Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy


Tim Murphy is a senior reporter in MoJo's DC bureau. His writing has been featured in Slate and the Washington Monthly. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy [at] motherjones [dot] com.

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Watchdog Group Asks IRS to Investigate Cain Aide's Charity

| Mon Nov. 7, 2011 11:28 AM EST
Herman Cain's chief of staff, Mark Block.

On Monday, uber-attorney Gloria Allred announced that she is representing a fourth woman allegedly harassed by GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain, thereby ensuring that controversy will continue to grab DC headlines for at least another week. But ultimately, it's items like this that could cause things to get real ugly, real fast for the Cain campaign:

Today, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) filed a letter requesting that the Internal Revenue Service investigate a charity operated by Wisconsin political veteran Mark Block that spent over $40,000 of tax-exempt donations to pay for private jets, travel, and computers for Herman Cain’s presidential bid. CMD also requested an examination of other Mark Block-related groups sharing the same address or other commonalities. Mr. Cain, who has denied knowing who paid for his various travels, is not the target of these requests to the IRS.

CMD joins Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington in raising official concerns about the role Block's non-profit, Prosperity USA, played in getting Cain's campaign off the ground. As the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel first reported, Prosperity USA appears to have advanced tens of thousands of dollars to the Cain campaign, footing the bill for trips to Vegas, flights, and iPads. But those debts do not show in Cain's Federal Elections Commission filings. As a non-profit, CMD is legally prohibited from making either direct or in-kind contributions to a campaign. As we noted previously, Block has a history of playing fast and loose with the tax code; he was suspended from working on elections in Wisconsin for three years in the early 2000s after turning a non-profit voter registration outfit into a campaign organ during a judicial election.

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Texas Legislator: "Don't Try to Jew Them Down"

| Fri Nov. 4, 2011 9:04 AM EDT
Texas State Rep. Larry Taylor (speaking) and Gov. Rick Perry.

Lest you think that the last lingering prejudices in American politics consist of Democrats trying to demonize black conservatives, Texas State Rep. Larry Taylor (R) offered a pretty compelling counter-point on Thursday. Via Harvey Kronberg:

During a hearing of the Joint Legislative Committee on Windstorm Insurance this afternoon, Chairman Larry Taylor was discussing delivery of quick and fair payments for windstorm victims. Unfortunately, to make his point he said, "Don't nitpick, don't try to Jew them down."

Without pausing he added, "That's probably a bad term" and then resumed his remarks. 

Probably! Texas Republicans, you'll remember, have a bit of a history when it comes to this kind of thing. Last December, conservatives activists, with a few allies in the legislature, attempted to replace Republican Speaker of the House Phil Strauss, who is Jewish, with an Evangelical Christian. As one one such activist told the Texas Observer, "[Jews are] some of my best friends. I'm not bigoted at all; I'm not racist." But—and this is a big hang-up, really—"I got into politics to put Christian conservatives into office."

Florida Tea Partiers Freak Out About Shariah, Vol. XXVIII

| Thu Nov. 3, 2011 2:13 PM EDT

I have a piece up today on Florida Republican Adam Hasner, who has used his record of fighting radical Islam (in the form of university professors and interfaith lobbying groups) as a springboard for a US Senate run. Hasner's rise has been made possible by the political culture of South Florida, which has seen a boom in anti-Islam think tanks and activist groups since 9/11. You should read the piece, but as if on cue, Ashley Lopez at the Florida Independent has a good story that perfectly illustrates the landscape:

Hassan Shibly of the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has been disinvited by organizers of the upcoming Florida Tea Party Convention.

While tea party organizers say it was because CAIR "disrespected" one of its speakers, CAIR members say it was because an event organizer was called out for trying to shut down an upcoming CAIR convention while he was reaching out to the group.

Long story short: After originally inviting CAIR to attend the tea party convention, organizers sought to sabotage the group's own functions behind the scenes and, when called on it, disinvited CAIR. Organizer Geoff Ross tells Lopez he's upset that CAIR has criticized anti-Muslim blogger Pamela Geller, and believes that the organization is using "Shariah" to silence its critics. That comes just a few weeks after Nezar Hamze, president of CAIR's South Florida outfit, was blocked in his bid to join the Broward County Republican Executive Committee over concerns about his loyalties. As Justin Elliott reported, the opposition to Hamze was led by Richard Swier, vice president of United West—the organization Hasner helped found to combat radical Islam in South Florida. Full circle.

Herman Cain Sits Down With...Clarence Thomas' Wife

| Thu Nov. 3, 2011 10:36 AM EDT
GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain was accused of sexual harassment by three former female employees.

When in the course of human events a long-shot presidential candidate surges in the polls and finds himself battling multiple allegations of sexual harassment, it becomes necessary for said candidate to sit down with the one woman in America who can best understand his plight: Clarence Thomas' wife, Ginni.

So naturally, that's what Herman Cain did on Wednesday, the same day a third woman stepped forward to allege that she had been sexually harassed by Cain while working at the National Restaurant Association. Thomas, who recently left a voice message for Anita Hill, the woman who accused her husband of sexual harassment, asking Hill to apologize, sat down with Cain for a Daily Caller exclusive. In the interview, Thomas peppered Cain with questions like, "Are reporters setting you up to be guilty until proven innocent?" and "Is campaigning in Washington, DC a disorienting experience?" Here's a characteristic exchange:

GINNI THOMAS: 30 congressmen are calling for A.G. Eric Holder to resign over Operation Fast and Furious. Will you join them?"

HERMAN CAIN: I'm disappointed in all of the conflicting stories. I have not followed it closely enough to say that I want to pile on, but I happen to believe that 30 congressmen can't be wrong, in terms of the determination that they have made, that suggests that it may be better for him to step down. I trust those congressmen and the analysis that they made.

To be clear: 30 congressmen can be very wrong, very easily. On any given issue, the odds are quite high that 30 congressmen are calling for something that Cain completely disagrees with. To choose a subject of concern for Cain: 220 congressmen voted for the Affordable Care Act—or to put it another way, "7.33 groups of 30 congressmen voted for the Affordable Care Act."

The bigger picture here is that Fast and Furious is another serious news story that Cain, by his own admission, hasn't paid any attention to. On Monday, he told an audience at the National Press Club he didn't have a position on student loans. It would be a lot easier for Cain to change the subject away from harassment if there was any other subject he was actually comfortable talking about.

Mississippi Personhood: Too Extreme for Haley Barbour?

| Thu Nov. 3, 2011 8:03 AM EDT
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R)

Next Tuesday, Mississippi voters will vote on a constitutional amendment, ballot question 26, to define life as beginning at the point of fertilization—a move that would make all abortion illegal, even in cases of rape. It would also ban many kinds of birth control (a spokesman for the Yes on 26 campaign calls the morning-after-pill a "human pesticide") and make in-vitro fertilization exceedingly difficult. Despite all of that, both the Democratic and Republican nominees for governor and attorney general have endorsed the measure, as has Mike Huckabee and Deanna Favre (wife of Brett).

But via Tanya Somanader, at least one Mississippi Republican is voicing concerns with the measure: outgoing Governor Haley Barbour. In an interview with NBC's Chuck Todd on Wednesday morning Barbour suggested that, although he hadn't made up his mind, he might vote against it:

"I believe life begins at conception," he explained. "Unfortunately, this personhood amendment doesn't say that. It says life begins at fertilization, or cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof. That ambiguity is striking a lot of pro-life people here as concerning. And I’m talking about people that are very, outspokenly pro-life." When Todd asked Barbour if he would vote for it, the Governor said, "Really I haven't decided. If you would have asked me when this was first proposed, I would've said, a.) the legislature would've passed it 100 to 1. And b.) I believe life begins at conception and therefore I would be for it. I am concerned about some of the ramifications on in vitro fertilization and ectopic pregnancies where pregnancies [occur] outside the uterus and [in] the fallopian tubes. That concerns me, I have to just say it."

Barbour's in good company, at least nationally. James Bopp, the counsel for National Right to Life, opposes Personhood amendments as a rule, on the grounds that they'll result in counterproductive court rulings.

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