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GOP Sen. cites HRC head implicated in Cuomo mess to derail Equality Act

Opponents of the Equality Act have asserted the bill would threaten sex-segregated spaces for women from sports to bathrooms to prisons.

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U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – A top Republican in the U.S. Senate is exploiting the ongoing controversy with Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David being ensnared in the damning report of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s alleged sexual misconduct to sabotage the Equality Act.

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), building on the narrative from critics who have twisted the Equality Act into a threat to women’s rights, writes in a letter dated Aug. 5 to the Senate Judiciary Committee the report from New York Attorney General Letitia James should be included as part of the bill’s legislative record.

“A troubling report by the Attorney General for the State of New York found that this hearing witness for the majority played some role in efforts by current and former staff of Governor Andrew Cuomo to discredit a former employee who publicly complained of harassment,” Grassley writes.

Opponents of the Equality Act have asserted the legislation, which would update civil rights law to expand the prohibition on anti-LGBTQ discrimination under federal law, would threaten sex-segregated spaces for women in everything from sports to bathrooms to prisons.

Grassley, in his letter, builds on that narrative with David’s presence in the report, which describes him as keeping a personnel file of one of the accusers after he left the governor’s office and aiding Cuomo’s staff efforts to leak unflattering components of the file to the media when she made allegations of sexual misconduct.

“The New York Attorney General’s findings respecting Mr. David are relevant to the record of this Senate hearing, at which the potential adverse impacts of the Equality Act on women and girls were an important aspect of our hearing discussion,” Grassley writes.

David denied any wrongdoing and the Human Rights Campaign has signaled it has renewed his contract as president for another five years despite the report. The letter, nonetheless, demonstrates opponents of the Equality Act have another weapon to thwart the legislation, which is already languishing in the U.S. Senate and all but dead.

The Senate Judiciary Committee didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter, nor did the Human Rights Campaign.

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Secretary Buttigieg: Family leave not a vacation

“When somebody welcomes a new child into their family and goes on leave to take care of that child, that’s not a vacation. It’s work.”

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Screenshot via NBC News 'Meet the Press' YouTube.

WASHINGTON – Appearing on the NBC News program ‘Meet the Press’ on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg was questioned by host Chuck Todd about paid paternal/maternal family leave, which is part of President Joe Biden’s legislative Build Back Better Agenda package currently under consideration and debate on Capitol Hill.

Todd commenced by referring to attacks earlier in the week by conservatives and Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson, who during his Thursday evening program said, “Pete Buttigieg has been on leave from his job since August after adopting a child – paternity leave, they call it – trying to figure out how to breastfeed. No word on how that went. But now he’s back in office as the Transportation Secretary and he’s deeply amused, he says, to see that dozens of container ships can’t get into this country.”

Without mentioning Carlson by name, instead labeling the Fox News host “a loudmouth in our political system,” Todd asked Buttigieg for his take on paid family leave.

“Look, paid family leave is important. It’s important as a matter of family values. It’s important to our economy. And one more thing that I think is maybe underappreciated. […] “When somebody welcomes a new child into their family and goes on leave to take care of that child, that’s not a vacation. It’s work. It’s joyful, wonderful, fulfilling work, but it is work.

“And it’s time that our nation joins pretty much every other country in the world and recognize that,”  Buttigieg replied.

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Transportation Secretary Buttigieg calls out Tucker Carlson on his attack

Carlson mocks Pete Buttigieg: “Paternity leave, they call it, trying to figure out how to breastfeed, no word on how that went”

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U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (Blade file photo)

NEW YORK – Appearing remotely on MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace‘s politics program Friday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called out Fox News host Tucker Carlson for the attack on his parental leave. “This attack is coming from a guy who has yet to explain his apparent approval for the assassination of Harvey Milk, ” Buttigieg said.

During his Thursday evening program Carlson said, “Pete Buttigieg has been on leave from his job since August after adopting a child – paternity leave, they call it – trying to figure out how to breastfeed. No word on how that went. But now he’s back in office as the Transportation Secretary and he’s deeply amused, he says, to see that dozens of container ships can’t get into this country.”

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“The Snapchat Generation” runs for office

The tool offers an in-app portal designed to help walk users through the complexities of launching a political campaign

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A glimpse at the “Run for Office” tool. (Photo courtesy of Snap)

By Gabe Fleisher | WASHINGTON – Snapchat isn’t just for disappearing photos anymore. The popular app, once known for its inherently ephemeral nature, is now attempting to make a long-lasting impact on the political stage. 

Tuesday morning, Snap unveiled a new tool to encourage its young users to seek elected office and become more involved in the political process. The tool, “Run for Office,” will offer an in-app portal designed to help walk users through the complexities of launching a political campaign.

After prompting users to identify issues they are passionate about, the tool will feature a personalized hub of federal, state, and local races they may be interested in entering, from a curated pool of over 75,000 elections.

If users do decide to move forward with seeking office, Snap is also hoping to assist in the management of the campaign itself: the tool will include a feature called “My Campaign Dashboard,” showing users the steps they need to take to get on the ballot in their area, helping connect them with partner organizations that can offer more resources, and even allowing them to begin campaigning right there on the app, among their closest friends. 

“We hope launching the ‘Run for Office’ mini changes the idea of who can be in office — that no matter who you are, where you come from, that you can make a difference in your local community by running for office based on the issues they care most about,” Sofia Gross, Snap’s head of policy partnerships and social impact, told Wake Up To Politics. 

Justin Tseng, a Harvard senior who is balancing his studies with a campaign for Medford City Council in Massachusetts, told WUTP that his generation faces a slew of “existential challenges” that give young candidates “a perspective to political leadership that is more holistic” in listening to a diverse range of voters, including those from marginalized communities.  

Seeking office as a full-time college student, Tseng said that he has found “voters really are much more concerned with the maturity of one’s ideas than the age of the candidate.”

The new effort reflects Snapchat’s heightening ambitions in the political space. “We view this as a long-term investment in the next generation of American leadership, starting at the local level,” Gross said. “We want to help shape a more reflective and equitable democracy for all Americans, and that includes the Snapchat Generation.”

Snap also featured a suite of civic tools in the lead-up to the 2020 election, mainly aimed at encouraging its users to register to vote. According to the company, Snapchat helped register more than 1.2 million of its users — more than half of whom were first-time voters.

“Run for Office” builds off of what Snap learned during that process: the company’s research found that users were five times more impacted by being encouraged by friends to cast a ballot than by influencers and celebrities. As a result, the new tool will also allow Snapchat users to “nominate” their friends as a way to encourage them to run for office.

Medford City Council candidate Justin Tseng speaks to Wake Up To Politics in a Zoom interview. 

“I think that’s a huge factor in getting young people to run for office,” Tseng said. “A lot of people feel like they don’t have the knowledge or they don’t have the experience necessary to run for office, which is not true. But it sometimes takes the nudging of a few friends to push you to realize that, yes, you are qualified to run for office.”

Tseng, who has advised Snap in its development of the “Run for Office” tool, said the app was an ideal space for this type of outreach not just because of its reach — which extends to 90% of 13- to 24-year-olds in the U.S., according to the company — but also because of its less formal nature.

“Snapchat is a casual app,” Tseng said. “And I think we often think of the political realm as formal realm.”

“But the way that most people get involved in social life is through casual means, right? In joining a club or joining local community groups, you have a neighbor or you have a friend that gets you involved… And so I think there’s power in utilizing Snapchat as a casual network to bridge that gap with the political realm.”

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Gabe Fleisher is the Editor-in-Chief of ‘Wake Up To Politics.‘ He has interviewed a wide range of political figures, from Nancy Pelosi to Rand Paul. He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, and NPR, and been profiled by The New York TimesThe Washington PostThe New YorkerNBC NewsPoliticoColumbia Journalism Review, and other news outlets. 

Fleisher can be reached at [email protected]

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The preceding article was originally published in the October 5, 2021 issue of Wake Up To Politics”  and is republished by permission.

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