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The quickly growing international campaign pressuring JPMorgan Chase to end its massive funding of extreme fossil fuels continued to escalate today as a delegation representing Indigenous and nonindigenous communities from Canada to Ecuador and across the U.S. gathered at Chase's annual shareholder meeting in Plano, Texas. The delegation represents the broad range of people suffering harm from the environmental, Indigenous rights and climate impacts connected to the bank's financing of the most dangerous and polluting forms of fossil fuels.
Among major U.S. banks, JPMorgan Chase is the biggest funder of extreme fossil fuels: tar sands, Arctic oil; ultra-deepwater oil; liquefied natural gas export; and coal mining and power. It is also a major funder of oil drilling in the Amazon rainforest.
An open letter penned by the delegation to shareholders, spotlights JPMorgan Chase in particular because of the unique scale and seriousness of the consequences stemming from its funding choices. "Jamie Dimon opens his most recent shareholder letter by boasting that JPMorgan Chase has 'helped communities large and small.' He omits mention of the other side of the balance sheet - the harm that his bank has done to communities like ours through its fossil fuel financing," reads the delegation in the open letter.
Today's protest comes just one week after a nationwide day of action saw hundreds of people engage in demonstrations at Chase branches in cities across the country, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Minneapolis. In downtown Seattle, 14 arrests were made after demonstrators staged a dramatic action that shut down the streets outside while others occupied Chase's regional headquarters.
A briefing paper released recently by Rainforest Action Network (RAN) reveals that in spite of the urgent climate crisis and a public commitment to the Paris Agreement, JPMorgan Chase is doubling down on some of the most carbon-intensive, financially risky, and environmentally destructive fossil fuel sectors. According to the paper, which highlights data from Banking on Climate Change 2018, Chase is the biggest U.S. backslider, with extreme fossil fuel financing more than $4 billion higher in 2017 than 2016. For coal mining, the bank's financing in 2017 was a startling 21 times higher than the previous year -- this despite the bank's policy to reduce its credit exposure to coal mining companies. And in the Amazon, a report from Amazon Watch shows that the bank invests heavily in companies with licenses to explore and/or drill in the Amazon rainforest on or near the territories of Indigenous nations that oppose oil extraction on their lands.
Delegates attending the AGM include Joye Braun of Indigenous Environmental Network, Tara Houska of Honor the Earth, Cherri Foytlin of Louisiana Rise, Cedar George-Parker of the Indigenous Youth Council, Bryan Parras of Sierra Club and Deyadira Arellano of the Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS), Jessica Lorena Rangel of Eyes of a Dreamer, Paul Corbit Brown of the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation, Yolonda Bluehorse and Frankie Orona of the Society of Native Nations, Manari Ushigua of the Sapara Nation in the Ecuadorian Amazon, Juan Mancias of the Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribe of Texas and Patrick McCully of Rainforest Action Network (RAN), Diana Best of Greenpeace USA and others.
Bios and Statements from delegation members:
Joye Braun (Cheyenne River Sioux), of Indigenous Environmental Network says:
"I'm fighting Chase bank because they fund Keystone XL pipeline and they're the biggest US bank that funds tar sands. And should the Keystone XL pipeline break along the Cheyenne River, it will reach the water intake of my people on my reservation within 33 minutes. We can't afford this. The time is now to stand up against climate change. The time is now to stand up against JPMorgan Chase."
Joye Braun (Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe) with Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN). Joye lives in South Dakota and will be attending & organizing to speak on behalf of communities in the route of the KXL pipeline. Joye was an early representative at Standing Rock and part of the many prayers, actions and meetings that took place.
Tara Houska (Couchiching First Nation), of Honor the Earth says:
"JPMorgan Chase has dramatically increased its backing of tar sands, the dirtiest, most carbon-intensive fuel on the planet. The heart of my people's culture would be obliterated if and when Enbridge's Line 3 tar sands pipeline breaks in Minnesota's vast watersheds and rich wild rice beds -- Chase can play a major role in preventing this from happening by ending its credit relationships with Enbridge and all destructive fossil fuel actors."
Tara Houska (Couchiching First Nation) is an attorney and National Campaigns Director with Honor the Earth, and will be representing the Anishinaabe people and the Great Lakes region from the impending threat of Enbridge's Line 3 tar sands pipeline. Tara was Senator Bernie Sanders Native American Adviser during his Presidential Campaign. Tara was also a strong voice and presence at Standing Rock & has carried on divestment work internationally over the past two years.
Cherri Foytlin of Louisiana Rise says:
"These Big Banks just can't seem to get it right - they say one thing but do another. When they keep pumping money into dirty fossil fuel companies and projects, it makes us all sick. Sick from the pollution, sick from the injustice, sick from an addiction that is killing us and our planet. We are done being a sacrifice zone, and we are done with your corporate lies. The people of Louisiana are gathering now to right your wrong. We will stop Energy Transfer Partners, and end your bad investments, such as the Bayou Bridge Pipeline. We are rising above your lies, your pollution, and your greed."
Cherri Foytlin (Latinx, Black, Indigenous heritage) from Southern Louisiana. Cherri walked over 1,200 miles from Louisiana to Washington DC after the BP oil spill. Cherri has been a national movement leader to end offshore drilling and to stop the Bayou Bridge Pipeline.
Cedar George-Parker (T'sleil Waututh) says:
"The Trans Mountain Kinder Morgan pipeline will kill my land, salmon, and way of life. We will do whatever it takes to stop the pipeline-educationally, politically, and culturally."
Cedar George-Parker is a member of T'sleil Waututh Youth and has followed a family tradition of leadership in his community. He has been active in the Vancouver area and with the Coastal Salish Indigenous First Nations to stop Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline expansion.
Deyadira Arellano of the Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services says:
"JPMorgan Chase prides itself on being a great community partner, but we know that our neighborhoods are affected by their investments in unregulated industries that either pollute or lock-up our families, and sometimes do both!"
Deyadira is a Texas Community Health Worker/Promotora for Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services. Her work as a community organizer includes the intersection of issues such as immigration, public education, environmental justice, healthcare, and workers' rights. Her Mexico/Tejas connection, grounded in family heritage and respect for nature, has given her the understanding to preserve and restore our land, resources, species, and humanity through collective decision-making, public pressure, and civic engagement. Following the effects of Hurricane Harvey in Houston and surrounding areas, Deyadira continues to support mutual-aid efforts and advocates for recovery justice.
Bryan Parras of the Sierra Club says:
"As a top funder of extreme fossil fuel development, JPMorgan Chase is directly contributing to the pollution of our air and water and climate disasters like Hurricane Harvey. It's time for Chase to stop funding fossil fuels, pipelines, and other destructive industries, like private prisons and gun manufacturers, that threaten the health and safety of our communities. It's time to start investing in a future that promotes prosperity for all our relations."
Bryan Parras is a Gulf Coast Organizer with the Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuels campaign. He is also a co-founder of the Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (t.e.j.a.s.) and has been organizing in the Houston area around environmental justice and public health issues for almost 20 years.
Jessica Lorena Rangel is the founder of Eyes of a Dreamer, an organization devoted to uprooting xenophobic stereotypes by telling the stories of immigrants through powerful images and words. She is also one of the five global moderators for the Immigration Subreddit. In her hometown of Pasadena, TX, she played a leading role in local organizing against SB4, a punitive law targeting sanctuary cities. In the wake of the devastating Hurricane Harvey, Jessica has been tirelessly working to get aid to undocumented families. Dismantling discrimination against all immigrants and empowering women of color, she is an emerging voice and leader for immigrant communities in Texas and beyond.
SPANISH: "Comunidades afectadas por las malas decisiones departe de el banco "JPMorgan Chase" son las mismas comunidades que son dejadas atras cuando estos proyectos quedan mal. La comunidad Latina, se solidariza con las demas comunidades afectadas. Nuestra gente, incluyendo las personas indocumentadas, merecen un futuro con cero fosiles en el que seamos tratados bien y podamos vivir sin miedo."
"Communities affected by bad decisions by the bank "JPMorgan Chase" are the same communities that are left behind when these projects go wrong. The Latino community, stands in solidarity with the other affected communities. Our people, including undocumented people, deserve a future with zero fossils in which we are treated well and we can live without fear."
Manari Ushigua of the Sapara Nation in the Ecuadorian Amazon, says:
"Our prophecies foretold that the day would come when foreigners would try to invade our territory and we would have to resist or be wiped out. If Andes Petroleum, whose parent companies are financed by JP Morgan Chase, begins to drill for oil in our territory, it would lead to the destruction of our homes and our ancestral knowledge. We must keep the oil in the ground, and help people learn how to heal Mother Earth. Our fight is not to slow the advancement of the rest of the world. Our fight is to defend life."
Manari Ushigua Santi is a traditional healer and leader-- an akameno (authority) -- of the Sapara Nation in the Ecuadorian Amazon. He is from the community of Llanchamacocha, along the Conambo River in the region's remote roadless rainforest. He was instrumental in achieving recognition for the Sapara as a distinct ethnicity from the Ecuadorian government, and winning recognition from UNESCO for the Sapara as an "Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity". Manari has helped defend his territory from resource extraction for decades. Manari also serves as an Environmental Ambassador for Ecuador's Education Ministry.
Juan Mancias (Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribe of Texas) says:
"When the Carrizo/Comecrudo ancestral lands continue to be desecrated by fossil fuel corporations without due diligence, historical research, and Texas tribal consultation by either recognize or unrecognized Tribal Nations. The lack of respect to these descendants who speak and live their ancestral lifeways is an evil crime toward human beings and adds to the ongoing genocide of the Native Original People of Texas."
Juan Mancias is tribal chair of the Carrizo/Comecrudo Nation of Texas, also known as the Esto'k Gna. Juan works to promote, maintain and preserve the Carrizo/Comecrudo culture, including by defending his people's sacred lands against fossil fuels and other threats.
Paul Corbit Brown of the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation says:
"Any investment is a gamble, and every company or individual has the right to gamble their own resources in the hopes of making a profit. However, no company, no individual has the right to gamble that which does not belong to them. Your money is far from the only asset that is at risk due to your investments in fossil fuels. Also on the table are the health of those living in the communities affected by the industries you support and profit from; the damage and devastation to the resources that WE ALL rely on such as clean water and clean air; and lastly, climate change. We are long past the time for taking climate change seriously. There is no debate among those who are thinking clearly and honestly."
Paul Corbit Brown (European American) is a long time resident of Fayette County, West Virginia. Paul is an avid photographer & educator using his skills to challenge mountaintop removal and coal mining. Paul is active with the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation, an organization dedicated to protecting the Mountains, water and People of West Virginia.
Frankie Orona (Tongva & Chumash) of the Society of Native Nations says:" Enough is "Enough, we must hold JPMorgan Chase accountable for being the largest funder of the destruction, contamination, and genocide of our Mother Earth and to our future generations. We must stand together now and demand change away from fossil fuels. By the time our children stand up for themselves, it might be too late, we need to stand together to wake up the world."
Co-Founder & Executive Director of Society of Native Nations (SNN)
Husband, Father, Entrepreneur and Activist, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Society of Native Nations (SNN). Frankie is Tongva and Chumash from California and Borrado from Texas. He is CEO of his IT company which delivers programming in the IT hardware and software sectors. He is a graduate of the University of La Verne and ITSP. He turned his lifelong passion of serving indigenous communities into the Society of Native Nations. A 501c3 that focuses on Native American rights, social justice, environmental justice and youth education. SNN works to help protect Native American spirituality, culture and traditional values. Frankie continues to work as an entrepreneur, allowing him the time needed to continue helping his community and people to preserve the spirituality and way of life of the indigenous communities of North and South America. His goal is to help create a better future for his children and all future generations. Frankie lives in San Antonio with his wife and children.
Yolonda Bluehorse (Lakota) of the Society of Native Nations says:
"Financial institutions like JPMorgan Chase, do not realize that by supporting big oil corporations, they are also supporting the poisoning of Mother Earth and her most precious resources we human beings need to survive."
Yolonda Bluehorse (Lakota) with Society of Native Nations have both been active in fighting Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) through opposition to the Trans Pecos Pipeline, divestment and at ETP Headquarters in Dallas.
David Hill (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma)
"Let me tell you, our dignity is not for sale.... If someone doesn't speak up, no one will."
David worked as a union electrician; Director / Coordinator of Indian Center in Salt Lake City, Utah; Youth Alcohol and Drug Counselor at the Oklahoma City Indian Center and in Rapid City, South Dakota. He has been an advocate against alcohol and drug use as an activist his whole life and with the American Indian Movement since 1972. He has served with the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee as Director three times and National Advisor to the present time. He has organized national horse rides and demonstrations to bring awareness to the issue of unjust incarceration through violations of the U.S. Constitution against native people. David Hill continues to support events and demonstrations for indigenous rights, treaty rights, and human rights.
Patrick McCully of Rainforest Action Network says:
"It is sadly not surprising that JPMorgan Chase is the biggest Wall Street founder of extreme fossil fuels given that its CEO, Jamie Dimon, shows zero understanding of the climate crisis, and that its longest serving board member, Lee Raymond, is the former CEO of ExxonMobil. Under Raymond, ExxonMobil spread disinformation about climate change, and poured millions of dollars into the worst climate denying organizations. Mr Dimon needs to get an education on climate change, and JPMorgan Chase's shareholders need to replace Mr Raymond with someone from a clean energy background."
Patrick McCully is Climate and Energy Program Director for Rainforest Action Network.
Diana Best of Greenpeace USA says:
"Chase has a pipeline problem. While other banks around the world have recognized that funding extreme fossil fuel projects and the related companies is incompatible with any credible policy on human rights and climate change, Chase has doubled down. Chase continues to fund Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the highly controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline, as well as other companies attempting to build devastating new tar sands pipelines. Chase is dragging its feet as the world is rapidly moving away from fossil fuels, threatening not only Indigenous rights, water, and the climate, but also its own reputation in the process."
Diana Best is a Senior Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace USA and Global Pipeline Finance Lead.
Established in 1990 within the United States, IEN was formed by grassroots Indigenous peoples and individuals to address environmental and economic justice issues (EJ). IEN's activities include building the capacity of Indigenous communities and tribal governments to develop mechanisms to protect our sacred sites, land, water, air, natural resources, health of both our people and all living things, and to build economically sustainable communities.
"This was a righteous case. You should bring it," Mark Pomerantz says to Alvin Bragg. "It's important. And if you made the wrong decision, make a better decision."
"We developed evidence convincing us that Donald Trump had committed serious crimes. As we put the facts together, many of us came to believe that we had enough evidence to convict him, and we could present a solid case in court that would lead to a guilty verdict."
That's what Mark Pomerantz—one of two prosecutors involved with the Manhattan district attorney's probe into the former president who resigned in protest last year—wrote in his new book, People vs. Donald Trump: An Inside Account, set to be published Tuesday by Simon & Schuster.
The Hill, which obtained a copy of the 304-page book, reported Monday on what Pomerantz had to say about Alvin Bragg, Manhattan's current district attorney, succeeding Cy Vance Jr.
"The district attorney agreed and authorized the new prosecution," Pomerantz wrote of Vance. "But then the district attorney's office went through one of its very infrequent regime changes. The new regime decided that Donald Trump should not be prosecuted, and the investigation faltered."
According to The Hill:
Bragg in a statement said he didn't read the book, but he criticized it for jeopardizing the office's ongoing investigation. When reached for comment, his office also provided a copy of confidentiality rules in the employee handbook and a series of statements from prosecutor groups raising concerns.
"After closely reviewing all the evidence from Mr. Pomerantz's investigation, I came to the same conclusion as several senior prosecutors involved in the case, and also those I brought on: more work was needed. Put another way, Mr. Pomerantz's plane wasn't ready for takeoff,” Bragg said in a statement.
"Our skilled and professional legal team continues to follow the facts of this case wherever they may lead, without fear or favor. Mr. Pomerantz decided to quit a year ago and sign a book deal," he added.
The book is not the first time Pomerantz has made his argument that investigators had enough evidence to charge Trump, who is now seeking the GOP's 2024 presidential nomination. Last March, The New York Timesreported on the ex-prosecutor's resignation letter to Bragg the previous month.
"I believe that Donald Trump is guilty of numerous felony violations of the penal law in connection with the preparation and use of his annual statements of financial condition," Pomerantz wrote. "His financial statements were false, and he has a long history of fabricating information relating to his personal finances and lying about his assets to banks, the national media, counterparties, and many others, including the American people."
Pomerantz—who spent a year poring over Trump's financial statements and accounting documents from 2011-20—also outlined the case against the former president Sunday in a "60 Minutes" interview CBS News' Bill Whitaker:
Mark Pomerantz: And what the investigation determined was that the financial statements that were submitted to banks for those years were overstated in each case by literally billions of dollars.
Bill Whitaker: Billions—
Mark Pomerantz: Billions of dollars.
Bill Whitaker: How was his business empire dependent on, or influenced by these false statements?
Mark Pomerantz: The financial statements that he prepared were given to the banks, and had to be given to the banks, in order to get the loans that he got. So he got hundreds of millions of dollars of bank financing in connection with many of his properties.
Bill Whitaker: it sounds like you're saying that his empire is built on lies.
Mark Pomerantz: His empire was built on lies. I am saying that.
Bill Whitaker: He paid off the loans. What's the crime?
Mark Pomerantz: The law is crystal clear that you don't have to prove that a loan wasn't repaid or that a bank lost money. It's still a crime to lie to a bank to get a loan.
Asked what his message to Bragg is now, Pomerantz said: "This was a righteous case. You should bring it. It's important. And if you made the wrong decision, make a better decision."
Similar to his statement to The Hill, Bragg told "60 Minutes" that he believed that further investigation was needed and his office's probe is ongoing.
Trump lashed out at Pomerantz and what he called the CBS "hit job" on his Truth Social platform, saying in part: "Crooked Hillary Clinton's lawyer, radically deranged Mark Pomerantz, led the fake investigation into me and my business at the Manhattan D.A.'s Office and quit because D.A. Bragg, rightfully, wanted to drop the 'weak' and 'fatally flawed' case. Now, Pomerantz got himself a book deal, and is obsessively spreading falsehoods about me. With all of this vicious disinformation being revealed by a 'prosecutor,' how can I ever be treated fairly in New York, or anywhere else? End the Witch Hunts!"
The former president faces a variety of legal issues related to his business, his handling of classified documents, and his attempt to overturn the 2020 election.
The "60 Minutes" interview and The Hill's reporting followed multiple reports about the forthcoming book—including The Daily Beastrevealing Friday that Pomerantz wrote, "To rebut the claim that Trump believed his own 'hype'... we would have to show, and stress, that Donald Trump was not legally insane."
"Was Donald Trump suffering from some sort of mental condition that made it impossible for him to distinguish between fact and fiction?" he added, noting that lawyers advising the district attorney's office "discussed whether Trump had been spewing bullshit for so many years about so many things that he could no longer process the difference between bullshit and reality."
"This case has been an obscene injustice," Amnesty's Hana Young said as the mass trial began. "Peaceful political opposition is not a crime."
As the 90-day trial of 16 pro-democracy figures began Monday in Hong Kong, the global human rights group Amnesty International blasted what it called the "politically motivated" charges against the defendants, while urging authorities to drop the case.
The 16 defendants are part of a group of 47 people including former lawmakers, ex-district councilors, academics, and activists who were arrested in January 2021 and subsequently charged with "conspiracy to commit subversion" in alleged violation of a 2020 national security law. The legislation has been condemned by legal experts and activists as a threat to both human rights and Hong Kong's purported autonomy from Beijing.
The 16 pleaded not guilty Monday; the other 31 previously entered guilty pleas. All of the so-called Hong Kong 47 stand accused of plotting to turn Hong Kong's legislature into a "lethal constitutional weapon" against the Chinese government. In a break with Hong Kong's common law judicial tradition, the case is being tried by a trio of hand-picked prosecutors instead of a jury.
"This case has been an obscene injustice since the unprecedented mass prosecution of the 47 defendants began in March 2021," Amnesty deputy regional director Hana Young said in a statement. "In a trial that lays bare the intrinsically abusive nature of the national security law, some of the defendants face up to life in prison simply for taking part in political party 'primaries.'"
\u201cVIDEO: Hong Kong's largest national security trial opened Monday with 47 pro-democracy figures accused of trying to topple the government.\nThe defendants, who include some of the city's most prominent activists, face up to life in prison if convicted.\u201d— AFP News Agency (@AFP News Agency) 1675687200
The five defendants accused of being "major organizers" of the plot are: Benny Tai, a legal scholar; Au Nok-hin, an ex-legislator; Chiu Ka-yin and Chung Kam-lun, former district council members; and Gordon Ng Ching-hang, an activist.
“They are forced to make the impossible decision between pleading guilty to a nonexistent crime for a potential reduction in sentence, or fighting a losing battle under the unjust national security law," Young added. "Most of the 47 have been detained for two years without trial, due to the extremely stringent bail threshold which in effect creates an assumption against bail in national security cases. Whatever happens in the trial, that injustice alone can never be undone."
With this mass trial, the Hong Kong government is attempting to shut off all meaningful political participation in Hong Kong. But the fact that people came to the court today to protest against these prosecutions, despite the risks, showed that the Hong Kong authorities will never be able to fully crush dissent.
People must be allowed to freely express their opinions in Hong Kong, without the threat of jail. Peaceful political opposition is not a crime.
"The charges against the 47 are based entirely upon claimed hypothetical threats to national security," Young added. "All those still detained in the case should be immediately released and the charges against all dropped."
There was a heavy police presence outside the West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts as the trial got underway Monday. Protesters, including members of the progressive League of Social Democrats, staged small demonstrations outside the building before being dispersed.
\u201cThe League of Social Democrats is the only group protesting outside the court building, as the landmark trial on 47 leading pro-democracy icons kicks off in Hong Kong. Such a demonstration is rarely seen although it's a very small-scale one.\u201d— Phoebe Kong (@Phoebe Kong) 1675658145
"Primary elections are something that happens in every democratic country," one supporter of the defendants toldAgence France-Presse outside the court. "But I don't know why something like this has happened in Hong Kong, that holding primaries is being considered breaking the law."
During both the Trump and Biden administrations, the United States—which Beijing accuses of "interference in Hong Kong affairs" and "anti-China destabilization"—imposed sanctions on a handful of Hong Kong and Chinese officials in connection with the crackdown. Biden also recently extended a program that shields Hong Kong residents from deportation.
"Homophobic and sexist fearmongering should have no place in the consideration of Gigi's qualifications," one coalition wrote to Senate leaders. "It's morally corrupt and antithetical to the high virtue of the chamber."
Digital and LGBTQ+ rights groups are condemning homophobic attacks against U.S. President Joe Biden's Federal Communications Commission nominee Gigi Sohn, whose Senate confirmation has been stalled for over a year largely due to opposition from the powerful telecom industry.
The LGBTQ Victory Institute and 21 other organizations sent a letter Monday to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and the chair and ranking member of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), respectively.
Noting that Biden first nominated Sohn to the FCC in October 2021 and has continued to support her—formally renominating the candidate last month—the groups wrote that "we share the administration's view that Gigi is the right leader for this role given her extensive qualifications, superior leadership qualities, and deep technical background."
"Gigi is the right leader for this role given her extensive qualifications, superior leadership qualities, and deep technical background."
"Gigi is one of the nation's leading public advocates for open, affordable, and democratic communications networks. She demonstrated her dedication to ensuring that every American household has affordable and robust broadband internet for 30 years," they pointed out, while also stressing the necessity of a "fully functioning FCC."
The letter highlights that "Gigi's nomination has recently come under attack, not on the basis of qualifications or substance, but because she is openly LGBTQ+. Her barrier-breaking nomination as the first LGBTQ+ nominee to the FCC is being met with homophobic tropes and attacks, against herself and her family, in an attempt to stall her nomination. That cannot stand."
"Homophobic and sexist fearmongering should have no place in the consideration of Gigi's qualifications. It's morally corrupt and antithetical to the high virtue of the chamber," the letter concludes. "We call upon every member of the Senate to condemn homophobia and sexism and consider Gigi's nomination on its merits. We urge members to confirm Ms. Sohn to the seat she is so qualified for without delay."
The letter followed an opinion piece published Thursday by Fast Company, in which Fight for the Future director Evan Greer and National Digital Inclusion Alliance communications director Yvette Scorse called on both Biden and Senate Democrats to "stand up to homophobic attacks" on Sohn.
\u201cBiden and Democrats must stand up to homophobic attacks on FCC nominee\u2014 a) basic decency & b) or else they\u2019ll basically doom every other LGBTQ+ candidate down the road. COME ON. by \u2066@evan_greer\u2069 https://t.co/CLJbtV4y2B\u201d— Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg (@Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg) 1675698372
The pair explained that Sohn first endured the telecommunication industry's smear campaign—and now, "right-wing news outlets, emboldened by the internet service provider-funded smears, have crossed the line: They've launched a new round of blatantly homophobic attacks on Gigi that recycle QAnon and extreme right tropes conflating LGBTQ identity with deviance and predation."
As Greer and Scorse detailed:
Fox News, The Daily Mail, Breitbart, and other outlets have run nearly identical stories claiming that Gigi has "opposed" efforts to combat sex trafficking. Even these news outlets, who play fast and loose with the truth, have a hard time backing up that headline. Their argument is that Gigi sits on the board of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a highly respected digital rights organization known for fighting to defend free speech and privacy online, and EFF opposes SESTA/FOSTA, legislation passed in 2018 that claimed to address sex trafficking. The rest of the articles go to melt down over the fact that EFF once gave an award to a consensual adult dominatrix for her advocacy work around issues of online free speech and human rights, as if that somehow implicates Gigi in some sort of scandal.
Here's the thing: EFF isn't the only group that opposes SESTA/FOSTA. The legislation has been condemned by almost every major human rights organization in the world including the ACLU, Human Rights Campaign, and the Wikimedia Foundation, because it has actually made it harder for the government to curtail online sex trafficking, while having devastating effects on online free speech and marginalized communities. A report issued by the U.S. government itself indicated that the law has not been useful in aiding prosecutions, and has almost never been used. Insinuating that opposition to SESTA/FOSTA somehow means support for sex trafficking is absurd on its face. Many anti-trafficking organizations also oppose the law, saying it hurts more than it helps. Even the Trump administration's Department of Justice agreed that the law was undermining their efforts to combat trafficking.
But none of that matters, because the FCC has absolutely no jurisdiction in this area whatsoever. Gigi has never taken a position on SESTA/FOSTA or any similar legislation, and EFF opposed SESTA/FOSTA long before Gigi became a board member. None of this is remotely relevant to Gigi's candidacy for a position at the FCC, the agency that oversees phone and cable companies.
The pair added that "we don't expect any better of Fox News pundits who want to block Gigi's appointment. But we are appalled by the complicit silence of the White House and Senate Democrats."
\u201cNotably, the LA Times here also eviscerates the idea that opposing SESTA/FOSTA makes you "pro sex trafficking" and thoroughly explains why SESTA/FOSTA was an utter failure, citing the excellent research of advocates like @MistressBlunt. Just embarrassing for the bigots & trolls.\u201d— Evan Greer is on Mastodon (@Evan Greer is on Mastodon) 1675435865
Their article came a day after Fight for the Future and Demand Progress launched a petition that similarly outlined recent attacks on Sohn, urged Biden and Senate Democrats to stop being "shamefully silent," and warned that "if they don't speak up now and condemn these attacks, this will become a go-to strategy for bigots looking to sink any LGBTQ person's nomination."
In a statement announcing the petition, Demand Progress communications director Maria Langholz said that "we're now closer to the end of President Biden's first term than we are to the beginning. These past two years, Democrats have controlled both the White House and Senate, yet the FCC remains without its fifth and final commissioner. The public is being failed."
Langholz emphasized that "in the absence of action, the FCC will stay deadlocked and the public will suffer the consequences" while "unhinged and discredited attacks on Ms. Sohn will continue to percolate in this vacuum."“These attacks are as baseless as they are dangerous, and underscore more than ever the time is now for Senate leadership to end this delay," she added. "The Senate must reject the cynical and hate-filled politics the public has grown so tired of, and get to the actual work of governing by finally confirming Gigi Sohn to the FCC."