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Following the House passage of the For The People Act (HR1), Ria Thompson-Washington Senior Manager, Voting Rights & Democracy at the Center for Popular Democracy issued the following statement:
Following the House passage of the For The People Act (HR1), Ria Thompson-Washington Senior Manager, Voting Rights & Democracy at the Center for Popular Democracy issued the following statement:
We applaud the leadership of House members who passed HR1 today. They took action urgently needed to work toward an inclusive, multi-racial democracy and to push back against white supremacy. They heard the call of so many people, including Center for Popular Democracy affiliates and their members, saying now is the time to make the promise of our democracy real for all of us and to chart the course out of crisis.
HR1 is a crucial step forward for democracy and racial justice, removing structural barriers to participation designed to silence Black and Brown communities. The democracy reforms in this bill work together as a comprehensive package to protect the freedom to vote, to unlock big money's grip on our politics, and to allow for fair and diverse representation. HR1 also sets the stage for restoring the Voting Rights Act (HR4) and establishing DC statehood (HR51).
The intensified attacks on voting rights in states like Arizona and Georgia drive home the importance of these federal protections and changes. We must make sure the politicians who rely on voter suppression to cling to power do not take us backward.
As we work at the state and federal level to expand access to our democracy, we look to the Senate to pass their S1 companion bill and join the House in serving the people who elected them, without letting the undemocratic filibuster stand in the way.
The Center for Popular Democracy works to create equity, opportunity and a dynamic democracy in partnership with high-impact base-building organizations, organizing alliances, and progressive unions. CPD strengthens our collective capacity to envision and win an innovative pro-worker, pro-immigrant, racial and economic justice agenda.(347) 985-2220
"One parent could get my poetry banned from classrooms. And yet one country can't ban assault rifles from massacring them," noted Gorman, who recited her poem, The Hill We Climb, at President Joe Biden's inauguration.
Amanda Gorman, the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate, reacted Tuesday after a South Florida school banned elementary students from reading the poem she recited at President Joe Biden's 2021 inauguration following the complaint of a parent who has repeatedly espoused white supremacist and anti-Jewish views.
"I'm gutted," Gorman said in a statement posted on Twitter. "Because of one parent's complaint, my inaugural poem, The Hill We Climb, has been banned from an elementary school in Miami-Dade County, Florida."
"Book bans aren't new," she continued, "but they have been on the rise—according to the [American Library Association], 40% more books were challenged in 2022 compared to 2021."
"The majority of these censored works are by queer and non-white voices."
Common Dreamsreported last month that laws passed in Republican-controlled states have led to nearly 1,500 book bans nationwide during just the first half of the 2022-23 school year. This followed a record number of book bans last year, according to the American Library Association.
"What's more, often all it takes to remove these works from our libraries and schools is a single objection," Gorman added. "And let's be clear: Most of the forbidden works are by authors who have struggled for generations to get on bookshelves. The majority of these censored works are by queer and nonwhite voices."
\u201cSo they ban my book from young readers, confuse me with @oprah , fail to specify what parts of my poetry they object to, refuse to read any reviews, and offer no alternatives\u2026Unnecessary #bookbans like these are on the rise, and we must fight back \ud83d\udc4a\ud83c\udfff DONATE here:\u2026\u201d— Amanda Gorman (@Amanda Gorman) 1684879662
While Gorman's poem can still be read by sixth, seventh, and eighth-graders at Bob Graham Education Center in Miami Lakes, students in grades K-5 are barred from reading or reciting the widely acclaimed work, which promotes unity, reflection on the past, and hope for the future of the United States.
The restriction was enacted after Daily Salinas, a mother of two students at the school, lodged a complaint challenging five works—Gorman's poem, plus The ABCs of Black History, Cuban Kids, Countries in the News Cuba, and Love to Langston—over what she claimed are references to critical race theory, "indirect hate messages," gender ideology, and indoctrination.
\u201cThe Hill We Climb is making headlines, but please don\u2019t forget there are three other titles - titles clearly written for elementary school readers - that are restricted too.\n\nWe need to get The ABCs of Black History, Love to Langston, & Cuban Kids back on K-5 shelves too!\u201d— Florida Freedom to Read Project (@Florida Freedom to Read Project) 1684953943
"One parent could get my poetry banned from classrooms. And yet one country can't ban assault rifles from massacring them," Gorman noted on Twitter.
In her complaint, Salinas—who erroneously attributed Gorman's poem to "Oprah Winfrey"—objected to pages containing two passages of The Hill We Climb.
\u201cThese are the pages of my inaugural poem that an objecting parent cited as "not educational and have indirectly hate messages". And now because of that one complaint, my poem is now banned for elementary school students at a school in @MiamiDadeCounty.\u201d— Amanda Gorman (@Amanda Gorman) 1684881016
In a Monday interview with the Miami Herald, Salinas insisted she "is not for eliminating or censoring any books," but wants materials to be age-appropriate and for students "to know the truth" about Cuba—a socialist dictatorship with a higher literacy rate than the United States.
The Herald made no mention of Salinas' ties to far-right and white supremacist groups. A Twitter thread posted Tuesday by Miami Against Fascism shows Salinas rallying with the Proud Boys, a neo-fascist group that promotes and perpetrates political violence, and Christopher Monzon, who allegedly assaulted anti-racist counterprotesters at the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
\u201cBut there\u2019s more\u2026 \n\nMiami book banning parent Daily Salinas also attended a Proud Boy organized rally in Hialeah in November 2022 in support of white supremacist Marco Rubio canvasser Christopher Monzon, who falsely claimed he was beaten for political reasons. 5/\u201d— Miami Against Fascism \ud83c\udf34\u2615\ufe0f (@Miami Against Fascism \ud83c\udf34\u2615\ufe0f) 1684867001
Miami Against Fascism also posted video showing Salinas and members of the far-right group Moms for Liberty—a Florida-based pressure group sometimes referred to as "Klanned Karenhood" for its crusade ban books in schools across the United States—interrupting a July 2022 Miami school board meeting.
Salinas also shared social media posts promoting white supremacist and anti-Jewish conspiracy theories, including Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
\u201cSo the parent who got my inaugural poem The Hill We Climb banned for elementary students @BGEC_Bobcats has ties to WHITE SUPREMACIST ORGS. Anyone surprised?@MiamiDadeCounty This is a shame for the children in your school system who deserve to have access to poetry.\u201d— Amanda Gorman (@Amanda Gorman) 1684884414
The Miami Lakes school's restriction of Gorman's poem comes amid relentless attacks by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis—who on Wednesday officially declared his candidacy for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination—and other GOP state officials on educational freedom from kindergarten through the university level.
DeSantis has replaced key state education officials with right-wing allies who toe his "anti-woke" line, and has been accused of stoking a climate of fear in which educators have removed books from classroom libraries to avoid running afoul of bans on titles dealing with race or LGBTQ+ issues.
Notable figures who rushed to defend Gorman include Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, a Democrat, who invited the 25-year-old poet to recite The Hill We Climb before a public audience, and the ACLU, which tweeted: "Schools should be fostering growth and the exchange of ideas—not preventing students from learning and understanding different perspectives."
"These unnecessary book bans join a host of other attempts to silence us," the civil liberties group added. "We must fight back."
\u201cThe poem that Amanda Gorman read at President Biden\u2019s inauguration, entitled \u201cThe Hill We Climb,\u201d has been banned in schools. The poem was a lecture on peace, love, unity, and freedom. This isn\u2019t free speech. Don\u2019t skip this without leaving a heart for her.\u201d— Mohamad Safa (@Mohamad Safa) 1684872214
In her statement Tuesday, Gorman explained that "I wrote The Hill We Climb so that all young people could see themselves in a historical moment."
"Ever since, I've received countless letters and videos from children inspired by The Hill We Climb to write their own poems," she said. "Robbing children of the chance to find their voices in literature is a violation of their right to free thought and free speech."
"What can we do? We must speak out and have our voices heard," Gorman stressed. "That's why my publisher, Penguin Random House, joined PEN America, authors, and community members in a lawsuit in Florida's Escambia County to challenge book restrictions like these."
"Together this is a hill we won't just climb, but a hill we will conquer."
"Together this is a hill we won't just climb, but a hill we will conquer," Gorman asserted.
Gorman was referring to a lawsuit filed last week claiming Escambia County School Board book bans are unconstitutional.
"It's quite apparent what [book bans] are about: It's an effort to erase certain segments of our population, to marginalize particular stories, to prevent kids from seeing themselves in the books they find on the shelf," PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said during an interview on MSNBC last week.
"I think there are many in the Republican Party... that want to send this country into chaos and catastrophe, and think that maybe it will help their election prospects," said CPC Chair Pramila Jayapal.
As debt ceiling negotiations continued at the White House Wednesday afternoon, leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus charged that some Republicans in Congress want to create an economic crisis to help their electoral chances next year.
"I think there are many in the Republican Party, unfortunately, that want to crash the economy, that want to send this country into chaos and catastrophe, and think that maybe it will help their election prospects in 2024 if the country is in chaos—and that is just absolutely cruel, untenable, cannot be rewarded," said CPC Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).
Jayapal's remarks came during a press conference on Capitol Hill, where she was flanked by several other CPC members—including Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), the caucus' deputy chair, who agreed that the GOP is willing to force the nation's first-ever default to tank the economy for a potential advantage in upcoming elections.
\u201cPerfect. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D) just shut down reporters trying to both-sides the fact that Republicans are using the debt ceiling to hold America hostage. \u201cNo, sorry. That is exactly the problem. When the media reports this as not [Republicans\u2019] fault.\u201d\u201d— No Lie with Brian Tyler Cohen (@No Lie with Brian Tyler Cohen) 1684959840
Omar urged journalists to ask why negotiators for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) are not willing to give Democrats anything other than avoiding a default. "That is not negotiation—negotiations are give and take," she said.
"They are not negotiating," Omar added of Republicans. "They are looking to waste time, play games, and make sure we default because they think that somehow that is going to be a political advantage that they will have in the coming elections."
"The reality is, Americans are not going to forget and forgive them if there is a default," she said, arguing that if there is a default, both sides should not be blamed for potential impacts, such as the gross domestic product dropping or unemployment hitting 8%.
Citing a Tuesday night conversation with the White House about debt limit talks, Jayapal said that "the Republicans rejected $3 trillion worth of policies that could have gone toward deficit reduction," and now they want to give the rich more tax breaks.
"They're not negotiating at all," Jayapal added of Republicans. "Unreasonable, extreme, cruel."
\u201cRepublicans say they want to reduce the deficit, but what they don\u2019t want you to know is that Donald Trump\u2019s administration oversaw the third largest deficit increase in American history.\n\nAnd now, instead of raising revenues by taxing the rich, they want you to foot the bill.\u201d— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@Rep. Pramila Jayapal) 1684961829
Omar and Jayapal's warnings came after President Joe Biden made a similar suggestion at the very end of a press conference in Hiroshima, Japan on Sunday, before he headed back to Washington, D.C. to meet with McCarthy about the debt ceiling.
Asked if he would be "blameless" in the event of a default, the president responded that "on the merits, based on what I've offered, I would be blameless. On the politics of it, no one would be blameless. And, by the way... that's one of the things that some are contemplating."
"I actually had—well, I got to be careful here. I think there are some MAGA Republicans in the House who know the damage that it would do to the economy," he added. "And because I am president, and presidents are responsible for everything, Biden would take the blame. And that's the one way to make sure Biden's not reelected."
Biden formally confirmed last month that he is running for reelection. While recent polling suggests his GOP challenger will be former President Donald Trump, Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisfiled paperwork for a White House run on Wednesday.
A Quinnipiac University survey conducted from last Thursday through Monday shows Trump is the top pick for 56% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters, followed by DeSantis with 25%—compared with late March, when 47% of such voters chose Trump and 33% picked DeSantis.
The polling results, released Wednesday, also reveal that 71% of Americans are somewhat concerned (33%) or very concerned (38%) that "President Biden and Congress won't reach a deal on the national debt ceiling, causing the federal government to run out of cash to pay its bills."
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has repeatedly warned McCarthy that the so-called X-date could come as soon as June 1.
"The FEC should investigate and act as appropriate," said one ethics expert.
When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis formally enters the 2024 presidential race on Wednesday, he will have the support of a super PAC that expects to be flush with at least $200 million in cash and ready to spend big.
But a sizable portion of that war chest—around $86 million of it—is facing scrutiny from campaign finance watchdogs given its origins: a Florida political committee named Friends of Ron DeSantis.
In an apparent attempt to evade campaign finance rules barring candidates from using funds raised for a state election to finance a federal campaign, DeSantis' allies reportedly plan to transfer the nearly $90 million from the Florida committee to Never Back Down, a pro-DeSantis super PAC that is free to raise and spend unlimited sums as long as it does not coordinate directly with any candidate.
The ability of Never Back Down to remain entirely independent has been called into doubt given that the organization is led by some of DeSantis' closest friends, including former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt.
Erin Chlopak, senior director for campaign finance at Campaign Legal Center (CLC), told OpenSecrets on Wednesday that "there's no question that it's illegal for a federal candidate to transfer money they raised for a state committee to a federal super PAC."
"Although super PACs are permitted to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, an essential, fundamental legal requirement is that they operate independently," said Chlopak. "That independence is nonexistent when a super PAC receives tens of millions of dollars from a state committee tied to the very candidate it is supporting."
Chlopak argued that the transfer of funds from Friends of Ron DeSantis to Never Back Down "would enable the candidate to completely circumvent the rules Congress enacted to prevent corruption and ensure our federal election campaigns are transparent."
CLC has said it will file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC)—which is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats—if the money transfer takes place as expected.
Noah Bookbinder, president of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), wrote on Twitter earlier this month that "the moves that Ron DeSantis appears poised to make—transferring funds from his state political committee to a federal super PAC—would likely violate campaign finance laws.
"If he does take this step," Bookbinder wrote, "the FEC should investigate and act as appropriate."
\u201cThe moves that Ron DeSantis appears poised to make--transferring funds from his state political committee to a federal super PAC--would likely violate campaign finance laws. If he does take this step, the FEC should investigate and act as appropriate.\nhttps://t.co/AFXaO7ORr0\u201d— Noah Bookbinder (@Noah Bookbinder) 1683898201
DeSantis, who has spent the past few months flying around the U.S. in private jets on the dime of secret donors, insists he is no longer associated with Friends of Ron DeSantis.
Earlier this month, as he prepared to officially launch his presidential campaign, the Republican governor submitted a notice to the state of Florida indicating that he is "no longer associated with the political committee."
But observers were quick to voice skepticism.
"The idea that Ron DeSantis is no longer controlling or associated with 'Friends of Ron DeSantis' is absurd," journalist Judd Legum recently wrote in his newsletter Popular Information. "And the notion that the money held by Friends of Ron DeSantis will decide to transfer its funds to Never Back Down independent of DeSantis is not credible."
Politicoreported that after DeSantis filed his notice with the state, the website of Friends of Ron DeSantis was "changed to say that the committee is associated with state Sen. Blaise Ingoglia and not DeSantis."
"The committee... also filed paperwork that said Ingoglia replaced a Tampa accountant as the official chair of the organization," Politico added. "Ingoglia is a Republican ally of DeSantis who sponsored several of the governor's key legislative priorities during the recently concluded legislative session."
"The failure to enforce the law has carved a clear path for others to follow, and it seems like DeSantis knows it."
Saurav Ghosh, CLC's director of federal campaign finance reform, noted in response to the Politicostory that "it has been illegal for over 20 years to use 'soft money'—including money raised by a state PAC under state law—to run for federal office." (Soft money is defined as funds raised outside the constraints of federal campaign finance law.)
"Unfortunately, the FEC has failed to hold candidates accountable for doing exactly what the law prohibits: moving soft money in state committees to federal super PACs backing their candidacy," Ghosh wrote on Twitter. "We filed complaints against [Republican Reps.] Byron Donalds and Debbie Lesko, but the FEC did nothing."
"The failure to enforce the law has carved a clear path for others to follow, and it seems like DeSantis knows it," Ghosh added. "He's distancing himself from 'Friends of Ron DeSantis' the same way Byron Donalds did before transferring soft money to an allied super PAC. If DeSantis does break the law, he won't be alone."
DeSantis' main opponent for the Republican nomination will be former President Donald Trump, who is widely viewed as the GOP frontrunner.
A day before Trump formally launched his 2024 bid late last year, CLC filed a complaint with the FEC alleging that the former president illegally transferred $20 million from his leadership PAC Save America to the pro-Trump super PAC Make America Great Again, Inc.
Last week, CLC and the advocacy group NRDC Action Votes filed a supplemental complaint alleging that Trump and Save America "unlawfully transferred an additional $40 million to MAGA, Inc. on November 3, 2022, raising the total amount in violation to $60 million."
"When federal candidates themselves sidestep laws designed to reduce political corruption and provide transparency about who is spending on elections, they undermine our election system and damage voter trust," CLC's Chlopak said in a statement. "That 'soft money' injection into a federal election was a violation of federal law, and he must be held accountable."