In today's On the News segment: New Mexico's Attorney General Gary King will not put up with right-wing voter suppression efforts in his state; in a dozen cities across the nation on Tuesday, dozens of Walmart workers walked off the job in solidarity with other striking Walmart employees; a new study shows that most of the "dark money" this election season is not being used in the presidential race - it's being used in congressional and state races; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Walmart workers are on strike. In a dozen cities across the nation on Tuesday, dozens of Walmart workers walked off the job to protest what they say are the company's attempts to "silence and retaliate against workers for speaking out for improvements on the job." From Dallas to Seattle, Chicago to Washington, DC, Los Angeles to Miami – employees of the retail giant staged the first ever strike against the company in its history. Walmart workers do not belong to a union – but the walkouts were planned by OUR-Walmart – an organization of workers backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. More actions are planned today at Walmart's annual investor meeting in Arkansas. It's important to remember – that the six heirs to the Walmart fortune are worth a combined $90 billion – which is as much as more than 40% of the nation combined. Many Walmart workers, on the other hand, are paid minimum wage.
In screwed news ... Private prisons are a bad idea. Last year – the state of Ohio sold one if its state prisons to the Corrections Corporation of America – the largest private prison corporation in the nation. But a new audit released this week by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction reveals that under private management – the prison is being woefully mismanaged. The audit revealed that the prison is failing to meet state standards when it comes to sanitation, food quality, hygiene, and several other areas. Also according to the audit, inmates were not notified what to do in case of a fire emergency, laundry and cell cleaning services were unavailable, inmates in the infirmary were neglected, and many prison cells were over-occupied. But the Corrections Corporation of America is still making a lot of dough – as it gets paid every time it receives a new inmate to lock up. Meanwhile taxpayers who were told that selling off state prisons would save them money are starting to see that it was a bad deal as studies show that private prisons actually cost taxpayers more than state prisons.
In the best of the rest of the news...
When it comes to outside election spending this year – you ain't seen nothing yet. A new report by Open Secrets reveals that non-Party SuperPACs and "dark money" groups with mystery donors have spent more than a half billion dollars this election cycle – more than the total amount of spending by non-party groups in every election since 1990 COMBINED. And most of that money is not being used in the Presidential election – it's being used in Congressional and state races where it doesn't take much money to sway an election and the media markets are cheaper. But here's the thing – the majority of spending this year is still likely to come. According to historical precedents – most spending occurs in the final weeks before the election, meaning voters are about to be hit with a tidal wave of TV ads financed by unknown corporate donors. According to some estimates – total outside election spending will be well into the billions before it's all said and done.
Following President Obama's debate debacle last week – there's a whole new race for President shaping up. Before the debate, it looked the President was headed for a landslide re-election – but this week...not so much. A Gallup daily tracking polls released on Tuesday now gives Mitt Romney a 2-point lead over President Obama nationwide. But the President is still clinging to a 4-point lead in Ohio according to the latest CNN poll. Ohio is a key state for Mitt Romney because if he doesn't win it then the math gets really hard for him to get to the 270 electoral votes to win the White House. But you can bet after Romney's debate performance, a whole bunch of millionaires and billionaires are feeling a bit more confidant investing money in Romney's campaign now that it looks like he can actually win. Expect this race to stay close all the way through November.
Meet billionaire CEO David Siegel – a man who Republicans want us to believe is a "job creator." Well this week – Siegel, who owns Westgate Resorts, fired off an email to all of his employees bragging about how profitable the company is, but warning that if President Obama is re-elected then some people might be getting fired. In the email, Siegel writes, "What does threaten your job...is another 4 years of the same Presidential administration...If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company." Again – this is a guy who Republicans believe is a "job creator." Siegel is currently in the process of building the biggest house in America, but he's made it clear that if he has to pay a fraction higher in taxes – then he's kicking his workers out on the streets.
And finally ... New Mexico's Attorney General Gary King will not put up with right-wing voter suppression efforts in his state. On Tuesday, King announced he will launch an investigation into the local Republican Party, which is allegedly training poll workers to challenge legal voters. Several claims have been made against the Sandoval County Republican Party – including claims that it is telling poll workers to demand photo ID from eligible voters on Election Day as well as force legal voters to fill out provisional ballots. In a statement on Tuesday, King said, ""I will not tolerate voter suppression efforts by anyone, period...We have received a number of complaints since last Friday that there seems to be a concerted effort afoot to discourage some New Mexicans from exercising their right to vote this November." It's not just in New Mexico – it's happening all around the nation as Republicans know their best way to win in November is to keep Americans from voting.
And that's the way it is today – Wednesday, October 10, 2012. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.