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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Sharron Angle's Jobs Plan Whiff

| Fri Jul. 23, 2010 11:24 AM EDT

Heading into the 2010 midterms, there's no debate on the headline issue topping the marquee for the fall elections: jump-starting the US economy. At every turn candidates are burnishing their job-creation cred and touting plans to create jobs.

And then there's Sharron Angle, the Nevada GOP and tea party's pick to challenge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The Washington Post relays a telling anecdote today about Angle fielding a jobs-themed question at a friendly campaign event:

A local actress named Dee Drenta asked Angle what she would do to help people find work. But instead of seizing what seemed like an easy chance to explain her jobs plan, the candidate revealed that she didn't have one.

"It really comes from the statehouse to incentivize that kind of stuff in our state," Angle said. "Truly, the lieutenant governor, Brian Krolicki, you should have this conversation with him. That's his job, to make sure that we get business into this state. My job is to create the climate so that everybody wants to come."

The woman gave her a puzzled look. "I'm sure you're probably planning on working with these people to do these things," Drenta said, hopefully. "Because it's the end result that matters, whether it's specifically in the job description or not."

Bzzt. Wrong answer. And this wasn't some reporter trying to ambush Angle or skew her words; it was a regular Nevadan at a women's business lunch in support of Angle. If Angle can't even make use of easy set-ups like Drenta's question, how is she going to respond to reporters? That is, if she ever gives the media a chance to talk to her: Yesterday, Angle walked out of a room full of reporters, even though she was asked to make herself available to the media, after just a three-minute speech on repealing the estate tax. A pregnant reporter even chased Angle out to the parking lot to try to get a question in. And Angle wonders why news reports about her campaign have been, well, a bit negative.

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The Jeff Greene-Climate Change Connection

| Fri Jul. 23, 2010 10:17 AM EDT

It's been a bruising week for Jeff Greene, the billionaire "populist" running for US Senate in Florida. Greene, you'll remember, has quite the backstory: He made millions betting against the housing market before the subprime debacle; Mike Tyson was the best man at Greene's wedding; and his circle of friends and acquaintances has included celebrities like Heidi Fleiss and Lindsay Lohan. Earlier this week, the Associated Press reported on what appears to be a classic case of pay-to-play involving Greene and a member of the Democratic National Committee, Jon Ausman of Tallahassee, who endorsed Greene.

Now comes news that the next biggest threat to barrier reefs after global warming is, well, Jeff Greene's three-story, 145-foot yacht Summerwind. The St. Pete Times reports today that, five years ago, Greene's yacht dropped anchor onto one of the planet's most treasured barrier reefs off the coast of Belize. (Greene wasn't aboard at the time.) According to Belize environmental officials, the case remains open, and Greene or Summerwind's captain at the time of the incident face fines of up to $1.9 million if they ever return to that country. If they don't, then there's nothing Belize officials can do.

Greene's campaign denied to the Times that the reef incident ever occurred, even though Belize officials have a two-volume case file containing evidence of the episode. "Jeff Greene doesn't take a penny of special interest money, so career politicians are attacking him with ridiculous stories about something that didn't even happen five years ago on a boat he wasn't even on,'' a campaign spokesman told the Times. "That's our position. That's our quote."

My Congress Is So Unpopular...

| Thu Jul. 22, 2010 10:28 AM EDT

...that even "Big Business"—think Wall Street, corporations, big-box retailers, the payday lenders—is more trusted by the American public than the 111th United States Congress. That's just one punchline for this sad, unfunny joke. Want another? Trying swapping out big business for, say, the criminal justice system. Yes, that broken criminal justice—the one that imprisons 1 in every 100 Americans, that sentences petty marijuana users to life behind bars without parole, that currently imprisons more black men than were enslaved in 1850, that each year eats away the anemic budgets of states like Michigan and California—is more popular than Congress.

At least that's what a new Gallup public confidence poll shows. Right now, the public's confidence in our federal legislative body, Gallup finds, is a meager 11 percent; the president fares somewhat better, with 36 percent of the public's confidence, tied with the US Supreme Court. Only three groups have more than 50 percent of the public's confidence: the police (59), small businesses (66), and the military (76). 

Here are the results from the Gallup poll:

Vilsack Rethinking Sherrod Firing

| Wed Jul. 21, 2010 10:51 AM EDT

The tempest in a tea pot surrounding the firing of Shirley Sherrod, a United States Department of Agriculture official in Georgia, looks set for a new twist today. If you caught so much as a glimpse of the news yesterday, you heard about Sherrod's story: how she was forced to quit by USDA officials, including secretary Tom Vilsack and under-secretary Cheryl Cook, after a video surfaced purportedly showing Sherrod, who is black, talking about how 24 years ago she "withheld help from a white farmer seeking the [USDA's] help in saving his farm." The video showing Sherrod's "racism" went viral, even though, as it turned out, the video had been selectively edited, had taken Sherrod's comments completely out of context, and had flipped Sherrod's remarks on their head. When interviewed by CNN, the white farmers whom Sherrod had supposedly wronged and discriminated against said the opposite: that Sherrod, their "close friend," had helped save their farm. 

Now that the truth has trickled out in this mini-controversy, the USDA is reviewing the rash decision to fire Sherrod. And they should, given the dubious source of the edited video—namely, Andrew Breitbart's conservative Big Journalism website. Our own David Corn probably hits it on the nail:

In other words, the truth doesn't matter. If right-wing demagogues make a stink, we'll crucify the victim. This was a shameful statement.

Let's go back to Cook's remark to Sherrod about Glenn Beck, and flip the script. If a left-wing website had set up a Bush administration official during the Bush-Cheney years, can you see an overheated department functionary saying, "We have to get this person out before it's on Maddow"? (Rachel, excuse the comparison.) Of course not. The Bush-Cheney folks would have battled back. You don't allow ideological enemies -- who want you to fail -- to define the terms. That Beck figured into Vilsack's and Cook's calculations for a nanosecond is a tremendous defeat for the administration -- and an undeserved victory for Beck and his Tea Party followers. It ought to make supporters of the Obama administration sick. The White House, as could be expected, ran from this mess. On Tuesday, a White House official told CNN that it was not involved in forcing Sherrod out.

The NAACP, which at first supported the decision to bounce Sherrod, reversed course on Tuesday, saying, "We have come to the conclusion we were snookered by Fox News and Tea Party activist Andrew Breitbart," who runs BigGovernment.com. Snookering can be undone -- and it should not be tolerated. The only decent course for Vilsack was to review the case and, if there are no new incriminating facts, offer Sherrod an apology and her job back. If the administration -- in the face of a relentless attack from the right -- doesn't fight for its own, how can voters count on it to fight for them? This is not about Beck-bashing. It's about taking charge and doing the right thing. All that is necessary for the triumph of blogging demagogues is that good people do nothing. Didn't a conservative once say that?

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