Evening News Reads: David H. Koch asks…What does it mean to be human?

Good Evening!

Tonight’s post is going to focus on something I came across while planning my family’s summer vacation in Washington, DC. Imagine my surprise when I realized that the Smithsonian has an exhibit bought and paid for by one half the Tea Party Darlings…The Koch BrothersDavid H. Koch.

Yes…the same man who brought…or should I say bought, you Scott Walker!

The same man who has inspired so many post over at Think Progress.

Half of the team of brothers that we have written about here on Sky Dancing.

Feast your eyes on the National Museum of Natural History’s Exhibit on Human Evolution and Climate Change…

Human Evolution by The Smithsonian Institution’s Human Origins Program

David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins: What does it mean to be human?

From the Koch Family Foundation website:

Education & Science

Mr. Koch supports science-related projects including funding of the long-running PBS documentary series, “Nova,” and a science and technology center at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts. As the national sponsor of The Bill of Rights Institute’s 2009-2010 high school essay contest, Mr. Koch’s philanthropy helps educate young people about the words and ideas of the nation’s founders. Winners of the “Being An American” contest were honored at a gala held in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Koch’s $15 million gift to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., created the David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins that opened spring 2010. The 15,000-square-foot exhibit offers visitors an immersive and interactive museum experience. In 2006, he made a $20 million gift to the American Museum of Natural History, creating the David H. Koch Dinosaur Wing.

Public Policy

A passionate believer in free societies, Mr. Koch has funded research and education programs that analyze how freedom creates prosperity and advances social progress.  He serves on the boards of the Cato Institute, the Reason Foundation and Americans for Prosperity Foundation.

Notice the Americans for Prosperity Foundation does not have a link attached to it…well here it is.

Anyway, can you grasp the irony? This is the man who is part of the Dynamic Duo behind the Tea Party and all they stand for…KOCH INFLUENCE BEYOND THE POLITICAL ARENA

David and Charles Koch, billionaire owners of Koch Industries, have donated their money to organizations beyond the political arena. In fact, Koch Industries has donated millions of dollars to non-profit, as well as for profit, organizations and museums.

In a profile by Gary Weiss for portfolio.com, David Koch explained why he donated $100 million to renovate the aging State Theater in Manhattan, home to both the New York City Opera and New York City Ballet. Koch explained that not only could he afford to give, but he attends that theater more than any other theater in the world.  Koch is quoted as saying, “I love the whole aspect of it—gorgeous music, fabulous sets…. And, of course, there are beautiful girls.”

The reasons why they donate to these companies are not always quite so apparent as the ballet’s “beautiful girls.”. Weiss suggests that the Kochs’ philanthropy is being used to balance the scales against their ardent politics.

Those politics are deeply rooted in the free market system. Koch explained to Weiss, Taking David Koch at his word suggests that he and his brother are giving because it’s the right thing to do; however, they also donate because it also allows them to further their own political agenda.

Several examples illustrate this point.

Yes, take a gander at those examples…here’s a couple of paragraphs about the Smithsonian exhibit I am focusing on now:

…Koch-sponsored group called Americans for Prosperity. a huge supporter of the Tea Party Movement since its inception.

http://media3.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/photo/gallery/100316/GAL-10Mar16-4075/media/PHO-10Mar16-212004.jpgKoch has also donated money to the arts and museums. He has supported renovations of the Lincoln Center’s New York State Theater building, the dinosaur wing of the American Museum of Natural History, and the David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural.

Koch donated $15 million to the Smithsonian to help to create an exhibit on human evolution. The exhibit hall is titled The David H. Koch Hall of Human Evolution. Paleoanthropologist Rick Potts, director of the Smithsonian’s Human Origins Program and curator of anthropology at the National Museum of Natural History, has come under criticism for accepting Koch money.

When questioned about it, Potts called Koch a “philanthropist who is deeply interested in science…. our donors have no control over the content of our science or scholarship of our exhibits. And the same is true in this case. We feel very grateful for David Koch’s contributions to helping, I hope, the American public and us being able to bring science to them.”

Dr. Joseph Romm, editor of Climate Progress and a Senior Fellow at the American Progress, has criticized Potts’ “greenwashing,” noting that the Smithsonian downplays or ignores the risks posed by human-caused climate change in a number of exhibits.

“The exhibit’s main theme is that extreme climate change in the past made humans very adaptable, an interesting theory based on limited data and lots of speculation,” Romm writes at his website. “But its huge flaw is that it it leaves visitors with the distinct impression that human-caused global warming is no big deal — even though our understanding of the grave threat posed by that warming is based on far, far more research and data.”

Romm asserts that Koch has spent over $48.5 million since 1997 to fund the anti-science disinformation machine, calling Koch “an even bigger funder of disinformation on climate science than Exxon Mobil” in an attempt to derail climate change policy.

There apparently was a big stink back a few years ago, folks got wind of the Smithsonian Hall of being “Human and began to write about it, as these series of articles from Think Progress points out. Please note that many of these are from 2010, and some are in PDF formats. (Also since I was in such a hurry to get this post up, I will list these articles in groups.) Anyway, check these out:

‘Climate Crime Scene’ declared at Smithsonian’s David H. Koch Hall Of Human Origins. | ThinkProgress

A ‘Grateful’ Smithsonian Denies Greenwashing ‘Philanthropist’ David H. Koch’s Dirty Money | ThinkProgress

New Yorker exposes Koch brothers along with their greenwashing and whitewashing Smithsonian exhibit | ThinkProgress

For more articles that refer to the questionable funding of the Smithsonian Exhibit, again from 2010:

Global Warming Heats Up at the Smithsonian – The Daily Beast

How Did Washington Get Pushed So Far Towards the Crazy Right? | AlterNet

As for the other kinds of philanthropic activities of the Koch Brothers:

The New Yorker, Jane Mayer, A reporter at large: Covert Operations The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama.

Here is an article in response to the Mayer piece above: Jonathan Chait On The Shameless David Koch, America’s Whiniest Billionaire. | The New Republic

One more: The billionaire Koch brothers: Tea Party puppetmasters? – The Week

And yet another one: The Long Tentacles of The “Koch-topus” | NationofChange

Now this Nation of Change article mentions a PBS editorial which you can find here: PBS | Ombudsman | Trust but Verify

And then…you have this from Andrew Goldman (so you know where this one is going to go): How Oil Heir and New York Arts Patron David Koch Became the Tea Party’s Wallet — New York Magazine

Koch also funded the Dinosaur wing as well, which also makes for some interesting conversation..but for now, I look forward to seeing this exhibit on Evolution and Climate Change bought by the Koch Agenda moneybags…I wonder, if any of these display’s have a dickless Adam…without Eve…or any mention of neanderthals on the ark…or that the earth is only 6,000 years old…hmmm, or dinosaurs with saddles on them…

What do you think?

The Ripple Effect

I don’t know if it’s simply the election cycle or what, but more and more frequently the world seems to be spinning out of control.  Problems and/or issues everywhere.  Which one to prioritize?  How to “fix” what is going wrong?  Is it leaving you with an overwhelming sense of helplessness?  It does me, all too often.

Here is a list of the serious issues that are bombarding my senses:

  • The economy
  • Unemployment
  • Poverty
  • Wall Street’s continuing abuses
  • Wealth inequality
  • Debt
  • Offshore oil drilling
  • Fracking
  • Renewable energy
  • The condition of our oceans
  • Climate change
  • Endangered species
  • Pesticides, herbicides
  • Food safety
  • Pollution of our air and water
  • Violence against women throughout the world
  • Pay equity
  • Abortion rights
  • Access to contraception
  • ALEC’s legislative initiatives
  • ALEC’s co-opting of our political process
  • The need for campaign finance reform
  • Voting rights
  • Union busting
  • Immigration
  • Health and health care
  • The dismantling of our educational system
  • The privatization of the prison system
  • Hate speech & hate crimes
  • Gun rights & gun control
  • The billions of non-human animals killed each year worldwide, not only for food, but on our streets, in our homes and in our shelters
  • Wars, seemingly everywhere
  • The aftermath and attempted recovery following both natural and man-made disasters

There is little doubt in my mind that most people have shut down and they have chosen to ignore many, if not all of these critical issues.  For so many others they don’t have a choice.  They don’t even have the time or energy to think about them because they are struggling to survive, to put food on their tables, to pay the bills and keep a roof over their heads.  Their focus is on their personal problems, not the bigger issues that are taking a heavy toll on their day to day lives, their future and the future of their families.

What can we do?  How can the majority of the people on the planet, especially those whose personal resources are sorely limited make a difference, not only in their own lives, but for the future of all life on our planet?  Here are a few simple each of us could try:

  • Educate ourselves so we make conscious decisions that will benefit our finances, our health and the impact we have on our environment, whether it’s our home, our community or the planet.
  • Reduce the amount of plastic, especially disposable plastic, that we buy.  For example, opt for fresh foods over processed, prepackaged foods when possible.  Use refillable containers instead of individual bottles of water. Avoid individually packaged food items – opt for a full size bag or container.  Separate into individual servings at home. Don’t buy disposable plates and cups.  Recycle and/or reuse plastic – and don’t forget to cut up those plastic rings that hold bottles and cans together – and return plastic bags to the stores for recycling.  Take reusable bags when we shop, instead of the store’s plastic bags.
  • Donate unused items to community groups or thrift stores.
  • Pick up trash when we see it: in our yards, in the parking lots, on the beach, or participate in an annual beach or waterway cleanup in our area.
  • Volunteer our time in schools, nursing homes, soup kitchens, for non-profits or wherever our time and expertise can be used.
  • Eat lower on the food chain.  It’s good for our health.  It’s good for the planet, and it’s good for the animals.
  • Write letters or send emails to our local media, to our elected officials, and to policy makers.  Sign up for the action alerts of groups who address issues of concern to us.
  • Adopt a homeless animal from a shelter or local rescue group.  It will save a life and the animal will enrich ours. And if you can’t adopt, consider volunteering for a local rescue group or even fostering an animal until he/she is ready to be adopted.

Many of you are probably already doing some or all of these, or you may be doing others that I haven’t mentioned.   By all means, if you have additional personal solutions or tips, please add them in the comments.  Most of these ideas will only cost a bit of your time.  Many of them will actually save money.   I know that even doing what seems like something small, I feel better.  I feel like I am doing my part, however little it might be.  We rarely know the full impact of the choices we make on a daily basis, or how our actions might influence others.  Even if we can’t always make waves, we can, at least, generate some ripples.

Monday Morning Reads

Good Morning!!

I always enjoy a little E.L Doctorow. Fortunately, I have some to share with you this morning. Monday Morning is a good time to be acerbic. Doctorow offers up some advice on how to be embrace the US’s inner state of unexceptionalism.  Phase One was carried out during the Dubya years.  I think you’ll recognize it.

TO achieve unexceptionalism, the political ideal that would render the United States indistinguishable from the impoverished, traditionally undemocratic, brutal or catatonic countries of the world, do the following:


If you’re a justice of the Supreme Court, ignore the first sacrament of a democracy and suspend the counting of ballots in a presidential election. Appoint the candidate of your choice as president.

If you’re the newly anointed president, react to a terrorist attack by invading a nonterrorist country. Despite the loss or disablement of untold numbers of lives, manage your war so that its results will be indeterminate.

Using the state of war as justification, order secret surveillance of American citizens, data mine their phone calls and e-mail, make business, medical and public library records available to government agencies, perform illegal warrantless searches of homes and offices.

Take to torturing terrorism suspects, here or abroad, in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment. Unilaterally abrogate the Convention Against Torture as well as the Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment of prisoners of war. Commit to indeterminate detention without trial those you decide are enemies. For good measure, trust that legislative supporters will eventually apply this policy as well to American citizens.

Suspend progressive taxation so that the wealthiest pay less proportionately than the middle class. See to it that the wealth of the country accumulates to a small fraction of the population so that the gap between rich and poor widens exponentially.

By cutting taxes and raising wartime expenditures, deplete the national treasury so that Congress and state and municipal legislatures cut back on domestic services, ensuring that there will be less money for the education of the young, for government health programs, for the care of veterans, for the maintenance of roads and bridges, for free public libraries, and so forth.

Deregulate the banking industry so as to create a severe recession in which enormous numbers of people lose their homes and jobs.

Before you leave office add to the Supreme Court justices like the ones who awarded you the presidency.

Don’t miss the other phases!

Here’s my offering for one of those phases.  It’s from Alternet writing on a HuffPo piece.

 For the Republicans’ constant trumpeting of saving the economy in public, they have proven time and again that’s exactly the opposite of what they want to do. The latest: the GOP would like to save the disproportionate defense spending by… cutting food stamps. No, America, they do not care about your well being, or whether all of us can afford to eat. The Huffington Post:

In a memo sent to members Wednesday instructing them how to write their reconciliation bill, Republicans picked a number of targets, including extracting $80 billion from federal workers and $44 billion from health care. In all, it identifies $78 billion to cut in 2013, and details around $300 billion over 10 years.

But the memo spends the most time targeting the exploding cost of food stamps, on which more Americans rely than ever, at greater expense to the government than ever before.

Each month during fiscal 2011, an average of 45 million mostly poor Americans received benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, at a cost of $78 billion to the federal government. Last year’s SNAP participation represented a 70 percent increase from 2007, and the highest enrollment the program has ever seen. In that time, the cost of the program more than doubled.

Of course, the food stamp budget is “exploding” (in HuffPo’s weird term) because the Republicans have failed to support a single plan that might help average Americans get back on their feet.

Chinese workers are back in the news.  Foxconn Workers endure terrible working conditions and many are threatening suicide again. Of course, we have to go to the UK Guardian to read up on this.  Heaven Forbid that we learn people suffer to provide Ipads to the nation’s self absorbed yuppies.

Workers at a factory owned by Foxconn, Apple‘s main manufacturer, threatened to jump off the roof of a building in a protest about wages, a month after the two firms reached agreement on improving working conditions.

The protest happened in the central China city of Wuhan.

It involved 200 workers, the Hong-Kong based activist group Information Centre for Human Rights said.

A company spokesman said the dispute, which concerned workplace adjustments and involved new workers, had been settled. He said it was not a strike. The company employs 1.2 million workers in China.

“The dispute has already been settled after some negotiations involving the human resources and legal departments as well as the local government,” the Taipei-based spokesman, Simon Tsing, said.

Foxconn, China’s largest private-sector employer, and Apple agreed to tackle violations of working conditions and improve working environments.

The deal was agreed almost two years after a series of worker suicides at Foxconn plants focused attention on conditions at Chinese factories and sparked criticism that Apple’s products were made by Chinese workers subjected to mistreatment.

On Tuesday Apple reported that its fiscal second-quarter net income almost doubled after a jump in iPhone sales, exceeding financial market expectations.

 Speaking of Apple, are you aware they are one of the biggest tax dodgers among a proud tradition of US corporations that avoid paying taxes?

Apple, the world’s most profitable technology company, doesn’t design iPhones here. It doesn’t run AppleCare customer service from this city. And it doesn’t manufacture MacBooks or iPads anywhere nearby.

Yet, with a handful of employees in a small office here in Reno, Apple has done something central to its corporate strategy: it has avoided millions of dollars in taxes in California and 20 other states.

Apple’s headquarters are in Cupertino, Calif. By putting an office in Reno, just 200 miles away, to collect and invest the company’s profits, Apple sidesteps state income taxes on some of those gains.

California’s corporate tax rate is 8.84 percent. Nevada’s? Zero.

Setting up an office in Reno is just one of many legal methods Apple uses to reduce its worldwide tax bill by billions of dollars each year. As it has in Nevada, Apple has created subsidiaries in low-tax places like Ireland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and the British Virgin Islands — some little more than a letterbox or an anonymous office — that help cut the taxes it pays around the world.

Almost every major corporation tries to minimize its taxes, of course. For Apple, the savings are especially alluring because the company’s profits are so high. Wall Street analysts predict Apple could earn up to $45.6 billion in its current fiscal year — which would be a record for any American business.

We have a bipartisan effort with two US congress women looking to stop the use of GOOGLE by Human Traffickers. U.S. Representatives Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee (R) and Carolyn Maloney (D)  of New York are looking at GOOGLE practices that may accommodate this hideous  industry.

In an effort to stop a rising tide with the use of online networks for human trafficking, two U.S. Representatives of Congress, Republican Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, along with Democrat Carolyn Maloney of New York, have sent a bipartisan letter to the largest online search engine in the world – Google, Inc.Questioning current practices and policies at Google, specifically within the offices of Google Adwords, the Congresswomen are sending a joint letter from Congress to Google to bring hard questions to the internet giant.

Stepping up their efforts, the Blackburn and Maloney Congressional team are bringing Google’s employee policies under the microscope. Unless Google answers the questions regarding the handling, receiving and allowing of online advertising by Google Adwords the corporate giant may be questioned further.

“It’s about time that we all take a close look at the largest ad publisher in the world – Google,” said Phil Cenedella, founder and director of The National Association of Human Trafficking Victim Advocates, an advocacy group that works on-the-ground with women and girl victims of human trafficking and now over 41 global partners. “This problem is worldwide and it’s growing right under our feet,” continued Cenedella. “The U.S. is one of the biggest consumers of modern slaves and illegal slave labor worldwide and this includes sex-trafficking.”

The aim by Congress is to find out more about internal problems at Google Adwords that may be allowing international and local human trafficking rings to sexually exploit and sell women and girls online.

If you need a smile this morning, try the 18 funniest joked by Jimmy Kimmel from the Nerdprom on Saturday night.

1. To Obama: “I know you won’t be able to laugh at my jokes about the Secret Service. Please cover your ears, if that’s physically possible.”

2. “If you told me when I was a kid I would be standing on a dais with President Barack Obama, I would have said, ‘The president’s name is Barack Obama?'”

3. “Remember when the country rallied around you in hopes of a better tomorrow? That was hilarious.”

4. “Democrats would like you to stick to your guns. And if you don’t have any guns, you can ask Eric Holder to get some for you.”

5. “They say diplomacy is a matter of carrot and sticks, and since Michelle Obama got to the White House — so is dinner.”


Here’s an inspiring thought for the day:

“A nation cannot be liberated whether internally or externally while its women are enchained.”

Egyptian feminist Doria Shafik 1908-1975

So, there ya go!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

How Do You Measure Success?

“If people think there’s something wrong with being successful in America, then they’d better vote for the other guy,” Romney said. “Because I’ve been extraordinarily successful, and I want to use that success and that know-how to help the American people.”

Mitt Romney on Fox News Sunday, 2/26/2012

I’ve been thinking about the definition of success for quite a while, ever since Mitt Romney started bragging about how “extraordinarily successful” he is and whining about how anyone who talks about income inequality (outside of “quiet rooms”) is motivated by envy.

It seems that Romney defines success as amassing vast wealth in business by any means necessary. In Romney’s case, he made a fortune at Bain Capital by buying up other businesses and–in many cases–destroying them in order to enrich Bain’s stockholders. In the process, he put countless people out of work and drove families and even towns into ruin. Is that success? Should we applaud him for that?

Even if we acknowledge that Romney has been successful by a number of societal measures–graduating from Harvard, running a business, being elected Governor of Massachusetts–isn’t his definition of success still pretty shallow and limited? I think so.

I think my dad was successful. He grew up in poverty, survived the Great Depression, fought in World War II, worked his way through college and graduate school, taught thousands of college students and inspired many of them to go into teaching themselves. He earned the title of full professor in his department and served as a Dean at his university. He helped my mom raise five children and did what he could to help us as adults. He was a loving and supportive grandfather and great grandfather.

My dad was honest and hard-working. He didn’t believe in cheating on his taxes or hurting other people in order to advance himself. He cared about his students, and they could tell he cared. He was loved and admired by both top students and average ones. I know because for two years I attended the university where he taught, and I met many students who enthusiastically told me what a great teacher he was. Some of dad’s students even wrote grateful letters to him after he retired–and we heard from others after he died two years ago.

That’s just one very personal example, but I think there are endless ways that people can be successful in life. It’s not all about money and holding high positions, as Romney seems to believe. Not too long ago, Romney became very defensive about a speech that President Obama made to a community college audience in Ohio:

Obama addressed GOP charges of class-warfare rhetoric while touting government programs before a group of community college students in job-training programs.

“These investments are not part of some grand scheme to redistribute wealth. They’ve been made by Democrats and Republicans for generations, because they benefit all of us,” the president remarked.

“We created a foundation for those of us to prosper. Somebody gave me an education. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. Michelle wasn’t. But somebody gave us a chance.”

Obama never mentioned Romney, but he drew a contrast between the Democratic notion that society provides opportunities for people and the Republican claim that individuals make it on their own–even if, like Romney, they begin with much greater opportunities than most. Romney responded:

“I’m certainly not going to apologize for my dad and his success in life,” Romney said Thursday morning on “Fox and Friends.” “He was born poor. He worked his way to become very successful despite the fact that he didn’t have a college degree, and one of the things he wanted to do was provide for me and for my brother and sisters. I’m not going to apologize for my dad’s success.”


“I know the president likes to attack fellow Americans. He’s always looking for a scapegoat, particularly those that have been successful like my dad.”

No one asked Romney to apologize, but why is he so incapable of seeing that he has received rich benefits from his parents and from American society? Why doesn’t his phenomenal success in amassing great wealth arouse in him a desire to give back to other Americans who weren’t as privileged as he was? It seems that all wants is to look down his nose at 99% of the population and give us holier-than-thou lectures about self-reliance when he never once had to rely only on himself!

A couple of weeks ago, Michael Kinsley wrote about Romney’s “failed definition of success.”

Among the secrets of success that Romney might wish to share is how you arrange to be born to a rich family. Or, to be less vulgar, an intact and loving family that valued education. Or, for that matter, to be born smart. The neocon controversialist Charles Murray writes books arguing that the second and third factors (family and innate intelligence) are more important than the first (money). You can argue about this all day, but in Romney’s case it doesn’t matter because he had all three factors hard at work, paving his way to success.

Is he even aware of it? Maybe Romney’s not so smart, because he goes on and on about how successful he is in a way that strikes people as obnoxious. “I stand ready to lead us down a different path, where we are lifted up by our desire to succeed, not dragged down by a resentment of success.”

Is there a “resentment of success” in this country? I don’t sense it. Certainly you do not need to resent success in order to believe that successful people are, for the most part, adequately rewarded for their success.

And Kinsley asks, what about people who fail according to Romney’s definition? Should they just roll over and die?

A society that rewards success is good for the successful, and no doubt good for society as a whole. Romney is right about that. But not everyone can be successful. How many people did Romney have to elbow out of his way on the path to success?

“It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.” That’s Gore Vidal, and it’s unnecessarily vicious. The pleasure of success shouldn’t depend on the prospect of others failing, but the reality of success usually does.

But failures are people, too! If success is mostly luck, then so is failure. When a government policy rewards success in a way that actually does lift all of society, that’s fine. But the policies advocated by Republicans, including Romney — primarily lower taxes on the higher brackets — would only make success more successful. They would do nothing to distinguish success for the few from success that really does benefit us all.

Last week, after Romney became the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, he gave a speech in New Hampshire to kick off his general election campaign. He again bragged about his “success in business” and talked about “character.”

In the America I see, character and choices matter. And education, hard work, and living within our means are valued and rewarded. And poverty will be defeated, not with a government check, but with respect and achievement that is taught by parents, learned in school, and practiced in the workplace.

Well, I don’t think much of Mitt Romney’s character. To me, character implies empathy, caring for other people, and giving back to the society that has provided opportunities to succeed in whatever way we define success. I don’t buy Romney’s notion that only the rich and powerful are successful. I’d rather live in poverty until the day I die that have the kind of “success” that is built on hurting other people, as Romney’s is.

Pay Check Fairness Act and the Politics of the Gender Gap

It’s evident that the Democratic Party wants that wide Gender Gap to stay right where it is until the November Elections.  The introduction of the Pay Check Fairness Act may be a ploy to put Republicans and Blue Dawg Dems on the spot but it will be an interesting ploy and one to watch.  The last time the bill came to the floor was in 2010.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will bring to the floor in coming weeks legislation to protect women from retaliation by employers if they inquire about salaries paid to male colleagues

Republicans voted in unison to block the bill, the Paycheck Fairness Act, when it came to the floor in November of 2010.

Democrats say it will be difficult for GOP senators to back out of their opposition, especially because the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has staunchly opposed the legislation.

Mitt Romney will either have to split with Republicans and an important business group or take a position that could further erode his support among women.

“Romney’s going to be on defense on the Paycheck Fairness Act,” said a senior Democratic aide.

“Women are making 70 cents on a dollar of what a man is making. This will resonate with females across the spectrum. If Republicans to a person are coming down against it, it will be at their political peril,” the aide said.

A spokeswoman for Romney’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

The bill would prohibit employer discrimination for inquiring about, discussing or disclosing the wages of another employee.

It would expand the definition of wage discrimination by allowing employees to compare the pay of male colleagues not only within the same office but also with colleagues in other local offices. A female employee could allege wage discrimination if she is paid less than a male working the same job for the same employer across town.

Not a single Republican voted to advance the legislation when Reid brought it to the floor during the 2010 lame duck session, after Republicans scored a huge electoral victory but Democrats still controlled the House and Senate.

Forty Republicans and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) voted against the legislation. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) did not vote.

So why exactly do Republicans dislike the Equal Pay Act so much since its only function is to level the playing ground and prevent discrimination?  Well, for one, Republicans deny that women are paid differently from men.

This morning, during a heated discussion with Rachel Maddow on Meet The Press, GOP consultant Alex Castellanos denied that women make 77 cents for a man’s dollar in the workplace and noted, “there are lots of reasons for that.” Maddow expressed shock at the assertion, but concluded that it explained why Republicans and Mitt Romney are so hesitant to embrace the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, a law that helps women hold accountable employers who discriminate in the pay practices based on gender.

“Now we know, at least from both of your perspectives,” Maddow said, pointing to Castellanos and Romney surrogate Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), “women are not fairing worse than men in the economy that women aren’t getting paid less for equal work.” “It’s about policy and whether or not you want to fix some of the structural discrimination that women really do face that Republicans don’t believe is happening,” she added. Castellanos responded to Maddow’s policy argument by remarking on her passion, to which the MSNBC host took offense:

CASTELLANOS: It is about policy and I love how passionate you are. I wish you were as right about what you’re saying as you are passionate about it. I really do.

MADDOW: That’s really condescending. This is a stylistic issue. My passion on this issue is actually me making a factual argument on it.

My guess is that the introduction of this law is geared to force Romney to take a stand on something he’s been trying to avoid.  Romney has been quite coy about his position on the Lily Ledbetter Act which was the first bill signed into law by Obama.  Romney’s position on the law is unclear.  This comes behind the miserable behavior of Republicans on renewal of the Violence Against Women Act.  Every GOP member of the judiciary committee voted against scheduling a vote on the Act.

Romney sidestepped the controversy by announcing his support for reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act without specifically endorsing the Senate Democratic bill. Senate Republicans quickly conceded and allowed the bill to receive a final vote without waging a filibuster.

Clearly, Reid is maneuvering these bills to put Romney and Republicans in the hot seat.  This makes me wonder if we’re even going to get a fair hearing on the issues themselves. Even though Republicans will likely tank the bill, it would be nice to bring the topic into a discussion that is more about the issue and less about the political process. Greg Sargent of WAPO’s Plum Line has some of the behind the scene maneuvers.

The looming vote could revive a recent controversy that erupted around equal pay issues. On a recent Romney campaign conference call, HuffPo’s Sam Stein asked Romney surrogates whether Romney supports the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which mad e it easier for people to challenge pay discrimination. The campaign at first waffled, but then released a statement confirming that Romney “supports pay equity and is not looking to change current law.”

But Romney’s campaign has not said whether he would have signed that law in the first place.

Now Romney’s rhetorical support for pay equity faces another test in the looming Senate vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act.

This Act would put more pressure on employers to prove that differences in wages are not rooted in gender difference, and would make it easier for employees to divulge information about their salaries, which would in turn facilitate deterring or challenging pay discrimination.

Two years ago Senate Republicans opposed the Paycheck Fairness Act, which had strong support from Obama, and it’s likely they will do so again. But Romney is on record supporting “pay equity” in principle, so he’d either have to break with that principle, or break with Senate Republicans, at a time when the battle over the female vote is raging in the presidential race. If Romney supports the measure, it could make passage of it more likely.

“This is an issue that a number of women Democratic Senators are absolutely intent on addressing — they know that with women still being paid 77 cents to each male worker’s dollar, this is an issue of fundamental fairness that women across the country face daily,” a senior aide to a female Senator says. “A lot of women who don’t necessarily see this as a partisan issue will be watching.”

The Romney campaign, in its pitch for female voters, has argued that women don’t care about social issues as much as they do about jobs, and that pocketbook issues will ultimately drive the female vote. But the Paycheck Fairness Act is a gender issue that’s all about the pocketbook and the economy.

Guess we’ll have to stay tuned to see how much we actually get to discuss this issue compared to the political wrangling designed to keep the gender gap working for the benefit of democratic politicians.  Hopefully, the women in congress will add some substance to the discussion so that it becomes more than just one more partisan sideshow.