher rate than whites since the Census Bureau started publishing statistics on voting by the eligible citizen population in 1996.” This is how the Associated Press puts it: “The findings represent a tipping point for blacks, who for much of American history were disenfranchised and then effectively barred from voting until the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.” Since 1996 Black voter turnout rates have risen 13 percentage points, and the number of Blacks who voted in 2012 rose by about 1.7 million over 2008.  In North Carolina, a state the President lost this time around, African American registration increased from 71% in 2008 to 85% in 2012 with 80.2% of eligible Black voters going to the polls, up from 68.1% four years ago. • No photo ID needed for Pennsylvania primary Tuesday: Pennsylvanians fought in and out of the courts in 2012 to keep a photo ID law from being implemented. They succeeded partially when a judge ruled that the state hadn't provided enough warning about the change and delayed implementation of the law on the grounds that it might otherwise keep some eligible voters from casting ballots in the November election. [L]itigants in the lawsuit agreed in February to extend that postponement beyond the May 21 primary election, meaning voters will be asked to show photographic identification, but will not be turned away from the polls if they do not produce an ID. “It's a continuation of the soft rollout,” said Pennsylvania Department of State spokesman Matthew Keeler. “We're also reminding voters who don't have a form of ID that PennDOT is still giving out free IDs for people who need one.” • Ohio Republicans seek to punish colleges that help students vote: Republicans in the Ohio Legislature are pushing a plan that could cost the state’s public universities millions of dollars if they provide students with documents to help them register to vote. Backers of the bill describe it as intended to resolve discrepancies between residency requirements for tuition and voter registration, while Democrats and other opponents argue it is a blatant attempt at voter suppression in a crucial swing state. “What the bill would do is penalize public universities for providing their students with the documents they need to vote,” Daniel Tokaji, a professor and election law expert at Ohio State University told TPM. “It’s a transparent effort at vote suppression—about the most blatant and shameful we’ve seen in this state, which is saying quite a lot.” • Implications of racial polarization in 2012 elections and the Voting Rights Act: Stephen Ansolabehere, Nathaniel Persily and Charles Stewart III have written an article for the Harvard Law Review exploring regional differences in racial polarization and what these should mean for the Voting Rights Act. Section 5, the main enforcement mechanism of the 1965 law, is under review by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Shelby County v. Holder. The bulk of legal observers think the court will rule the law is no longer necessary. But the authors of the article conclude otherwise. Indeed, we view our findings more as a response to the notion that the election and reelection of an African American President settles the constitutional question in favor of the VRA’s detractors. If anything, the opposite is true. To be sure, the coverage formula does not capture every racially polarized jurisdiction, nor does every county covered by section 5 outrank every noncovered county on this score. However, the stark race-based differences in voting patterns between the covered and noncovered jurisdictions taken as a whole demonstrate the coverage formula’s continuing relevance. • Indiana will spend $2 million to clean up voter roles The Indiana Secretary of State’s office will spend more than $2 million to purge the voter registration rolls in each of Indiana’s 92 counties, removing the names of voters who are dead, in prison, or have moved away. County election officials are responsible for keeping the voter rolls current, but the lack of money has caused some of them to fall behind. The result: In some counties, the number of people listed on the active voter rolls is higher than the number of voting-age people who live there. “Every duplicate name and every bad address is just an opportunity for vote fraud,” said Secretary of State Connie Lawson 
As if it weren't already clear that the so-called "IRS scandal" is nothing of the sort, now it's becoming even clearer that it's a just another bit of that down-the-rabbit-hole-up-is-downism in which conservatives have come to specialize in recent years. The Institute for Research and Education in Human Rights -- which, among other things, monitors the far-right extremists who have been filling the ranks of the Tea Party -- has an excellent takedown of the IRS nonsense: The Tea Party and the IRS “Scandal”: The Actual Facts of the Case While it is well-known that the so-called IRS scandal has been used by Tea Partiers to bash the IRS, less well known are the actual facts of the case. Some of the flagged groups did have their tax-exempt status delayed or did face some additional scrutiny, but not a single group has been denied tax-exempt status. A May 14 draft report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found that none of the 296 questionable applicants had been denied, “For the 296 potential political cases we reviewed, as of December 17, 2012, 108 applications had been approved, 28 were withdrawn by the applicant, none had been denied, and 160 cases were open from 206 to 1,138 calendar days (some crossing two election cycles).” (p. 14) In fact, the only known 501(c)(4) applicant to recently have its status denied happens to be a progressive group: the Maine chapter of Emerge America, which trains Democratic women to run for office. Although the group did no electoral work, and didn’t participate in independent expenditure campaign activity either, its partisan nature disqualified it from being categorized as working for the “common good.” The Inspector General’s report found that in the “majority of cases, we agreed that the applications submitted included indications of significant political campaign intervention.” (p. 10). In fact, only 91 of the 296, roughly 31%, of the applications reviewed for the report did not have “indications of significant political campaign intervention.” In other words, more than two thirds of those flagged for processing by a team of specialists had those indications. That sort of political campaign intervention would normally disqualify a group from 501(c)(4) status, but the deluge of Tea Party applications combined with the politicization of the process has allowed them to slip through. A closer look by IREHR at the activities of some of the Tea Party groups that are currently under review or have received non-profit status from the IRS, reveals a difficult and dangerous situation. Be sure to read the whole thing. As the report concludes: Rather than the so-called scandal cooked up by Tea Party groups, the real criticism of the IRS may be that it has let so many of these groups get away with what are apparently egregious violations. That's what all the yelling's about. It's to keep people from seeing the plain truth: Many of these people really are tax cheats trying to game the system for partisan advantage.
Congress is currently considering bipartisan legislation providing an amnesty for America's 11 million illegal immigrants, probably combined with extra visas for skilled workers and an agricultural guestworker program. But principled liberals and conservatives should both demand that any immigration reform proposal also include a sharp rise in the federal minimum wage.The reason is simple. Any increase in the supply or job mobility of willing workers will tend to benefit Capital at the expense of Labor, stifling any growth in working-class wages, especially given our high unemployment rates. The last 40 years have seen a huge increase in immigration, and it is hardly coincidental that median American wages have been stagnant or declining throughout most of this same period. A large boost in the minimum wage, perhaps to $12 an hour or more, would be the best means of reversing our current economic race to the bottom.Continue Reading
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