Headlines: Holder Refuses to Say Bush’s Warrantless Wiretapping Program Was Illegal; Republican Racism and President Obama

Democracy Now Headlines: Holder Refuses to Say Bush's Warrantless Wiretapping Program Was Illegal; Republican Racism and President Obama

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

Supporters of Mousavi Hold Mourning Rally in Tehran

Supporters of Iran’s defeated presidential candidate Mir hossein Mousavi are staging a fifth day of protest today to honor persons killed during the mass demonstrations over the past week. Mousavi accuses President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of rigging last week’s election. Hundreds of opposition activists, journalists and intellectuals have been reportedly arrested in recent days, including former Iranian Foreign Minister Ebrahim Yazdi and Tehran’s former mayor Mohammad Tavassali. Earlier today Iran’s most senior legislative body, the Guardian Council, said it will meet the three defeated candidates from Friday’s presidential election to discuss their complaints about the poll.

Iran Accuses U.S. Of Meddling In Its Internal Affairs

The Iranian government is now accusing several foreign nations of interfering in it internal affairs. On Wednesday the Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned the Swiss ambassador, who represents U.S. interests in Tehran, to protest of what it called “meddling” by the United States because of statements by American officials on Iran’s elections.

U.S. State Dept Asks Twitter to Delay Shutdown Due to Iran Protests

The U.S. State Department has admitted it contacted the social networking service Twitter to urge it to delay a planned upgrade that would have cut daytime service to Iranians who are disputing their election. Meanwhile the video website YouTube has said it has relaxed its usual restrictions on violent videos to allow the images from Iran to reach the rest of the world.

Obama Extends Some Benefits To Same Sex Partners of Federal Workers

In Washington, President Obama has signed a memorandum to extend some benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees, but the president did not offer survivor benefits or comprehensive healthcare, drawing sharp criticism from within the gay community.

President Obama: “I’m proud to issue a presidential memorandum that paves the way for long-overdue progress in our nation’s pursuit of equality. Many of our government’s hardworking and dedicated and patriotic public servants have long been denied basic rights that their colleagues enjoy for one simple reason; the people that they love are of the same sex.”

Obama made the policy change by issuing a memorandum not an executive order. This means the policy change will expire when Obama leaves office. Several prominent gay rights activists have criticized the president in recent days for failing to live up to campaign promises. Last week the administration filed a legal brief supporting the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. On Wednesday, however, Obama said he would work to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. Obama has also been criticized for not pushing for an end to the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Holder Refuses to Say Bush’s Warrantless Wiretapping Program Was Illegal

Attorney General Eric Holder testified on Capitol Hill Wednesday and refused to declare President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program to be illegal. Holder was repeatedly questioned by Democratic Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.

Sen. Russ Feingold: Now that you are the attorney general is there any doubt in your mind that the warrantless wiretapping program was illegal?

Eric Holder: Well I think that the warrantless wiretapping program as it existed at that point was certainly unwise in that it was put together without the approval of Congress…

Sen. Feingold: What I asked you Mr. Attorney General was not whether it was unwise but whether you consider it to have been illegal…

Holder: “The policy was an unwise one and that the concerns I expressed then have really been remedied by the fact that Congress has now authorized the program.

Sen. Feingold: But did you think it was illegal?

Holder: Well, I thought as a I said, it was inconsistent with the FISA statute and unwise as a matter of policy.

NSA Database Collects Millions Of Intercepted Emails

The New York Times has revealed that the National Security Agency is operating a secret surveillance database that contains millions of intercepted foreign and domestic e-mails. The NSA’s database – codenamed Pinwale – allows the NSA to search through millions of email messages including correspondence to and from Americans. The Times reports the NSA database even includes some intercepted personal correspondence of former President Bill Clinton.

Obama Proposes New Regulations Of Financial Industry

President Barack Obama laid out his vision for reshaping U.S. financial regulation on Wednesday, aiming to tighten oversight of large firms whose excessive risk-taking triggered the global economic crisis. The proposals have been described as the most sweeping overhaul of the nation’s financial rules since the 1930s.

President Obama: “I am proposing that the Federal Reserve be granted new authority and accountability-for regulating bank holding companies and other large firms that pose a risk to the entire economy in the event of failure. We will also raise the standards to which these kinds of firms are held. If you can pose a great risk, that means you have a great responsibility. We will require these firms to meet stronger capital and liquidity requirements so that they are more resilient and less likely to fail.”

As part of his proposal, President Obama called for the creation of an independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency. Obama also wants to give the Federal Reserve more power to monitor “systemic risk” to the economy posed by the largest financial firms. The Wall Street Journal reports, executive compensation and hedge funds would also face more scrutiny. Bank regulation would be streamlined somewhat. Financial firms would be required to hold more capital.

EPA Declares Public Health Emergency in Libby, Montana

The Environmental Protection Agency has declared a public health emergency in the town of Libby, Montana where hundreds of people have died from asbestos contamination. It is the first time such a declaration has been made by the EPA. For decades, W.R. Grace and Co. mined asbestos-contaminated vermiculite in Libby. Last month executives from W.R. Grace were acquitted on charges of knowingly allowing Libby residents to be exposed to cancer-causing asbestos. The EPA said it will funnel $6 million to provide medical care for people sickened by asbestos from the mine.

U.S. Drone Strike Kills Nine in Pakistan

U.S. forces have carried out another drone strike inside Pakistan killing nine suspected militants. The strike occurred in South Waziristan, the region where the Pakistani military is preparing to launch a major offensive.

Suicide Bombing Kills Somalia’s National Security Minister

Meanwhile in Somalia, the nation’s security minister has been killed in a suicide bombing at a hotel injust north of the capital, Mogadishu. The blast killed at least nine other people. On Wednesday the police chief of Mogadishu was killed in a separate attack.

GOP Aide in Tennessee Distributes Racist Image of Obama

In Tennessee, Republican state Senator Diane Black is refusing to fire a staffer who sent a racist image of President Obama. The staffer, Sherri Goforth, sent out an e-mail with images of all the presidents of the United States. Barack Obama was depicted in the bottom right hand corner only as a pair of bright white eyes on a black background.

GOP Operative in SC Compares First Lady To A Gorilla

Meanwhile in South Carolina, a prominent Republican activist has apologized after making a joke on his Facebook page that an escaped gorilla from a local zoo was an ancestor of First Lady Michelle Obama. Rusty DePass is the former Republican state elections director in South Carolina.

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Local and Michigan Headlines: Senate Republicans Looking to Cut College Assistance; Complaints against GRPD Increase

It has been a slow morning, but here are some interesting articles published elsewhere in the past twenty-four hours:

  • Senate Republicans to Cut Michigan Promise Scholarship, Other College Tuition Aid – Republicans in the Michigan Senate are looking to cut a variety of college tuition scholarships that help low income students attend college. The need-based programs they are looking to cut include the Michigan Promise Scholarship, the Michigan Work Study Program, the Part-Time Independent Student program, and the Michigan Education Opportunity Grants. I highly doubt such a move will do anything to help the state’s economy.
  • Granholm, MEDC Announce Over 11,000 New Jobs For Michigan – The local media–and the progressive blog Blogging for Michigan–is talking up an announcement from Governor Jennifer Granholm that over 11,000 new jobs are coming to the state. Included in that number are 3,100 new jobs in West Michigan.
  • As federal case continues, developers rush to finish elite golf course on public dunes – The Michigan Messenger looks at the continued development a Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course in Benton Harbor. The course was built on the site of a former public park and has been at the center of a controversy between developers and citizens. Now, the company has begun construction while it awaits a federal court ruling on the development. It’s hoping to circumvent a full environmental review of the project. Despite all the controversy, Governor Granholm has praised the project as the kind of development that she hopes to see across Michigan.
  • Grand Rapids area in bottom 20 of Brookings Institution report, but economist sees hope – The Kent, Barry, Ionia, and Newaygo area ranks near the bottom of a Brookings Institution report that measures metropolitan unemployment, production, and housing. However, the Grand Rapids Press talks to a local economist who says that West Michigan actually is getting better.
  • Grand Rapids Police Department sees ‘unheard of’ increase in firearms discharge by officers; citizen complaints also rise – In less than two years, the GRPD has discharged their firearms six times–a substantial increase over previous years. Still, according to the GRPD, this hasn’t meant that there has been widespread injury to officers or suspects. Additionally, complaints are up, but the GRPD attributes that to a new reporting system.

Grand Rapids Press Interviews Rich DeVos, who Generally Proves that he is an Anti-Gay Jerk

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As part of its three days of coverage on Amway and its 50th anniversary, the Grand Rapids Press published an interview today with co-founder Richard DeVos (he co-founded the company with Jay Van Andel. Here at MediaMouse.org, we’ve long been critical of Richard DeVos, looking at his political activism, his “charitable” contributions, and his role in funding the religious right.

In the interview, DeVos basically proved everything that we have been saying all along. His comments are awful–he basically says he is right to be against gay marriage (although he claims to have gay friends, so that must mean it’s OK) and that he can do whatever the heck he wants with his money.

Usually I try to shy away from just quoting extensively from The Grand Rapids Press, but there really isn’t much to be said. DeVos proves himself to be a completely awful human being.

Here’s his thoughts on gay marriage:

Q: You gave $100,000 to the effort to defeat the recognition of gay marriage in Florida. Why did you choose to put money behind that cause?

A: Because I believe in it. That’s just a sacred issue of respecting marriage. It was not an anti-gay thing.

I have been hung in effigy by the gay community for a long time, from when I was on President Reagan’s first AIDS commission.

Q: How does that tie in with the gay marriage issue?

A: From that point on, that’s when they were hanging me in effigy because I wasn’t sympathetic to all of their requests for special treatment. Because at that time it was always somebody else’s fault. And I said, “You are responsible for your actions, too, you know. Conduct yourself properly,” which is a pretty solid Christian principle. You’ve got to take responsibility for your actions. It went from there to a series of requests for special treatment.

I would say, “I understand who you are. I accept who you are. Live your life. I will respect you. But don’t keep asking for favors.” Don’t ask for a concession on the marriage issue, which is not vital to them, in my opinion. They’ve made it a vital issue because they want to.

Q: Is there a solution? A compromise you would support?

A: Call it something else. Call it anything you want to. But marriage is a sacred document, OK? A sacred sacrament in the church and in the world. Don’t mess with it.

Go do something else. I deal with a lot of wonderful gay people. I hire a lot of them. I use a lot of them. I respect them. They’re terrific. I am good friends with them. But you live your life the way you want to live and I’ll live mine and I won’t stick my nose in yours. But don’t keep trying to change things. That’s all.

Q: Do you think it’s a winnable fight, long term?

A: For them? They’ve won a lot of fights. They’re a tough bunch. They keep asking for concessions all their lives. I don’t put anything past their ability to adjust things to their way on some equality basis. That’s all fine until you start dealing with sacred issues.

And on his wealth:

Q: There were a lot of people who thought: “Well, here’s a billionaire and he went over to England and bought a heart.” The average person who is in his 70s would not be able to afford to do that and may not have been able to have that same opportunity.

A: That’s true.

Q: How do you respond to those people? How does that make you feel?

A: I guess my quick reaction, my cute reaction, is: “That’s the benefit of making money, isn’t it? That’s the benefit of being industrious.”

I look at that as the hand of God. What happened in my case, there’s no other explanation for it. There are too many little things that occurred.

I’ve always been greedy. But never to the point where I corrupted the system. The normal desire to make money is always there. But it was never so powerful in the building of the business that it overcame those things.

Unfortunately, this really only touches the surface. DeVos has been a huge benefactor to the religious right and many of its key institutions over the years. He was instrumental in developing the modern conservative infrastructure and has given considerable money to Republican candidates and the party as a whole.

He isn’t simply a guy who “made it” and is spreading his money around–he’s actively pursuing a specific ideological agenda. Sure, he might give some money that benefits some in this community, but even those contributions have ideological underpinnings (for example, contributions to Christian schools).

Local/Michigan Headlines: Charter Schools Not Meeting Expectations; West Michigan School Districts Making Cuts

This is the first installment of a new daily feature on MediaMouse.org that will highlight interesting local and statewide news stories published elsewhere. If we missed anything worth noting, please feel free to post links in the comments section.

Prominent Republican Calls on Voorhees to Resign or be Fired – West Michigan Rising highlights a letter from former Kent County Republican Party/Committee Chairman Bob Eleveld who criticized current Chair Joanne Voorhees for deciding to cancel a planned speech by Utah Governor Jon Huntsman over his support for civil unions.

Thad McCotter Cosponsors Resolution to Declare 2010 the Year of the Bible – Michigan Liberal reports that Congressman Thaddeus McCotter from the eastside of Michigan has signed on as a co-sponsor for legislation that encourages President Obama to declare 2010 “The Year of the Bible.”

West Michigan school districts confront red ink totaling $58 millionThe Grand Rapids Press reports that school districts across West Michigan are being forced to make major cuts. In some cases, the only thing saving them from even worse cuts is money from President Barack Obama’s stimulus bill.

DeVoses find common ground with Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. – After Kent County Republican Party Chair Joanne Voorhees cancelled an appearance by Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Dick and Betsy DeVos stepped in to host an appearance by Huntsman in Grand Rapids. Many wondered why they would do that, given their families history of anti-gay politics (Betsy’s mother Elsa Prince has been a major contributor to bills restricting same-sex marriage). However, the Grand Rapids Press reports that Huntsman has been a major supporter of the DeVoses favor issue–giving parents vouchers to send their students to private schools.

Michigan charter schools fall short – An analysis by the Detroit Free Press has found that while charter schools offer “a wealth of choices for parents” they do not have higher test scores that other schools, nor have they spurred improvements in the state’s public schools. Both are common arguments made by charter school supporters.

Kent County GOP Cancels Utah Governor’s Appearance over his Support for Civil Unions

The Kent County GOP–led by Party Chairman Joanne Voorhees–canceled a planned appearance by Utah Governor Jon Huntsman after learning that he supports civil unions for gay couples.

According to media reports, Voorhees canceled the talk because Huntsman’s views are inconsistent with those of Republicans in Kent County:

“After conducting further research on the Governor and his change in position on issues, we feel it is best to cancel our event,” wrote Vorhees in an email obtained by the Fix. She added that “voters want and expect us to stand on principle and return to our roots . . . unfortunately, by holding an event with Governor Huntsman, we would be doing the exact opposite.”

The Grand Rapids Press said that Voorhees cited the recent anti-tax “Tea Parties” as examples of what the party’s grassroots supports.

Anti-gay activist Gary Glenn praised the decision, saying that “grass-roots conservatives will not embrace liberals who want to abandon the GOP platform’s commitment to traditional family values in favor of promoting homosexual activists’ incremental assault on religious freedom, marriage and the family.”

In an apparent attempt at saving face, The Grand Rapids Press is reporting that Michigan Republican Chairman Ron Weiser has arranged for Governor Huntsman to meet “party faithful” Saturday morning in Grand Rapids despite the cancelation of his planned talk. According to The Press, some in the Republican Party are upset by Joanne Voorhees decision to cancel the talk.

Headlines: Specter Leaves GOP, Joins Democrats; Obama Calls for Ending Disparity in Crack Sentences

Democracy Now Headlines: Specter Leaves GOP, Joins Democrats; Obama Calls for Ending Disparity in Crack Sentences

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

Texas Reports First U.S. Swine Flu Death

The death toll from the global swine flu breakout continues to rise, including the first known fatality in the United States. Earlier today government officials said a twenty-three month old child died in Texas. It was the first swine flu death reported outside Mexico, where seven people have died in confirmed cases and another 159 in suspected cases. On Tuesday, the World Health Organization said a global pandemic is a “very serious possibility” but not inevitable. World Health Organization Assistant Director Keji Fukuda said confirmed infections continue to rise.

Keji Fukuda: “Since yesterday there has continued to be an increase in laboratory confirmed cases of these swine flu influenza infections. So yesterday we reported that there were 73 infections and today we are reporting that there are 79 laboratory confirmed infections as of the information that we had this morning.”

The U.S. has at least 65 confirmed cases, 45 of them in New York. In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state-wide emergency after authorities said they had confirmed thirteen cases.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger: “Today I’m issuing an emergency proclamation to strengthen California’s response and what this basically does is it gives us some extra tools for our health authorities in order to respond very quickly and it also cuts through the red tape so that all state agencies will have to go and assist the Department of Public Health in every way possible.”

President Obama has asked Congress for $1.5 billion dollars in supplemental funding to address the swine flu crisis.

Rejecting “State Secrets” Assertion, Appeals Court Reinstates Torture Suit

A federal appeals court has reinstated a lawsuit accusing a Boeing subsidiary of helping the CIA secretly transport prisoners to torture chambers overseas. On Tuesday, a three- judge panel rejected the Obama administration’s assertion of so-called ‘state secrets’ privilege and said the case can proceed. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed the suit against Jeppesen International Trip Planning on behalf of five former prisoners. Jeppesen is accused of arranging at least seventy flights since 2001 as part of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program. The Obama administration’s opposition to the case carried over from the Bush administration, which had previously won the case’s dismissal. In its new ruling, the federal appeals court says the government’s assertion of secrecy should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. ACLU attorney Ben Wizner said: “Today’s ruling demolishes once and for all the legal fiction, advanced by the Bush administration and continued by the Obama administration, that facts known throughout the world could be deemed ‘secrets’ in a court of law.”

Specter Leaves GOP, Joins Dems

Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania has announced he’s leaving the Republican party to join the Democratic caucus on Capital Hill. The move could have a major effect on the balance of power in Washington. If Minnesota Senate winner Al Franken prevails in his legal battle with former Senator Norm Coleman, he and Specter would give the Democrats sixty seats–enough to overcome a Republican filibuster. On Tuesday, Specter said he is making the switch on ideological grounds.

Sen. Arlen Specter: “As the Republican Party moves farther and farther to the right, I have found myself increasingly at odds with the Republican philosophy and more aligned with the philosophy of the Democratic Party. This is a painful decision. I know that I am disappointing many of my friends and colleagues. Frankly I’ve been disappointed by some of the response so the disappointment runs in both directions.”

By joining the Democrats, Specter will avoid a tough challenge in the Republican primary ahead of the 2010 mid-term elections. Despite switching sides, Specter says he’ll maintain his “independence.” On Tuesday, Specter vowed continued opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act, which would remove obstacles for workers to join unions. Democratic leaders say they will re-tool the measure to gain Specter’s support.

Lawmakers Call for Special Counsel on Torture

In other news from Washington, Democratic Congressmembers Jerrold Nadler of New York and John Conyers of Michigan are calling for the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate and prosecute Bush administration torture. In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, the lawmakers write: “Because the United States is bound by its own laws and by international treaty, we are obligated to investigate and prosecute those who have violated the laws against committing torture.”

KBR Sued for Toxic Air Exposure

The military contractor KBR is being accused of endangering U.S. soldiers and contractors at open-air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a series of lawsuits filed on Tuesday, twenty-one plaintiffs in nine states said KBR failed to properly dispose of toxic waste burned in the open-air pits. The emissions from the burnt waste allegedly caused respiratory illnesses, tumors and cancers.

Student Pleads Not Guilty in Utah Land Case

In Utah, a college student who prevented a mass sell-off of public wilderness has pleaded not guilty to charges of interfering with a public auction. Tim DeChristopher made headlines in December when he disrupted the Bush administration’s last-minute move to auction off oil and gas exploitation rights on vast swaths of federal land in Utah. DeChristopher was arrested after he posed as a bidder and bought 22,000 acres of land in an attempt to save the property from drilling. He faces up to ten years in prison and a $750,000 fine. The trial is set to begin in July. On Tuesday, some 200 supporters rallied for DeChristopher outside his arraignment at the federal courthouse in Salt Lake City.

Obama Calls for Ending Disparity in Crack Sentences

The Obama administration is calling on Congress to eliminate the disparity in drug sentences for dealing crack versus powdered cocaine. Under current law, possession of five grams of crack cocaine triggers the same mandatory minimum sentence as possession of 500 grams of powder cocaine. The law has disproportionately punished African-American drug offenders, who account for more than eighty percent of crack cocaine cases. In prepared testimony for the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer says: “The administration believes Congress’ goal should be to completely eliminate the disparity in prison sentences between crack cocaine and powdered cocaine.” Breuer did not say whether the White House will back reducing or eliminating minimum sentences.

White House Apologizes for Low-Flying Plane

The White House has apologized for a plane flight that scared New York city residents Monday as it flew low over New York harbor along with two F-16 fighter jets. Hundreds of downtown office workers fled their buildings out of fear of an attack similar to 9/11. But the plane turned out to be one used by President Obama that was being photographed in a public relations stunt. On Tuesday, President Obama apologized.

President Obama: “It was a mistake as was stated. It was something we found out about along with all of you. And it will not happen again.”

The plane-ride photo-op cost more than $329,000. Obama says he’s ordered a review to find out how the mission was approved.

Study: 60% of Americans Subjected to Polluted Air

And a new study says sixty percent of Americans live in areas with unhealthy levels of pollution. In a report released today, the American Lung Association says air pollution has reached worrying levels in every major city, effecting some 186 million people.

Levin Joining with Republicans to Stop “Cap-and-Trade” Legislation from being Added to Budget Debate

Carl Levin is Working to Pave the Way for a Possible Filibuster of the a Cap-and-Trade Bill

Michigan Democrat Carl Levin recently joined with seven other Democrats and twenty-five Republicans to prevent President Barack Obama from taking quick action on global warming.

Levin signed onto a letter opposing the use of the upcoming budget debate to pass Obama’s global warming legislation. The Senators argue that “enactment of a cap-and-trade regime is likely to influence nearly every feature of the U.S. economy” and as such it should be voted on alone.

However, voting on the bill by itself will make it more difficult for it to pass the Senate. The bill would need to obtain 60 votes, meaning that it would likely be severely weakened in order to get the required votes to prevent a filibuster. Including it in the budget debate would require only a simple majority. The Obama administration is reportedly looking at adding it to the budget process to ensure that it would be passed.

In 2008, Levin was among ten Senators who sought to make failed global warming legislation more friendly to industry.

West Michigan Legislator Announces New Effort to Increase Penalties for Church Disruption

Dave Agema Has Launched a New Effort to Increase Penalties for Disrupting Church Services; Perhaps Motivated by Anti-Gay Politics

Grand Rapids area Representative Dave Agema has launched a new effort to increase penalties for disrupting a church service in response to a protest last year by a gay activist group that targeted an church in Lansing known for its involvement in anti-gay politics.

According to The Grand Rapids Press online:

In response to a pro-gay group charging into an evangelical church near Lansing and shouting “Jesus was a homo,” and “It’s OK to be gay,” a Grandville lawmaker proposed a bill to hike penalties for disruptions of religious services.

Republican state Rep. Dave Agema’s legislation increases the penalty for disruption of a religious service to a $5,000 fine.

“This disruptive behavior is not appropriate or acceptable anywhere, and not in places of worship,” said Agema in a news release. “Religious freedom is a basic American right and it must be protected by increasing the penalty to deter those who would obstruct and endanger other people’s rights in a church with their excessive demonstration.”

Anti-Gay Motivation?

Reading this, you’ve really got to ask yourself whether it has to do with the act of disrupting the church service itself, or Agema’s own anti-gay politics. In the past, he’s proposed measures that would cut funding for university’s–including West Michigan’s Grand Valley State University (GVSU)–that offer domestic partner benefits.

Why didn’t he pursue this last term, following well-publicized efforts by anti-gay protestors to disrupt funeral services? Granted, that happened before he was elected, but if this was really such a serious issue for him you’d think he would have pursued it.

Furthermore, is this not proposing an unnecessary law–such behavior is already illegal and constitutes a variety of charges? In the past, Agema has been a staunch opponent of “hate crimes” legislation in part because he argues that those crimes are already illegal under existing law.

Ehlers Discloses Portrait Donors

Vern Ehlers Has Partially Disclosed Donors To His Congressional Portrait

Over the weekend, the Grand Rapids Press reported that Representative Vern Ehlers provided them with a list of donors that he had previously refused to disclose. Ehlers is currently raising the funds to pay for a portrait of Ehlers that will be hung in a committee room in the U.S. Capitol.

However, while the Grand Rapids Press praised this “disclosure”, Ehlers has still not fully disclosed the donors. He is still refusing to release the amounts that donors have contributed–saying only that the maximum contribution was $5,000–and has not posted the list on his website, instead providing it only to The Grand Rapids Press, a media outlet that has long supported Ehlers.

According to the Press, the donors include:

  • Verizon
  • Dan and Pam DeVos
  • Richard and Helen DeVos
  • Doug and Maria DeVos
  • Terri Lynn Land
  • Fred and Lena Meijer
  • Norma and Lewis Van Kuiken
  • The Secchia Family Foundation
  • The Frey Foundation
  • Steelcase

Many of these folks are long-time supporters of Vern Ehlers according to OpenSecrets.org. Pam and Dan DeVos have given over $20,000 to Ehlers, Richard and Helen DeVos have given over $19,000, and Norma and Lewis Van Kuiken over $7,000.

Ehlers has said that he should not be criticized, saying “Instead of criticizing me, folks should be saying, ‘He’s doing it the way it should be done, with folks back home raising money for him.”

However, the portrait is being funded by the wealthy, white folks that have traditionally supported him and benefited from the policies that he has supported in Congress.

Cable Debate over Stimulus Bill Dominated by Republicans

ThinkProgress.org has published an analysis of media coverage of the House stimulus package. In the analysis, ThinkProgress found that Republican lawmakers appeared twice as often on the five major cable news networks–CNBC, CNN, Fox Business, Fox News, and MSNBC:

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The analysis builds on a report issued in 2007 by Media Matters called “If It’s Sunday, It’s Still Conservative” that found the Sunday political talk shows overwhelmingly featured Republican guests. At the time, the shows denied that it was proof of bias and said that they were simply reflecting who was in power.

Over the past week, media coverage of the stimulus package has heavily advanced Republican criticisms.