Posts Tagged ‘Lamar Smith’

GOP lawmaker won’t advance juror non-discrimination bill

Posted on: June 6th, 2012 by Andy Birkey 2 Comments

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee doesn’t plan to give a hearing to a bill that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in federal jury service, his spokesperson said this week. (more…)

Grassroots Internet-based PAC targets Rep. Lamar Smith

Posted on: March 16th, 2012 by Mary Tuma

For U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, online piracy has given birth to online warfare. His sponsorship of the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA–ultimately failed legislation that vocal critics saw as a form of Web censorship– has led to an Internet-based campaign to unseat him.

First established by a community of volunteers on Reddit, the grassroots Test PAC Please Ignore “aims to support legislation and candidates fighting for electoral reform, individual liberties, and the Internet community.” Supporters of the political action committee say it is based on the ideals of democracy and the rejection of concentrated wealth dictating the electoral process.

“One aspect of the Internet is helping give everyone equal footing. We are trying to apply that to the political arena,” said PAC treasurer Andy Posterick. “It’s usually the person with the most money who makes the biggest impact. By crowd sourcing a PAC, we are building a political committee that’s based on democracy–one where everyone has an equal say.”

Formed earlier this year, the PAC has taken aim at GoDaddy.com for the domain hosting site’s initial support for SOPA and is also pressuring Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) to reconsider his allegiance to the Act.

Using an online poll, the PAC voted to invest its energy and time into helping unseat SOPA author Texas Rep. Smith, now seeking reelection.The group argues that Smith wrote, “poorly worded legislation,” that ran counter to maintaining a free and open Internet–all at the behest of the corporate entertainment industry.

In February, the organization began its “Operation: Mr. Smith Comes Back from Washington” campaign, a three-step strategy that includes an online education drive through Facebook and Twitter, the creation of videos highlighting how Smith’s policies promote censorship and eliminate jobs and thirdly, using fliers, door hangers and guerrilla marketing to reach potential new members. The group is also seeking donations.

The PAC has raised more than $7,000 with the majority of contributions coming in at less than $25. Some of those funds will go toward a TV commercial that is now in production. Another donation fund is financing a San Antonio-based billboard advocating for Smith’s defeat in the May primary. Posterick says the billboard should be up by the end of March. In the spirit of the group, its exact location will be voted on collectively by its members.

For those that criticize the group for attacking a Republican candidate, Posterick says the aim has nothing to do with partisanship, rather corporate influence in lawmaking. In a vote, more than half of the PAC’s members decided to single out Smith for what they said is his pandering to the entertainment industry.

“It’s clear that a big part of the reason Smith supported SOPA was due to extensive lobbying by Hollywood,” said Posterick. “The Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America gave him $62,000 in campaign funds. That’s a breakdown of democracy. When you see lobbying that expensive and that extreme, it completely contradicts what Republicans stand for.”

The Texas Independent previously reported on Smith’s backing by the entertainment industry. Hollywood, which led the charge to push SOPA through, was Smith’s top contributor in the 2011-2012 cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The Congressman is also listed as the top House recipient of donations from commercial TV and radio stations.

(Image of Texas Rep. Lamar Smith: Wikimedia Commons)

Millions in campaign cash being raised for Republican primary fights in Texas

Posted on: March 6th, 2012 by Teddy Wilson 2 Comments

(Image: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Thomas Hawk, Rob Shenk)

As political campaigns in Texas shift into high gear after a court ruling finally set the date of the Texas primaries, candidates will continue to raise millions of dollars in campaign cash to add to the millions that have already been raised. However, much of the campaign cash is going into campaigns that will face either little or no opposition on the ballot in November.

According to an analysis of data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, as of January 31 Texas candidates for house and senate have raised a total of $40.3 million for the 2012 election cycle. During the entire 2010 election cycle Texas candidates raised $47.2 million, and the 2008 election cycle saw $73.7 million raised by Texas candidates. With outside expenditure groups also spending money on the campaigns, millions more will be raised and spent in Texas elections.

The vast majority of the campaign cash raised so far has gone to Republican candidates, as they have out-raised their Democratic counterparts by more than $28.4 million. In the senate campaign, more than $16 million has already been raised by four Republican primary candidates. In the house campaigns, Republicans have raised $18 million compared to $5.9 million raised by Democrats.

The senate Republican primary campaign has so far been among the most expensive campaigns in the nation. The $19.5 million raised so far in the senate campaign in Texas is second only to the $22.7 million raised in the senate campaign in Massachusetts. The $8.6 million already spent in Texas is also second to the $10.6 million spent in Massachusetts.

Both Republican senate candidate Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert are among the top ten candidates nationally in campaign funds raised. Each has raised $6 million, while Tea Party favorite former Texas Solicitor Gen. Ted Cruz has raised nearly $4 million.

While the campaign for the senate seat in Texas will essentially be over after the Republican primary, the Massachusetts campaign between Republican Senator Scott Brown and likely Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren will continue into November.

Mark Jones, professor and chair of the political science department at Rice University, told the Texas Independent fundraising is important in two respects for the Republican primary, where there are two distinct electoral contests taking place.

“Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst clearly has the personal wealth and donor support to allow him to outspend all of his opponents combined by a good margin,” said Jones. “Dewhurst will use his copious funds in an attempt to win the primary in the first round, obviating the need to face one of his rivals, Ted Cruz in particular, in a low turnout runoff in the dead of summer.”

Jones says that while Dewhurst will clearly have more than enough funds to be on television statewide during the crucial final four to six weeks of the primary campaign as well as to engage in other forms of contact with primary voters such as direct mail, Ted Cruz, Craig James, and Tom Leppert are in a battle to finish second on May 29, while simultaneously forcing Dewhurst into a runoff.

“At this stage fundraising is crucial for them, not compared to Dewhurst, but compared to each other,” said Jones. “While none will have the resources to match Dewhurst’s presence on television, their goal is to raise enough money to support targeted television buys, direct mail campaigns, and conduct get out the vote drives focused on their core supporters.”

Among the three candidates challenging Dewhurst, Leppert may well be able to match Dewhurst’s ability to self finance a campaign. Leppert’s $3.1 million of self financing so far is more than $1 million more than Dewhurst has self financed. Leppert and Dewhurst are third and fourth nationally in self financing.

There is no parallel among the campaigns for the house in Texas, as the candidates who are raising the most campaign funds have either token or no opposition at all. The $1.6 million raised by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (TX-5) is the most of any house candidate in Texas, and he has no primary opponent and will face a Democrat in November who has not reported any campaign fundraising. Rep. Bill Flores (TX-17) and Rep. Lamar Smith (TX-21) have raised $1 million and $972,000, but neither candidate faces a primary or general election opponent.

“The best way to ensure that a candidate has no primary or general election opposition is to have such a large campaign war chest that all serious challengers consider any attempt to defeat you to be futile,” said Jones. “PACS and wealthy donors tend to give to the most influential members of congress, who also happen to normally reside in safe Republican or Democratic districts and are normally well respected in their party.”

It isn’t unexpected, says Jones, that incumbent members of congress raise such significant amounts of campaign funds with little or no opposition. “It is unsurprising that representatives such as Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the House Republican Conference, and Pete Sessions, chairman of the NRCC, are among the top fundraisers in spite of the fact that both will be re-elected regardless of whether they spend five thousand or five million on their reelection campaigns.” Session has raised $932,000 and is not facing a primary or general election opponent.

Because of the uncompetitive nature of the general election campaigns in Texas, Jones says that the campaign cash is likely to have more of an impact in a select number of primaries than in the November election. “Of the 36 Texas seats, 33 are either safe Republican or safe Democrat, and only one, District 23, falls into the category of being truly competitive,” said Jones. “As a result, fundraising will only have a significant impact on the outcome of at most 3 of 36 seats in November.”

With the primary date finally set, it appears that the most heated campaign battles for congress in Texas will be waged in the spring rather than the fall. “In the May primaries, there are approximately a half dozen races on both sides of the aisle where fundraising will play a major role in determining which Republican or Democrat will be the party’s nominee in the fall,” said Jones. “In most cases the races are for safe Republican or Democratic seats, signifying that a victory in the primary virtually ensures victory in the Fall.”

Texas Congressman hints at hearings on English as the official language

Posted on: February 16th, 2012 by Teddy Wilson 2 Comments

It is among several bills that are introduced during every session of Congress, but it never receives a committee hearing much less makes it to a vote by the full House or Senate. However, a bill to make English the official language of the United States might get a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee later this year. Texas Congressman Lamar Smith (TX-21) told WOAI that he would “support efforts to make English the official language and may consider bringing up the issue in the House Judiciary Committee down the road.”

Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King introduced HR 997, the English Language Unity Act of 2011, which would make English the official language of the United States. The legislation would require official functions of the United States be conducted in English. It would create English language requirements and workplace policies in the public sector, and any exceptions to this standard “should be limited to extraordinary circumstances, such as asylum.”

HR 997 has a total of 109 co-sponsors, including nine from the Texas delegation. Texas Republicans Rep. Joe Barton (TX-6), Rep. Louis Gohmert (TX-1), Rep. Ralph Hall (TX-4), Rep. Samuel Johnson (TX-3), Rep. Kenny Marchant (TX-24), Rep. Michael McCaul (TX-10), Rep. Randy Neugebauer (TX-19), Rep. Ted Poe (TX-2), and presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-14) have all signed on as co-sponsors.

Donna De La Cruz, press secretary for Community Change and spokewoman for Reform Immigration for America, told the Texas Independent that the organizations opposed the legislation and that they believe it is stalled in the House and Senate. “It’s really not going anywhere,” said De La Cruz.

Among the reasons De La Cruz cited for their opposition to the bill was that it is “inconsistent” with the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. De La Cruz said that there are public safety issues, and cited a case where Filipino nurses were suing for discrimination after being fired for speaking in their native Tagalog on the job. “It was easier for them to talk about their patients in their native language,” said De La Cruz.

Suzanne Bibby, director of government relations at ProEnglish, told the Texas Independent that the example of the Filipino nurses was “not a very relevant” argument. “That wouldn’t have an effect on those nurses,” said Bibby. “This bill would only effect federal government or federal agencies.” Bibby says that the text of the bill includes seven exceptions.

The text of the bill includes the exceptions of the teaching of languages; requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; actions, documents, or policies necessary for national security, international relations, trade, tourism, or commerce; actions or documents that protect the public health and safety; actions or documents that facilitate the activities of the Bureau of the Census in compiling any census of population; actions that protect the rights of victims of crimes or criminal defendants; or using terms of art or phrases from languages other than English.

Having English the official language of government, De La Cruz says would make it more difficult for people to do day to day things such as get drivers licenses or register to vote. “It’s a smokescreen,” said De La Cruz. “It’s another way to make it difficult for people who try to come to this country and work to become citizens. That is what America was founded on.”

“Behind all of this is a very racist and xenophobic view.” said De La Cruz. “While it is currently targeted largely at the Latino community, this is not a new issue. There was a push for English as the national language in the late 1800s when there was a large push of German immigrants, and with every wave of immigrants there is always these types of proposed laws.”

“We consider that ridiculous,” said Bibby of the claim that the legislation is motivated by racism and xenophobia. “Latinos and Hispanics are not the only immigrant populations in the United States, but Spanish is the most commonly accommodated language in the United States. No other languages should be accommodated over others for political reasons.”

As the American Independent reported, recently at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), King made a surprise appearance on the ProEnglish sponsored “Failure of Multiculturalism” panel to endorse HR 997, and said that his bill would “establish a uniform English language rule for naturalization.”

The panel included British writer and activist Peter Brimelow, the founder and editor of VDARE.com, a website the Southern Poverty Law Center has named as being run by a “White Nationalist” hate group and SPLC has documented controversial statements made over the years by Brimelow and his VDARE writers. On the panel King shook Brimelow’s hand, saying, “I’ve read your books; I just hadn’t met you.” But after the speech, King told various reporters he was unaware of the writer’s work.

Immigration strategy proposed at CPAC: ‘Let’s put a wall around the welfare state’

Posted on: February 13th, 2012 by The American Independent 4 Comments
Panelists at the Conservative Political Action Conference spoke Saturday about immigration measures that would uphold conservative values and attacked federal action against immigration-enforcement state laws.

(more…)

DOJ: ‘Ample circumstantial evidence’ of Texas’ intent to limit Latino voting power

Posted on: October 26th, 2011 by Patrick Michels 3 Comments

The U.S. Department of Justice stepped up its criticism of Texas’ redistricting plans in court filings late Tuesday night, writing there’s “ample circumstantial evidence of a discriminatory purpose with regard to both the State House and Congressional plans,” TPMMuckraker reported this morning. (more…)

Tea party, conservative groups call on Congress to reject E-Verify

Posted on: September 16th, 2011 by Nicolas Mendoza 7 Comments

Image by: Matt MahurinAn open letter from leaders of the groups Take Back Washington, Tea Party Nation, Downsize DC, GOProud, the D.C. Tea Party and other conservative groups calls on members of Congress to reject the Legal Workforce Act, a bill sponsored by U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) that would mandate the use of the electronic identification system E-Verify by all businesses nationwide. (more…)

Steve King wants congressional hearings on Obama’s ‘drunken Uncle Omar’

Posted on: September 14th, 2011 by Nicolas Mendoza No Comments

Last month, Onyango Obama, half-brother to the President Obama’s father, was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving and then held by authorities due to an outstanding deportation last month. (more…)