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.

Get my RSS |

Mission Impossible: Financial Bill Deadline

| Mon Apr. 5, 2010 11:44 AM EDT

Democrats locking horns on financial reform are in a pickle. As Politico reports today, some Dems with a hand in crafting the Senate's Wall Street overhaul have begun to doubt whether a Memorial Day deadline is at all realistic for delivering a bill to President Obama. And they're probably right: That would mean a majority in the Senate agreed to a politically palatable bill, passed it, then both the House and Senate reconciled their two pieces of legislation and sent the combined bill to the president. In a little under two months. When it took the Senate banking committee, led by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), far longer just to get out of committee.

The fear among Democrats, the Politico story highlights, is that a May 31 deadline, which the administration put in place, will imbue financial reform talks with the same partisan flame-throwing that so marred the health care debate. Ditching the deadline, worried Dems say, could allow for improved negotiations and a better shot at a bipartisan financial reform bill. It might also blunt the public blowback seen with the health care bill's passage. A number of outsiders—lobbyists, former government officials—quoted in the Politico story say the deadline was more a rhetorical flourish than anything, an effort by Obama and Co. to keep Congress' talks moving at a rapid clip.

Not only that, but there's the fear that any major legislation considered after Memorial Day will be overtaken by campaigning for the looming fall elections. That's certainly true for vulnerable Dems—those who voted for health care, for instance—who'll be spending much of the second half of 2010 clawing to keep their seat and, inevitably, less concerned about systemic risk and capital restrictions and consumer protection agencies. It's sad, but a reality—especially in what's shaping up to be a tough midterm election for Democrats, among them those fighting for financial reform.

Of course, no one who's closely followed financial reform believes the Memorial Day deadline means anything. After all, Dodd said early last year that he expected a financial bill to be completed by year's end. Well, it's April 2010, and the full Senate hasn't even begun talks. What remains to be seen, and what really matters, is whether the Democratic leadership will be able to juggle writing new financial reforms and helping party members campaign to keep their seats. It's a balancing act that could land them what they want on both accounts.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Fred Karger's Fight for Gay Rights

| Mon Apr. 5, 2010 9:20 AM EDT

On Friday, Salt Lake City and its mayor, Ralph Becker, joined the growing list of cities nationwide to ramp up protections and rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender citizens, as the city's ban on discrimination in the workplace and in housing for the GLBT community took effect. Voicing support for Salt Lake City's new laws, in addition to gay-rights groups, was an unlikely organization: the Mormon Church. Indeed, the Mormon Church had pledged to support Salt Lake City's anti-discrimination laws as early as last fall, when a church spokesman said, "The church supports these ordinances because they are fair and reasonable and do not do violence to the institution of marriage."

The Church's support of gay rights is anything but typical. As MoJo's Stephanie Mencimer describes in her latest piece, "Game Changer," the Mormon Church has consistently, secretly battled gay marriage for several decades. And though Salt Lake City's laws have nothing to do with marriage, the Mormon Church as a gay rights ally is nonetheless startling.

Leading the effort to push back against the Mormon Church's gay marriage opposition, Mencimer writes, is a man named Fred Karger, a wily, creative, unrelenting thorn in the Mormon Church's side. A former TV actor and top GOP operative (remember Willie Horton? That was Fred), Karger is now taking his bag of political tricks into the gay marriage battle nationwide—and, in many ways, winning. The story of his transformation and battle against the Mormon Church is one you don't want to miss.

Doctor: Obama Voters Piss Off

| Fri Apr. 2, 2010 12:29 PM EDT

A Florida doctor has fired the latest shot across the bow in the battle over implementing President Obama's health care bill. The Orlando Sentinel reports that Dr. Jack Cassell, a urologist with an office near Orlando, made his disgust perfectly clear over "Obamacare," as its opponents deride it, by taping a sign to his front door that read:

"If you voted for Obama...seek urologic care elsewhere. Changes to your health care begin right now."

Cassell said that he wasn't necessarily rejecting care for patients, but merely voicing his opinion on Obama's health care overhaul. "I'm not turning anybody away—that would be unethical," Cassell, a Republican, told the Sentinel. "But if they read the sign and turn the other way, so be it."

Medical ethics experts interviewed by the Sentinel said that while Cassell wasn't blatantly discriminating against patients—political leanings aren't legally protected when it comes to discrimination law—the doctor was "trying to hold onto the nub of his ethical obligation," said the expert, William Allen, a University of Florida professor of bioethics. Cassell also papered his waiting room with GOP-produced fliers on the health care bill, the Sentinel reported, and featured a sign near those documents that said, "This is what the morons in Washington have done to your health care. Take one, read it, and vote out anyone who voted for it."

Cassell's office, it turns out, is located in the district of Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), the tenacious, outspoken lawmaker who once said the GOP's health care mantra was "If you get sick, America...die quickly." An outspoken urologist with a grudge against Democrats and Obamacare should give Grayson, known for his office's entertaining mailers and occasionally outrageous remarks, plenty of material to work with.

Bill O'Reilly Defends Al Franken?

| Fri Apr. 2, 2010 10:21 AM EDT

Yes, you read that right. Bill O'Reilly, the bloviating face of Fox News, actually came to the (somewhat) defense of Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) the other night on his wildly popular show. O'Reilly was speaking with Jason Mattera, editor of Human Rights, about the latter's recent ambush of Franken (a classic O'Reilly tactic, of course) in an airport and interrogating him on the recently passed health care bill, without ever letting a dismayed Franken actually respond. Shockingly, O'Reilly scolded Mattera, who, as evidence of his intellectual rigor, previously claimed the left's notion of freedom consists of "smoking cocaine," for the Franken stunt: "The mistake you made," O'Reilly intoned, "was you were disrespectful for him—to him, when you called him 'Sen. Smalley,' and you gave him a reason to blow you off."

Here's the video of the exchange, courtesy of Talking Points Memo:

OK, so O'Reilly was just giving Mattera some helpful hints, in father-like way, on how best to be a pesky right-wing journalist. Still, maybe Bill's warming to that loveable senator from Minnesota after all.

Barney Frank Blasts Aide Turned Lobbyist

| Thu Apr. 1, 2010 3:04 PM EDT

The story didn't make headlines, but it offered yet another glimpse of the endlessly spinning Washington-Wall Street revolving door: Peter Roberson, formerly a top policy adviser on the House financial services committee, recently left the committee to work as a lobbyist for a financial powerhouse in the derivatives industry—which also happens to be an industry the House committee is in charge of reforming as part of Congress' financial reform legislation.

Roberson's move to Intercontinental is so contentious because both the House and Senate are currently deciding whether to push much of the $600 trillion opaque, over-the-counter derivatives market onto transparent exchanges, like the New York Stock Exchange is for stocks. Intercontinental happens to own two major derivatives clearinghouses; the company processes trillions of dollars in derivatives trades. "This is a classic example of a revolving door abuse," Craig Holman, a lobbyist for Public Citizen, which backs tougher lobbying rules, told Bloomberg News. "He will be instrumental for Intercontinental." (Roberson did not respond to a request for comment from Mother Jones.)

Today, Roberson's former boss, financial services committee chairman Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), blasted the former adviser's move. "I completely agree" with criticism of Roberson's departure from Hill staffer to financial lobbyist, Frank said in a statement. The Massachusetts congressman said that when he heard of Roberson's potential move, Frank ordered his committee to sever ties with the staffer. And while there's a one-year ban on Roberson's interaction with members of the financial services committee, Frank said he's extending that ban for as long as Frank chairs the committee.

Here's Frank's full statement on the matter:

"Several people have expressed criticism of the move by Peter Roberson from the staff of the Financial Services Committee to ICE, after he worked on the legislation relevant to derivatives. I completely agree with that criticism. When Mr. Roberson was hired, it never occurred to me that he would jump so quickly from the Committee staff to an industry that was being affected by the Committee’s legislation. When he called me to tell me that he was in conversations with them, I told him that I was disappointed and that I insisted that he take no further action as a member of the Committee staff. I then called the Staff Director and instructed her to remove him from the payroll and provide him only such compensation as is already owed.

Stories about this correctly noted that there is a one year ban on his interaction with members of the Committee staff, but I do not think that is adequate. I am therefore instructing the staff of the Financial Services Committee to have no contact whatsoever with Mr. Roberson on any matters involving financial regulation for as long as I am in charge of that Committee staff. Fortunately, examples of staff members doing what Mr. Roberson has done are rare, but even one example is far too much and that is why I wanted to make clear I share the unhappiness of people at this, and my intention to prohibit any contact between him and members of the staff for as long as I have any control over the matter."

Tue Jun. 24, 2014 3:22 PM EDT
Thu Apr. 24, 2014 6:06 AM EDT
Mon Jan. 13, 2014 1:19 PM EST
Mon Dec. 16, 2013 10:47 AM EST