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 Detroit News, the Guardian, 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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Ben Nelson's Economic Hypocrisy

| Thu Aug. 5, 2010 11:11 AM EDT

Should we extend the Bush tax cuts? Let them expire for all Americans? Or lapse just for the very wealthy? These are the questions being asked in the latest economic battle that's playing out here in Washington. If the Bush tax cuts, implemented in 2001 and 2003, were allowed to expire for everyone, the average American household's tax payment could increase by about $1,500, according to the LA Times. So far, the fate of the Bush tax cuts is dividing lawmakers along the typical partisan lines, with Democrats and the Obama administration demanding an end to them and Republicans arguing for their extension.

And then there's centrist Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.). He says he opposes increasing taxes, and thus supports extending the tax cuts. Nelson supported his un-Democratic position with this statement: "I think we're at a point in our economic recovery that anything that would adversely affect it, we ought to avoid."

Hmm. That sounds awfully hypocritical. After all, the veteran senator voted against or failed to show up to vote on an issue that's arguably the best tonic for our ailing economy: unemployment benefits. Nelson opposed or ignored jobless benefits five separate times over the last two years. Nelson cited concerns that adding to the deficit "could jeopardize the recovery."

Too bad that's utterly inaccurate. As countless economists (pdf) and studies have shown, unemployment insurance is an effective form of stimulus and a way to bolster the economic recovery. Weekly unemployment insurance checks mean money in the pockets of out of work Americans, who in turn will spend that money on groceries, health care, or searching for a new job, which, if they find, puts them back in the tax-paying workforce. As White House budget guru Peter Orszag put it, "Research has shown that the unemployment insurance system is among the most effective dollar-for-dollar economic stabilizers that we have in terms of counterbalancing periods of economic weakness."

So Ben Nelson says he's against anything that hurts the economic recovery, yet repeatedly blocked jobless benefits even though they're one of the best tools out there for boosting the economic recovery—a position that makes no sense at all.

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The End Of The Kilpatrick Dynasty?

| Wed Aug. 4, 2010 12:45 AM EDT

[MoJo has more primary coverage: Read my report on Michigan's gubernational results, and Nick Baumann's take on Missouri's primaries for US House and Senate.]

"This is the final curtain: the ending of the Kilpatrick dynasty."

So concluded Detroit political consultant Eric Foster in the Detroit Free Press' report on the primary defeat of Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick.

Cheeks Kilpatrick, a seven-term Democrat, represented Michigan's 13th congressional district, which includes large parts of Detroit. Her defeat is largely attibutable to one of the worst scandals in that city's history. The salacious saga centered on her son, Kwame, Detroit's disgraced former mayor, who had an affair with his chief of staff, lied about it under oath, and spent millions in city funds fighting public disclosure of text messages and secret settlements. The former chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Cheeks Kilpatrick lost to state Senator Hansen Clarke;  at 11:45 p.m., Clarke had 46 percent of the vote and Cheeks Kilpatrick 40 percent. The Free Press described Hansen's win as a "stunning upset victory."

Here's more from the Freep as the results roll in:

The defeat could spell the end of a 14-year congressional career for Kilpatrick, who has been dogged by the legal problems faced by her son, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, now serving time for violating probation on state felony charges and awaiting trial on federal charges of tax evasion and mail and wire fraud.

The race has been among the most watched races in the state.

A subdued crowd at Kilpatrick’s election night party in downtown Detroit waited for the final numbers to roll in, hoping that absentee ballots might reverse the trend...

At Clarke's party at the Centaur Bar in Detroit, the mood was much more upbeat. Cheering erupted as Clarke greeted the crowd.

"What’s missing is a congressman willing to work in the city," said Detroit city councilman Gary Brown. "I hope he can bring the Michigan delegation in Washington together."

Michigan Guv: Big Labor vs. Big Biz

| Wed Aug. 4, 2010 12:33 AM EDT

[More MoJo primary coverage: Nick Baumann reports on the Missouri primaries for US Senate here.]

Big labor, at least in a manufacturing state like Michigan, still wields some major political muscle. That's one takeaway from Tuesday's Democratic gubernatorial primary in Michigan, in which labor's pick, Lansing mayor Virg Bernero, easily defeated state House speaker Andy Dillon. Most media outlets called the race for Bernero early in the evening, and with 50 percent of voting precincts reporting, Bernero led Dillon by more than 40,000 votes.

Bernero, once seen as the underdog candidate, trailed Dillon in the polls for most of his primary campaign. But recently labor groups like the AFL-CIO and AFSCME mobilized their members and ramped up their ground campaign on Bernero's behalf, and as a result, the blunt Lansing mayor surged in the most recent polls. A fiery politician, Bernero is largely seen as a defender of the working class, especially the auto industry, and will garner even more support from Michigan's still-influential unions heading into November.

While Bernero sounds like a classic Michigan Democrat, Rick Snyder, who easily defeated longtime Rep. Pete Hoekstra in Michigan's GOP gubernatorial primary, is hardly your typical Republican. The former CEO of Gateway computers, Snyder trounced his more established Republican opponents, leading Hoekstra by 63,000 votes with 53 percent of precincts reporting. Like Bernero, Snyder got off to a rocky, unassuming start, but quickly gathered momentum as voters latched onto his job-creation message in a state blighted by 13 percent unemployment.

Which GOP Will Reclaim Michigan?

| Tue Aug. 3, 2010 11:24 AM EDT

Today, the citizens of hard-hit Michigan—13.2 percent jobless rate, recurring budget crises, educated young people fleeing the state—hit the polls for the state's gubernatorial primaries. The race to replace largely unpopular Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm, who's term limited, is closest on the Republican side, with the top three GOP candidates separated by only a few percentage points in the polls. That's the primary you'll want to watch: With an anti-incumbent mood sweeping the country, and an anti-Granholm sentiment as well, whoever wins the GOP's highly competitive nomination today will likely claim the governor's seat in November.

Running neck-and-neck in the Republican primary are wealthy businessman Rick Snyder (26), Attorney General Mike Cox (24), Rep. Pete Hoekstra (23 percent support), and Oakland County sheriff Mike Bouchard (10). Like the Jeff Greenes and Linda McMahons of 2010, Snyder, 51, has drawn on his considerable wealth to spend millions on campaign ads, boosting his stature from relative unknown to frontrunner in the polls. The rest of the GOP crowd are longtime state pols, guys with name recognition who've been around Michigan politics for years.

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