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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Koch-Linked Firm Devoted to Grooming "Electable" Candidates Signs Up Arkansas GOP Leader

| Thu Apr. 24, 2014 6:06 AM EDT
Arkansas Congressional candidate Bruce Westerman

In January, Mother Jones broke the story of one of the newest affiliates of Charles and David Koch's sprawling political machine, a consulting firm named Aegis Strategic created to identify, recruit, and groom free-market-minded candidates for elected office. Aegis bills itself as a one-stop shop for aspiring politicians, able to handle general consulting, fundraising, direct mail, social media, and more. The firm is run by Jeff Crank, a radio host and two-time congressional candidate who previously ran the Colorado chapter of Americans for Prosperity, the advocacy group founded by the Koch brothers.

When we reported on the firm earlier this year, Aegis Strategic had only one client: Marilinda Garcia, a New Hampshire state lawmaker running for Congress. But new campaign filings show that Aegis has since signed up at least one more congressional hopeful: Bruce Westerman, the former Republican majority leader of the Arkansas state House.

Westerman is running to replace Rep. Tom Cotton in Arkansas' 4th Congressional District. (Cotton is now running for Senate and hoping to oust the incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor. Americans for Prosperity has spent millions of dollars attacking Pryor on the airwaves.) Westerman's campaign paid Aegis $4,000 for strategy consulting in March, campaign records show. (In January, Westerman also tweeted a photo of himself with Brad Stevens, Aegis Strategic's director of candidate identification, with the message, "Caught up with part of campaign team.")

According to Westerman's campaign website, he was the first GOPer to lead the Arkansas House in 138 years. And he wouldn't have been in that position without the help of the Kochs' political network, especially Americans for Prosperity. During the 2012 election cycle, AFP reportedly spent upwards of $1 million in Arkansas on mailers, a bus tour (featuring Cliff from the TV show Cheers), phone banking, and grassroots canvassing. That effort helped flip both the state House and Senate from Democratic to Republican control. AFP figured so prominently in the 2012 cycle that the Arkansas Times named the Koch brothers "Arkansans of the Year."

Both of Aegis' two congressional clients also have received financial support from Kochworld. Garcia received a $2,500 donation from Koch Industries' political action committee, two $2,500 checks from AFP-New Hampshire's Greg Moore, and $250 from Alan Philp, whom Aegis lists as its chief operating officer. Westerman also got a $250 check from Philp.

Now, after AFP helped Westerman succeed in Arkansas, another offshoot of the Koch political operation is working to send him to Washington.

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READ: Conspiracy Theorist Dick Morris Blasts Clinton Conspiracy Theorists in Unsealed '95 Memo

| Mon Apr. 21, 2014 1:15 PM EDT
Dick Morris.

Dick Morris, the one-time adviser to President Bill Clinton, has carved out a strange, multi-faceted career in recent years, engaging in questionable political dealings, pitching misguided punditry (he predicted Mitt Romney would win in a landslide in 2012), and peddling conspiracy theories. On his website, Morris argues that the CIA, FBI, and the mob were behind the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He co-wrote a book pushing right-wing conspiracy theories about the United Nations, international agencies, and the like. ("Black helicopters is the crazy word for the UN invading the United States," Morris said in previewing the book. "But it's really going to happen.") He's banged the IRS-scandal drum, insisting that Obama was secretly behind the agency's supposed scrutiny of conservative groups. He pushed anti-Obama Benghazi theories. He backed Donald Trump's birther talk.

Morris wasn't always this, uh, unconventional. In fact, in a newly released memo from Clinton's presidential archives, Morris advised the president to call out the conspiracy theorists of the 1990s and to combat the widespread right-wing paranoia of that time—the same sort of paranoia that Morris now exploits to make a buck.

Morris' May 1995 memo offered comments on a speech Clinton was to give at Michigan State University. It was just two weeks after the Oklahoma City bombing, and Morris urged the president to take a tough line against the right-wing militia crowd and those conservatives who had been asserting that the federal government was encroaching on their lives and eviscerating their civil liberties. Such incendiary rhetoric had been on the rise for several years, and the Oklahoma City attack was seen by some political observers as the culmination of this anti-government campaign.

"I'd propose tougher language," Morris wrote. He suggested these lines: "How dare you say that the government is in a conspiracy to take your freedom. This is the government you helped elect and you can change... How dare you appropriate to your paranoid ways, our scared national symbols... How dare you invoke the Founding Fathers who created the elective government you claim as you persecutor."

Clinton ended up using several of Morris' suggestions in his speech. "How dare you suggest that we in the freest nation on earth live in tyranny?" Clinton asked. "How dare you call yourselves patriots and heroes?"

Read the full memo:

 

Newly Released Clinton Doc: White House Aide Blasts Bill Clinton and Al Gore for "F***ing Stupid" Move

| Fri Apr. 18, 2014 2:58 PM EDT

Among the trove of Clinton-era documents released Friday afternoon by the former president's library is an email from an angry White House aide who blasts President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore for not attending the funeral of Oklahoma Democrat Carl Albert. Known as the "Little Giant from Little Dixie," Albert, who stood five feet four-and-a-half inches tall, served as speaker of the House of Representatives from 1971 to 1976.

Albert died on February 4, 2000, and many Democratic politicians attended his funeral five days later. But Clinton and Gore skipped the event. In an email, Tim Emrich, who worked on the White House's scheduling team, said "it's fucking stupid" that Clinton and Gore didn't attend. Emrich elaborated: "It's stupid that neither BC nor AG is attending this funeral. ESPECIALLY AG, it's such an easy home run in the largest democratic part of the state."

Here's the email:

Gov. Susana Martinez Reacts to Mother Jones Story: "One of the Most Desperate and Despicable Attacks"

| Wed Apr. 16, 2014 1:16 PM EDT
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.

On Wednesday morning, Mother Jones published a cover story about New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a rising star in the Republican Party, that draws on previously unreleased audio recordings, emails, and text messages. In these audio tapes, she and her aides use crude and often offensive language when referring to political opponents. Martinez's reelection campaign immediately responded.

In an email blast to supporters, Martinez attacked the messenger, calling Mother Jones a "tabloid" and "one of the most radically liberal publications in the country." Martinez accused Mother Jones of "peddling false, personal attacks against me, using stolen audiotapes from our debate prep sessions four years ago." She claimed that "this shows just how far the Left is willing to go to stop reforms in New Mexico." In the email, Martinez does admit to calling 2010 Democratic opponent Diane Denish "the B-word," adding, "I admit it—I've had to fund the cuss jar a few times in my life." Her email ends with a plea for a campaign contribution.

Her email neglects to address several parts of the story, such as the reports that Martinez's top adviser, Jay McCleskey, wrote "I HATE THAT FUCKING BITCH!" about a fellow GOP pol, and that a former Martinez adviser mocked New Mexico political icon Ben Luján for his English-speaking abilities, saying he "sounds like a retard."

Martinez's campaign has also created a petition describing Mother Jones as "the far-left's premier magazine" and calls the story "one of the most desperate and despicable attacks to date." The Martinez campaign's message goes on to ask supporters to sign a petition ostensibly to "show the D.C. liberal media that their desperate attacks have no place in our state."

Here's the petition:

Martinez's campaign has made full use of social media in its pushback, buying a promoted tweet on Twitter urging people to "stand with me":

Similarly, she asked her Facebook friends to "stand with me against the D.C. liberal media and show them that their Washington-style attacks have no place in our state."

Martinez did retweet a link to Mother Jones' story that was tweeted by Buzzfeed writer McKay Coppins—only to delete her tweet 14 seconds later.

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