October 4th, 2010
Washington (CNN) -- Justice Elena Kagan made the most of her first day on the Supreme Court bench before reluctantly vanishing behind the burgundy curtains -- leaving behind her bench-mates.
The high court opened its new term Monday hearing oral arguments in two relatively low-profile appeals, but Kagan sat out the second case. It is one of 25 petitions from which the 50-year-old justice has so far recused herself.
Because of her recent service as the Obama administration's solicitor general, Kagan has decided to avoid any conflict of interest by withdrawing from cases the Obama administration had been involved in briefing. This means she will not sit on the bench during arguments or vote on the outcome of cases. The solicitor general works in the Justice Department as the government's chief advocate before the high court.
The 112th justice was serious and engaged in her first oral argument, despite having no past judicial experience. She was among the busiest of justices at the one-hour give-and-take between the court and the three lawyers appearing before them. Kagan asked eight questions of both sides, but was polite and non-confrontational in her approach.
A bankruptcy case involved whether a debtor can deduct automobile "ownership costs" from his payment plan, when he owned the vehicle free and clear -- meaning he owed nothing to creditors from a loan or lease that would normally be deductible.
"Even you would say, if you don't own a car at all, you can't claim the car costs," Kagan offered as a hypothetical to the lawyer for the debtor who sought the car deduction.
Kagan made her first public appearance as justice last Friday at her investiture, where she was formally introduced to the court. There she wore a decorative white scarf around her judicial robes. The scarf was missing Monday.
She sat forward in her seat during the first argument, looking very involved in the proceedings. She carefully picked her spots to speak, and several times pulled back her planned comments, letting her more senior colleagues have their say.
There are no formal rules on who gets to speak first and for how long at the high court arguments. Generally, the justices develop an informal rhythm over time, relying on subtle cues about when to jump in.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, has proposed allowing retired justices to sit in on high court cases when a current justice has withdrawn. That would avoid a 4-4 tie, preventing the high court from establishing a precedent to guide similar cases in the future. When ties occur, the lower court ruling prevails.
"Retired justices may be designated to sit on any court in the land except the one to which they were confirmed," Leahy said. "The bill I am introducing today will ensure that the Supreme Court can continue to serve its essential function. In recent history, justices have refused to recuse themselves and one of their justifications has been that the Supreme Court is unlike lower courts because no other judge can serve in their place when justices recuse."
There are no clear standards on when justices should recuse themselves for perceived or real conflicts of interest. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by Leahy, has expressed some concern about Leahy's proposal, such as who would decide which retired justice would sit in on which cases.
Three justices -- John Paul Stevens, David Souter, and Sandra Day O'Connor -- have retired from the high court in the past five years. Some conservatives have worried that if the court adopts the policy proposed by Leahy, the relatively liberal Stevens or Souter could conceivably replace a recused conservative such as Justice Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas on a hot-button case, possibly tilting the outcome.
Neither Kagan nor her eight fellow justices have offered their thoughts on the issue. The newest justice had enough to deal with on her first day, but just as soon as she settled into the routine, the oral argument at hand was over and she quietly left the bench -- heading back to her chambers while her colleagues soldiered on during the second, separate case.
Kagan's first on the court was Ransom v. FIA Card Services NA (09-907).
October 4th, 2010
October 4th, 2010
Check out the UNEMPLOYED TEACHER...the repeated embrace of the DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST PARTY...
October 4th, 2010
By T.W. Farnam and Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, October 4, 2010; 3:01 AM
Interest groups are spending five times as much on the 2010 congressional elections as they did on the last midterms, and they are more secretive than ever about where that money is coming from.
The $80 million spent so far by groups outside the Democratic and Republican parties dwarfs the $16 million spent at this point for the 2006 midterms. In that election, the vast majority of money - more than 90 percent - was disclosed along with donors' identities. This year, that figure has fallen to less than half of the total, according to data analyzed by The Washington Post.
The trends amount to a spending frenzy conducted largely in the shadows.
The bulk of the money is being spent by conservatives, who have swamped their Democratic-aligned competition by 7 to 1 in recent weeks. The wave of spending is made possible in part by a series of Supreme Court rulings unleashing the ability of corporations and interest groups to spend money on politics. Conservative operatives also say they are riding the support of donors upset with Democratic policies they perceive as anti-business.
"The outside group spending is primarily being driven by the political climate," said Anthony Corrado, a professor of government at Colby College who studies campaign finance. "Organized groups are looking at great opportunity, and therefore there's great interest to spend money to influence the election. You've got the possibility of a change in the control of Congress."
The increase in conservative spending has come both from established groups and from groups only a few months old. On the left, major labor groups such as the Service Employees International Union have also ratcheted up their expenditures compared with 2006 but are unable to keep up with groups on the right.
One of the biggest spenders nationwide is a little-known Iowa group called the American Future Fund, which has spent $7 million on behalf of Republicans in more than two dozen House and Senate races. Donors for the group's ad campaign have not been disclosed in records the group has filed with the Federal Election Commission.
The group recently entered a previously sleepy race in its home state of Iowa, announcing that it would devote up to $800,000 to campaign against Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley of Waterloo. The campaign kicked off with a commercial alleging that Braley "supports building a mosque at Ground Zero." Braley denies supporting construction of the proposed Islamic cultural center near the World Trade Center site, saying it's a zoning issue for New Yorkers to decide.
The ad, part of a nationwide campaign of similar mosque-themed spots, is the brainchild of Larry McCarthy, a media strategist who gained renown for creating the racially tinged "Willie Horton" commercials against Democratic presidential candidate Michael S. Dukakis in 1988.
"Folks across America should be worried about these anonymous groups that go into an election and try to buy a favorable result," said Braley spokeswoman Caitlin Legacki. "People have no idea where the money came from. It's difficult to take recourse."
Interest groups spending large amounts on the election are prohibited by law from talking to candidates about their strategy.
Ben Lange, Braley's GOP challenger, denies any connection to the American Future Fund's attacks. "We have no interaction with this group," said Cody Brown, spokesman for Lange. "We're not so much concerned with what these outside groups are doing. We want to have an honest, focused debate on the issues."
Fund officials could not be reached to comment.
Flexibility for the GOP
Heightened spending by outside groups has given the Republican Party flexibility in choosing which races to focus on. In West Virginia, the GOP recently spent $1.2 million backing businessman John Raese for the Senate seat long held by Robert C. Byrd, who died in June. The contest had been considered safe for the Democrats, whose candidate, Joe Manchin III, is the state's governor. But Manchin's poll numbers have recently slipped.
While the interest-group money has primarily helped Republicans, Democrats have proved better at raising money for the party itself and for individual candidates. Those donations must, by law, come from individuals and are limited in size. Much of the interest-group spending, by contrast, has been based on large contributions from well-heeled donors and corporations.
The Supreme Court cleared the way for unlimited spending by corporations, unions and other interest groups on election ads in its 5 to 4 decision this year in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Many interest groups are organized as nonprofits, which are not required to disclose their financial backing, helping fuel the increase in secret donors.
The Post analyzed spending numbers that groups are required to report to the FEC, including spending on broadcast ads mentioning a candidate's name within 30 days of a primary and 60 days of the general election. Some expenditures - and donors - are not revealed. Many groups, for example, avoid reporting what they spend on attacks by making a subtle distinction, saying their message is focused on candidates' positions on issues instead of the election itself.
One reason Democrats have benefited less from interest-group spending may be the party's - and President Obama's - message against the role of moneyed interests in Washington. And in his 2008 campaign, Obama discouraged such independent interest groups on the left from forming.
Some Democratic groups have lowered their spending on election ads. The Internet-based advocacy group MoveOn.org will spend roughly the same amount it did in the 2006 midterms, said Executive Director Justin Ruben, but will concentrate on organizing supporters instead of trying to compete on the airwaves.
"We can't possibly match this spending dollar for dollar," Ruben said. "Turnout is big in a midterm, and the best way to affect turnout is person-to-person contact. These groups have a few millionaires, but they can't talk to that many people."
Organized as nonprofits
Conservative groups such as Americans for Job Security and Crossroads GPS, an arm of the American Crossroads group, co-founded by former George W. Bush administration adviser Karl Rove, are organized as nonprofits and don't have to disclose who is giving them money. Some liberal groups, such as the League of Conservation Voters, an environmental group, are also nonprofits but raise money on a much smaller scale.
One major player this year is the 60 Plus Association, an Alexandria-based group that bills itself as the conservative alternative to the AARP seniors group. In 2008, the group reported less than $2 million in revenue, most of it from direct-mail contributions.
This year the group has spent $7 million on election-related ads, according to its FEC reports. It also funded a $9 million campaign against Obama's health-care overhaul in 2009.
The group is somewhat renowned for its take-no-prisoners approach to advertising, alleging in recent spots that multiple Democrats have "betrayed seniors." The journalistic research Web site PolitiFact.com called the ads "highly misleading" in describing the funding outlook for Medicare.
But 60 Plus spokesman Tom Kise defended the ads and said the group's rapidly expanded budget was due to widespread opposition to Democratic policies on issues affecting senior citizens.
"We've never had this kind of threat to seniors before," Kise said. "We are in unprecedented times, which calls for unprecedented measures."
In earlier years, 60 Plus received significant grants from foundations connected to Pfizer and other major drugmakers, according to AARP. Kise declined to provide details about the group's donors but said it is not taking money from the pharmaceutical industry.
October 4th, 2010
Originally published on LonelyConservative.com
Harry Belafonte tried to remain relevant at the “One Nation” rally for socialism by bashing the tea party, and warning of their “villainous ends.” I wonder if he’s getting his talking points from Jan Schakowsky.
Abraham Lincoln knew the evil of slavery and in abolishing that evil saved America. Although slavery may have been abolished, crippling poison, racism, still persists. And the struggle still continues… Perhaps the greatest threat of all is the undermining of our Constitution and the systematic attacks against the inalienable rights of the citizens of this nation. Rights that are guaranteed by our Constitution. At the vanguard of this insidious attack is the Tea Party. This band of misguided citizens is moving perilously close to achieving villainous ends.
What an idiot! The Tea Party is an effort by every day citizens to keep us all from being enslaved to the government. Who has systematically undermined the Constitution for the past two years? Tea Party people? I don’t think so. He went on to say that the rally for socialism is a wake up call for America. I’ll say. They’ve put their true intentions on display. As Mr. Tingles said, America is a conservative nation. Anyone paying attention to the “One Nation” rally now knows what these people are all about. And remember, they rallied for the Democrat agenda.