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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Taking Big Banks at Their Word

| Tue Jul. 27, 2010 12:29 PM EDT

Noam Scheiber of The New Republic chips in Tuesday with the latest on Elizabeth Warren, the bailout watchdog and irrepressible thorn in Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's side, and her potential nomination to run the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Remember, this bureau was her idea, first proposed in 2007. And while she should be a shoo-in for the role, Warren's potential nomination has grown into a minor controversy and a cause celebre among progressive groups. Scheiber's story quotes a whole bunch of anonymous sources, does some back-of-the-envelope math, sizes up the GOPers who could back Warren, and arrives at the not-so-revelatory conclusion that "it wouldn't be surprising to see Warren nominated—and then quickly approved in an anticlimatic vote."

What grinds me about Scheiber's article, other than the reliance on anonymous sources, is this paragraph, about midway through the piece:

But, for the moment, what’s interesting is the banks’ silence. Three industry officials I spoke with took care to assure me that their organizations aren’t actively opposing Warren. One defied me to find someone in the industry who was. Another reflected that, from the banks' perspective, Warren might actually be preferable to Michael Barr, an assistant Treasury Secretary who is also a leading candidate for the position. [emphasis mine]

Noam must not read Mother Jones. Too bad. Last week, I reported that the industry is indeed lobbying against Warren's nomination. During a fly-in last week hosted by the American Bankers Association, one of the largest banking industry trade groups in the US, a number of presidents and CEOs of state bankers associations told me—on the record—that they used the visit as a chance to meet with their delegations and lobby against Warren's nomination. The presidents of the Iowa and Oklahoma Bankers Associations both told me they lobbied their delegations against Warren. A third banking association chief, George Beattie, the president and CEO of the Nebraska Bankers Association, told me he's had "a number of conversations" with Sen. Ben Nelson (R-Neb.) to express his opposition to Warren running the consumer protection bureau.

You might think the views of these three banking chiefs are outliers, but Beattie added this when I asked him about the national-level ABA's views on Warren: "With my colleagues at the ABA, these views about her would be shared." (The ABA did not return my requests for comment about Warren and Beattie's remarks when I reported last week's story.)

So, back to Noam. I wouldn't be so keen to take at face value what "three industry officials" say, as he's done in today's story. A quick Google search would've proved all three of them wrong.

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CO's Romanoff Bets the House—Literally

| Tue Jul. 27, 2010 10:31 AM EDT

You've got to hand it to US Senate hopeful Andrew Romanoff out in Colorado: The man's got chutzpah. So much chutzpah, in fact, that he recently sold his $360,000 bungalow to boost his campaign's coffers in his effort to unseat Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet. Soon after his house sold, Real Clear Politics reports, Romanoff, the former Colorado house speaker, made a $325,000 donation to his campaign with two weeks to go before his August 10 primary bout against Bennet. 

Judging by somewhat recent polls, Romanoff's hefty donation is a last-ditch bid to salvage his Senate run. In a mid-June Denver Post/Survey USA poll, for instance, Bennet led Romanoff by 16 percentage points. Despite winning the endorsement of Bill Clinton, Romanoff has struggled to compete with Bennet throughout the spring and summer, both in the polls and in the fundraising battle. While Bennet, the former Denver education chief, raised $7.5 million the second quarter of this year and had $2.5 million in cash on hand, Romanoff paled in comparison, with $1.6 million raised and $464,000 on hand.

Romanoff justified the sale of his bungalow with a one-liner to the Denver Post: "I'm never home anyway."

Liberals for Palin in 2012

| Mon Jul. 26, 2010 10:09 AM EDT

At the Netroots Nation conference in Las Vegas last week, the liberals and Democrats gathered for this annual tech-centric event were polled on a range of issues, including which GOP candidate they want to take on Obama in the 2012 presidential election. Their answer? "Mama grizzly" Sarah Palin, by a landslide.

Talking Points Memo, which snagged an early version of the Netroots straw poll results, reports that 48 percent of those polled want the ex-Alaska governor and former vice presidential nominee to win the Republican nomination in 2012. Libertarian figurehead Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) came in a distant second, with 11 percent. Filling out the rest of the pack were former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (11 percent), 2008 GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney (9 percent), Newt Gingrich (8 percent), and Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty (7 percent).

The takeaway here is obvious: Liberals want wacky, fringe candidates—or in Santorum's case, candidates with horrendous image problems—so as to clear the way for four more years of Obama.

More from TPM on the straw poll:

A fascinating result within the poll is what the frustrated netroots want Obama to focus on next. They overwhelmingly (74 percent) answered "improve jobs situation" when asked what should be the "highest priority" for Obama and Congress. Far runners up were "finish Afghanistan" with 8 percent, immigration reform with 7 percent, repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell with 6 percent, drawing down troops from Iraq with 3 percent and reduce deficit with 3 percent. (See Obama's surprise message to the convention here.)

The group also—by 69 percent—said health care reform was Obama's "top accomplishment." That was followed by his economic recovery plan with 13 percent, improving the U.S. image abroad with 7 percent, extending unemployment benefits with 5 percent, Wall Street reform with 3 percent, moving toward the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell with 2 percent and a new Afghanistan strategy with 1 percent.

The majority of respondents think Obama is handling his job as commander-in-chief well, with 32 percent saying they "strongly approve" and 51 percent saying they "somewhat approve." On the disapproval side, 13 percent disapprove somewhat, and 4 percent strongly disapprove.

Sharron Angle's Jobs Plan Whiff

| Fri Jul. 23, 2010 10:24 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.

The Jeff Greene-Climate Change Connection

| Fri Jul. 23, 2010 9:17 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."

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