New Rules Would Rein In Nonprofits’ Political Role

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/27/us/politics/new-campaign-rules-proposed-for-tax-exempt-nonprofits.html?hp&_r=0

By
Published: November 26, 2013

he Obama administration on Tuesday moved to curb political activity by tax-exempt nonprofit organizations, with potentially major ramifications for some of the biggest and most secretive spenders in American politics.

New rules proposed by the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service would clarify both how the I.R.S. defines political activity and how much nonprofits are allowed to spend on it. The proposal covers not just television advertising, but bread-and-butter political work like candidate forums and get-out-the-vote drives.

Long demanded by government watchdogs and Democrats who say the flow of money through tax-exempt groups is corrupting the political system, the changes would be the first wholesale shift in a generation in the regulations governing political activity by nonprofits.

The move follows years of legal and regulatory shifts, including the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010, that have steadily loosened the rules governing political spending, particularly by those with the biggest bank accounts: corporations, unions and wealthy individuals.

But the proposal also thrusts the I.R.S. into what is sure to be a polarizing regulatory battle, with some Republicans immediately criticizing the proposal on Tuesday as an attack on free speech and a ploy to undermine congressional investigations into the agency’s handling of applications from Tea Party groups.

“Before rushing forward with new rules, especially ones that appear to make it harder to engage in public debate, I would hope Treasury would let all the facts come out first,” said Representative David Camp of Michigan, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Political spending by tax-exempt groups — from Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, co-founded by the Republican strategist Karl Rove, to the League of Conservation Voters — skyrocketed to more than $300 million in 2012 from less than $5.2 million in 2006, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Much of the money has been funneled through chains of interlinked nonprofit groups, making it even harder to determine the original source.

And unlike political parties and “super PACs,” political nonprofits are permitted to keep the names of donors confidential, making them the vehicle of choice for deep-pocketed donors seeking to influence campaigns in secret.

The new rules would not prohibit political activity by nonprofits.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/27/us/politics/new-campaign-rules-proposed-for-tax-exempt-nonprofits.html?hp&_r=0

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Conservative think tank appalled when guys with MBAs take over

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2013/11/26/conservative_think_tank_appalled_when_guys_with_mbas_take_over/

Heritage staffers for some reason don’t like their organization being treated like a common school or corporation


Tuesday, Nov 26, 2013

Julia Ioffe has a piece in the New Republic explaining the recent history of the Heritage Foundation, once the most influential conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. — perhaps the most influential think tank of any kind anywhere, for a few years — and now essentially a very large email list and activist PAC/pressure group.

Many people noticed how much the organization had changed during the recent government shutdown/”defund Obamacare” fight, a giant waste of everyone’s time and general self-inflicted disaster engineered and designed by Heritage Action, the 501(c)(4) “pressure group” Heritage launched in 2010. On the right, there was much consternation over the direction this once-respected think tank had taken. Truth be told, Heritage was always mostly political hacks, they just used to be effective political hacks with a realistic agenda. What was different now was the cheerful absense of any coherent and/or achievable goal — beyond fundraising and image-boosting for Heritage Action itself. Many blamed this on new Heritage president Jim DeMint, a former congressman not particularly known for his intellect, but Ioffe says the new tone at Heritage, and the tactics of Heritage Action, were both largely directed by Michael Needham, a 31-year-old former Giuliani staffer brought on to be the CEO of Heritage Action when it launched.

Needham is a child of privilege, the Manhattan-raised son of a banker and a Saks executive. Basically the minute he was hired to run Heritage Action, he began acting like any up-jumped MBA with an executive position. He and his lieutenant, “a 31-year-old evangelical named Tim Chapman who had a few years experience working on the Hill,” promptly took over the organization, assisted by DeMint, who took over as president when his kindly old predecessor retired.

“I was always struck at how they felt absolutely no intellectual modesty,” says the former veteran Heritage staffer. “They felt totally on par with people who had spent thirty years in the field and had Ph.D.s.”

Hmm. Why shouldn’t they? What good is a Ph.D. compared to the education received by an MBA with a useful business degree?

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2013/11/26/conservative_think_tank_appalled_when_guys_with_mbas_take_over/

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A Basic Income is Not a Crazy Idea

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How Wall Street Turned America Into Incarceration Nation

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/corporate-accountability-and-workplace/how-wall-st-turned-america-incarceration-nation

Transforming poorer neighborhoods into desirable real estate for the new elites often requires getting rid of the poor: jail becomes the new home for many.

By Les Leopold
November 25, 2013

The U.S. leads the world in prisoners with 2.27 million in jail and more than 4.8 million on parole. Minorities have been especially hard hit, forming 39.4% of the prison population, with one in three black men expected to serve time during their lifetimes.

How is it that our land, supposedly the beacon of freedom and democracy for the rest of the world, puts so many of its own people into prison?

We usually attribute the prisoner increase to a combination of overt racism and Nixon’s war on drugs, followed by Rockefeller’s “three strikes” legislation in New York, and then the 1984 Sentencing Reform Act with its mandatory sentences. While racism and these laws certainly provide ample opportunity to incarcerate millions for violating senseless prohibition laws, they do not tell the whole story.

Racism was just as virulent, if not more so, long before the dramatic rise in prisoners set in during the 1980s and 1990s. Just because there are draconian laws on the books, it doesn’t explain why they are so dutifully enforced. It also doesn’t explain why so many are willing to risk prison, knowing the increasing odds of getting caught.

If we dig deeper, we’ll see that the rise in incarceration corresponds with the rise of financialization and the dramatic increase in Wall Street incomes. Of course, just because trend lines on charts rise and fall together doesn’t mean one causes the other. But this correspondence is much more than coincidence.

In fact, we could show you a dozen other trends lines about financialization, wealth and the rising incomes of America’s elites that follow the same patterns over similar years as the incarceration rate. What is the connection?

‘Unleashing’ Wall Street destroys manufacturing, older urban areas and black America’s upward mobility

By the end of the 1970s, our policy establishment embarked upon a new experiment to shock the nation out of stagflation (the crushing combination of high unemployment and high inflation). To do so, neo-liberal economists successfully argued that Wall Street should be deregulated and that taxes on the wealthy should be cut to spur new entrepreneurial activity that would enrich us all.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/corporate-accountability-and-workplace/how-wall-st-turned-america-incarceration-nation

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Petitioning Southern Poverty Law Center: Monitor Gender Identity Watch as a Hate Group

From Change.org:  https://www.change.org/petitions/southern-poverty-law-center-monitor-gender-identity-watch-as-a-hate-group-2

Secular Woman

As a feminist organization, Secular Woman promotes gender equality. We stand against and combat sexism, hate, intolerance, and misogyny.

Transgender women are women.

Cisgender women are women.

We do not, in any way, view the existence of transgender women, genderqueer individuals or transgender men as a threat to the safety of women, female identity, or the goals of feminism.

As intersectional feminists we acknowledge the privilege that cisgender people experience. We aim to dismantle the axis of oppression that this represents.

Unfortunately, not all who claim the label “feminist” agree with us.  They do not represent us and we reject their actions and views as unethical and devoid of reason.

We stand in opposition.

Members of our community have been targeted by trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs). Personal information such as former names, current legal names, and photographs have been compiled and displayed on the website “Name the Problem”.  Several of the entries are self-attributed to “Pegasus” (“PegasusBug” is a pseudonym of Cathy Brennan, the head of Gender Identity Watch). This information was presented alongside reports describing rapists and batterers of women.

Countless others, including members of transgender advocacy groups have reported similar treatment, as well as other alarming behavior, such as Cathy Brennan contacting employers, schools and medical doctors of transgender women, girls and young men.

This is unacceptable.

It is anathema to our vision of a future in which women have the opportunities and resources they need to participate openly and confidently in every aspect of society.

Cathy Brennan’s tactics, as described, are reprehensible, reckless, and irresponsible as they have the potential to embolden violence and harassment of those she targets and to result in job loss and other discrimination informed by the open knowledge of the target’s transgender status.

Refusal to afford transgender women inclusion, safety, and civil rights is a form of misogyny that is antithetical to feminism.

We invite fellow feminists and secularists, as well as others concerned, to proactively affirm the inclusion of all women as women.  Condemn the toxic ideologies used to rationalize hate, fear, and discrimination based on gender.

Stand with us in petitioning the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to track the activities of Cathy Brennan’s Gender Identity Watch as a hate group in accordance with SPLC’s stated mission.
Signed in Solidarity,

Secular Woman
Stop Abuse Online
Skepchick
Trinity Aodh, Melody Hensley, M. A. Melby, Veronica K. Berglyd Olsen, Kim Rippere, Mary Ellen Sikes, Dana Lane Taylor

Click Here To Sign Petition

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AB1266 Referendum Drive: So Far, Not So Good For Privacy For All Students Coalition

From Trans-Advocate: http://www.transadvocate.com/ab1266-referen dum-drive-so-far-not-so-good-for-privacy-for-all-students-coalition.htm

By Autumn Sandeen
November 22, 2013

Reposted with Permission

The Secretary of State’s office described the process and procedure for qualifying the School Success And Opportunity Act (AB1266) for referendum on the November, 2014 ballot:

Thumbnail link: California Secretary Of State Report On Referendum to Overturn Non-Discrimination Requirements for School Programs and Activities (November 21, 2013)

Once the requisite number of signatures has been collected, they must be filed with the appropriate county elections official(s). Counties then have eight working days to report the raw count of signatures to the Secretary of State.

 

If the raw count of signatures equals 100% or more of the total number of signatures needed to qualify the initiative measure, the Secretary of State notifies the county elections officials that they will have to randomly sample signatures for validation, to ensure petitions were signed by registered voters. If the result of the random sample indicates that the number of valid signatures represents between 95% and 110% of the required number of signatures to qualify the initiative measure for the ballot, the Secretary of State directs the county elections officials to verify every signature on the petition. This process is referred to as a full check of signatures. If the total number of valid signatures is less than 95% of the number of signatures required to qualify the initiative measure, the initiative measure will fail to qualify for the ballot. If the number of valid signatures is greater than 110% of the required number of signatures, the initiative measure is considered qualified without further verification. Spreadsheets containing the progress of an initiative in the signature verification stage are updated regularly.

The most recent spreadsheet was released on November 21, 2013.

So with the process and procedures in mind, to qualify California’s AB1266 for a referendum in November of 2014, the Privacy For All Students coalition {which includes the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI)}needed to turn in petitions with 504,760 valid signatures of registered California voters. The coalition reported that they turned in petitions with about 620,000 signatures.

The numbers posted by the Secretary Of State’s office spreadsheet show that 547,984 petition signatures have been raw counted to date, and random checking of petitions so far has indicated a signature validity rate of 72.49%. To succeed, the Privacy For All Students coalition would need a final validity rate of 81.4% to reach the 504,760 valid signatures of registered voters mark to qualify AB1266 for a referendum.

“With only 5 counties yet to report the raw number of signatures turned in, the total raw number is 547,984.” said one of the number-crunching LGBT advocates watching this signature count closely. “Four of the remaining counties are small. Amador County has a population of 38,091. Kings County has a population of 151,364. Mariposa County has a population of 17,905. Mono County has a population of 14,348. Only yet-to-report San Bernardino County is a population center, with a population slightly over 2 million.”

The advocate noted that Kern County (where the city of Bakersfield is located), was “a particular fail.” That county only had a signature validity rate of 69.7%.

Qualification of a November, 2014 referendum to repeal AB1266 looks to be depending heavily on 1.) the raw count of signatures provided to the Secretary of State from San Bernardino County and 2.) the signature validity rate of those signatures in that county. If the signature validity rate out of San Bernardino County isn’t high enough to raise the overall validity rate up by 9 percentage points, then the effort to put AB1266 up for referendum will have failed.

It’s far, far too soon to say that the petition drive to put AB1266 up for a vote has failed, but at this point it’s not looking good for the Privacy For All Students coalition.

And, should the referendum signature drive to repeal AB1266 fail, that would be very, very good news for California’s trans youth.


Update: The Secretary of State’s office released a new spreadsheet dated November 22, 2013. The new report has a raw number count for San Bernardino County of 63,348 signatures. The new report updated the overall signature validity rate to 75.46%.Again quoting my the number-crunching LGBT advocate source:

If the repeal people turned in 620,000 signatures as they said (right now it stands at 613,120), they will need a final validity rate of 81.41% to hit the required 504,760 valid signatures.

If the random checks come in at under 95% of 504,760 valid signatures, it’s over and we won.

If the random checks come in at above 110% of 504,760 (essentially impossible), this part is over and we go to the ballot.

In between those two percentages, the state will force an actual count of every single signature (as opposed to a random check) to see if 504,760 of the approximately 620,000 are valid.

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Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls: An Urgent Priority

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/helen-clark/tackling-violence-against-women-and-girls_b_4338056.html


11/25/2013

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women — a day which reminds us that violence against women continues to be destructive and pervasive. Ranging from domestic violence and child marriages to the use of rape as a tactic of war, violence against women kills as many women between the ages of 15 and 44 as cancer, is a grave assault on many more women and girls and imposes high economic and social costs on societies.

In responding to gender-based violence, the financial costs to health systems, social services, the justice sector and indirect costs, such as those of lost productivity, burden countries around the world. From Chile, where intimate partner violence is estimated to drain as much as two percent of the country’s GDP, to the United States, where the cost of domestic violence is estimated to exceed $12.6 billion per year, violence against women imposes high costs on both its victims and society.

Yet, when women are able to live in a safe and secure environment, they can participate effectively in the economy and society. This helps overcome poverty, reduces inequalities and is beneficial for children’s nutrition, health and school attendance. Every woman and girl has the right to live in safety in her home and community.

At UNDP, we address the problem of gender-based violence in partnership with other organizations, including NGOs and civil society. We aim to contribute to reducing violence and to promote women’s economic, legal, social and political empowerment. Through our programs, we provide legal and psychological support to victims, and we target the underlying causes of violence.

Improving women’s access to the justice system and to legal aid is vital. In conflict and post-conflict countries where justice systems, security and the rule of law have broken down, women are particularly at risk. To counter this, in countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we are helping to strengthen the justice sector so that the many cases of rape and violence committed by combatants can be addressed. Impunity for perpetrators must end.

In addressing sexual and gender-based violence, it is important to know more about the entrenched attitudes and values which perpetrate it. A recent joint report by UNDP, UN Women, UN Population Fund and UN Volunteers surveyed 10,000 men in Asia and the Pacific. It found that 80 percent of men who admitted to committing rape in rural Bangladesh and China cited a sense of sexual entitlement as their motivation. Of those who perpetrated the violence in those countries, the vast majority never faced any legal consequences.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/helen-clark/tackling-violence-against-women-and-girls_b_4338056.html

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