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Sunday, August 30, 2015

The United States Pirate Party




The United States Pirate Party (USPP) was founded in 2006 by Brent Allison and Alex English.

There platform is aligned with the International Pirate Movement.

They support and work toward:

- Reformation of intellectual property (IP) laws
- True governmental transparency
- Protection of privacy and civil liberties
- Evidence-based policies
- Egalitarianism (A belief in human equality especially with respect to social, political, and economic affairs )
- Working against corporate person-hood and welfare

They believe that people, not corporations, come first.

The party's national organization has existed in multiple incarnations since its 2006 founding. Its most recent is the Pirate National Committee (PNC), formed in 2012 as a coalition of state parties. It tracks and assists the growth and development of newly-formed state parties across the nation.

The current Chair of the Pirate National Committee is Andrew Norton.

As of January 2013, there were 8 member-state parties of the PNC:

California
Florida
Georgia
Massachusetts
New York
Oregon
Washington
Wisconsin

CLICK HERE for The United States Pirate Party website.











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Democrats Hope Independent Redistricting Helps Retake House


Facing long odds at retaking the House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Democrats are pushing hard for redistricting reform as a potential route back into control of the lower chamber.

The legislation is not new, many Democrats, including Pelosi, have been advocating for independent redistricting panels for at least a decade, nor is it going anywhere in a Congress led by Republicans who are benefiting handsomely under the current process.

But Pelosi’s co-sponsorship of this year’s reform proposal marks a rare move for a party leader who seldom lends an official signature to individual bills.

Her formal endorsement is both an escalation of support for non-partisan redistricting and an indication that Democratic leaders want to rein in gerrymandering and lay the groundwork for reform heading into the 2016 elections.

It may also be a tacit acknowledgement that the current map gives the Democrats little chance of regaining the Speaker's gavel before the next national census, in 2020.

Party leaders have repeatedly noted that the Democrats won the popular vote in 2012, even as Republicans retained a commanding House majority. Redrawing the map, in that context, is seen as crucial to winning back the chamber. “Democrats are fixated on the point that, if districts had been more on the level, we would have won back the House in 2012,” said one former House Democrat. “So gauging the map becomes an imperative.”

Sponsored by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), the legislation would require states to establish “an independent, multi-party redistricting commission” chosen randomly from a qualified pool. The group would be charged with drawing congressional districts that must be “geographically contiguous; have boundaries that minimize the division of any community of interest, municipality, county, or neighborhood; and be geographically compact.”

A similar bill, sponsored by Reps. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) and Reid Ribble (R-Wis.), mandates comparable commissions, but members would be appointed directly by the state leaders from each party.

Lofgren has introduced various versions of her bill in each Congress since 2005, but support has peaked this year with 37 co-sponsors, and Democratic leaders have played up the proposal by including it in the party's “good governance” package.

Democratic operatives say the new prominence hinges on numerous factors, not least the 2010 election route when Democrats lost 63 seats and the House majority. In the years leading up to that election, national GOP leaders and outside conservative groups had launched a concerted effort to win the state-house seats that empowered the Republicans to redraw many state maps in their favor.

The dynamics have not been overlooked by Hillary Clinton who urged supporters Friday to re-focus on winning state seats. “In 2010, Republicans routed us on redistricting. Not because they won Congress, but because they won state legislatures. And look where we are now,” the former secretary of State told a crowd gathered in Minneapolis for the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) annual summer meeting. “We can't ever let that happen again. It's time to rebuild our party from the ground up, and if you make me the nominee, that's exactly what I will do.”

Licy DoCanto, head of The DoCanto Group, a public policy consulting firm, said it's not unusual or surprising that the Democrats, the overall losers of the last redistricting effort, would emerge now as the loudest voices in favor of federal reforms. “When you're on the receiving end, you go out and look for a way to change the process,” DoCanto said. “A non-partisan redistricting process can be a partisan tool, depending on how you shape it.”

Without action in Congress, dozens of states have stepped in to establish independent redistricting commissions on their own. Supporters of the shift won a huge victory in June when the Supreme Court upheld the creation of such a panel in Arizona, a decision that has only amplified the calls for Congress to adopt federal guidelines.

“With the Court’s decision and the clear public sentiment, it behooves the Congress to pass legislation setting national standards for state redistricting commissions,” Pelosi said in praising the ruling.

Still, the reform push is hardly a strictly partisan one. Indeed, many Democrats, including some minority lawmakers in the south, have benefited from the Republicans' gerrymandering efforts, which in places carved out safely Democratic seats amid a sea of red districts. Those lawmakers are “hesitant to embrace” sweeping changes that could threaten their reelections, according to the Democratic leadership aide. “There are some who benefit significantly even as it runs against the larger Democratic Party,” the aide said.











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Public Citizen Explains Campaign Finance After Citizen United




Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen explains campaign finance after Citizen United.

Public Citizen serves as the people’s voice in the nation’s capital. Since their founding in 1971, their work on each issue shares an overarching goal: To ensure that all citizens are represented in the halls of power.

For four decades, they have championed citizen interests before Congress, the executive branch agencies and the courts. they have successfully challenged the abusive practices of the pharmaceutical, nuclear and automobile industries, and many others. they are leading the charge against undemocratic trade agreements that advance the interests of mega-corporations at the expense of citizens worldwide.

Public Citizen is a nonprofit organization that does not participate in partisan political activities or endorse any candidates for elected office. They accept no government or corporate money and rely solely on foundation grants, publication sales and assistance from 400,000 members and supporters.

The “maximum” any one person can contribute to a candidate in an election is $2,700.

Except ...

There are so many ways for the mega-rich to spend money on politicians that the word loophole is laughably insufficient.

Let’s say you’re an aspiring plutocrat who wants to spend every dollar our insane system allows you to spend so that no politician, Democrat or Republican, gets elected to federal office in 2016 who won’t feel beholden to you.

For starters, there’s that $2,700 “limit.” Five Democrats and 17 Republicans are officially running for president. You want each and every one of them to keep your best interests in mind if elected, so you’re going to cover your bases and give the maximum to each one. That’s $59,400.

When the primaries are over, you can give another $2,700 to each party’s chosen candidate in the general election. So that’s $5,400 more.

Of course, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs every two years. Some will attract numerous candidates from one or both parties, others may only see one challenger to an incumbent, some won’t be contested at all. To keep this manageable, let’s just figure that at some point in a primary or the general election, you’ll need to support one Democrat and one Republican, to hedge your bets, in every congressional district in America. So that’s $2,700 times 2 times 435, or $2,349,000.

In the Senate, there are 34 open seats. Assuming, again, that you’ll end up supporting one Democrat and one Republican in each of those races, that’s $2,700 times 2 times 34, or $183,600, a veritable bargain compared to the House!

In each two-year election cycle, in each of the 50 states, you can give $20,000 to local, district and state party committees combined. To cover both major parties, that’s $40,000 per state, so $2,000,000 total.

You can also give $1,603,200 per cycle to assorted national party committees. Again, you don’t want to play favorites, so you’ll give that much to the Democrats and the Republicans, for $3,206,400.

Then we get to so-called leadership PACs, political action committees created by members of the House and Senate that are separate from their campaign committees. In 2014, there were 507 leadership PACs. Virtually every one of the 535 members of the House and Senate will have a leadership PAC this time around, too. And you can give $5,000 per year each to as many as you want. Since you don’t want to leave anyone out, that’s $5,000 a year for two years times 535, or a cool $5,350,000.

Congratulations, you’ve guaranteed that every person elected to the White House and Congress next year is indebted to you, and it’s all perfectly legal, for just $13,153,800.

Let’s put that in perspective, because remember, in this scenario, you’re a billionaire.

So think about this: The notorious Koch Brothers’ net worth ballooned by MORE THAN THAT EVERY DAY from March 2014 to March 2015.

Now, nobody is donating to every candidate in every race, Democrat AND Republican, plus every party committee and leadership PAC. Yet.

But you know what? It doesn’t even matter. In fact, just take all those numbers above and hurl them right out the nearest open window.

Because the real answer to how much a budding plutocrat like you can spend to corrupt, I mean “influence”, our democracy is FAR more stunning.

And you know why.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United abomination allows you to spend literally as much as you want, as long as you give it to super PACs (the 800-pound gorillas of plutocracy the court unleashed that, wink-wink, don’t “coordinate” with candidates) and dark money “social welfare” nonprofits (like the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity).

Not $2,700. Not $13,153,800. LITERALLY. AS. MUCH. AS. YOU. WANT.

This is not democracy.

But it is the results of Citizens United and McCutcheon vs The United States of America.

Indeed, more than half of the money supporting the current crop of presidential candidates so far has come from just 474 super-wealthy individuals.

How can we call this a democracy if fewer than 500 are responsible for the majority of the money that is fueling our dysfunctional elections and to which our politicians are ever more bound?

How can we solve any of the problems facing us as a society or leave a better world for our children?

We can’t.

So our only choice is to overturn Citizens United.

Public Citizen called for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United the very day the Supreme Court issued its heinous ruling.

It’s not a question of IF we win an amendment.

It’s a question of how soon.

And our democracy can’t wait.

CLICK HERE to help overturn Citizen United.











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Friday, August 28, 2015

NY Now Has Two Women’s Equality Parties


Former State Senator Cecelia Tkaczyk filed a set of rules for the Women’s Equality Party.

There are now two different sets of rules for this party – each with different leadership.

It’s fair to assume this development will be headed to a courtroom sometime soon.

Click HERE to read the papers (14 page PDF) filed today, Women’s Equality Party II Rules.











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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NY Close to a Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizen United


5,000 New Yorker's signed a petition and got state Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D) to sign on to a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

New York is one signature away from being the 17th state in the country to call for an amendment to overturn Citizens United.

We need to get State Sen. Ruben Diaz, the last Democrat yet to sign, to join his colleagues. It is time New York join the 16 States demanding that we pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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A Gerrymandering that Backfires


Normally gerrymandering in a medium-sized town that doesn't even pertain to city council elections would be too down-in-the-weeds, but this story from the Columbia Tribune is too funny to ignore. Self-interested business owners successfully petitioned the Columbia, Missouri, city council to create a local Business Loop 70 Community Improvement District, which would have the authority to impose a half-cent sales tax increase with voter approval. However, the district lines were drawn in a manner that attempted to avoid containing any eligible voters, meaning that property-owners themselves would get to decide on the sales tax increase as a way to avoid further property taxes to pay for improvements.

Unfortunately for them, things didn't exactly go according to plan. It soon became known that a single voter, University of Missouri student Jen Henderson, was registered to vote in the new CID. That means that she alone will get to decide whether or not to approve the sales tax increase. The CID has already gone into debt to finance planned improvements and was counting on the increased revenue from the sales tax increase.

Predictably, Henderson is not pleased with how manipulative this process has been. She was even asked to de-register so that the vote would revert to property owners. While Henderson hasn't publicly stated which way she plans to vote, she sounded skeptical of the proposed sales tax increase and rightfully pointed out how it is regressive in nature while the benefits accrue mainly to incumbent businesses.

In a delicious twist of irony, if Henderson votes against the sales tax increase or the vote is called off entirely, the only way for the CID to pay off its debts will be to levy further taxes on property, which is exactly what these businesses were trying to avoid. Most of the time gerrymandering is successful and unfair, but instances like this show it can sometimes backfire spectacularly.











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Candidate Loyalty Oaths are Unenforceable and Unconstitutional


Virginia and a handful of other states are considering requiring candidate who want to appear on their Presidential Primary ballot to agree to support the nominee of the Republican Party in the 2016 General Election regardless of who it might be.

Obviously, this is a measure primarily directed at Donald Trump, who has refused in the past to emphatically say that he would not run as a third-party candidate, and famously made news in that regard during the August 6th Presidential debate. Primarily because of the fact that it would reinforce Trump’s claims to his supporters that he was being targeted by the “establishment,” such laws seem entirely counter-productive since they seem likely to play into Trump’s message and the beliefs of those supporting him.

Following state law, the Republican Party of Virginia chose to elect national delegates in the state-run March 1 primary. The Code of Virginia allows the GOP to require anyone wanting to vote in the primary to first sign “a pledge by the voter of his intention to support the party’s candidate when offering to vote in the primary.”

But nowhere is the party given the right to require a candidate to support whomever the national convention nominates as a condition to being allowed to run in Virginia’s primary. State law sets out specific requirements for ballot access, including the submission of a signed, notarized document in which Trump, for example, agrees to forfeit his right to later run in Virginia as an independent or minor-party candidate should he lose the Republican presidential nomination.

Yet even if state law did give the party the right to limit ballot access through a “loyalty oath,” the “dump Trump” rule would violate the Constitution. Any such rule would have to pass muster under the First Amendment as applied to state actors through the 14th Amendment. It can’t. The proposed pledge goes much farther than mere “intention.” It also takes away the political rights of those who want to join together to get Trump on the ballot and then cast their ballots for him.

Virginia Republicans tried to do something quite similar to this in the past. Back in 2008, the party considered implementing a rule that would require everyone who voted in the Republican Primary that year to pledge to support the party nominee in the General Election. Not surprisingly, there was a swift uproar in response to this move with regard to a candidate loyalty oath, especially the First Amendment argument. Additionally a loyalty oath like this is entirely unenforceable since there would be now way for the Republican Party of Virginia to determine that someone had violated it unless they actually admitted it publicly, and even then there was no real punishment for the violation since the party could not prevent that person from voting in a future primary. Despite the uproar that its efforts in 2008 had caused, the Republican Party of Virginia considered adopting a similar rule for the 2012 election only to lead to the same uproar which caused them to once again back down. Now, instead of putting the voters under an oath to support the nominee, they want to make the candidates make an oath to support the eventual party nominee, but no matter how they phrase it the idea suffers from the same flaws as the one considered in 2008 and 2012.

Virginia law sets forth the requirements that someone must meet in order to be on the primary ballot, and Virginia law does not have any provision allowing the party to require candidates to support the eventual party nominee. Absent that, and absent any controlling rules from the Republican National Committee, which similarly do not exist, it seems fairly clear that at least in Virginia the state party does not have the authority to require a candidate loyalty oath. The situation may be slightly different in other states depending on the authority that state law grants to political parties, but even if the oath is permissible under state law in those cases, it would seem to clearly be unconstitutional under the First Amendment. There is a long history of Supreme Court case law that makes clear that no individual can be compelled by the state to engage in political speech, and there are few things that are less political than the question of endorsing a candidate for office in an election. Whether the person being asked to make the oath is a candidate or a voter is immaterial as far as the First Amendment is concerned, in both cases it is compelled speech and therefore unconstitutional.

Leaving aside the legal issues, it is clear that, as with the voter’s loyalty oath, this candidate oath is entirely impossible to enforce. Let’s say for the sake of argument that all of the candidates who want to be on the Virginia ballot agree to the proposed oath, but that when the General Election comes along one or more of them either decides to endorse a third-party candidate or refuses to support the eventual nominee. There’s absolutely nothing that the Republican Party of Virginia can do at this point other than issue a strongly worded press release. Even if the candidate(s) in question tried to run on the ballot in Virginia again in the future, there wouldn’t be anything that the party could do to prevent that if they otherwise met the legal qualifications for ballot access. The situation might be different if the party had chosen a convention to pick its nominee, but the State Central Committee wisely did not choose that route and now they must abide by the requirements of the law and recognize the fact that their oath would be entirely unenforceable in addition to being unconstitutional. If these candidate oaths are adopted in Virginia or elsewhere during this election, I expect that they will be challenged in Court and I think there’s a fairly good chance that they will be thrown out.











NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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