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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Kentucky Politicos Rip Rand Paul

| Wed Jun. 2, 2010 3:30 AM PDT

Add this notable group to the growing list of Rand Paul critics and opponents: the Kentucky Senate. On Friday, the lawmakers in that state's Senate passed a resolution rebuking Rand Paul, the GOP candidate for Kentucky's open US Senate seat, for his questioning of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 while expressing their full support for the landmark piece of legislation. The resolution said in part, "Suggestions have appeared recently that we retreat from the core values of the protection of equal rights of the citizens of the United States"; the resolution characterizes these suggestions as "outside the mainstream of American values" and believed by only an "extreme minority of persons in the United States."

The resolution attacks Paul for his remarks last month in which he blanched when asked whether he fully supported the Civil Rights Act, which banned segregation. Paul's wavering caused a firestorm in political circles and in the media, and likely led to a recent shake-up on Paul's campaign staff, with the replacement of his campaign manager. While a little behind the news cycle, the Kentucky Senate's resolution further compounds the fallout from Paul's gaffes, which appear to have taken a toll on Paul's support. Yesterday, a Rasumussen survey in Kentucky reported that Paul's lead over Democratic opponent Jack Conway had shrunk to 8 points, with Paul earning 49 percent and Conway 41 percent. That's a precipitous drop from a few weeks ago, before Paul's civil rights comment, when he led Conway by 25 percent.

Here's more from McClatchy on the Kentucky resolution:

In interviews with national media outlets, Paul has cited this part of the law as an example of the government overreaching, although he also has said that he would have voted for the law if he were in the U.S. Senate at the time.

“Here is an individual from Kentucky speaking nationally on a fundamental value, a fundamental right enshrined in our laws, and there had been no official response on behalf of Kentucky,” Neal said. “I felt it was important for our institution to say that not everybody here agrees with the ideological positions put forward by Mr. Rand Paul.”

Neal said he filed his resolution last Wednesday under a procedure that listed all senators present as co-sponsors unless they objected. Nobody objected over the next two days, he said.

“Senate leadership clearly knew what was going on, they were paying attention,” Neal said. “I talked to the majority floor leader. There was no opposition.”

Williams, the top Republican in Frankfort, did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday. Williams last week said Paul is not a racist, but he is too young to remember the history that made the Civil Rights Act necessary.

“When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, Rand Paul was 2 years old,” Williams said. “Those of us who lived during that time period — I wasn’t very old, but I was old enough to know that some things in the United States had to be changed.”

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Party with Wall St. on Finance Reform!

| Tue Jun. 1, 2010 7:07 AM PDT

The battle to re-regulate Wall Street is in the late rounds, as the House and Senate try to merge their two bills via the "conference" process beginning as early as next week. That isn't stopping banks and their lobbyists from wooing top lawmakers with a say on the final bill.

Case in point: According to an invitation obtained by Brian Beutler at Talking Points Memo, a Wall Street securities firm and a Washington lobbying shop are scheming to bring together top lawmakers crafting Congress' reform legislation, financial lobbyists, and banking officials for a day-long event in mid June. "Speakers will include the KEY House and Senate Conferees and majority and minority Committee staff," the invitation reads, "as well as leading financial lobbyists covering interchange, banks and major non-banks affected by so-called Wall Street Reform bill." (The securities firm is JNK Securities Corp., and the lobbying outfit Federal Advisory LLC.)

According to the invitation, the June 15 event is slated to last from 10 am to 7 pm—which could fall in the middle of the financial reform conference negotiations between House and Senate leaders. When Beutler called Tim Rupli, Federal Advisory's registered lobbyist, Rupli said the event wasn't a sure thing yet, and all 12 of the Senate conferees, as they're called, either hadn't heard of the event or weren't planning on attending. Nonetheless, the event, whether it comes off or not, is evidence that banks, their lobbyists, and their trade groups will continue fighting and plying and cajoling until President Obama puts pen to paper on the final bill.

For your reading pleasure, here's the invitation in full, per TPM:

From: "Bill Williams" ********** Date: May 26, 2010 4:46:44 PM EDT Subject: (BAC, V, WFC, MA, GS, JPM) ** Confirmed ** Tuesday June 15th in Washington DC w/ KEY House & Senae Conferees

*Timely* Financial Reform Event on TUES June 15th in Washington DC

JNK will be hosting a financial reform event with Federal Advisory, LLC on Tuesday June 15th in Washington DC from 10am - 7pm on Capitol Hill. Speakers will include the KEY House and Senate Conferees and majority and minority Committee staff, as well as leading financial lobbyists covering interchange, banks and major non-banks affected by so-called Wall Street Reform bill. This event will comply with Congressional ethics and gift ban rules. JNK Securities Corp does not participate in any lobbying or fundraising events.

Attendance will be limited, Please indicate your interest.

Federal Advisory: Industry sources suggest the following is proposed conference schedule:

Tuesday, June 8 th-conferees appointed

Wednesday, June 9th-first open meeting of the conference; organizational matters and opening statements only

Tuesday, June 15th, Wednesday, June 16th, Thursday, June 17th-conference meets on substantive issues

Tuesday, June 22nd, Wednesday, June 23rd-conference meets on substantive issues

Thursday, June 24th-conference concludes with formal signing ceremony; conference report filed shortly thereafter

Monday, June 28th-Rules Committee meets to grant rule

Tuesday, June 29th-House passes conference report; this gives the Senate three days to pass it before the beginning of the July 4th recess.

Bill Williams | Director of JNK 3rd Party Research and Sales

JNK Securities Corp | Customized Research Solutions + Trade Execution

******

Semiconductors - Semiconductor Equipment - EMS/Hardware Supply Chain - U.S. Wireless/Mobile Devices - Global Telecom & Data Centers - Security Software - Retail - Gaming & Lodging - U.S. Government Strategy

JNK works with a select group of 3rd Party Consultants. Their work is exclusive to JNK Securities. We do our best to ensure that you are receiving the most up to date, accurate and actionable information on the Street. In an effort to maintain that value, it is important that our clients, keep our proprietary information to themselves. Please do not distribute our work to any outside party including (but not limited to) other Funds, friends, IR departments from mentioned companies etc.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact myself, Bill Williams, our Head of 3rd Party Research or Jodi Heitner, our Chief Compliance Officer.

"Weekend Chasing Aliens" Contest in AZ

| Fri May. 28, 2010 7:52 AM PDT

Consider this a new nadir in the nation's feverish immigration debate, sparked by Arizona's controversial law. A Columbus, Ohio radio station thought it smart—or clever, or whatever—to run a contest offering listeners the chance to visit Phoenix, where "Americans are proud and illegals are scared," as the station put it, to "spend a weekend chasing aliens and spending cash in the desert, just make sure you have your green card!"

The station, 610 WTVN, launched the contest in reaction to Columbus mayor Michael Coleman's decision to ban city employees from visiting Arizona on official business in protest of that state's immigration law. Apparently, the contest has already expired, but here's the full description of the contest and an ad touting it, via Think Progress:

The text from the ad says:

610 WTVN would like to send you where Americans are proud and illegals are scared, sunny Phoenix, Arizona! You'll spend a weekend chasing aliens and spending cash in the desert, just make sure you've got your green card! Win round trip airfare to Phoenix, hotel accomodations, and a few pesos in spending cash - just register below!

Needless to say, local community groups have railed on the radio station for the "chase an alien" contest. Said Leonardo Ramos, president of Colombianos in Ohio. "This is clearly the chilling effect of what is happening in Arizona with SB 1070. We believe that our community must respect and protect all people." (You can read the full press release bashing the station here.) Members of community groups said they'll also send letters to the general manager of Clear Channel in Columbus.

Can the Tea Party Steal Nevada?

| Fri May. 28, 2010 6:35 AM PDT

Will the Tea Party score another early victory, this time in Nevada's June 8th GOP primary? The latest Mason-Dixon/Las Vega Review-Journal poll suggests as much. GOP frontrunner Sue Lowden, with 30 percent support, has seen her once-formidable lead shrink to a meager one-point margin over Sharron Angle, the Tea Party-endorsed, more conservative candidate eyeing incumbent Harry Reid's Senate seat this fall. Danny Tarkanian, the third major candidate in Nevada's GOP primary, has 23 percent support. Angle's 29 percent support signals a major surge for the former Nevada assemblywoman, given she only had 13 percent support a month ago, polls show.

Angle's rise can be attributed to a number of sources. The Tea Party darling's campaign has been outright bashing Sue Lowden's conservative cred, running ads that say she supported state spending increases, raised taxes, and even, god forbid, backed Harry Reid. (Lowden refutes these claims.) Lowden herself hasn't been helping her cause, either: There was Chickengate; then Tarkanian accused her of breaking campaign finance law by accepting an RV from a donor; and more recently she pulled a Rand Paul by stumbling when asked about her views on the Civil Rights Act. (She failed to answer the question, then released a statement afterward saying, yes, she supports it.) Not that Angle has been without controversy herself—she's taken heat for alleged ties to the Church of Scientology.

One of the biggest causes for Lowden's plummet, though, has been Harry Reid. As Reid's campaign sees it, they'd much rather face Sharron Angle, a more controversial and less established figure, then Lowden, a creature of the GOP establishment. Reid's team has unleashed a barrage of attacks on Lowden, doing everything they can to sink her run for the GOP candidacy this fall and open the door to Angle. "[Angle is] the most polarizing," said Mason-Dixon polling director Brad Coker. "She's clearly the most conservative. But that 20 percent of independent voters are the ones who are going to decide this election. And it's easier for them to pick a Lowden or even a Tarkanian."

Which is to say, out in Nevada, the Tea Party might win the primary battle, but if they do, odds are Harry Reid will win the war.

Is BP Dodging $2 Billion in Fines?

| Thu May. 27, 2010 8:35 AM PDT

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) ripped oil corporation BP today by claiming they were low-balling the spill's damage to dodge more than a billion dollars in financial liabilities. Markey's attacks come on the same day an independent report put the BP oil spill at between 12,000 and 19,000 barrels a day, far exceeding BP's 1,000 to 5,000 estimate. “What’s clear is that BP has had an interest in low-balling the size of their accident, since every barrel spilled increases how much they could be fined by the government,” said Markey, who chairs the select committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and the Energy and Environment subcommittee.

According to Markey, the difference between BP's and independent scientists' estimates on the spill's size amounts to tens of millions of dollars everyday. If the spill were really 1,000 barrels per day, the fines would total between $5 to $15 million each day; if 14,000 barrels a day, then BP is looking at fines of $14 to $42 million every day. The current governing financial liabilities for oil spills like BP's, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, mandates fines of $1,000 per barrel or, in the case of "gross negligence," $3,000 per barrel. All told, BP, using scientists' projections on the Gulf spill, the oil giant could face fines of $444 million and $2.1 billion now on the 37th day of the spill.

Here's Markey's full release on BP's financial liabilities:

Following the release of a report on the flow rate of the oil spill by a technical team assembled by the Obama administration, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today continued to raise questions about BP’s potential motivations to low-ball the flow rate and size of the spill, and released new documents showing BP knew the spill could have been much bigger than they claimed.

The report, conducted by the National Incident Command’s Flow Rate Technical Group, found that the spill was likely between 12,000 and 19,000 barrels a day, far above the 1,000-5,000 barrels a day BP estimated for most of the spill’s duration. Rep. Markey has engaged with numerous independent scientists on this issue who claimed the spill was much larger than BP’s estimates.

"Now we know what we always knew—this spill is much larger than BP has claimed," said Rep. Markey, who chairs the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and the Energy and Environment Subcommittee in the Energy and Commerce Committee. "What’s clear is that BP has had an interest in low-balling the size of their accident, since every barrel spilled increases how much they could be fined by the government."

Yesterday Rep. Markey pressed this point with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, citing documents he obtained from BP that showed BP knew as early as a week after the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig that the spill could have been much higher than their initial estimate of 1,000 barrels. Secretary Salazar agreed with Rep. Markey that BP could have a financial interest in underestimating the size of the spill.

The documents can be found here

One document, dated April 27, shows that BP’s high estimate for the daily rate of the spill was 14,266 barrels per day, well within the midrange of today’s technical group report. Yet one day later, BP was asserting to the public that the spill was only 1,000 barrels a day—their low estimate for the size of the spill.

The implications for BP’s financial liability are directly tied to the size of the spill. Under current law—the Clean Water Act as amended by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, following the Exxon Valdez disaster—a company that spills oil is subject to fines up to $1,000 per barrel, or up to $3,000 per barrel in the case of gross negligence.

For BP, the difference between an estimate of 1,000 barrels per day and one of 14,000 barrels a day could really be the difference between $5 to $15 million per day in fines versus $14 to $42 million per day. That means, at the end of yesterday, the 37th day of the spill, the difference could potentially be between $37 million in fines or $1.5 billion in fines, according to BP’s own estimates from the documents.

According to the range reached by the technical group today, BP could be subject to between $444 million and $2.1 billion in potential fines for the oil spilled thus far.

"BP has to stop protecting their liability and start dealing with the reality of the size of this spill,” said Rep. Markey. “Knowing the size of the spill is vital to all facets of this spill, from response to recovery to accountability."

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