Failed Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain—remember him?—laced into President Obama and his administration at the annual conference of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a confab for evangelicals and pro-life activists.
Cain said the Obama administration was suffering from "a crisis of crises" on the home front and abroad. He then contended that "a first grader would approach these problems a lot smarter" than Obama and his team. "I'm not saying that to be insulting," he said. "I'm just telling you the truth."
Cain also exhorted the half-filled ballroom at Washington, DC's Omni Shoreham hotel to inform themselves and get active in politics. They needed to get involved because, as he put it, "stupid people [who do vote and volunteer] are ruining America."
Those in the room need to outnumber those "stupid people," he continued. "The solution is real simple folks. Those of us who are informed have got to outvote the stupid people. And you have got to become ambassadors of intelligence, ambassadors of information."
Prosecutors are probing whether Walker and two of his aides illegally coordinated with outside groups—including the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity—to fend off a wave of recall elections in 2011 and 2012. This kind of probe, conducted in secret, is known in Wisconsin as a "John Doe." It is spearheaded by Francis Schmitz, a former federal prosecutor who was on George W. Bush's shortlist to be US attorney in Wisconsin's Eastern District. The investigation was initiated by the Milwaukee County district attorney's office, which is led by Democrats.
Here are four key takeaways from the newly released documents:
1) Walker and two aides allegedly ran a "criminal scheme"
Prosecutors allege in the documents that Walker, his campaign committee, and two close aides, RJ Johnson and Deborah Jordahl, ran a "criminal scheme" using dark-money nonprofit groups to evade state election laws. Their goal: Defend Walker and a group of state lawmakers facing recall elections in 2011 and '12.
The documents describe a web of 12 nonprofit groups that closely coordinated their fundraising and spending. Prosecutors say Walker, Johnson, and Jordahl presided over this web of groups. The documents quote a May 2011 email sent by Walker to GOP operative Karl Rove about the coordination plans: "Bottom-line: RJ [Johnson] helps keep in place a team that is wildly successful in Wisconsin. We are running 9 recall elections and it will be like 9 congressional markets in every market in the state (and Twin Cities)."
In a statement, Walker said: "The accusation of any wrongdoing written in the complaint by the office of a partisan Democrat district attorney by me or by my campaign is categorically false. This is nothing more than a partisan investigation with no basis in state law."
2) A conservative leader voiced concerns about coordination between outside groups and Walker
The documents show that the Wisconsin Club for Growth acted as a conduit for funneling dark money to pro-Walker and pro-GOP groups. It also ran its own ads defending Walker and his policy agenda, which included a controversial budget-repair bill that limited bargaining rights for public-sector workers.
Wisconsin Club for Growth's activities had at least one conservative leader worried. "Notably, prior to the 2011 Wisconsin Senate recall elections, the national Club for Growth organization raised concerns about coordination or interaction with [Wisconsin Club for Growth] and [Friends of Scott Walker] as early as 2009."
The documents cite a comment by the national Club for Growth's then-director, David Keating, who said he had "legal concerns" about Wisconsin Club for Growth ads that featured Walker.
3) Walker's alleged coordination scheme was an expansive, all-hands-on-deck effort
A quick bit of history: In early 2011, Walker introduced Act 10, the anti-union bill that curbed workers' rights. Democrats and labor unions reacted by organizing massive protests, then sought retribution by recalling state lawmakers who'd voted for the bill.
The documents reveal, in the clearest detail yet, the extent to which Walker, Wisconsin Republicans, and a slew of dark-money nonprofit groups rallied to fend off those recall efforts. RJ Johnson, a Walker confidant and a central player in the coordination probe, used the Wisconsin Club for Growth to coordinate with the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, the national Club for Growth, the Republican Party of Wisconsin, the Republican State Leadership Committee, and the Republican Governors Association. It was a murder's row of conservative players who all pitched in to help preserve the GOP majorities in the Wisconsin legislature and to keep Walker, a rising GOP star, in office.
4) All of this information may be for naught
Something to remember amidst the frenzy surrounding the release of the new documents: The John Doe probe into Walker and his allies is almost dead.
The pushback has been led by Eric O'Keefe, a director with Wisconsin Club for Growth who has fought the probe every step of the way, selectively leaking documents to the Wall Street Journal editorial board and suing in court to halt the investigation. And he's having success: The probe is temporarily on hold while a federal judge studies his lawsuit. O'Keefe say their activities zeroed in on by prosecutors weren't illegal because the groups in question coordinated on issue-based activities, not expressly political work. He also argues that the John Doe probe violates his First Amendment rights to free speech.
So far, a state judge and a federal judge have sympathized with O'Keefe's argument, saying that prosecutors have failed to make the case for illegal coordination. The investigation of Walker and his allies is still alive, but its prospects don't look good.
This summer, Martinez was expected to testify in court in a high-profile case involving a former campaign manager accused of intercepting her personal emails. Prosecutors alleged that Jamie Estrada, a Republican operative who served in George W. Bush's Commerce Department, illegally accessed messages sent using Martinez's 2010 campaign's domain name, including messages about her online shopping and banking information. Estrada also faced charges of misleading federal investigators about how he gained access to the emails. For months, Estrada, who left Martinez's campaign in December 2009, fought the charges. Martinez recently cleared her calendar in anticipation of her testimony.
But this week, Estrada changed course and pleaded guilty in what New Mexicans have dubbed "Emailgate." Estrada pled to two felony counts: unlawfully intercepting Martinez's personal emails and making false statements to FBI agents. He did not respond to requests for comment.
In a statement issued to reporters, Martinez said Estrada's guilty plea "vindicates what I have said from the beginning which is that these personal and private emails were indeed stolen." She continued, "This is a case about a fired former employee who wasn't given a state job and then sought to get even by illegally intercepting personal emails from numerous individuals, including personal bank account statements and my personal undergarment orders, all of which were made public in a misguided effort to harm me and others in a revenge scheme."
Estrada, who is 41, could spend up to a year and a day in jail and lose his ability to vote. The United States Attorney for New Mexico, Damon Martinez, told the Santa Fe Reporter that his team will argue for some amount of jail time for Estrada.
More from the Reporter:
In the plea agreement, Estrada admitted to "knowingly and willfully" making "false, fraudulent, and material statements and representations to the FBI" during a September 19, 2012, interview at his Valencia County home, "including falsely telling the agents that I had not paid for the renewal of the Domain using a pre-paid gift card." Agents had executed a search warrant on the home.
He also admitted to logging onto the Martinez campaign's domain account in July 2011 and paying for the renewal of the domain under a fake name. He admitted to then intercepting "hundreds" of email messages intended for Martinez and her campaign staffers.
"I gave the emails to Governor Martinez's political opponents knowing that certain emails would be disseminated to others," reads the plea agreement. "After some of the intercepted emails were published in the press, on or about June 29, 2012, the governor released a public statement to the effect that she had asked federal authorities to "investigate the interception of the emails."
As I reported in my recent piece on Martinez, Estrada's trial was a potential headache for the governor, who might've faced fierce questioning about various controversies that have dogged Martinez during her first term. She's now free to focus on her reelection campaign, hoping for a commanding victory that could further elevate her national prospects.
Last year, American Crossroads, the super-PAC conceived of by Republican operative and fundraiser Karl Rove, hatched a plan: Inject itself into 2014 GOP primary races to protect incumbents from hard-line challengers in the mold of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock who could cost the party winnable seats in Congress. Immediately, conservatives howled with outrage over an establishment group targeting tea partiers—Mike Huckabee called it "fratricide." The plan never got off the ground, and American Crossroads itself has largely shied away from picking primary fights.
But here's an exception: A brand-new Crossroads ad slams Matt Doheny, who's vying with Elise Stefanik to be the GOP nominee in New York's 21st congressional district, as a "perennial loser." Crossroads accuses Doheny, a investment fund manager, of mistreating his employees and not paying his rent on time, while at the same time depicting him as a one-percenter who owns two islands. "With his selfish fiscal irresponsibility, Matt Doheny is no conservative," the narrator says. "And he's a big mistake for Congress."
Stefanik, Doheny's opponent, appears to be the establishment's pick in the NY-21 race. As Mother Jonesreported, she received more than $110,000 in the first quarter of 2014 from a fundraising committee backed by Paul Singer, a hedge fund manager and major GOP donor, and other prominent party funders. Singer also gave $250,000 to American Crossroads in early 2014, the group now attacking Doheny.
For months, conservatives have thrown their money and might behind Mississippi state Senator Chris McDaniel in an effort to defeat longtime Sen. Thad Cochran in the state's GOP Senate primary. Tea party activists swooned over McDaniel as the candidate who, in a year of failed challenges from the right, could succeed in knocking off a GOP incumbent. Mississippians went to the polls on Tuesday and gave McDaniel a slight edge over Cochran. A run-off is likely. With a fired-up base behind him, McDaniel is in a solid position to defeat the six-term senator.
As Mother Jones has reported, McDaniel is a southern conservative with a controversial track record. Last summer, he delivered the keynote address at an event hosted by a chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a neo-Confederate group that, as my colleague Tim Murphy wrote, "promotes the work of present-day secessionists and contends the wrong side won the 'war of southern independence.'" McDaniel spoke at past Sons of Confederate Veterans-affiliated events, according to a spokesman for the group.
From 2004 to 2007, McDaniel hosted a syndicated Christian conservative radio program, Right Side Radio. Once, McDaniel weighed in on gun violence in America by blaming "hip-hop" culture. "The reason Canada is breaking out with brand new gun violence has nothing to do with the United States and guns," he said in a promotional sampler for the radio show. "It has everything to do with a culture that is morally bankrupt. What kind of culture is that? It's called hip-hop." He went on:
Name a redeeming quality of hip-hop. I want to know anything about hip-hop that has been good for this country. And it's not—before you get carried away—this has nothing to do with race. Because there are just as many hip-hopping white kids and Asian kids as there are hip-hopping black kids. It's a problem of a culture that values prison more than college; a culture that values rap and destruction of community values more than it does poetry; a culture that can't stand education. It's that culture that can't get control of itself.
McDaniel also used his radio show to defend the efficacy—despite reams of evidence saying otherwise—of torture as a way to gather intelligence.
In April, McDaniel raised eyebrows when he appeared on a different radio show, "Focal Point," hosted by the Bryan Fischer, an top official at the rabidly anti-gay American Family Association. Here's a brief rundown of Fischer's penchant for bomb throwing:
In March, Fischer told his listeners that while he didn't think President Obama is the antichrist, "the spirit of the Antichrist is at work" in the Oval Office. He has said that people turn to homosexuality (which he'd like criminalized) when the Devil takes over their brains. He once called for a Sea World Orca whale to be Biblically stoned after it killed its trainer. He said the secretarial job in his office is "reserved for a woman because of the unique things that God has built into women." Even some Republicans have distanced themselves from Fischer—at the 2011 Values Voters Summit in Washington, DC, Mitt Romney condemned Fischer's "poisonous language."
Mark your calendars: A McDaniel-Cochran run-off would take place on June 24.