Andy Kroll

Andy Kroll

Senior Reporter

Andy Kroll is Mother Jones' Dark Money reporter. He is based in the DC bureau. His work has also appeared at the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, Men's Journal, the American Prospect, and TomDispatch.com, where he's an associate editor. Email him at akroll (at) motherjones (dot) com. He tweets at @AndrewKroll.

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Movie Mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg Raises $1 Million for Mitch McConnell's Democratic Foe

| Mon Sep. 30, 2013 10:17 AM EDT
Jeffrey Katzenberg.

Hollywood is betting big on Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democratic challenger to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Jeffrey Katzenberg, the movie mogul and Democratic kingmaker, raised more than $1 million for Grimes at a recent fundraiser at the Spago restaurant in Beverly Hills, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Katzenberg, who marshaled more than $30 million to reelect President Obama, has trained his sights on the McConnell-Grimes race for 2014 election season.

In an email to potential donors sent earlier this month, Katzenberg said of the Kentucky Senate race, "There is no more important election being held next year in this country." Katzenberg wrote that he sees McConnell as an obstructionist who has crippled the US Senate and hurt the democratic process in Congress. "Alison is the antidote to McConnell and all he represents," Katzenberg wrote. "She can win, and she will win if she gets the support she needs."

Here's more on Katzenberg's fundraiser from the Hollywood Reporter:

As the event concluded shortly before 8 p.m. and the room emptied out, the studio head and his political adviser, Andy Spahn, lingered at a table chatting with the candidate. As Grimes made her own exit, she paused to thank lingering campaign staff members, who laughingly told her the effort “came from the top down,” a reference to the intense hands-on role Katzenberg took in orchestrating the visit.

Asked for names of donors, Katzenberg simply responded, "Everybody."

The total was particularly impressive since individual donors can contribute only $5,200 to a candidate for federal office.

One of the Hollywood insiders who sized Grimes up during the whirlwind visit told THR that—while there are no formal records kept–the $1 million total is thought to be a record for a single visit by a senatorial candidate raising money in the L.A. entertainment industry.

A knowledgeable source also told THR that Katzenberg is preparing to renew his strong support for Democratic Super PACs as a way to level the electoral playing field in Kentucky, where Republican independent expenditure committees are expected to spend major cash to secure McConnell’s reelection.

Grimes herself made a strong impression at the luncheon, cocktail event and private meetings she attended during a visit that began Wednesday and wrapped up Thursday night. "I spent some time talking with her," said one Hollywood supporter. "She's very smart, very attractive, very poised. She has a good story about her Kentucky roots and her life there. She is very serious. She really wants to win this.

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CNN Flip-Flops: Newt's PAC Donations Don't Violate "Crossfire" Ethics Rules [UPDATED]

| Fri Sep. 27, 2013 11:13 AM EDT
Newt Gingrich.

This post has been updated.

On Wednesday, David Corn and I reported that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was raising money for a political action committee that so far in 2013 has raised $1.4 million—supposedly to dole out to conservative candidates—but only donated 1 percent of this haul to politicians, including $5,000 each to Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Our story raised this question: Is Gingrich's American Legacy PAC just a cash cow for his favorite consultants and associates? As it turned out, the article raised another issue: Gingrich's work for the PAC—which lists him as a founder and honorary co-chair—appeared to violate CNN's ethics rules covering his new job as a co-host of the rebooted Crossfire.

As Media Matters first reported in early September, CNN standards chief Rick Davis said that if Gingrich "is helping fund a candidate and that candidate's on the show, or being discussed on the show, of course he'll disclose that. Disclosure is important when it's relevant." On August 20, American Legacy PAC announced by email a donation of $5,000 to Rand Paul's 2016 reelection campaign. Weeks later, Paul appeared on the first episode of Crossfire. Gingrich did not disclose American Legacy's donation to Paul or his role with the PAC.

Pressed over whether Gingrich violated the network's rules, CNN changed its tune. In a statement to Media Matters, Davis, the CNN standards chief, says the network was "clarifying" its ethics guidelines and that Gingrich did nothing wrong:

We are clarifying the policy and making it clear Newt Gingrich is not in violation. The policy: If a Crossfire co-host has made a financial contribution to a politician who appears on the program or is the focus of the program, disclosure is not required during the show since the co-host's political support is obvious by his or her point of view expressed on the program.

Given that much of the critical political action these days occurs in primary elections and that the GOP is in the midst of an internal battle between tea partiers and establishmentarians, a viewer might not be able to assume that Crossfire's Republican co-hosts support all Republican candidates. Thus, it might enlighten viewers—and provide greater context—if a Republican co-host disclosed donations that revealed his or her party favorites. (The same is true regarding the Democratic co-hosts.) It would hardly be out of line to suggest that Gingrich might be even more supportive of a Republican candidate that he and his PAC finances. So the disclosure of his fundraising efforts certainly could be considered news-you-can-use for Crossfire viewers. Just not at CNN headquarters.

Mother Jones has made several requests for comment from Davis. So far, no response.

UPDATE: Via a spokeswoman, CNN standards chief Rick Davis sent this statement to Mother Jones about Gingrich's PAC fundraising and his Crossfire job:

Crossfire hosts have never been required to disclose their contributions regarding guests on the show because their political support and activism are there for all to see. It's obvious they support liberals or conservatives.

Davis' earlier statement that Gingrich would have to disclose any work "helping fund a candidate" who appears on Crossfire or is discussed on the show is no longer the case.

NRA's Wayne LaPierre: "There Weren't Enough Good Guys With Guns" During Navy Yard Shooting

| Mon Sep. 23, 2013 11:57 AM EDT

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It was déjà vu all over again. On Sunday, Wayne LaPierre, the head of the National Rifle Association, told Meet the Press host David Gregory that one cause of last week's shooting at Washington, DC's Navy Yard was that "there weren't enough good guys with guns."

Sound familiar? It should. LaPierre trotted out the same talking point in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in December. At the NRA's first press conference after gunman Adam Lanza killed 27 people at Sandy Hook, ​LaPierre singled out a host of supposed ills—other than guns themselves—to explain Lanza's spree: violent video games, violent movies, violent music, and more. Then he said, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

On Meet the Press, LaPierre not only called for more "good guys with guns," but he also blamed "the mental health situation in the country" which he described as "in complete breakdown." News reports in the wake of the Navy Yard shooting revealed that 34-year-old Aaron Alexis, who killed 12 people and was shot and killed himself at a Navy Yard facility, had exhibited erratic behavior for months. He told police in Rhode Island earlier this year that he heard people talking to him through walls and transmitting microwave vibrations into his body to keep him awake at night.

As for LaPierre's claim that more good guys with guns would've stopped mass shootings like those at Sandy Hook and Navy Yard, the evidence does not back this up. As Mother Jones has reported, not one of the 67 mass shootings in America in the past three decades was stopped by an armed civilian. Those who've tried have been badly injured or killed. And law enforcement officials don't want "good guys with guns" trying to play cop.

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