JOIN FOR $1

Wall Street gave more money during 2020 election than any campaign season in US history

As part of Wall Street's "relentless push to influence decision-making" in Washington, D.C., the powerful financial sector spent a record $2.9 billion on campaign donations and lobbying in the 2020 election cycle, a new report shows, with Democrats including President Joe Biden accepting millions of dollars.
According to Americans for Financial Reform (AFR), which published the study Thursday, the historic sum was spent by Wall Street executives, employees, and trade groups, and included campaign contributions as well as lobbying expenses.

The sector's goal was to ensure lawmakers pass "policy that makes the already wealthy richer, and the rest of us poorer," regardless of which party is in power.

#WallStreet spent $2.9 BILLION to influence policy in Washington during the last election cycle
The goal: Policy that makes the already wealthy richer, and the rest of us poorer
New report from @RealBankReform
https://t.co/2oi84taIfn pic.twitter.com/WdH2ZMyShf
— AFR (@RealBankReform) April 15, 2021

The spending detailed in AFR's report likely does not represent Wall Street's total contributions, the organization noted, because $1.05 billion in dark money, with unknown original sources, was spent on the 2020 federal elections.

"Thus, total Wall Street spending [accounts] for, at a minimum—because it is impossible to track dark money from the industry—one in seven dollars that financed the 2020 federal elections, the most expensive ever," AFR reported.

The financial sector spent the most money ever on political elections last year since 2016, when Wall Street poured $2 billion into campaigns and lobbying efforts. AFR executive director Lisa Donner noted that Wall Street is likely to continue breaking records in the coming years.

"The enormous sums that Wall Street has at its disposal, combined with a broken campaign finance system, means there is little practical limit to the amount of money the financial services industry can inject into American debate on politics and policy," Donner said in a statement.

The majority of the campaign contributions from Wall Street went to Democratic candidates, with Democrats taking 53% of the donations. More than $74 million was given to Biden's campaign.

Newly elected Democratic Sens. Mark Kelly of Arizona and Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock of Georgia were among the senators who received a combined $300 million from Wall Street executives and employees.

On Twitter, AFR said some of the biggest political spenders on Wall Street last year were Bloomberg LP, which poured $157.8 million into the elections; the National Association of Realtors, which spent more than $154 million; and Blackstone Group, which spent more than $49 million.

Amid the $2.9bn that #WallStreet dumped into American politics, there were some standouts in spending on campaigns and lobbying:
@Bloomberg $157M
@nardotrealtor $154M
Fahr LLC $70M
@Citadel $69M
@blackstone $49M
Read our latest report:
https://t.co/2oi84taIfn pic.twitter.com/HRc22wxaIN
— AFR (@RealBankReform) April 15, 2021

"Year in and year out, this torrent of money gives Wall Street an outsized role in how we are governed, while driving and protecting policies that help this industry's super wealthy amass even greater fortunes at the expense of the rest of us," said Donner.

'Entire system is to blame': Outrage builds after police union leader says officer killing of unarmed teen was 'heroic'

Outrage over the police killing of 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago was compounded overnight and into Friday after the president of the city's police union claimed the shooting was "100% justified" and that the officer's actions were "heroic."

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) was among the critics who responded to Chicago Police Union head John Catanzara's remarks by calling for "systemic" changes to policing to end the killing of civilians.

"The problem is systemic and it requires systemic solutions," tweeted the congresswoman.

On CNN's "Cuomo Prime Time" Thursday night, Catanzara told host Chris Cuomo that the officer deserved praise for shooting the 7th grader only one time. Body camera footage released Thursday showed Toledo with both arms raised when he was fatally shot with a single bullet by Officer E. Stillman.

"He could have been shot multiple times but the officer assessed in a split second," said Catanzara, who earlier this year defended the mob that violently stormed the Capitol building, saying the group caused "very little destruction of property."

"Unfortunately, he already committed to the first shot, justifiably so," he added.

In the footage from the March 29 killing, Toledo is seen being chased down an alley by Stillman. Despite Catanzara's claim that Toledo was armed, no gun is visible in his hand after the officer orders him to stop and he puts his hands up.

Scott Roberts, senior director of criminal justice campaigns at Color of Change, said in a statement that the killing of Toledo offers only the latest evidence that "Chicago city leadership has failed to meet the moment because of their lack of transparency and knee-jerk reaction to defend the Chicago Police Department."

"This is reminiscent of the handling of the 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald," Roberts said. "The issue with racist police violence however, is bigger than one officer. The entire system is to blame. And while police departments continue to adopt piecemeal reforms that have failed to address police violence or create any accountability, we need real, systemic change if we ever expect it to end. Additional training, body-worn cameras, and civilian oversight are not enough to protect Black and Brown lives. We need to divest from police, invest in our communities, and fundamentally reimagine public safety in America."

Journalist Mehdi Hasan condemned Catanzara's justification of the killing, calling the comments "cold-blooded."

Catanzara's "blind" defense of the officer's actions "just shows how incredibly broken our system of policing is," tweeted journalist Justin Kanew.

"Ending this isn't just about consequences for who pulls the trigger," tweeted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). "It's about admitting to and confronting an entire system that exists to protect, defend, and cover up state violence."

Omar noted on Twitter that previous responses to the killings of Black and Latinx Americans by police officers—such as the funding of body cameras and increased training—have clearly not led to a decrease in violence against civilians.

"All that funding and reform hasn't stopped the police from killing people or made our communities safer," tweeted Omar.

New bill would combat right-wing 'assault' on democracy -- and change the Supreme Court forever

Democrats in the House and Senate on Thursday are planning to introduce legislation to expand the number of seats on the U.S. Supreme Court from nine to 13, a proposal hailed by progressive advocacy groups as a critical step in combating the conservative takeover of the high court and protecting key constitutional rights.

Led by Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), and Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) in the House and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) in the upper chamber, the Judiciary Act of 2021 is set to be unveiled just days after President Joe Biden signed an executive order forming a 36-member commission tasked with studying potential Supreme Court reforms, including expansion.

But Demand Justice executive director Brian Fallon said in a statement late Wednesday that "we cannot afford to wait six months for an academic study to tell us what we already know: the Supreme Court is broken and in need of reform."

"This bill marks a new era where Democrats finally stop conceding the Supreme Court to Republicans," Fallon said of the Democrats' new legislation. "Our task now is to build a grassroots movement that puts pressure on every Democrat in Congress to support this legislation because it is the only way to restore balance to the Court and protect our democracy."

Sean Eldridge, president of advocacy group Stand Up America, noted on Twitter that "expanding the Supreme Court is far from unprecedented."

"Congress has changed the size of the Court seven times in our nation's history, including five times to add seats to the Court," Eldridge wrote. "The past five times Congress expanded the Supreme Court, it set the number of justices to match the number of circuits in the federal court system. Today, there are 13 circuit courts, and the Judiciary Act follows precedent by increasing the Supreme Court to 13 justices."

The Judiciary Act, the details of which were first reported by The Intercept, comes as Republican-appointed justices hold six of the Supreme Court's nine seats, leaving conservatives well-positioned to target reproductive rights, voting rights, the Affordable Care Act, and more.

The most recently confirmed judge, Amy Coney Barrett, was rushed through the then-Republican-controlled Senate just days before the 2020 November presidential election, after millions of Americans had already cast their ballots by mail. And progressives consider Justice Neil Gorsuch—one of three total justices nominated by former President Donald Trump—to be occupying a "stolen seat," given that he was confirmed after the GOP refused hold hearings for Merrick Garland, an Obama pick.

"Our democracy is under assault, and the Supreme Court has dealt the sharpest blows," Jones tweeted Wednesday, pointing to the high court's rulings in Citizens United v. FEC, Shelby County v. Holder, and Rucho v. Common Cause.

"To restore power to the people," wrote Jones, "we must expand the court."

The new bill will be officially introduced Thursday morning on the steps of the Supreme Court, but the proposed reform faces daunting odds of getting through Congress as Democrats cling to narrow control of both chambers and the Senate's 60-vote legislative filibuster remains in place.

Biden, furthermore, has voiced skepticism about calls to expand the court, saying in October that he's "not a fan" of the idea.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, Markey acknowledged the bill's long odds and said, "We have work to do to organize, mobilize, and spur Congress to take action to reform the court."

In a statement endorsing the Judiciary Act, Stand Up America political director Brett Edkins warned that "unless Congress works to depoliticize the judiciary and stop activist justices like Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett from striking down policies supported by a majority of Americans, our voting rights, racial justice, and healthcare will continue to be at risk."

"For decades, Republicans have rammed radical right-wing justices onto the Supreme Court in a coordinated effort to defend corporate special interests, attack Americans' constitutional rights, and erode our democratic institutions," said Edkins. "The Judiciary Act undoes the damage conservatives have done to the highest court by adding four seats to the bench, matching the number of federal appellate courts."

"Time is of the essence—and we must act before the right-wing justices on the Supreme Court rig the rules of our democracy even further," Edkins added. "That starts with both chambers quickly passing the Judiciary Act."

'Now, we need to make the change permanent': FDA lifts abortion pill restriction during pandemic

Healthcare providers, reproductive rights advocates, and progressive politicians are not only celebrating the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's decision this week to lift a restriction on accessing abortion medication during the coronavirus pandemic but also calling on regulators to retain the policy after the public health crisis is over.

"Medication abortion just became more accessible during the pandemic," NARAL Pro-Choice America tweeted Wednesday. "Now, we need to make the change permanent."

"We look forward to working with policymakers to ensure this principle governs post-pandemic care."
—Dr. Maureen G. Phipps, ACOG

In a statement, NARAL chief campaigns and advocacy officer Christian LoBue said that "the in-person dispensing restriction—which the Trump administration fought to keep in place during the pandemic—prioritized ideology over science and endangered the health and well-being of Americans."

"The unfortunate reality is that medication abortion care remains out of reach for many due to additional medically unnecessary and ideologically motivated restrictions," LoBue continued. "We must ensure that people can access the care that they need even after the pandemic ends."

LoBue added that "we are hopeful that the Biden administration will take further action to remedy this through a comprehensive FDA review of all restrictions on medication abortion—bringing us closer to a world where we all have the freedom to make our own decisions about our lives, our bodies, and our futures."

A medication or medical abortion is one way to complete an early miscarriage or end a pregnancy, and commonly involves two drugs—mifepristone and misoprostol—taken orally. The FDA requires that mifepristone "only be dispensed in clinics, medical offices, and hospitals by or under the supervision of a certified healthcare provider." The patient can then take the medication at a time and place they choose.

Though healthcare experts and advocates have long opposed the dispensing restriction as an unnecessary barrier to abortion care, and argued for a permanent policy change, that call gained new weight during the Covid-19 crisis.

Last year, a federal court ruled that the FDA must temporarily suspend enforcement of the restriction and allow patients to receive mifepristone by mail. However, the Trump administration fought back, and the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the in-person pickup rule in January, just days before President Joe Biden took office.

In March, reproductive rights, health, and justice groups sent petitions and a letter urging the Biden administration to lift the dispensing restriction. Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock responded Monday with a letter (pdf) to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.

The FDA "conducted a literature search for studies pertinent to the in-person dispensing requirement," Woodcock wrote. "The overall findings from these studies do not appear to show increases in serious safety concerns (such as hemorrhage, ectopic pregnancy, or surgical interventions) occurring with medical abortion as a result of modifying the in-person dispensing requirement during the Covid-19 pandemic."

Dr. Maureen G. Phipps, ACOG's CEO, applauded the agency "for acknowledging the strong safety and efficacy profile of mifepristone for termination of early pregnancy" and said that "by halting enforcement of the in-person dispensing requirement during the Covid-19 pandemic, the FDA is recognizing and responding to the available evidence—which has clearly and definitively demonstrated that the in-person dispensing requirement for mifepristone is unnecessary and restrictive."

"ACOG has for years advocated for the FDA to remove the in-person dispensing requirement for mifepristone, given that there is no safety reason for the restrictions and that the restrictions were more burdensome than those placed on medications with similar safety profiles, or even those with greater risks," she noted. "Requiring the medicine to be dispensed in person, then taken elsewhere at the patients' discretion, is arbitrary and does nothing to bolster the safety of an already-safe medicine."

While recognizing that the pandemic made the FDA's restriction "not just burdensome," but "also dangerous," Phipps vowed that ACOG will keep working to make the drug accessible in the long-term. "We are pleased to see mifepristone regulated on the basis of the scientific evidence during the pandemic, rather than political bias against comprehensive reproductive healthcare," she said, "and we look forward to working with policymakers to ensure this principle governs post-pandemic care."

The ACLU—which filed suit on behalf of ACOG and other organizations last May to block the FDA's policy during the pandemic and is currently challenging it more broadly in separate litigation—responded similarly.

"This important step will ensure that abortion and miscarriage patients will no longer be forced to unnecessarily risk exposure to a deadly virus in order to access time-sensitive, essential healthcare," said Georgeanne Usova, senior legislative counsel at the ACLU. "But we cannot stop here."

"The restrictions on medication abortion are outdated and have obstructed patients' access for far too long," she said. "We urge the FDA to comprehensively evaluate them to ensure that patients can get the care they need without medically unnecessary, harmful obstacles—even after the pandemic ends."

'Major step forward' as New Mexico legalizes recreational marijuana

"Seven years later, New Mexicans are finally able to exhale."

That's what Emily Kaltenbach of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) said Monday after New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, signed legislation that not only legalizes adult use of recreational marijuana but also includes key social justice provisions long sought by proponents of legalization. Kaltenbach's remark referenced just how long lawmakers and activists have been working for this win.

"The signing of the cannabis legalization and expungement package will ensure equitable opportunities for farmers and other small businesses, and long overdue justice—including automatic expungement—for those with past cannabis arrests or convictions," said Kaltenbach. "We thank the governor and our legislative allies for not taking 'no' for an answer and stopping at nothing until we were able to get justice for New Mexico communities—particularly Hispanic/Latinx, Black, Native, and Indigenous—that have been immensely harmed by cannabis prohibition."

Kaltenbach, DPA's senior director for resident states and New Mexico, highlighted that Lujan Grisham "stopped at nothing" to advance the legislation. The Associated Press pointed out Monday that she "called a special legislative session to tackle the issue in late March after legalization efforts faltered."

The DPA leader praised not only Lujan Grisham but also the sponsors who "went to the mat to ensure racial justice and equity provisions, public health safeties, and medical cannabis patient protections were front and center in their legislation." They include state Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino (D-12), whom DPA "had the privilege of working with since 2014, when he first sponsored cannabis legalization in the state."

Noting that "thousands of people, and a disproportionate number of them from communities of color, have been wronged by this country's failed war on drugs," Ortiz y Pino said in a statement that "we will all benefit from our state's smart, fair, and equitable new approach to past low-level convictions."

Another sponsor, state Rep. Andrea Romero (D-46), also took aim at the so-called drug war and its impact on people of color. "By ensuring equity and social justice in our cannabis legalization," she said, "we are saying 'enough' to the devastating 'war on drugs' that over-incarcerated and over-penalized thousands of New Mexicans."

As The Hill reported Monday:

The governor noted that the sentencing component of the law could impact up to tens of thousands of New Mexicans, and make possible the potential early release of low-level convicted cannabis offenders who are currently incarcerated.
The governor's signature launches an administrative process that will culminate in the launch of commercial sales for adults no later than April 1, 2022. Issuing licenses to conduct commercial cannabis activity will begin no later than January 1, 2022.

Lujan Grishman also touted the economic impact.

"Legalized adult-use cannabis is going to change the way we think about New Mexico for the better—our workforce, our economy, our future," she said. "We're ready to break new ground. We're ready to invest in ourselves and the limitless potential of New Mexicans. And we're ready to get to work in making this industry a successful one."

Citing economist and public finance expert Kelly O'Donnell, the governor's office pointed out that sales of adult-use recreational cannabis could total $318 million in the first year and create more than 11,000 jobs over several years. The excise tax could raise at least $20 million in the first fiscal year alone.

"As we look to rebound from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic," said Lujan Grisham, "entrepreneurs will benefit from this great opportunity to create lucrative new enterprises, the state and local governments will benefit from the added revenue and, importantly, workers will benefit from the chance to land new types of jobs and build careers."

As the governor put it: "This legislation is a major, major step forward for our state."

According to the AP:

The bill gives the governor a strong hand in oversight of recreational marijuana through her appointed superintendent of the Regulation and Licensing Department.
Agency Superintendent Linda Trujillo said people age 21 and over will be allowed [to] start growing marijuana at home and possess up to 2 ounces (56 grams) of marijuana outside their homes starting on June 29.
Recreational cannabis sales start next year by April 1 at state-licensed dispensaries.

New Mexico isn't alone in recently overhauling its cannabis policies. Last month, New York lawmakers enacted legalization legislation the state's DPA director dubbed "the new gold standard for reform efforts nationwide."

'Retire Breyer': Progressive group joins growing call for SCOTUS justice to step down

A left-leaning advocacy group on Friday joined the growing chorus of calls for U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer to retire so that President Joe Biden can nominate a liberal replacement while Democrats control the Senate.

Demand Justice published a statement Friday urging Breyer "to retire so that President Biden can appoint the first-ever Black woman Supreme Court justice."

The group—founded in 2018 by former Obama administration staffers amid then-President Donald Trump's successful effort to pack federal courts with far-right judges—launched an online petition declaring that "it's time for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to announce his retirement."

The petition states that Breyer "has been a distinguished justice, but now is risking the Senate falling into Republican hands before Democrats can confirm Biden's nominee."

"We have waited long enough for a Black woman Supreme Court justice," the petition asserts. "And with a 50-50 Senate, there is no time to waste. We need to start the process of confirming a Black woman justice now. Tell Justice Breyer: Put the country first. Don't risk your legacy to an uncertain political future. Retire now."

Demand Justice also hired a billboard truck that was spotted circling the Supreme Court with the "Breyer, Retire" message.

"We are now firmly in the window when past justices have announced their retirement, so it's officially worrisome that Justice Breyer has not said yet that he will step down," said Demand Justice executive director Brian Fallon. "The only responsible choice for Justice Breyer is to immediately announce his retirement."

"We cannot afford to risk Democrats losing control of the Senate before a Biden nominee can be confirmed," Fallon added. "Justice Breyer is not entitled to the benefit of the doubt at this point. Those worried about the court's future should speak up to ensure he understands the need for him to time his retirement wisely."

While campaigning for president, Biden repeatedly said he would nominate a Black woman to the nation's highest court if he had the opportunity—a step he called "long overdue."

"I'm looking forward to making sure there's a Black woman on the Supreme Court," the former vice president said days before the 2020 South Carolina Democratic presidential primary.

The risk of Democrats losing control over the Senate—which confirms Supreme Court nominees—is not limited to the outcome of the 2022 midterm elections. The Hill notes that if any member of the Senate Democratic caucus from a state with a GOP governor leaves office for any reason, their replacement would most likely be a Republican.

The Senate is currently evenly split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting a tie-breaking vote in the case deadlock.

According to The Hill:

Ketanji Brown Jackson, a judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia appointed by former President Obama, is considered a top candidate to make history on the high court. Biden recently nominated her to fill Merrick Garland's open seat on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

While Demand Justice is the latest group to urge Breyer's retirement, there have been calls for the 82-year-old to retire since Biden's election. In January, University of California, Berkeley constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky told The Washington Post that "stepping down when there is a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate to replace him... is his best way of ensuring that someone with his values and his views takes his place."

In 2014, Chemerinsky published an op-ed urging the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to retire while Obama was in office. She did not, and since she was still serving on the bench when she died last September, Trump was able to replace her with far-right nominee Amy Coney Barrett—his third successful appointment to the high court.

The Demand Justice campaign launched on the same day that Biden signed an executive order establishing a commission to explore possible Supreme Court reforms—including increasing the number of justices as allowed by the Constitution. Breyer's opposition to "court-packing" has been cited by some of those who are calling on him to retire.

Florida senate advances 'dangerous' bill that could criminalize peaceful protest

Civil rights and free speech advocates on Friday decried the advancement in the Florida Senate of a controversial bill that the ACLU says "aims to silence, criminalize, and penalize Floridians for exercising their First Amendment right to protest."

The appropriations committee of the GOP-controlled Florida Senate voted Friday to approve House Bill 1 (pdf), which was first proposed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis last September in the wake of Black Lives Matter and other racial justice protests that followed the police killing of unarmed Black people including George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville.

If passed, the bill would classify certain demonstrations as felonies and impose harsh penalties on some protesters. The Florida House of Representatives voted last month along party lines to approve H.B. 1. The ACLU of Florida warned at the time that:

H.B. 1 would send people to prison for up to 15 years for pulling down a Confederate flag or other shrines to white supremacy. It would subject any person present at any gathering that became violent through no fault of their own to felony charges, potentially leading up to five years in prison and the loss of their voting rights, even if the individual did not engage in any violent and disorderly conduct, among other provisions. It would also protect violent counter-protesters from civil liability for injuring or killing a protester with their vehicle.

The entire Florida Senate will now vote on the bill. On Friday, state Senate Minority Leader Gary Farmer (D-34) told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that the bill "is so broadly worded, so badly defined, so potentially harmful to the right of free speech that... you could have peaceful protesters prosecuted simply for being present while someone near them... breaks the law."

Micah Kubic, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, said in a statement Friday that "H.B. 1 is a direct attack on the First Amendment. It is designed to stifle Floridians' right to peacefully assemble and seek change in their democracy."

"For these past several weeks, legislators have been hearing opposition to these harmful bills from Floridians of all walks of life," Kubic added. "Nearly everyone who has testified has strongly opposed this bill for an array of reasons."

Itohan Ighodaro, a Black woman from Broward County in South Florida, told the Florida Phoenix she opposes the bill because she fears it will be used to target minorities.

"H.B. 1 is harmful legislation that will have a long-term devastating impact on marginalized communities," said Ighodaro. "The Florida Senate has the ability to prevent this dangerous bill from becoming law."

"Peaceful protest has been and is still the organizing mechanism [and] cultural tool Black Americans have used to continue to fight for our freedom," she added. "This bill was pushed by a governor who did not bother to include a racial and ethnic impact study, even with prior knowledge of the demographic of Floridians who protest."

Advocacy groups also strongly oppose the measure. Keshia Morris Desir, mass incarceration project manager at Common Cause, said in a statement that "students of history know that our country would not have been formed without protests."

"The most famous protest—the Boston Tea Party—led eventually to the First Continental Congress," Morris Desir said. "Protest was such an important part of our country's early history that our Constitution enshrines the right in the First Amendment."

"Students of history also know that our country would not have moved forward without protests," she added. "Women's suffrage. Ending child labor. The 40-hour work week. Voting rights for people of color. Environmental protection laws. Workplace safety laws. All of these changes—and others—came only after people assembled and petitioned our government for the redress of grievances. Now some Florida legislators want to ignore that history and violate Floridians' right to protest."

The ACLU's Kubic remained optimistic that H.B. 1 could still be defeated.

"Though it is disappointing the bill has passed this committee today, we will not stay silent," he said. "We will not allow politicians to meddle with Floridians' constitutional rights. We still have a chance to stop this bill and we, along with thousands of Floridians, call on the full Senate to stop this bill."

As Texas lawmakers attack voting rights, GOP official aims to 'build an army' of poll watchers

Common Cause Texas on Thursday shared a leaked video of a Harris County GOP official discussing plans to "build an army" of 10,000 election workers and poll watchers, including some who "will have the confidence and courage" to go into Black and Brown communities to address alleged voter fraud that analyses show does not actually exist.

"What we see in this video is a concrete, real-world example of why it is a downright dangerous idea to expand poll watcher powers while removing the ability of election workers to kick a disruptive poll watcher out."
—Anthony Gutierrez, Common Cause Texas

The pro-democracy advocacy group's release of the footage came less than a week after the Republican-controlled Texas Senate passed legislation that critics charge disproportionately targets minority and urban voters by curbing their ability to participate in elections with restrictions like limiting early voting hours.

In response to the video, which Common Cause Texas described as "alarming," opponents of Senate Bill 7 specifically raised concerns about the legislation empowering partisan poll watchers to film, record, and photograph people casting their ballots—with the supposed intent to send the material to the Texas secretary of state.

The unnamed GOP official explains in the video that the goal is to build an "election integrity brigade" of "motivated and highly competent folks" in Harris County—which includes Houston, the Lone Star State's most populous city—who will "safeguard... our voting rights."

Using his cursor on a local map, the official also claims that a diverse, urban portion of the county "is where the fraud is occurring."

"What we see in this video is a concrete, real-world example of why it is a downright dangerous idea to expand poll watcher powers while removing the ability of election workers to kick a disruptive poll watcher out," said Anthony Gutierrez, executive director of Common Cause Texas, in a statement.

"Volunteer poll watchers who have no ill intent and who do not plan to disrupt voting would have no need to be 'courageous' about going into predominantly Black and Brown communities," he said. "When I hear someone say he needs 'courageous' volunteers to be part of an 'army' that will keep an eye on voters in minority neighborhoods, I hear all the same old dog whistles with a slightly updated harmony."

The Common Cause Texas leader tied legislative efforts to embolden poll watchers to the nation's long legacy of voter suppression targeting people of color.

"Giving partisan poll watchers the exclusive power to surveil voters and election workers and then secretly submit video and photos to the secretary of state and attorney general is an evolved tactic that has its roots in the Jim Crow Era," he said. "It should be a cause for alarm for anyone who cares about racial justice, privacy, and whether we want the state government encouraging partisan actors to spy on their fellow Texans while they try to cast their ballot."

Gutierrez pointed out that "there have been documented instances of poll watchers disrupting poll sites and intimidating voters by doing things like standing too close to voters."

"If these bills become law, those poll watchers could now stand too close to a voter receiving assistance while they record video on their phone, and an election judge would not be able to kick them out," he warned. "These proposals would weaponize poll watchers and empower them to disrupt and delay voting at any poll site in Texas."

S.B. 7, which passed the state Senate in a 18-13 party-line vote, now heads to the Texas House Elections Committee, which advanced House Bill 6, another anti-voting measure, on Thursday. Texas is among the majority of U.S. states where GOP lawmakers this year have proposedor passed—bills that opponents call clear efforts to suppress the vote.

The Washington Post reported Thursday on the video—which Common Cause Texas released in full, along with a short version—and the response from a local GOP leader:

In a statement to the Post, the Harris County Republican Party said Common Cause was "blatantly mischaracterizing a grassroots election worker recruitment video." The party chair Cindy Siegel accused the group of trying "to bully and intimidate Republicans."
"The goal is to activate an army of volunteers for every precinct in Harris County," Siegel said. "And, to engage voters for the whole ballot, top to bottom, and ensure every legal vote is counted."

Gutierrez described the GOP effort quite differently.

"It's a new whistle but the tune is the same," he said. "The myth of voter fraud is frequently used to target the communities of color to delegitimize their vote and silence the voice of a rising electorate that simply wants to claim their rightful place in our democracy. It has to stop."

Other activists and advocacy groups concurred.

"This is exactly why we need to restore the full power of the Voting Rights Act: because discrimination against voters of color is still a huge problem in Texas," said the state's Poor People's Campaign.

H. Drew Galloway, executive director of MOVE Texas, pointed to the footage as evidence of why H.B. 6 and S.B. 7 are racist. The video, he said, "shows how partisan poll watchers are *already* targeting polls in Black and Brown neighborhoods in Houston—and these racist bills will allow them to film and intimidate voters."

73 percent of US voters—including 57 percent of Republicans—back Biden's $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan

A new poll released Tuesday shows that a large, bipartisan majority of voters in the United States supports President Joe Biden's proposal to spend $2.25 trillion over eight years to upgrade the nation's physical and social infrastructure.

The survey (pdf), conducted by Invest in America and Data for Progress, found that voters support Biden's American Job Plan by a 52 point margin, with 73% of all voters in favor and only 21% opposed.

Notably, 67% of Independents and 57% of Republicans support the American Jobs Plan, even as GOP lawmakers opposed to raising taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations have vowed to fight against the modernization of the country.

poll_results.pngVoters Across Party Lines Support the American Jobs Act (Source: Data for Progress)

Biden has proposed creating millions of good-paying jobs to clean up abandoned fossil fuel sites; expand broadband; repair drinking water systems; fix roads, bridges, and schools; green power grids and transportation networks; and invest in the manufacturing sector.

According to the poll, more than 60% of voters back every key provision of the plan, including investments in physical infrastructure, clean energy, manufacturing, housing, and the care economy.

results_2.pngVoters Support the Provisions of the American Jobs Plan (Source: Data for Progress)

The biggest complaint that progressives have about Biden's infrastructure plan is that it is not nearly ambitious enough.

'Fire every board member then fire DeJoy': Lawmaker fury grows over Postal Service leadership

Democratic lawmakers issued fresh calls late Monday for President Joe Biden to remove all six members of the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors to enable the ouster of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy after the board declared its "full support" for the Republican megadonor accused of openly sabotaging the agency.

"Every single member of the postal board should be fired. They're openly complicit in DeJoy's sabotage and arson."
—Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.)"Instead of holding DeJoy accountable, the USPS Board of Governors confirmed what I always suspected was true: The six current members are all DeJoy loyalists," tweeted Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).

Duckworth was reacting to the response she received from the postal board regarding her March 25 letter demanding it fire DeJoy for cause, citing his "pathetic 10-year plan to weaken USPS" as evidence that "he is a clear and present threat to the future of the postal service and the well-being of millions of Americans, particularly small business owners, seniors, and veterans, who depend on an effective and reliable USPS to conduct daily business, safely participate in democracy, and receive vital medication."

The letter to Duckworth signed by postal board chairman Ron Bloom described DeJoy as a "transformational leader" who "continues to enjoy the board's full support."

The new 10-year strategy, the letter asserts, will "achieve service excellence adapting the postal service to the evolving needs of the American people, which will make our product offerings more attractive to prospective customers."

Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.)—who called on Biden in January to purge the postal board for having remained silent during "the devastating arson of the Trump regime"—criticized the board's response to Duckworth.

"Every single member of the postal board should be fired," Pascrell tweeted Monday. "They're openly complicit in DeJoy's sabotage and arson. Fire every board member then fire DeJoy."

Duckworth, in a separate tweet Monday, said, "I'm re-upping my February request that @POTUS use his legal authority to remove the entire Board for cause."

The lawmakers' calls were echoed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

"We'd love to see some spring cleaning at the postal service. Fire Louis DeJoy," the government watchdog tweeted.

Last month, over 50 U.S. House members, including Pascrell, similarly urged Biden to replace the postal board, the only body with the power to directly fire the postmaster general. The lawmakers said in the letter that the current six members of the board should be replaced "with nominees of the caliber of your recent nominees for the three vacant board seats." The letter (pdf) added:

Under the tenure of this BOG, the postal service was blatantly misused by President Trump in an unsuccessful gambit to influence a presidential election, the Postal Service is currently failing to meet its own service standards with historically low rates of on-time delivery, and conflicts of interest appear to be a requirement for service. Because of their lax oversight, many families struggling through the pandemic still await delivery of their stimulus checks, credit card statements, or event holiday cards. The nonpartisan Postal Service Office of Inspector General found that the BOG allowed their hand-picked postmaster general (PMG) to implement significant operational changes in the milieu of the election and the pandemic without conducting any research into the impacts and ramifications of these changes.

"The board has remained silent in the face of catastrophic and unacceptable failures at a moment when the American people are relying on the postal service the most," the lawmakers wrote. "It is time to remove all governors and start over with a board vested with the expertise and acumen this nation needs in its postal service leadership."

Fauci says federal government won't mandate vaccine passports

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Biden administration's chief medical adviser, said Monday that Covid-19 vaccine passports are "not going to be mandated from the federal government."

"I doubt that the federal government will be the main mover of a vaccine passport concept," Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview on the "Politico Dispatch" podcast.

It could be a different story, however, with individual entities like theaters or educational institutions.

"You could foresee how an independent entity might say, 'Well, we can't be dealing with you unless we know you're vaccinated.' But it's not going to be mandated from the federal government," Fauci said.

The interview came amid a rising number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. for a third straight week and fears of a potential fourth surge.

That surge could be prevented, Fauci said, with continued progress on Americans getting inoculated and sustained public health measures to contain the virus. Fauci pointed to the need to "put your foot on the accelerator when it comes to vaccinations"—which he called "incredibly efficacious." But "we can't declare victory prematurely," he added, cautioning against the lifting of coronavirus restrictions just yet.

Fauci's comments came amid swirling criticism from the left and right over the idea of vaccine passports.

The effort, though, is already underway in some parts of the world, as France24 reported:

Some countries have already introduced such policies, with Iceland becoming the first European nation to issue vaccine certificates in late January. Greece on Tuesday unveiled a digital vaccination certificate for those who have received two doses of the vaccine. Among the countries that are currently issuing or asking for vaccine certificates are Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, and Sweden.
Across the English Channel, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Monday his government would consider Covid-19 "status certificates" as a pathway out of the health crisis.

In the U.S., the concept of a vaccine passport isn't popular; just 44% of likely voters back the idea, according to a Rasmussen poll out last week. Bolstering such lackluster support are privacy concerns about vaccination documents. From PBS NewsHour:

[T]here are growing concerns about data privacy as documents verifying Covid-19 vaccination would exist and generally be accessed digitally. These digital health records would operate outside of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA, which protects people's private medical information from being disclosed by healthcare providers, health plans, or businesses. And there are instances when HIPAA allows that information to be released, such as when it is in the public interest. More broadly, some people are concerned that their data could be used against them by law enforcement, accessed by hackers, or sold to third-party vendors if regulators fail to offer appropriate oversight.

Further concerns, according to The Lancet, are that vaccine "certificates" threaten to exacerbate vaccine inequality. An editorial this month explained:

From a societal standpoint, granting vaccine certificate bearers access to select activities, venues, or international travel would undoubtedly provide impetus to the reopening of some sectors of the economy, such as hospitality, non-essential retail, and tourism. But it also risks generating hierarchical societies in which vaccinated individuals have exclusive privileges that are denied to those who have not received the vaccine. In countries where vaccine rollout is advancing rapidly, this inequity might be resolved in few months, but elsewhere it could be protracted for longer periods. And at an international level, against the backdrop of the currently limited availability of Covid-19 vaccine doses and their inequitable global distribution, the deployment of vaccine certificates for travel will afford citizens of high-income countries greater freedom of movement than citizens of low-income and middle-income countries.

At a Monday press briefing, meanwhile, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Rochelle Walensky expressed concern the nation is "entering our fourth week of increased trends and cases." But the positive news, she said, is that an increasing number of Americans are being vaccinated against Covid-19.

"To date, more than 106 million people have received at least one dose, and more than 61.4 million, or 18.5%, are fully vaccinated," said Walensky.

She pointed to a February event at a bar in Illinois that's been linked to 46 Covid-19 cases as a reminder of "the continued need for layer prevention strategies," including mask-wearing and physical distancing.

NLRB says Amazon firing of workers who demanded better labor policies was illegal retaliation

The National Labor Relations Board has determined that Amazon unlawfully retaliated against a pair of its employees by firing them after a vocal push for the technology and retail giant to improve worker conditions and do more to limit its contributions to the climate crisis, the New York Times reported early Monday.

"It's a moral victory and really shows that we are on the right side of history and the right side of the law."
—Maren Costa, fired Amazon employeeAccording to the Times:

The employees, Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, had publicly pushed the company to reduce its impact on climate change and address concerns about its warehouse workers.
The agency told Ms. Cunningham and Ms. Costa that it would accuse Amazon of unfair labor practices if the company did not settle the case, according to correspondence that Ms. Cunningham shared with the New York Times.
"It's a moral victory and really shows that we are on the right side of history and the right side of the law," Ms. Cunningham said.

As Common Dreams reported in January of last year, climate justice advocates blasted Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos after Costa, Cunningham, and others said they received threats from the company over their outspoken public lobbying.

"This is not the time to shoot the messengers," Costa said at the time. "This is not the time to silence those who are speaking out."

As the Times notes, Amazon fired Costa and Cunningham in April of 2020, "not long after their group had announced an internal event for warehouse workers to speak to tech employees about their workplace conditions."

The Verge on Monday reported that the NLRB's determination over Cunningham and Costa's firing "is part of a growing pattern of labor violations at Amazon, which has been accused of violating workers' rights to protest labor conditions in a growing number of cases. In March, the NLRB made a similar determination about retaliation against organizers at a warehouse in Queens, as well as a separate retaliation case connected to a warehouse in Chicago. Six Pennsylvania warehouse workers are also pursuing a retaliation case against the company in federal court. An NBC News analysis counted 37 separate labor rights cases against Amazon filed with the NLRB since February 2020."

Christy Hoffman, general secretary of UNI Global Union, welcomed the latest news.

Calling it an "important decision" for labor rights, Hoffman said, "It's clear that Amazon has been violating the law when it tries to silence workers who speak out."

As Republicans fume, Georgia Dems have mixed reactions to MLB's all-star game relocation

As Republicans predictably cried foul over Major League Baseball's Friday decision to relocate the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta in response to Georgia's restrictive new voting law, prominent Democrats blamed the GOP for the economic toll the move will take on the Peach State.

"Georgia Republicans must renounce the terrible damage they have caused to our voting system and the harm they have inflicted on our economy."
—Stacey Abrams,
Voting rights campaigner

Voting rights campaigner and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams—a Democrat whose loss some prominent observers have blamed on voter suppression—weighed in on MLB's decision to deprive their state of an event that generates anywhere from tens of millions of dollars to over $100 million in revenue.

Abrams said in a statement that the Republicans behind the new law passed it "knowing the economic risks to our state" yet "prioritized making it harder for people of color to vote over the economic well-being of Georgians."

"Like many Georgians, I am disappointed that MLB is relocating the All-Star Game," she said. "However, I commend the players, owners, and league commissioner for speaking out."

"Georgians targeted by voter suppression will be hurt as opportunities go to other states," Abrams added. "Georgia Republicans must renounce the terrible damage they have caused to our voting system and the harm they have inflicted on our economy."

In a statement Friday, MLB commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. said he "decided the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year's All-Star Game and MLB draft."

"Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box," Manfred said. "In 2020, MLB became the first professional sports league to join the nonpartisan Civic Alliance to help build a future in which everyone participates in shaping the United States. We proudly used our platform to encourage baseball fans and communities throughout our country to perform their civic duty and actively participate in the voting process. Fair access to voting continues to have our game's unwavering support."

Manfred said that although the All-Star Game will be relocated, "we will continue with our plans to celebrate the memory of Hank Aaron," the Hall of Famer who played outfield for the Atlanta Braves when he broke Babe Ruth's all-time home run record in 1974, and who was a beloved community leader until his death in January.

The decision to pull the Midsummer Classic from Atlanta came after the state's Republican-controlled Legislature passed, and GOP Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law, a sweeping voting restriction bill that critics say targets minority and urban voters.

As the Washington Post reported at the time, the law will "impose new identification requirements for those casting ballots by mail; curtail the use of drop boxes for absentee ballots; allow challenges to voting eligibility; make it a crime for third-party groups to hand out food and water to voters standing in line; block the use of mobile voting vans, as Fulton County did last year after purchasing two vehicles at a cost of more than $700,000; and prevent local governments from directly accepting grants from the private sector."

Georgia's two Democratic senators had differing views on the MLB move. In a statement, Sen. Raphael Warnock said that "businesses and organizations have great power in their voices and ability to push for change, and I respect the decision of the players to speak out against this unjust law."

"It is not the people of Georgia or the workers of Georgia who crafted this law, it is politicians seeking to retain power at the expense of Georgians' voices," he continued. "Today's decision by MLB is the unfortunate consequence of these politicians' actions."

"It is my hope that businesses, athletes, and entertainers can protest this law not by leaving Georgia but by coming here and fighting voter suppression head on, and hand-in-hand with the community," added Warnock. "Additionally, the urgency to pass federal voter protection laws grows every day, and I will continue to be a leader in that fight."

On the other hand, Jon Ossoff, Georgia's other Democratic senator, strongly opposed the relocation.

"I absolutely oppose and reject any notion of boycotting Georgia," he told the right-wing National Review. "Georgia welcomes business, investment, jobs, opportunity, and events. In fact, economic growth is driving much of the political progress we have seen here."

"Georgia welcomes the world's business," Ossoff added. "Corporations disgusted like we are with the disgraceful voter suppression bill should stop any financial support to Georgia's Republican Party, which is abusing its power to make it harder for Americans to vote."

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland  announces new missing and murdered indigenous unit at Interior

Human rights defenders on Friday applauded the announcement by U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland that the Bureau of Indian Affairs will establish a unit tasked with investigating missing and murdered Indigenous people.

"Violence against Indigenous peoples is a crisis that has been underfunded for decades. Far too often, murders and missing persons cases in Indian country go unsolved and unaddressed, leaving families and communities devastated."
—Interior Secretary
Deb Haaland

The Interior Department said in a statement Thursday that "approximately 1,500 American Indian and Alaska Native missing persons have been entered into the National Crime Information Center throughout the U.S., and approximately 2,700 cases of murder and nonnegligent homicide offenses have been reported to the federal government's Uniform Crime Reporting program."

The agency said that the new Missing & Murdered Unit (MMU) "will help put the full weight of the federal government into investigating these cases and marshal law enforcement resources across federal agencies and throughout Indian country."

The MMU will build on the work of Operation Lady Justice, a task force on missing and murdered Indigenous people launched in 2019.

"Investigations remain unsolved often due to a lack of investigative resources available to identify new information from witness testimony, re-examine new or retained material evidence, and review fresh activities of suspects," the Interior Department statement said. "The MMU, in addition to reviewing unsolved cases, will immediately begin working with tribal, BIA, and FBI investigators on active missing and murdered investigations."

Haaland—the first Native American Cabinet secretary in U.S. history—said Thursday that "violence against Indigenous peoples is a crisis that has been underfunded for decades. Far too often, murders and missing persons cases in Indian country go unsolved and unaddressed, leaving families and communities devastated."

"The new MMU unit will provide the resources and leadership to prioritize these cases and coordinate resources to hold people accountable, keep our communities safe, and provide closure for families," Haaland continued. "Whether it's a missing family member or a homicide investigation, these efforts will be all hands on deck."

"We are fully committed to assisting tribal communities with these investigations, and the MMU will leverage every resource available to be a force-multiplier in preventing these cases from becoming cold case investigations," she added.

According to the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women, Indigenous women are murdered at 10 times the national average. Statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show homicide is the third-leading cause of death among American Indian and Alaska Native girls and women ages 10 to 24 and the fifth-leading cause of death for those between the ages of 25 and 34.

A 2016 National Institute of Justice report (pdf) found that 84% of Indigenous women have experienced violence in their lifetimes, 41% had been physically injured by intimate partners, and 67% were concerned for their safety.

Two years later, a survey (pdf) published by the Seattle-based Urban Indian Health Institute reported 5,712 cases of missing and murdered Indigenous girls in 2016, of which only 116 were logged in the U.S. Department of Justice's federal missing persons database.


May 5 is National Day of Awareness for missing and murdered Native women and girls.

Fossil fuel companies got $8.2 billion in tax bailouts—then fired over 58,000 workers

Bolstering arguments against providing further public benefits to the fossil fuel industry, a BailoutWatch analysis published Friday reveals that 77 companies got a collective $8.24 billion tax bailout last year, then laid off tens of thousands of employees.

The tax benefits for major polluters resulted from two provisions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, signed by then-President Donald Trump in March 2020. The CARES Act changed corporate tax cuts from legislation that passed under Trump in late 2017, which critics often refer to as the Trump-GOP "tax scam."

"The impact of the change was highly concentrated, enabling each of the 77 firms to collect an average of $107 million in benefits," the nonprofit's new report explains. "Among the top beneficiaries, the contrast between the millions—even billions—they received and the number of workers they sacked is staggering."

According to BailoutWatch's review of fossil fuel firms' Securities and Exchange Commission filings, "Payrolls were cut by a net 58,030 jobs at the 74 of these companies that reported employee headcounts for the end of 2019 and 2020."

"The 62 companies that laid off workers collected $7.65 billion through the tax bailout—about $131,000 for each of the 58,488 people they left jobless," the report says. "Five companies filed for bankruptcy protection after receiving $308.7 million in tax bailouts and laying off a total of 5,683 workers."

The report discloses that three companies reported no employment changes last year while nine others—which together got $406 million of tax benefits—added a total of 416 jobs. Those 12 companies accounted for $556.6 million of the analyzed benefits.

BailoutWatch highlights four companies that got tax windfalls but still fired workers:

  • Marathon Petroleum received $2.1 billion in tax benefits and laid off 1,920 people, about 9% of its workforce;
  • Devon Energy received $143 million and laid 22% of its workers;
  • National Oilwell Varcoalso received $591 million and cut payrolls by 22%; and
  • Occidental Petroleum received $195 million and cut 2,600 jobs, 18% of its 2019 workforce.

Occidental spokesperson Eric P. Moses told Inside Climate News that the cuts were associated with its 2019 acquisition of Anadarko Petroleum "and completed prior to the Covid pandemic and Congress' passage of the CARES Act."

The outlet also reported:

Marathon disputed the figure, saying that less than 30% of its $2.1 billion tax benefit was due to the CARES Act provisions. However, its annual securities filing said that based on the carryback "as provided by the CARES Act, we recorded an income tax receivable of $2.1 billion" to reflect the company's estimate of the refund it expected to receive in its 2020 tax return.
Marathon spokesman Jamal T. Kheiry said some of the layoffs were associated with the idling of refineries, and added that the company was generous with employees who lost their jobs. "To help affected employees transition, we provided severance, bonus payments, extended healthcare benefits at employee rates, job placement assistance, counseling and other provisions," he said.

Though the tax benefits didn't require companies to keep staff, BailoutWatch researcher Chris Kuveke still criticized the firings. He told The Guardian, "I'm not surprised that these companies took advantage of these tax benefits, but I'm horrified by the layoffs after they got this money."

"Last year's stimulus was about keeping the economy going, but these companies didn't use these resources to retain their workers," Kuveke added. "These are companies that are polluting the environment, increasing the deadliness of the pandemic, and letting go of their workers."

The researcher further noted that fossil fuel companies "had no problem paying their executives for good performance when they didn't perform well."

"There is no problem with working Americans retaining their jobs but I don't believe we should subsidize an industry that has been supported by the government for the past 100 years," said Kuveke. "It's time to stop subsidizing them and start facing the climate crisis."

As the BailoutWatch report notes:

Some companies' coronavirus bailouts were not limited to the tax benefits. At least seven took a collective $37.7 million from the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program—money designed to keep people employed. Yet six of them laid off a total of 335 workers, averaging one layoff for every $247,000 they received from the two tax programs.
And seven companies received the implicit endorsement of the Federal Reserve when it included their bonds in its Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility (SMCCF) portfolio, signaling to investors that it was ready to shore up their bad bets on the companies. Fed support helped oil and gas companies borrow nearly $100 billion from private markets.

The analysis comes after BailoutWatch estimated in November that fossil fuel companies had received $5.5 billion in tax benefits, as part of up to $15.2 billion in all benefits tied to the CARES Act. In contrast with his predecessor, President Joe Biden is taking aim at benefits for the industry.

Although the $2 trillion infrastructure plan Biden unveiled this week has been criticized by some for falling "woefully short" on the climate crisis, the White House did make clear that he wants to "eliminate tax preferences for fossil fuels and make sure polluting industries pay for environmental clean up."

"The current tax code includes billions of dollars in subsidies, loopholes, and special foreign tax credits for the fossil fuel industry," says a White House fact sheet for the plan. "As part of the president's commitment to put the country on a path to net-zero emissions by 2050, his tax reform proposal will eliminate all these special preferences. The president is also proposing to restore payments from polluters into the Superfund Trust Fund so that polluting industries help fairly cover the cost of cleanups."

Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Raw Story Investigates and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.