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Tell Your Senators To Slow, and Ideally, Stop Trump’s Lousy and Unqualified Judicial Appointments

Call your senators and tell them to slow and ideally stop the parade of Trump’s lousy and unqualified judicial appointees.

 

When he was minority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell did everything he could to slow-walk, stymie, and outright stop the Obama administration’s choices to fill federal judgeships.

 

Now that Trump is in office and McConnell is leading the Senate, he is trying to cram through as many right-wing judicial candidates as possible before November 2018. Unfortunately that means he’s also trying to cram through a great deal of lousy and unqualified judicial candidates. If he succeeds, he will warp the courts for decades to come and undermine their fundamental credibility as a means for delivering justice.

 

McConnell is deliberately choosing people who are on the young side and who would not be put forward even under a more standard Republican administration.

 

Some of the nominees are straight-up unqualified–either getting ‘unqualified’ ratings from the American Bar Association (ABA) or being pushed through before the ABA can finish an assessment and assign a rating.

 

At least a few of these nominees have struggled with basic questions such as, ‘Do you believe Brown vs Board of Education [the SCOTUS ruling that outlawed segregation in public schools] was correctly decided, yes or no?’ It’s hard to underestimate the damage that McConnell’s quest could do.

 

The only defense that Democrats have against this onslaught is to slow-walk or block the worst of the judicial nominations. They have been doing this and have had some success.

 

But! McConnell is feeling the pressure to shove through as many judges as he can. He has bitterly criticized his Democratic colleagues for making sure that he’s reaping what he sowed under the Obama administration, and he has begun violating Senate norms in an effort to warp the courts.

 

One of those norms is the blue slip. A senator from the home state of a judicial nominee can withhold a blue slip, indicating a lack of support for that person. Historically, it is unusual for a nominee who lacks one or both blue slips to gain confirmation.

 

Back in October 2017, McConnell indicated that he would not honor the blue slip tradition. He quickly revoked the statement, but Senator Chuck Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and actually acts on blue slips, said in November 2017 that he would override it due to what he regarded as Democratic abuses of the practice. (Never mind how Republicans abused the blue-slip system under Obama. Ahem.)

 

In addition, GOP activists are worried that their window for borking the judiciary is closing. CNN has been airing ads from a group called Judicial Crisis Watch, urging folks to call their senators, complain about the Democrats’ tactics, and continue to shove through Trumpian picks.

 

Anyway, here’s what you can do.

 

Call your members of Congress and say you support the Democrats’ checking of Trump’s judicial nominees, and you want it to continue.

 

If your senators are Republican, urge them to urge the Trump administration to choose better-qualified, less ideological nominees, to stop advancing candidates who have bad ABA ratings, and to stop flouting Senate traditions and norms.

 

If your senators are on the judiciary committee, it is extra-important that you call. Check the link below to see if either of your senators are members:

https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/about/members

 

Note also that during the week of May 28, 2018, Senators are in their home districts, not Washington, D.C.

 

Sample script for Democratic Senators: “Dear Senator (Lastname), I am (Firstname Last name from town, zip code). I am calling to express support for Democratic efforts to slow down and block the appointment of federal judges who are unqualified or who would never be considered in a more moderate political climate. Trump and Mitch McConnell are deliberately attempting to warp the court, and by extension, justice itself, for decades to come. I am glad to see that Democratic senators are pushing back, and I want them to continue to do so. Their opponents call it game-playing; I call it defending the court system from judges who are unjust. Please carry on slow-walking and stopping bad judicial candidates from being placed on the federal bench. You are doing what I want you to do, and I will remember your efforts when it comes time to vote. Thank you for hearing me out.”

 

Sample script for Republican Senators: “Dear Senator (Lastname), I am (Firstname Last name from town, zip code). I am calling to express anger over the desperate Republican push to confirm as many unqualified and unsuitable judicial appointees as they can before November comes. When he was in the minority, Senator Mitch McConnell did everything he could to slow-walk and stop nominees put forward under the Obama administration. Now, McConnell is just reaping what he sowed. He and Senator Chuck Grassley should not be allowed to flout Senate norms to avoid the fate that they chose for themselves when they used Senate norms and traditions to push back against Obama-era nominees. Know that I am watching what is happening, and your actions on this matter will influence how I vote, both for you, and your colleagues, and for Republicans in general. I want a functional judiciary, not one that is riddled with judges who make decisions that undermine justice itself. Thank you for listening to me.”

 

 

Read about the advertising campaign urging people to call their Senators to oppose the Democrats’ efforts to limit damage to the courts:

http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/386128-conservative-group-targets-democrats-for-blocking-judicial-nominees-in

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/05/03/trump-judicial-nomination-ad-push-566675

 

 

Read about how the Trump administration is redoubling its efforts to cram through lousy and unqualified judicial candidates in hopes of warping the court system:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-court-nominees/trump-push-for-conservative-judges-intensifies-to-democrats-dismay-idUSKBN1I80WL

 

 

Read a Politico piece that details how Senator McConnell is bound and determined to shove through as many lousy and unqualified judges as he can before this Congressional session ends:

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/04/20/mcconnell-courts-judges-confirmation-senate-537366

 

 

Read a November 2017 Vox piece on how the Republicans are trying to defeat and destroy the tools available to the minority party for pushing back against bad judicial nominees:

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/10/13/16462128/blue-slips-senate-republican-judge-nomination-appointment

 

 

Read a November 2017 U.S. News & World Report story on how Senator Chuck Grassley stands ready to ignore the blue slip tradition in the interest of advancing Trump’s judicial picks:

https://www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2017-11-16/sen-grassley-opts-to-ignore-blue-slips-against-trump-judicial-nominees

 

 

Read about two judicial candidates that the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance them even though both hold “not qualified” ratings from the American Bar Association (note that Brett Talley has since withdrawn his nomination). The article also mentions that the ABA says the Trump administration is nominating candidates faster than it can vet them:

https://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2017-11-09/senate-recommends-for-lifetime-judgeships-two-lawyers-the-aba-deems-not-qualified

 

 

Read a December 2017 Washington Post piece on Trump nominees with ABA “unqualified” ratings, and how the “unqualified” numbers stack up to past presidencies:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2017/11/10/how-unusual-are-trumps-not-qualified-judicial-nominations/?utm_term=.f1d18e044a85

 

 

Read a December 2017 Politico piece on how, when faced with ABA “unqualified” ratings, the GOP is attacking… the ABA:

https://www.politico.com/story/2017/12/10/trump-judicial-nominees-republicans-287911

 

 

Read a bit of good news from December 2017 about how Republican Senator John Kennedy did his job and through straightforward, deft questioning, revealed just how unprepared judicial nominee Matthew Petersen was. Petersen’s embarrassing performance forced him to withdraw:

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Join the Sinclair Strike On May 15 and Fight the Sinclair Broadcasting Company’s Efforts to Become a Back-door National Television News Network

Join the Sinclair Strike on May 15, 2018 and fight the Sinclair Broadcasting Company’s ongoing efforts to become a back-door national television news network.

 

Sinclair Broadcast Group has deservedly drawn fire in recent months. For decades it has stealthily grown its reach and essentially tried to become a national television network quietly by buying up local television networks around the country.

 

As of summer 2017, Sinclair owned more TV stations than any other American broadcaster. It is in the process of trying to buy 42 more TV stations. If it succeeds, it will reach almost three out of four American homes.

 

That’s bad. Local ownership of TV stations is vital. It encourages stations to produce news programs that truly reflect a specific region’s own issues and concerns. It also frustrates media monopolies and encourages a broader range of voices and viewpoints to appear on the nation’s airwaves.

 

Sinclair has been catching heat in particular because it’s forcing its stations to broadcast pro-Trump editorials and distinctly right-wing stories, but the situation would be bad no matter what political stance it had. No broadcasting company should have as much power as Sinclair does. It sure as hell should not receive more power.

 

You can push back against Sinclair in several ways.

 

One is to contact your Senators and ask for public hearings on the proposed sale of 42 more TV stations to Sinclair. While news broke about the sale in August 2017, it has not gone through yet, and critics on the left and the right have spoken out against Sinclair’s purchase plans.

 

Sample script: Dear (Senator Lastname,) I am (Firstname Lastname from town, zip code). I am calling to ask you to hold hearings on Sinclair Broadcasting Company’s proposed $3.9 billion-dollar purchase of 42 television stations. Sinclair already owns 173 television stations. If the FCC allowed the deal, Sinclair would reach 72 percent of American households, becoming a back-door national news channel at the expense of local news channels.

This would be bad on so many levels. America needs local television stations that understand and care about the needs of their local populations. If Sinclair wants to be a national network, they should follow the rules to become one. They shouldn’t be allowed to undermine local television stations and the populations that they were designed to serve.

Sinclair Broadcasting Company has required its stations to broadcast right-wing editorials and stories en masse. That is definitely a problem, but it would be just as much of a problem if the stories were left-wing or spanned the political spectrum. It’s forcing all its stations to broadcast the same editorials and stories en masse that’s the problem, and represents an abuse of the formidable power that it holds. The fact that Sinclair is already behaving in this way, and forcing its on-air talent to comply, is a fact that shows exactly why the company should not be allowed to buy still more TV stations.

Please consider volunteering to lead Senate hearings on this matter or consider supporting Senate colleagues who offer to do so. Thanks.

 

Another way to push back against Sinclair is to join the Sinclair Strike on Tuesday, May 15, 2018.

 

If you work at a Sinclair-owned television station, you are encouraged to stay away from work.

 

If Sinclair owns a television station in your area, you are encouraged to boycott the network by refusing to watch.

 

If you neither work for a Sinclair-owned TV station nor have one in your area, you can boost the #SinclairStrike hashtag, call your senators about holding hearings, and spread the word about the nefarious influence of the company and tell friends and family why it should not be allowed to buy more television stations.

 

 

See the Stop Sinclair website, which is a project of Allied Progress:

http://stopsinclair.com

 

 

See its What’s At Stake page:

http://stopsinclair.com/whats-at-stake/

 

 

See its Do Your Part page:

http://stopsinclair.com/do-your-part/

 

 

Consult a map that shows you if there are Sinclair-owned television stations near you:

http://stopsinclair.com/map/

 

 

Subscribe to One Thing You Can Do by clicking the button on the upper right of the page. And tell your friends about the blog!

 

 

Watch a chilling video that proves that Sinclair-owned television stations are being forced to broadcast the same Op-Ed (opinion-editorial, as opposed to news) content:

https://slate.com/culture/2018/04/watch-sinclair-broadcast-group-local-news-anchors-parrot-their-bosses-opinions-in-perfect-deafening-unison.html

 

 

Read an April 2018 story from The Daily Beast on how the left and the right are opposing the proposed Sinclair purchase:

https://www.thedailybeast.com/media-foes-on-left-and-right-team-up-to-fight-the-sinclairtribune-merger

 

 

This July 2017 Guardian story will get you to an episode of Last Week with John Oliver that sounds the alarm over Sinclair:

https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2017/jul/03/john-oliver-sinclair-broadcasting-rightwing-news-fox

 

 

Read another Guardian piece from August 2017 that explores the dangers posed by Sinclair’s increasing reach:

https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/aug/17/sinclair-news-media-fox-trump-white-house-circa-breitbart-news

 

 

 

And see an April 2018 Politico story on how Trump performed better in areas where the local news media had been gutted or otherwise devastated (not just television, but newspapers as well):

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/04/08/news-subscriptions-decline-donald-trump-voters-505605

 

 

See a Brian Krassenstein tweet announcing the May 15 Sinclair Strike:

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Support the MAR-A-LAGO Act, Which Would Require Trump to Disclose the Visitor Logs of the White House and Mar-A-Lago

This OTYCD entry originally posted in April 2017.

Call your members of Congress to express support for the Make Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness Act, aka the MAR-A-LAGO Act, which would require Trump to release the names in the visitor logs of the White House and Mar-a-Lago after 90 to 120 days.

It is making its way through both sides of Congress now, as H.R. 1711 in the House of Representatives and as S. 721 in the Senate.

President Obama adopted a policy of releasing the names of most of the people who visited the White House within 90 to 120 days. The only exceptions Obama made were for people deemed “politically sensitive.” This was not a formal rule from Congress; Obama’s administration came up with it and chose to abide by it.

The Trump administration has yet to pass the 90-day mark as we draft this blog post. But he and his minions have shown a proclivity for secrecy and concealment. Trump has also done a fair amount of presidential work at Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Palm Beach, Florida, where he charges new members $200,000 to join–a price that doubled since he took office.

The MAR-A-LAGO Act would promote transparency by requiring Trump to release visitor logs for the White House, Mar-a-Lago, and any other place where he might conduct presidential business, such as Trump Tower and his network of hotels and golf courses.

Sample script: “Hello, I am (Firstname Lastname, from town, zip code). I am calling to ask House Rep/Senator (Lastname) to support H.R. 1711/ S. 721, the MAR-A-LAGO act. The MAR-A-LAGO act would promote transparency by requiring Trump to routinely release visitor logs for the White House, Mar-a-Lago, and other venues where he conducts presidential business. Given the Trump administration’s penchant for secrecy, a law like this one would be a good idea. Thank you.”

 

Read a GovTrack Insider article about the MAR-A-LAGO Act:

https://govtrackinsider.com/mar-a-lago-act-would-mandate-trump-release-visitor-logs-from-his-white-house-and-florida-club-3731b9a00966

 

See GovTrack’s page on the senate version of the bill, S. 721:

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/s721

 

See GovTrack’s page on the house version of the bill, H.R. 1711:

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr1711/details

 

 

 

 

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Call Your MoCs and Support S. 1342, the Eliminating Federal Tax Subsidies for Stadiums Act

This OTYCD entry originally posted in September 2017.

 

Support S. 1342, the Eliminating Federal Tax Subsidies for Stadiums Act, which would do just that–close a loophole that unwittingly encourages the use of tax dollars to fund sports stadium construction.

 

An article on GovTrack Insider alerted us to this and oh yes, we were all over it. The bill was introduced on June 12. It has a house counterpart in the form of H.R. 811, the No Tax Subsidies for Stadiums Act.

 

We’re going to quote the ‘Context’ section of the story because it’s a case study in unintended consequences:

 

“It all stems from a provision in a 1986 tax reform bill, which accidentally created a loophole which allowed tax avoidance for many bonds used to finance sports stadiums.

 

The provision stated that such bonds could be tax-exempt if they were used for more than 90 percent of a stadium’s construction, under the logic that this would almost never happen. After all, most sports teams were owned by billionaires or multi-millionaires who would help front much of the costs.

 

However, the opposite happened, as taxpayers started paying for way more of stadium costs than they had before. In the 21st century, that taxpayer money has included $431 million towards Yankee Stadium, $205 million for the Chicago Bears, $185 million for the New York Mets, and $164 million for the Cincinnati Bengals.”

 

Talk about perverse incentives, right? Though passing this bill might feel like closing the barn door after team after team of horses have escaped, and GovTrack admits the odds are long even though the bill should get serious public support, it’s worth the fight.

 

A note before giving the sample script: First off, if New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker is your senator, and if Oklahoma Republican Steve Russell is your House rep, call and thank them for sponsoring these bills.

 

Now, the sample script: “Dear (Senator/House Rep Lastname,) I am (Firstname Lastname, of town, zip code). I am calling to ask you to support (S. 1342/ H.R. 811), which would close a loophole that perversely encourages using tax dollars to fund sports stadium construction. Sports team owners are wealthy–some are billionaires. They can, and should, pay to build or improve their own stadiums. The law, as currently written, encourages team owners to chase precious tax dollars that should go to municipal and state needs instead of wants. The bills moving through Congress now will take away that perverse incentive.”

 

 

Read the GovTrack story on the bills that close the stadium funding loophole:

https://govtrackinsider.com/eliminating-taxpayer-subsidies-for-stadiums-act-would-end-taxpayer-tax-support-for-sports-stadiums-94a7ec189c8c

 

 

Read a Brookings Institution story on why the government should stop funding sports stadiums:

https://www.brookings.edu/research/why-the-federal-government-should-stop-spending-billions-on-private-sports-stadiums/#federal-subsidy

 

 

See the GovTrack page on S. 1342, the Eliminating Federal Tax Subsidies for Stadium Act of 2017:

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/s1342

 

 

See the GovTrack page on H.R. 811, the No Tax Subsidies for Stadiums Act:

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr811

 

 

Subscribe to One Thing You Can Do by clicking the button on the upper right of the page or checking the About & Subscribe page. And tell your friends about the blog!

 

 

Like GovTrack on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/govtrack

 

 

Follow GovTrack on Twitter:

@govtrack

 

 

Donate to GovTrack:

https://www.patreon.com/bePatron?c=350193

 

 

 

Action Alerts · Call Your Senators · Call Your State Legislators · Online Privacy, Net Neutrality

Call Your Senators and State Legislators to Defend Net Neutrality TODAY IS THE FCC ROLLBACK DEADLINE, FOLKS

Call your MoCs and defend the principle of net neutrality, which ensures equal access to the Internet for all. The Federal Communications Commission could move to start repeal on April 23, 2018 (TODAY! So! Call if you haven’t called yet, dammit!).

 

We at OTYCD have written about defending net neutrality many times in the past. The current urgency stems from the FCC’s vote to repeal it earlier this year. We have until April 23, 2018, and then the agency can embark on the rollback.

 

Celeste Pewter (who you should be following at @Celeste_Pewter) did a good overview of the situation recently on Twitter. We are reproducing her April 4 tweets here:

 

Let’s continue to make a strong push for at the federal level. I’m alarmed we’ve stopped talking about it. Here’s a recap: A) Markey’s [Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey] petition has 50 supporters. He needs one more. B) Congress returns on the 9th. C) The FCC rollback happens on 04/23.

 

If Markey’s petition passes the Senate, TBD if it can pass the House. However, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Script:

 

At the same time, states are trying to think of ways to pass their own laws. IS your state onboard? If you live in a state like CT, are you aware your bill was defeated? Are you calling to protest? (CC: )

 

She included a link to a Gizmodo story on the Connecticut situation: https://gizmodo.com/connecticut-republicans-kill-net-neutrality-bill-throug-1824280826

 

Here’s a script to either ask your state electeds to introduce Net Neutrality legislation, or vote in favor. The world isn’t going to end on April 23rd, but it’s important we encourage our electeds to act on when it’s a fresh political issue.

 

 

We have 19 days before the FCC rolls back . Mark your calendars for April 23rd. Spread the word. Act on both the state and federal level. Let’s make sure Chairman Pai doesn’t get the satisfaction of winning.

 

 

For the reasons Pewter cites, we at OTYCD will devote one weekday post to defending Net Neutrality this week, next week, and on Monday April 23, 2018.

 

Please call your senators. If they’re Dems or Indies, thank them for supporting Markey’s bill. If they’re Rs and they’re not Susan Collins of Maine, ask your Senators to get on board.

 

We only need one Republican senator to join Collins for Markey’s bill to succeed.

 

As for state legislative efforts–An April 4, 2018 report from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) said that 28 states had introduced legislation requiring internet service providers (ISPs) to uphold net neutrality or aspects of it.

 

The report included an alphabetical list, by state, of net neutrality bills across the country. Find your state by scrolling down:

http://www.ncsl.org/ncsl-in-dc/publications-and-resources/net-neutrality-legislation-in-states.aspx

 

If your state legislature is on the case or has already passed a good bill, call your state senator and state house rep to thank them.

 

If your state has tried and failed, ask your state legislators to try again. If your state hasn’t done anything to protect net neutrality, ask your state legislators to step up.

 

Here also is a February 2018 Ars Technica piece on state efforts to defend net neutrality:

https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2018/02/to-kill-net-neutrality-fcc-might-have-to-fight-more-than-half-of-us-states/

 

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Save This Tool for Keeping Tabs on Bills That Concern You: GovTrack

This OTYCD entry originally posted in March 2017.

Bookmark Govtrack.us, a nifty tool for learning about and tracking bills that concern you.

 

Govtrack debuted in 2004 as a hobby project and blossomed into what you see today. It helps you find federal legislation on issues that you care about, and lets you track them as they work their way through Congress.

 

It can also show you the bills most tracked by the site’s users, trending bills, and other useful information, such as the total amount of legislation passed by Congress in the current session. And it offers good longer reads in the form of GovTrackInsider, which offers detailed examinations of hot bills and contested issues.

 

 

Start using GovTrack:

https://www.govtrack.us

 

 

Subscribe to One Thing You Can Do by clicking the button on the upper right of the page. And tell your friends about the blog!

 

 

Like its Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/govtrack/

 

 

Follow it on Twitter:

@govtrack

 

 

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Never Stop Demanding That Congress Investigate Trump’s Ties to Russia and His Violations of the Constitution

This OTYCD entry originally posted in March 2017.

Trump and his minions have done, or tried to do, any number of horrible things. Most of them demanded an immediate answer. Others demanded ongoing attention.

 

Several people are speaking up to say the daily shenanigans are distracting us from focusing on the two issues that have the power to force Trump from office: His financial conflicts of interest, and the Russian hacking scandal, which should shed light on Trump’s curious connections to Putin.

 

To be fair, these issues have not been forgotten, just overshadowed. A team of lawyers from the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is suing Trump over his violations of the Constitution’s Emoluments clause. Jerry Nadler, a house rep from New York who sits on the house judiciary committee, recently filed a resolution of inquiry into Trump, an early step on the road to impeachment. Members of Congress are pursuing bipartisan investigations into the Russian hacking scandal, despite Republican attempts to keep such queries under its party’s control (which would let them soft-pedal the findings).

 

But the blogger behind The Liberal Yell rightly points out that it’s on us, the citizens, to keep pressing Congress to stay on the two issues that could end Trump’s presidency, and we should support their efforts to do so.

 

See the blog below.

 

http://theliberalyell.com/focus-people-there-are-only-two-things-to-demand-of-congress-in-regards-to-trump/

 

To summarize: TLY asks us to stay firmly on these two issues, regardless of what other evils Trump looses. No matter what happens, do not lose sight of the need to look into Trump’s Emoluments clause violations and the importance of getting to the bottom of the Russian hacking.

 

Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the post for a great tool–a custom postcard demanding investigations into both issues, which you can download and print and mail and hand out to others.

 

 

Subscribe to One Thing You Can Do by clicking the button on the upper right of the page. And tell your friends about the blog!

 

 

Read about bipartisan efforts to investigate the Russian hacking scandal, and Republican resistance to it:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2017/02/02/senate-panel-investigate-russian-election-interference/97411482/

http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/1/10/14220484/house-dems-bipartisan-probe-russian-hacking

http://www.snopes.com/mitch-mcconnell-blocked-investigating-russian-hacks/

 

 

Learn about New York House Representative Jerry Nadler’s filing of a resolution of inquiry into Trump, and its implications:

https://www.countable.us/articles/237-preliminary-impeachment-inquiry-filed-president-trump