Tag Archives: Senator Barbara Cegavske

Cegavske: A Solution in Search of a Problem – Vote Suppression Nevada Style

State Senator Barbara Cegavske (R-Clark8) would like to be our next Secretary of State, in part because:

“One of my main goals is to ensure the integrity of elections in Nevada. It is one of the fundamental tenets of our state and federal constitution in which we all believe. I strongly support and encourage the active participation of all the citizens of Nevada to exercise their right to vote. Nevada voters deserve assurance that the manner in which their elections are conducted and in which the votes are counted, is above reproach. I will endeavor to provide that assurance.” (emphasis added)

Notice the Buzz Words.  “Integrity of elections,” and “Voters deserve assurance.”  Both of the phrases are connected to the Republican vote suppression rhetoric.  In fact, there is an Election Integrity project, operating out of Santa Clarita, CA.  Some background may be in order at this point.

Follow The Money

Catherine Englebrecht is the founder of the King Street Patriots and and True the Vote — a product of the maelstrom of right wing politics which is the state of Texas.  Convinced that Hispanic and African American voters, abetted by the ‘nefarious’ ACORN were fraudulently participating in elections, the self-styled Patriots and Truthers, launched various and sundry schemes to minimize the votes from African American, Hispanic, and young people.  Elections, the self-styled Patriots said, should be free from any contamination and from charges of fraud and sloppy practices — translation — too many “other kinds of people” voting.

Adding one more link to the chain, the attorney representing True the Vote, is none other than Kelly Shackelford, of the free market think tank Liberty Institute. A few more clicks and we find Shackelford listed as the president of the Free Market Foundation, which in turn links to the Atlas Economic Research Foundation.  And, wonder of wonders … check deeply enough and there’s a Koch Brothers connection: “The Charles G. Koch Foundation and the Claude R. Lambe Foundation both support the Atlas Economic Research Foundation.[3]$113,800 received from Koch foundations 2005–2008 Total Koch foundation grants 1997–2008: $122,300 [4] [SW]

There’s another link to right wing organizations which have proposed vote suppression measures:  The State Policy Network is funded by all the usual suspects, major corporate interests like Reynolds American, Altria (tobacco), Microsoft, AT&T, Verizon, GlaxoSmithKline, Kraft Foods, Comcast, Time Warner, and … the Koch Brothers. [SPN funding]  The link is formed when we find out that True The Vote received funding from the State Policy Network during the 2012 election season. [ConsTrans]  We’d be remiss if it weren’t noted that the State Policy Network also bestowed its largess on the Nevada Policy Research Institute. {above, p.2}

From whence comes the funding for the State Policy Network?  A significant portions comes from the Pope Foundation and other conservative funding fonts, along with a very healthy infusion of money from the Donors Capital Trust.  Read: Koch Brothers.

And yet still another — to Judicial Watch.  This organization has made no secret of its desire to restrict the opportunities of ‘undesirables’ to vote, as indicated by some of its activities in Florida and other states.

“Judicial Watch is crusading to force states to carry out voter-roll purges like the one that has subjected Florida to multiple lawsuits. Together with Judicial Watch, True the Vote formed the 2012 Election Integrity Project, launched in February at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Through the Election Integrity Project, the group has sued to allow Florida’s purge program to commence, and has sent letters threatening lawsuits in Indiana and Ohio to do the same.” [HuffPo]

In the No Surprise Department we find Judicial Watch teaming up with the Election Integrity Project to “watch” the 2012 elections.  In case anyone was thinking some 700 people in Nevada’s Clean Up The Vote campaign came to all their notions from burning sage brush — the Clean Up The Vote is an affiliate of True The Vote. [NPR]

Follow the Record

It’s all well and proper to note the funding chain linking the Koch Brothers and their ultra-right wing allies with organizations seeking to propose and enact vote suppression activities, and another to claim that a particular candidate is aligned with their intentions. What’s the record?

During the 2013 Legislative session, Senator Cegavske was one of the primary sponsors of SB 239 in the fine print of which was the coordination of Social Security Administration and voter registration lists to “insure” dead people weren’t voting. Further, the bill would have allowed county clerks and election officials to send out sample ballots electronically.   First, we’d have to believe that there are “dead people” voting.  During testimony on the measure, Senator Settelmeyer (R-CUSA) defended the bill citing that his recently decease mother was still on the mailing lists of several candidates and campaigns. [Legis PDF]

Senator Cegavske also cited a family matter, noting that her mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease was in a Minnesota nursing facility and the family had requested that mailings not be sent to her home address.  Representatives from the Secretary of State’s office noted that we should be cautious about removing anyone from voter rolls simply for being old, and that statutes do provide a process by which suffrage could be refused. [Legis PDF] At no point during the testimony on April 9, 2013 did any of the proponents of the bill describe any actual instances of fraudulent voting by or on behalf of dead people, demented people, or any other imposters.  There was no such testimony on May 8, 2013. [LegisPDF]   Nor was there any such testimony on May 20, 2013. [Legis PDF]

The Assembly side took up the bill on May 29, 2013.  Once more Sen. Settelmeyer spoke of his mother, but again, there was no testimony that any such actual voting impropriety had ever taken place. [Legis PDF] Nor was any such testimony forthcoming at the final hearing on June 3, 2013. [Legis PDF]

In 2009 Senator Cegavske was also concerned about fraudulent voting, as a primary sponsor of SB 315.  The bill received two hearings in the Nevada State Senate.  During the first of which the  point that photo identification was a “solution in search of a problem”  as opposed to the proponents laudatory contributions about the Indiana Voter Photo ID bill. [Legis PDF] During the last hearing Senator Lee asked the obvious: Do we need SB 315?  Senator Washington offered the Suppressionist Party Line in response:

“The voting process is sacred. We never want to give the impression of fraudulent voting. We need something in place to determine if there is voter fraud. Poll workers are there to stop any fraudulent voting. This would add one more safeguard to maintain integrity in the voting process.” [Leg PDF]

SB 315 died in committee. Note, once again, only the potential — after explanations aplenty from county and state officials that there was no evidence of voter impersonation — of fraud was ever alleged. At no point in testimony in either 2009 or 2013 was evidence of actual fraud brought forth.

We can go back yet another session, to 2007, in which Senator Cegavske sponsored SB 385, to require that county clerks issue voter ID cards.  The theme remained the same, there was a potential problem with impersonation — during the testimony given on the bill no one offered a single instance of actual voter fraud to the committee on March 27, 2007. [Leg PDF]  The bill got a “do pass” recommendation from the Senate committee, on March 29, 2007, but no examples of actual voter fraud emerged. [Leg PDF]

SB 385 came up for discussion again on May 3, 2007, with Barry Gold of the AARP testifying that approximately 125,000 elderly Nevadans would be negatively impacted by the bill. The hearing closed. [LegPDF]  A second hearing provided more examples of voter inconvenience and expense than it did of any real problems, especially since none of the latter were mentioned.  [LegPDF]  The bill never emerged from the State Senate.

And so, since 2007 Senator Cegavske has been looking for the solution to Senator Washington’s “problem,” i.e. how should legislation be crafted so that no Republican can ever claim any indication of potential voter fraud?   This is particularly difficult since the underpinning of the voter fraud allegations is the notion that Democrats can only win elections by cheating, and therefore, if a Democrat wins it must be by nefarious means.

We might await the day when more than six members of the Republican Party are willing to admit that various forms of suppression including purging rolls and photo identification requirements are simply about disenfranchising those who are likely to vote Democratic.  [National Memo]

It would be seemly if Senator Cegavske, while campaigning to assume the mantle of elections chief in this state would care to take some time to explain why she sought “solutions” to election problems which never actually took place, and existed only in the heated imaginations of right wing, Koch Brothers funded, political operatives and their think tanks.

 

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Filed under Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, Vote Suppression, Voting

ALEC’s Plan for the 2013 Legislature: Part 2 The Assault on Public Employees

The American Legislative Exchange Council’s “State Budget Reform Toolkit” (pdf) is a 1.99mb download, but any Nevada citizen who wants a preview of the upcoming legislative session should take the time to look at it. There are portions of its content which clearly inform some of the recent battles and predict new areas of ideological conflict.  Witness: Public Employees.

The first recommendation in this regard is to implement a statewide hiring freeze, the rationale is presented on page 23 of the ALEC document:

During a budget crisis, all state agencies will argue their services are essential. These cries will become even louder if layoffs are discussed. Unions and other special interests will line up against layoffs and cry loudly against disrupting the status quo. This can be avoided by implementing a hiring freeze and analyzing which needs are the most pressing. Adopting a flexible freeze on state hiring would reduce state employment growth while allowing agency
managers to maintain existing staffing levels—prioritizing new hiring where it is most needed, while ensuring the overall size of state government doesn’t grow. This approach maintains the flexibility necessary for agency managers to focus on the most important programs and maintain adequate service levels.

Note, that the proposed auditing of state services assumes a re-prioritization of state services, and does not assume increases in population which might drive a needs assessment, nor does it assume any changes in needs.  The bottom line is that “the overall size of state government” doesn’t grow. When ALEC speaks to the “overall size” what they are saying is that they want NO increase in the number of public employees. No matter changes in population or demographics, no matter the changes in economic conditions, and no matter any new needs or demands for state services which might arise.

This is a Zero Sum game. If there is a greater “need” for social services case workers, then perhaps this might be balanced by a reduction in the number of persons hired by NDOT.  If there is a greater “need” for NDOT workers then this might be offset by a reduction in the number of health inspectors. If it is felt we need more state health inspectors, then perhaps these positions might be obtained by cutting the number of state park personnel….and so on.

ALEC assumes that “unions and special interests” are the drivers behind the opposition to reductions in force.  ALEC’s disdain for public employee unions is palpable, and such organizations as the PTA, or associations of school administrators and school boards are “special interests.”  Should local county commissions request increased program funding and support for services like Senior Centers, local health care services, or water treatment improvement support personnel — these may very well fall under the epithetic categorization of “special interests.”

Nevada’s already under this gun. On May 15, 2008 the state personnel office issued a memo saying: (pdf)

Due to the continuing decline in the State of Nevada’s General Fund revenues sources, the State is faced with serious financial challenges. One of the proactive steps we can take at this time is to limit the hiring of current and future vacant positions. Therefore, effective May 16, 2008, the Department of Personnel is stopping all hiring activities for all open positions that are not on the exempt list.

More recently, the State Board of Prison Commissioners implemented a hiring freeze on March 9, 2011 which purports to save the state some $16 million over two years. [LVRJ] Even a cursory look at the state budget yields the information that the state is not hiring.  ALEC has an answer for this too: Vacate unfilled positions. The assumption appears to be that if we don’t need the position now we never will.

Mental health services in Nevada demonstrate an  unfortunate example of what happens when budgets are cut, and then funding is never significantly restored.  The Nevada Disability Advocacy and Law Center issued a report in February 2005 documenting the paucity of services available and the meager funding in this area. (pdf) When the NAMI compiled results of a survey of state funding in 2011 it found that Nevada’s cuts to mental health care services were 5th in the nation, at 28.1% behind only South Carolina, Alabama, Alaska, and Illinois.

The second area of attack on state and other public employees has been and will continue to be public employee pensions. ALEC says, “In recent years, state governments have encountered a funding crisis in their pension plans for public
employees.”

On February 20, 2012 the ultra-conservatives were sounding off about freezing defined benefit programs:

“It is time for state government to accurately account for and begin reducing massive deficits,” Williams said in the letter. “By freezing defined benefit pensions, you are taking one step closer to truly balancing budgets. Our nation can no longer ignore the realities and push our budget problems onto future taxpayers.” [NNB]

This is a classic illustration of a manufactured crisis. The same article reports:

“Nevada PERS officials say the current state plan is actuarially sound, and that the unfunded liability will be covered over time. They also note that the contribution rates required to keep the plan healthy are set by an independent actuary and are fully funded by the Legislature. The Legislature also made several changes to the existing PERS plan in 2009.”

The current state defined benefits plan will face more attacks, in spite of the fact that it IS actuarially sound, and in spite of the fact that contribution rates are adequate. What the privatization advocates from the right wing, as represented by ALEC, want is a defined contribution plan, such a form of 401(k).

A paper prepared for global institutional investors (pdf) in December 2006 highlights the problem with the move from defined benefits to defined contribution plans in the private sector:

“The transition from DB to DC plans in private sector pensions is shifting investment risk from the corporate sector to households. Households are therefore becoming increasingly exposed to financial markets, and retirement income may be subject to greater variability than before. This is not only the case in countries with a mature occupational pension system, but also interestingly in emerging markets, where pension reforms (aimed at either setting up private occupational pension schemes or funding pay-as-you-go systems) are adopting a structure predominantly based on that of DC or hybrid schemes.” (emphasis added)

Two red flags wave before us: (1) the investment risk is shifted from the employer to the employee; and (2) the employees are “increasingly exposed to financial markets.”  This is YOYO (You’re On Your Own) writ large. It is also a nice scheme by which the financial markets — and the financialist marketeers — gain access to more money (retirement contributions) for their Wall Street Casino. For the Financialists this is a double win. Heads they get retirement funds to invest, and Tails they get more people increasingly dependent on their financial manipulations such that they might secure more political support from the now-more-dependent contributors.

These recommendations are precisely what we might expect from an organization like ALEC which has secured support from the Charles G. Koch Foundation, the Scaife Foundation, Coor’s Castlerock Foundation, the Bradley Foundation, and the Olin Foundation.  Surely State Senator Dean Rhoads, who has served on the ALEC Board of Directors [PRW] will not advocate legislation too far out of step with the interests of State Farm Insurance Inc., the Altria Group, AT&T, Bayer Pharmaceutical, Coca-Cola, Exxon-Mobil, Koch Companies, Pfizer, Peabody Energy, and WalMart. [AExp] Nor might we expect any dissent from State Senator Barbara Cegavske (R-Clark 8) who includes ALEC membership in her official bio.

The Zero Sum Game hiring freeze will no doubt emerge in the next session of the Nevada legislation, in tandem with the ALEC recommendations for changing the public employees retirement systems from a defined benefits to a defined contribution format. Forewarned is forearmed.

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Filed under Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, public employees