Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Story of Citizens United v. FEC

Last week Klickitat Democrat, Bob Hansen, hosted a house party to view the short (10 minutes!) film, "The Story of Citizens United v. FEC".

This film was created by the same folks at The Story of Stuff Project and describes the landmark case in which the U.S. Supreme Court decided that it is unconstitutional to limit how much money corporations can spend to influence elections.

Since the 2010 ruling, corporations have spent $300 million to influence election results. This money has been used to run ads and engage in other activities to sway us - the voters - to support candidates who serve the interests of those corporations.

Below you will find FAQs, a link to view the film, and a link to sign a petition to amend the constitution in order to overturn Citizens United v FEC and get the people back in charge of our democracy!

Q: What was the Citizens United v. FEC case about?

A: Citizens United is an organization that accepted corporate funding to produce a 90-minute movie attacking Hillary Clinton called "Hillary: The Movie." Shortly before the 2008 presidential elections, Citizens United wanted to air the movie as a video-on-demand, but was afraid the FEC would forbid them from doing so, because campaign finance rules prohibited TV attack ads funded by outside groups. Citizens United challenged the ban in court. Originally, the Citizens United v. FEC case involved a narrow, technical question about campaign finance law: Was a video-on-demand program enough like a TV ad that it should be prohibited from airing shortly before and elections? However, the Supreme Court expanded the case to consider a much broader question: Did decades of campaign finance rules violate the First Amendment?

Q: Wait, so Citizens United were the bad guys, with a name like Citizens United?

A: That's right! Citizens United is actually a conservative group that advocates pulling the United States out of the United Nations, cutting Social Security, stripping funding from public broadcasting, among other extremist positions. The group's name makes it sound like it's about democracy when actually it's about corporatocracy!

Q: What does the decision mean?

A: The ruling means that corporations can and are spending a ton of money to support or defeat particular candidates - at least $300 million during the 2010 midterm elections, and probably a LOT more in 2012.

What kinds of things do corporations want? They want to do away with laws that restrict their activities - laws that protect public health and safety, workers' rights, and clean air and water. For example, oil companies want to block laws that protect our climate; manufacturers want trade agreements that undermine product safety rules and enable corporations to ship jobs overseas. And big multinational corporations often seek subsidies and bailouts.

Q: Can't Congress overturn or fix the decision?

A: Congress cannot overturn the decision, because the decision is based on the constitutional protections of the First Amendment.

Q: What would a constitutional amendment do?

A: It would overturn the decision by establishing that corporations do not have the same First Amendment rights as individuals.

Q: Is amending the Constitution politically possible?

A: Yes. Amending the Constitution is supposed to be hard, and no one should be under any illusions about its difficulty. But it's an achievable goal, as the history of the Constitution makes clear. The 23rd and 26th Amendments (establishing voting rights for District of Columbia residents and setting the minimum voting age at 18 years old) were passed by Congress and ratified in under a year.

Click here to view the film

Click here to sign the petition

And finally, click here to link directly to the Story of Citizens United web site for more information

Friday, December 3, 2010

Told You So!

This week's (Dec 2) White Salmon Enterprise told readers what we Klickitat Democrats knew all along. Lou Marseles' story below the fold on the front page "County revaluations 'ideal', state says" gives credence to what our Assessor candidate, Victoria Allen, repeated over and over at every opportunity during the 2010 campaign. Unfortunately, the state report was published after the election, too late to wave around at a candidate's night. Kudos to the current staff who worked diligently to effect the annual assessments, which was key to bringing the revaluation ratio in line. The credit for improvement is theirs. We will be keeping this on file, since there may possibly be some memory loss as to when the improvements occurred, as well as who and what were responsible for them.

This article was not included in the online version, so for those who missed it, here it is.

County revaluations 'ideal', state says

by Lou Marzeles
Gorge News Report

For the first time in decades, Klickitat County has achieved a 100 percent ratio in its real property revaluation-which puts an additional $30 million into county coffers.

"We have people who've been with the county since the '80s" said Klickitat County Assessor Van Vandenberg. "No one can remember when we last had a 100 percent ratio. The 100 percent ratio means we've hit the ideal level set by the state. Historically, the level has been too low."

The new revaluation, for 2010, was released Nov. 12 from the Washington Department of Revenue. It also shows a new assessment of public utility companies in the county, which, in conjunction with the 100 percent ratio, contributes to the dramatic county revenue increase.

"At one point, it was as low as 69 percent," said Victoria Allen, deputy county assessor.

The real property ratio reflects how assessment of fixed property (as opposed to personal, movable property) compares to actual sales values of properties. Assessment of property values ideally should exactly reflect- or be 100 percent of-actual sales values. When the ratio is lower than actual sales values, Vandenberg says, property taxes go up.

"The assessed value of property isn't in line with actual sales values when that happens," he explained, "so taxes actually go up then."

When the ratio is low, taxes aren't reflecting actual sales values of property.

"When the ratio is at 100 percent, it means taxes go down, because then the assessed value is the same as the actual sales values," Vandenberg said.

The personal property ratio has been more than 100 percent for some time now.

"That's because Vicky (Allen) audits closely to the state," Vandenberg says.

According to Allen, the real property ratio has been growing steadily in recent years.

"Last year, it was 86.5 percent," Allen pointed out.

Deciding to go to annual assessments has helped Klickitat County, Vandenberg believes.

"Assessment offices in the state are required to go annually," Vandenberg recalls, "and I said, 'Why wait?'. So we were one of the first counties [to go to an annual schedule].

Real property values in Klickitat County are just starting to show a significant dip, according to Allen and Vandeberg. They noted that Washington and Oregon were the last states in the country to see a dip in real estate.

"Urban areas like Seattle did see sharp dips, but rural America really didn't see the same kind of thing. This county is just starting to dip," said Vandenberg.

"It plateaued," added Allen, "and it never climbed as high as some other areas, but the decline in the county is just starting."

After deciding not to seek another term as Assessor, Vandenberg is set to retire at the end of the year. He will be replaced by White Salmon's Denise (sic) Johnson [that should be Darlene], who beat Victoria Allen for the job in the Nov. 2 election.

"The office changes hands Jan 1 at 12:01 am, " Vandenberg said. "And there will be a lot of changes in the assessors' offices throughout the state. Eight assessors are retiring, three lost their elections, and one just quit. That's 12 out of 39, that's a big change."

Change will come also to Vandenberg's lifestyle.

"Most people only retire once," he said. "I plan to take it easy, do more fishing, play more."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

State Party Chair Called It Right!

"Are we the lone oak tree in the middle of the flood that doesn't get pushed over? I think we are," state Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz said.
Seattle Times, Oct 30, 2010

All was not lost this election. Washington withstood the flood, thanks to everyone's hard work. People were stepping up all over the state to help candidates. Our own county Democrats were every bit as active as in 2008. Even though most of our candidates did not fare well, the effort was great, the campaigns were honest and ethical, and we did our best. Congressional candidate Jay Clough is already planning his 2012 run, so save those signs and send a few bucks his way. Save ALL the signs. If you have signs that you can't store, contact us and we'll see what we can do about that! Thanks to all our candidates, volunteers, phone bankers, sign posters, contributers, candidate night attendees, letter writers, and event hosts. You make us all proud to be Democrats.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

So NOW They're Mad?

We should all print this and keep it in our pockets for conversation purposes. Or for putting on windshields of cars with Republican or Tea Party bumperstickers.

After The 8 Years Of The Bush/Cheney Disaster, Now You Get Mad?

You didn't get mad when the Supreme Court stopped a legal recount and appointed a President.

You didn't get mad when Cheney allowed Energy company officials to dictate Energy policy and push us to invade Iraq.

You didn't get mad when a covert CIA operative got outed.

You didn't get mad when the Patriot Act got passed.

You didn't get mad when we illegally invaded a country that posed no threat to us.

You didn't get mad when we spent over 800 billion (and counting) on said illegal war.

You didn't get mad when Bush borrowed more money from foreign sources than the previous 42 Presidents combined.

You didn't get mad when over 10 billion dollars in cash just disappeared in Iraq.

You didn't get mad when you found out we were torturing people.

You didn't get mad when Bush embraced trade and outsourcing policies that shipped 6 million American jobs out of the country.

You didn't get mad when the government was illegally wiretapping Americans.

You didn't get mad when we didn't catch Bin Laden.

You didn't get mad when Bush rang up 10 trillion dollars in combined budget and current account deficits.

You didn't get mad when you saw the horrible conditions at Walter Reed.

You didn't get mad when we let a major US city, New Orleans, drown.

You didn't get mad when we gave people who had more money than they could spend, the filthy rich, over a trillion dollars in tax breaks.

You didn't get mad with the worst 8 years of job creations in several decades.

You didn't get mad when over 200,000 US Citizens lost their lives because they had no health insurance.

You didn't get mad when lack of oversight and regulations from the Bush Administration caused US Citizens to lose 12 trillion dollars in investments, retirement, and home values.

You finally got mad when a black man was elected President and decided that people in America deserved the right to see a doctor if they are sick. Yes, illegal wars, lies, corruption, torture, job losses by the millions, stealing your tax dollars to make the rich richer, and the worst economic disaster since 1929 are all okay with you, but helping fellow Americans who are sick...Oh, Hell No!!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Democrats meeting sparks exchange

From last week's Sentinel, in case you missed the October meeting!

Rebecca Gourley

The Klickitat County Democratic Central Committee held their general meeting Monday night at the Dallesport Community Center. Although not Democrats, the two prosecuting attorney candidates, Lori Hoctor and Craig Juris, were invited to share their messages to the attendees. The first part of the meeting was described as a discussion rather than a traditional candidate forum.
Juris spoke first, and Hoctor followed. Juris wanted to stress the point that, “This position should be a non-partisan position.” The Democrats of Klickitat County will ultimately be the deciding factor in this race, Juris said. He then covered his experience as an attorney from college internships to his time in the prosecuting attorney’s office.
Hoctor explained that she wants to see a change in the office. “We don’t need to be punching walls and yelling down the hall when we lose a case,” she said. Hoctor added that doing bad things doesn’t make someone a bad person, referring to juveniles that are put through the judicial system. With plans to do more Stipulated Orders of Continuance (SOCs), Hoctor wants to “make a positive change.” SOCs, as explained by Juris, are situations where if people facing charges “behave themselves for six months,” their cases can then be dismissed. Hoctor stated she didn’t want to just put people in jail without trying to help them rehabilitate first. However, she says, murderers, child molesters, and other serious offenders should be punished without question.
Juris and Hoctor were given the opportunity to ask each other a question. Juris asked Hoctor, “Why, with all of the statistics, have there been so much negativity and personal attacks?” Hoctor responded that she didn’t think she’s been negative.
Hoctor asked Juris, “Why don’t you have the support of Keith Anderson [Juvenile Court Administrator]?” Juris answered that this is the first time he’s heard about this and he couldn’t comment. Tuesday morning, calls were made to the juvenile department in order to confirm Hoctor’s assertion that Anderson did not support Juris. Anderson responded, “In my position I cannot make a public stance on this,” referring to supporting either candidate. He added, “I am surprised she [Hoctor] said that publicly.”
On the subject of endorsing, both candidates were then asked what major supporters they have. Hoctor went first and stated she had the support of the sheriff’s office, juvenile probation, the city police, and others.
Juris reacted with, “Every one of those groups that were just mentioned has said they support me.” Juris stated that he had the support of 17 prosecuting attorneys statewide and the civil service commissioners.
After the discussion with the two Republican candidates, the gathering moved into the general meeting for the Klickitat County Democrats. Victoria Allen, Democratic candidate for Klickitat County, commented on her perception of the campaign so far. “The information being used against me is a lot of misinformation,” explained Allen. In previous candidate’s nights across the county, Darlene Johnson, Allen’s opponent, has used the International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO) report many times, Allen added. She said, “ [Johnson] has been looking at the whole process through the lens of the 2008 reassessment.” According to Allen, the “bad” numbers that Johnson refers to are from three years ago. “She’s only looking at the appraisal process, not the whole picture” added Allen.
Three Park and Recreation candidates for the west side of the county—Michael Solbach, Vern Harpol, and Dana Scheffler—were present as well. The three agreed on the importance of the Park and Recreation establishment in District 2. Solbach is in the race against two others for position 3. Scheffler and Harpol are opponents for position 4, although they don’t see it that way. “We are not running against each other,” said Harpol. All of them have the same goals and have agreed to do the same thing when elected. There are a total of five positions for the Park and Recreation District 2.
Paul Spencer, Democratic candidate for State Representative position 1, was present as well. He discussed what the Democrats’ strategy should be and how they want to get people out there to vote.
“There was not a good turnout for Democrats in the primary,” said Spencer. Although not discouraged, Spencer said he feels there needs to be more action on the Democrats’ parts in the southern part of Legislative District (LD) 15. LD 15 refers to parts of Clark and Yakima Counties, and all of Klickitat and Skamania counties.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Confusing Initiative Info

Bill Clinton said on Monday, "You have a choice – don’t be fooled, don’t be played, don’t stay home."

The text of the initiatives is confusing. The Voters’ Pamphlet statements are confusing. The TV commercials are way over the top. How are we supposed to make sense of it all?

Look at who’s behind and who benefits from each initiative.

Big lobbyists and out-of-state special interests have put over $50 million into pushing five ballot initiatives that would take money out of state services like education and health care and put it right into the pockets of big corporations. Only two statewide measures would actually invest in Washington’s future.

Here’s a closer look:

NO on 1053: Tim Eyman’s 2/3 requirement

Who’s behind 1053: Tim Eyman, BP Oil, Tesoro Oil, ConocoPhillips Oil, Bank of America.

Who benefits from 1053: Extremely partisan legislators who can hold our budget hostage; big companies enjoying tax loopholes.

Who loses under 1053: Voters who believe in the principles of democracy; taxpayers who want to close loopholes; services suffering under an all-cuts budget.

NO on 1082: Insurance industry takeover of workers’ comp

Who’s behind 1082: The Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW), a longtime conservative political player.

Who benefits from 1082: Big insurance companies, the BIAW, and the conservative candidates funded by the BIAW’s warchest.

Who loses under 1082: Businesses who have to pay more in premiums; workers who are injured on the job.

YES on 1098: Cuts your taxes, raising money for education

Who’s behind 1098: Bill Gates Sr., Washington Education Association.

Who benefits from 1098: Kids, seniors, public schools, health care services, businesses, property owners, lower and middle class families would all benefit from better schools and better quality healthcare, small business benefit from elimination of the B&O tax, and property owners benefit from a property tax cut.

Who loses under 1098: Wealthy people who make over $200,000/year would pay a limited income tax on income above that threshold.

NO on 1100/1105: Unregulated hard liquor sales

Who’s behind 1100/1105: Wal-Mart, big grocery chains, out of state liquor distributors.

Who benefits from 1100/1105: Wal-Mart, big grocery chains, big liquor distributors, binge drinkers and underage kids.

Who loses under 1100/1105: City, county and state services would lose $700 million over 5 years; local craft brewers and Washington wineries would get pushed off the shelves; and alcohol-related crimes like drunk driving would increase.

NO on 1107: Soda pop tax

Who’s behind 1107: The American Beverage Association, national lobbyist for the big soda companies.

Who benefits from 1107: Soda pop companies.

Who loses under 1107: Kids, seniors, public schools and health care services would lose $100 million each year.

The election is vital to the Washington’s future. We already cut over $5 billion out of state and local services. You have a choice.

APPROVE R-52: Healthy schools

Who’s behind R-52: Representative Hans Dunshee (D-44) wants to make public schools a healthier place for children, so he referred this measure to the people.

Who benefits from R-52: Kids and teachers benefit from a healthier place to learn and work; construction workers benefit from new jobs; public schools benefit from saved energy costs.

Who loses under R-52: No one.

Voting YES on 1098, YES on R52 and NO on all the rest can help stop these painful cuts and put money back into our communities where it belongs.

Visit the Protect Washington website to find out more.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Same Old Same Old from the Party of NO

Congressional Republicans today released their “Pledge to America” – an agenda that simply repackages the same failed Bush-era Republican economic policies that helped cause the economic crisis: tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires; fewer regulations governing corporations and special interests; and just leaving middle class families to fend for themselves.

Rather than charting a new course, Republicans are simply doubling down on those same failed policies, policies that hurt America’s middle class. Republicans’ priorities are clear:
  • Hold tax relief for middle class families hostage in order to pass tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires by borrowing $700 billion America can’t afford – despite the fact that the nonpartisan CBO says passing those tax cuts for the wealthy would be one of the least effective ways to grow the American economy or boost job creation.
  • Increase taxes for 110 million middle-class families and tens of thousands of American businesses by ending Recovery Act tax cuts and cutting off tens of thousands of Recovery Act projects – projects ranging from highway construction to clean energy to environmental recovery – and thereby putting hundreds of thousands of American jobs at risk.
  • Putting insurance companies back in the driver’s seat of Americans’ health care by working to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act – if they succeed, they’ll roll back the new Patient’s Bill of Rights, increase seniors’ prescription drug costs, eliminate safeguards that protect Americans from unfair premium increases, and force small businesses that offer health insurance to their employees to pay higher taxes.
  • Take us back to an era of recklessness and irresponsibility by slashing regulations and the oversight of special interests including big oil, big insurance, Wall Street banks, and credit card and mortgage companies.
  • Increase America’s deficit by trillions of dollars by going back to the same failed economic policies that turned a record surplus into a record deficit – all while making drastic cuts to government services that would force Head Start to drop 200,000 children, end child care subsidies for 110,000 working parents, and cut 3,800 correctional officers at federal prisons.
Republicans’ “Pledge to America” is also notable for its omissions. It doesn’t talk about:
  • Protecting Social Security and Medicare from privatization,
  • Making investments in high-quality education for America’s children.
  • Working to grow critical industries like clean energy and manufacturing.
  • Or working to rebuild America’s crumbling roads, rails, and runways.
The “Pledge to America” is quiet simply a repeat of the same agenda that caused the worst recession since the Great Depression, resulted in the loss of 8 million jobs, wiped out trillions of dollars of American families’ savings, and set middle class families backward. Instead of making a pledge to the American people to do better, Republicans have made a pledge to special interests to bring back the same failed economic policies that benefited them at the expense of middle class families.

Thanks Dwight Pelz, WSDCC Chairman