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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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.

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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.

VIDEO: Even Fox Laughs At Sharron Angle

| Tue Aug. 3, 2010 10:48 AM EDT

You know the right is souring on Sharron Angle, the Nevada conservative aiming to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, when even a Fox News interviewer can't help but laugh at the bizarre things that come out of Angle's mouth.

Fox News' Carl Cameron interviewed Angle yesterday as part of the Fox's political primary coverage, and Cameron asked Angle about her, um, media strategy. A quick refresher: Angle is the candidate who has consistently run away from reporters, ducked the media's questions, called one reporter an "idiot," and even left a pregnant reporter, microphone in hand, in the dust of her white Jeep as it sped away from a recent campaign event. When Fox's Cameron questioned Angle about her media run-ins and her relationship with reporters, her answer was so bizarre and amateurish that it left Cameron speechless and laughing. Here's the exchange, with the video included afterward:

Angle: "We needed to have the press be our friend."

Cameron: "Wait a minute. Hold on a second. To be your friend...?"

Angle: "Well, truly..."

Cameron: "That sounds naive."

Angle: "Well, no. We wanted them to ask the questions we want to answer so that they report the news the way we want it to be reported."

Cameron: [laughs]

Can Money Really Buy That Senate Seat?

| Mon Aug. 2, 2010 1:46 PM EDT

In an election year marked by the rise of the self-funded candidate, here's a memo to the politicos out there: Splashing your own cash to win over voters is, according to a new study, a potentially dumb investment. Quite dumb, in fact. The National Institute on Money in State Politics studied more than 6,000 state races in which various candidates or their immediate families spent a whopping $700.6 million to boost their own campaigns. But did that spending translate into success? Not really: A measly 11 percent of those self-funded candidates won.

That low rate is a good thing, right? Well, kind of. Here's Sam Pizzigati from the Working Group on Extreme Inequality:

So can we breathe a sigh of relief, secure in the knowledge that the rich can’t buy their way into political power? We might want to put a hold on that sigh. Money still matters.

Those candidates whose campaigns spend the most turn out to win the most, the National Institute study also found, by a wide margin. Candidates who collected and spent more campaign cash than their rivals, says the study, won 87 percent of their races.

There's a key distinction here. Modest levels of self-funding—donating a few hundred or thousand dollars to your campaign—doesn't look like it makes much of a difference, especially in smaller state races where budgets are puny compared to, say, the millions spent running for the US House or Senate.

But then you have self-funded candidates—who, ironically, are self-styled as "populists" and "outsiders"—like Florida Senate candidate Jeff Greene, Connecticut Senate hopeful Linda McMahon, and California gubernatorial frontrunner Meg Whitman, who together have spent well over $100 million on their campaigns. That kind of cash, the study shows, brings a major chance of success, given that kind of candidate's near-limitless ability to cut ads, publish campaign lit, travel throughout their states, and so on. After all, look at those three candidates' poll numbers, which continue to climb and climb.

The state representative, in other words, who chips in part of his paycheck to hand out lawn signs might be wasting his money. But the real-estate mogul who spends more on his campaign than most people earn in their lifetime shouldn't have a problem buying a seat in the US Senate.

"Let Them Eat Want Ads"

| Thu Jul. 29, 2010 11:48 AM EDT

Following in the footsteps of Nevada conservative Sharron "the unemployed are spoiled" Angle, another GOPer, Delaware congressional candidate Michele Rollins, recently claimed that jobless benefits make people "continue to do nothing." Ouch. Via Greg Sargent, the Democratic National Committee got Norris, who's running for Republican Mike Castle's open House seat, on tape saying this:

"I know this is a bad market and a very bad time. But you just cannot keep paying people, cannot keep taxing us to pay people to do nothing, because they will continue to do nothing for a very long time."

Any chance of Rollins winning over the 8.5 percent of Delaware citizens who are unemnployed just plummeted. Indeed, I'll bet that those 37,000 or so jobless people in her state would take offense to her claim that unemployment insurance is the same as "pay[ing] people to do nothing" and that aid makes people "do nothing for a long time." I'll bet most of them would tell Rollins they're sending out resumes every week, showing up at job fairs, dropping in on employers to ask about openings—hardly sitting around and continuing "to do nothing."

The very premise of Rollins' belief about unemployment aid—that it makes people "continue to do nothing for a very long time"—is factually wrong. As Harvard economist Raj Chetty has found, unemployment aid almost always is not a disincentive to finding a new job. And in the few instances where aid does somewhat prolong the duration of unemployment, it's not because some mom or dad found their check in the mail and got lazy; it's because that dad, who'd stopped spending time with his family or keeping up on medical appointments or going grocery shopping because he was looking for work nonstop, can now afford to see his kids once in a while. All told, Chetty says, general economic well-being increases when the unemployed receive aid. (For a thorough debunking of the jobless-aid-makes-people-lazy meme, I recommend watching Chetty's two-part presentation, here and here.)

Seeing as this bloc of jobless-aid bashers—Angle, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Wisconsin GOP Senate candidate Ron Johnson—continues to grow, Greg Sargent has crowned them the "Let Them Eat Want Ads" Caucus. T-shirts, anyone?

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