Read today’s news from around the state and country. Each day in the Roundup we cover politics, always with a side of bold humor. We think politics should be fun, informative and encourage us all to take action.

Friday, July 27th

The opening ceremony of the Olympics takes place today, but tomorrow will be much more exciting for us Nebraskans. Former UNL volleyball player Jordan Larson will be leading the U.S.A. women’s volleyball team in their first match tomorrow, at 2 pm. The U.S. women’s volleyball team is ranked first, and we’ll be cheering for them to win the gold. Here’s your Roundup:

Dark Money in Nebraska: After narrowly escaping criminal conviction, Karl Rove has swiftly and steadily brought himself back into the forefront of the political arena—he is perhaps now bigger than ever before. Taking advantage of campaign finance laws that have become ever more lenient and murky (at the same time that more money than ever is flowing into our elections), Rove is the man behind two money machines. His “social welfare” organization, Crossroads GPS, is one of the largest holders of unlimited and undisclosed contributions, and he is also behind a super-PAC called American Crossroads. And Rove has always held a special interest for Nebraska politics—his influence in our state reaches back to 1974, when he first helped Virginia Smith win her House seat. Rove has already taken an interest in buying Ben Nelson’s Senate seat, as have other out-of-state groups. In fact, the Nebraska Senate race has attracted the 3rd most out-of-state funding of any Senate race this cycle, to a grand tune of $3 million so far. Read here

Bad for Nebraskans: Yesterday Senate Republicans launched their version of the House’s Domestic Energy and Jobs Act. The legislation has a slew of measures designed to expand development of fossil fuels, while limiting the EPA and virtually ignoring development of renewable energy. It also includes Lee Terry’s proposal to approve the KXL.  Sen. Hoeven (ND) and Sen. McConnell (KY), say that the bill helps develop their state’s natural resources of oil and coal, and will “develop our nation’s vast energy resources to create jobs.” As a co-sponsor of the bill, why didn’t Senator Johanns demand that explicit measures to develop our state’s vast natural resource, wind, be included in the bill? In fact, the bill hurts the development of Nebraska’s vast natural resource; it does not extend one of the biggest driving forces behind recent wind energy development—the wind production tax credit. If the objective of the GOP measure really is to “create jobs and grow the economy,” why are they ignoring the driving force behind the emerging wind industry in our nation, an industry that already employs far more people than would be employed by the building of KXL? Read here

More Dark Money in Nebraska: Americans for Prosperity, a “dark money” group started by the Koch brothers, has issued its “key vote scorecard” for members of the Nebraska Unicam. An avid supporter of the KXL, Americans for Prosperity is also known for its false ads. Some have called the group “a front group for the oil industry.” One of AFP’s key positions on an issue before the NE unicam included support for ending funding for the Department of Education’s Summer Food Service Program, which provides children who are eligible for free and reduced-price lunches with nutritious meals during the summer months. We are concerned that a number of our state senators received an “A” grade from this dark money group. Read here


Thursday, July 26th

Start off your day with this sassy video, “We Quit You, Keystone XL,” featuring KXL as that ex-boyfriend who keeps coming back because he won’t take the hint. Here’s your Roundup:

When is Enough Enough?: The tragic Colorado movie theater shooting has renewed the debate on gun control that takes place after every mass shooting. Unfortunately, these discussions about gun violence and what to do about it have a history of slipping out of the public’s consciousness quickly, pushed aside as being too politically difficult to talk about. But it needs to be talked about—a plan needs to be made on how to reduce the gun violence that takes tens of thousands of lives every year. When only considering mass shootings, the past thirty years have averaged more than one such mass shooting per year—the majority of which have been committed using semiautomatic handguns and assault weapons. It would not be fair to responsible gun owners like hunters, target shooters, and people arming themselves for protection to find their right to bear the arms necessary for these tasks infringed upon. But in the words of a retired police officer, it shouldn’t be too much to ask why a gun owner needs to have a specially modified 100 round clip. Read here and here

Congressional Back and Forth: Yesterday the Senate rejected as well as passed tax cut bills. The body rejected the Republican proposal to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for everyone, but passed the Democratic proposal to extend the tax cuts for those making under $250,000 a year. The Democratic bill would raise the tax rate on incomes over $250,000 by 4%, while preserving tax breaks like the child tax credit. Senate Dems said that the Republican proposal would add $155 billion to the deficit, but House Speaker Boehner has already made it clear that a bill that does not add this to the deficit will not pass. This latest failure to come to an agreement means that all the tax cuts will likely expire at the end of the year, as Dems refuse to extend the tax cut to those making over $250,000. Read here

Keystone Kops Still Have Free Reign: “The Dilbit Disaster” provided in-depth detail of what happens when a tar sands pipeline leaks, and the scathing NTSB report regarding that disaster confirmed our concerns about tar sands pipelines and their regulatory oversight. Recent measures by Congress and current rulemaking by PHMSA not only does little to address the concerns highlighted by the Enbridge tar sands spill, but the regulations and rules they are creating will not be implemented for several years. This means that the regulations that allowed Enbridge to continue operating a pipeline that was already marked as having corrosion and cracking five years before the biggest inland oil spill will still apply to KXL. The regulations that allowed Enbridge to not disclose the materials that actually flowed through their pipeline, even after it ruptured, still will apply to KXL. Spill response plans will still be difficult to access, and we still won’t know everything there is to know about dilbit—the substance that will be flowing through our land and water if KXL is approved. Read here

Voting Rights: The Verified Voting Foundation, the Rutgers Law School Constitutional Litigation Clinic and Common Cause evaluated every state’s preparedness for election day, specifically how prepared each state is in terms of its voting system to ensure every eligible voter can vote. Among other criteria, the evaluation looked at how prepared states are in the case of machine failures, if the state protects military and oversea voters, and if the state ensures no ballots are lost. Nebraska ranks in the bottom 50% of all states, earning and overall ranking of “needs improvement” and an “inadequate” ranking in two categories—protecting overseas ballots and ensuring that reported outcomes are correct. Clearly, Nebraska has steps that it needs to take to ensure that voting rights are completely protected—steps that are more fundamental than implementing burdens on voters to solve the “voter fraud problem,” voter fraud that is virtually nonexistent. Read here and see Nebraska’s ranking here


Wednesday, July 25th

Two years ago today, the largest inland oil spill in America’s history began its devastating rampage on the waters, wildlife, and people of Michigan. Today we stand in solidarity with those who suffered from the tar sands spill into the Kalamazoo River and Talmadge Creek—they are still affected today. At 1 pm we will gather in front of Gov. Heineman’s mansion for the “We Are Nebraska, We Are Kalamazoo, Keep our Water Blue” event. We hope you will join us. Here’s your Roundup:

China’s Hold on Tar sands: China’s stake in the Canadian tar sands just got bigger. CNOOC, a Chinese oil company, plans to buy its Canadian rival, Nexen, for $15.1 billion—its largest foreign corporate takeover if successful. CNOOC’s announcement was quickly followed by another move on Canadian oil assets by Sinopec, another Chinese oil company. CNOOC first invested in Candian tar sands in 2005, and has been acquiring an ever larger stake since. The obvious growth in Chinese investment in the tar sands—and the nation’s apparent intent to only forge a stronger connection—begs the question whether we are willing to risk our land and water for a company that may one day end up not being owned by a “friendly neighbor.” Read here

Too Easy to Lie: Yesterday, the Texas State Legislature held a hearing regarding the use of eminent domain by private companies—brought about by landowners who have been standing up to TransCanada. The Texas Constitution prohibits the use of eminent domain for a private purpose, meaning TransCanada must have “common carrier” status to use eminent domain power; its pipeline has to be for “public hire.” At issue is the current process  for establishing what pipelines are “common carriers,” right now companies have the ability to give themselves that status by simply checking a box on a one-page form. Technically, if the company lies on the form, it faces felony charges. But no one checks if they are telling the truth. This has left it up to landowners to hold TransCanada responsible for taking advantage of a lax system. Read here

Voter Suppression to be Scrutinized: Today Pennsylvania’s controversial voter I.D. law will be heard in court. The law has been shown to possibly restrict 9% of Pennsylvania’s population from voting—a margin large enough to swing an election and more fundamentally an assault on one of the most basic rights of being an American citizen. The voter I.D. law was implemented despite the fact that the state had never experienced a case of voter impersonation fraud. We remain thankful that Nebraska did not pass the voter I.D. law that was introduced by Sen. Janssen, but are concerned by the fact that so many other Americans may now be restricted. Read here

BOLD Nebraska and N.E.A.T. have been advising landowners to “just say no” to TransCanada’s requests to survey their land. Just as landowners in Nebraska have been standing up to TransCanada, so have landowners in other states. Check out this video of how one Texas woman got TransCanada off her property.    


Tuesday, July 24th

Nebraska is battling one of its worst wildfires in years. 50,000 acres have been scorched in the fire along the Niobrara River valley, the product of a summer defined by drought. This event can join the list of others that have made climate change much more real, prompting the Daily Beast (and probably many more) to ask if any sane person can think that what we are experiencing is pure coincidence.  Here’s your Roundup:

“Importing Disaster”: The National Wildlife Federation has released a new report exposing tar sands giant Enbridge’s shoddy record (it goes beyond the 1 million gallon Kalamazoo spill, folks), and the company’s shady plan that will put more tar sands through America. In the past 11 years, Enbridge has been responsible for more than 800 spills that have collectively released almost 7 million gallons of oil. For over 2 years, Enbridge has been expanding its current pipeline system in a piecemeal fashion, preparing it for tar sands exportation while skirting the appropriate regulatory processes—the company’s end goal is to have a pipeline system running from Alberta, Canada, to Portland, Maine. NWF also lays out 7 recommendations to prevent future tragedies such as Enbridge’s Kalamazoo spill. Among these is the need to put in place stronger regulatory processes and safety standards that will account for the added risks of tar sands, a type of fuel that is new to the pipeline system. As the saying goes, you don’t bring a knife to a gunfight—old pipeline technology and past methods of cleaning up oil stand no chance against tar sands. Read the report here

Energy Saving Strategies: LES has issued a “power watch,” urging customers to conserve electricity by doing the simple things better, like turning off the lights and raising the thermostat. While LES is asking nicely, other utility companies across the U.S. are perhaps more effective at getting their customers to save energy by offering incentives. It is important to note that LES does have an incentive program for select consumers to upgrade their homes and businesses, but truly conserving energy takes a combination of the right tools (like energy efficient appliances and proper insulation) as well as appropriate consumer behavior. In order to motivate consumers to change their energy-use habits, one program awards participants points for every kilowatt hour less in electricity they use per month compared with the year before they joined. Points can be redeemed for gift certificates at certain stores. Another program takes advantage of the “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality, showing people how their energy use stacks up against others in the neighborhood. Read here

No, KXL Is Not a Job Creator: Republicans this election cycle are running on the economy, and the work they have done to create jobs. But reputable economists have said the jobs bills that Republicans have introduced and complain about having not passed actually wouldn’t do anything to create jobs. That’s because most of the bills have a narrow focus, like the multiple bills that force the permit of the KXL, or the legislation that rolls back environmental regulations. Economists say these bills would not make a dent in the short term, and most likely not in the long term either. Ultimately, these economists say, the GOP jobs package is more political than practical. Read here


Monday, July 23rd

Only seven days remain to tell the State Department what they should include in their evaluation of the KXL. It is very important for citizens to have input in this process, and we encourage you to find time this week to send in your comment; we have posted some suggestions here. Here’s your Roundup:

Selling Out the Little Guys: Last week, we discussed how the American Farm Bureau doesn’t actually work for the small family farms it “represents.” The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) also claims to represent the “little guys,” small business owners, the “mom and pop shops” that long have been a huge part of our American identity. But the organization has, like the Farm Bureau, sold out those “little guys,” instead using the majority of its $3 million in lobbying funds to lobby for the rich. Most recently, the NFIB has opposed the “millionaire tax,” as well as Obama’s plan to raise taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year—providing ammunition to Mitt Romney and others who oppose making the rich pay their fair share. In reality, only 3% of small businesses net more than $250,000 a year. Our own BOLD Board Member Rick Poore argues that as a small business owner, what will really make him hire more workers is more customers, not a tax break—what the government really needs to do is work to lift the fortunes of the middle class, not the profits of corporations and wealthy business owners. Read here

Tar sands-Terry: Nebraska’s tar sands-loving Congressman Lee Terry has announced yet another proposal to force approval of the KXL.  The legislation, to be introduced today (provided he finds introducing legislation easier than filing amendments), would force approval of the portion of the pipeline that runs from Montana to the South Dakota-Nebraska border. He believes that since Obama was able to throw his support behind TransCanada’s application for the southern segment of the KXL, he would hypothetically be able to use the same rationale to justify approval of construction of the “northern portion”. Since TransCanada has not filed a separate permit request for such a “northern portion”, we’re not sure how tar sands-Terry’s logic led him to such a proposal. What we are sure of, however, is that Lee Terry remains determined to put Nebraska’s land, water, and rights on the chopping block for a risky export pipeline. Read here

Hate Crime Brings Community Together: Last night hundreds attended a vigil at the Capitol after a Lincoln member of the LGBT community was violently attacked in her home early yesterday morning. After having homophobic slurs carved into her skin and her home set on fire, the woman was able to escape her house. This horrific crime drew an amazing response from the Lincoln community, with over 300 people gathering with rainbow flags and candles to support the victim and demonstrate that love and kindness trumps hate.  Read here