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 @AndyKroll.

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Heritage Action CEO: "Everybody Understands" We Can't Repeal Obamacare Until 2017

| Wed Oct. 16, 2013 12:25 PM EDT

When conservative activists began laying the groundwork months ago for their plan to shut down the federal government, their stated goal was delaying or defunding the Affordable Care Act, the equivalent of landing a haymaker on President Obama's signature policy achievement. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tromped around Texas railing against the health care law, a banner proclaiming "DEFUND OBAMACARE" hanging behind him.

Yet the ultimate goal of conservative interest groups such as Heritage Action and FreedomWorks has always been the wholesale repeal of Obamacare. Some conservative lawmakers reportedly even insisted on repealing Obamacare as part of a deal to end the government shutdown that began on October 1.

But on Fox News Wednesday morning, Michael Needham, the CEO of Heritage Action, brought some reality to the discussion over repealing Obamacare:

Fox News: With a Democrat in the White House and Harry Reid with the majority in the Senate, what can you do [to stop Obamacare]?

Needham: Well, everybody understands that we're not going to be able to repeal this law until 2017. And that we have to win the Senate and win the White House.

But right now, it is clear that this bill is not ready for primetime. It is clear that this bill is unfair. The president's given a waiver to employers; why can't we give that waiver to the individual people all across America?"

So there you have it. Obamacare isn't going anywhere until Republicans wrest full control of Congress and the White House. They won't get a shot at that until the 2016 elections, and by then, with Obamacare fully implemented, it could be too late.

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Rep. Steve King: "I'm Not Worried About This Thing They Term Default"

| Wed Oct. 16, 2013 11:16 AM EDT
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa).

As Congress gets perilously close to its October 17 deadline to lift the nation's debt ceiling, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) isn't worried. Default? King shrugs. If anything, he says, the real risk is President Obama's scaremongering about a partial default by the United States on its obligations.

That was King's message Wednesday morning during an appearance on CNN's "New Day." "I'm not worried about this thing they term default because we are going to service our debt," he said. "But I am concerned about all the rhetoric around this, about the weeks and months building up to this point and the utilization of that term default."

The real risk, he went on, is blowback from Obama's dire rhetoric about the debt ceiling. "I'm concerned that it will scare the markets; I'm concerned that the president's remarks will scare the markets."

King is hardly the only the debt ceiling "denier" in Congress. In fact, there's so many of them that my colleague Tim Murphy divided them up into seven different caucus; they include the Debt-Limit-Is-Too-Damn-High Caucus (those who want to lower, not raise, the debt ceiling), the #YOHO Caucus (comprised solely of Florida's Rep. Ted Yoho, who believes default would be a good thing), the straight-up Default-Deniers (who believe the government cannot default on its debts), and the It's-Just-a-Flesh-Wound Caucus (you get the point).

Not a member of any of these caucuses: Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio). He's tried for weeks to convince and cajole his more conservative Republican colleagues into a deal, with no luck. As ofWednesday morning, media reports suggest that Boehner will bring a Senate-passed bill to the House floor, attempting to pass it with Democratic votes.

Andrew Cuomo's Much-Touted Corruption Watchdog Is Beginning to Look Like a Joke

| Tue Oct. 8, 2013 11:10 AM EDT
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).

In June, an anti-corruption bill that included the holy grail of money-in-politics reforms—public financing of elections—died in the New York State Senate. Progressives and election reformers had pinned their hopes on passing a public financing system modeled after New York City's, a system that helped Bill de Blasio clinch the Democratic mayoral primary. But they weren't left empty-handed when the bill died: In its place, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) created the Commission to Investigate Public Corruption to get at the root of Albany's corruption woes and to study the funding of state elections.

Now, it looks like Cuomo's commission is not all it's cracked up to be. And the Cuomo administration is partly to blame.

State lawmakers are refusing to turn over the information about their outside income that the corruption commission requested, the New York Times reports. Cuomo's staff, meanwhile, "has leaned on the commission to limit the scope of its investigations," according to the Times.

Here's more from the Times:

The turmoil over the commission began in late August, when it asked members of both houses of the Legislature to release information about their outside income above $20,000. Several weeks later, lawyers for the Legislature refused, saying, "These demands substantially exceed what New York law authorizes."

The commission's relationship with the governor's office has also been freighted. It issued a flurry of subpoenas at the start, but then was slowed by Mr. Cuomo's office in several instances, according to people familiar with the situation who insisted on anonymity because they feared retribution by the governor.

In one such instance, when the commission began to investigate how a handful of high-end residential developers in New York City won tax breaks from Albany, its staff drafted, and its three co-chairmen approved, a subpoena of the Real Estate Board of New York. But Mr. Cuomo’s office persuaded the commission not to subpoena the board, whose leaders have given generously to Mr. Cuomo's campaign, and which supported a business coalition, the Committee to Save New York, that ran extensive television advertising promoting his legislative agenda.

A Cuomo spokeswoman told the Times that "ultimately all investigatory decisions are up to the unanimous decision of the co-chairs." Still, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he's worried about "interference and micromanagement" at the commission, and good-government groups are increasingly disillusioned over the commission's trajectory. "New Yorkers are losing patience with the continuing culture of corruption in Albany and the continued indictment of their representatives," reads a letter from Common Cause New York to Cuomo. "The commission was established to help restore their faith in government, not confirm their cynicism that the system will never change."

Democratic Super-PAC Targets GOP "Crybabies" With Hilarious Ad

| Mon Oct. 7, 2013 10:57 AM EDT

Here's a political ad that gets right to the point.

House Majority PAC, the super-PAC angling to win back the House for the Democrats next year, is on the airwaves with a new TV ad depicting a crying baby and likening a crew of House Republican lawmakers to petulant children. The ad targets House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and a crew of tea party lawmakers—including Reps. David Joyce (R-Ohio), Gary Miller (R-Calif.), Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), and Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.)—saying these GOPers are, well, big crybabies throwing a temper tantrum over their failed efforts to derail Obamacare.

"Speaker John Boehner didn't get his way on shutting down health-care reform," the ad's narrator says. "So he shut down the government and hurt the economy." The ad features the Twitter hashtag #GOPTemperTantrum.

The partial shutdown of the federal government now enters its second week, with no resolution in sight. On ABC's This Week, Boehner said he would not move to reopen the government until President Obama agrees to negotiate over Obamacare, the centerpiece of which went into effect last Tuesday. Asked whether the nation was set to default on its obligations in mid-October when it hits the government's borrowing limit, Boehner replied, "That's the path we're on." Obama, of course, refuses to enter talks about weakening or defunding his health insurance overhaul.

Don't be surprised, then, to see more crying babies on your TV set in the days ahead.

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