More than 100 immigrant detainees at Northwest Detention Center in Washington state entered the fifth day of a hunger strike Tuesday and have been threatened with force-feeding by prison guards, Seattle’s NPR affiliate reports.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s hunger strike protocol instructs prison officials to place inmates who do not eat for seventy-two hours under medical evaluation. ICE could then seek a court order for involuntary feeding if deemed medically necessary. Approximately 130 detainees were refusing to eat as of lunch Monday.
Sandy Restrepo, a lawyer representing some of the striking inmates, told KUOW that guards have threatened to force-feed detainees with nasal tubes if they continue refusing to eat. The UN Human Rights Office has called nasal force-feeding torture under international law.
Guards have also isolated about twenty-five strike leaders, instructing them not to move. Restrepo told KUOW, Seattle’s NPR affiliate, “They all needed to be laying down. They weren’t even allowed to speak to each other.”
The strike began Friday, with 750 inmates demanding better food and treatment, as well as an increase in pay for prison jobs. They also are asking for an end to deportations, which have reached a record high under the Obama administration.
Northwest Detention Center is privately run by GEO Group, and holds nearly 1,300 immigrant detainees for ICE.
This article was originally published as part of a weekly series in the student-run Daily Tar Heel at the Unviersity of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
On April 24 of last year, more than 100 workers died in a factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It was one of the most deadly factory disasters in history, and one of three that happened in Bangladesh last year alone. “That was the event that really drew the world’s attention and started workers in Bangladesh demanding that something change. And they gained a lot of support around the world for that.”
Junior Olivia Abrecht got involved with Student Action with Workers, a group that works in solidarity with workers connected to UNC, her freshman year. “Worker’s rights had always been something that I was passionate about.” After the factory disaster last April, Student Action with Workers began raising awareness of the problem around campus, as a large amount of UNC apparel is produced in Bangladeshi factories. The group also met various times with the Licensing Labor Code Advisory Committee, a group comprised of representatives from around campus that makes recommendations to the chancellor pertaining to UNC’s licensees.
“[The committee] has assured us that they will be making a recommendation to the chancellor by the end of spring break.” This recommendation should lead to a commitment to ensure no workers are killed in factories that produce UNC apparel. Abrecht is hopeful the committee will support a move to require all UNC licensees to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, which would require safer building standards in factories and give workers more rights.
“I think there’s significant support on the committee to require that our licensees sign the accord. [Many] members on the committee feel that this not only is something that [UNC] should do because it’s a human rights issue and it’s going save people lives—they also think it’s a really good decision because UNC doesn’t want to have there be a factory disaster in Bangladesh where UNC shirts are found. That’s not good for the University.” Student Action with Workers has heard accounts of Bangladeshi workers being beaten if they raise concerns about their safety.
“At the end of the day, you want to be able to be proud of the University you go to and you want to be able to wear a Carolina sweatshirt. There is a person who made it who should be able to speak up for him or herself.”
Read Next: Nation interns pick the week’s most interesting reads.
Most probably knew Joe McGinniss, who died yesterday at the age of 71, as the author of Fatal Vision, on the Jeffrey McDonald murder case (or his recent battle with Errol Morris over that). Or from the controversial Janet Malcolm book about his reporting on McDonald. Others never heard of McGinniss until he moved next door to Sarah Palin a few years ago, got slammed by Republicans, and wrote about it anyway.
But for me he will always be the guy who penned the astoundingly influential The Selling of the President, about the new world of “mad men” execs selling Richard Nixon to the world in 1968. Young Roger Ailes, then a producer for Mike Douglas’s daytime talk show, played a key role. This was a world barely probed in Theodore White’s “Making of a President” bestsellers in 1960, 1964 and 1968.
The McGinniss book, which I read in college, influenced all campaign coverage that followed, including my own two books exploring the real birth of that “selling”—to defeat Upton Sinclair in his race for California governor in 1934, and to get Nixon into the US Senate in 1950.
McGinniss revealed on Facebook several months back that he might be in the final months of a fight with prostate cancer, and now he has lost that fight.
It’s worth perusing his The Selling of the President for, among other aspects, it’s coverage of Ailes. Here’s one excerpt:
Paul Keyes sat in the chair that had been brought out for Richard Nixon. “It’s too loose. It’s got to have a solid back to it.” “Okay, I’ll take care of that,” Roger Ailes said, and he went slowly back to the control room and called the set designer and told him they needed another chair. The designer protested. “Do you want him to tip over?” Ailes said. “The back is loose. Do you want him to lean back and go over on his ass?” The designer suggested using an orange chair he had brought out earlier. “Goddamn it, no, we’re not going to use an orange chair. We’ve been through that … I said we’re not going to use an orange chair … well, fuck it, then. Forget it. I’ll get the goddamn chair.” He put down the phone and turned to Dolores Hardie, the assistant.
“Get Bob Dwan to get a goddamn chair. I told that creepy bastard of a designer as soon as he brought it out that we weren’t going to use an orange chair.”
It was four o’clock in the afternoon. Frank Shakespeare was worried about the studio getting too hot.
“Make sure you’ve got that handkerchief soaked in witch hazel,” Roger Ailes told someone. “I can’t do that sincerity bit with the camera if he’s sweating.”
Ailes then said, “This is the beginning of a whole new concept. This is it. This is the way they’ll be elected forevermore. The next guys up will have to be performers.”
McGinniss had actually met Ailes in 1967, when Joe was a reporter at The Philadelphia Inquirer. They remained friendly and this got him in the door at the Nixon campaign, which made Joe’s career. Here’s McGinniss in 2011 reflecting:
If Roger and I have ever agreed about anything having to do with politics or policy, I sure can’t remember it. From Richard Nixon to Rupert Murdoch, I think everyone he’s ever worked for has harmed this country in some way. I also think Fox News is an excrescence. And Roger knows that. Mutual candor is one aspect of our friendship. Roger’s terrific sense of humor is another: he is one of the funniest people I know. I don’t think I’ve spent five minutes in his company, privately, without laughing out loud at least three times at things he’s said.
Read Next: William Deresiewicz on the unflinching fiction of Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
During an appearance yesterday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Mayor Bill de Blasio gave the strongest indication yet that he could live without the tax on high-earning city residents he wanted to impose to pay for universal pre-K. If Gov. Cuomo's plan to pay for pre-K out of existing state revenue offered enough money, it'd be acceptable, de Blasio said—although he was quick to add that he still disliked the uncertainty of having to get the program funded each year through the state budget process.
Caveats and all, this was a significant move on the mayor's part. Throughout the campaign and the transition, de Blasio made a point of not even entertaining questions about a Plan B, as in, "If the state doesn't pass the tax hike, what's your Plan B to pay for pre-K?" De Blasio's boilerplate retort was a brief explanation of why it's bad strategy to bargain against yourself. Now, albeit rather tepidly, he's signaled there's more than one way to slice the UPK apple.
Many smart people think the mayor should have done this a long time ago. Just this weekend, I ran into a City Council member in a pizza shop. "He could have taken the governor's money and claimed victory," the member said, shaking his head. Weeks ago, the smartest person I know emailed me: "If Bill had quickly taken Andrew's deal, some of the tabloid s--t he's taking now wouldn't have happened."
De Blasio's reputation as a shrewd political player is hailed by both friends and foes. Friends see it as the asset that allowed de Blasio to rise from afterthought to presumptive mayor in a matter of weeks last summer. Detractors say de Blasio deals in strategy more than in soul—that expediency trumps principle too often. Whatever interpretation you subscribe to, it would be ironic if the master strategist blew the game planning around his signature policy.
But I'm not convinced that he did.
The argument for taking Cuomo's offer of a "blank check" from state coffers is that it represented a huge concession by the governor during an election year and was probably the best de Blasio was going to get. Pushing further—in hopes of getting the dedicated income-tax surcharge—risked creating a rift between City Hall and the governor's office and wasting the mayor's political capital to no apparent end. Taking the UPK deal would also allow de Blasio to spend that capital on other priorities like Vision Zero and hiking the minimum wage. And it would give city policymakers that much more time to plot out the massive task of getting UPK up and running in the city.
But don't forget that Cuomo, at least initially, didn't offer an alternative way to pay for de Blasio's UPK plan; instead, he offered a way to pay for a smaller plan without raising taxes. Cuomo's budget message mentioned dollar figures that were well shy of what de Blasio needed for the city, let alone what would be required statewide. Cuomo then offered the "blank check," but de Blasio was right to point out that the state has made—and later welched on—such promises in the past. What's more, in late January and early February, de Blasio seemed to have the momentum. Cuomo had gone from lukewarm support of UPK to full embrace. Was it that hard to believe that the gov might move farther, especially given the fluid factionalism in the state Senate? I dunno.
>Compare the downsides of the two approaches. If de Blasio takes Cuomo's deal, then that's all he gets. If de Blasio pushes for more, maybe be gets more, or maybe he doesn't, but it's unlikely that he loses what the governor has already put on the table. Under almost any conceivable scenario there's a UPK program statewide next year, and there's no denying that's because de Blasio gave the issue some political luster, so the mayor can still claim a victory.
At worst the mayor looks a little foolish for playing Icarus to Cuomo's sun, but so what? Mayor Bloomberg lost some big fights in Albany (West Side Stadium, congestion pricing) but was still able to prevail on others. The losses—especially on congestion pricing—only reinforced Bloomberg's reputation as an independent thinker.
Indeed, when you read about de Blasio's missteps—and he's made some—and his sagging poll numbers, it's important to remember that he is taking flak this month in part because he's keeping his campaign promises: to end free charter school co-locations that were harmful and to seek a tax on rich people to pay for universal pre-K. I'm not saying that alone justifies the strategy, or excuses fumbles like Chancellor Farina's unfortunate "they're on their own," but it's just worth noting as somewhat unusual. Talk to turned-off voters about what turned them off, and more than likely they'll say it's politicians who break their word. So far, that's one complaint that won't stick against de Blasio.
Read Next: De Blasio and Cuomo spar over charter schools.
Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
Pity poor Shaun McCutcheon.
McCutcheon is the Alabama businessman suing the Federal Election Commission for abridging his First Amendment right to free speech—that is, if we define free speech as McCutcheon’s right to donate upward of $123,200 in a single election cycle. He claims eliminating federal limits on an individual’s aggregate campaign contributions is “about practicing democracy and being free.” To underscore his love of freedom, McCutcheon wrote checks to 15 Republican candidates in the symbolic sum of $1,776.
The Supreme Court is expected to hand down its decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission any day now. Given the Roberts court’s track record, the biggest campaign-finance decision since Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission is likely to blow another gigantic hole in the fabric of our democracy.
Such a ruling will fuel popular outrage and increase pressure for fundamental reforms such as disclosure and public financing. Already, Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) have introduced a constitutional amendment allowing campaign spending limits. This would finally supercede the Supreme Court’s infamous 1976 ruling in Buckley v. Valeo, which equated money with speechand effectively turned our elections into auctions.
Editor’s Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
Spending three days at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is like, well, choose your own metaphor: stepping through the looking glass? Entering the Twilight Zone? Whatever the analogy, it’s a weird world in which John Boehner, the speaker of the House, who helped shut down the government last year at the Tea Party’s insistence, ought to resign for being too moderate. In which, as Rick Santorum told the crowd in his talk, nearly everything that’s wrong with America could be fixed if only the country could “reclaim the true, beautiful institution of marriage.” And in which Texas Governor Rick Perry, that intellectual lightweight whose embarrassing run for president in 2012 apparently has not dissuaded him from trying it again in 2016, told the CPAC multitudes: “It’s time for a little rebellion on the battlefield of ideas.”
You know you’re in trouble when Perry starts taking about “ideas.” Like Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, who believed that a scroll might make him smart, Perry sported new, dark-frame glasses designed to give him the appearance of being intelligent. But he’s still the guy who famously couldn’t remember which government departments he wanted to shut down if elected. Weirdly, at the end of his CPAC speech, his voicing rising to a crescendo over a prolonged standing ovation, Perry received the most thunderous response of any speaker at the three-day event. Sounding like an old-time revivalist, Perry nearly shouted: “Get out of the healthcare business! Get out of the education business! Create prosperity again! My fellow conservatives, the future of this nation is upon you, it belongs to you! You have the power to change America.… America can be great again!”
But only at CPAC would a few thousand people believe that Rick Perry is one who might deliver greatness. Or at least they did at that moment, perhaps caught up in Perry’s stirring cadences. But in the CPAC straw poll of would-be GOP candidates in 2016, Perry didn’t do very well. He finished tied for eighth place, with 3 percent of the approximately 2,000 votes cast.
Twenty-four people were on that ballot, besides Perry, and they represented nearly every possible (and some clearly impossible) candidates who might run in 2016, from the plausible (Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Paul Ryan, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich) to the long-shot, ideologically pleasing-to-the-CPAC-faithful (Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and, believe it or not, Sarah Palin) to the oddball right-wingers who inexplicably have their fans (Donald Trump, former Florida congressman Allen West, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and the ever-popular Dr. Ben Carson). Others on the ballot included a handful of extra-long shots: Susana Martinez, the Latina governor of New Mexico; the South Asian governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley; a quartet of other US senators, Rob Portman, Sam Brownback, Kelly Ayotte and John Thune; two Indianans, Mike Pence and Mitch Daniels; and Condoleezza Rice. There was also the contingent from the religious right on the ballot, including Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.
As Paul Begala put it on CNN: “Fortunately for us, they’re auditioning for scenes in the Star Wars bar scene.” Indeed, every manner of creature was on display. For those interested in the results, top finishers were Paul (31 percent), Cruz (11 percent), Carson (9 percent), Christie (8 percent), Walker and Santorum (7 percent) and Rubio (6 percent). Everyone else had 3 percent or less. Carson’s third-place finish is a signal that at least some of the CPAC attendees were in orbit. And the key to Paul’s expected but still sweeping win was that nearly half of those casting ballots were 18–25 years old (46 percent), the Rand Paul army that swelled the crowd.
Palin, another crowd favorite for her less-than-well-informed but still thumb-in-Obama’s-eye point of view, gleefully tweaked the Republican establishment throughout her talk, too, to hoots of approval, saying things like: “Thank you, Texas! Because liberty needs a Congress on Cruz-control.” And she slammed the Republican leadership in Congress, and by extension the rest of the mainstream GOP, saying that after Cruz’s mighty filibuster “our army balked. We hoped they were just reloading, but they retreated.” Further referencing Senator Cruz’s otherwise much-disparaged fiibuster that sought to shut down the government against this year over the debt ceiling, Palin riffed on his reading of Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham, saying: "I do not like this Uncle Sam. I do not like this healthcare scam.” Funny stuff—and the crowd ate it up. But alas, she garnered just 2 percent in the straw poll.
Less funny, because of their nastiness, were the remarks by Ann Coulter, the bomb-throwing provocateur, who blasted the Republican establishment—and many CPAC all-stars, too—for playing footsie with President Obama and the Democrats over immigration reform: “You want the Democrats who want more immigrants, particularly illegal immigrants, because they need brand new voters, just warm bodies, more votes. Amnesty goes through, and the Democrats have 30 million new voters. I just don’t think Republicans have an obligation to forgive law-breaking just because the Democrats need another 30 million voters.”
To be sure, Coulter’s views on immigration didn’t find much support at CPAC, which didn’t provide a forum for hard-line, anti-immigration organizations to speak. Al Cardenas, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, which puts on CPAC, is an outspoken supporter of at least some reform of immigration laws, and many mainstream GOP officials have belatedly recognized that the party risks the long-term loss of the Hispanic vote if it doesn’t change course.
But Cardenas’s speech to CPAC on Friday was bizarre for another reason. In it, he declared the Obama’s policies have put the United States on course to follow Cuba into Fidel Castro’s camp and the communist world. Cardenas, 65, was born in Cuba and came to the United States after the revolution, and to say that the experience colors his views would be an understatement. After Castro took over, he said, all of his family’s dreams became a “nightmare at the hands of a dictator,” his family lost its business: “The government took it all.” Now, Obama is on he same road, “treating us like subjects, pawns in a chess game.” He went on: “I’ve seen this dark road before.… I witnessed the horrors of too-big government.” Believe it or not, all too many CPAC attendees agree that President Obama is just steps away from establishing a communist, or at socialist, regime—and that he’s using the scary powers of the Internal Revenue Service and the National Security Agency and the registration form for the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) in tandem to get us there. Really.
The IRS-NSA pairing, in which the two agencies are pooling data and using to go after conservatives who dare back the slide toward socialism, led to near-constant calls to abolish the IRS—“Eliminate the IRS once and for all!” said Huckbee—and to rein in the NSA. Ted Cruz, opening his speech on Thursday morning, joked: “By virtue of your being here, each and every one of you is going to be audited by the IRS.”
And Palin joked—or was it a joke?—about the Obamacare-IRS-NSA alliance too: “No, you can’t log onto the website. No you can’t keep your healthcare. No, you can’t make a phone call without Michelle Obama knowing this is the third time this week you dialed Pizza Hut delivery.”
And Huckabee, veering deep in the paranoid, suggested that America’s armed populace, thanks to the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, is the best defense against the IRS-NSA-Obamacare complex: “The Second Amendment is the only last resort we have to protect or other freedoms!”
This is beyond the usual boilerplate political rhetoric. It’s scary stuff, though it would be a lot scarier if the Tea Party, CPAC and far, far right had true power, which they don’t. That’s not to say that they’re not an important force, but as Christie Watch pointed out a length not long ago, the Tea Party and its allies hardly control the Republican party, which is still safely in the hands of the old GOP establishment, the tax-cutting, regulation-destroying, environment-trashing, abortion-banning, military-industrial complex-boosting party that has alienated young people, women, African-Americans, Hispanics and others. On some issues—say, immigration and same-sex marriage—the GOP establishment is getting ready to challenge the Tea Party head on. But perhaps the central fact emerging from CPAC 2014 is that the party’s insurgent wing feels abused, ignored and betrayed, and it’s angry about it.
Read Next: Rand Paul wins big at CPAC.
This Sunday residents of Crimea will vote on whether or not to reunite with Russia. The de facto authorities in Kiev have called the impending referendum illegal, and the Obama administration says it will not recognize it. Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel joined a panel on MSNBC to discuss the political situation in Ukraine, the disputed legitimacy of the upcoming referendum and the so-called “masculinity crisis” facing President Obama. A precondition to the emergence of a democratic and economically stable Ukraine, she says, is that we drop the Cold War framing and bluster. Rather, the US should promote a negotiated settlement that includes “fair and free elections, a promise not to expand NATO into Ukraine, and an agreement that Ukraine can be part of both the EU and the Russian customs union.”
Joe Scarborough recently got into quite a huff—and got the Morning Joe crew to huff with him—over Harry Reid’s attacks on David and Charles Koch, the billionaire industrialists who fund dozens of conservative causes and Republican campaigns. Reid had said, rather catchily for him, that Senate Republicans “are addicted to Koch.” The Senate majority leader also said the brothers “have no conscience and are willing to lie” in political ads, and that they’re “un-American” for trying to “buy America.”
Reid said he doesn’t begrudge the Kochs their wealth, but “what is un-American is when shadow billionaires pour unlimited money into our democracy to rig the system and benefit themselves and the wealthiest 1 percent.”
That might sound hyperbolic unless you have followed the long list of ways the Kochs are indeed buying America. For starters, while their Koch Industries is the one of the nation’s largest air polluters, their money is a huge factor in blocking climate change progress and spreading know-nothing denialism; they fund ALEC and its stand-your-ground political agenda; and they’re waging a multimillion-dollar war against the Affordable Care Act, trying to convince young people, through ads like the one with the creepy Uncle Sam gynecologist, that they should be afraid, very afraid of Obamacare. Through innumerable think tanks, PACs, nonprofits and dark-money trap doors, Koch money has formed a veritable “Kochopus” that reaches deep into academia, industry, state legislatures and Congress. (For more, see here and here.)
But what’s really gotten Harry Reid to put up his dukes is that the Koch-funded PAC Americans for Prosperity (AFM) has spent more than $30 million, and counting, on ads attacking Democratic senate candidates in the upcoming midterm elections. To defeat Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina, for instance, AFM has already dropped $8.2 million on TV, radio and digital ads. As Politico puts it, that’s more “than all Democratic outside groups in every Senate race in the country—combined.” Koch money could easily flip the Senate to a Republican majority, leaving little but presidential vetoes to blunt the GOP House’s politics of cruelty.
Joe Scarborough understandably fumed at the “un-American” charge, but he framed the Koch’s power quite differently.
“Let’s first tell the truth about them and what they do, put some perspective in it,” he said Thursday. “It’s unbelievable what they’ve done for cancer research, what they’ve done for the arts, what they have done for education.”
Indeed, you can tell by the way the bros have been slapping their names on cultural institutions that they think they can get their reps fixed wholesale. In New York City alone, the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center has become the David H. Koch Theater. As you enter the Metropolitan Museum of Art, signs tell you you’re standing on the new David H. Koch Plaza. David Koch’s name had also been elevated by his contributions to WNET, the city’s PBS affiliate. That ended last year, however, when WNET ran an independent documentary critical of him. To placate Koch, they axed a second similar film, but Koch resigned from the board and took his money with him.
But by emphasizing the Kochs’ philanthropy—which, come on, is the least two men worth $40 billion each and tied at number four on the Forbes rich people list, can do—Scarborough was providing exactly what their largesse was intended to produce: praise and a media force field that can deflect political criticism. Not that Joe is terribly adverse to their politics, but the point of his outrage in the Morning Joe banter was to shift focus away from Koch policies to Reid’s breach of polite discourse. Willie Geist said that the “addicted to Koch” line “seems beneath the office.” Former congressman and nominal Democrat Harold Ford sniffed, “There’s no need for that kind of vitriol.” Only Donnie Deutsch got close to the heart of the matter, asking whether the “Koch brothers spending a billion on advertising is good for democracy.”
Training your eyes on an oligarch’s philanthropy and away from what it camouflages is to accept in some way the essential justness of great wealth. As if to second that notion, Governor Chris Christie said at CPAC last week that Reid was “rail[ing] against two American entrepreneurs who have built a business, created jobs, and created wealth and philanthropy in this country. Harry Reid should get back to work and stop picking on great Americans who are creating great things in our country.” Some of those great things include millions in donations to the Republican Governors Association, which Christie (still) heads.
Reid’s attacks are part of a larger Democratic pushback, which includes TV spots (see below) and sites like KochAddiction.com and StopTheGreedAgenda. The strategy is transparent: link GOP candidates to the Kochs and make the Kochs into villains.
Creating a visible villain is, of course, a time-honored political activity. The Dems have vilified Newt Gingrich and more recently Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital, while the Republicans’ demons include Nancy Pelosi, the Rev. Wright and Bill Ayers. As for “un-American,” a few years ago Glenn Beck falsely portrayed George Soros, the closest big-time funder progressives have to the Kochs, as a Nazi collaborator.
But beyond a bunch of liberals who follow the Koch trail, will voters know or care about what the billionaire brothers do with their money?
Paul Waldman in The American Prospect doubts it. And so far, he says, the Democratic ads aren’t up to the job. In the very busy spot below, running in Michigan, the Koch brothers appear as barely identified ghosts amid a jumble of hard-to-follow words.
For what it’s worth, the things-don’t-go-better-with-Koch message is getting across, at least with focus groups. Democratic pollster Geoff Garin told the Times, “Our research has shown pretty clearly that once voters recognize the source of the attacks [on Democratic candidates], they tend to discount them substantially.” Focus groups, he said, had an “overwhelmingly negative” reaction to the Kochs’ political involvement and believed that the Kochs’ “agenda will hurt average people and the undermine the middle class.’”
Billionaire venture capitalist Tom Perkins might have been only kidding when he said that democracies should be run more like corporations: “You pay a million dollars in taxes, you get a million votes.”
But if you pay for enough misleading ads, that is, in effect, what a million bucks can do. And the more the media unthinkingly hail your charitable giving, the more mileage a million dollars will get you.
Read Next: Rand Paul, CPAC rock star
Usually when lawmakers stage all-night filibusters, they do so to protest a piece of legislation. Senator Ted Cruz, for example, spoke for twenty-one hours last September in opposition to a resolution intended to avert a government shutdown. Texas State Senator Wendy Davis spoke through the night in August to protest an anti-abortion bill.
The senators planning to take the floor Monday evening, however, are doing so to raise alarm about an absence of legislation. More than two dozen Democrats and two Independents intend to speak from the end of voting Monday afternoon until approximately 9 am Tuesday to call for congressional action to counter climate change.
“The cost of Congress’ inaction on climate change is too high for our communities, our kids and grandkids, and our economy,” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse said in a statement. “On Monday we’ll be sending a clear message: it’s time for Congress to wake up and get serious about addressing this issue.”
Whitehouse has given floor speeches about climate change some sixty times over the past two years, speaking weekly when the Senate is in session. On Monday he’ll be joined by Hawaii’s Brian Schatz, who helped to organize the event; majority leader Harry Reid; Environment and Public Works committee chairwoman Barbara Boxer; and about twenty-four other senators, including independents Angus King and Bernie Sanders.
Congress has not considered any serious climate legislation since the summer of 2010, when a fragile bipartisan coalition supporting a cap-and-trade bill collapsed. Since then, Republicans have grown more entrenched in climate denialism, and have made it clear that any attempt to regulate carbon pollution would fail. Just last Friday, minority leader Mitch McConnell told the Cincinnati Enquirer that he didn’t believe in man-made climate change. “For everybody who thinks it’s warming, I can find somebody who thinks it isn’t,” McConnell said.
Monday’s all-nighter—it’s not technically a filibuster, since no bill is on the table—is part of long-term campaign by the newly launched Senate Climate Action Task Force to heighten the sense of urgency about climate change, and pressure lawmakers to take a more aggressive stance on carbon regulation. The group is playing defense, too, trying to fend off attempts to undermine President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, most significantly the new Environmental Protection Agency rules for carbon emissions from power plants. Without any legislation on the horizon, the initial task for the group is to shift the political climate so that denialism and inaction becomes a liability.
That challenge is evident in the midterm elections. Many of the Democratic incumbents in tight races come from conservative energy states: Mary Landrieu from Louisiana, Mark Begich from Alaska, Mark Pryor from Arkansas, Kay Hagan from North Carolina and Mark Warner from Virginia. They’ve distanced themselves from their colleagues’ climate fight, criticized the EPA’s efforts to regulate carbon pollution, and publically support the Keystone XL pipeline. None are expected to be present Monday night.
But if they want to hold on to the Senate, Democrats have to defend those seats in the midterms. Rather than start an intraparty war as the Tea Party has done within the GOP, the Democratic climate push is focused largely on the right’s refusal to acknowledge man-made climate change, with an eye towards making it a major issue in 2016. Tom Steyer, the billionaire behind climate-focused super PAC Next Gen, said last month that his group is not planning to attack oil-friendly Democrats in the midterms, although it won’t give money to them either. Next week, Senator Whitehouse will bring his climate speech to Iowa, which hosts the first major voting for the presidential nominees.
“Climate change threatens Rhode Island coasts and Iowa farmlands alike, and I look forward to this opportunity to talk to rural Americans about the threats they face,” Whitehouse said in a statement. “I also realize that in order to advance serious climate change legislation in Congress, we need to make climate change a major topic in the 2016 presidential race.”
You can watch the floor dicussion here, and join in on Twitter with the hashtag #Up4Climate.