Category Archives: Elected Officials

Republicans Brazenly Gut Voting Rights in Lame Duck Before They Lose Power

Source: Ari Berman, Mother Jones, December 3, 2018

Four states are taking unprecedented steps to strip power from Democrats and make it harder to vote.

Related:
Case Studies in Voter Suppression: Profiling Voter Suppressors
Source: Danielle Root and Aadam Barclay, Center for American Progress Action Fund, November 26, 2018

Wisconsin, Conquered

Source: Luke Savage, Jacobin, November 26, 2018

Republicans could not have conquered the labor stronghold of Wisconsin without the complacency of the Democratic Party.

A review of The Fall of Wisconsin: The Conservative Conquest of a Progressive Bastion and the Future of American Politics by Dan Kaufman (W.W. Norton, 2018).

….Its significance as a target of Republican belligerence should therefore not be understated. Indeed, as Kaufman shows, the state became a key battleground during the Tea Party ascendancy and a veritable laboratory for the power of big donors and unrestricted dark money following the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision. Using their astroturfed American For Prosperity advocacy fund, Charles and David Koch spent tens of millions on the 2010 elections — the latter making a personal donation of $1 million to the Republican Governors Association. Even more money was poured into subsequent elections, with Walker out-fundraising his Democratic opponent in the 2012 recall contest by a whopping $30 million to $4 million.

Another institutional antagonist is the American Legislative Executive Council (ALEC), a nonprofit charity whose donors include Exxon, Koch Industries, and major pharmaceutical interests. An example of lobbying at its most efficiently dystopian, ALEC assembles conservative ideologues, lawmakers, and corporate interests with the goal of crafting model legislation, targeting unions, environmental laws, public schools, and voting rights, to be imposed on jurisdictions throughout the country. Versions of several laws, including a right-to-work bill with virtually identical language, were successfully implemented during Walker’s control of the statehouse.

Wisconsin’s story is therefore an alarming illustration of the Republican Party’s long-term strategy at work and what its vast political and financial infrastructure is ultimately capable of even in the face of strong opposition. Its goal, as Kaufman’s book makes clear, is not just the passage of specific pieces of conservative legislation and laws that favor corporate interests, but the destruction of all obstacles to permanent Republican control of the legislative process and the reconfiguring of politics with the aim of consolidating those interests in perpetuity…..

Membership of the 115th Congress: A Profile

Source: Jennifer E. Manning, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report, R44762, October 1, 2018

This report presents a profile of the membership of the 115th Congress (2017-2018) as of October 1, 2018. Statistical information is included on selected characteristics of Members, including data on party affiliation, average age, occupation, education, length of congressional service, religious affiliation, gender, ethnicity, foreign births, and military service. In the House of Representatives, there are 237 Republicans (including 1 Delegate and the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico), 197 Democrats (including 4 Delegates), and 7 vacant seats. The Senate has 51 Republicans, 47 Democrats, and 2 Independents, who both caucus with the Democrats. The average age of Members of the House at the beginning of the 115th Congress was 57.8 years; of Senators, 61.8 years, among the oldest in U.S. history. The overwhelming majority of Members of Congress have a college education. The dominant professions of Members are public service/politics, business, and law. Most Members identify as Christians, and Protestants collectively constitute the majority religious affiliation. Roman Catholics account for the largest single religious denomination, and numerous other affiliations are represented, including Jewish, Mormon, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Greek Orthodox, Pentecostal Christian, Unitarian Universalist, and Christian Science. The average length of service for Representatives at the beginning of the 115th Congress was 9.4 years (4.7 House terms); for Senators, 10.1 years (1.7 Senate terms).

Tracking Trump’s Conflicts of Interest – Details and news coverage of the Trump Family’s business and financial dealings

Source: Sunlight Foundation, 2018

This database is part of the Sunlight Foundation’s ongoing “Tracking Trump’s Conflicts of Interest” project, funded by the Lodestar Foundation. As we continue to learn about the First Family’s business holdings, this database will be updated. Learn more about the project or our methodology and download the data. Get involved and help with the updates by contacting us here.

2017-2018 Official Congressional Directory, 115th Congress, Convened January 3, 2017

Source: U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO), S. Pub. 115-7, 2018

From the press release:
The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) makes available the authentic, digital version of the official directory of the 115th Congress.

Mandated by Title 44 of the U.S. Code, the Congressional Directory is prepared by GPO under the direction of the Joint Committee on Printing (JCP). More than just a guide to Members, committees, and officials of the 115th Congress, the Congressional Directory is the only document issued by Congress that shows the overall organization of the two chambers and their committees, offices, and support organizations.

The Directory includes historical statistics, information on the Capitol buildings and grounds, and a guide to the other agencies of the Legislative Branch. In addition, the Congressional Directory provides information on the departments and agencies of the Executive Branch, the U.S. Courts, international organizations, foreign diplomatic offices in the United States, and members of the congressional press, radio, and television galleries…..

Labor Unions and Unequal Representation

Source: Daniel Stegmueller – Duke University – Department of Political Science, Michael Becher- Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, Konstantin Käppner – University of Konstanz, Date Written: July 23, 2018

From the abstract:
Recent research has documented that lawmakers are more responsive to the views of the affluent than to the less well-off. This raises the important question of whether there are institutions that can limit unequal representation. We argue that labor unions play this role and we provide evidence from the contemporary U.S. House of Representatives. Our extensive dataset combines a novel measure of district-level union strength, drawn from 350,000 administrative records, with income-specific measures of constituency preferences based on 223,000 survey respondents matched to 27 roll-call votes. Exploiting within-district variation in preference polarization, within-state variation in union strength and rich data on confounds, our analysis rules out a host of alternative explanations. In contrast to the view that unions have become too weak or fragmented to matter, they significantly dampen unequal responsiveness: a standard deviation increase in union membership increases legislative responsiveness towards the poor by about 9 percentage points.

Today’s GOP leaders have little in common with those who resisted Nixon

Source: Michael Koncewicz, The Conversation, August 23, 2018

Republican leaders in 2018 are profoundly different than the ones who dealt with Watergate in the 1970s.

During Watergate, a significant number of GOP members of Congress and the Nixon administration publicly resisted President Richard Nixon’s efforts to undermine the rule of law.

Today’s GOP leaders, with few exceptions, meekly follow President Trump.

Republicans in Congress, and even GOP candidates for Congress, have been loathe to criticize the president. Their submissiveness has significant implications. In my view, some Republicans today are, with the support of the president, openly impeding an ongoing investigation that may or many not implicate Trump.

Recent attacks from Republicans on Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election has made that much clear.

That’s in contrast to how some prominent members of the GOP acted during the Watergate crisis that led to President Nixon’s resignation.

Research in my forthcoming book “They Said No to Nixon” reveals that Republican civil servants serving in President Nixon’s administration blocked his attempts to politicize their work.

Their stories, when contrasted with the actions of Republicans today, show how the GOP has transformed from a party that included moderate civil servants to one that embraces a culture of loyalty now….

Bias in Perceptions of Public Opinion among Political Elites

Source: David E. Broockman, Christopher Skovron, American Political Science Review, Volume 112, Issue 3, August 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The conservative asymmetry of elite polarization represents a significant puzzle. We argue that politicians can maintain systematic misperceptions of constituency opinion that may contribute to breakdowns in dyadic representation. We demonstrate this argument with original surveys of 3,765 politicians’ perceptions of constituency opinion on nine issues. In 2012 and 2014, state legislative politicians from both parties dramatically overestimated their constituents’ support for conservative policies on these issues, a pattern consistent across methods, districts, and states. Republicans drive much of this overestimation. Exploiting responses from politicians in the same district, we confirm these partisan differences within individual districts. Further evidence suggests that this overestimation may arise due to biases in who contacts politicians, as in recent years Republican citizens have been especially likely to contact legislators, especially fellow Republicans. Our findings suggest that a novel force can operate in elections and in legislatures: Politicians can systematically misperceive what their constituents want.