Jon Skolnik

North Dakota governor signs law allowing Ten Commandments to be posted in public schools

North Dakota GOP Gov. Doug Burnum signed a bill on Thursday authorizing public school teachers to post the Ten Commandments in classrooms, protecting teachers from potential lawsuits that might arise from doing so.

According to AP News, the bill, SB 2308, was passed with broad support from both the GOP-majority state Senate and House. Last month, the measure came under scrutiny after an outcry from attorneys and school officials who warned lawmakers of its dubious Constitutionality. In response, the state House later amended the bill to mandate that historical texts must be displayed alongside the Ten Commandments in order to promote its "cultural" and "historical significance."

As Burgum said in a statement, the bill "clarifies the existing authority in state law that allows a school to display a religious object or document of cultural, legal, or historical significance together with similar documents."

"School boards are already required to develop a policy for the proper display of any religious objects or documents," he continued. "This law supports local control and gives school districts full control over whether to display any religious objects or documents."

The bill's blanket immunity provision protects "school districts, schools, school boards and individual school board members, governing boards and individual governing board members, administrators, principals, teachers, and any other school district employed personnel [...] from any liability for damages resulting from a school's decision to display the ten commandments or permit students to recite the pledge of allegiance."

Last month, state Sen. Janne Myrdal, R, one of the bill's sponsors, told her colleagues in a floor speech that the bill hopes to address many of modern society's ills, including "sex trafficking, child sex abuse and crowded jails." It focuses, however, on "a local control" issue," she added, arguing that "no religion is offended by the Ten Commandments."

The bill has nevertheless drawn widespread criticism from lawmakers and lawyers alike. In February, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has been tracking the bill, sharply rebuked the bill in a letter to North Dakota's state legislature: "SB 2308 is not only unconstitutional; it is also unnecessary to advance religious freedom in our public schools," it wrote, "Students' rights to engage in religious exercise and expression are already well-protected under current law."

The ACLU also noted that courts have struck down similar measures in the past, arguing that it cannot "be reconciled with federal precedent in North Dakota." Back in 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court found that the Ten Commandments "are undeniably a sacred text" and "the pre-eminent purpose for posting the Ten Commandments on schoolroom walls is plainly religious in nature."

The bill does not legally require that teachers post the Ten Commandments in classrooms, but rather, protects teachers' decision to do so, likening a similar bill passed in the Arkansas state legislature passed this month, which stipulates that science teachers "may teach creationism as a theory of how the earth came to exist," as Salon reported last week.

According to AP News, proponents of the North Dakota bill speculate that if it is challenged at the federal level, it may see support from the judiciary, which made a marked rightward shift during the Trump administration.

GOP revolts against free speech: Republicans push anti-protest bills across the country

Amid the Republican-led push to crackdown on protestors in the wake of the Georgia Floyd protests, state lawmakers throughout the country are now attempting to lessen penalties for drivers who unintentionally kill protestors blocking roadways.

In Oklahoma, Republican lawmakers approved a bill that grants civil and criminal immunity to motorists who kill or injure protestors "fleeing from a riot." The bill, HB 1674, now headed to the Republican governor's desk, states the following:

"A motor vehicle operator who unintentionally causes injury or death to an individual shall not be criminally or civilly liable for the injury or death, if [...] the injury or death of the individual occurred while the motor vehicle operator was fleeing from a riot [...] under a reasonable belief that fleeing was necessary to protect the motor vehicle operator from serious injury or death."

The bill, just the state's latest in a series of GOP-backed bills taking aim at protestors, according to The Oklahoman.

"Maybe the way to prevent something like this from ever happening again is to make reforms on the broader systemic issue," Oklahoma Rep. Monroe Nichols said in a sharp rebuke of the bill in a floor debate, pointing to the undergirding biases within the criminal justice system. He added that he did not look forward to having to tell his son that Oklahoma "made it so that folks who may advocate for people who look like [his son] can be run over with immunity."

State Republicans have countered that the bill merely attempts to protect drivers in harm's way, as Rep. Kevin McDugle, the Republican who introduced the bill to the Oklahoma House, argued. "This bill simply says, 'please stay to the peaceful protests. Don't block roads. Don't impede on the freedoms of others."

A similar legislative effort is being mounted in Tennessee, where last month state legislatures proposed a bill that would grant immunity to drivers who hit protestors and allow the state to charge protestors blocking roadways with a felony.

The bill, HB 0513, "provides that a person operating a motor vehicle who is exercising due care and unintentionally causes injury or death to another person [...] will be immune from prosecution for the injury or death." Tennessee tried to enact a similar bill in 2017, but the bill died in the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to CNN.

Brandon Tucker, the policy director of the ACLU's Tennessee chapter, called HB 0513 "disturbing."

"This legislation would suppress protest by turning obstruction of traffic into a felony offense, robbing individuals of their right to vote if they are convicted of these new felony charges," he told CNN. "It also offers immunity to drivers who run over protesters in the road and criminalizes speech that causes 'emotional distress' to or 'frightens' another person. This vague and troubling suppression of free speech can easily be abused, leading to the criminalization of protesters' words and beliefs."

"It's the Republican response to the social justice protests a year ago, but nothing to the insurrection we saw in Washington D.C.," NAACP Tennessee legal redress Van Turner echoed. "I shouldn't lose my right to vote because I'm exercising my first amendment right to peacefully assemble in a protest," he added, drawing on the fact that felons are stripped of their right to vote.

Controversial as they might be, anti-protest bills of this nature are nothing new. Although Republican state lawmakers have been emboldened by Democratic President Joe Biden's election to pick fights at the state level, they were similarly activated by Trump's election back in 2016.

As Salon's Sophia Tesfaye noted, "In the week following Donald Trump's stunning presidential victory, Republicans elected to lower-level offices across the nation have pushed forward some radically right-wing legislation, including a total ban on abortions and the sanctioning of protest as 'economic terrorism.'" Washington state Republican Senator Doug Ericksen introduced a bill that would allow state authorities to charge protestors with "economic terrorism" if they participated in illegal demonstrations or coerced private citizens into doing so.

"We are not just going after the people who commit these acts of terrorism," Ericksen explained. "We are going after the people who fund them. Wealthy donors should not feel safe in disrupting middle-class jobs."

Back in 2017, states like North Dakota and Utah saw similar bills seeking to protect drivers against penalties for hitting protestors. Similarly, the Kentucky state Senate passed a bill just this year criminalizing the act of insulting a police officer. This week, a spate of four anti-protest bills were also introduced to the Ohio state legislature, all designed to protect citizens from the "lawlessness" seen during the Georgia Floyd protests. And Florida is on the cusp of passing an anti-protest bill that would similarly criminalize protestors for blocking roadways.

According to the International Center for Not-For-Profit Law, which tracks anti-protest bills around the country, 27 bills have been enacted that restrict the right to peaceful assembly, with 71 bills still pending. Just about every U.S. state legislature has considered a bill of this nature.

Marjorie Taylor Greene forced to abandon America First Caucus after Republican outrage

White pride might not remain as alive and well in the Republican Party as it appeared just one day ago, as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., was forced to walk back plans for a new House caucus meant to promote "uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions" after Greene's fellow Republicans hit her with swift criticism.

On Friday, Greene, along with Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., unveiled a new right-wing caucus called the "American First Caucus," saying the group of legislators intends to "follow in President Trump's footsteps."

According to Greene spokesman Nick Dyer, who blamed "dirty backstabbing swamp creatures'' for leaking the document to Punchbowl News, the first to obtain the caucus' policy platform, the group's final platform is still underway.

"Be on the look out for the release of the America First Caucus platform when it's announced to the public very soon," he said on Friday. The next day, Dyer told CNN Greene "has no plans to launch anything," explaining that "she didn't approve that language."

Taking specific aim at Biden's immigration policies, the caucus had argued only a day before that "societal trust and political unity are threatened when foreign citizens are imported en-masse into a country, particularly without institutional support for assimilation and an expansive welfare state to bail them out should they fail to contribute positively to the country."

It also put forth the notion that immigrants are less educated than they've ever been, a lie which Insider fact-checked with a recent Gallup poll that found "the estimated 44 million immigrants in the United States are better educated than ever, due in part to rising levels of schooling in many of the countries they came from and an influx of high-skilled workers to the U.S. in recent years, especially from Asia."

The caucus' platform additionally touched on President Biden's infrastructure bill, the deliberations around which have devolved into a game of political football. The American First Caucus said it wanted to promote "architectural, engineering and aesthetic value that befits the progeny of European architecture," which is in keeping with Trump's now-revoked executive order banning federal buildings from taking on certain modern styles, as Forbes noted.

The American First Caucus also parroted election conspiracy talking points, claiming that the 2020 election was riddled with systemic fraud. "Across the country federal elections have been undermined by using voting machines that are readily compromised and illegally accessed whereby results appear manipulated, voters are disenfranchised, and faith in our system eroded," it alleges. "Mail-in voting, long recognized as subject to fraud, has become normalized. We will work towards an end to mail-in voting, implementation of national voter ID and substantive investigations into mass voter fraud perpetrated during the 2020 election." However, a cursory investigation made clear that the 2020 election was the least vulnerable to fraud in the entire history of the country.

Republicans were quick to distance themselves from the project and Greene on Friday.

"The hatefulness ... is only surpassed by its ignorance of American history and values," Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO), a major Freedom Caucus member, told Forbes.

Republicans angered after over 100 top corporate leaders meet to push back against GOP war on voting

Over 100 top corporate leaders convened in a "first-of-its-kind" virtual meeting to plan a concerted response to the Republican-backed voting rights restrictions that have swept the nation.

The move comes amid a fissure between the GOP and Corporate America following the latter's denunciation of HB 202, a sweeping anti-voting bill passed by the Georgia state legislature late last month. When the MLB pulled its All-Star game from Atlanta in protest of the newly-minted law, many GOP Senators accused corporate America of falling into the hands of the "radical leftists."

Last month, when 100 major corporations signaled their opposition to HB 202, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., whose PAC received some $475 million from corporate donors last year alone, told Corporate America to "stay out of politics."

"Our private sector must stop taking cues from the Outrage-Industrial Complex," McConnell said. "Americans do not need or want big business to amplify disinformation or react to every manufactured controversy with frantic left-wing signaling. Corporations will invite serious consequences if they become a vehicle for far-left mobs to hijack our country from outside the constitutional order."

During the call, executives from "major airlines, retailers and manufacturers — plus at least one NFL owner" reportedly floated the idea of halting all political contributions to lawmakers that backed any bills designed to suppress the vote, according to Axios. Even more, corporate leaders reportedly discussed discontinuing any investments in states which passed such bills. Among those who attended the meeting were "Arthur Blank, owner of the NFL's Atlanta Falcons; Adam Aron, CEO of AMC Theatres; Mellody Hobson, co-CEO of Ariel Investments; Doug McMillon, CEO of Walmart; Reid Hoffman, CEO of LinkedIn; Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines; Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines; and Chip Bergh, chairman of Levi Strauss Company, according to CBS.

"The gathering was an enthusiastic voluntary statement of defiance against threats of reprisals for exercising their patriotic voices," Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a Yale University management professor who helped organize the meeting, told CBS. "They're showing a disdain for these political attacks. Not only are they fortifying each other, but they see that this spreading of disease of voter restrictions from Georgia to up to possibly 46 other states is based on a false premise and its' anti-democratic."

The meeting, which did not amount to any significant action plan, drew sharp rebukes from various Republicans.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., tweeted on Sunday, "Oligarchy defined: The most powerful corporations in America get together to plan how to control legislation in dozens of states."

"It's kind of scary how major corporations are trying to force policy changes," echoed Fox News contributor Lisa Boothe.

The event comes following reports that corporate America systematically supported many anti-voting bills' state-level sponsors. According to a report by Public Citizen, a government watchdog group, state legislators pushing for voting restrictions have taken in over $50 million in corporate donations over the past several years. AT&T, for instance, gave over $800,000 since 2015 to sponsors of anti-voting measures throughout the country.

"A contribution of $5,000 to a U.S. senator who is raising $30 million is a drop in a bucket. But in some of these state races, a few thousand dollars can buy a lot of ad time," said Mike Tanglis, one of the authors of the report. "If corporate America is going to say that (Trump's) lie is unacceptable on the federal level, what about on the state level?"

Democrats are seeing the largest advantage over Republicans in nearly a decade

Democrats are seeing the largest advantage over Republicans in nearly a decade according to a recent Gallup poll.

The poll, released on Wednesday and conducted via phone from January to March, found that 9 percent more Americans currently affiliate themselves with the Democratic Party than the Republican Party. This means that, throughout the first quarter of 2021, an average of 49 percent of the country identified as a Democrat or someone with Democratic leanings, while just 40 percent identified with the Republican Party or said they lean Republican. The remaining 11 percent were independents who had no clear affiliation.

The 9 percent margin between Democrats and Republicans is the largest that the U.S. has seen since 2012.

According to USA Today, Democrats have typically held a four to six-point advantage over Republicans. This gap, now at 9 percent, may be explained by recent political tumult including the violent storming of the U.S. Capitol, the passage of Biden's coronavirus stimulus package, the expansion of vaccine rollouts under the new administration, and the decline of COVID-related deaths.

The pollster also found a 6 percent increase in independent affiliations, which jumped from 38 percent in late 2020 to 44 percent in the first quarter of 2021. Gallup explained that these findings are "consistent with the historical pattern whereby independent identification typically declines in presidential election years and increases in odd-numbered years."

The decline in Republican identification, Gallup speculated, may account for the recent surge in independent affiliation. According to its report, Republican affiliation saw a 4 percent drop from the fourth quarter of 2020. Republican affiliation is, in fact, at an all-time low since early 2018, and is just a few points above 22 percent, where it sat in 2013.

Although Democratic identification is slightly down since the end of 2018, it has hovered around 30 percent for nearly the last decade.

Gallup suggested that, because of the recent surge in independent identification and decline in GOP identification, the Republican Party may have to broaden its platform to appeal to independent voters in advance of the 2022 midterm elections, which have the potential to destabilize the Democratic Senate majority.

Senior Gallup editor Jeff Jones told USA Today that Biden's future approval ratings will also play a role in party identification. "A lot of it is going to depend on how things go over the course of the year. If things get better with the coronavirus and the economy bounces back and a lot of people expect Biden can keep relatively strong approval ratings, then that will be better for the Democrats," he explained. "But if things start to get worse – unemployment goes up or coronavirus gets worse – then his approval is going to go down. It's going to make things a lot better for the Republican Party for the midterm next year."

Gallup's poll comes amid indications of a mass exodus from the Republican Party. Back in February, Reuters reported that 68,000 Republicans in Florida, Pennsylvania and North Carolina defected in a matter of weeks following the Capitol riot. NPR reported that 4,600 Colorado Republicans recently fled their party as well. In Maricopa County alone, 4,000 Republicans switched parties within one week of the Capitol riot, according to KJZZ.

Kevin Madden, a former Republican operative for Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign, told the New York Times that he changed his party affiliation to independent after watching Trump's first impeachment trial. "It's not a birthright and it's not a religion," he explained. "Political parties should be more like your local condo association. If the condo association starts to act in a way that's inconsistent with your beliefs, you move."

Republicans are falling out of love with all of their favorite corporations

Republicans are in a tizzy over Major League Baseball's decision to pull the 2021 All-Star game from Atlanta in protest of Georgia's new GOP-backed voting crackdown law –– a bill widely seen by Democrats as a legislative maneuver designed to suppress the Black vote, in particular.

On Friday, Donald Trump urged his fans to "boycott" the MLB in response, claiming that the organization has genuflected to "the Radical Left Democrats." He also took aim at "woke" corporations that have been called upon by the left to take a stance against the restrictions. "Baseball is already losing tremendous numbers of fans," Trump wrote in a statement, "and now they leave Atlanta with their All-Star Game because they are afraid of the Radical Left Democrats who do not want voter I.D., which is desperately needed, to have anything to do with our elections."

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, the Republican who signed the bill into law, also joined the chorus of outrage, calling out "cancel culture" –– a phenomenon which Republicans have in the past month have framed as a clear sign of the U.S. losing its way.

"Georgians - and all Americans - should fully understand what the MLB's knee-jerk decision means: cancel culture and woke political activists are coming for every aspect of your life, sports included. If the left doesn't agree with you, facts and the truth do not matter," Kemp said in a statement. "This attack on our state is the direct result of repeated lies from Joe Biden and Stacey Abrams about a bill that expands access to the ballot box and ensures the integrity of our elections. I will not back down."

Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., also condemned the MLB's decision, calling the league "absolutely pathetic."

"The organization has completely caved to the lies of the Left and America's pastime has now become a political tool for the liberal mob," he said in a statement. "Let's be clear - Georgia will be losing potentially hundreds of millions of dollars because Democrats, including the President of the United States, have been spreading lies about Georgia's Election Integrity Act," Carter argued.

Other Republicans pointed out the supposed hypocrisy of the MLB pulling its game from Atlanta while entering a new business arrangement with China, which granted the country the rights to continue streaming its games until 2023. "Dear GOP," tweeted Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. "@MLB caves to pressure & moves draft & #AllStarGame out of Georgia on the same week they announce a deal with a company backed by the genocidal Communist Party of #China Why are we still listening to these woke corporate hypocrites on taxes, regulations & anti-trust?"

Democrats have for the most part unilaterally rebuked the GOP-backed bill voting bill, which Georgia voting right activist Stacey Abrams demurred as "Jim Crow in the 21st century." The bill, she argued, will disenfranchise thousands of black voters, a bloc which in large part helped President Biden get elected.

According to The Washington Post, roughly 200 businesses have signaled opposition to the GOP-backed bill. Such businesses include American Airlines, AT&T, Coca-Cola, Delta, Home Depot, and more. Eight Republicans state House representatives in Georgia have since announced their plans to remove Coca-Cola products from their offices.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said that the MLB's decision was driven by various conversations with players and as well as management. "Over the last week, we have engaged in thoughtful conversations with Clubs, former and current players, the Players Association, and The Players Alliance, among others, to listen to their views," said Manfred in a statement. "I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year's All-Star Game and MLB Draft."

Andrew Cuomo improperly used campaign resources to promote his book about leadership: watchdog

A government watchdog on Thursday filed a complaint alleging that Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., improperly used campaign resources for personal benefit when promoting his book about leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Cuomo for New York, Governor Cuomo's authorized committee, repeatedly promoted sales of the book on social media and in emails sent to supporters," Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) wrote in the complaint filed with the state Board of Elections. "Expenditures for those book promotions appear to have been made exclusively for the personal benefit of Governor Cuomo. Accordingly, an investigation of Cuomo for New York's conversion of campaign funds for personal use is in order."

In its complaint, CREW cited a laundry list of instances in which the governor promoted his book, "American Crisis," via email, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The watchdog argued that mailing lists and social media accounts are a campaign asset. "By repeatedly using those accounts to promote sale of the book," CREW said, "Cuomo for New York used campaign funds for Governor Cuomo's personal benefit."

Cuomo received a "high offer of more than $4 million" for his book deal last year, according to The New York Times. Anonymous sources have alleged in other reports that the deal exceeded $5 million, per The Buffalo News.

CREW's complaint also notes that "by using the time of campaign employees and/or consultants to promote the book, Cuomo for New York used campaign funds for Governor Cuomo's personal benefit." According to The New York Times, several Cuomo aides helped the governor prepare various drafts of his book, whom he relied on "for everything from full-scale edits to minor clerical work."

CREW noted that Cuomo reportedly "sought and received an ethics clearance for the book." In fact, an ethics agency named JCOPE, which has declined to provide details on Cuomo's book deal, gave the governor a green light so long as the book was "unrelated to the governor's duties." According to The Buffalo News, a special counsel reportedly told the agency that Cuomo would write the book on his own time and would not use his own office to support the project.

On July 17, Martin Levine, deputy general counsel at JCOPE wrote that ethics requirements had been met by Cuomo, the book's proposed publisher, Random House, and its imprint, Crown Publishing. "Please note that the governor may not promote the book while performing his official duties," he reiterated, "and any appearances or activities to promote the book must clearly be separate and apart from the governor's official duties."

The Cuomo administration has defended itself by alleging that many employees volunteered their time, which senior adviser Richard Azzopardi told The Times is "permissible and consistent with ethical requirements" of the state. "Every effort was made to ensure that no state resources were used in connection with this project. To the extent an aide printed out a document," he said, "it appears incidental."

About 48,00 hardcover copies of Cuomo's book have been sold, according to NPD BookScan. In early March, Crown Publishing announced that it would discontinue its promotion of "American Crisis," as well as its plans for a paperback edition amid an ongoing probe into the suppression of data tied to deaths that took place at nursing homes amid the pandemic.

'Damning' GAO report exposes failures of Ivanka Trump's signature policy initiative

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has concluded that Ivanka Trump's signature policy initiative suffered from systematic implementation failures. The report, which was released on Wednesday, has been described by media outlets as "damning."

Trump rolled out her Women's Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) initiative as part of the 2018 Women's Entrepreneurship and Economic Empower Act (WEEE Act) in the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), according to Politico.

The program, which supporters saw as a "whole-of-government approach," was designed to bolster women's programs in 10 different government agencies with the specific goal of supporting low-income entrepreneurs. One of the agencies, the U.S. Agency for International Development, was given $265 million per year to subsidize the expansion of micro, small, and medium-sized business enterprises. Half of the funds were earmarked for women.

Trump originally hailed the W-GDP as a sweeping initiative that enabled her father's administration "to rigorously track the execution and the efficacy of the money that we are spending."

However, according to the GAO's 14-month audit of the program, it appears that her claim could not be further from the truth. No process was ever established by USAID to successfully direct money to its intended target groups, the agency said. Furthermore, no system was put in place to monitor the funds, and no clear eligibility requirements were drawn up to regulate which businesses could benefit from the program.

"We identified three key gaps that impair USAID's ability to develop such a process," the report started. "First, USAID has not identified the total funding subject to the targeting requirements. Second, although USAID has programs designed to help the very poor, it is unable to determine the amount of funding that reaches this group. Third, although USAID has MSME activities that benefit women, it has not defined enterprises owned, managed and controlled by women and does not collect data by enterprise size."

According to the GAO, the gaps in knowledge surrounding Trump's initiative leave USAID "unable to determine what percentage of its MSME resources is going to the very poor and enterprises owned, managed and controlled by women."

One Trump administration official told Politico that 2017 was a year plagued by a disorganized potpourri of women's empowerment programs that never had any "clear goal or purpose." White House officials reportedly had little control over USAID, which was charged with carrying out WEEE spending.

However, Trump was said to have held frequent meetings with the officials who ran the program. At one point, she alleged that the W-GDP helped 12.6 million Americans in 2019 alone. Ultimately, the GAO found no clear indication of success. "USAID has not defined and does not collect information necessary to meet its statutory targeting requirements," the report concluded.

For remedy, the report issued six recommendations, which suggest "a definition for enterprises owned, managed and controlled by women" and establishing new ways of assuring that allocated funds are distributed by the program as required. Gloria Steele, the USAID's acting administrator, told The Hill that the agency had accepted all six of the recommendations.

Major GOP donors are worried the Republican war on voting will backfire: report

The GOP's war on voting, while raging on in red states across the country, remains incredibly unpopular — and Republican megadonors are reportedly growing nervous.

Republican operatives are making a strategic pivot in their efforts to combat the For the People Act or H.R. 1, dismissing the notion of a broad messaging campaign to instead exert pressure on Congress to kill the bill, according to a private call obtained by The New Yorker. In the call, a policy adviser to Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and several prominent right-wing advocacy groups expressed distress over the broad public support behind H.R. 1, the Democratic-backed ethics and voting overhaul that proponents claim will enshrine the electoral system in unprecedented transparency and accountability.

According to the New Yorker's Jane Meyer, the participants of the call "conceded that the bill, which would stem the flow of dark money from such political donors as the billionaire oil magnate Charles Koch, was so popular that it wasn't worth trying to mount a public-advocacy campaign to shift opinion."

"Instead," she explained, "a senior Koch operative said that opponents would be better off ignoring the will of American voters and trying to kill the bill in Congress."

On the call, Kyle McKenzie, the research director for Stand Together, a Koch-backed advocacy group, reportedly aired out concerns over the broad-based conservative support for H.R. 1. "There's a large, very large, chunk of conservatives who are supportive of these types of efforts," he warned. According to public opinion testing conducted by Stand Together, he noted, attempting to "engage with the other side" –– or combating the idea that the bill "stops billionaires from buying elections" –– is a losing battle. The only way to defeat it, he concluded, is by GOP obstructionism.

A small but vocal collection of conservative advocacy groups are nevertheless publicly campaigning against donor disclosure –– a provision H.R. 1 would mandate –– on account of potential harassment. For example, members on the call such as Gretchen Reiter, the senior vice-president of communications for Stand Together; Steve Donaldson, a policy adviser to McConnell; and Heather Lauer, the executive director of People United for Privacy, are expressly against donor disclosure for that very reason.

However, as the New Yorker noted, "Advocates for greater transparency in political spending argue that there is no serious evidence of any such harassment."

Many conservative advocacy groups are already holding the Congress's feet to the fire. Groups like Heritage Action, Tea Party Patriots Action, Family Research Council, and Freedom Workers held a rally in West Virginia urging Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., a conservative Democrat, to break ranks and oppose the bill, Meyer noted.

According to Heritage Action press secretary Noah Weinrich, "The filibuster is really the only thing standing in the way of progressive far-left policies like H.R. 1, which is Pelosi's campaign to take over America's elections."

Liz Hempowicz, Director of Public Policy at The Project of Government Oversight, echoed a similar sentiment. "I think the bill will pass the House," she recently told Salon's Igor Derysh. "I think the Senate is a big question mark. It really comes down to whether Democrats are going to get rid of the filibuster."

However, Democrats are not unilaterally sold on nuking the filibuster. Both Sens. Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have expressed an unwillingness to scrap it, rendering the 51-vote majority needed to do so untenable.

Last week, Manchin threw his support behind H.R. 1, but expressed that he still wants bipartisan support. "Pushing through legislation of this magnitude on a partisan basis may garner short-term benefits," he said in a statement, "but will inevitably only exacerbate the distrust that millions of Americans harbor against the U.S. government."

How Republican legislatures across the country are keeping the Trump doctrine alive

GOP state lawmakers across the country are pushing a tidal wave of anti-progressive bills addressing cracking down on voting, protesting, pandemic management, Medicaid expansion, and transgender protections.

In Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a new law on Thursday banning transgender women and girls from competing in school sports teams that correspond with their gender identities. A trio of Iowa GOP lawmakers introduced a bill in the same spirit, but quickly withdrew it from consideration last week. The Iowa bill would have required students to present signed statements from licensed doctors confirming their biological sex before being admitted to any sports team. On Monday, North Carolina hopped on the anti-trans bandwagon, with lawmakers introducing a bill that would apply similar restrictions on transgender students in middle and high school. Mississippi and North Dakota passed similar laws last month.

Activists say that the Republican state-level pushback indicates a "coordinated attack" against the transgender community. Opponents of equality failed to claw back marriage equality and failed in their push for bathroom bills," the Human Rights Campaign said in a statement. "These bills are not addressing any real problem, and they're not being requested by constituents. Rather, this effort is being driven by national far-right organizations attempting to sow fear and hate."

State Republicans have also taken aim at public demonstrations in the wake of the George Floyd protests, which triggered a cascade of vague handwringing from GOP lawmakers about so-called "left-wing violence."

On Thursday, the Florida House opened debate on H.B. 1, a bill that would strengthen penalties against rioters by designating misdemeanors as felonies. "We've proposed the strongest anti rioting, pro-law enforcement reforms in the nation," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said to lawmakers earlier this month. "We will not allow our cities to burn and violence to rule the streets, and we will not leave any doubt in the minds of those who wear the uniform that the state of Florida stands with you."

Opponents of the bill have railed against its overbroad definition of "riot," stressing that it would heighten the potential for police violence by expanding the circumstances in which the use of force is warranted. The Florida bill was preceded by a flurry of similar anti-protests bills introduced in state legislatures immediately after the Capitol riot, according to The Intercept. At the time of the report's publication, at least nine states were considering 14 anti-protest bills.

In Georgia, a bill currently under review increases penalties for anyone that commits a crime during a protest. A Kentucky bill would criminalize insulting a police officer.

Republican state officials have also systematically blocked any expansions to Medicaid.

In Missouri, the House Budget Committee voted along party lines to impede a bill that allowed the state to spend respectively $130 million and $1.6 billion in state and federal funds in order to bolster Medicaid, a move that would allow 230,000 uninsured low-income Missouri residents to get coverage. Although Missouri voters approved the measure on a ballot question last August with a 53% majority, Republicans have argued that the cost of expansion would be too high, even though the Affordable Care Act already covers 90 percent of the cost. Mississippi is pulling a similar stunt, as Salon reported last week. The Magnolia State's governor, Tate Reeves, signaled on Mar. 14 that he would not expand the state's Medicaid program, even though the move would make the state eligible for a 15% federal match in funding. As already noted, since the Affordable Care Act already covers 90% of the cost, the governor is effectively turning down a 105% match, or 5% credit.

Many states are also facing a severe curtailment of voting rights.

On Wednesday, Michigan Republicans filed 39 election reform bills with proposals that would, among other measures, require voters to request absentee ballots, prohibit online absentee voting, and bar clerks from providing prepaid return postage on absentee ballots. State Democrats have demurred the bills as both undemocratic and racist, as they would disproportionately affect low-income people of color.

Earlier this month, the Georgia state legislature passed a similar bill that, as Salon reported, would "limit Sunday voting to a single day, restrict mail ballot drop boxes to early voting locations, require voter ID for mail ballots, set the deadline for voters to request mail ballots to 11 days before the election, and cut the amount of time between general elections and runoffs from nine weeks to four." Former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, D, said the bill likens "post-Reconstruction Jim Crow-era laws." Texas also joined the fold last week by introducing a new wave of voting restrictions that would prohibit drive-thru voting, restrict voting machines at polling centers, slash early voting hours, and more.

Other states around the country are continuing to undermine federal public health guidance as the pandemic wanes. Ohio's state legislature, for example, voted on Wednesday to limit the ability of Gov. Mike DeWine, R, to issue public health orders. DeWine has argued that the move "jeopardizes the safety of every Ohioan" and "restrict local health departments' ability to move quickly to protect the public from the most serious emergencies Ohio could face."


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