Targeted: One-person, one-vote; Academic affirmative action.
Photo Credit: https://www.aei.org
This week, the Supreme Court will hear two cases brought by a notorious white supremacist law group whose record includes convincing the Court s conservative majority to gut the enforcement section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, one of the nation s most important civil rights laws.
On Tuesday, in Evenwel v. Abbott, the team piloted by former investment banker Edward Blum and his law group, the Project on Fair Representation, will urge the Court to throw out the core of the 14th Amendment which was adopted after the Civil War and gave equal legal protection to all U.S. citizens, notably freed slaves. Blum and his ultra rightwing Texas plaintiffs want to invalidate the one-person, one-vote standard used when drawing state legislative districts. They want to count only voters, not the area s total population.
In other words, only a subset of the population is entitled to representation in state legislatures, David H. Gans, Director of the Human Rights, Civil Rights, and Citizenship Program at the Constitutional Accountability Center, wrote at NewRepublic.com. Blum s argument is that unnaturalized immigrants, children, and other who lack access to the ballot should not be counted for purposes of legislative representation, which would unquestionably result in a major shift in political power away from urban population centers toward the whiter, more rural areas of the state.
If Blum prevails, and election law experts are skeptical, it would benefit the Republican Party by increasing the number of rural and suburban districts, because that s where the GOP base tends to be concentrated. Conversely, it would shrink the number of urban districts, where more Democrats live.
These plaintiffs in Texas are interested in stemming the growth of Latino political power, Thomas Saenz, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund president and general counsel, said. But Blum s Project on Fair Representation has an even broader goal, which, as its website states, is to support litigation that challenges racial and ethnic classifications and preferences in state and federal courts. This race-blind rhetoric, while sounding idealistically pure, would have the real-world effect of repealing the the federal government s efforts to bring the promise of equality, which was established in the Fourteenth Amendment 150 years ago and has been deepened by landmark Civil Rights era laws, ranging from voting rights statutes to other areas of federal policy. As Gans wrote, No court in history has ever accepted Blum s radical claim which would wreak havoc with the redistricting process and require a new kind of U.S. census but Blum hopes to make history in the Evenwel case. Indeed, Blum, who Gans called the country s most dangerous legal mastermind, has had prior success at the Supreme Court. It was his legal team that led the attack that gutted the enforcement provisions of the Voting Rights Act in its 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder. The Court s conservative majority, led by Chief Justice John Roberts who wrote the opinion, stated that the nation has changed since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and its remedies were no longer needed. In sum, Roberts and his conservative brethren adopted Blum s view that racial discrimination was no longer a problem in America.
Their ruling gutted the law s enforcement formula that have helped millions of non-whites to vote by giving the Justice Department veto power over new election laws in states and counties with histories of discrimination. The day after the ruling, Republican-controlled legislatures in many southern states formerly under the VRA s jurisdction passed a slew of voter suppression measures. These included tougher voter ID laws and ending early voting, such as African-American souls to the poll turn-out-the-vote drives. The lead plaintiff in the Texas-based Evenwel case has accurately been described as a racist Republican. [Sue] Evenwel is a Texas GOP and tea party activist who has not merely backed the most ardent right-wingers, like ex-Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-MN, and 2008 vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin, MotherJones.com noted. She is a longtime Republican county chairwoman and member of the Texas GOP s executive committee who has repeatedly said that President Obama was not born in the country, and his father was a Communist Party USA propagandist. She s also fumed that undocumented immigrants distort how legislative districts are drawn as they are included in U.S. Census counts. And she s lashed out at Muslims, warning in an op-ed that showing tolerance to them means that Shariah law could usurp the U.S. Constitution. And she has claimed that all money donated to mosques funds jihad.
Her co-plaintiff, Ed Pfenninger, has expressed some equally eyebrow-raising views, they also noted. A Christian fundamentalist who works as a security guard in Porter, Texas, Pfenninger operates a YouTube channel where he s posted hours of videos of himself expounding on his beliefs. For instance, he s described the Catholic Church as the Mother of Harlots. He s also said that Jews are enemies of the cross, and that God created Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust because he wanted the Jews back into the Land. While much media coverage of Tuesday s Evenwel v. Abbott hearing will likely focus on one-man, one-vote arguments and its potential to create a political advantage for the GOP, it s likely to omit the white supremacist agenda driving Blum and his litigants.
The Second White Supremacist Case
The second case brought by Blum s white power team to the Supreme Court will be heard Wednesday, when it will revisit Fisher v. University of Texas. There, the plaintiff, Abigail Fischer claimed in 2008 that she was denied admission to the most prestigious U.T. school, in Austin, due to her white race. As investigative reporters have noted from the legal record in prior rounds of litigation, her grades were so poor that she would not have been admitted even if she weren t white. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court sent the case back to a federal appeals court, where it sided with the university. But Blum s group appealed and the Supreme Court decided to retake the case.
Fisher will likely be closer, the Constitutional Accountability Center s Gans wrote. Chief Justice John Roberts and a number of his conservative colleagues have repeatedly voted to strike down race-conscious educational policies as a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. In Roberts s myopic view announced in the 2007 case Parents Involved in Community Schoolsv.Seattle School District that limited the authority of school districts to combat racial isolation the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race, but he has yet to find a fifth vote to strike down governmental efforts to use race to foster equality. As has often been the case in the Supreme Court in recent years, Justice Anthony Kennedy is seen as the swing vote. In Fischer s first round, he wrote the use of race in admissions serves values beyond race alone, such as contributing to a more diverse student body, richer learning environment, and breaks down racial isolation and stereotypes. In the court s last term, Kennedy also did not agree with the other conservatives and voted to uphold affirmative action in housing, notably, under programs created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. What will unfold at the Court on Tuesday and Wednesday will be critical to the history of the quest for greater racial justice in America. As the country s population is increasingly multi-racial, a white power-centric cadre among rightwingers has concocted a legal strategy based on the feel-good fantasy that America has healed all of the wounds stemming from slavery and its broader history of racial oppression. Whether the high Court s five-member conservative block buys into this charade will be something to behold.
Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of “Count My Vote: A Citizen’s Guide to Voting” (AlterNet Books, 2008).
- ^ Edward Blum (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ Project on Fair Representation (www.projectonfairrepresentation.org)
- ^ want (www.oyez.org)
- ^ wrote (newrepublic.com)
- ^ skeptical (electionlawblog.org)
- ^ said (www.motherjones.com)
- ^ wrote (newrepublic.com)
- ^ Shelby County v. Holder (www.scotusblog.com)
- ^ ruling (www.scotusblog.com)
- ^ passed (www.brennancenter.org)
- ^ noted (www.motherjones.com)
- ^ fumed (http)
- ^ warning in an op-ed (www.dailytribune.net)
- ^ noted (www.motherjones.com)
- ^ operates a YouTube channel (www.youtube.com)
- ^ focus (electionlawblog.org)
- ^ noted (www.propublica.org)
- ^ Parents Involved in Community Schoolsv.Seattle School District (scholar.google.com)
- ^ wrote (newrepublic.com)
- ^ voted (www.supremecourt.gov)
More than a year of what JoAnn Ciuffetelli called bullying came to an end on Monday, as she was terminated from her position as an academic adviser in exercise sciences. Ciuffetelli said she became a target for department administration after she began taking prescription migraine medication more than a year ago. She said she supposes the medication s side effects, which may have included slurred speech, led her superiors in the exercise sciences administration to tell coworkers she was coming into work intoxicated.
I can t use the word men about them because they are not men, she said of her supervisors in the department. They have been looking for a while to get rid of me. They will say that it s performance issues. Ciuffetelli said she guarantees she could get students who would vouch for her aptitude and fairness as an adviser, while there would also be some students who had complaints about her. She said it would be the same for any adviser.
Before her termination, Ciuffetelli said she was unaware of any severe problems with her employment status before Monday, though she admitted to having been written up for performance issues before. Students were notified of the dismissal in an unorthodox manner Ciuffetelli fired off an email shortly before her email account was deactivated by the university. The email, sent to the exercise sciences mailing list, has JoAnn Ciuffetelli has been fired as its subject line.
Greetings and good bye students, the email said. Dr. Farquhar has come in and fired me thid morning. Best wishes to you all. I will miss [sic].
Dr. Farquhar refers to William Farquhar, the chair of the department of kinesiology and applied physiology, who Ciuffetelli said fired her Monday, flanked by a human resources representative and a campus security officer. The university declined to comment on the situation, calling it a personnel matter. An email message to Farquhar requesting comment was not answered by The Review s deadline.
Ciuffetelli said she did not think it was in her best interests, legally, to comment on whether or not she intends to pursue legal action against the university over her termination. Ciuffetelli said she sent the email so her side of the story could be represented fairly.
So that my students would know the truth, she said. I don t think it would have been honest otherwise.
By Bradley Saull, Vice President, Civilian Agencies, Professional Services Council
The August announcement that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is moving their headquarters from Pentagon City in Arlington to Alexandria left many people familiar with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) asking the same question: what about the DHS headquarters consolidation project at St. Elizabeths in Washington?
The St. Elizabeths campus is designed to be the new home of a unified, strengthened DHS. However, based on previous decisions the General Services Administration (GSA), DHS and Congress have made regarding the future of the St. Elizabeths site, TSA had no choice but to find a lease through GSA elsewhere. Shortly after the department was formed in 2003, the General Services Administration (GSA), the federal agency responsible for public buildings, and DHS jointly identified the naval station at the Nebraska Avenue Complex (NAC) as a temporary housing solution to at least have a place where the secretary and immediate aides could adequately function. But the NAC was never intended to be the permanent DHS headquarters. In 2004, the Coast Guard began a headquarters consolidation plan of their own and, shortly thereafter, DHS decided to broaden the Coast Guard project to include an overall DHS headquarters consolidation. DHS articulated a number of requirements for their headquarters, including 4.5 million gross square feet, with Level-5 Federal Facility Security, and within close proximity to key government buildings downtown such as the Capitol, White House, and other government offices. Reasonable people can disagree over the validity of those requirements, but the Bush administration determined that the only site to meet the stated requirements was the St. Elizabeths site along the Anacostia River in Southeast D.C.
After the new site was chosen, historical preservation concerns delayed work on the site for the first few years, and then the great recession occurred. Over the intervening years, both the Bush and Obama administrations sought congressional funding through the annual appropriations process in defined usable segments. With stimulus funding, GSA and DHS got just over $1 billion in 2009 to fund preservation, construction, and tenant improvements at St. Elizabeths. In such a tight budget environment, Congress decided to fund agents and officers on the front lines protecting the homeland rather than a DHS headquarters. From 2010 to 2013, very little funding for St. Elizabeths occurred. The Coast Guard was the first DHS entity to move into St. Elizabeths and completed their move in 2013.
Current budgetary scoring rules discourage long-term capital investments like St. Elizabeths. Alternative sources of funding, such as land swaps and tapping private sector capital though public-private partnerships, are unfortunately discouraged by how the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score these large capital investments. DHS has already requested additional money for other needs that would not be necessary if St. Elizabeths was further along schedule. For example, in the fiscal year 2015 budget request, DHS asked for infrastructure and technology improvements to the current National Operations Center (NOC), a critical information hub for managing incidents. DHS could not wait for St. Elizabeths; they needed improvements sooner. In accordance with the original plan for St. Elizabeths, DHS timed office leases to expire in conjunction with the plans for completed segments at St. Elizabeths. The delays in the project are forcing GSA and DHS to choose between costly short-term leases (that may get extended, costing more money) or locking in a longer term lease that can be re-evaluated in the future.
TSA was not in the plans for St. Elizabeths. TSA already did one short-term lease extension to keep them in Arlington and, to DHS s and TSA s credit, TSA went through a multi-year, regionally competitive GSA process that adhered to GSA and DHS specifications instead of using TSA s direct lease authority. GSA estimates TSA s Alexandria move will save taxpayers more than $95 million over 15 years with a lower energy and water bill than typical office buildings, given the property s LEED Gold certification. The government was even able to negotiate $50 million in tenant improvements a large moving transition cost that TSA would have had to pay because all GSA is only required to provide TSA a warm, lit shell. At the urging of appropriators and the House Committee on Homeland Security, DHS changed the scope and some of the requirements for St. Elizabeths. When St. Elizabeths was originally proposed and approved, the project had a projected cost of $3.45 billion, with a completion date in 2016; however, in the department s Revised Baseline Plan from June 2013, DHS and GSA submitted cost projections of $4.5 billion with a completion date of 2026. With the fiscal year 2016 budget release, DHS put forward the current Enhanced Plan with cost projections of $3.7 billion with a completion date of 2021. The current Enhanced Plan includes revised government space standards and flexible workplace strategies, such as hoteling and telework to accommodate more people in fewer seats. The current USCG Munro Building will be reconfigured for increased space utilization to account for revised government space standards and flexible workplace strategies.
There will be no DHS consolidation on the East Campus, and FEMA is planned to move to the West Campus with sharply reduced square footage. The B section of the Department Operations Center will not be built. Hoteling space will be available for other components such as TSA, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the Secret Service.
A lack of consistent funding only increased costs and made the project much more difficult to manage. September 2014 findings from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) point to cost, schedule, and performance problems that have not kept up with the funding changes. DHS has agreed with the GAO s recommendations, which are largely reflected in the Enhanced Plan. Even though the construction piece of St. Elizabeths is a GSA program, DHS is also applying DHS acquisition policies and has added St. Elizabeths to the DHS Major Acquisition Oversight List. DHS facilities are currently dispersed in more than 50 locations throughout the National Capital Region, many with sub-optimal security protections. DHS personnel waste precious time and money traveling in cars, shuttles, taxis, etc. to have face-to-face meetings on sensitive matters. Looking purely at the financials, the cost per square foot at St. Elizabeths is approximately $35; it is more than $70 per square foot at the Ronald Reagan building. Lease savings over a 30-year analysis generate $1.2 billion in savings over business as usual. A consolidated headquarters would have a profound positive impact on employee productivity and morale, an area that has been historically lacking in the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. It also should better facilitate the often sought after one DHS. Fully funding St. Elizabeths according to the Enhanced Plan will:
- Save taxpayers $1.2 billion over 30 years as compared to the likely best available commercial lease option
- Save more than $800 million in direct construction costs
- Improve the completion timeline by five years, from 2026 to 2021
- Adopt flexible workplace strategies that will allow more people to use the campus and reduce real estate costs
- Synchronize the construction schedule with expiring commercial leases to avoid costly short-term lease extensions.
With the USCG and the full necessary infrastructure (power, water, and sewer) already at St. Elizabeths, it makes building a DHS headquarters somewhere else cost prohibitive. With already appropriated fiscal years 2014 and 2015 funding, the Center Building will be completed in 2017 to include the secretary s office and the Department Operations Center.
The Enhanced Plan s biggest challenge is the large amount of funding per year needed to stay on schedule $584 million in fiscal year 2016, likely $436 million in fiscal year 2017 and similar amounts to fiscal year 2019. These amounts are nearly impossible to fund in the current budget environment, but with leases expiring soon across several of DHS s D.C. offices, the result will be more headlines like that of TSA where other DHS component agencies are forced to find space of their own outside of the St. Elizabeths campus.
TSA not being a part of St. Elizabeths for the next two decades is the largest omission of the project. It further hurts that TSA is the most public facing part of DHS and, for some, the entire federal government. Perhaps TSA may be able to come to St. Elizabeths in greater numbers after the lease runs out. In the meantime, Congress should fully fund the St. Elizabeths Enhanced Plan in fiscal year 2016 and beyond. With each passing year of Congress not fully funding the St. Elizabeths project, the cost/benefits of consolidation decrease and the vision of an integrated DHS headquarters becomes more elusive.
Note: At the time of this writing, Boston Properties has challenged the General Services Administration s analysis of the bids that led to the Alexandria site selection. U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Charles Lettow on Nov. 12 halted GSA s preparations to move TSA to Alexandria. Regardless of the outcome of the challenge, TSA is not likely to move to St. Elizabeths but rather a to-be-determined GSA leased property.
Bradley Saull is a former DHS official and former aide to House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul. Saull is currently the Vice President for Civilian Agencies at the Professional Services Council.
- ^ St. Elizabeths campus (www.stelizabethsdevelopment.com)
- ^ budgetary scoring rules discourage long-term capital investments (www.rollcall.com)
- ^ urging of appropriators and the House Committee on Homeland Security (homeland.house.gov)
- ^ current Enhanced Plan (securitydebrief.com)
- ^ revised government space standards and flexible workplace strategies (www.washingtonpost.com)
- ^ challenged the General Services Administration s analysis (www.bizjournals.com)