Sunday, January 22, 2012

Money Can't Buy Me Love, But It Can Buy Me A Member Of Congress

It should come as no surprise that, of those in Congress whose positions are currently known; 21 of the top 26 recipients of campaign money from the Movie, Music and Television Industries are supporting SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Prevent Internet Piracy Act)*.

19 of those 21 representatives received significantly more money from the Movie, Music and Television Industries than they received from the Computer and Internet Industries.

And only four of these 26 top campaign money recipients are either not supporting, or leaning towards not supporting SOPA/PIPA.

So it appears that the votes of a mere seven of the top money-getters listed here can't be bought.

Seven. Out of 26.

That's pathetic.

Name Party 2010 Campaign $ Movies/Music/TV 2010 Campaign $ Computers/Internet SOPA/PIPA Stance
  Boxer, BarbaraD     $571,600     $348,691      Yes
  Reid, HarryD     $500,300     $299,448      Yes
  Schumer, CharlesD     $494,325     $291,384      Yes
  Bennet, MichaelD     $367,733     $162,575      Yes
  Gillibrand, KirstenD     $360,541     $217,750      Leaning No
  Leahy, PatrickD     $346,056     $140,620      Yes
  Blunt, RoyR     $154,166     $  64,238      No
  Blumenthal, RichardD     $154,066     $  52,150      Yes
  Grassley, CharlesR     $111,150     $  92,976      Yes
  McCain, JohnR     $104,472     $116,318      Yes
  Isakson, JohnnyR     $  97,400     $  74,000      Yes
  Coons, ChristopherD     $  92,700     $  23,950      Yes
  Franken, AlD     $  88,900     $  30,300      Yes
Name Party 2010 Campaign $ Movies/Music/TV 2010 Campaign $ Computers/Internet SOPA/PIPA Stance
  Berman, Howard D      $286,400      $  73,539       Yes
  Bono Mack, MaryR      $173,890      $  30,926       Yes
  Sherman, BradD      $  97,500      $  18,800       Yes
  Smith, LamarR      $  90,850      $  47,250       Yes
  Blackburn, MarshaR      $  85,750      $  16,750       No
  Conyers Jr., JohnD      $  84,591      $  73,983       Yes
  Pelosi, NancyD      $  76,950      $  63,475       No
  Wasserman Schultz, Debbie D      $  70,600      $  23,169       Yes
  Schiff, AdamD      $  62,700      $    6,250       Yes
  Goodlatte, RobertR      $  56,500      $  67,819       Yes
  Barrow, JohnD      $  55,550      $  10,300       Yes
  Terry, LeeR      $  52,750      $  26,150       No
  Bass, KarenD      $  52,400      $  16,800        Yes

This is a perfect illustration of what politics looks like to those of us who can't afford to buy a member of Congress: He who pays, apparently gets to play.

Contact your Representatives in the House and Senate
Tell them we want OUR voices listened to!
Protect the Internet. Protect free speech. No on SOPA, No on PIPA.


Sopa and Pipa anti-piracy bills controversy explained ~ at BBC News Technology
SOPA and PIPA opponents warn the bills are not dead yet ~ By Moe Lane at RS Redstate
JWhat Are SOPA and PIPA And Why All The Fuss? ~ By Larry Magid, Contributor at Forbes
Stop Online Piracy Act ~ at Wikipedia
PROTECT IP Act ~ at Wikipedia
*SOPA Opera; Where Do Your Members of Congress Stand on SOPA and PIPA? The PIPA Bill ~ at
*SOPA Opera; Where Do Your Members of Congress Stand on SOPA and PIPA? The SOPA Bill ~ at

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." ~ Anne Frank

Friday, January 13, 2012

GOP Candidates To Virginia: 'Rules? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Rules!'

Four Different Judges To GOP Candidates: 'Oh Yes, I'm Afraid You Do!'


Last Friday,  Judge John Gibney, a federal judge with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, ruled against four of the Republican candidates for president who filed suit against the state of Virginia for not allowing them to appear on the March 6 primary ballot. In his ruling Judge Gibney stated:
The four candidates "knew the rules in Virginia many months ago. In essence, they played the game, lost, and then complained that the rules were unfair."
Then on Sunday, Governor Rick Perry took his case to the appeals court, asking the court to either force the state to put his name on the ballot, or not mail absentee ballots until there is a final ruling on the constitutionality of Virginia's ballot requirements. Except the original suit didn't have anything to do with the constitutionality question.

In light of Judge Gibney's ruling and Rick Perry's insistence on tying up the court system with what amounts to a frivolous lawsuit that he cannot win, it becomes important to understand exactly why he and the other candidates did not qualify for inclusion on the Virginia primary ballot in the first place.

In short; they have only themselves and the Virginia GOP to thank for their disqualification, not so much the state Board of Elections.

The law requiring candidates for president in Virginia to produce 10,000 signatures (with at least 400 from each of the 11 congressional districts) has been on the books since the 1970s — that's well over 30 years. None of the previous republican candidates for president has ever seen fit to sue the state of Virginia due to their "onerous" rules in the past 9 presidential elections since the law has been in effect.

So what's changed?

Last October a man named Michael Osborne, an independent candidate to be a Virginia delegate, filed suit against Virginia's Fifth District GOP Chairman Brandon Boyles and Virginia Board of Elections Secretary Donald Palmer. The case is currently making its way through the courts as Osborne v. Boyles, and challenges the fact that rules for reviewing petitions for appearing on the Virginia ballot require candidates that are affiliated with a party, submit their petitions to the party chairman, who then reviews the signatures without any guidelines dictating the review process. And if the party chairman says there are 10,000 valid signatures, there is no recourse for state officials to challenge it.

And for 30 years, the Virginia GOP chairman simply gave the petitions a cursory once-over, ensuring there were at least 10,000 signatures, and certified them without any question.

Candidates not affiliated with a party, on the other hand, must have their petitions reviewed by the local voter registrars, who check each signature for validity to ensure each signer is a registered voter who lives in the district. This naturally poses a much larger hurdle for an independent candidate, given that there are always a percentage of signatures that are thrown out for a variety of reasons.

It's much easier to collect 10,000 random signatures than it is to collect 10,000 signatures that are each and every one ensured to be valid.

On May 25th, 2011, the Virginia State Board of Elections adopted the Deadlines, Duties and Ballot Access Requirements for the Presidential Primary Election [to be held] Tuesday, March 6, 2012. In it they state:
Because many people who are not registered to vote will sign a petition, it is recommended that 15,000 - 20,000 signatures be obtained with at least 700 signatures from each congressional district.
Note that this is merely a recommendation, not a requirement. But every candidate certainly had ample notice of it nonetheless.

But since the Virginia GOP is embroiled in the above-referenced lawsuit challenging their validation procedures, they decided to err on the side of caution this time and adopt the Board of Elections' recommendation as a requirement for candidates who wished to be presumed in compliance and automatically qualified without further scrutiny. They allege that all candidates were advised of this "from the earliest days of the campaigns," and sent a formal letter to every candidate to this effect in October.
In October 2011, RPV formally adopted the certification procedures that were applied on December 23: any candidate who submitted over 15,000 facially-valid signatures would be presumed to be in compliance with Virginia’s 10,000 signature law. ...

RPV officials encouraged candidates repeatedly, through both counsel and field staff, to submit 15,000 or more signatures in an abundance of caution, so that they would meet the legal requirements.

Candidates were officially informed of the 15,000 rule in October 2011, well in advance of the Dec. 22 submission deadline. The rule was no surprise to any candidate – and indeed, no candidate or campaign offered any complaints until after the Dec. 23 validation process had concluded.

Mitt Romney submitted in excess of 15,000 signatures and none of his signatures were checked; he was presumed to have collected at least 10,000 valid signatures and automatically qualified for the ballot.

Ron Paul submitted just over 14,000 signatures. Therefore, having missed the arbitrary 15,000 minimum the party was requiring for presumption of qualification, every one of this signatures were examined line-by-line. When 10,000 valid signatures were found, he was certified for inclusion on the ballot.

Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich each submitted something in the neighborhood of 11,000 signatures. This also forced a line-by-line examination of their submissions — again, something that had never been done before in any prior primary election. Unfortunately for them, more than 1,000 signatures from each of them proved to be invalid and the party could not certify them.

Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman did not submit even the required 10,000 signatures in the first place so they were automatically disqualified.

Had this been any other year, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich would all have been deemed qualified for the Virginia ballot by the Virginia GOP chairman merely for submitting a total of at least 10,000 signatures, valid or not.

Bachmann, Santorum and Huntsman would not, and have only themselves to blame. Perry and Gingrich, on the other hand, have the Virginia Republican Party to blame (in addition to themselves, of course).

I must ask, do these candidates really think we want a president who cannot even be bothered to follow the rules that they are clearly aware of from the beginning of their candidacies? Why should the American public trust a president who thinks the rules don't (or shouldn't) apply to them? This would certainly set a very dangerous precedent in a presidency of any of these particular candidates.

Thankfully, the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit agreed, as they dismissed Governor Perry's appeal on Tuesday, finding in part:
Movant had every opportunity to challenge the various Virginia ballot requirements at a time when the challenge would not have created the disruption that this last-minute lawsuit has. Movant’s request contravenes repeated Supreme Court admonitions that federal judicial bodies not upend the orderly progression of state electoral processes at the eleventh hour. Movant knew long before now the requirements of Virginia’s election laws. There was no failure of notice. The requirements have been on the books for years."

You can read the full ruling here (pdf).


UPDATE: Gingrich failure to get on primary ballot raises questions ~ By Andrew Cain at the Richmond Times-Dispatch
Did the VA GOP change the rules on primary ballot access in November 2011? ~ By Moe Lane at RS Redstate
Judge postpones hearing Osborne's election lawsuit ~ By Mac Mclean at
RPV issues statement on “Petition Certification” ~ By Norman Leahy at Bearing Drift, Virginia's Conservative Voice
Deadlines, Duties and Ballot Access Requirements ~ By the Virginia Board of Elections
Candidates join Perry's Virginia lawsuit ~ By Kevin Liptak at CNN

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." ~ Anne Frank

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Pay Down The National Debt Project

Photo: Creative Commons via Flickr / Wollombi)
Last November, two dozen millionaires (and probably a couple of billionaires) descended on Washington to "protest" that they and their fellow one percenters should pay higher taxes. It looked more like a convention than a protest, as it took place in what appeared to be a large hotel meeting room and people were wearing name tags. But their alleged purpose there was to tell Congress, "We should be paying more to the federal government. Please take money from us."

But when they were asked, would they give it up?

Michelle Fields of The Daily Caller was on hand with her iPad, on which she had displayed the Department of Treasury website where you can make a voluntary payment towards reducing the federal debt. She talked to many of the men in attendance to ask them why they were there and if they'd be willing to make a payment right then to help lower the debt.

She reported that none of them would.

They had all sorts of excuses as to why they were refusing. Things like, "You're being silly," and "It would be completely puny and ineffective," and "I think that's a joke and I'm not interested."

One gentleman snarled at Ms. Fields, "Why don't you donate money?" When she replied that she was not part of the one percent, and she was not there asking congress to raise her taxes, his retort was, "Well that's okay, you can donate money just as well as I can. Do you think that'll help?"

Good question. Would it help if those who can afford to — even those not in the one percent — made a voluntary payment towards the national debt? How many Americans would have to chip in to make any sort of reasonable dent in the current debt? How much would people need to give to make a difference?

How much could we realistically hope to raise from average Americans?

One solution that has been offered to start resolving the debt problem is to return the top marginal tax rate to what it was during Bill Clinton's presidency: 39.6 percent. That's 4.6 percentage points higher than the current top marginal tax rate, and depending on where the threshold is placed, as little as 1 percent overall (a multiplier of 0.01), or less.

The median income for a worker in America is $39,336. If Americans donated one tenth of what the richest Americans are being asked to pay, or a factor of 0.001 of their annual income, the average donation amount would be approximately $39.34.

There were 217,342,419 eligible voters in 2010. Of those, only 90,732,693 turned out to vote. If only those Americans who voted in 2010 donated $39.34, we could pay down $3,569,424,143 of the debt.

That's $3.5 billion.

We are going through a national crisis right now. The debt, regardless who ran it up and by how much, is unsustainable. While there is no question but that we will have to make changes in both law and policy to begin to resolve our debt problem, Republicans have made a central theme of their party, that we should not rely on government to solve our problems. Private industry and individuals, they claim, can do a better job than government. Does that extend to our nation's fiscal problem, as well?

One could justifiably argue that once we've done what we're obligated to do by law, our responsibility ends. But during times of crisis, should it? Is it not incumbent upon us to work for the greater good, even if it goes beyond the limits required by law?

Many of us do just that. We volunteer our time with campaigns. We run for local or state office ourselves. We make charitable donations that help our neighbors, which in turn lightens the load on government and our fellow taxpayers.

When the nation's children are starving, we go out and feed them. What about when the nation itself is starving? Should we not feed it, too?

Billionaire Warren Buffett has issued a challenge to Republicans in Congress: He will match any contribution they make to the national debt dollar-for-dollar, except for Mitch McConnell who he will match 3:1. But so far he appears to be the only one willing to put his money where his mouth is. The millionaire protestors — oddly — admit they'll have to be forced by the government to give up any of their income to help save the country.

Show the millionaires that we are willing to step up to the plate ourselves, even if they aren't.

Thank You!


‘Patriotic millionaires’ demand higher taxes, but unwilling to pay up ~ By Michelle Fields at The Daily Caller
Warren Buffett To Republicans: I'll Match Every Dollar You Contribute To Pay Down The Debt ~ By Ben Walsh at Business Insider
2010 General Election Turnout Rates ~ By Dr. Michael McDonald, Department of Public and International Affairs, George Mason University at The United States Elections Project