Keeping an eye on Common Cause’s Recent Causes

Many were surprised when Common Cause of Rhode Island flipped on the question of Voter Initiative and became an opponent. That happened under Phillip West, but Common Cause, under new executive director Christine Lopes, still opposes Voter Initiative. In this, they share a position with the state Association of Fire Fighters, the AFL-CIO, National Education Association/Rhode Island, and the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals. Last week, Common Cause also joined the ACLU and came out against Voter ID legislation. Now, I don’t want to jump to any conclusions about any perceived patterns I may be detecting. After all, I also remembered this from a Charlie Bakst column a month or so ago:

You might say Christine Lopes, new executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island, has come to the right place.
The state’s air is filled with talk of political corruption — convictions, indictments, gossip — and Lopes smiles and says, “I’m sure I’ll have a job for awhile.”
Lopes, 31, grew up in Massachusetts, which also has had its share of scandal. Last week she made her first splash at the State House here, presiding at a news conference/rally of Rhode Islanders for Fair Elections. Common Cause is part of the coalition, which backs a bill to dramatically expand public financing of campaigns….
This daughter of immigrants from Portugal and Cape Verde, she was in the student government of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, including a term as president. She testified and huddled with lawmakers at the State House in Boston on such issues as budget and fees…Her major was the study of the roles of class, race, and gender in political thought. She’s working on a master’s in public administration at Suffolk University….In Massachusetts, she worked as a staffer for Democratic pols, but in Rhode Island she says she’s avoiding partisan ties.

At least officially. Add in the recent high-profile (though probably proper) pillorying of the governor for his re-appointment of Judicial Committee members, and it seems that the Commonality of the Causes are tilting in a certain direction, doesn’t it? At least if we are to judge by where the focus seems to be these days.
Unfortunately, the opposition to Voter Id seems to be of a piece of the national organization’s stance, at least if we are to judge by the Common Cause blog. Check out this feature on the “Voter Fraud” and the Administration:

The Bush Administration appears to be hoisted on their own petard–yet again. The scandal that’s erupted regarding the fired U.S. attorneys winds back in part to the conservatives’ partisan attempt to claim that rampant voter fraud has infected our election system, thus warranting measures such as requiring proof of citizenship and photo identification in order to vote.
Someone, somewhere, had the brilliant idea that a good strategy for victory in elections is to limit those who can vote — to, in effect, choose their own electors. It worked quite well in Florida in 2000 with the purged “felon” rolls. And the goal was not just to limit voters, but to whip up public fears about those who might vote illegally (coming from the group of usual suspects: minority voters, the poor, non-English speakers, undocumented workers) and thereby grease the slides for legislation that would supposedly catch transgressors but also net other “less desirable” voters — at least less desirable to those trying to manipulate the system.

Sounds pretty non-partisan to me! But besides that, do Republicans (St. Louis! Seattle! Wisconsin!) and Democrats (Florida! Ohio!) really believe that voter fraud is just no big deal? Do Rhode Islanders? Well, according to Common Cause, you’re all wrong. Tell me again, whose Common Cause are they fighting for?

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