Adam Serwer

  • April 18, 2014

    TPM’s Brendan James notes a recent study from Princeton on the state of American democracy. “The central point that emerges from our research,” the study’s authors Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page write, “is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”

    The U.S. Department of Justice is requesting that Texas legislators provide documents that "may shed light on the state’s motivation for enacting the 2011 congressional redistricting plans.” Writing for Legal Times, Todd Ruger discusses Perez v. Perry, an on-going case that has the DOJ addressing the “gutted key provision of the voting rights law” in Texas.

    Mississippi recently passed religious freedom legislation that allows businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples. Now, more than 500 businesses are joining together to make it clear that their doors are open to everyone. Adam Serwer at MSNBC reports on the “If You’re Buying, We’re Selling Campaign.”

    At SCOTUSblog, Lyle Denniston breaks down SmithKline Beecham Corp. v. Abbott Laboratories and its implications on the “constitutionality of state bans on same-sex marriage.”

  • January 25, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Senate Republicans devoted to protecting big business interests and undermining workers’ rights vigorously fought President Obama’s efforts during his first term to keep the National Labor Relations Board functioning and appoint a leader for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

    Republicans in the Senate have long sought to ensure that Obama could not alter the makeup of the NLRB, in order to keep it pro-business or inoperative. Moreover, Senate Republicans were opposed to the creation of the CFPB, intended to crack down on some of the shady business practices that helped lead to the Great Recession; and after its creation they were bent on making it as ineffective as possible.

    Earlier today, the Republican agenda of hobbling the NLRB, which exists to enforce the National Labor Relations Act, was advanced by a ruling from a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. According to the court, Obama’s appointments to the NLRB in early January 2012 during a 20-day recess of Congress were unconstitutional.

    The appeals court opinion is at odds with other rulings from appeals court circuits and the fact that for a century, presidents, citing Article II of the Constitution, have used recess appointments to fill executive branch vacancies.

    As The New York Times notes, the appeals court decision “also raises doubts about the legitimacy of Mr. Obama’s recess appointment” of Richard Cordray to the CFPB. Obama appointed Cordray the same time he selected the three members of the labor board. At the time Obama noted that he was forced to make the recess appointments because of the Senate’s refusal to move on his nominations to the board and the bureau. “The American people deserve to have qualified public servants fighting for them every day – whether it is to enforce new consumer protections or uphold the rights of working Americans. We can’t wait to act to strengthen the economy and restore security for our middle class and those trying to get in it, and that’s why I am proud to appoint these fine individuals to get to work for the American people.”  

    The opinion by the appeals court panel – all three judges are Republican appointees – is radical and sweeping. Adam Serwer, in a piece for Mother Jones, notes that if the appeals court decision were to be upheld – the Obama administration is likely to appeal it – it would invalidate NLRB decisions made since last January and also impact actions taken by the CFPB.

    The CFPB, Serwer writes “has done what liberals hoped and Republicans feared: Prevented companies from gouging consumers with the kind of unscrupulous business practices that caused a nationwide economic meltdown four years ago. Although Cordray’s appointment is being challenged separately, Friday’s ruling gives companies impacted by CFPG’s decisions an opening to argue that some of the CFPB’s actions should be invalidated.”

    But constitutional law experts argued at the time Obama made the recess appointments that he was on solid legal ground. In a Jan. 2012 piece for The Times, Harvard constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe said the president’s recess appointments “ought to be a slam dunk” and that the Constitution is clear on “reserving the authority the president needs to carry out his basic duties ….” 

  • November 7, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    The Dish headline called it the “single biggest night for gay rights in electoral history.” And it’s hard to mess with that assessment. Voters in Maryland, Maine, Washington and Minnesota voted in favor of marriage equality.

    But beyond those ballot measure victories, Andrew Sullivan reports that gay men and lesbians made up five percent of the electorate, the vast majority of them supporting Obama, “the first president to support marriage equality, and who mentioned gays by name for the first time in the history of victory speeches.”

    Then of course, there was the election of Tammy Baldwin to the U.S. Senate, the first openly gay person to serve in that chamber.

    But Sullivan’s post provides plenty of detail of the efforts to defeat the equality measures, including the funding and work of the National Organization for Marriage, a religious right outfit that strives to scuttle marriage equality by employing tired tactics of demonization. NOM says its mission is “to protect marriage and the faith communities that sustain it.” Sullivan highlights a piece from Adam Serwer reporting that NOM “believed that putting forth black and Latino spokespeople, they could discredit the idea of same-sex marriage as a civil rights cause and drive a wedge between two typically Democratic constituencies…".

    In Maryland Serwer concluded NOM’s strategy appeared rather wobbly.

    Indeed, Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Coalition, said part of the success in Maryland involved creating partnerships with other civil liberties groups, such as the NAACP, clergy and businesses, The Washington Post reported.

  • August 21, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    For decades, leaders of the nation’s Religious Right have done more than just oppose equality for the LGBT community, they have tarred it as one made of hedonistic, selfish beings bent on harming children, destroying Christianity, and a host of other depraved actions. (For good measure many among the Religious Right have also sought to convince us that science says lesbians and gay men can be “cured” of their alleged afflictions.)

    Within the past decade I had the great pleasure of attending numerous Religious Right gatherings in preparing articles for Church & State, a publication of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. At nearly every one of those gatherings lesbians and gay men were a prime topic of conversation. Indeed the leaders of many of the Religious Right groups that appeared at or organized those gatherings, including representatives from James Dobson’s Focus on the Family and Tony Perkin’s (pictured) the Family Research Council (FRC) were obsessed with gay people. It was not enough for these leaders to advance their tired line about the threat same-sex marriages supposedly pose to marriage. They inevitably, whether directly or through insinuation, demonized LGBT people. LGBT persons the Religious Right leaders have long claimed are at the root of everything that is supposedly wrong with this country.

    For example at the 2007 “Family Impact Summit” in Tampa, Fla., a string of “workshops” centered squarely on tearing down the LGBT community. Same-sex marriage may have been the hook for some of the discussions, but the conclusions these discussions or lectures advanced were all wildly uniformed, blatantly unfair and bigoted.

    A “Homosexuality/Ministry” workshop, as I reported for Church & State, was led by two people who said they had been cured of their homosexuality and featured a talk by Nancy Heche, mother of the actress Anne Heche. Nancy claimed that she had a lot of gay friends, before saying how much she cared for them and how she wished they could have “what I have.” Her condescending talk, given with great earnestness, held that gay people can be made straight and that they’ll be much healthier once they survive the conversion. She urged those in attendance to “eat with the sinners. Go befriend a gay person, build a relationship.” It was a rather nauseating affair.

    Unfortunately it did not stop there. A panel discussion called “Defending Marriage: What’s at Stake,” featured FRC’s Peter Sprigg, a longtime and very loud opponent of the LGBT community and Dale O’Leary, who at the time claimed to be a writer for a Catholic-based website, as well as a researcher.

  • May 5, 2010

    After being tracked by the number of a disposable cell phone, federal authorities arrested Faisal Shahzad n connection with a failed Times Square car-bombing. The arrest of Shahzad, an American citizen born in Pakistan, prompted calls by some that Shahzad not be read his Miranda rights.

    Sen. John McCain, a former presidential candidate and the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, responded to a question about Mirandizing Shahzad, saying, "Obviously that would be a serious mistake until all the information is gathered."

    On the other side of Capitol Hill, the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Peter King, responded to a similar question, saying, "Did they Mirandize him? I know he's an American citizen but still."

    Reporting for The American Prospect, Adam Serwer writes: