Nick Baumann

Nick Baumann

Senior Editor

Nick is based in our DC bureau, where he covers national politics and civil liberties issues. Nick has also written for The Economist, The Atlantic, the Washington Monthly, and Commonweal. Email tips and insights to nbaumann [at] motherjones [dot] com. You can also follow him on Facebook.

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GOP Candidate Says Tammy Baldwin's Philosophy "Has Its Roots" in Communism

| Mon Jun. 25, 2012 9:40 AM EDT
Wisconsin Sen. Robert La Follette, Sr. making a radio speech. He was a progressive, not a communist. There's a difference.

Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) is running for Senate in Wisconsin, where she will probably end up facing former GOP Gov. Tommy Thompson. But Thompson faces a challenge from the right—Eric Hovde, a wealthy former CNBC talking head, who has apparently decided that the best way to win a Republican primary these days is to suggest the Democratic candidate is a communist. Here's Hovde:

"I fundamentally disagree with Tammy on almost everything. She has a more liberal voting record than almost anybody in Congress," he told The Hill in a recent interview. "Her philosophy has its roots in Marxism, communism, socialism, extreme liberalism—she calls it progressivism—versus mine, which is rooted in free-market conservatism."

Needless to say Baldwin, who does not support government ownership of the means of production, is not a Marxist, a socialist, or a communist. And it's especially sad to see a Republican candidate equating progressivism with communism in Wisconsin, a birthplace and longtime stronghold of the progressive movement. Robert La Follette, a leading progressive Republican, was Wisconsin's governor from 1901 to 1906 and one of its senators from 1906 until 1925. LaFollette was succeeded in the Senate by his son, "Young Bob," who served until 1946, when he lost a GOP primary to the infamous red-hunter Joseph McCarthy. Here's a nice explanation of progressivism from the Wisconsin Historical Society:

Progressive Republicans... believed that the business of government was to serve the people. They sought to restrict the power of corporations when it interfered with the needs of individual citizens. The Progressive Movement appealed to citizens who wanted honest government and moderate economic reforms that would expand democracy and improve public morality... In Wisconsin, La Follette developed the techniques and ideas that made him a nationwide symbol of Progressive reform and made the state an emblem of progressive experimentation. The Wisconsin Idea, as it came to be called, was that efficient government required control of institutions by the voters rather than special interests, and that the involvement of specialists in law, economics, and social and natural sciences would produce the most effective government.

The state historical society's site has lots more on progressivism and Wisconsin history, including many primary source documents. Perhaps Hovde should familiarize himself with it.

MoJo to UCLA: Release the Milken Documents!

| Wed Jun. 20, 2012 7:30 AM EDT

Last August, the University of California-Los Angeles announced that it had accepted a $10 million gift from Lowell Milken, a key figure in the junk bonds and savings and loan scandals of the 1980s, to launch a "Lowell Milken Institute for Business Law and Policy." The University did not disclose that Milken, who is among the richest people in the world, has been banned for life from the securities industry. It also did not mention that Lowell's brother and business partner, Michael Milken, was jailed on multiple federal felony counts related to his work at Drexel Burnham Lambert, a now-defunct investment bank where Lowell also worked. Lowell was Michael's "closest confidant and adviser" at Drexel, the Los Angeles Times reported at the time.

Like the University's press release, initial coverage of the Milken's donation from the Daily Bruinthe Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times, and the Los Angeles Daily News also neglected to mention his past. 

On August 18, the week after the donation was announced, I reported on Milken's history. The New York Times and other outlets picked up the story a few days later. When I first learned about the Milken gift, I asked a Mother Jones intern, Lauren Ellis, to file a document request with UCLA under the California Open Records Law. We asked for documents and emails related to the Milken deal and, crucially, the donor agreement between Milken and the university.

On October 5, UCLA finally responded, providing two letters from UCLA officials thanking Milken for his gift. The university refused to disclose the donor agreement or any other documents, arguing that it needed to protect "the personal privacy of its donors" and that releasing any documents beyond the two letters would "bring about a chilling effect on UCLA's Foundation, in that the personal privacy of its donors, prospective donors, and those who volunteer their time to the Foundation would no longer be protected." As Madeleine Buckingham, the CEO of Mother Jones, noted in a letter to UCLA last week, California courts have rejected both of these arguments for withholding information about donations to public universities. 

We believe that UCLA's decision to withhold the Milken documents represents a violation of California open records laws. You can read the letter (and our full argument) below:

 
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