In the groundbreaking film An Inconvenient Truth, Vice President Al Gore makes an impressive case that it is now essential that the world act to prevent the potentially catastrophic implications of global warming. The film could not come at a more critical time. While the planet warms, Washington dawdles. The nation's political elite remains mired in a debate manipulated by powerful energy interests.
As we detailed a few weeks ago, rightwing developers are using the cover of "fixing" eminent domain to push radical anti-environment initiatives on ballots across the country. Opponents ranging from outdoor sports organizations to labor unions have been mobilizing in response.
For public employees in four states, this may have been a rough week.
As if balancing typical duties of work and family is not enough, a
front group for anonymous business interests this week began running
ads in Michigan, Montana, Nevada, and Oregonaccusing
public employees of being lazy and overcompensated. The campaign is
connected to the well-orchestrated rightwing attempt to impose
TABOR-style spending limits in numerous states through ballot measures
Supporters of Oregon's unique universal vote-by-mail system got
a serious leg up this month when the NAACP adopted a resolution
formally endorsing the system. The NAACP joins the AFL-CIO in publicly
backing the system, which has gained widespread support among
representatives of working families for the way that it increases
flexibility for voters and also serves as a reminder of otherwise
low-profile elections for many of us in our busy day-to-day lives.
Jonathan Singer, an Oregon-based front page writer for MyDD, catches John Kerry extolling the virtues of Oregon's vote-by-mail ballot system.
That system, which we've praised ourselves, has actually saved money in Oregon while increasing turnout, especially in historically low turnout local elections.
The system works so well for a few reasons. First, it creates a documentable paper trail of every ballot. Second, the arrival of the ballot serves as a simple Get Out The Vote (GOTV) reminder.
As far-right funders like Howard Rich work across the country, dumping
literally millions simply into qualifying these atrocious measures for
ballots, progressives have experienced some good news and some bad
news. Here's where the campaign stands in various states:
Diving into the world of campaign finance and investigating the funders of the takings initiatives quickly reveals a number of organizations involved: Americans for Limited Government, America at Its Best, the Fund for Democracy, and Montanans in Action. What is odd, though, is that with more digging, they all appear to be funded and controlled by the same individual: New York Developer Howard Rich.
Exploiting the unpopular Kelo vs. New London
Supreme Court decision, far-right ideologues are pushing a number of
nearly identical ballot measures in dozens of states across the country
as reforms to "protect our homes." The backers claim that their efforts
will prevent big corporations from using eminent domain to seize
people's homes. In reality, these faux populist measures -- backed
almost entirely by one rich New York City developer -- will leave
cities and counties powerless to protect the environment and strengthen
communities in the face of sprawl development.
This week, the Supreme Court struck down Vermont's strict limits on
campaign contributions and expenditures by candidates. In a set of
fractured opinions in Randall v. Sorrell,
the Court did not put an end to all campaign finance limits but did put
a roadblock in the way of anything much more restrictive than most
present laws. So if there is going to be more serious reform to lessen
the power of special interest money in politics, the only real
remaining route to reform are systems of public financing of elections like Maine and Arizona.