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, where he's an associate editor. Email him at akroll (at) motherjones (dot) com. He tweets at @AndyKroll.

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Billionaire Romney Donor: Super-Rich Have "Insufficient Influence" in Politics

| Mon Mar. 12, 2012 12:30 PM EDT

It's rare that a mega-rich political donor returns a reporter's phone call, let alone opens up about his or her personal beliefs on elections, money in politics, and the fate of America. Yet in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Kenneth Griffin, the CEO of the powerful hedge fund Citadel and deep-pocketed bank-roller of Republican causes, does just that. The Tribune's 4,000-word interview with Griffin offers a glimpse into the mind of the modern political sugardaddy—and it's a revealing read.

Most eye-catching is Griffin's belief that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, wealthy donors don't have enough influence in politics today. Asked if the "ultra-wealthy" have too much sway, Griffin responds by saying these elites have "insufficient influence." He goes on:

Those who have enjoyed the benefits of our system more than ever now owe a duty to protect the system that has created the greatest nation on this planet. And so I hope that other individuals who have really enjoyed growing up in a country that believes in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—and economic freedom is part of the pursuit of happiness—(I hope they realize) they have a duty now to step up and protect that. Not for themselves, but for their kids and for their grandchildren and for the person down the street that they don't even know…

At this moment in time, these values are under attack. This belief that a larger government is what creates prosperity, that a larger government is what creates good (is wrong). We've seen that experiment. The Soviet Union collapsed. China has run away from its state-controlled system over the last 20 years and has pulled more people up from poverty by doing so than we've ever seen in the history of humanity. Why the U.S. is drifting toward a direction that has been the failed of experiment of the last century, I don't understand. I don't understand.

In a move that would give the wealthy oodles of influence, Griffin says donors like himself should not be bound by contribution limits, though he supports disclosing donations. (The existing limit is $2,500 to a candidate per election.) Griffin isn't the only marquee Republican to call for tearing down contribution limits: Mitt Romney has repeated the same idea this election cycle, saying big donors like Griffin and casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson shouldn't have to give to super-PACs, but should give straight to the campaigns they support. As it happens, Griffin has given six figures to a super-PAC supporting Romney's campaign.

There is much more to chew on in the Griffin interview, which is worth the read.

What Do Rush Limbaugh, Mark Twain, and Sacajawea Have in Common?

| Tue Mar. 6, 2012 12:21 PM EST
Rush Limbaugh

The "Hall of Famous Missourians," a series of busts in the rotunda of the Missouri state capitol, honors the state's history makers, among them native sons and daughters, from Florida, Mo.-born writer Mark Twain to St. Louis Cardinals ace Stan Musial, from Walt Disney to Sacajawea. Now, in a feat of exquisite timing, comes news of the latest addition to the Missouri citizenry's hall of fame: Rush Limbaugh.

This is not a hoax. The foul-mouthed, Viagra-popping, blowhard par excellence of the conservative airwaves will be added to the Hall of Famous Missourians in Jefferson City later this spring, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

But wait—there's more:

House Speaker Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, confirmed Monday that Limbaugh, who, like Tilley, hails from southeast Missouri, will be honored with a place in the Hall of Famous Missourians, a circle of busts in the Capitol rotunda recognizing prominent Missouri citizens.

The statues are paid for with private funds raised by the speaker.

The unveiling is not expected until closer to the end of the legislative session in May, but, last month, a Kansas City artist published an announcement on his website indicating he was working on sculptures of Limbaugh and Dred Scott, whose landmark slavery case was heard at the Old Courthouse in St. Louis.

Rush Limbaugh and Dred Scott. Talk about a bizarre Class of 2012.

The timing, of course, couldn't be worse for state house speaker Tilley. Limbaugh ignited a national controversy when he branded Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute" for testifying in support of the Obama administration's mandate (which includes a religious exemption) that health insurers and employers cover birth control. Twenty of Limbaugh's advertisers (and counting) have ditched his hugely popular radio show. Limbaugh mustered several weak apologies in recent days, but they've done little to quell the furor over his comments while doing much to show Limbaugh's ignorance of the basic facts of how birth control works.

Perhaps Limbaugh should have heeded the sly wisdom of Twain, a fellow Hall of Famous Missourians inductee, who once said, "Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." In the case of Sandra Fluke, Rush Limbaugh failed to do even that much.

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