Today marks the two-year anniversary of the Citizens United case. The Supreme Court ruling in this case has allowed corporate money to flood our elections. To mark the anniversary, Occupy Wall Street is going to “Occupy the Courts.” Here’s your Roundup:     

Tar Sands Distrust: While we celebrate our victory against TransCanada, another battle involving tar sands is brewing in the west. In Montana, local officials and environmental groups have sued to block the construction of a mega transportation corridor that would be used to haul equipment to the tar sands–it would also be an eyesore in currently pristine scenery. Many opponents to the mega highway are concerned about the larger issue of what that equipment will be used for: developing the dirtiest and most unsustainable source of oil in the world. Montanans also don’t trust Imperial, the company that wants to build the transportation route. They don’t trust Imperial’s intentions, numbers about the tax revenues or promises of jobs. Sound familiar? Read here

A Very, Very Bad Day: Everything is going wrong for Wrong Way Jon. Documents from the Attorney General’s office show his controversial gift of $100,000 to We Support Agriculture, an offshoot organization of the politically powerful Farm Bureau, was awarded after only a 32 minute review of the incomplete application. Bruning also ignored the advice of his office attorney in charge of environmental review. Questions are now being raised about if Bruning is even using the Supplemental Environmental Project Fund for environmental purposes or to buy political good will. Oh, and he appears to be guilty of failing to adequately document almost $300,000. In the midst of all this criticism for his politically motivated actions, we find the icing on the cake: the Farm Bureau may not even support Wrong Way Jon in his Senate race. Read here

Fighting Big Banks: Only a couple weeks after his recess appointment (made despite Congressional Republicans’ efforts to sabotage the agency) into the position as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Richard Cordray has picked his first public fight to protect consumers. His goal is to investigate several big banks’ that serve as payday lenders, which make their highest loan profits off of the most desperate borrowers. Cordray’s plan is to help get these borrowers out of their cycle of debt. Read here

Healthy Lunches, Healthy Minds: Remember when Congress decided pizza counts as a vegetable for school lunches? Well, at Lexington Public Schools in Nebraska, it does not. Rather, Lexington has been working on a wellness initiative to include healthy foods in kids’ lunches, because healthy food is critical for the health of growing brains. And Lexington isn’t the only school attempting to keep lunch healthy while Congress gives every reason not to. According to Nancy Fulton, president of the NSEA, most schools in Nebraska do a good job of providing low cost, healthy meals to our kids. That deserves a round of applause. Read here

Robocall Update: An amendment to the robocall bill we reported on yesterday has been made by John Nelson which puts back a lot of restrictions that are already in place. But Nelson’s amendment would not require a script of the robocall to be submitted to the regulatory agency, rather just a description of what the message is intended to convey. This loophole would give a lot of leeway for underhanded tactics. Furthermore, given that this is now the main difference between current regulations and proposed regulations, we have to ask if there’s even a need for this billl. Read here 

Check out this video of pipeline fighter Bruce Boettcher featured on the HuffPost. Watch here  


Thursday, January 19th

As we celebrate President Obama’s decision to kill the KXL pipeline, we thank all of you whose hard work made this outcome possible. An interview with Bill McKibben sums up some reasons why TransCanada lost, and why we will continue to fight projects that put our land, water and health in danger. Here’s your Roundup:

Hang Your Head, Heineman: While thousands of Nebraskans are celebrating President Obama’s decision to deny TransCanada’s pipeline permit yesterday, our own Governor Heineman is telling the nation he wanted it approved. Heineman apparently doesn’t see a problem in violating environmental law or with the fact that we do not have an approved route in Nebraska. He is out of touch with Nebraskans and appears to be more concerned about big, foreign oil companies than he is with the well being of farmers, ranchers and all Nebraska citizens. Read here

Premature Attacks: As we all know, Bob Kerrey is toying with the idea of running for Ben Nelson’s Senate seat but has not made a definitive decision yet. That hasn’t stopped the Koch brothers from already running attack ads slamming Kerrey as a liberal. Apparently, the mere thought of someone who doesn’t strictly follow their policy agenda (which would include everyone who values individuals more than corporations) is terrifying.  Bob Kerrey wouldn’t be a puppet to their millions, and the Koch brothers’ influence in Nebraska would be limited. Read here

Another Flip Flop: Lee Terry pulled his name from the SOPA bill that has caused a political and media firestorm. SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act, tries to punish online piracy but goes about it all wrong. While most agree that something needs to be done about online piracy, criticism strikes the bill because its measures are deemed too harsh and actually limiting to expression. Rep. Lee Terry backtracked on his co-sponsorship of the bill after learning of the drastic opposition to it, which reminds us of his robocall bill fiasco. Considering Terry’s new habit, you’d would think he would have removed his support for the KXL after learning of Nebraskans’ widespread opposition. But maybe it’s better to follow the puppet strings. Read here and watch Jon Stewart’s interpretation of the SOPA bill.

An Ugly Bill: Speaking of robocalls, the Nebraska Unicam is in the process of debating a bill introduced by Sen. John Nelson which would limit the oversight of the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission on political robocalls. Currently, callers are required to identify themselves when making such political robocalls, which adds transparency to the campaign process. This current law in Nebraska was in response to an abuse of robocalls that muddied the 2006 Senate race with underhanded tactics. Nelson’s bill puts that transparency at risk, and invites a return to ugly politics in Nebraska. Read here

Another One Bites the Dust: Due to dismal approval ratings, Rick Perry has dropped out the race for GOP Presidential Candidacy. The rumor is he plans to endorse Newt Gingrich. Though his gaffes and lackluster speaking abilities might make the GOP debates a little less painful/entertaining to watch, he will likely be un-missed in a cookie-cutter pool competing to be the most right-wing. Read here


Wednesday, January 18th

The EPA has released an interactive map showing the greatest greenhouse gas emitters, and the news isn’t pretty. The results provide just another reason why the Keystone XL is a bad idea and why we are thanking the President in advance for rejecting it. Here’s your Roundup:

 Blackout: The House Bill SOPA and the Senate equivalent PIPA are meeting fierce opposition in the tech and online communities. The bills, which would allow for the immediate shut down of a website due to copyright infringement, have been called the end of a free internet. While Hollywood, the music industry, and other corporate giants support the bill, many are calling it unnecessary and dangerous censorship. Silicon Valley has been an outspoken opponent. Search around the web long enough and you’re bound to see the effect of the many online protests going on today. Wikipedia, Mozilla, Reddit, and other websites are all shutting down operation today in protest. Google is also spoking out, and while not shutting down, their homepage currently shows solidarity with those who have. Read here 

So Dumb? Newsweek is itself in the national news again after their most recent cover poses the question, “Why are Obama’s critics so dumb?” As you can guess, the Republicans are in a rage. Fox News seems to be almost stuttering over their disgust. Nonetheless, the article’s author, Andrew Sullivan, stands by his work. No only does he show that conservative critiques are unfounded, half the article is dedicated to why the left and independents are wrong in their judgements and complaints as well. If you have a problem with it, Sullivan issues this challenge, “Show me where I’m wrong.” Read here 

A Step Back: Sensing that they may have pushed him to act against their wishes, the Republicans are going into full attack mode on the President regarding his stance on the Keystone XL pipeline. The NRC released an add parodying a recent Rachel Maddow commercial in MSNBC’s Lean Forward series. The parody which wrongfully claims that the Keystone export pipeline could create 130,000 jobs ironically mocks itself upon its conclusion. It finishes with a large screen shot stating “Lean Backwards.” In essence that’s exactly what an approval of KXL would be, an easy way for us to regress in our energy security. KXL means further entrenching our commitment to foreign oil, carbon pollution and fowling our land and water–hardly a step (or lean) in the right direction. Watch here 

Not Your Average Joe: Mittens has gotten his awkward self into trouble again. Romney finally admitted that he is paying around a 15% tax rate, compared to a middle class worker making just over $35,000 who pays around 25%. This is because of the capital gains tax and that Romney makes much of his millions from returns off past investments. Romney isn’t doing anything illegal, but he does highlight a major flaw in our tax code. Romney has over $175 million, possibly $200 million in wealth; the tax code should not be benefiting him more than the Average Joe. Romney isn’t off to a good start defending his gravy train. He described his earning from speaking engagements as “not very much.” He’s earned $374,000 since 2010 in speaking fees. Read here

It Gets Worse: Oil Change International and the NRDC have published a new report detailing how Big Oil plans to build the Keystone XL so they can export refined products to foreign markets, thus maximizing their profits. Once agian, the myth of KXL ensuring US energy security is dispelled and the pipeline is exposed for what it truly is: a pipeline to transport foreign oil to foreign markets. Read here


Tuesday, January 17th

Today, First Lady Michelle Obama is celebrating her 48th birthday! Mrs. Obama shares a birthday with James Earl Jones, Betty White and Muhammed Ali. You can tweet the First Lady your birthday wishes. Here’s your Roundup:

A Smart Alternative: The United States company, OriginOil, announced yesterday that it will be developing its signature algae biofuel product as a renewable resource right here in the United States. With this announcement, pressure is mounting on the Keystone XL export pipeline. OriginOil’s algae biofuel project could set the foundation for the preservation of jobs in the refining and energy sector and create long-term jobs in algae growing. Algae farming operations could also serve as carbon capture systems at existing coal-fired power plants. Compared to the Keystone XL, OriginOil’s new project sounds better for our land, communities, and health. Read here

Nebraskans Honoring MLK: Yesterday across the state and country, numerous citizens and organizations celebrated the life of activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In Lincoln, the 17th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Rally and March was held at the State Capitol. In Omaha, public officials and citizens worked together to honor Dr. King through service and community enrichment. In the words of Dr. King himself, “Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve.”

Federal Attention: Attorney General Eric Holder cited Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when speaking about states’ voter ID laws in an address to citizens at a MLK Day event in South Carolina. Holder reiterated the Obama Administration’s dedication to protecting all citizens from discriminatory voting practices. In the address, Holder compared the divisions created by voter ID laws to some of the same divisions and problems Dr. King fought throughout his life. Holder put it best when he said, “We need–and the American people deserve–election systems that are free from discrimination, free from partisan influence, and free from fraud.” We couldn’t agree more and that’s why we’ll continue to watch and be ready if State Senator Janssen’s LB239 comes back up. Read here

Down, Down, Down: Congress reconvenes today but with the lowest approval rating on record in some 40 years. The poll from ABC News and the Washington Post shows a mere 13% of Americans approve of the way Congress is handling its job while 84% disapprove. The last time numbers were this low was in 1974. In addition, Congress’s approval rating is 35 points below President Obama’s 48% approval rating. The last time there was a gap this large was in 1990. Read here

Today, the Nebraska State Legislature reconvenes after the federal holiday. We’ll bring you more legislative updates and developments in tomorrow’s Roundup.


Monday, January 16th

Today marks what would have been the 83rd birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., a solemn reminder of the tragedy that took an American hero from us much too soon. On this day we can be proud of how far our country has come, but we mustn’t forget the progress that is yet to be made. It is the first Martin Luther King Jr. holiday since the dedication of his memorial in Washington D.C. Here’s your Roundup for this MLK day 2012:

The Hunt is Over: For one GOP Presidential candidate, the race is coming to a close. Jon Huntsman is expected to step aside today and endorse Mitt Romney. Huntsman, arguably the one moderate in the field, failed to gain traction. After putting all his chips in the New Hampshire pot, his third place finish failed to generate enough momentum for the former Utah governor to continue on to South Carolina. Throughout the campaign Huntsman was often left to explain his basic views, such as those acknowledging global warming and evolution, to a conservative base that wasn’t willing to fully embrace them. Although vastly different than Ron Paul in many aspects of their ideology, Hunstman leaves the Texas congressman as the only outlier in the Republican presidential race that has continued to cater to a far right demographic. Read here

Mitt the Ripper: Is Huntsman the most recent prey of Mitt the Ripper? Considering his endorsement, it appears not. Besides Mitt’s favorite victims are businesses. Such is the imagery purported by the new advertisement by the “Americans for a Better Tomorrow. Tomorrow” PAC. The Super PAC famously begun by Stephen Colbert was left in the hands of Jon Stewart recently and the first ad released under his guidance is truly special. Give it a watch here

In Bad Company: Bill Gates is revered for his business prowess by some and his philanthropy by others. It is a shame that a recent action has caused the exact opposite. Shame and contempt can only describe the recent deal between the Gates Foundation and ALEC, the larger than life ‘build-a-law’ lobby. Through the deal ALEC plans to promote legislation to circumvent current public education standards and adopt more favorable privatization or ‘for-profit education’ ones. Their strategy seems especially abhorrent. A lobbyist presenting a talk the Gates Foundation representatives discussed a plan to overload privatization opponents with teachers-union-busting bills and bills allowing tax dollars to go to religious schools. Even if these were unlikely to pass it would spread the opposition thin, allowing other reforms to slip through. Read here. Not familiar with ALEC, one of the “most evil organizations in the country? Read here or here

The Clock Ticks: The deadline is looming for President Obama to deny or grant a permit to the Keystone XL pipeline. Acknowledging an uphill battle, supporters of the export pipeline are revving up their public advertising engine. Republican leaders are joining together with institutions like the American Petroleum Institute to try and to sway public opinion in favor of the toxic plan. Speaker Boehner has more than one reason to push for the project’s permission, and they include quite selfish ones. Boehner has invested $10,000 to $50,000 each in 7 oil corporations. Sounds like there’s more riding on KXL than previously noted by the Speaker. Read here

Out of Touch: Want to have fun at the expense of the hardships faced and lives lost by Americans and our brave firefighters? Not many people would desire to do so, but that hasn’t stopped some Congressional staffers from doing just that. If the epitome of bad taste is for you, join the Congressional office pool open mostly to Republican staffers on the House and Senate  Energy and Appropriations committees that bets on how many acres will be lost to wildfires each year. Read here

Safety First: Lastly, need another reason to be against the pipeline? No? We didn’t think so, but here’s another one anyway. A recent Wyoming report blames an “epidemic of deaths” at Wyoming gas, oil, and mining sites on poor safety standards. Safety lapses in the oil and mining sectors are far too common as the billions made by the industry work to push regulations in their favor and to the disadvantage of their workers and the environment.