Archive for June 30th, 2011

Stephen Colbert and the FEC squared off today in Washington over the fake news anchor’s SuperPAC request. Colbert testified today in an FEC hearing in which he sought a media exemption so he can form his own Super political action committee. The Comedy Central host has been making fun of campaign finance laws for months and today was the moment of truth for the comedian. Colbert has brought attention to the controversial campaign finance laws and has been largely seen as showing how absurd the laws surrounding a SuperPAC can be.

Public Citizen’s Congress Watch (our colleagues in DC) sent a letter to the FEC urging them to deny Stephen Colbert’s request for a media exemption. Public Citizen’s own Craig Holman said that “This would carve out a gaping loophole in campaign finance laws, allowing any company involved in media to foot, in secret and without limit, the electioneering expenses of political committees. If the press exemption were to be so dangerously expanded by the FEC, the next request will be for media companies to directly finance unlimited candidate campaigns under the press exemption – an abuse that is already being advocated in some quarters.”  What does that mean?  Well, it means if Viacom resources can be used to produce ads for ColbertPAC, then Fox could possibly produce ads for their contributors, such as Karl Rove and his SuperPAC, CrossroadsGPS. It would be a terrible slippery slope and stretch our campaign finance laws to the breaking point.

The members of the FEC appeared to take notice of Public Citizen’s request, voting in favor of allowing Stephen Colbert to have a SuperPAC, but with the narrow media exemption we advocated. In a vote of 5-1, the FEC approved a modified version of the Colbert Advisory Opinion request that is fairly narrow and consistent with the current press exemption.

The FEC today has made a good decision in the minds of advocates for campaign finance reform. They have drawn a line in the sand between media companies and political action committees. They have also not been hypocritical in their decisions, and thus have allowed for a comedian to create a SuperPAC (much like the ones Karl Rove and Sarah Palin have created), who may as well be comedians because their campaign finance activities make us laugh because without laughing we’d cry. With the Supreme Court’s recent controversial ruling on public financing of elections, it’s nice to have some comic relief in the twisted world that is campaign finance.

Thanks to our friends at CREW who posted this video on their blog:

Colbert makes some good points here, but also does what we think is really necessary: by “kidding on the square“, he’s using humor to point out exactly how ridiculous our campaign finance laws are. Because when he starts running his ads, people will notice. And hopefully they’ll realize the real jokes are not Colbert, but the other superPACs out there.

Colbert put it best: “Some of you have cynically asked “Is this some kind of joke?” I, for one, don’t think participating in democracy is a joke… that wanting to know what the rules are is a joke. But I do have one federal election law joke.

Knock Knock

(who’s there)

Unlimited union and corporate campaign contributions.

(Unlimited union and corporate campaign contributions who?)

That’s the thing, I don’t think I should have to tell you.”

The joke is serious. Colbert is right. The Supreme Court with Citizens United have created the most absurd unintended consequences ever. We need real campaign finance reform, but we hope Colbert’s laughs will bring others to the cause.

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photo by: Bob Daemmrich

In an interesting twist to what had been a post-session, pre-presidential run period of  crowds chanting “Run, Rick, Run!” everywhere he has shown up, probably reminiscent of the Governor’s A&M yell leader years, Rick Perry was subtly called to task for anti-immigrant efforts during both the regular and special session of the 82nd legislature, then shunned by San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, and left standing as dead air fell upon the room before someone stepped in to introduce the Governor as he addressed the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO).  Not a good sign from the hispanic community for someone who is considering a run for the presidency.  The San Antonio Current posted this update in thier QueQue blog.

Castro punks Perry

Fresh from his renewed push to dismantle so-called sanctuary cities at the Texas Lege, Governor Rick Perry addressed the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials to a subdued hostility last week. Harassed and derided by protesters on the street, Perry also took heat from none other than Mayor Julián Castro inside before reaching the podium. Referencing Perry’s effort to, not once but twice, push controversial immigration measures through the Lege, Castro said, “We’ve seen in the State of Texas the call for Arizona-type legislation. We have seen, in this legislative session, easily the most anti-Latino agenda in more than a generation, pursued without shame.” Castro left the stage without even introducing the governor. After an awkward five-minute pause, Republican convert and South Texas state Rep. Aaron Peña took to the mic, introducing Perry by praising him as a tax-cutting, experienced leader.

Protesters outside Perry’s speech scoffed at his presence at the NALEO luncheon, saying it was nothing more than a move to gauge support among Latinos while pondering a White House bid. “It’s insulting for us,” said Diana Lopez, an organizer with Southwest Workers Union. “He wants to run for president, that’s why he’s here. He wants to be seen with these people.” If Perry hopes to sway Hispanics, his San Antonio reception suggests he’s got a lot of work ahead of him. New projections from NALEO released last week estimate at least 12.2 million Latinos will turn out in the next presidential election, an increase of 26 percent from 2008. And Latinos in Texas, NALEO says, are likely to account for over 20 percent of the Latino vote.

If this is the response he got from hispanic leaders here in Texas, will the rest of the Latino’s in the U.S. soon be chanting “Run, Rick, Run – back home to Texas” if he pursues his candidacy for president?

Click here to read about an environmental justice issue for Latinos.

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Governor Perry has signed into law several pieces of energy efficiency legislation.  These include:

  • SB 1125 – changes how we measure our progress on energy efficiency from a percentage of growth in energy consumption to a percentage of peak energy usage.  Allows for greater demand side management (DSM) by allowing loads to participate in the daily balancing energy market. It also creates new efficiency programs and standardized forms and reporting for progress.
  • SB 898 – requires a 50% reduction in energy consumption (5% per year for 10 years) by all political subdivisions, schools, and state agencies.
  • SB 924 – requires municipal utilities and large co-ops to report their energy saving programs and results
  • HB 2077 – allows certain nonprofit organizations and churches to have access to the LoanStar revolving loan program to install energy efficiency measures and renewable energy.
  • HB 1728 – allows schools to enter into more flexible energy saving performance contracts

Public Citizen worked on all of these during the regular session, along with Businesses for an Energy Efficient Texas coalition (BEET).  These new laws will  help Texas be more competitive, create jobs, save taxpayer dollars and provide environmental benefits that improve air quality and reduce fresh water consumption. They will also help schools reduce their energy costs, making more money available for the classrooms.

Senator Carona, when asked about energy efficiency this past Legislative Session said, “Capturing more energy and associated economic savings for Texas taxpayers and businesses is a priority – especially with the challenges Texas and Texans face with the economy today.”

The Texas legislature should be applauded for their leadership in improving the state’s laws to help Texans be more energy efficient.

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