Political MoJo

Shooting Reported at Delta State University

| Mon Sep. 14, 2015 12:02 PM EDT

Update: September 15, 2015, 8:10 a.m.: Authorities say the suspected shooter, Shannon Lamb, was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Update: September 14, 2015, 3:30 p.m.: The victim has been identified as history professor Ethan Schmidt, according to Bolivar County Deputy Coroner Murray Roark.

One person is dead after a shooting at Delta State University in Mississippi, the school confirmed on Monday. The Clarion-Ledger reports the victim is a professor of the school. Approximately 4000 students attend the school in Cleveland, Miss.

As of this time, the shooter remains at large and the school is under lockdown.

This is a breaking news post. We will update with more information as it becomes available.

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California Is About to Fix Democracy

| Mon Sep. 14, 2015 11:59 AM EDT

On Thursday, California's Senate advanced a new reform bill that would automatically register all state residents to vote when they apply or renew their driver licenses.

Residents will also be able to opt out of automatic registration.

The 24-15 vote, which follows the Assembly's approval in June, now awaits the signature of Gov. Jerry Brown, who is expected to adopt the measure. If signed, California will become the second state in the country to have automatic voter registration, after Oregon.

Supporters of the bill say it would dramatically increase voter turnout in the state. Secretary of State Alex Padilla reminded his fellow lawmakers on Thursday that nearly 6.7 million California residents remain unregistered, despite being eligible to do so.

"We ought to do anything and everything possible to ensure that people participate," Padilla said ahead of the vote.

In March, Oregon became the first state to pass an automatic registration law. Soon after that, lawmakers in 17 states proposed similar measures. While speaking to an audience in Texas back in June, Hillary Clinton announced her support for universal automatic registration.

California Republicans voted against the bill, citing warnings of potential voter fraud. However, such claims have been overwhelmingly disproved. Restrictive voting laws, as demonstrated in the last midterm elections, have been found to create significant obstacles that prevent minorities and the poor from voting.

Germany Closes Its Border With Austria, Hoping to Stop the Refugee Flow

| Sun Sep. 13, 2015 1:23 PM EDT
A German policeman accompanies refugees in the Munich central train station on September 13.

Two weeks ago I wrote about what might happen if Germany decided to start policing its borders again in response to the huge numbers of refugees and migrants entering the country. Now we're going to find out.

The German government has announced that the country is closing its border with Austria and also suspending train traffic to and from its southern neighbor, the route by which tens of thousands of refugees have entered Germany in recent days. Those borders have been open for nearly 20 years under the Schengen Agreement, which turned most of the European Union into one large free-travel zone with no internal border checks. Until now, you could go from Berlin to Amsterdam or Paris much like you were going from New York to DC. Along with the euro, the Schengen zone is considered one of the European Union's most important achievements, a powerful symbol of European unity as a well as a major booster of trade and tourism. All of that now hangs in the balance as the refugee crisis strains internal EU politics.

German politicians, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, have been hinting at closing German borders for weeks, hoping to get the European Union moving on a quota system that would send more of the refugees to other countries. Germany is currently taking in the majority of asylum seekers and migrants, while other EU countries are resisting. Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told Berlin's Der Tagesspiegel newspaper that Germany is "reaching the limits of its capabilities" and called for an EU-wide response to the refugee influx. "By the time thousands of people are walking on the Autobahn, it's too late," he said.

Reinstating border checks is sign of how frustrated the German government is with its neighbors—and how divisive the refugee problem is within the European Union. "The migrants have to accept that they cannot simply choose an EU member country," Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said while announcing the new policy.

Germany says the border closure is temporary. But it's the first major EU country to take such a step to deal with an ongoing crisis like this, and many are wondering whether it will prompt other Schengen countries to do the same.


Here's the Most Offensive GOP Response to Obama's New Syrian Refugee Plan

| Thu Sep. 10, 2015 4:08 PM EDT
Rep. Peter King (L), and Syrian children at a makeshift camp for asylum seekers in southern Hungary, on Thursday.

As my colleague Tim McDonnell reported earlier today, the Obama administration has announced that the United States will take in 10,000 Syrian refugees starting October 1, in what the White House described as a "significant scaling up" of the US commitment to the ongoing migrant crisis.

Cue the terrorism-conflating saber-rattling of one Congressman Peter King (R-N.Y.), who issued the following statement this afternoon:

There's evidently much wrong with King's statement, not least of all the fact that the Tsarnaev brothers who bombed Boston spent time growing up in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan, and were part of a family originally from war-torn Chechnya. Not Syria.

It also takes a long time for a Syrian refugee to apply for a coveted spot in the United States—precisely due to the fact that the United States is going to extraordinary lengths to prevent terrorists from slipping in, according to the Washington Post:

The United States has so far lagged far behind several European countries in this regard, largely due to the time-consuming screening procedure to block Islamist militants and criminals from entering the United States under the guise of being legitimate refugees.

As a result, it takes 18 to 24 months for the average Syrian asylum seeker to be investigated and granted refugee status. The process takes so long that the UNHCR takes biometric images of some applicants' irises to ensure that when refugee status is eventually granted, it goes to the same person who applied.

King hasn't been the only politician warning of an increased terror threat if the United States allows more Syrians into the country. But fellow Republican Marco Rubio struck a less incendiary tone this week. "We would be potentially open to the relocation of some of these individuals at some point in time to the United States," he said, according to CNN, but added that, "We'd always be concerned that within the overwhelming number of the people seeking refugee [status], someone with a terrorist background could also sneak in."

According to an investigation by Mother Jones in 2011, Rep. King might possess one of the most hawkish voices in Washington, but his record on terror has raised some eyebrows. King was one of the nation's most outspoken supporters of the Irish Republican Army and a prolific fundraiser for the Irish Northern Aid Committee (NorAid), allegedly the IRA's American fundraising arm. (King's office didn't respond to a request for comment on that article.) You can read Tim Murphy's fascinating report here.

King had previously told the Daily News, "Obviously, we have to take refugees... But we have to be extremely diligent, very careful."

James Bond Gives $50,000 to a Sketchy Bernie Sanders Super-PAC

| Thu Sep. 10, 2015 2:58 PM EDT

James Bond's latest attempt to save the world didn't involve blowing things up or chasing down bad guys. Instead, Daniel Craig, the Englishman who plays Bond, acted with his wallet, making a healthy donation to support his preferred presidential candidate: Bernie Sanders. But in doing so, he may have played into a villain's hands.

Over the summer, Craig donated nearly $50,000 to a super-PAC called Americans Socially United, which claims to support the Vermont senator's dark-horse bid for the Democratic nomination, according to the Center for Public Integrity (CPI). The pro-Sanders super-PAC is run by a self-described lobbyist, Cary Lee Peterson, who "has routinely run afoul of creditors and the law," with two outstanding warrants in the state of Arizona. The group was initially called “Ready for Bernie Sanders 2016” and “Bet on Bernie 2016," both illegal uses of the candidate's name that caused confusion for Sanders supporters who accidentally donated to Peterson's PAC instead of the campaign. Peterson's group has not filed the legally required campaign finance disclosures, CPI reports.

Moreover, Sanders, who supports campaign finance reform, doesn't want super-PACs supporting his campaign and has asked Americans Socially United to stop its efforts on his behalf. His campaign sent Peterson a cease and desist letter in June, which Peterson continues to disregard.

But Peterson contends that he is simply trying to support his favorite candidate. “You don’t need to look back on my past,” Peterson told CPI. “I’m going out there trying to make a difference.”

Thus far, Craig is sticking to his guns, too. "Currently, I have been informed of no evidence to question that my donation has not been used as intended," he told CPI. "Should that situation occur, then clearly, I will review my position.”

Super-PACs, which are largely unregulated by the Federal Election Commission, can get away with a lot. As attorney Paul Ryan explained to CPI, the people running these super-PACs could legally use the money they raise “to buy a yacht and sail off into the sunset.”

Breaking: The US Will Accept 10,000 Syrian Refugees

| Thu Sep. 10, 2015 1:53 PM EDT
A boy sits on a bus on Wednesday after his family arrives in Athens from the Greek island of Lesbos.

After weeks of mounting pressure, the Obama administration has finally agreed to raise the quota of Syrian refugees allowed into the US to 10,000 in the next fiscal year, which begins October 1.

The US has so far played a pretty small role in the ongoing migrant crisis in Europe. Tens of thousands of Iraqis, Afghanis, and Syrians are fleeing war in their home countries in search of a better life elsewhere—prompting dramatic scenes as migrants use any means possible to get to countries across Western Europe.

So far, only about 1,500 Syrians have been allowed into the US—out of roughly four million that have poured out of the country to escape attacks by ISIS and their own government since the start of the civil war. Meanwhile, European countries are accepting many more, as they open their borders to hundreds of thousands of migrants: Germany alone approved 42,680 Syrian asylum applications in 2014, according to the Guardian.

Germany expects to receive 800,000 refugees in total this year, according to CNN.

Today, President Barack Obama opened the door a crack more, announcing the US will be prepared to handle 10,000 Syrian migrants, according to Reuters:

The number reflects a "significant scaling up" of the US commitment to accept refugees from the war-torn country and to provide for their basic needs, White House press secretary Josh Earnest.

That influx of Syrians, in addition to refugees from other parts of the world, would push the total number of refugees taken in by the US to around 100,000, according to the New York Times.

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Sanders Leads Clinton in Iowa in New Poll

| Thu Sep. 10, 2015 12:24 PM EDT
Bernie Sanders in Grinnell, Iowa, last week.

Bernie Sanders is steadily creeping ahead of Hillary Clinton in the early nomination states. The Vermont senator has led Clinton, the presumed front-runner, in the past few polls in New Hampshire, posting a 9-point lead in an NBC/Marist poll from last weekend. Now, a new poll shows Sanders leading Clinton for the first time in Iowa, albeit by a narrow margin.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday finds 41 percent of likely Iowa caucus voters supporting Sanders, with Clinton right behind him at 40 percent—still well within the poll's margin of error of 3.4 percentage points. Quinnipiac's numbers weren't too encouraging for Vice President Joe Biden, who had just 12 percent support in Iowa, a state that doomed his last presidential campaign.

Sanders has invested heavily in the earliest caucus and primary states, banking on a string of early victories to transform him from novelty challenger to legit contender. His campaign currently has 53 field organizers in 15 offices in Iowa. Clinton, in turn, bumped up her number of paid organizers last week from 47 to 78.

Even if Clinton trails in the first two states in the nomination process, she's still crushing Sanders in national polls. RealClearPolitics' average of national polls puts Clinton ahead of Sanders by a whopping 25 percent. Sanders isn't even the second choice of national Democrats, with Biden pulling in 22 percent to Sanders' 20 percent in the most recent nationwide poll, released by Monmouth University earlier this week.

Still, Clinton's struggles in Iowa and New Hampshire must be troubling to the front-runner. No presidential candidate has won either party's overall nomination after losing Iowa and New Hampshire since...Bill Clinton in 1992.

Defiant Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis Could Face More Legal Trouble. This Time for Copyright.

| Wed Sep. 9, 2015 3:34 PM EDT
Mike Huckabee raises Kim Davis's arm in triumph before a jubilant crowd in Kentucky upon her release on Tuesday.

Yesterday, Kim Davis—the now-infamous Rowan County clerk who was held in contempt for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Kentucky—was released from a five-night stint in jail. Escorted by Mike Huckabee, the GOP presidential hopeful who helped throw the rally for her release, an emotional Davis threw her arms in the air, closed her eyes, and basked in the sounds of "Eye of the Tiger," Survivor's 1982 hit about being awesome.

Unfortunately for Davis, the writers of that song don't think Davis is so awesome—and they never agreed to let her or Huckabee broadcast their song at the rally. Survivor's Jim Peterik tweeted his disapproval, saying Davis would be receiving a "cease and desist" letter from his publisher:

CNN reports that Peterik was shocked to hear that his song was played at the rally:

"I was gobsmacked," he said. "We were not asked about this at all. The first time we saw it was on national TV." Peterik's co-writer, Frankie Sullivan, was also upset about the use of "Eye of the Tiger" and posted a message on Facebook to vent. "I would not grant her the rights to use Charmin!" he wrote.

This reaction is not completely uncommon when it comes to musicians and political events. When Donald Trump played Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World" at an event at Trump Tower in June to announce his candidacy, Young's longtime manager Elliot Roberts told Mother Jones that the use of the song was unauthorized. "Mr. Young is a longtime supporter of Bernie Sanders," he said.

Rick Perry Just Lost His South Carolina Campaign Headquarters

| Wed Sep. 9, 2015 3:15 PM EDT

By most accounts, Rick Perry's presidential bid is in trouble. Last month, the campaign announced that it would no longer be able to pay its staff across the country. Now, to make matters worse, it's had to move out of its campaign headquarters in the key primary state of South Carolina.

So what's the reason for the move? Perry state chairman Katon Dawson—who had provided the office space in Columbia—initially told CNN that a realtor had found a "hot new client" for the space. Later on Tuesday, Dawson gave a different account to a local television station in Columbia: The campaign, he said, chose to move its headquarters to another one of Dawson's properties, because of "safety concerns."

Whatever the reason for the move, Perry is struggling in South Carolina. On Saturday, the state's GOP chairman said the campaign was "on life support" in the state and expressed skepticism that Perry would be able to drum up the $40,000 needed to get on the South Carolina primary ballot.

Lawmakers to NFL: Cheerleaders Deserve to Be Treated Like Human Beings

| Wed Sep. 9, 2015 2:53 PM EDT
The Oakland Raiderettes in 2014. In July of this year, California passed a law saying pro cheerleaders should be paid at least minimum wage.

Before the start of a new football season Thursday, policymakers from across the country are urging NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to address an old problem: The mistreatment of the women cheering on the sidelines. Nineteen lawmakers from eight states sent a letter to Goodell on Wednesday urging teams to pay cheerleaders minimum wage.

The letter comes after cheerleaders from five NFL teams—the Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, Cincinnatti Bengals, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers—sued their respective teams last year for sub-minimum-wage pay and degrading working conditions (think "jiggle tests" and fines for bringing the wrong pom-poms). Though the allegations in each lawsuit differed slightly, they centered on a core issue: Cheerleaders are currently classified as independent contractors rather than employees, allowing teams to pay meager wages and constantly threaten to cut members from the squad. The lawsuits led California policymakers to pass a law in July classifying cheerleaders for pro teams as employees.

"We shouldn't have to go state by state to make this happen," says New York Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, who introduced similar legislation to protect cheerleaders earlier this year. "The NFL should make it a league policy."

The letter, signed by policymakers from eight states, urges Goodell to classify cheerleaders as employees. Given the similarities in the five lawsuits, it reads, "there is reason to believe that the issue of misclassification and wage theft is not just prevalent among the teams that have been sued."

Read the full letter below: