Fair Districts PA Coalition Making Our Vote Count

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice, the League of Women Voters and other organizations across the state announced the formation of a new coalition called Fair Districts PA. The coalition’s purpose is to advocate for reform of Pennsylvania’s redistricting rules to make the process of drawing electoral districts impartial, transparent, and accountable.

Pennsylvania's current redistricting plan is on the left. A hypothetical plan with compact districts is above on the right.

Pennsylvania’s current redistricting plan is on the left. A hypothetical plan with compact districts is above on the right.

Congressional and state legislative electoral maps are redrawn every ten years following the national census. In Pennsylvania, the process of drawing those maps is controlled almost entirely by state legislators, a conflict of interest that puts politicians in charge and takes away the rights of voters.

Some states, most notably Arizona and California, have reformed the process by establishing impartial citizen commissions and clear standards for how districts are to be drawn. The results have shown increased voter engagement and more competitive elections.

Fair District PA’s priorities include:

  • Assigning the redistricting power to an independent commission, of which neither the commissioners, nor members of their immediate families, may be government or political party officials.
  • Ensuring the transparency of the process and meaningful opportunities for public participation.
  • Establishing verifiable statistical standards for a fair election process.

[Read more…]

Romney wins Wyoming caucus. Washington votes this Shabbos.

  • TPM: “Last night, after weeks of voting, the Wyoming caucuses drew to a close. Mitt Romney won them with 39% of the vote to Rick Santorum's 33%. Ron Paul won 20% and Newt Gingrich 8%. In terms of delegate allocation, CNN estimates that Romney will likely take 10, Santorum 9, Paul 6 and Gingrich 1.”
    See Wyoming Capital Journal for the details the next steps of delegate selection.
    Over 10% of Wyomans are Mormon. Only Idaho and Utah have higher percentages. Mormons have historically favored Mitt Romney who is a Mormon elder. (See map after the jump.)
  • Republican's in the State of Washington will hold their caucus this coming Shabbat. The oddmakers give Romney a slight advantage over Santorum.
  • Next week is "Super Tuesday" with Primaries or Caucuses in 10 states.
    • Only Romney & Paul are on the ballot in Virginia and Massachusetts, so Romney is favored to win there as well as Vermont since it is so near Massachusetts and Idaho which is 27% Mormon, second only to Utah’s 72%. (See map after the jump.)
    • Paul’s best chances are in Alaska and North Dakota‘s caucuses.
    • Gingrich will likely pick up his home state of Georgia.
    • Santorum is strongest in the Midwest: Ohio, Tennessee, and Oklahoma.

    The latest odds according to Intrade follow the jump.

 Other Key Dates

  • PBS/NPR Debate, Monday, March 19 at 9pm ET, Portland, OR
  • Republican National Convention, August 27-30, Tampa, FL
  • Democratic National Convention, September 3-6, Charlotte, NC
  • 1st Presidential Debate, Wednesday, October 3, Univ. of Denver, Denver, CO
  • Vice-Presidential Debate, Thursday, October 11 at Centre College, Danville, KY
  • 2nd Presidential Debate, Tuesday, October 16, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY
  • 3rd Presidential Debate, Monday, October 22 at Lynn University, Boca Raton, FL
  • General Election, Tuesday, November 3

Color Key
Santorum: Dark green
Romney: Orange
Gingrich: Purple
Paul: Gold
Perry: Dark blue
Not yet voted: Grey  

States Won
Santorum: IA CO MN MO
Gingrich: SC  

Next Contests
Mar  3: WA
Mar  6: Super Tuesday  AK GA ID MA ND OH OK TN VT VA
Mar 10: KS VI GU
Mar 13: AL AS HI MS
Mar 17: MO
Mar 18: PR
Mar 20: IL
Mar 24: LA
Apr  3: MD DC WI  
Apr 24: CT DE NY PA RI
May  8: IN NC WV
May 15: NE OR
May 22: AR KY
May 29: TX confirmed
Jun  5: CA MT NJ NM SD Jun 26: UT
Probability of winning primaries according to gamblers on intrade as of Thursday, March 1

Delegates 43 27 76 32 41 28 66 43 58 17 50
Romney 57-62% 64-73% 2-18% 93-95% 98%+ 38-50% 3-11% 57-59% 15-17% 91-96% 95-98%
Santorum 30-39% 18-25% 4-10% 1-3% X 3-63% 86-90% 41-44% 72-85% 0-9% X
Gingrich 0-1% 1-6% 81-88% X 1-20% 10-24% 0-1% 0-14% 0-9% X
Paul 3-4% 12-24% 0-7% 11-26% 0-4% 0-9% 1-7% 1%-6%

Leading Religion by County, 2000

  • Dots indicate leading religion actually has a majority.
  • Red: Baptist
  • Blue: Catholic
  • Yellow: Christian
  • Beige: LDS/Mormon
  • Pink: Mennonite/Amish
  • Green: Methodist
  • Cyan: Reformed
  • Grey: Other

Mormon Population Density by State, 1990

Romney Perfects Endorsements

Candidate cannot leave well enough alone.

Romney was endorsed by the Arizona Republic on Friday, and he was quick to share the news with voters in Arizona, but in reproducing the endorsement he left out key sections critical of his immigration policy.

Similarly, last week he was endorsed by the Detroit News and left out the key paragraph highlighting Romney’s criticism of the auto bailout:

We disagree with Romney on a point vital to Michigan – his opposition to the bailout of the domestic automobile industry. Romney advocated for a more traditional bankruptcy process, while we believe the bridge loans provided by the federal government in the fall of 2008 were absolutely essential to the survival of General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Corp. The issue isn’t a differentiator in the GOP primary, since the entire field opposed the rescue effort.

This manipulation of the endorsement was charactized by the Detroit News as a “distortion” of their words.

TPM’s Benjy Sarlin:

The auto czar who led the bailout, Steve Rattner, has a simple challenge to Mitt Romney’s claim that private investors could have rescued Detroit: find me one.

Rattner, writing in the New York Times, wrote on Friday that Romney’s contention that American automakers didn’t need federal loans to move them through a managed bankruptcy intact is ludicrous given that the only financiers big enough to step in were barely hanging on for dear lives themselves.

Last month, Buzzfeed reported that the Romney campaign was also editing transcripts of its own conference calls with the press to leave out pointed questions and less than stellar answers from its surrogates. In addition, the campaign edited an article on supporter John McCain to leave out a section on their past disagreements and left out concerns in a Des Moines Register endorsement over Romney’s history of changing positions on some issues.

GOP Candidates Maintain Their Distance from Most Jews in AZ Debate

— Max Samis

In the first Republican presidential debate in nearly a month, one thing became clear: little has changed when it comes to the distance separating the GOP candidates from most Jews. The four candidates on stage in Arizona last night took their turns reminding most American Jews why they support the Democratic Party, in addition to wrongfully attacking President Barack Obama’s work to stop Iran’s nuclear program.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) wrongly attacked Obama’s leadership of the international movement to sanction Iran. As NJDC has noted, the Obama Administration recently implemented more sanctions that have essentially cut off Iran’s central bank from the global economy — and they’ve already made an impact. In addition, the Iranian steel trade has grinded to a halt, and the Iranian oil flow has taken a massive hit. While Romney and others assert otherwise, the fact remains that the President and his Administration are keeping all options on the table when it comes to stopping Iran. As The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg wrote before the debate:

The Obama Administration, through its stalwart opposition to the Iranian nuclear program, has narrowed Iran’s maneuverability, and forced the regime to make some obvious errors … It is precisely because the Obama Administration has constructed a sanctions program without precedent, and because the Obama Administration has funded and supported multinational cyber-sabotage efforts against the Iranian nuclear program, that Iran is panicking and lashing-out.

To get the facts on Obama’s work to stop Iran’s nuclear program, click here.

The New York Times, Politifact, and National Journal fact checked Romney on Iran. Click the hyperlinked publication to view their findings that debunk Romney’s falsehoods.  

Santorum Fights Back Against Negative Ads With “Rombo” Spoof

Mitt Romney is doubling down his bet on Michigan. Santorum is leading in the state when Romney was born and his father was elected Governor, but Romney’s Super PAC “Restore Our Future” is saturating the airwaves in Michigan, Ohio and Arizona with a negative ad entitled “Voters” attacking Santorum.

However, Santorum is deflecting these attacks with humor. Mike Allen from Politico reports:

Rick Santorum goes up statewide in Michigan today with “Rombo,” a 30-second “rebuttal ad” by strategist John Brabender. The spot shows a Mitt Romney double (coif, cufflinks, wingtips) skulking into a musty, rusty parking garage and using a machine gun to spray mud at an elusive cardboard cutout of Santorum.

Transcript of Santorum’s ad and Video of Romney’s ad follow the jump.
Transcript of “Rombo”:

Santorum: I’m Rick Santorum, and I approve this message.

Narrator: Mitt Romney’s negative attack machine is back, on full throttle. This time, Romney’s firing his mud at RICK SANTORUM. [Sound of gunfire.] Romney and his super PAC have spent a staggering 20 million … attacking fellow Republicans. Why? Because Romney’s trying to hide from his big-government Romneycare, and his support for job-killing cap-and-trade. And in the end, Mitt Romney’s ugly attacks are going to backfire.

Video “Votes” by Romney Super PAC “Restore Our Future”

Supreme Court Deals Blow to Campaign Finance Reform Agenda

Rabbi Saperstein: “The Union for Reform Judaism will continue to support the federal government, states, and localities in exploring new and innovative ways to ensure the viability of public financing programs.”

In response to the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in the consolidated cases Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett and McComish v. Bennett, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

In a 5-4 decision issued on Monday, the Supreme Court invalidated the matching fund provisions of Arizona’s public campaign financing system. These provisions provide additional resources to publicly financed candidates when their opponents or independent groups spend in excess of their initial public subsidy. In so doing, matching funds ensure that publicly financed candidates have the resources to mount effective challenges.

The Central Conference of American Rabbis resolved in 2003 to support state-level adoption of full public financing programs such as Arizona’s because such policy “reduces the inherent conflicts of interest that arise when the campaigns of public servants are privately financed.” The Union for Reform Judaism has supported public financing since 1984. Because of the Reform Movement’s longstanding support for public financing as a key means to eliminate the corrupting influence of money from our political system, the Union for Reform Judaism submitted an amicus curiae brief defending Arizona’s program. While Monday’s decision is deeply disappointing, the effort to make democracy more responsive to the will of all the people, not just the wealthy and powerful, goes on.
The Bennett decision is the first campaign finance case on which the Supreme Court rendered judgment since Citizen United v. FEC (2010). In that case, the Supreme Court overturned 63 years of precedent establishing the right of government to prohibit corporations from spending unlimited amounts of money to influence the outcome of elections. The decision rendered by the majority in the Bennett cases is equally troubling and we agree with Justice Kagan’s forceful dissent, read from the bench, sharply challenging Monday’s decision.

Even so, the majority still recognized the right of states and the federal government to use public financing to combat political corruption, even if it prescribed unreasonably restrictive parameters governing the composition of such programs. The Union for Reform Judaism will continue to support the federal government, states, and localities in exploring new and innovative ways to ensure the viability of public financing programs.

Campaign Finance Reform in Arizona

“Take no gift, for the gift blinds the wise, and perverts the words of the righteous” – Exodus 23.

— Mark Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Tomorrow, Monday, March 28, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in the case McComish v. Bennett, which considers the constitutionality of the “matching fund” provisions of Arizona’s public campaign financing program.

The Union for Reform Judaism has submitted an amicus curiae brief in the case McComish v. Bennett, which considers the constitutionality of “matching fund” provisions of Arizona’s public financing program. The Reform Movement has long held that public financing is vital to limit the corrupting and distorting influence of campaign spending in our democracy. Arizona has one of the strongest public financing programs in the country, and we are proud to forcefully defend it in court.

Under Arizona law, candidates for state offices may qualify for full public financing for their campaigns if they voluntarily discontinue all private fundraising. Participating candidates who face privately financed opponents expending large sums of money are eligible for additional matching funds to ensure that they have the resources to compete. In a manner that facilitates additional speech rather than restricting the speech of others, matching funds ensure that candidates do not incur a penalty for participating in a program that promotes an electoral process unfettered by the influence of special interests.

We are inspired to support public financing by our religious texts, which warn of the corrupting influence that gifts can have on public officials.  Talmud explains a prohibition against public officials accepting gifts, saying, “as soon as a man receives a gift from another he becomes so well disposed towards him that he becomes like his own person and no man sees himself in the wrong” (Tractate Ketubot, 105b). As our religious texts recognize, any time something of value changes hands, the potential exists for those in a position of power to see the world in a hue tinted by the gift giver. Public financing forecloses the opportunity for such distortion.

More after the jump.

McComish v. Bennett is the most high-profile case the Supreme Court has heard on campaign finance reform since the landmark 2010 case Citizens United v. FEC. In that case, the Supreme Court overturned 63 years of precedent prohibiting corporations and labor unions from spending unlimited amounts of money on campaign advertisements, a decision that affords wealthy and powerful interests a megaphone to potentially drown out the voices of ordinary citizens. McComish v. Bennett is an opportunity for the Supreme Court to reverse course and rule in favor of a law that protects the ability of all citizens to have an equal voice in our democracy. We hope the Court avails itself of that opportunity.

We are grateful for the work of Andrew Goodman, Esq. and his colleagues at Garvey Schubert Barer for serving as the Counsel of Record for the amicus brief. Their assistance and dedication were invaluable in completing the first amicus brief that the Union for Reform Judaism has ever drafted.  

Mainstream Republicans Scared to Death by Tea Party

Several mainstream Republicans have resigned from leadership roles in Arizona’s 20th Legislative District due to concerns about the safety of their families in light of threats from the Awtaukee Tea Party, and the recent massacre in Tucson.

Anthony Miller resigned as chair of the Republican party in the 20th district along with Republican party secretary Sophia Johnson, the district Republican vice-chairman Roger Dickinson, and the district Republican spokesman Jeff Kolb.

Miller, a 43-year-old Ahwatukee Foothills resident and former campaign worker for U.S. Sen. John McCain, was re-elected to a second one-year term last month. He said constant verbal attacks after that election and Internet blog posts by some local members with Tea Party ties made him worry about his family’s safety.

In an e-mail sent a few hours after Saturday’s massacre in Tucson that killed six and injured 13, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Miller told state Republican Party Chairman Randy Pullen he was quitting: “Today my wife of 20 yrs ask (sic) me do I think that my PCs (Precinct Committee members) will shoot at our home? So with this being said I am stepping down from LD20GOP Chairman…I will make a full statement on Monday.”

“I wasn’t going to resign but decided to quit after what happened Saturday,” Miller said. “I love the Republican Party but I don’t want to take a bullet for anyone.”

Read more in the Arizona Republic.