Abby Rapoport

An Epic—and Not Totally Unreasonable—Rant

(Flick/Zol87)
In a moment of Network -worthy rage , Illinois state Representative Mike Bost went a little berserk Tuesday after House Speaker Mike Madigan set a vote on some important pension bills, giving lawmakers little time to read them. The vote seemed to push the Republican lawmaker over the edge. "Total power in one person's hands is NOT the American way!" he yelled, first throwing the bill in the air and then throwing some papers at his colleagues—all of whom seemed to be looking the other way as the rant started to take shape. These damn bills that come out here all the damn time, come out here at the last second, and I’ve got to try to figure out how to vote for my people? You should be ashamed of yourselves! I’m sick of it! Every year we give power to one person! It was not made that way in the Constitution! I feel like somebody trying to be released from Egypt. Let my people go! My God, they sent me here to vote for them! To argue for them! But I’m trapped. I’m trapped by the rules that...

In Texas, Incumbents Suffer for Not Being Extreme Enough

(Flickr/daverugby83)
Yesterday I asked whether Texas voters would punish those incumbents who approved billions in state education cuts . I didn't even mention the billions of dollars in cuts to health and human services—or that despite these cuts, critical structural revenue problems remain in the state, which means this coming session will be worse. I just wondered whether incumbents would suffer for the session's austere approach. Well several incumbents suffered—but not in a manner you might expect. Take Rob Eissler, the Republican chair of the Public Education Committee who pushed for some of the big budget cuts. He lost his primary Tuesday night in a big upset. But he didn't lost his seat to a candidate pushing back against cuts. Nope. Eissler lost his seat to a Tea Party insurgent because—get this—Eissler had been too moderate and was too closely aligned with House Speaker Joe Straus. Nationally the focus may be on the Cruz-Dewhurst Senate race, but it seems insurgencies are alive and well when it...

Cruz-in' for a Fight in Texas

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Ted Cruz, who managed to force a run-off election with current Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, deserved his victory party Tuesday night. He had a strong showing despite being outspent by a considerable margin by his rival. Towards the end, Cruz benefitted from national attention as Sarah Palin and Tea Party groups pushed his candidacy. Support from the Club for Growth and Senator Jim DeMint also helped. With Dewhurst netting 45 percent to Cruz's 34, the two men will now face each other again at the end of July. For the Cruz team, the late primary is a good thing; summer in Texas tends to bring out right-wing voters while Moderates, it's assumed, leave the state for cooler climates. Cruz has a clear shot if he can get a few breaks—the run-off gives his campaign clear momentum and he'll likely be able to raise more money in these next few weeks. Dewhurst still has the advantage, however. Despite Cruz's Tea Party lustre, Dewhurst has been a loyal Rick Perry soldier for quite...

The Wisconsin Recall Won't Determine the Presidential Race

(Flickr/WisPolitics.com)
There's no question the stakes of the Wisconsin recall are high. As I wrote last week, if Governor Scott Walker survives the election next week—no matter how slim the margin—he's likely to claim a mandate. Since he's already a rock star among conservatives and anti-union activists, Walker would be in a good position to push further right. If he loses, it gives the labor movement one of its biggest victories in years. However, the fate of Wisconsin is unlikely to determine the fate of the presidential election. It may not even determine the presidential race in Wisconsin. I realize of course, that a whole lot of people disagree with me. Tea Party groups like Tea Party Express and the Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama have raised significant amounts by arguing that a win for Walker will mean a loss for Obama. When I emailed CDBO leader Joe Wierzbicki about the group's emphasis on Wisconsin, he responded the recall was "the opening chapter in the presidential race." Similarly, DNC chair...

Will Texas Voters Care About Billions in Education Cuts?

(Flickr/hpeguk)
Last year, during the biennial legislative session, Texas House Republicans approved a budget with a crippling $10 billion in cuts to public schools over the next two years—this despite warnings from educators that the results would be catastrophic. Several state senators fought to make the cuts only harmful rather than damning. In the end, Texas public schools lost $5.4 billion in the two-year budget, an unprecedented cut that's left districts and classrooms struggling to provide basic services. More than 10,000 teaching positions have been cut, and over 8,000 elementary schools have applied for waivers to go over the state's class-size cap, almost 6,000 more than last year according to the AP. Tuesday's Texas primaries beg the question: Will any incumbents pay? Texas educators haven't traditionally been a politically hard-line group. It's a conservative state, but since the current funding system went into place after World War II, there've been no deep cuts to education. Texas has...

Far-Off State Capitals Are More Corrupt

(Flickr/kmillard92)
A new paper shows that state capitals located in less-populated areas are more likely to breed corruption. The paper , authored by Filipe R. Campante of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and Quoc-Anh Doh of Singapore Management University, tested what seems to be a logical idea: when lawmakers are more out of sight, they can get into more trouble. Turns out that in this case, the logical idea is the right one. The authors found "a very robust connection" between corruption and capital location. They used several different measures of corruption and isolation and continued to get the same result. Isolated capital cities tend to pay high salaries to their governors and have smaller media outlets covering political happenings. The connection even has implications for the amount of money in campaigns: We look at how the amount of campaign contributions to state politics correlates to the concentration of population around the capital. As it turns out, we find a...

How Walker Loses in Wisconsin

(Flickr/WisPolitics.com)
The Wisconsin recall effort may look like a lost cause for the Democrats and union activists who hope to see Governor Scott Walker voted out in a couple weeks. Over at the Washington Post , Jenifer Rubin offered a piece titled " Democrats are dreading a Wisconsin wipeout. " InTrade, the prediction market for anything and everything, shows Walker today with a 91 percent chance of winning . But things are hardly settled. While Walker has a clear and consistent lead in polls, that lead is relatively small—except for an outlier or two, it's been around 5 points or less. "The polling is showing margins that are either close to the margin of error or just outside the margin of error," explains Charles Franklin, a Wisconsin political scientist who's currently overseeing the Marquette Law School Poll. (His own poll showed a 6-point Walker lead.) The stakes are high. If, after collecting more than 1 million signatures to prompt a recall, Democrats fail to oust Walker, it will give the current...

The Senate Race to Ridiculousness, Youtube Portrait

(Flickr/ malczyk)
It wasn't supposed to be this way. Texas was supposed to have its primaries done long ago, when the GOP's presidential candidate was still in contention. In that scenario, the Senate seat Kay Bailey Hutchison held for two decades would then go to Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst. Dewhurst has for the most part been a loyal soldier to Governor Rick Perry and, with his millions in personal wealth, he could run a strong campaign while everyone else would be drowned out by presidential politics. Alas, the state's redistricting debacle meant the primaries were pushed back months. Now, with a week to go, Dewhurst is still leading the race, but the latest poll shows things will likely go to a runoff . Not surprisingly, with competition in the race, things have turned increasingly nasty. What's weird, however, are the negative claims. Dewhurst, who sat back while the legislature passed a budget with billions in cuts, including unprecedented education cuts, has been accused of being a big...

A Plan to Privatize a State's Entire Male Prison System

(Flickr/Tim Pearce, Los Gatos)
It's been tough times for the prison privatization industry. The two biggest companies both have extra space thanks to a recent drop in the number of people sent to private prisons. The companies just can't seem to expand their share of the market. The poor guys really lost out when the Florida Senate killed a bill that would have privatized 27 prisons and displaced more than 3,500 workers. The lobbying was so aggressive, one senator with health problems actually had to get protection from her colleagues. Then there's the not-so-great press—a two-part series from NPR last year included particularly horrifying tales . All told, these poor private prison company execs have not had much to smile about. So imagine what joy they must have had when New Hampshire put out an RFP to privatize the state's entire prison system. That's right—the entire system. According to the New Hampshire Business Review , previous state debate on privatization didn't exactly win anyone's affection, and the...

Dems Use Walker "Divide and Conquer" Remark to Their Advantage

(Flickr/WisPolitics.com)
After he pushed laws to limit collective bargaining for public employees, sparking mass protests last year, it's hardly surprising to discover that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker told one of his biggest contributors that he favored right-to-work laws and would take a "divide and conquer" approach to union power. But when a video clip surfaced late last week, showing the governor saying just that, it offered his opponents a major opportunity. In the film, shot before Walker introduced his anti-union legislation last year, billionaire Diane Hendricks asks Walker if there's any chance Wisconsin can become "a completely red state, and ... become a right-to-work state." Walker responds by saying "The first step is we're going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions, because you use divide and conquer." The clip appeared as part of a trailer for an upcoming documentary film. Since the exchange took place last year, Hendricks has given more than $500,000 to Walker...

Meet Tom Barrett

(Flickr/barret4wi)
Last night, Wisconsin Democrats chose Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett as their candidate to go up against Governor Scott Walker. Barrett's pretty well known to Wisconsinites, both as a U.S. congressman and as a previous gubernatorial candidate. But most of us weren't all that interested in Wisconsin until Walker passed his anti-union laws and the widespread protestss began last year. Since then, the race has developed a national following—and some say, has national implications . With only a few weeks until the recall, meet the man Democrats are hoping will beat Scott Walker: 1. Irony of ironies, he's hardly a union favorite. Even though the recall has largely been painted as a fight between pro-labor and anti-labor groups, Barrett was hardly the first pick for Wisconsin unions. Rather, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk had the bulk of union support early on. From the state AFL-CIO, the the Wisconsin Education Association Council to AFSCME, almost all the major unions backed Falk...

Lugar Sounds the Alarm against GOP Extremism

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There's been a lot of talk about how veteran Senator Dick Lugar could have salvaged his campaign . The Indiana Republican was soundly defeated by nearly 20 points yesterday in primary race against a Tea Party-backed challenger. He lost amid criticisms that he's too close to Obama and not dogmatic enough for the GOP. Many of those criticisms came from outside groups, including Grover Norquist's Club for Growth and Dick Armey's FreedomWorks, which poured money into the effort to defeat the well-liked senator. In the end, Tea Party favorite Richard Mourdock won the primary—and in response, Dick Lugar sounded a call of alarm for Republicans about the fate of the party. Lugar noted his own Republican bona fides , including that he'd voted with Reagan more than any other senator. Then he went after Mourdock, the Tea Party, and the general intractability that's taken hold of his party: If Mr. Mourdock is elected, I want him to be a good Senator. But that will require him to revise his stated...

In Voter ID Case, Court Tells Texas to Quit Stalling

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In what read like a pretty clear smack-down, the federal court hearing the Texas voter ID case yesterday ordered the state to get its act together and quit stalling—or lose all hope of implementing a voter ID law by the November elections. The situation is somewhat ironic. Texas is suing the the Department of Justice since it did not approve the latest effort the state's voter ID law, among the most stringent in the nation. The DOJ argues the law will disproportionately impact minority voters. The state is racing against the clock, hoping to implement the law in time for the November elections—with the rather obvious subtext that this law will benefit Republican candidates by suppressing turnout among poor and minority voters who are likely to vote Democratic. The DOJ tried to delay the court date, set for July 9, but the court refused. Since then, however, the order said, "Defendants have worked tirelessly in discovery so that this case may be tried the week of July 9, 2012." The...

Planned Parenthood Can't Catch a Break

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Planned Parenthood staffers might have been inclined to celebrate last Friday. That afternoon, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled Texas could not exclude Planned Parenthood from its Women's Health Program . On Monday a district judge had granted an injunction, forcing the state to pay Planned Parenthood clinics that served the WHP clients—low-income women who are not pregnant. The injunction was short-lived—the state attorney general appealed the decision to the 5th Circuit, which granted an emergency stay, allowing state health officials to start kicking out the Planned Parenthood clinics. By Friday, the 5th Circuit had reversed the decision, granting a temporary injuction while Planned Parenthood's lawsuit against the state proceeds. While long-term fates are up in the air, this news was the best the organization has heard in quite a while. But any celebration would have been short-lived. By Friday night, the organization was already getting bad news. Texas may now have to...

"Don't Say Gay" Bill Prompts Lawmaker to Say He's Gay

(Flickr/Steve Rhodes)
After weeks of discussion on a bill that would restrict students from talking about their sexuality in Missouri public schools, Republican state lawmaker Zach Wyatt decided he'd had enough. While it's virtually impossible for the bill to pass through the General Assembly at this point, Wyatt nonetheless called a press conference. He lambasted the bill—and then came out as gay. His hometown newspaper, The Kirksville Daily Express covered the event, in which Wyatt introduced himself as "a proud Republican, a proud veteran and a proud gay man who wants to protect all kids." He didn't hold back in his comments: 'I will not lie to myself anymore about my own sexuality. It has probably been the hardest thing to come to terms with. I have always ignored it. I didn’t even think about it or want to talk about it. I’ve not been immune to it. I hear the comments, usually snide ones, about me,' Wyatt said. 'I am not the first or last Republican to come out. I have just gotten tired of the bigotry...

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