2008 - %3, August

Oil and Coal Have Spent $427 Million To Influence Campaign in 2008

| Mon Aug. 18, 2008 5:07 PM EDT

The Public Campaign Action Fund has figured out how much the oil and coal industries have spent to influence the public debate through their 527s, 501(c)4s, PACs, lobbying expenditures, paid advertising, and campaign contributions. Their final number? An astonishing $427.2 million dollars in the first half of 2008. You can see how the numbers break down here, but take a look at this chart for a summary. It is possible these industries will spend close to or more than $1 billion to influence the election and to protect their interests.

Amount in MillionsCoal/Electric UtilitiesOil/GasTotal
Political Contributions$16.5$20.9$37.4
Lobbying Expenditures73.755.3129.0
Paid Media7.4201.2208.6
Other Political Spending40.012.252.2
Total$137.6$289.6$427.2

Of the oil and gas industries' political contributions, 25% was given to Democrats and 75% was given to Republicans. For coal, it was 31% for Democrats and 69% for Republicans. Electric utilities were more even, with 48% going to Dems and 52% going to Republicans.

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New U2 Recorded By Some Guy Walking Past Bono's House?

| Mon Aug. 18, 2008 5:00 PM EDT

mojo-photo-bono2.jpgThis is silly. Yes, U2 is supposedly working on a new album, No Line on the Horizon, with a tentative release date later this fall. But check out this ridiculous story: apparently a "cheeky holidaymaker" was strolling past Bono's pad in the South of France and heard what sounded like new U2 songs blasting from the windows. Said pedestrian just happened to be carrying some sort of easily-accessible recording equipment with him, with which he taped the tracks, then raced home to post the recordings on YouTube. The fact that this has happened before makes it even less believable. I mean, how close can you even get to Bono's house before the laser robots get you?

However, the recordings themselves (listen at Vulture) are oddly compelling, as lo-fi as you can get, featuring the buzzing of insects, passing cars (or possibly waves on a beach) and far-off conversations. While Vulture hopes the noises won't make it to the actual album, there's something kind of compelling about them, muffled far-off tunes on what sounds like a lovely summer night. It kind of reminds me of the KLF's hypnotic Chill Out, a concept album meant to evoke a drive through Texas and Louisiana. Come to think of it, playing a bit of an artsy prank on the media by having your music "taped" from outside your house is kind of KLF's style, too. Has Bono been taken hostage by sheep-wielding million-pound-burning art terrorists? Enjoy a bit of Chill Out after the jump.

Obama VP Pick Expected This Week

| Mon Aug. 18, 2008 1:39 PM EDT

Just FYI. Begin hyperventilating now.

Update: The Democratic convention starts next Monday. So, uh, duh.

Norm Coleman: Aw Shucks, I Have to Attend?

| Mon Aug. 18, 2008 12:45 PM EDT

At least eight GOP senators have said they will not be attending the Republican convention in Minneapolis, and congressional challengers have officially been told by Republican leadership to stay away. But one man has to be there. Norm Coleman, the Republican senator from Minnesota locked in a reelection fight with Al Franken, can't ignore the party going on his backyard.

Oh, but how he wishes he could.

"So I think those who come here will have an extraordinary time. But the colleagues who don't come are staying at home only because they have tough races. If the convention wasn't in St. Paul, I wouldn't be at the convention," Coleman said.

H/T Ben Smith.

"War on Terror" Going Better, Despite Pakistan Instability, Survey Finds

| Mon Aug. 18, 2008 11:51 AM EDT

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Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, the main US ally in the war on terror, resigned today under threat of impeachment. The news has Washington's nerves on end for a number of reasons, not least of which is that Pakistan is a nuclear-armed country in a volatile neighborhood, plagued by Islamic militants, and which has in the wings no obvious successor to Musharraf to help keep everything from unraveling.

Pakistan has long been the center of US attention when it comes to fighting Al Qaeda. Now, with Musharraf gone, the strategic alliance between the two will become all the more delicate and uncertain. It's one that Washington must not allow to go sour. According to a survey released today by Foreign Policy and the Center for American Progress, 69 percent of foreign policy experts polled now believe that Pakistan is the nation most likely to transfer nuclear weapons technology to terrorists; just 35 percent thought so last year. (Thanks to A.Q. Khan, it's already the world's leading distributor of the stuff to states seeking nuclear weapons, like Iran and North Korea.)

McCain: As a Former Prisoner of War, I Like ABBA

| Mon Aug. 18, 2008 11:03 AM EDT

Okay, so I know I'm treading in dangerous waters. But I found a great example of how John McCain's claim that he would never exploit his prisoner of war experience is more than a little bit phony.

McCain recently said that Dancing Queen, by ABBA, was his favorite song. Questioned by an incredulous reporter after making the selection, McCain pointed to his war service as the explanation:

Walter Isaacson: "What were you thinking?"
John McCain: "If there is anything I am lacking in, I've got to tell you, it is taste in music and art and other great things in life. I've got to say that a lot of my taste in music stopped about the time I impacted a surface-to-air missile with my own airplane and never caught up again."

Yes, I realized he's joking around. But McCain "impacted a surface-to-air missile" in 1967.

Dancing Queen was recorded in 1976.

The claim that McCain is a stoic war hero, too scarred to talk about his time overseas and too principled to exploit it for political gain, is a media narrative that has gone unquestioned for too long.

PS — Want to make clear that McCain has the right to talk about his war service all he wants, just as John Kerry did in 2004. But we collectively have to put to rest this myth that McCain chooses not to in an admirable and principled act of self-denial.

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Pakistan's Musharraf Resigns

| Mon Aug. 18, 2008 11:00 AM EDT

Facing prospective impeachment proceedings and under pressure from Pakistan's new ruling political coalition, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has resigned. "Whether I win or lose the impeachment, the nation will lose," Musharraf said in an emotional hour long speech carried on Pakistani national television. "They don't realize they can succeed against me but the country will undergo irreparable damage." As army chief, Musharraf toppled Pakistan's president Nawaz Sharif in a coup in 1999, and ruled as head of Pakistan's powerful military and as the nation's president for eight years. Under mounting political pressure, he agreed to step down as military chief late last year. It's not clear who the new president will be. "We will continue to work with the Pakistani government and political leaders and urge them to redouble their focus on Pakistan's future and its most urgent needs, including stemming the growth of extremism, addressing food and energy shortages, and improving economic stability," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a statement.


And John McCain, Former Prisoner of War, Had Oatmeal for Breakfast

| Mon Aug. 18, 2008 10:28 AM EDT

Okay, so expect some action on the blogs about this today. At Saturday's presidential forum at Saddleback Church — the one I said wouldn't seep into Monday's news cycle unless there was a controversy — the moderator, Pastor Rick Warren, assured the audience that while he was questioning Obama, "we have safely placed Senator McCain in a cone of silence." The idea was that McCain, who was to be asked the same questions after Obama was finished, couldn't hear what was going on.

When McCain's portion of the event started, Warren began, "Now, my first question: Was the cone of silence comfortable that you were in just now?"

McCain responded, "I was trying to hear through the wall."

In actuality, McCain was in his motorcade when Obama was being questioned, meaning he could have heard the first part of the event over the radio or gotten information via Blackberry.

But the fact that McCain may have had a slight advantage isn't what caught my eye. What did was how sanctimonious his campaign got when asked about the situation by the press. Here's the New York Times:

Kerry on the VP Shortlist? Really?

| Sat Aug. 16, 2008 2:28 PM EDT

Reportedly, John Kerry is being considered as Obama's VP.

I'm not buying it. This has to be a series of headfakes from the Obama campaign, right? Creating media speculation on different options — one week of Bayh, one week of Biden, one week of Kerry — keeps people talking about the choice for almost month. And ultimately, they can find a better choice than any of those three, meaning that even if the actual choice is flawed, people will still say, "Whew. Better than the other options, anyway."

But pretty soon they're going to be the campaign that cried wolf.

Veep Pick Sneak Peaks Sunday?

| Sat Aug. 16, 2008 3:29 AM EDT

Check out this line up. Among other interesting match ups on the Sunday talk shows, Virginia governor Tim Kaine and Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal are slated to appear on "Meet the Press." Kaine tells the Washington Post that he was asked to appear by the Obama campaign.