dana liebelson

Dana Liebelson


Dana Liebelson is a reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. Her work also appears in Marie Claire and The Week. In her free time, she plays electric violin and bass in a punk band.

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Are Most Revolving-Door Lobbyists Breaking the Law?

| Fri Sep. 7, 2012 6:01 AM EDT

A new study picked up by Politico and National Journal this week contained findings that would make any DC journalist drool: About 57 percent of lobbyists who move through the revolving door from Capitol Hill into the private sector fail to adequately report their former government employment as mandated by the Lobbying Disclosure Act.

While that figure suggests that there's some serious K Street law-breaking going on, it doesn't tell the whole story. The study, published by Tim LaPira of James Madison University and H.F. Thomas III of the University of Texas at Austin, overlooked lobbyists who are filing their paperwork correctly, just not on forms the researchers reviewed.

One such lobbyist is William L. Ball, a former Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan who worked for several years as a lobbyist for the Loeffler Group. I stumbled upon Ball when trying to find an example of a lobbyist in the wrong. The Center for Responsive Politics, which collects data on lobbyists, told me that Ball repeatedly failed to indicate his former government employment. But when I contacted Ball, he "respectfully" disagreed and sent me copies of his lobbying disclosure forms, which were filled out correctly.

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VIDEO: Elizabeth Warren's "You Built That With Help" Speech

| Wed Sep. 5, 2012 9:22 PM EDT

A motto of this year's GOP convention was "We Built It." But remember when Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren reminded voters about how America really gets built? "There is nobody in this country that got rich on their own," she declared, in a clip that became a viral sensation. Watch:

VIDEO: The 5 Most Comically Bad Anti-Gay Ads, Ever

| Wed Sep. 5, 2012 1:17 PM EDT

There are political ads that attack candidates. There are ads that attack candidates' policies. There are even ads that attack candidates' health problems. But beneath that subterranean level is another class of ads: those that throw lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender voters under the bus. And regardless of how you feel about gay marriage, these kinds of ads hit rock bottom for an entirely different reason. They flunk acting, screenwriting, stage direction, and costume design 101. Here are five of the worst offenders:

1. "That's Not the Change I Voted For"


Sponsor: Campaign for American Values PAC (2012)

The Fail: The ominous jars of animal crackers, the old-timey "I just lost my job in a Lucille Ball comedy" music, the furrowed brows, the mysteriously awkward sentence cadences, and the completely false premise that these people actually voted for President Obama in 2008. 

2. "I'm Confused"


Sponsor: National Organization for Marriage (2009)

The Fail: Using small children to spout political views, excess blush, the fact that something or someone (the director?) has managed to inspire real, tangible terror in the smallest children, and saying "Our kids will be taught a new way of thinking!" like it's a bad thing.

3. "Boys Beware"


Sponsor: The Inglewood, California, Police Department and School District (1961) 

The Fail: Comparing homosexuality to smallpox, equating it with pedophilia, general fear-mongering, creepy facial hair, and the fact that our main character (Jimmy) vanishes at the end of the film, never to be seen or heard from again. 

4. "War on Religion"


Sponsor: Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) (2011)

The Fail: Since when can't kids openly celebrate Christmas? And what does this have to do with Don't Ask Don't Tell? Also, someone has to say it: The rough-and-ready governor's Carhartt-style wardrobe is straight off the set of Brokeback Mountain.

5. "A Storm is Coming"


Sponsor: National Organization for Marriage (2009) 

Fail: What NOM had in quantity, it lacked in quality: special effects stolen from a Final Cut Pro tutorial, people photoshopped in front of said special effects, costumes from the J. Crew bargain bin, fake-sounding foreign accents, and a complete and total inversion of logic. Oh, and spiky-hair lady: How does gay marriage affect the way you live, anyway?

On the plus side, though, that NOM effort led to this great Futurama spoof ad:

6. BONUS: "Vote NO on robosexual marriage"

News Outlets Around the World Totally Confused by Clint Eastwood

| Fri Aug. 31, 2012 12:22 PM EDT

Americans on Twitter were not the only ones confused by the bizarre speech made by actor/director Clint Eastwood at the 2012 GOP convention last night: It was the speech heard 'round the world. Eastwood's conversation with a chair, which presumably held an imaginary President Obama, has been featured in many international news outlets. And while the Obama camp is asking the media to refer all questions about the speech to deceased surrealist painter, Salvador Dalí, it might be useful to also look to the global press for an outside perspective.

Here's a roundup of what various non-English outlets have been saying about Eastwood. Translations courtesy of the extensive language skills of Mother Jones' staff and Google. If you see another good clip from a foreign news source, or have a suggestion about a translation below, please send it our way in the comments. We'll update with the best submissions!


Best Quote: Alone facing thousands of hardcore Republicans, Eastwood looked to something familiar for support. He started a laborious name-dropping routine to undercut the image of a denizen of Hollywood (that bastion of socialism)...Then, in a hesitant voice (did he forget his script? was he improvising? had he lost his mind?) he turned to an empty stool, upon which he found Barack Obama, invisible for the moment, but that didn't matter: Clint is nothing but the shadow of his former self. And the gimmick he used, which was halfway between Beckett (Waiting for Barack) and Ionesco (The Chairs) hardly worked for him. Unless all this is nothing but a sham—something along the lines of Brechtian distancing. (GQ Magazine-France)


Best Quote: The 82-year-old cut off the applause with a brief, "save some for Mitt." But then his coolness suddenly evaporated. Eastwood spoke without a script or a teleprompter, which evidently can be a problem even for an experienced actor. He leapt from topic to topic without ever carrying one argument through to a satisfactory conclusion. Granted, it did not seem to bother the Republicans. Over and over, applause and cheers rang out. But on the outside, away from the Republican base in Tampa, the reaction to Eastwood's appearance was a disbelieving shake of the head. (der Spiegel)


Best Quote: Hollywood star Clint Eastwood took the stage at the Republican National Convention, performing an impromptu one-man show with imaginary Obama in an empty chair. However, experts found his performance lackluster. The convention's mystery guest used his superstar charm and signature gruff voice on stage to warm up for Romney's nomination speech. (Central News Agency)


Best Quote: The actor, who came onstage to the theme from "The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly," started his speech with a biting dialogue in which he pretended to speak with a chair in which an imaginary Obama was seated. Eastwood asked him various questions that, obviously, didn't draw a response. (La Gaceta)


Best Quote: "Nonsense from Clint Eastwood, anti-people Hollywood actor, in defense of Mitt Romney, the Right's candidate for the U.S. elections.    For friends who know English, if you understand what this guy said, let me know too." (The Atlantic)


Best Quote: Not to mention Hollywood sacred cow Clint Eastwood, who came on as a surprise speaker to take part in the "coronation" of the former Massachusetts governor. His performance wowed the crowd, though it was not without its grotesque moments: the great actor and director interviewed an empty chair, pretending that Obama was sitting there. He asked questions and gave answers... concluding with a diss that Obama had turned out worse than Vice President Biden. (Corriere della Sera)


Best Quote: With the image of a cowboy in the background, award winning actor and director Clint Eastwood spoke at the National Republican Convention in Tampa, showcasing a different ability: stand-up comedian. (Folha, with translation assist from Brazilian-American journalist Mario Furloni)

Additional reporting by Erika Eichelberger.

Fri Nov. 22, 2013 1:26 PM EST
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