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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Scott Walker's New Defense: Recalling Me Hurts Children and Old People

| Mon Feb. 27, 2012 1:22 PM EST
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

On MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Monday morning, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker trotted out a new talking point as he defends himself from a well-organized recall campaign hoping to oust him from office. In a nutshell, Walker said: Think of the children! Think of the seniors!

Walker told MSNBC's Willie Geist that the recall effort is "a huge distraction" for himself and Wisconsin state lawmakers. Grassroots organizers turned in more than a million signatures in November to trigger the recall election, which is expected to take place this spring. "I mean, it's $9 million of taxpayers' money just to run this," he said. "Think about the number of kids we could help, think of the number of seniors we could help in our state with $9 million that we didn't have to waste on this—this frivolous recall election."

How ironic. In his first budget, Walker slashed public education funding by $800 million to $900 million. Walker and his administration have also sought to cut Medicaid funding, in effect booting more than 50,000 low-income families from the program, better known as BadgerCare Plus. The $9 million price tag for his recall election pales in comparison to the cost-cutting now pinching some of Wisconsin's students and some of its most vulnerable citizens.

Walker went on to say that he's encouraged by statewide polls showing in the lead over a handful of prospective Democratic challengers. A January poll by Marquette University showed Walker leading former Dane County executive Kathleen Falk, a union favorite, 49 percent to 42 percent. Walker also led Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who narrowly lost in the 2010 gubernatorial race, 50 percent to 44 percent. That said, Walker remains a divisive figure in Wisconsin. The same Marquette poll said 46 percent of those polled supported Walker while 48 percent did not.

Wisconsin Democrats, meanwhile, have unveiled their first ad of the recall fight, linking Walker to President Richard Nixon. The ad takes aim at the secretive "John Doe" probe targeting former Walker aides and compares the investigation to the Watergate scandal that led to Nixon's resignation, the first for a sitting president. Here's the ad:

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Rick Santorum Misleads on Obama and Iran's Green Revolution

| Wed Feb. 22, 2012 10:55 PM EST
Rick Santorum.

At CNN's Arizona debate Wednesday night, surging GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum blasted President Obama and his administration for standing idly by during the 2009 popular uprisings in Iran, better known as the Green Revolution.

Santorum, the former US senator from Pennsylvania, accused Obama of cutting funding for Iranian dissidents and failing to step in to support the revolution, which was sparked by widespread accusations of fraud in Iran's 2009 presidential election. "We did absolutely nothing to help" the protesters and activists fueling the Green Revolution, Santorum argued. That echoed earlier attacks when Santorum said Obama "turned his back" on Iranian protesters.

Santorum's off the mark here.

As FactCheck.org has pointed out, President Obama repeatedly supported the right of Iranians to protest what appeared to be widespread voting irregularities in an election that saw Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claim 62 percent of the vote. "I think it's important that, moving forward, whatever investigations take place are done in a way that is not resulting in bloodshed and is not resulting in people being stifled in expressing their views," Obama said three days after the election.

Days later, Obama railed against the Iranian government's "violent and unjust actions against its own people." The US, he said, "stands with all who…exercise" the "universal rights to assembly and free speech." And there were more supporting statements like these from the administration.

It's true that Obama didn't dive headlong into supporting the Green Revolution as some might have hoped, but for good reason: the president insisted he did not want to give a Ahmadinejad a "tool" to undermine the revolution. Even then, as FactCheck.org puts it, "The fact is Obama treated both cases similarly: condemning the governments’ use of violence against their own citizens and supporting the protesters right to protest."

What Sheldon Adelson and Barack Obama Have in Common

| Tue Feb. 21, 2012 1:48 PM EST
Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson

The media have jumped all over casino mogul Sheldon Adelson's remark in a new interview with Forbes that he would spend up to $100 million of his fortune to elect Newt Gingrich president. Such a donation would be unprecedented in American history and would rock the GOP presidential race. Adelson and his wife have already pumped $11 million into the pro-Gingrich super-PAC Winning Our Future, helping resuscitate Gingrich's campaign, and reportedly plan to give $10 million more.

But what pops out even more in the Forbes interview is Adelson's take on super-PACs, which can raise and spend unlimited sums of money to influence elections so long as they don't coordinate with candidates or campaigns. Put simply, Adelson doesn't like them. "I'm against very wealthy ­people attempting to or influencing elections," he says. "But as long as it's doable I'm going to do it." That sounds an awful lot like the man Adelson is trying to defeat: President Barack Obama.

Earlier this month, Obama, who had railed against super-PACs, changed his tune, urging his donors to give to the pro-Obama super-PAC Priorities USA Action. Obama's campaign manager, Jim Messina, explained that the president's shift grew out of the realization that "we can't allow for two sets of rules in this election whereby the Republican nominee is the beneficiary of unlimited spending and Democrats unilaterally disarm." Obama didn't suddenly warm to super-PACs; he realized, as Sheldon Adelson has, that to compete you have to use the tools available to you.

Adelson, for his part, is unabashed about his support for Gingrich. "I have my own philosophy and I'm not ashamed of it," he says. "I gave the money because there is no other legal way to do it. I don't want to go through ten different corporations to hide my name. I'm proud of what I do and I'm not looking to escape recognition."

Adelson's beef with Obama, he insists, is not personal, but instead over what he calls "socialist" policies aimed at redistributing wealth in America. According to Forbes, Adelson's net worth has leapt by $21.6 billion while Obama's been president—more than any other person in America.

Occupy Wall Street's New Strategy: A Super-PAC?

| Thu Feb. 16, 2012 1:17 PM EST
Hundreds of Occupy Wall Street activists demonstrate and march against Trinity Church in the public areas of Duarte Square in Lower Manhattan.

Not long ago, John Paul Thornton, a 32-year-old mental health worker in Decatur, Alabama, was clicking around Facebook when he noticed someone had posted a video of satirist Stephen Colbert talking about his super-PAC, a long-running gag on the show. Thornton, an active member of the Occupy movement in his home state, thought to himself, "Wow, it would be really cool if Occupy had one of those."

So, last week, Thornton went ahead and filed papers with the Federal Election Commission to create...the Occupy Wall Street Political Action Committee. Unlike Colbert's Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, though, Thornton says in his first interview on the subject that OWS PAC is no joke.

Newly published FEC documents show Thornton requesting to establish his group as a super-PAC, the type of political outfit that can spend and raise unlimited money so long as they don't coordinate with candidates. The documents list Occupy Wall Street as a "connected organization," with a street address of "NONE AND EVERYWHERE" in the city of "ALL OF THEM." Thornton wasn't trying to be cheeky here, he says. Thornton says he plans to launch a website for the super-PAC soon. All he's waiting for is the FEC's blessing.

 

Thornton says he's no Occupy novice. He joined Occupy Huntsville, a 20-minute drive from his home in Decatur, three weeks after the occupation of Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan began on September 17, and has been involved ever since. He's also been active opposing Alabama's draconian immigration measure, HB 56, which passed in June 2011. "My parents called me a serial dissenter," he says. "I was probably a discontent fetus."

Thornton admits that some members of the Occupy movement, which contends that the political system is broken and seeks to work outside of it, might not take kindly to OWS PAC. "I will admit it's not exactly keeping with strict Occupy ideals," he says. But Thornton doesn't subscribe to the movement's stay-out-of-politics philosophy. "The thinking is, if Occupy is going to evolve and to become an actual political player, it needs to participate in major political games."

Karanja Gacuca, a spokesman for Occupy Wall Street, says it's not surprising that, as the Occupy movement moves forward, someone like Thornton would jump into the political arena. But that's not where OWS is headed. "Occupy Wall Street as a movement rejects the political system as a broken system that needs to be overhauled from the bottom up," Gacuca says. OWS PAC, he adds, is "an alternative action which if it were to be voted on at the general assembly would never pass. But individuals are individuals and we understand that people are going to use the Occupy name to do alternative actions."

Here's the full filing:

 
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