The purpose of the Progressive Information Project is to more widely share resources and information created to advance progressive causes. A lot of good work is being done, but the average progressive often doesn't learn about it or know what is available. This series is designed to help alleviate that problem.
Attached is a spreadsheet that lists the amount of spending the National Rifle Association did in each of the states in the 2008 and 2010 cycles. In recent years, the NRA has spent lots of money trying to influence state legislatures to pass "Stand Your Ground," aka "Shoot First" or "Kill-at-Will" laws. Lobbyists like Marion Hammer in Florida write and try to pass these laws and once they are passed, they push for more extreme laws, like those that Hammer helped pass in Florida that prevents doctors from asking parents about guns in the home when examining the risks that children face.
The data in the spreadsheet could be correlated to the push for pro-gun laws in various states, although I haven't seen anyone who has done that work yet. The data includes:
The numbers have significant gaps because of various campaign finance laws. The NRA's 501c4 spends a huge amount of money on issue advertising, including candidate-drive ads. The entity spent $21 million on those efforts alone in 2010, although the breakdown of how it spent isn't known. The c4 also spent $16 million in 2009 and $23 million in 2008 on such activities. Independent expenditures in support of, or opposition to, congressional or presidential candidates are also not included. The NRA's Political Victory Fund spent $9.6 million in 2010 and $7.1 million in 2008 on such activities.
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The Senate continued debate Monday afternoon on Sen. Robert Menendez’s (D-N.J.) bill repealing $2 billion in tax breaks to Big Oil. The debate has given major recipients of Big Oil money the chance to defend a profitable industry, while it skims even higher profits from record gas prices.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, for instance, has the most money of any senator from oil and gas this cycle. He’s the No. 8 recipient in oil and gas career contributions in Congress, taking over $1.15 million during his tenure.
Republicans like McConnell, who said a debate on oil subsidies is a “waste of the public’s time,” used one debunked myth after another yesterday afternoon:
LIE: More Domestic Drilling Would Lower Gas Prices: McConnell claimed Republicans have the “solution” to gas prices while Democrats are lacking. The GOP’s answers include Keystone XL pipeline and drilling, neither of which lower prices.
FACT: More Drilling Increases Big Oil Profits: Experts note that production doesn’t impact gas prices; if it did, our current eight-year high in domestic energy gas prices would mean $2 gas. An Associated Press statistical analysis finds absolutely no support that drilling lowers gas prices. Neither would Keystone XL help Americans at the pump; it would only send prices higher. The pipeline “risks raising prices as much as 20 cents a gallon in the Midwest, Great Plains and Rocky Mountains,” according to a 2010 Canadian report.
LIE: Big Oil Tax Breaks Promote Drilling.: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said taxes are an “inconvenient fact” that “lead to lower production.” “As we tax these energy companies it is sure not going to lead them to produce things that are more affordable more abundant in fact it will have the resulting impact of impacting negatively the prices on American consumers,” she said.
FACT: Big Oil Tax Breaks Increase Big Oil Profits.: A Congressional Research Service report from May 2011 found that the repeal of five key oil industry tax breaks would lead to little or no increase of gasoline prices. Experts like oil industry analyst Tom Kloza agree that it would have no impact.
Americans know that “oil companies that want to make too much profit” deserve the most blame for higher gas prices, a new Reuters poll found. Republican senators are working to increase the $137 billion in profits the Big Five oil companies sucked from working families last year, instead of helping their constituents.
The Southern Poverty Law Center was quick to add its voice to those decrying the National Organization for Marriage’s confidential memos that recommend creating racial divisions to fight marriage equality, but directed its message directly at its black constituents:
Black folks, this is a message for you: The National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the country?s preeminent group fighting against same-sex marriage, really, really likes you. They even want to make some of you famous!
Have NOM?s principal leaders, former president Maggie Gallagher and current leader Brian S. Brown, stood up for African Americans before? Well, not so much. But it turns out that they?ve decided that you?re actually very important.
It turns out that the SPLC had already planned to publish a separate post yesterday exposing how NOM avoids taking responsibility for its anti-gay messaging by simply linking to others’ antagonistic content on its blog:
Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown have repeatedly claimed that they are simply trying to protect marriage, that they bear no animus toward LGBT people or their sexual orientations. But again and again, signs of such animus have crept into the material issued by NOM: scary warnings about pedophilia, ?addictive behavior,? ?jihads? against Christians and so on. Now, as pressure ratchets up on opponents of same-sex marriage ? Maryland this year became the eighth state to approve such unions, even as a federal judge found the anti-same-sex-marriage Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional ? it remains to be seen whether NOM can avoid following other religious-right groups into a world of untrammeled hate.
What the confidential documents show is that NOM’s public relations are spun to sound innocent, but anti-gay animus is clearly the intent behind its race-wedging, parent-scaring tactics, just like it is for all of its conservative partners in crime. As Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) said in his response, “Our nation was founded on the principle of liberty and justice for all people?regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. NOM is clearly opposed to these basic ideals that so many Americans hold dear.” In the past, diverse communities may have been fooled by NOM’s malicious ideas, but now is the time to unite for the equality and fair treatment of all people.
As Mitt Romney tries to distance himself from Obamacare, he ran into some trouble last night when he got stumped by comedian Jay Leno. Leno asked Romney what he would do to help people with preexisting medical conditions, who are often denied coverage today by insurance companies worried about increased costs.
Romney’s answer was essentially nothing. Someone who has forgone insurance doesn’t deserve to get medical coverage, Romney suggested, because, “we can’t play the game like that.” Asked what he would do to help people with preexisting conditions, Romney replied:
ROMNEY: People with pre-existing conditions, as long as they have been insured before, they are going to be able to continue to have insurance.
LENO: Suppose they haven’t been insured before?
ROMNEY: Well, if they are 45 years old and they show up and say I want insurance because I have heart disease, it’s like, ?Hey guys. We can’t play the game like that. You’ve got to get insurance when you are well and then if you get ill, you are going to be covered. [...]
We’ll look at a circumstance where someone is ill and hasn’t been insured so far, but people who have the chance to be insured ?- if you are working in the auto business for instance, the companies carry insurance, they insure their employees, you look at the circumstances that exist ?- but people who have done their best to get insured are going to be able to be covered. But you don’t want everyone saying, ?I am going to sit back until I get sick and then go buy insurance.? That doesn’t make sense. But you get defined rules and get people in who are playing by the rules.
Watch it (beginning 2:15):
Barring insurance companies from denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions is one of the Affordable Care Act’s most popular and important provisions. The problem, for Romney, is that this can only function when coupled with an individual mandate (as he well knows), the constitutionality of which the Supreme Court considered yesterday.
Without the mandate, healthy people could forego buying insurance until they became sick, thus driving up costs for everyone and potentially collapsing the system as there may not be enough people paying into the system to cover the costs of all the sick people. Moreover, there are people who, from a young age or even birth, have preexisting conditions due to congenital diseases.
Under Romney’s current plan, since they have no existing history of coverage, it’s conceivable people born with preexisting conditions would be completely unable to ever get insurance. Insurance companies have already said that without the mandate, they’d go back to denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions.
Romney himself seems to understand this, telling Leno, “you have to find rules that get people in” to the insurance market so they don’t freeride. A former governor of Massachusetts named Romney came up with just a such a rule — it’s called the individual mandate. But now that Romney is running for president for Pete’s sake, he hates mandates, and so he has literally nothing to offer people with preexisting conditions expect for a scolding about how they should have purchased insurance earlier.
More than seventy retired military officers wrote a letter to Congress urging that the body not cut the budget for non-military means of executing U.S. foreign policy. The letter, written under the auspices of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition’s (USGLC) national security advisory group, spoke out against ?disproportionate cuts” that would cut civilian programs while boosting military spending, calling on Congress to ensure that ?civilian programs have the resources needed to maintain the hard-fought gains of our military.?
The letter (PDF) defending the so-called international affairs budget that covers non-military spending went on:
Development and diplomacy keep us safer by addressing threats in the most dangerous corners of the world and by preventing conflicts before they occur. The State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and other civilian-led programs are especially critical at a time when we are asking them to take on greater responsibilities in Iraq and Afghanistan. Addressing today?s challenges with civilian tools costs far less than it does to send in the military in dollars and, more importantly, in terms of the risks to the lives of our men and women in uniform. At just over one percent of federal spending, the International Affairs Budget is a strong return on our investment.
The letter comes just a week after Republican Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) released a budget that called for the international affairs spending to be slashed by 11 percent, or $6 billion, while boosting military spending by at least $8 billion. Ryan’s budget document took shots at the administration, noting in one section that Obama “has chosen to subordinate national security strategy to his other spending priorities.” Speaking to U.S. News and World Report, Russell Rumbaugh, a former senior Senate Budget Committee aide now with the Stimson Center, said:
This reflects more an ideological statement than any real discussion about what the international budget levels should be.
An Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran summed up the Republican plan: “They cut every tool in the president’s toolbox that isn’t a gun,” said Michael Breen, who works with the Truman National Security Project, recounting how it was a foreign language-enabled diplomat — not their own weapons — that once helped him and fellow soliders get out a jam.
The ostensible aspirations of the Ryan plan, meanwhile, are shared by the USGLC letter signatories, who wrote that they “recognize that we must reduce our nation?s debt.” Yet, with non-military spending such a relatively small piece of the pie and capable of a “strong return” on the investment, the ex-military leaders urged Congress to “support a strong and effective International Affairs Budget and oppose disproportionate cuts to this vital account.”
– The White House is calling on international donors to pledge more money to pay the $4.1 billion annual budget for Afghanistan’s security forces after the scheduled departure of U.S. and coalition combat troops at the end of 2014.
– NATO commander Adm. James Stavridis said in an interview that Afghan forces will soon control areas that “encompass 75 percent of the population,” seeking to demonstrate gains in transitioning to Afghan control despite recent violence.
– Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro said at a CAP event yesterday that anti-piracy policies the Obama administration put in place has resulted in “a roughly 70 percent decline” in successful pirate attacks around the globe.
– Talks between Iran and and six major powers — the so-called P5+1 — on Tehran’s nuclear program are expected to start again on April 14 in Istanbul, a senior European Union diplomat told the Wall Street Journal.
– Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) blocked a widely-supported bill imposing new Iran sanctions and tightening existing ones because Democrats pushing the bill refused to allow amendments, including Paul’s reaffirming the requirement that the executive branch consult the Congress to use force abroad.
– Syrian government forces continued military action against opposition strongholds on Wednesday despite President Bashar al-Assad’s acceptance of a peace plan requiring the army to return to its barracks.
– Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay said he and his North American counterparts at a meeting on security threats in Ottawa this week decided to develop a common assessment of threats facing the continent and to cooperate to address them.
– Shawn Henry, the FBI’s top cop, offered a grim appraisal of the nation’s efforts to keep computer hackers from plundering corporate data networks: “We’re not winning.” He added that the current public and private approach to fending off hackers is “unsustainable.”
– Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has peacekeepers at the ready to send into Mali — which was recently suspended from the organization after a military coup there — and plans to send a delegation in the next two days demanding the restoration of democracy and constitutional order.
During oral arguments yesterday, some Supreme Court justices seemed skeptical of the Obamacare’s individual mandate. Today, the court will hear arguments about whether the law could survive if the mandate was struck down. But if the court invalidates the insurance requirement, there are few contingency plans for how the White House and Congress would move forward to reduce the number — almost 50 million — of uninsured Americans.
Running out of campaign funds, Newt Gingrich has cut his staff and scaled-back his schedule — a move his campaign tried to spin as a “big-choice convention” strategy.
A record high 50 percent of registered voters hold an unfavorable view of Mitt Romney, according to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll. Just 34 percent hold a positive view, the lowest score for a top presidential contender since 1984. The former Massachusetts governor trails President Obama by 19 points in popularity. Obama’s favorability rating is 53 percent.
Republicans are writing their own version of the DREAM Act in hopes of winning over Latinos in time for the fall election. No details on the specifics of the bill are yet known, but Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who has previously suggested providing student visas but no path to citizenship for undocumented children, is one of those writing the proposed legislation.
Casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson seems poised to give millions more for pro-Republican independent expenditures, iWatchNews reports.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) blocked a bill that would have imposed further sanctions against Iran yesterday. Though the measure had bipartisan support, Paul opposed it, saying that he wanted Congress to first clarify that the U.S. will not go to war with Iran.
“Afghan security forces shot and killed three international troops Monday in two separate incidents.” So far this year, Afghan security forces — our purported allies — are responsible for one-third of U.S. troop deaths.
And finally: New web ads produced by Herman Cain?s new group Cain Solutions depicts the state of the economy by having a young girl narrate the death of a rabbit. Then, a second ad showed a suffocating goldfish representing the ?economy on stimulus.? Cain complained to reporters last night that “the liberals are trying to paint it like I?m killing animals,” which the ads certainly do depict. ?If I went out there with namby-pamby ads to drive home a point, nobody would notice, because it is intended to be provocative.?
In a panel today, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling “a combination of arrogance, naivete, and stupidity, the likes of which I have never seen.” And he predicted scandals would come from the combination of unlimited corporate contributions and lack of disclosure for many independent expenditures:
McCain: I promise you this. I promise you there will be huge scandals? because there?s too much money washing around, too much of it… we don?t know who, who contributed it, and there is too much corruption associated with that kind of money. There will be major scanadals.
Moderator: John McCain never gives up. That?s the legend. Are you gonna give up on this?
McCain: No. But I?ve got to wait until we think that can pass legislation. And I?m not sure right now, frankly, that we could get it passed.
Watch the video:
With a Republican House largely unconcerned about the issue and a Republican minority able to block legislation through filibuster, McCain is probably correct in his assessment of the prospects of a legislative fix in the current Congress.
But McCain deserves a large share of the blame for the secret money in our political system.
In 2010, after the high court ruled, McCain declared campaign finance reform dead and essentially washed his hands of the cause, telling CBS’s Bob Schieffer, “I don’t think there’s much that can be done.”
Without McCain’s help, Democrats created the Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act. The bill — which sought to ban campaign expenditures by foreign-owned corporations and to require disclosure of the true sources of the money behind independent expenditures and electioneering communications — passed the House in June of 2010.
On September 24, Democratic efforts to end a Republican filibuster of the measure failed by a single vote. All 59 Senate Democrats voted to end debate, McCain voted no. Rather than offering amendments to the bill or working behind the scenes with sponsors to reach an agreement, McCain was the deciding vote to kill the bill without even allowing an up-or-down vote.
Perhaps he feared a tough 2010 primary, but when there was a chance to do something about disclosure, McCain opted to stand with Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and the Chamber of Commerce rather than Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and the campaign finance reform movement. He has not even co-sponsored the disclosure-only DISCLOSE Act of 2012 introduced last week.
McCain’s grumbling comes as too little, too late and should be seen as what it is — little more than grandstanding.
ThinkProgress intern Zach Bernstein contributed to this report.
Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson (R) is among the growing cadre of Republicans that has denounced Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist and the GOP’s staunch anti-tax zealotry, as he says any serious budget plan should balance revenues and spending cuts. The current House GOP budget proposal, authored by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), certainly doesn’t do that; instead, it cuts revenues to a level that would force draconian across-the-board spending reductions.
According to Politico, Simpson and other Republicans are “furious” with the direction Ryan’s budget takes in ignoring revenue. Simpson is so furious, in fact, that by the time the budget passes the House tomorrow, he will have voted for it twice:
It was Simpson?s vote that allowed Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to get the resolution out of his committee last week ? and Simpson will stand again with the leadership on the floor. But there?s no hiding the fact that he and many Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee are furious with the course taken in this budget and more willing to lend support to those who feel revenue must also be part of the equation.
?This is going to be the most partisan debate of the year and it will set up the election for the year,? Simpson said. ?But I don?t think it?s the balanced plan to get us out of the hole we are in.”
Simspon is correct that Ryan’s budget isn’t “the balanced plan to get us out of the hole we are in.” Instead of raising revenue and reducing the debt, it gives each millionaire a $187,000 tax cut, cuts taxes for corporations, slashes programs for the poor and middle class, and makes the debt worse. But instead of taking a stand against the radical proposal, Simpson toed the party line and voted “yea” during a Budget Committee hearing last week. Ryan’s plan passed the committee by one vote, meaning it was the ever-so-furious Simpson who cast the deciding vote to send a plan he doesn’t like to the full House, where he’ll fall in line and vote for it all over again.
Welcome to Clean Start, ThinkProgress Green?s morning round-up of the latest in climate and clean energy. Here is what we?re reading. What are you?
After months of laboratory work, scientists say they can definitively finger oil from BP’s blown-out well as the culprit for the slow death of a once brightly colored deep-sea coral community in the Gulf of Mexico that is now brown and dull. [AP]
A raging Colorado wildfire – which started burning Monday afternoon – has destroyed or damage 23 homes; two people were found dead in a burned area and a woman is still missing. [9 News]
Storms brought heavy wind and high seas to Louisiana last week, prompting Wildlife and Fisheries officials to mobilize to prevent a Montegut levee from breaching again. [Houma Today]
Joplin?s future could be guided in part by Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, a Texas development firm that has put together projects in two other tornado-torn cities and could bring up to $1 billion in private investment possibilities to the city?s tornado redevelopment. [Joplin Globe]
A national environmental group asked a federal judge in Seattle on Tuesday to temporarily stop the federal government from issuing flood-insurance policies for new development in certain flood-prone areas around Puget Sound. [Seattle Times]
Not even the flooding of 18 inches of water inside their restaurant, 3 feet of water outside and $60,000 in resulting damages and lost sales can curb the determination of Mark and Glenna Jones to reopen Clay’s Cafe, located on West Main Street in downtown Hebron, Ohio. [Newark Advocate]
Lloyd?s of London, the world?s oldest insurance market, is struggling to raise premium rates even after the worst year for natural catastrophe claims on record, with a pretax loss of 516 million pounds ($823 million) in 2011. [Bloomberg]
Record-breaking severe weather outbreaks and destruction, particularly in 2011, have changed how insurers define high-risk areas beyond Tornado Alley and measure damage from all levels of storms. [Times Record News]
More than two in three Americans disapprove of how President Barack Obama is dealing with soaring gas prices, but don?t focus their blame on him for causing the problem, according to a new poll. [Politico]
More than a year into a probe that’s extended to the Energy Department loan guarantee portfolio, Republican investigators acknowledge they’ve fallen short of substantiating their allegations that the administration helped political allies like Tulsa oilman George Kaiser secure hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies through a loan guarantee to Solyndra. [Politico]
A federal appeals court scolded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday for rejecting a series of state pollution control projects in Texas that federal regulators said failed to satisfy requirements of the Clean Air Act. [Houston Chronicle]
Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) filed the Gas Price Relief Act as an amendment to the Democrats? bill on Tuesday, in which he proposed Congress repeal tax breaks enjoyed by the largest oil and gas companies and put that money toward reducing the gas tax, the highway trust fund, and paying for increased oil drilling and construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. [Las Vegas Sun]
The RESTORE Act, currently part of the federal transportation bill, makes the sensible proposal that 80 percent of the money from the Clean Water Act fines related to the Deepwater spill would go toward restoring the Gulf’s ecosystem and economy. [Houston Chronicle]