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Category: Elections & PAC

A Time for Reflection

The olde English proverb goes something like, “All good things must come to an end.” Such is the state of my rapidly expiring tenure at CGS as a government relations research associate. It’s been a heck of a couple months, and I’ll take the experiences I had here with me forever in my professional career. Here are some of my honest reflections.

When I first showed up, I really hadn’t a clue about the inner workings of a non-profit and the space they operate in -- the abyss between the governmental and civil society spheres. To drive home the point of my alienation, it took a few weeks to get used to the layout of the office (it’s a pretty big house). But I like to think I showed up having zero expectations and an open mind, which I always try to keep with me. In this regard I always wanted to be a soft-spoken and humble sponge that showed up at the right times and took in all the right information, learning as much as possible. Just like any new work place, there was a learning curve.

Something I always try to do is observe the standard operating procedures of a workplace, both formal and informal. It took some explaining (my attention span often gets the better of me at times), but now I can confidently say that I understand the ways in which CGS operates, and, most importantly, how it communicates its messages to the masses.

I’ve had previous work with government at the state level in the great commonwealth of Pennsylvania, so working through government institutions was not something foreign to me. Approaching government from the non-profit angle, however, was refreshing. It was fantastic to work with a political action committee that had a relatable and sincere platform: to support candidates who champion a responsible role for the US in the international realm to solve global problems effectively.

CGS Goes to Washington!

After months of hard work, it was finally time to pull out all the stops and make a highly anticipated trip to Capitol Hill to lobby congressional staffers! Dressed to the nines, as any three young professionals in DC should be, two colleagues and I left our cozy Eastern Market office for the mountainous doom and gloom of Capitol South for the day. Our objective: to successfully lobby three offices into co-sponsoring or supporting HR 3344, which deals with issues of human trafficking and foreign labor processes.

Our journey started in the annals of the Rayburn office building, and luckily for us, it was downhill from the metro station. We made our way up to the office of Rep. John Conyers Jr., where we had the only normal meeting of the day in a room filled with Smithsonian items. Did you know that members of Congress could rent items out of the Smithsonian back in the day? We didn’t either. But apparently this only worked for Rep. Conyers because of his illustrious tenure on the Hill. Aside from the wondrous nature of the office, the meeting was a home-run in every sense of the word, and we can look forward to a bright new relationship.

2014 Midterms Make Small Waves for Foreign Policy

Jeff Merkley, Jeanne Shaheen, Al Franken Win Re-election

The 2014 elections are over, and though we now know that the Republicans did take control of the Senate, any resulting policy changes in DC will not happen until January when the new Congress takes their seats. There has been a large amount of hype around this pending policy change, but what exactly are the policies that will change?

Yes, we know the Republicans would love to tear Obamacare to pieces, but we also know that’s never going to happen as long as President Obama is still in office. Like repealing the Affordable Care Act, Republicans may put many bills to a vote that are merely talking points, insofar that they would not be signed by President Obama.

For example, a Republican-controlled House and Senate is more likely to pass legislation to prohibit the US from paying its UN dues in full and funding UN initiatives. Nevertheless, we can be sure that Obama would veto such nonsense. Though not all Republicans vote for such irresponsible legislation, the more extremist ones unfortunately do. My recent analysis of Congress on global issues shows that foreign policy is absolutely under partisan sway. Additionally, Congressional candidates in midterm elections typically pander to their bases, which helps to create more extremist and partisan candidates.

The Midterms and American Gridlock

Today is Election Day! And though I’m writing on a Tuesday and this won't get published until Wednesday, I still want to take a crack at a change that I am 99.9% sure will happen. I speak of the inevitability of the Republican Senate takeover. Cue the spooky music.

So with a Republican House and Senate and a Democrat in the White House, we could well assume that not much will get done in the next two years, right? Not exactly. A few experts have actually posited that Obama’s foreign policy goals could gain traction after the impending switch. Of course, it does help that many of his foreign policy goals are fairly in line with conservative values. The primary two issues are new trade deals with the EU and several Asian countries and a new-look strategy to combat the Islamic State.

From here it looks fairly standard. Leaders from both sides of the proverbial aisle agree, in principle, on the ways to handle these two issues. Will we see some action out of government gridlock after all? Obviously no one knows quite yet, but you would be hard-pressed to find someone who would favor it.

The Midterm Season

November is just around the corner, and since it is an even-numbered year, that can only mean one thing: midterm elections are on the horizon! This year's elections, like most, will be highly contested and have major political ramifications for the coming years. The main talking point this season concerns the potential for the Republicans to retake control of the Senate. Moreover, as the days have gotten closer to November, the question has changed from “Will they retake the Senate?” to “By how much will they retake the Senate?”

It’s easy to get caught up in the media buzz about which party will prevail in the midterms, but not enough attention is focused on the individual candidates running who ultimately end up running the show. Specifically, there are a few interesting candidates that I think deserve everyone’s attention. Working for CGS, it has been nice to reacquaint myself with the political scene, (this time on a national level) and to research the candidates’ positions on various issues, generally concerning global problems. Here are a few globally-minded candidates who could use your support next month, and that I think will do exceptional work for the country:

A Plebeian in a Politician’s World

Last Thursday I took part in GlobalSolutions’ Annual Lobby Day, where I lobbied members of Congress to show their support for International Law (specifically the Women's Rights and Disability treaties) and to increase funding for the International Criminal Court (ICC). At first this task seemed daunting – how do I, just another member of the public, get my representatives to listen to me? The last time I was at the Capitol I was practically interrogated by officials for trying to drop off a book. How in the world was I going to drop off my two cents?

As it turns out though, it is incredibly easy to meet with your representatives. And by easy, I mean it takes some follow-up time and patience to set up a meeting. And by representatives, I mean representatives’ staffers. (At least, I assumed they were staffers. For all I know, they could have been well-dressed interns who look old for their age).

With that being said, having a meeting did not necessarily mean you were listened to. My last name is not Koch, and I am not in a position to promise anyone a win in their upcoming election. It was not uncommon for staffers to appear disinterested, taking half-hearted notes, promising only to “tell all this to the Senator and let him form his own opinion.”

For every disinterested staffer, however, I found that there were always those who took the time to hear me out, took careful notes, and expressed genuine support for what I was advocating. While they too made limited promises (“we will try our best, but you know how tough things are right now”), they were the kind of promises that made me feel like something had come out of my day on the Hill.

Kermit Rohde: 1922-2014

Kermit Rohde

Earlier this month we lost a great friend and leader, Kermit Rohde. He passed away on June 2 in Austin, Texas, where he had been living with his daughter and son-in-law. Kermit was a dedicated World Federalist and a key supporter of

Serving in the navy during WWII led Kermit to believe that international peace must be achieved through international law, and he became actively involved in organizations dedicated to this mission. He served as chapter chair in Lincoln, Nebraska; in Columbus, Ohio; and in the state of Oregon for the World Federalist Organization. He was a board member for Citizens for Global Solutions and the national president for the Federalist Caucus and the Campaign for United Nations Reform. Kermit was also a chair and active supporter of the Global Solutions Political Action Committee. He understood that if we wanted members of Congress to seriously engage in solving global challenges, then we needed to get serious about electing lawmakers who shared our values.

Kermit earned a doctoral degree in psychology from Northwestern University. In 1956, he moved to Corvallis, Oregon to teach in the psychology department at OSU, and taught there until his retirement in 1984. While there he served as president of the Oregon Psychological Association and as chair of the Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners.  

Kermit, along with his wife Barbara, raised four children in Corvallis and was well known for his activism on behalf of many political issues and candidates. Along with serving on the national board of Citizens for Global Solutions, he served on the board for the Wayne Morse Historical Park. The Rohdes also supported many arts and civic organizations and were active in their church. Kermit was a devoted husband and father, and he was delighted to have been able to celebrate his 50th anniversary with his wife Barbara before her death in 2001.

A Taxing Solution to the Greatest Challenge of Our Time

Could a Tax on Carbon Pollution Maintain the Health of our Country?

Ben Franklin said it best—nothing is certain, “except death and taxes.”

Like most Americans, we submit our 1040s to maintain the health of our nation. However, we’d personally rather decrease our income tax and instead pay a fee that reduces carbon pollution and could preserve the planet.

The carbon-intensive oil, gas, and coal industries are stoking climate change. According to a new UN report, the threats to our civilization are enormous. Crop failures, the top concern in the UN’s report, will cause widespread starvation in all parts of the world. Countries will face a cascade of destabilizing events: severe water shortages, heat waves, floods, droughts, wildfires, intense storms, rising sea levels and other catastrophes on an unprecedented scale. Civil wars and conflicts between nations will increase as people compete for scarce natural resources.

The good news is that while it is too late to avoid climate change — it’s already happening — humanity can still temper its force. One of the simplest ways to slow the pace of climate change is by levying a fee on greenhouse gas emissions.

Putting a price on burning oil, gas, and coal that reflects the damage inflicted on the environment will make renewable energy alternatives (like solar, geothermal, and wind) and energy-reducing investments more competitive.

Our friend Alan Rushforth lives near Philadelphia and started a small solar-powered water-heating business a few years ago. Even with state and federal subsidies, it took Rushforth Solar’s customers five to seven years to break even compared with the cost of installing natural gas heaters, so it was a tough sell.

A Closer Look: 2006 House Republican Average Score

2006 Congressional Report Card

Recently, I wrote on the consistent partisan divide between Republicans and Democrats on foreign policy over the last decade. Observant readers would have noted that in 2006, the House Republican’s average grade in the report card was far better than the average they received in any other year

The dramatic rise in House Republicans’ average score in 2006 is a clear outlier: it’s a 26-point jump from the previous report card. The partisan divide in 2006 was 45 points, which is better than the 62 point gap in 2014, but still not so great. What caused this surprising bump in the House Republicans’ average grade?

It clearly wasn’t a change in their fundamental views – the House Republican average dropped right back into the trend the next grading cycle. Extra credit was also a definite non-factor – the Party scores are averaged together without extra credit to maintain an even playing field. My first guess was that international initiatives led by the Bush administration had gained party support. I soon learned, however, that the explanation was not that easy.Congressional Report Card Average Grades

The Importance of Extra Credit

Jim McGovern (top), Ed Royce (bottom left), Ben Cardin (bottom right)

Members of Congress are responsible for casting votes on issues of national importance, including foreign policy priorities. Many Representatives and Senators have a perfect voting record from our members’ perspective, earning an A on the Global Solutions Congressional Report Card. Yet some in Congress do more than cast a vote; they actively champion policies that prevent war, build peace, cooperate with international norms, and defend human rights. That’s why Global Solutions Action Network rewards extra credit to those in Congress that go beyond the ballot on our core issues.

Representatives and Senators demonstrate their commitment to the values we share by sponsoring relevant legislation, speaking out on the floor of the House or Senate, writing op-eds and Dear Colleagues letters, and chairing relevant caucuses that promote our concerns. Any of these efforts can raise a member of Congress’ grade by one mark, from a B+ to A- for example. Legislators that show exceptional leadership on global issues, by promoting our core issues through multiple avenues, can even have their grade raised a full letter, from a B- to A-.