Dave Gilson

Dave Gilson

Senior editor

Senior editor at Mother Jones. Obsessive generalist, word wrangler, data cruncher, pun maker.

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Dave Gilson is a senior editor at Mother Jones. Read more of his stories, follow him on Twitter, or contact him.

Blast From the Past: NRA Propaganda Anticipates Newtown

| Mon Dec. 17, 2012 7:33 PM EST
NRA Freedom in Peril
Front cover of the NRA's 2006 brochure "Freedom in Peril" National Rifle Association

"Second Amendment freedom today stands naked in the path of a marching axis of adversaries far darker and more dangerous than gun owners have ever known." So opens "Freedom in Peril," a slick 2006 brochure by the National Rifle Association that serves up the group's agenda with a heavy dose of omnious hyperbole. The UN and George Soros are coming for your guns! PETA will ban hunting! Suburban dads must defend their families from torch-carrying marauders!

NRA dad vs mob

The document's text and its illustrations are so over-the-top that when they were first leaked by Wonkette, there was speculation that they were a hoax. But the NRA confirmed they were real, though it maintained they were from a stolen draft of a publication that has still yet to be publicly released.

In their introductory note, NRA president Waye LaPierre and chief NRA lobbyist Chris Cox warn of "the coming confrontation" between the "pro-freedom voting bloc" and "the gun-ban crowd." Though they focused on the threat of anti-gun legislation carried out under the guise of fighting terrorism, LaPierre and Cox also anticipated the calls for action that might follow an event such as the Newtown massacre:

It's inevitable that terrorists will infest America for generations to come. It's also inevitable that an anti-gun president will occupy the White House, and anti-gun forces will control the U.S. House and Senate. This is when the alchemy explodes, never to be contained again. When these two certainties intersect, America's anti-gun agenda will emerge in full force masquerading as an anti-terrorist agenda. Unless we are well-financed to face that moment, the final disarmament of law-abiding Americans will occur beneath the shroud of anti-terrorism legislation. […]

History teaches us that their assault will be precipitated by a high-profile criminal act, like an L.A. riot, a D.C. sniper or a schoolyard shooting. All it takes is a rare, tragic anomaly to roll out a blood-red carpet for the gun-ban crowd.

The brochure criticizes the "tragedy chasers" and "vultures" who sensationalize and politicize gun violence, including school shootings. The NRA has a history of not commenting on prominent shootings (including, so far, Newtown), though "Freedom in Peril" suggests that it will not stand on the sidelines much longer:

Until now, NRA has rightfully declined to join the debate, because no effective solution includes infringement of the Second Amendment. Although tragic, these incidents have called for no more anti-gun measures than any other crime committed with firearms.

But the advent of domestic terrorism, compounded with recent high-profile school shootings, force America's gun owners to join the national discussion in a way we can no longer decline. Not because the Second Amendment is at fault, but because the Second Amendment is at risk.

As its guardian, NRA must accept the financial responsibility to take its place at that table of debate, and prevail. […]

Too often, the media have given enormous attention to school murderers as a tactic to promote the gun-control agenda. Too often, such attention has likely led other sociopaths and losers to conclude that their one chance to become famous is to attack a school.

The document also features fantastic images of the NRA's foes, including Michael Moore, Hillary Clinton, and congressional Democrats.

NRA gun foes
NRA Democratic foes

And it's not just the liberals and one-world-government types you should be afraid of. "Freedom in Peril" also reminds NRA members who the real scary gun owners are: "[T]o criminal aliens, America is a giant supermarket, and nobody's minding the store."

NRA gangs
BoingBoing still has the full document; download it here.

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Koch Brothers: It's Only a Flesh Wound!

| Mon Dec. 3, 2012 7:03 AM EST

This has been a very bad year for conservative megadonors. That includes Charles and David Koch, the famously secretive industrialist brothers who pledged a do-or-die effort to unelect President Obama with the help of their wealthy allies and affiliated dark-money groups. So how have they been spinning the disappointing election results to their friends and fellow donors? This (entirely fake) letter imagines one possibility… 

Read more on the Kochs' political activities in 2012 and the real stats cited in the phony letter above.

John McCain: Stand-Up Guy or Total Jerk?

| Tue Nov. 20, 2012 7:03 AM EST

"You know, I've been called a maverick; someone who marches to the beat of his own drum," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) boasted during his speech at the 2008 Republican convention. But for every instance of McCain bucking party orthodoxy or straddling the partisan divide, there's one of him being an obstinate, angry jerk. (The current example of this being his attempt to turn the Benghazi controversy into a Watergate-sized scandal.) This duality recalls Goofus and Gallant, the twin brothers who have long entertained Highlights for Children readers with their contrasting antics:

Goofus McCain

Gallant McCain

Tells this joke: "Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno." Later befriends Sen. Hillary Clinton and calls her "one of the guys."
Unapologetically calls his Vietnamese captors "gooks"—in 2000. Says that torture is "unworthy and injurious to our country."
Freaks out over the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Says the Swift Boat ads about John Kerry's war record were "dishonest and dishonorable."
Votes against more disclosure for dark-money donors. Bashes Citizens United as "one of the worst decisions" ever.
Praises "spectacular" running mate Sarah Palin's "incredible résumé." Criticizes the "agents of intolerance" in the Christian right.
Says he'd be okay with US troops staying in Iraq for "maybe 100 years." Corrects a supporter who insists Obama is "an Arab."
Goes from backing climate legislation to saying climate science may be "flawed." Criticizes congressional tea partiers for their "bizarro" debt ceiling demands.
Says Susan Rice is "not qualified" to be the next secretary of state due to "not being very bright" and her comments about the Benghazi attacks. Defends Hillary Clinton adviser Huma Abedin from Rep. Michele Bachmann's "specious and degrading attacks."


Sheldon Adelson's Lousy Election Bets

| Wed Nov. 7, 2012 2:31 PM EST

Aptyp_koK /ShutterstockAptyp_koK /ShutterstockCasino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, dropped more than $57 million on super-PACs in this election, becoming America's most famous conservative megadonors (besides the Kochs). So what did they get in return for their investment? A look at the groups they funded and the races they tried to influence shows that overall, their return on investment was about 40 percent: Only two out of every five races these super-PACs spent on had the outcome the outside spending group desired. The two biggest Adelson-backed losers were Republican presidental hopefuls Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, to whose super-PACs the couple gave a total of $40 million. In the congressional races that Adelon-backed super-PACs spent on, the results were decidedly mixed. (A few of those races remain undecided.)

Here's the full tally of those races so far:

Adelson donation Super-PAC Candidate supported/opposed by super-PAC Outcome ROI
$20 million Winning Our Future Pro-Newt Gingrich (R, president) He lost Bad bet
$20 million  Restore Our Future Pro-Mitt Romney (R, president) He lost Bad bet
$5 million  Congressional Leadership Fund Anti-Betty Sue Sutton (D, House, Ohio) She lost Good bet
    Anti-Pete Gallego (D, House, Tx) He won Bad bet
    Anti-Kathleen Hochul (D, House, New York) She lost Good bet
    Anti-Brad Schneider (D, House, Illinois) He won Bad bet
    Anti-Patrick Kreitlow (D, House, Wisconsin) He lost Good bet
    Anti-Shelley Adler (D, House, New Jersey) She lost Good bet
    Anti-Lois Capps (D, House, California) She won Bad bet
    Anti-Leonard Boswell (D, House, Iowa) He lost Good bet
    Anti-John Barrow (D, House, Georgia) He won Bad bet
    Anti-Val Demings (D, House, Florida) He lost Good bet
    Anti-Krysten Sinema (D, House, Arizona) Undecided  
    Anti-Mike McIntyre (D, House, North Carolina) Undecided  
    Anti-Gary McDowell (D, House, Michigan) Undecided  
$5 million YG Action Fund Anti-Larry Kissell (D, House, North Carolina) He lost Good bet
    Anti-John Tierney (D, House, Massachusetts) He won Bad bet
    Anti-William Enyart (D, House, Illinois) He won Bad bet
    Anti-Mark Critz (D, House, Pennsylvania) He lost Good bet
    Anti-Scott Kreadle (R, House, North Carolina) He lost Good bet
    Anti-Lois Frankel (D, House, Florida) She won Bad bet
    Anti-John Barrow (D, House, Georgia) He won Bad bet
    Pro-Richard Hudson (R, House, North Carolina) He won Good bet
    Pro-Adam Kinzinger (R, House, Illinois) He won Good bet
    Anti-Mike McIntyre (D, House, North Carolina) Undecided  
    Pro-Allen West (R, House, Florida) Undecided  
$2 million Freedom PAC Pro-Connie Mack (R, Senate, Florida) He lost Bad bet
    Anti-Patrick Murphy (D, House, Florida) Undecided  
$1.5 million Independence Virginia PAC Pro-George Allen (R, Senate, Virginia) He lost Bad bet
$1 million Ending Spending Action Fund Anti-Barack Obama (D, president) He won Bad bet
    Pro-Mitt Romney (R, president) He lost Bad bet
    Pro-Deb Fischer (R, Senate, Nebraska) She won Good bet
    Anti-Bob Kerrey (D, Senate, Nebraska) He lost Good bet
    Pro-Josh Mandel (R, Senate, Ohio) He lost Bad bet
    Anti-Sherrod Brown (D, Senate, Ohio) He won Bad bet
    Anti-Richard Carmona (D, Senate, Arizona) He lost Good bet
    Pro-Jeff Flake (R, Senate, Arizona) He won Good bet
    Pro-Ted Cruz (R, Senate, Texas) He won Good bet
    Anti-Tim Kaine (D, Senate, Virginia) He won Bad bet
    Anti-Jon Burning (R, Senate, Nebraska) He lost Good bet
    Pro-Connie Mack (R, Senate, Florida) He lost Bad bet
    Pro-George Allen (R, Senate, Virginia) He lost Bad bet
    Pro-Richard Mourdock (R, Senate, Indiana) He lost Bad bet
    Pro-Tommy Thompson (R, Senate, Wisconsin) He lost Bad bet
    Pro-Dean Heller (R, Senate, Nevada) He won Good bet
$1 million Patriot Prosperity PAC Pro-Shmuley Boteach (R, House, New Jersey) He lost Bad bet
    Pro-Joe Kyrillos (R, Senate, New Jersey) He lost Bad bet
$1 million Treasure Coast Jobs Coalition Pro-Allen West (R, House, Florida) Undecided  
$250,000 Conservative Renewal Pro-David Dewhurst (R, Senate, Texas) He lost Bad bet
$250,000 Texas Conservatives Fund Pro-David Dewhurst (R, Senate, Texas) He lost Bad bet
$190,000 Hispanic Leadership Fund Pro-Mitt Romney (R, president) He lost Bad bet
$57.7 million spent total       42% good bets, 58% bad bets

 Sources: Center for Public Integrity, Center for Responsive Politics, Sunlight Foundation

This article has been updated.

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