McCaskill Says Stupak “Goes to Far”

Jodi Jacobson

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) said Monday she wouldn't be able to accept "the Nelson language," intended to incorporate the Stupak amendment into the Senate bill.

According to the Associated Press, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) said Monday she wouldn’t be able to accept "the Nelson language," a reference to the amendment Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) has said he will introduce to in an effort to incorporate the House health reform bill language on abortion and insurance into the Senate bill.

"Let’s be clear, the bill as it stands does continue the current
law" banning the use of federal money for abortions in most
circumstances, she said in an appearance on CBS’s "The Early Show."

"What this amendment does, is it goes further," McCaskill said. "You
can’t use private money in the private market … and frankly I think
that goes too far."

Senator McCaskill had earlier suggested the Senate could "live with" the Stupak language, a statement that deeply dismayed pro-choice advocates throughout the country.

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Analysis Politics

Koch Brothers Move to Influence Congressional and State Races

Ally Boguhn

The Kochs are poised to play a momentous role in financing hundreds of candidates across the country and launching attacks on those who oppose their goals. Given their network’s penchant for funding anti-choice politicians and causes, that's something that should deeply concern reproductive rights advocates.

Over the weekend, Charles and David Koch’s network of ultra-wealthy donors and the politicians they fund convened in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to strategize about how to push their message across the countrya meeting that should signal cause for alarm for those concerned with big money in politics.

At the event, Charles Koch, joined by at least 300 donors who had each committed at least $100,000 annually to the network, reportedly outlined plans to get those with similar political ideologies elected to office and to “cultivat[e] conservative leaders at the state level,” according to the Washington Post.

During the 2012 election cycle, the Kochs’ network raised an estimated $407 million to influence races. As the Post‘s Matea Gold noted in a 2014 report, that level of funding gave the Kochs and their supporters expansive and almost unparalleled room to try to exert political influence.

As Adele Stan reported for Rewire in 2013, such influence extended in part to anti-choice groups, who received millions from Koch-connected organizations during the 2010 midterm and 2012 presidential election cycles. In addition, Koch-linked organizations gave tens of millions of dollars to candidates who were almost entirely opposed to abortion rights.

“The resources and the breadth of the organization make it singular in American politics: an operation conducted outside the campaign finance system, employing an array of groups aimed at stopping what its financiers view as government overreach,” explained Gold in another article. “Members of the coalition target different constituencies but together have mounted attacks on the new health-care law, federal spending and environmental regulations.”

In 2015 the Kochs revealed during their annual winter donor retreat that their network planned to spend up to $900 million on the 2016 election cycle, according to the New York Times—a number so high that it “would put [the network] on track to spend nearly as much as the campaigns of each party’s presidential nominee.” Conservative news outlet National Review, however, reported in May that the billionaires had intended to scale back the scope of their electoral funding, instead “steering their money and focus away from elections and toward a slew of the more intellectual, policy-oriented projects on which they have historically lavished their fortune.”

Still, the Kochs are poised to play a momentous role in financing hundreds of candidates across the country and launching attacks on those who oppose their goals. The extent of their contributions is carefully concealed by the web through which they funnel money—consisting of political action committees, issue-advocacy groups, nonprofit organizations, and the like—but what has been reported thus far offers a small glimpse into their political influence.

Though the allocated total spending was downgraded, the Koch network is nevertheless on track to spend almost $750 million this election cycle, with about $250 million going to politics and the Koch groups that work on policy issues, including Americans for Prosperity and the Freedom Partners Action Fund.

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“The [Koch] network is and will continue to be fully engaged in 2016’s political and policy battles. We want to maximize the number of freedom-oriented Senators,” James Davis, a spokesman for the Koch network, told the Hill in June amid news that the network was moving to spend $30 million on ad buys. “We see that on a number of issues, particularly free speech, the current majority is far preferable to the alternative.”

According to the Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSecrets.org, which provides a comprehensive record of federal campaign contributions, the dark money group Americans for Prosperity—a 501(c)(4) that focuses on “citizen advocacy”—has spent at least $2,422,436 thus far on federal elections this cycle, investing in key Senate races in Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Most of that money, more than $1.9 million, has been spent in Ohio to oppose the state’s former Democratic governor, Ted Strickland, in his race against incumbent Sen. Rob Portman (R). The two politicians have been locked in a tight battle for a critical seat that could help determine which party takes control of the Senate. The Koch-backed group launched a seven-figure ad buy last August focusing on Strickland’s tax policies as governor of Ohio.

Freedom Partners Action Fund, a super PAC founded by the Kochs in 2014 to which they have directly given $6 million so far this cycle, has invested even more into opposing Strickland, spending more than $9.4 million in independent expenditures, according to the Sunlight Foundation’s Influence Explorer. As was the case with Americans for Prosperity’s spending, much of that funding went directly to gigantic television and digital ad buys, again hitting Strickland’s tax policies.

In Wisconsin, Americans for Prosperity has spent $66,560 in opposition to Democratic Senate candidate Russ Feingold in his race against incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson. Freedom Partners Action Fund’s spending in that same race, meanwhile, totals $2,102,645 in independent expenditures to oppose Feingold. The latter group also spent another $5,500 in support of Johnson.

However, just after Johnson spoke at the Republican National Convention in late July, Freedom Partners Action Fund pulled the $2.2 million worth of airtime they had reserved for the candidate. The ads were slated to begin airing on August 3.

James Davis, speaking on behalf of the organization, claimed the decision did not mean the group was no longer backing Johnson. “We are realigning our television advertising strategy to ensure maximum impact across key Senate races,” Davis told the Huffington Post. “We will continue direct citizen outreach through our grassroots activists, volunteer phone calls, digital media and direct mail. Last weekend alone Network grassroots organizations made almost half a million contact attempts to targeted audiences.”

Americans for Prosperity has thus far spent $63,233 in Pennsylvania’s key Senate race opposing Democratic candidate Katie McGinty, who is running against incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey (R), while Freedom Partners has spent $3,518,492 in independent expenditures doing the same.

And in Nevada, Americans for Prosperity has spent $16,074 opposing Democratic candidate Catherine Cortez Masto, who is running against Republican Rep. Joe Heck for the seat being vacated by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D). Freedom Partners Action Fund has thus far spent $3,899,545 there opposing Cortez Masto. The group used much of that money pushing ads which were deemed by fact-checkers to be “mostly false,” alleging that as attorney general of the state, Cortez Masto had killed jobs by “driving” Uber out of Nevada. In truth, said Politifact, Uber only left temporarily and the ad “takes things out of context.”


Though the Kochs have seemingly failed to put much effort into House races thus far through Americans for Prosperity and the Freedom Partners Action Fund, there have been a few notable exceptions.

In early July, Americans for Prosperity geared up to launch a campaign aimed at aiding the re-election of Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), according to the Washington Post. The organization is reportedly not investing in paid media for the race, but it will be sending hundreds of staffers out to spread its message door to door. The Post reported that the 501(c)(4)’s goal in Colorado is to “help preserve the Republican majority by targeting districts where [Americans for Prosperity] already has staff and resources and can most efficiently affect voting outcomes, according to the group.” The group expects to spend six figures in the Colorado race.

Americans for Prosperity has already spent $62,384 thus far opposing the Democratic candidate for the House, state Sen. Morgan Carroll, in her race against Coffman.

The nonpartisan Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report, which analyzes U.S. House, Senate, and gubernatorial campaigns, rates the Colorado 6th Congressional District as a toss-up, though it leans Republican.

Earlier in the year, Americans for Prosperity also spent $190,973 to defeat Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) in her failed bid for re-election. Ellmers lost her primary race for North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District in early June to her Republican colleague Rep. George Holding after redistricting in the state led the two to run against each other. Her defeat came amid targeting from anti-choice groups looking to unseat the representative despite her opposition to abortion, for reportedly speaking out against language in the House of Representatives’ 2015 20-week abortion ban that would have required rape victims to formally report their assault to police in order to be exempted from the law.

Koch Industries Inc. Political Action Committee (KOCHPAC), the political action committee for Koch companies, has invested almost all of its $1,209,900 in contributions to House Republican candidates. In total, the PAC has given $1,050,900 to 165 Republicans running for House seats and $8,500 to Democrats. The group has also given a total of $181,500 to 23 different Republicans running for the Senate, including Sen. Kelly Ayotte (NH), Sen. Marco Rubio (FL), Sen. Rand Paul (KY), Sen. Roy Blunt (MO), and Sen. Mike Lee (UT).

What was outlined above is probably just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to other Koch-connected groups not listed here, there are likely also other forms of spending by the groups discussed that has gone undisclosed.

Take, for example, some of the Kochs’ state-level work. As the Brennan Center for Justice explained in a recent report on money in politics, “it is at the state and local levels that secret spending is arguably at its most damaging,” and that is where the Kochs are now shifting some of their attention.

Though “dark money” 501(c)(4) groups, including Americans for Prosperity, are not required to disclose all of their spending, media reports indicate that the organization’s affiliates are investing in local races. According to the Brennan Center’s analysis of six states with available spending data, “on average, only 29 percent of outside spending was fully transparent in 2014 in the states we examined, sharply down from 76 percent in 2006.”  Yet, the report notes, “dark money surged in these states by 38 times on average between 2006 and 2014.”

Exact numbers may be elusive, but there is no doubt the Kochs will have major influence on the 2016 election cycle. According to Rewire‘s analysis, spending from just three of the key Koch groupsFreedom Partners Action Fund, Americans for Prosperity, and KOCHPAChas already occurred in congressional races in 43 states across the country. Given the network’s penchant for funding anti-choice politicians and causes, that’s something that should deeply concern reproductive rights advocates.

News Violence

Survey Shows Prevalence of Campus Sexual Assault

Teddy Wilson

Data shows that average rates of non-consensual sexual contact by physical force or incapacitation reported by all the universities that participated were as high or slightly higher than those revealed in prior surveys.

More than one in four women undergraduate college students were sexually assaulted through physical force, threats of physical force, or incapacitation during their time on campus, according to a survey by the Association of American Universities (AAU).

The survey was conducted by AAU in the hopes of documenting the incidence, prevalence and characteristics of sexual assault and misconduct on college campuses. The survey sought to assess campus climates with respect to perceptions of risk, knowledge of resources available to victims, and perceived reactions to an incident of sexual assault or misconduct.

The average rates of non-consensual sexual contact by physical force or incapacitation reported by the 27 universities that participated in the survey were as high or slightly higher than those revealed in prior surveys.

“This survey is significant confirmation of a major problem, and it confirms what we’ve been saying about the mind-set on campus and the reception survivors expect to encounter,” Zoe Ridolfi-Starr, deputy director of Know Your IX, told the New York Times.

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The results of the survey come in the wake of increased criticism and scrutiny of the policies and practices of addressing sexual assault on college campuses across the country.

The Obama administration in October published new federal guidelines that include categories of sex crimes that colleges must report. The guidelines aim to improve campus education and prevention programs and ensure that victims are given equitable treatment, as part of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act of 2013 (VAWA).

bipartisan group of eight senators in July 2014 introduced the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which sought to improve how institutes of higher education respond to sexual assault. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) reintroduced the legislation this year.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), one of the sponsors of the legislation, said in a statement that the AAU survey showed the urgency of the problem of campus sexual assault and that it was time for Congress to “catch up” and pass legislation to address the issue.

“How many surveys will it take before we act with the urgency these crimes demand? We have a bipartisan, collaborative bill that will correct this broken system—from how these cases are handled and the resources available for all students, to what we know about the climate on every campus in America,” Gillibrand said.

Sofie Karasek, director of education and co-founder of End Rape on Campus, told CNN that the AAU survey is significant because it provides data that reinforces just how prevalent sexual assault has become in higher education.

Karasek was part of coalition of 30 students who in February 2014 filed Title IX and Clery Act complaints against the University of California at Berkeley. The students, all female survivors of sexual assault and harassment while attending UC Berkeley, allege that the university administration failed to properly respond to sexual assault and sexual harassment on campus.

“I think that evidence is really important to have in terms of specific policies that we would use to combat this type of victim blaming mentality,” Karasek said.

The 288-page report issued by the AAU included several insights into both the prevalence of sexual assault and the climate on college campuses. More than 150,000 students from 27 universities participated in the survey, which was conducted between April and May during the spring 2015 semester. The survey is one of the largest of its kind ever published.

The report found that that across all of the institutions surveyed, 11.7 percent of students, regardless of gender, reported experiencing non-consensual sexual contact by physical force, threats of physical force, or incapacitation since enrolling.

Among female undergraduate students, an estimated 23.1 percent experienced non-consensual sexual contact, while an estimated 5.4 percent of male undergraduate students did.

The percentages of women who reported incidents of sexual assault to either campus officials or law enforcement were low, ranging from 5 percent to 28 percent. More than half of those who were victims of sexual assault, including forced penetration, said they did not report the event because they do not consider it “serious enough.”

A significant percentage of students said they did not report because they were “embarrassed, ashamed or that it would be too emotionally difficult” or “did not think anything would be done about it.”

Alison Kiss, executive director of the Clery Center for Security on Campus, told the Huffington Post that the low percentage of those reporting incidents should raise questions about mandating reporting requirements for students.

“You can mandate reporting to law enforcement all that you want, it’s not going to fix things—if anything, it’s going to chill reporting,” Kiss said. “[These results] highlighted the need for more education, as well as awareness, of where to report, how to report, and to look at where there are confidential resources for victims coming forward.”

The report found that rates of sexual assault and misconduct are highest among undergraduate females and those identifying as transgender, genderqueer, non-conforming, questioning, or as something not listed on the survey (TGQN).

More than six in ten student respondents (63.3 percent) believe that a report of sexual assault or sexual misconduct would be taken seriously by campus officials.

The report noted that the analysis of the results of the survey did not find a clear explanation for the wide range of findings and response rates across institutions. The overall response rate to the survey was 19.3 percent, which is lower than previously conducted surveys and studies indicated.

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