Tag Archives: far-right

Far-right sets sights on European Parliament

France’s far-right National Front, coming off a historic electoral victory at home, is marching toward a new target: the European Parliament.

Party chief Marine Le Pen is leading the charge for continent-wide elections next month like the general of a conquering army, and hoping to attract kindred parties around Europe in a broad alliance.

As the extreme right rises across Europe, Le Pen wants to seize the momentum – raising the voice of her anti-immigration National Front and amplifying it through a broad parliamentary group. These parties, leveraging public frustration with the EU, want to weaken the bloc’s power over European citizens from within Europe’s premier legislative institution.

“My goal is to be first” in France’s vote for the European Parliament, “to raise the conscience over what the European Union is making our country live through,” she said on French television the morning after her party won a dozen town halls and more than 1,000 city and town council seats in municipal elections.

The voting for the 751-seat European Parliament, based in Strasbourg in eastern France, takes place in each of the EU’s 28 member states, stretching over four days beginning May 22. Even if far-right groups expand their presence in Parliament, they’re unlikely to break the mainstream majority, and their divergent nationalist agendas may clash with each other on the legislative floor.

The European Parliament was long derided as a mere talking shop, but it has steadily gained power in recent years and its approval is now needed for all major EU legislation – from financial market regulation to agricultural policies or decisions on how big warning signs on cigarette packs have to be. But the European Parliament falls short of the clout of national legislatures in two important ways: Its lawmakers cannot propose new laws and it has only limited say over the EU’s budget.

Le Pen’s main goal is to use larger numbers in parliament to shift the political discourse toward far-right complaints and establish a long-term foothold.

Europe’s economic downturn has fueled populist parties of all stripes across the continent, from the United Kingdom Independence Party, known as UKIP, to Greece’s Golden Dawn. But it’s not all about the economy: Europeans are in the grips of a chronic identity crisis fed by immigration, largely from former European colonies.

“The multicultural question, the question of the transformation of the European cultural landscape, notably with the arrival of a Muslim population,” said far-right expert Jean-Yves Camus, weigh as heavily on Europe’s anxieties as economic frustrations.

Le Pen regularly denounces what she calls the EU’s rule by “diktat.” And she bemoans the perceived consequences of the bloc’s single market and open frontiers: high unemployment, plunging purchasing power, unfair trade competition and a general loss of sovereignty.

In a heated TV debate Wednesday night, UKIP leader Nigel Farage – whose party holds nine of Britain’s 73 seats in the European Parliament – warned Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg the EU risked breaking up “very unpleasantly” if it doesn’t dissolve democratically.

“If you take away from people their ability through the ballot box to change their future because they have given away control of everything to somebody else, I’m afraid they tend to resort to unpleasant means,” Farage said, warning of protests and the rise of neo-Nazis. Clegg responded that the EU of the future would be “quite similar” to today’s EU with trade remaining “at the absolute heart” of it.

The National Front currently holds three seats in the European Parliament, with Le Pen and her father, party founder Jean Marie Le Pen, holding two of them. She hopes to boost the National Front’s European parliamentary presence.

She won’t give a target figure for seats but experts say the National Front could get up to 20 deputies in the European voting, and foresee strong performances from other European extreme-right parties.

After the National Front’s success in France’s local elections, Italian Premier Matteo Renzi warned that “Europe needs to be aware of the widespread sense of contestation and anti-politics” – and should put growth and fighting joblessness at the center of policymaking.

Like the National Front, numerous other far-right parties also target Muslims. They claim that Islamic immigrants stream into their countries to abuse social services and supplant Western culture.

Le Pen wants to rally far-right parties around a common anti-EU stance – and create a parliamentary grouping that gives the rightists clout. Groups in the European Parliament receive funding for staff and obtain privileges, from the right to chair committees to more speaking time.

But creating a group, which requires at least 25 deputies from seven countries, is no easy task. For one thing, it’s still unclear whether the far-right will obtain the numbers necessary to potentially form a group. Then there’s the equally difficult task of uniting the parties under one banner.

In November, Le Pen joined with the anti-EU, anti-Islam Freedom Party of Dutchman Geert Wilders, who announced plans to “liberate Europe from the monster of Brussels.”

Yet Wilders’ Freedom Party took a hit in February after he offended many Dutch people with a chant of “Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!” Moroccans in the Netherlands. One of four of the Freedom Party’s European deputies quit the party as did three of the group’s 15 lawmakers in the Dutch parliament, and the party slipped to second in opinion polls, from first place.

Le Pen has been short on details about who else might form a group with her and Wilders – saying only that the excessively extreme positions of Greece’s Golden Dawn and Hungary’s Jobbik make them unacceptable partners. The high-profile UKIP has refused to join with Wilders and Le Pen, considering their views too extreme.

But other parties could be coaxed in, such as Austria’s Freedom Party, or FPO, and Italy’s Northern League, according to Marco Incerti of the Center for European Policy Studies. Austria’s FPO currently leads popularity polls and has 42 seats in the national parliament, although only two seats in the European Parliament.

The National Front is launching a European youth movement in Vienna on Friday. It’s called the Young European Alliance for Hope – or YEAH – and includes the FPO, Belgium’s Vlaams Belang and Sweden Democrats.

Some experts say it would be challenging to get inherently inward-looking nationalist parties to cooperate on a European level.

And while they share a vision of hostility to the EU, they can be expected to show differences on other issues.

“Their current agendas are about getting out of Europe,” said Incerti, “but there is little cement between them.”

So far, there is nothing to suggest a far-right group could break the hold of the largest two blocs in parliament: the center-right European People’s Party that groups together conservative politicians and has 275 seats, and the center-left Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, which has 194 seats.

However, there is a long-term concern.

“Five years from now, people could be voting in even larger numbers for such parties,” Incerti said.

Political divorce? Discord between Republican leaders, hard-right groups

Republican leaders and several hard-right groups are displaying the classic signs of a political divorce, including bitter name-calling and reprisals against one another.

The recent eagerness of House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to lash out at groups that have given them fits has unshackled others in the Republican ranks to publicly question the motivation of organizations such as the Senate Conservatives Fund, Heritage Action, Madison Project and Club for Growth.

Such organizations disparage Republicans they accuse of following the path of least resistance in Washington and vow to replace them in primaries with conservative purists.

“I think there’s a growing recognition around here that many of the outside groups do what they do solely to raise money, and there are some participants inside Congress who do the same,” said Sen. Bob Corker. He said that some of the newer senators have caught on to “the disinformation, getting people to call offices, send in small donations to a website.”

“I think people are getting tired of that. I tired of it before I got here,” said the Tennessee Republican.

Increasingly in public, Boehner and McConnell are challenging the outside groups’ credibility – and complaining that they are the ones tarnishing conservatism.

But it goes both ways.

In the recent dust-up over the budget deal, the outside groups suspect that Boehner has a hidden motive. They suggest he’s anxious to put economic fights in the rear-view mirror so he can tackle contentious immigration legislation early next year, before the first round of March primaries in Texas and Illinois.

The groups’ suspicions were heightened by the recent high-profile budget success of Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who favors a way out of the shadows for an estimated 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. without legal papers, and in Boehner’s hire of a Senate staffer who worked on bipartisan immigration legislation for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

“It’s very easy to see that they want to clear a lane to pass amnesty,” said Daniel Horowitz, policy director for the Madison Project, who described the overall differences with Republican leaders as irreconcilable.

Michael Steel, spokesman for Boehner, scoffed at the link between the budget deal and immigration.

“The agreement has nothing to do with the need to fix our broken immigration system,” Steel said.

It wasn’t always this acrimonious.

Tea partyers and conservative activists helped the GOP claim the House majority in 2010 and seize state legislatures that redrew congressional boundaries to the GOP’s advantage. Those new lines enabled Republicans to withstand strong Democratic turnout in the 2012 presidential year and hold their House edge, a margin the GOP is expected to maintain or even increase in next year’s midterm elections.

The outcome was far different in Senate races. Outside conservative groups backed less-viable candidates who flamed out in general elections in Colorado, Nevada and Delaware in 2010 and in Indiana and Missouri in 2012. Establishment Republicans insist that cost them a Senate majority as well as some breathing room for 2016 when 24 Republican seats are up, compared with only 10 for Democrats.

Senate Republicans were upset in the fall when outside groups did little to help bona fide conservative Steve Lonegan in New Jersey’s special election contest against Cory Booker, who won the open seat after a somewhat desultory campaign.

House and Senate Republican leaders, for their part, were angry when the Senate Conservatives Fund, the Madison Project and Heritage Action pushed for the undoing of President Barack Obama’s health care law, an unrealistic goal with a Democratic president and Democratic-controlled Senate that led to the 16-day partial government shutdown this past fall.

To add insult, the Senate Conservatives Fund ran ads criticizing GOP incumbents for failing to champion defund “Obamacare” in states such as North Carolina, where Republican Sen. Richard Burr isn’t up for re-election but Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan is and remains vulnerable. Republicans said the strategy was misguided.

The hard-right groups have mobilized against a wide variety of legislative efforts, from once-easy, bipartisan transportation and disaster relief bills to the recent budget pact. Their efforts created agenda headaches for Boehner and McConnell, and the shutdown did apparent political damage to the GOP.

The campaign against health care and shutdown, however, was a financial boon to the Senate Conservatives Fund, the group founded by former Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., who is now president of the Heritage Foundation. The Fund raised less than a million dollars in the first half of 2013, but it collected more than $4.7 million in the months leading up to the shutdown and during it, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Through the end of October, the organization had raised $6.5 million. Among its endorsed candidates is Matt Bevin, a businessman challenging McConnell in Kentucky’s GOP primary.

The Madison Project has collected $1.7 million this year, while the Club for Growth has raised $2.2 million.

The groups are determined to use their money and clout in next year’s elections in which seven of 12 Senate Republican incumbents face primary challengers. No Senate Democrat faces a primary foe.

“If Mitch McConnell and John Boehner think the grass roots are going to sit back and let them continue to work with Democrats to mortgage our nation’s future, they’re mistaken,” Matt Hoskins, executive director of the Senate Conservatives Fund, said in a statement. “It’s time for Americans to rise up and begin replacing establishment Republicans with true conservatives in the 2014 primary elections. There’s no question anymore about where these leaders stand.”

With a shot at the Senate majority, McConnell is playing hardball. The GOP leader, who privately has said the groups need a punch in the nose and publicly has said they are “giving conservatism a bad name,” has backed up his words with action. The Senate Republican campaign organization, effectively an extension of the GOP Senate leadership, has made it clear it will not give any business to Jamestown Associates, an advertising firm that has worked for the Senate Conservatives Fund.

Horowitz insists that even if non-establishment candidates don’t prevail in the primaries, they’ve succeeded in forcing Republican incumbents to vote the conservative groups’ positions in the year leading up to the election.

“Boy oh boy, do they shift over to the right,” he said, citing Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah in 2012 and Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas this year. The Senate Conservatives Fund endorsed Roberts’ GOP primary rival, Dr. Milton Wolf, last week.

Despite it all, Senate Republicans say there is little political daylight separating members of the caucus.

“I don’t know many Republicans any more that are described as anything near moderate,” said Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb. “We’re a pretty conservative bunch. We just don’t get here without being pretty conservative.”

Bullies in Heat

The unseemly bullying by Republican leadership in the Wisconsin Senate on June 12 helps explain why our state has dropped to the bottom economically and moved to the top in terms of ugly partisan divisiveness.

Effective leadership brings people together and makes important decisions through the exchange of ideas and compromise. That is the opposite of the “leadership” displayed by Senate President Mike Ellis, R-Neenah, during the roll call on a mandatory ultrasound bill for women seeking abortion services.

In an effort to prevent even one word of dissent, Ellis pounded the gavel so hard that he actually broke it. His bellowing must have dealt nearly the same fate to his vocal chords. A public tantrum of this order suggests either that Ellis is deeply disturbed or, since Republicans hold autocratic power for the foreseeable future, that they feel no need for accountability – or both.

Clips of Ellis’ rage provoked outrage when they were aired on “The Rachel Maddow Show” and other broadcasts. They were featured on countless blogs, where they drew ridicule not only for Republicans but for all of Wisconsin. 

It’s fitting that Ellis’ apoplectic spectacle accompanied the passage of one of the most disturbing piece of legislation Wisconsin has ever seen. The forced ultrasound bill (SB206), which Gov. Scott Walker will gleefully sign into law if he hasn’t already by the time you read this, is so abusive of women that even the voters of Mississippi rejected it and the far-right governor of Virginia, another Bible Belt state, backed away from promoting it after public outcry.

The bill makes women watch an ultrasound showing their fetus’ heartbeat before they can have a legal abortion. Most abortions are performed in the first trimester of pregnancy, before a fetal heartbeat can be detected by any means other than a vaginal probe. That means the majority of women seeking an abortion in Wisconsin will be forced to either carry their babies to term or submit to an invasive, medically unnecessary and potentially physically harmful transvaginal ultrasound.

Opponents of this bill are rightfully characterizing it as forced rape.

Of course, many embryos cannot be carried to term for various reasons and, even if they can, Republicans certainly are not going to do anything to support unmarried mothers in raising them. In fact, Republicans are throwing thousands of poor Wisconsinites out of the health care system by turning down federal money from the Affordable Care Act. 

This astoundingly cruel law, which has the ultimate goal of punishing sexually active women, was passed after allowing only one opponent to speak against it before a role call was set. Democratic senators’ efforts to discuss the bill, a customary and vital part of the democratic process, provoked Ellis’ meltdown.

Ellis’ behavior was the latest signal that the GOP is running the state with an iron fist and will tolerate no discussion or dissent. The Republican Party has gerrymandered the state in such a way that it has total control of the Capitol for at least seven more years, and GOP leaders are not going to bother performing even a charade of the democratic process.

Ellis reminded us that our Republican leaders don’t give a fig what the people want, they care only about pleasing their wealthy corporate sponsors and the far-right wingnuts who keep them in power so that they can.

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U.S. Rep. Pocan condemns anti-abortion bill

The U.S. House later today (June 18) is expected to vote on a bill that would place a national ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The measure is not expected to advance in the U.S. Senate but, if it did, would face a veto at the White House. Still, Republicans in the House want to use their votes on the right-wing legislation in their re-election campaigns.

Before the vote on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, openly gay U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., said the legislation would roll back critical women’s rights. The legislation, introduced by U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., would ban abortions after 20 weeks with minimal exceptions. Last week, Republicans in the Wisconsin state Senate passed a bill that mandates medically unnecessary ultrasounds before an abortion can be performed.

“This is extremism at its worst,” Pocan said in a news release. “From Washington to Wisconsin, Republican lawmakers seem to think it is their job to get in between a woman and her doctor.”

He continued, “These dual, dangerous efforts are out of sync with what Americans believe. Yet Republicans seem to think it’s a better use of time and taxpayer dollars to roll back women’s rights than focus on economic growth, ending the sequester, completing a budget, and preventing student loan interest rates from doubling. Women’s rights are not a political toy for Republicans to throw out whenever they want to score cheap points—they are fundamental rights that deserve absolute protection. I will vote firmly against this abortion ban and I will continue to fight to protect women’s rights in Wisconsin and across the country.”

NARAL Pro-Choice America president Ilyse Hogue called the vote “shameless politics.”

Hogue said, “It’s anti-choice lawmakers in Congress catering to the most extreme wing of their political base. What they seem not to care about is that their political agenda puts the health of women across the country at great risk. This bill is yet another example of how anti-choice leaders in Congress have ignored the results of the last election. The House of Representatives should be working on the country’s real, pressing challenges, not wasting their time and our money re-fighting 40-year-old battles and putting women’s health and safety in jeopardy in order to advance their own political agenda.”

Anti-gay extremists plan to protest at Tour de France

Ultra-right extremists plan to demonstrate at their country’s most famous sporting event – the Tour de France – to protest marriage equality.

The first same-sex marriages have taken place in France following a spring of legislative victories for equality advocates and a season of right-wing protest that repeatedly escalated into violence.

This month, anti-gay activists briefly disrupted the French Open.

On June 11, on a new Facebook page, the Christian right activists vowed to protest at the Tour de France bicycle race.

“From June 29th to July 21st, we will have an incredible global visibility  to show our fight against the law,” read a post on the page.

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann earns ‘Scoundrel of the Month’ award

Voters with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington named U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann their Scoundrel of the Month for March for allegedly skirting campaign finance laws.

The ultra-right Republican from Minnesota sought her party’s nomination for president in 2012 and, at one time, was ahead in the polling. But CREW, in a news release issued April 24, said Bachmann “has fallen far from the heights of her political celebrity into a tangled mess of legal investigations.

Stated CREW executive director Melanie Sloan, “Rep. Bachmann was a presidential candidate only long enough to run afoul of campaign finance laws. For anyone who doubts the corrosive role of money in politics, Bachmann 2012 seems to present strong evidence to the contrary.”

In January, an ex-adviser to the Bachmann presidential campaign filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission claiming the candidate improperly paid a consultant using money from her PAC. The complaint also alleged that Bachmann concealed payments to another adviser, an Iowa state senator who legally could not accept payment for his work. That matter is now under investigation by the independent Office of Congressional Ethics.

CREW also cited reports from earlier this year that Bachmann refused to pay several staffers unless they signed agreements barring them from discussing “unethical, immoral, or criminal activity” witnessed on the campaign — agreements the staffers believe were intended to cover up the campaign’s alleged theft of an email list. The alleged theft is under investigation by the Urbandale Police Department in Iowa.

“While Rep. Bachmann may claim it is ‘routine’ to withhold money from staffers to buy their silence, in reality this demand is as atypical as it is unethical,” Sloan stated. “Given the inhospitable work environment she created, it’s not surprising Rep. Bachmann is proving as unpopular with her own staff as she was with voters.”

Protest against marriage vote in France turns violent

France legalized gay marriage on April 23 after a wrenching national debate that exposed deep conservatism in the nation’s heartland and triggered huge demonstrations that tapped into intense discontent with the Socialist government. Within hours, fiery clashes broke out between protesters and riot police.

Legions of officers stayed late into the night, and a protest against the measure turned violent near the Invalides complex of museums and monuments. Protesters threw glass bottles, cans and metal bars at police, who responded with tear gas.

It was an issue that galvanized the country’s faltering right, which had been decimated by infighting and their election loss to President Francois Hollande. France is the 14th country to legalize gay marriage nationwide -and the most populous.

The measure passed easily in the Socialist-majority Assembly, 331-225, just after the president of the legislative body expelled a disruptive protester in pink, the color adopted by French opponents of gay marriage.

Justice Minister Christiane Taubira told lawmakers that the first weddings could be as soon as June.

“We believe that the first weddings will be beautiful and that they’ll bring a breeze of joy, and that those who are opposed to them today will surely be confounded when they are overcome with the happiness of the newlyweds and the families,” she said.

Earlier in the day, there appeared to be more police than protesters outside the Parliament building on Paris’ Left Bank, but that calculation soon shifted as night fell and thousands gathered to protest the bill. The protest dwindled to a few stalwarts shortly before midnight, when the violence began among a few hundred demonstrators including some who carried signs saying “Socialist dictatorship.”

Claire Baron, 41, a mother of two, said that she “will oppose the bill until the end.”

“I’ll keep going to the protests, I don’t give in. The bill is not effective yet, the president of the Republic must listen to our voices. We are here to defend family values. Children need a mom and a dad,” Baron said.

In recent weeks, violent attacks against gay couples have spiked and some legislators have received threats – including Claude Bartelone, the Assembly president, who got a gunpowder-filled envelope on Monday.

One of the biggest protests against same-sex marriage drew together hundreds of thousands of people bused in from the French provinces – conservative activists, schoolchildren with their parents, retirees, priests and others. That demonstration ended in blasts of tear gas, as right-wing rabble-rousers, some in masks and hoods, led the charge against police, damaging cars along the Champs-Elysees avenue and making a break for the presidential palace.

Following the vote members of the gay and lesbian community flocked to a square in central Paris, just behind City Hall, to celebrate the vote.

“I feel immense joy, gigantic joy,” said 39-year old Sylvain Rouzel. “At last, everyone has the same rights. This is huge! France was lagging behind. We had to wait 14 years after the civil union to finally obtain the right to get married, with equal rights for everyone. I feel great!”

Paris’ openly gay mayor, Bertrand Delanoe, was among the crowd of hundreds gathered for the street celebration in the Marais, the city’s historic gay neighborhood.

When Hollande promised to legalize gay marriage, it was seen as relatively uncontroversial. The issue has become a touchstone as his popularity has sunk to unprecedented lows, largely over France’s ailing economy.

“The opposition is in a weakened position, but they know which buttons to press in order to get a reaction in society, in a country as liberal as France, where nobody thought it was an issue,” said Hossein Alizadeh, a coordinator with the U.S.-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission who has followed the issue.

But the most visible face in the fight against gay marriage – a former comedienne who goes by the name of Frigide Barjot – said the movement named “A Protest for Everyone” will continue beyond the law’s passage and possibly field candidates in 2014 municipal elections. She said anyone involved in protest violence would be marginalized, but blamed the government for its failure to listen.

“The violence comes from the way in which this was imposed,” Barjot told France Info radio.

French conservatives, demoralized and divided by the election loss of standard-bearer Nicolas Sarkozy, found common cause in opposing same-sex marriage. Hoping to keep the issue alive, the conservative UMP party planned to challenge the law in the Constitutional Council.

“The controversy that we’ve seen has been a stoked and manipulated controversy that’s really kind of a last-ditch attempt to block the tide of history,” said Evan Wolfson, president of the American activist group Freedom to Marry, which he said worked with the French on the bill. “I don’t think it spoke to a deep or wide opposition among the French people.”

French civil unions, allowed since 1999, are at least as popular among heterosexuals as among gay and lesbian couples. But that law has no provisions for adoption, and the strongest opposition in France as far as same-sex couples goes comes when children are involved. According to recent polls, just over half of French are opposed to adoption by same-sex couples – about the same number who said they favored same-sex marriage.

Christophe Crepin, spokesman for the police union UNSA, says the extraordinary security Tuesday included a total of about 4,000 officers in the area near the National Assembly building and water cannon positioned nearby.

On the cover of the Liberation newspaper on April 23, the famed gay photographers Pierre and Gilles took over the front page and several of the inside pages, splashing them with some of their most provocative photos, including one of three soccer players – nude but for the footwear – facing the camera.

In New Zealand, where gay marriage enjoys popular support, people gathered outside Parliament and joined in singing a traditional Maori love ballad after a vote last week making it legal. Nine states and the District of Columbia in the U.S. also recognize such marriages.

Wis. GOP vows to enact bill that would force women to undergo invasive transvaginal ultrasound

Far-right extremists are determined to enact a mandatory ultrasound bill in Wisconsin that would force many women to undergo the ordeal of an invasive transvaginal probe in order to safely and legally terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

At a recent conference of the politically powerful Wisconsin Right to Life group, the state’s top Republican lawmakers assured attendants they would do everything in their power to pass such a law, which would affect women seeking first-trimester abortions.

At that stage of a pregnancy, the uterus is sometimes blocked by the pelvis, which prevents traditional ultrasounds from capturing embryonic images. That situation would mandate use of a transvaginal probe under the terms of a proposed GOP-backed law forcing women to undergo ultrasounds prior to abortion.

“This bill is a priority,” said Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, a great favorite of the right-wing tea party, adding, “It is long overdue.”

The so-called “Woman’s Right to Know her Unborn Child Act” would add to current laws intended to discourage woman from ending their pregnancies. State law already requires women to undergo a counseling session with their doctor 24 hours before having an abortion.

At the height of the Republican’s so-called “War on Women” last spring, Virginia Republicans stirred up a media frenzy when they pushed a similar bill through that state’s tea party-controlled legislature. They later sought to distance themselves from the transvaginal probe mandate.

The new Wisconsin law comes at a time when Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin is reeling from Gov. Scott Walker’s defunding of the organization. Between April and July of this year, Planned Parenthood will have to close health clinics in Beaver Dam, Johnson Creek, Chippewa Falls and Shawano – all due to Walker’s stripping of $1.1 million in state funding to the organization in his 2011-2013 budget.

Closing of the clinics will eliminate more than 11,400 critical health services, such as breast and cervical cancer screenings, to 2,000 Wisconsin patients.

GOP star Marco Rubio featured in anti-gay robocalls

Rising Republican star Marco Rubio is the featured voice on a robocall urging voters to cast ballots against marriage equality – and candidates who support equality – on Election Day.

The calls are being paid for by the National Organization for Marriage, with the Catholic Church is the biggest backer of the anti-gay campaigns in Washington, Maryland, and Maine and Minnesota.

But NOM isn’t just focused on those states with its anti-gay election effort.

NOM, in a statement just days before the election, said it working with “its partners” at “launching a major push to reach and mobilize 10 million voters with a positive message for marriage.”

The latest campaign – in English and Spanish – has a budget of $500,000 and the robocallers are dialing households in Maine, Maryland, Washington State, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The calls feature Rubio, a Cuban-American U.S. senator from Florida who rose to prominence on the tea party wave and had been rumored to be a possible running mate for Mitt Romney, as well as far-right activist James Dobson and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

NOM president Brian Brown said the campaign is “the largest national mobilization of traditional marriage voters in history. Our aim is to reach 10 million voters or more. We are proud to work with state-and national-based partners in the four states that have marriage referenda on the ballot –states where we believe the polls are trending in our favor –and in three presidential swing states, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania, that many pundits are surprised to find now in play.”

UPDATED: Ann Romney scheduled for far-right summit, but she’s not going

Ann Romney and Paul Ryan are two of the top speakers listed on the schedule for the Values Voter Summit set for Sept. 14-16 and hosted by the extremist Family Research Council. The Romney campaign, however, says Ann Romney will not be attending.

The event will take place at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C.

The FRC, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has called a “hate group” for its lies and extremist positions on homosexuality, has listed many high-profile “invited guests” who may or may not attend the summit. But the event program shows a number of those guests with scheduled speaking engagements, including Ann Romney, wife of the Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the vice presidential nominee.

Earlier this week, a coalition of civil rights group urged politicians and public officials not to attend the summit.

The schedule, as of Sept. 10, includes:

• Sept. 14 morning remarks by U.S. 
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, TV actor 
Kirk Cameron, U.S. Reps. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska, Tim Huelskamp of Kansas and James Lankford of Oklahoma, U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, 
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, Romney and Ryan.

However, Romney’s campaign said this morning that Ann Romney doesn’t plan to attend the summit, and never did.

• A luncheon sponsored by the American Family Association with AFA leaders Tim Wildmon and Buddy Smith and Fox News contributor Sandy Rios.

• Sept. 14 afternoon remarks by 
Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, U.S. Rep. Steve King of Iowa, American Values president Gary Bauer, U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz of Texas and U.S. Rep. Allen West of Florida.

• Sept. 14 evening remarks by retired Lt. Col. Oliver North and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

The Sept. 15 schedule lists a breakfast with the leaders of the Heritage Foundation, with remarks by Edwin Meese II; a morning plenary session with remarks by representatives from the Liberty Counsel, Center for Urban Renewal and Education, Preserve Marriage Washington, Maine Family Policy Council, Minnesota Family Council, Center for Arizona Policy, Maryland Marriage Alliance, Arizona 
Gov. Jan Brewer, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and former U.S. 
Sen. Rick Santorum.

The Sept. 16 program only involves a morning worship service with the FRC’s Tony Perkins, who claims he authored the anti-gay marriage provisions in the Republican Party’s platform.

Discussion sessions during the summit will focus on abortion, immigration, relgious freedoms and gay marriage, according to the schedule.