Sunday, May 3, 2015

Last Call For Election Cops Call It Quits

Ann Ravel, the chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission, says there's simply no way to break the GOP impasse that will assure that hundred of millions, if not billions, will be spent illegally during the 2016 campaign.

Ms. Ravel, who led California’s state ethics panel before her appointment as a Democratic member of the commission in 2013, said that when she became chairwoman in December, she was determined to “bridge the partisan gap” and see that the F.E.C. confronted such problems. But after five months, she said she had essentially abandoned efforts to work out agreements on what she saw as much-needed enforcement measures.

Now, she said, she plans on concentrating on getting information out publicly, rather than continuing what she sees as a futile attempt to take action against major violations. She said she was resigned to the fact that “there is not going to be any real enforcement” in the coming election.

“The few rules that are left, people feel free to ignore,” said Ellen L. Weintraub, a Democratic commissioner.

Republican members of the commission see no such crisis. They say they are comfortable with how things are working under the structure that gives each party three votes. No action at all, they say, is better than overly aggressive steps that could chill political speech.

Congress set this place up to gridlock,” Lee E. Goodman, a Republican commissioner, said in an interview. “This agency is functioning as Congress intended. The democracy isn’t collapsing around us.”

You see, the commission designed to enforce campaign finance laws were never actually supposed to enforce finance laws.  They are supposed to do nothing instead, and Republicans have made sure that's what will happen.  They are now targeting her.

As a lawyer in Silicon Valley who went after ethics violators in California during her time there, Ms. Ravel brought to Washington both a reformer’s mentality and a tech-savvy background, and she has used Twitter and other media to try to attract young people and women to politics.

But her aggressive efforts have angered some Republicans, who charged that an F.E.C. hearing she scheduled for next week on challenges facing women in politics was not only outside the commission’s jurisdiction but a thinly veiled attempt to help the presidential bid of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Ms. Ravel called the accusations “crazy.”

If you try to do your job in the executive branch, you get Benghazied.  Why would anyone want this job at all?

Hostile Environment In Washington

Should Republicans get the White House and keep Congress in 2016, look for bills like this effort to destroy the Environmental Protection Agency to become law very, very quickly.

Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) introduced a bill, the Wasteful EPA Programs Elimination Act, which he said is a money-saving measure, citing a Heritage Foundation forecast that it would save $7.5 billion over 10 years.“As a fiscal conservative, I believe Washington should be respectful of taxpayers’ dollars and live within its means,” Johnson said in a Thursday statement.

“American taxpayers certainly don’t need to be paying for the EPA’s empty and unused buildings and its wasteful programs,” he said. “This bill does right by the hardworking folks in my district and across the country and is part of my ongoing effort to get our fiscal house in order.”

The measure would force the EPA to close all of its field offices, sell or lease certain properties, cut various climate change programs and stop its environmental justice activities.

It would also stop the EPA from regulating ground-level ozone and from limiting the greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles and power plants, the subject of the most controversial EPA programs recently.

We could save $7.5 billion almost immediately if we stopped giving taxpayer money to oil companies making billions in profits.  But that will never happen.  Instead, let's destroy the agency trying to make sure we have clean air and water.

Gotta pollute.  It's the Republican way.  But there's no difference between the two parties, remember?

Sunday Long Read: Don't Care If You Like Her, But Vote For Her

Over at the Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky lays down the brutally pragmatic reasons for voting for Hillary Clinton: the Republicans cannot be allowed to win the White House in 2016.

So this isn’t about love. It’s about a deal between Clinton and liberals. It’s strictly business, and it’s about work. The work of maintaining Democratic control of the White House and keeping the loony right at bay for another four or eight years. The work of trying to move the country forward to a post-supply side economic paradigm. And, yeah, the work of electing our first woman president.

If you don’t love Hillary, let me offer you two things to love:

1. A liberal majority on the Supreme Court for the next 30, 40 years. You know that the next president may name three or four new justices. Two liberals, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, will likely retire soon. A Republican president would be able to expand the conservative majority to seven, replacing the two aforementioned with two more Alitos or Scalias. Sit with that.

President Clinton, on the other hand, will replace them with liberals and may replace Anthony Kennedy or Antonin Scalia, or both, with liberal justices (I’m not wishing illness on anyone here, just being actuarial about things). We haven’t had a liberal Supreme Court majority in this country in 35 years. Such a court would reverse loads of terrible Rehnquist-Roberts era decisions—it would restore voting rights, reverse school re-segregation, revisit the Second Amendment; at the same time it would uphold Roe, defend affirmative action, endorse workplace anti-discrimination policies for LGBT people, and on and on. And those are just the things the Court does that generate the big headlines. Corporate personhood; workers’ rights; campaign finance laws;campaign finance laws (right, I wrote that twice). If you are a liberal and these things aren’t awfully important to you, well, it’s hard to understand exactly what sort of liberal you are.

2. A coming civil war in the Republican Party, and the hope/prayer of a little moderation on its part. When a party loses two consecutive presidential elections, the losses can be chalked up to the appearance of a charismatic candidate and, then, the powers of his incumbency. But three; that’s when people have to start looking hard in the mirror.

Certainly, there will be some in the GOP who’ll trot out the “we weren’t conservative enough” argument if their side loses. But say Clinton wins with somewhere between Obama’s 2008 total of 365 electoral votes and his 2012 performance of 332; say 347 (Obama’s ’12 map plus North Carolina). A party that has won 173, 206, and 191 electoral votes, respectively, in the last three elections is a party that’s simply never going to have a prayer of hitting 270 without some major changes.

For one thing this would be great fun to watch. If the party goes crazy(er), it could split in two. And if it decides to respond with sanity, there’s a great silver lining in that for Democrats and for the country: Tea Party power will wane, non-extreme Republicans won’t fear Club for Growth-financed primary challengers so much, and some of them will actually make compromises and legislate!

I could go on, but you get the idea. What I’m talking about here is not just a handful of policies. I’m talking about the bulk of the Reagan-Gingrich-Bush legacy. Obama could not undo it because he had to deal with the Great Recession. But eight more years of a Democratic presidency can do exactly that—undo it, across a whole range of fronts.

And to add my own two cents, there are people who believe that there's a distinct chance that Hillary Clinton will not advance liberalism.  To those folks, I say there's a precisely zero percent chance that a Republican president in 2016 will do so.  Like it or not, when it comes to political power, we are in a two-party system.

Choose a side.
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