We already know that our legislators haven't done a very good job protecting our pocketbooks, our livelihoods, and our homes from corporate influence.
From the deregulation and "look the other way" policies that led to the housing crisis to the slap on the wrist penalties for blatant law-breaking like robo-signing, our elected leaders - with some notable exceptions - have failed to stand up to the army of lobbyists and huge influx of money that corporations have used successfully to advance their interests over ours.
Unfortunately, our legislators are failing once again. They are failing to protect our vote from corporate influence.
The voters of Pennsylvania were the latest victims of elected officials' negligence and complicity:
The state Senate rejected a series of Democratic amendments before passing the voter identification bill 26-23, with three Republicans joining the Democrats in opposition. Democrats had tried to add new forms of acceptable identification and postpone the requirement until after the November elections.On top of the voting rights violations contained in this bill, there's also the financial toll. We've written about Pennsylvania's schools teetering on bankruptcy, but to deny citizens their rights, the GOP found the money:
Gov. Tom Corbett supports requiring voters to show photo identification, and a spokesman for House Republicans said he expects the House to pass the bill in its current form. Senate committees amended the bill to include photo identification cards issued by Pennsylvania universities, nursing homes, counties and municipalities, as well as those issued by the state and federal governments.
According to a study by the nonpartisan Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center earlier this year, HB 934 will cost Pennsylvania more than $11 million in the first year alone, with millions more every year after that.While school districts like Chester Upland are begging the state to help them keep classrooms open, and while cuts to basic services have left Pennsylvania's unemployed and low-income citizens in the dust, who is responsible for pushing a policy that costs $11 million just to make voting harder?
Glad you asked. His name is Daryl Metcalfe, the State Representative from the 12th Legislative District, and the Chairman of the State Government Committee. Metcalfe calls the voter ID bill, which will effectively disenfranchise 691,000 Pennsylvanians "common sense legislation."
Metcalfe is also a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), where legislators attend conferences and are teamed up with corporate lobbyists and right-wing think tank ideologues to come up with "model legislation." Walker's union-busting bill in Wisconsin and Arizona's anti-immigrant SB 1070 are two of the most infamous products of ALEC conferences. The voter ID bills that have popped up in Indiana, Wisconsin, Georgia, and other states, all since 2010, also found their roots at ALEC conferences.
And guess what, Pennsylvania - you're paying for it! No, literally, you as a taxpayer are footing the bill for Metcalfe's trips to ALEC conferences, where he goes to retrieve model legislation that will take away your rights:
Documents obtained by City Paper from the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission show that ALEC reimbursed Metcalfe $832.91 in 2007, a "scholarship" that is funded by major corporations. And state documents obtained by good government group Common Cause and reviewed by City Paper reveal that taxpayers also reimbursed Metcalfe $509.25 in per diems, and for parking and transportation, food and other fees for the 2007 ALEC conference in Philadelphia.That same year, a $50,000 appropriation was added to the state budget - again, your taxpayer money - to cater the ALEC meeting, including, "$30,450 for roasted chicken breast and $3,000 for cheesecake lollipops." Metcalfe was in his fifth term as a representative.
If you react angrily to this, and you should, we urge you to visit Daryl Metcalfe's Facebook and Twitter pages, and let him know you feel about a public servant, already on taxpayer salary, spending even more taxpayer dollars to attend conferences where he gets ideas from corporate lobbyists about how to take away your (the taxpayer's) voting rights.
But the real problem is not Rep. Metcalfe. The real problem is that there hundreds of Rep. Metcalfe's across the country: politicians claiming to represent citizens while acting merely as shills, as empty vessels to deliver subtly disguised versions of ALEC model legislation.
The voter ID bills are most worrisome, because while ALEC corporations have an infinite supply of campaign cash, democracy allows each of us the right to vote - and there are more of us. No wonder ALEC is acting through Metcalfe and Co. to take that one bulwark away.