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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GOP Rep. Joe Walsh: Obama Is Dumb And a "Tyrant" for Stopping Deportations

| Wed Jun. 20, 2012 3:58 PM EDT
Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.).

Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), a tea-party-backed freshman lawmaker, recently branded President Barack Obama "a tyrant" for announcing that the Department of Homeland Security would stop deporting certain young illegal immigrants who entered the United States as children. Then, doubling down on his criticism of the president, Walsh took back his use of the word "tyrant"—because, he said, Obama "really isn't smart enough to know what that means."

Walsh's remarks were captured by Credo Super-PAC, a political arm of the phone company Credo Mobile. The Huffington Post first reported Walsh's "tyrant" rant.

Here's the video and text of Walsh's comments, which he made last weekend at a town hall meeting in Elmhurst, Ill.:

"And again, fair is fair, you want a debate on the law, fine, have that debate. But right now it's a law on the books and you just told your law enforcement people don't enforce it. I was on one radio station and I said my god he's a tyrant. I don't know what else you call him. I don't want to give him that credit because I don't think he's smart enough. I think he's only doing this because he's campaigning, that's all the guy knows. So I don't want to call him a tyrant, because he really isn't smart enough to know what that means. But in one fell swoop he just made 800,000 illegal immigrants, let's call it legal, and gave them the ability to work here legally."

Walsh is one of ten tea-party-affiliated members of Congress that Credo Super-PAC has targeted in this election year. Credo volunteers are following and recording the remarks of the "Tea Party Ten" in their districts.

This isn't the first time Credo caught Walsh stuffing his foot into his mouth. Last month, Walsh was caught on camera saying that the Democratic Party wants Hispanics to be "dependent on government just like African Americans. Activist and former presidential candidate Jesse Jackson," Walsh said, "would be out of work if [African Americans] weren't dependent on government."

Meet the "Bald-Headed Bastard" Who Battles Dark Money

| Tue Jun. 19, 2012 6:00 AM EDT
Watchdog Fred Wertheimer.

From his office just off Washington, DC's posh Dupont Circle, Fred Wertheimer goes to battle each day against the rising deluge of shadowy campaign spending in American politics. The walls of his office tell the tale of a career spent in the political money trenches: A photo of Wertheimer in the White House signed by President Obama is inscribed "Keep fighting the good fight." Says one framed news clip: "Ethics Watchdog Fred Wertheimer: When He Barks, Congress Listens." A 1995 Wall Street Journal editorial dubs him "The Man Who Ruined Politics." (Wertheimer is especially proud of that one.)

What few know is that Wertheimer's long war on dark money began with a phone call—and a napping Wertheimer almost slept through it.

As I report in "Follow the Dark Money," the cover story of Mother Jones' July/August issue, Wertheimer was snoozing away one afternoon in May 1971 when the ethics group Common Cause called and offered him a junior lobbyist job. His portfolio would include urging lawmakers to write new restrictions on campaign fundraising and spending. This was the Nixon era, when secret donations flooded the system and millionaires could launch a candidate's campaign with a single check. "Reform is not for the short-winded," John Gardner, Common Cause's founder, told him. Today, Wertheimer jokes, "He never told me it was 41 years and counting."

The story traces four decades' worth of scandals and secret cash drops, back-room deals and legislative battles, beginning with Watergate and arriving in the age of the super-PAC. Today, Wertheimer and his allies are on the ropes. Casino king Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers' donor network are set to pump tens of millions of dollars into outside groups to elect their favorite candidates, shadowy nonprofits spend tens of millions more on attack ads, and Republican forces prepare to spend as much as $1 billion to topple President Obama and claim control of Congress.

What prompted an enraged congressman to call Werthheimer a "bald-headed bastard" for his efforts to reform campaign finance? And how did we get to a place where billionaires are now injecting massive amounts of untraceable funds into our elections? Go ahead and click here to follow the long and winding dark money trail.

Connecticut's Governor—A Democrat!—Sides With Dark Money (UPDATED)

| Mon Jun. 18, 2012 10:45 AM EDT
Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy (center).

This post has been updated.

One of the strongest pieces of political money disclosure legislation in the nation went down in flames on Friday, after Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, vetoed the measure. Lawmakers are already talking about reviving the legislation in a special session as early as late June.

Here's what House Bill 5556—supporters called it "disclosure on steroids"—would do if passed on the second attempt. The bill would require groups to immediately disclose the cost, funding source, and target of any TV or radio ads or other communications that cost more than $1,000 and mentioned a candidate within 90 days of an election. Political advertisers who ran ads outside that 90-day window would have to disclose key information about their ads within 24 hours—faster than current law requires. Ambiguously named groups like "Connecticut Citizens for a Better Future" or "Americans for a Stronger Economy" would have to disclose all donors who gave $1,000 or more; they would also have to include the names of their top five donors in any political ads. Any corporate political spending greater than $4,000 would have to be approved by a vote of that corporation's governing body.

Reformers had hailed HB 5556 as a dream package of disclosure measures. Gov. Malloy's veto squashed that dream—at least for now.

Malloy wrote in his veto message that he believed parts of the bill to be unconstitutional, potentially infringing on individuals' free speech protections under the First Amendment. Other parts of 5556, he argued, "represent poor public policy choices." He went on, "While I have advocated for transparency in the elections and campaign finance process for a long time, and could certainly support sensible reform in this area again, I cannot support the bill before me given its many legal and practical problems."

Malloy wasn't the only critic of HB 5556. Connecticut's largest business association, the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Connecticut Daily Newspapers Association all urged Malloy to veto the bill. The newspapers association intepreted the bill to mean that sponsoring and airing a political debate would force through the onerous process of calculating and reporting the expenses of the debate as an independent expenditure.

Reformers blasted Malloy's constitutional complaints as misguided, and called his veto a pledge of support for dark money and unaccountable elections. Miles Rapoport, president of the left-leaning think tank Demos, said on Friday: "The governor's veto statement argues that HB 5556 is unconstitutional under the First Amendment, but this argument is simply incorrect. The Supreme Court has made clear on numerous occasions, including in Citizens United itself, that disclosure laws are on firm constitutional footing."

Nick Nyhart, president of the pro-reform group Public Campaign, jabbed Malloy even harder: "Malloy had a chance to be a national leader on reform, but opted to side with wealthy special interests and secret money."

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