Wednesday, June 26, 2024

'Dangerous Precedent': Record AIPAC Spending Helps George Latimer Defeat Jamaal Bowman

By Jake Johnson

"Jamaal and our movement were such a threat to right-wing power, to GOP megadonors, and to AIPAC's influence in Congress that they had to spend $15 million to defeat us," said one progressive organizer.

Progressive Rep. Jamaal Bowman lost his reelection bid in New York's 16th Congressional District on Tuesday to an establishment-backed county official whose campaign was propelled by nearly $15 million in spending by AIPAC's Republican-funded super PAC.

The United Democracy Project's (UDP) spending made the Democratic primary contest the most expensive House race in U.S. history. According to a Sludge analysis of independent election expenditures dating back to 2001, UDP's $14.5 million onslaught to oust Bowman was "more than any other group besides those affiliated with a political party has ever spent on a House election."

The investment paid off, with Westchester County Executive George Latimer leading Bowman by a margin of 58% to 42% with close to 90% of the vote counted in the 16th District, which was redrawn ahead of the 2022 midterms to include more of suburban Westchester County and less of the Bronx.

Bowman, a former Bronx middle school principal who won his House seat in 2020 by defeating AIPAC favorite Eliot Engel, said in his concession speech late Tuesday that "we should be outraged when a super PAC of dark money can spend $20 million to brainwash people into believing something that isn't true."

"When we say 'Free Palestine,' it is not antisemitic," said Bowman, one of the House's most vocal critics of Israel's assault on Gaza. A majority of Democratic voters in the U.S. believe Israel is committing genocide in the Palestinian enclave, according to a recent survey.

"I would like to make a public apology for sometimes using foul language," he added, referring to remarks he made during a rally over the weekend. "But we should not be well-adjusted to a sick society."

"If you stand by while far-right groups try to buy elections, you further alienate and disillusion the young voters and voters of color you need to reelect Joe Biden this November."

Alexandra Rojas of Justice Democrats, the progressive group that recruited Bowman for the 2020 contest against Engel, said late Tuesday that "Jamaal and our movement were such a threat to right-wing power, to GOP megadonors, and to AIPAC's influence in Congress that they had to spend $15 million to defeat us."

"This demonstrates the power of our people-funded movement, the strength that any single progressive with the moral clarity to stand up to far-right interests has, and just how on defense AIPAC really is," said Rojas. "AIPAC knows the future is not on their side, so they have no choice but to overwhelm, confuse, and depress voters with a flood of dark money to generate support for their candidates. That's exactly why they pledged to spend an unprecedented $100 million to unseat the Squad this year."

Rojas said her organization is now turning its attention to Rep. Cori Bush's (D-Mo.) August 6 primary against St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell, whose campaign is backed by AIPAC and Republican donors—including a billionaire CEO from St. Louis.

"We cannot give in to hopelessness or cynicism—we must fight back, NOW," said Rojas. "Let's come together in this difficult moment and do what it takes to stop AIPAC from unseating another one of our progressive champions this summer."

While Bowman fell to Latimer, another Squad member—Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)—cruised to victory in her primary, winning more than 80% of the vote against investment banker Marty Dolan. AIPAC's super PAC did not spend in the race, according to available disclosures.

"Wall Street came for us again, and the people prevailed," Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter following her victory. "Thank you to the Bronx and Queens for choosing me to be your congresswoman."

Rep. Summer Lee (D-Pa.), another Squad member, also fended off a primary challenge earlier this year, overcoming a torrent of right-wing dark money. AIPAC sat out this year's race after failing to defeat Lee in 2022.

But Emgage, a PAC that works to turn out Muslim American voters, said Tuesday that Bowman's defeat at the hands of a candidate loaded with UDP cash "sets a dangerous precedent for groups like AIPAC to influence local elections and crush people-led politics."

"It should sound the alarm for Democrats and Americans across the country who believe in collective organizing to advance positive change for communities that are often sidelined in American politics," the group said. Axios reported Wednesday that some House Democrats are quietly "grumbling" about AIPAC's massive spending to defeat Bowman.

"The number is gross... I don't like it," one unnamed Democratic lawmaker told the outlet.

Aru Shiney-Ajay, executive director of the youth-led Sunrise Movement, echoed Emgage's message, saying in a statement that "Democrats should see this race as a massive warning for November."

"If you stand by while far-right groups try to buy elections, you further alienate and disillusion the young voters and voters of color you need to reelect Joe Biden this November," said Shiney-Ajay. "Here's my warning to Democratic leadership: reject AIPAC, or risk losing your own base."

This article originally appeared in Common Dreams on June 26th, 2024

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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Districts are closing traditional public schools as charters, etc., lure students

 By Jay Waagmeester

It’s a result of deliberate DeSantis adminstration policy

Broward County Public Schools has voted to close a minimum of five of its campuses amid declining enrollment, a trend in counties across Florida amid increasing taxpayer-funded enrollment in private and charter schools.

The board on June 18 told Superintendent Howard Hepburn to begin the closure process in light of an internal report finding that 66 of Broward’s more than 200 traditional public schools were operating at 70% or less capacity.

Federal lawsuit challenges new Georgia cash bail law

By Stanley Dunlop 

A federal lawsuit seeks to block a new Georgia law that it claims would effectively eliminate charitable bail funds by imposing unfair and severe restrictions.

The lawsuit filed last week by the American Civil Liberties Union and Georgetown University Law Center challenges a new law created by Senate Bill 63, which requires charitable organizations that offer free bail assistance to follow the same rules as private bail bond companies. That means required background checks, payments, licenses and cash escrow accounts.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Louisiana will face lawsuit over Ten Commandments school displays

By Greg LaRose

Four civil liberties groups will sue the state of Louisiana after Republican Gov. Jeff Landry signed a law Wednesday that calls for the Ten Commandments to be displayed in school classrooms. The new rule applies to any school that accepts state money, including colleges and universities.

The American Civil Liberties Union, its Louisiana chapter, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Freedom from Religion Foundation announced they intend to file a lawsuit to block enforcement of House Bill 71. The measure, authored by Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton, requires the Ten Commandments be displayed in each classroom. The poster or framed document dimensions must be at least 11 inches by 14 inches.

Backlash against DEI spreads to more states

By Erika Bolstad

In at least 22 states, DEI measures at state university systems have been banned or rolled back.

SALT LAKE CITY — Shortly after taking office in 2023, Republican state Rep. Katy Hall heard from constituents complaining about how their adult children were required to write diversity, equity and inclusion statements while applying for medical and dental schools and other graduate programs in Utah.

“It doesn’t seem right,” Hall said. “It doesn’t seem like it belongs in an application.”

It took two legislative sessions, but Hall successfully sponsored a new law that not only prohibits the use of such DEI statements but also bars state institutions from relying on specific individual characteristics in employment and education decisions. Additionally, it eliminates central offices dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Secretary of State Frank LaRose could purge more than 150,000 Ohio inactive voters before election

More than 150,000 Ohio voters could potentially not be eligible to vote in the upcoming Presidential election. 

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose recently published a list of 158,857 inactive voter registrations who are eligible to be removed from the Statewide Voter Registration Database — meaning they would be purged from voter rolls. 

“These registrations are eligible for removal under the law because records show they’re no longer residing or active at the registered address for at least the last four consecutive years,” LaRose said in a statement. 

Report: nearly half of Tennessee households don’t earn enough to meet basic expenses

By Anita Wadhwani

Nearly half of all Tennessee working families cannot afford the basic cost of living in their counties, according to new analyses of Census and federal economic data by the United Way of Tennessee.

The report examined the challenges facing households that earned more than the federal poverty level but, nevertheless, struggle to make ends meet.

While the number of households living in poverty decreased by nearly 5,000 across the state between 2021 and 2022, more than 34,214 households were added to the category of Tennesseans unable to pay for basic needs despite earnings that put them above the poverty level. In total, the report found that 1.2 million Tennessee households fall into this category.

The report concluded that the “survival budget” necessary for a family of four increased to $75,600 between 2021 and 2022. The budget includes the cost of housing, food, childcare, transportation and healthcare — all of which grew more expensive. In 33 Tennessee counties, more than half of all households failed to earn enough to meet their survival budgets.

While wages have increased in that time period, the 20 most common occupations in Tennessee still pay less than $20 per hour, the report found. These include jobs like sales, truck driving, administrative assistants and elementary school teachers.

Although poverty levels for Tennessee kids have shrunk, the report found that 38% of working Tennessee families with children at home did not earn enough to keep up with basic expenses.

This article originally appeared in Tennessee Lookout on June 7th, 2024

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Monday, June 10, 2024

Thousands Protest Gaza Genocide in 'Red Line' White House Rally

 By Jessica Corbett

"We as the people are drawing the red line today to say enough is enough," said a protester from the Palestinian Youth Movement. "It's time for an arms embargo, and it's time to end this."

As the Israel Defense Forces on Saturday killed over 200 more Palestinians in the Gaza Strip while rescuing four hostages taken by Hamas on October 7, thousands of anti-war protesters descended on the White House in Washington, D.C. 

The rally marked not only eight months of the war but also called out U.S. President Joe Biden for his seemingly empty threat to cut off American arms and diplomatic support for the Israeli military campaign, which has killed more than 36,800 people and wounded over 83,600 in Hamas-governed Gaza since October.  

Thursday, June 6, 2024

$15 minimum wage proposal won’t make 2024 ballot, as Michigan Supreme Court denies appeal

By Jon King

A ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court will prevent a petition effort to raise Michigan’s minimum wage to $15 an hour from appearing on the 2024 ballot. 

In an order released Friday, the court said it was “not persuaded that it should grant the requested relief” to set aside a deadlocked decision by the Michigan Board of State Canvassers, which is made up of two Democrats and two Republicans and requires a majority vote for passage. 

In a concurring opinion, Justice Brian Zahra said the court would not “second guess” the state canvassing process.

Monday, June 3, 2024

Greater focus on crime sparks another wave of juvenile justice bills

By Amanda Hernandez 

Nearly every state considered changes in juvenile age limits, detention or education programs.

For decades, state legislators and criminal justice advocates have worked to change the juvenile legal system, striving to expand access to rehabilitation and keep young people from returning to crime.

During this year’s legislative session, nearly every state has considered some form of juvenile justice legislation, according to a National Conference of State Legislatures database.

These efforts across at least 43 states plus Washington, D.C., have seen varied levels of success and come from a diversity of viewpoints. Some legislatures considered policies that would create alternatives to incarcerating teens, while others debated bills that would toughen potential penalties for kids as young as 10 years old. Criminal justice advocates warn that strict new policies could roll back previous overhauls of the system.