Gun control lives! In a 5-4 decision Monday, the high court knocked down a National Rifle Association-backed challenge to elements of a 1968 statute that criminalizes lying about the intended owner of a firearm. The law—which basically says that you can't claim you're buying a gun for yourself when you're really buying it for someone else—has been used by the Department of Justice to target gun traffickers, who routinely employ third parties known as straw purchasers to bypass the federal background check system.
In the case, Abramski v. United States, the NRA and other gun groups argued that lying about who would end up with the gun shouldn't matter if the intended owner could legally own one—and more broadly, that the entire prohibition on straw purchasing was itself a "legal fiction" with no real basis in the law itself. Twenty-six states signed on in support, arguing that the law infringed on their rights to regulate gun sales.
In the majority opinion, Justice Elena Kagan, who was joined by the three other liberal-leaning justices and the swing vote, Anthony Kennedy, emphatically disagreed: "No piece of information is more important under federal firearms law than the identity of a gun's purchaser—the person who acquires a gun as a result of a transaction with a licensed dealer."
The challenge arose out of a case of mistaken identity. Angel Alvarez sent his nephew, Bruce Abramski, a check for $400 with instructions to purchase and deliver to him a Glock 19 handgun. Ambraksi walked into a firearm dealership in Rocky Mount, Virginia, two days later, passed a background check, and signed a form indicating that he was the intended owner of the firearm. When investigators later misidentified Abramski as a suspect in a bank robbery (he wasn't charged), federal investigators found a copy of the receipt revealing that he had purchased the Glock for his uncle—meaning he'd lied on a federal form to purchase the gun.
In lower courts, Abramski argued that his straw purchase was immaterial because his uncle was legally empowered to own a gun and could have passed a background check. But Abramski then made a far larger argument—that the 1968 gun control law really only governs the initial purchase, and had nothing to do with straw purchases. According to the NRA, federal regulators simply pulled the straw purchasing prohibition from thin air. Kagan wanted nothing of it:
The provision thus prevents remote sales except to a small class of buyers subject to extraordinary procedures—again, to ensure effective verification of a potential purchaser's eligibility. Yet on Abramski's view, a person could easily bypass the scheme, purchasing a gun without ever leaving his home by dispatching to a gun store a hired deliveryman. Indeed, if Abramski were right, we see no reason why anyone (and certainly anyone with less-than-pure motives) would put himself through the procedures laid out in §922(c): Deliverymen, after all, are not so hard to come by.
Abramski envisioned a federal gun control law that "would stare myopically at the nominal buyer while remaining blind to the person exiting the transaction with control of the gun," Kagan argued.
Monday's decision is good news for the Justice Department. The law stands. Now the government just has to find a way to enforce it.
Buckle your seatbelts, K Street: Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) is looking for work.
On Tuesday, in the biggest political upset of recent memory, Cantor, the House majority leader who was considered next-in-line to be House speaker, lost his Republican primary by double digits to David Brat, a college professor he'd outspent down the stretch by a factor of 12.
It was never supposed to be close. After Cantor flooded the district with nearly $1 million in advertising and direct mail, a leaked internal poll showed the incumbent with a 34-point lead over Brat. Cantor became the first majority leader to lose a primary in 115 years.
So who is Brat?
A libertarian economist—but not a Randian. Per Betsy Woodruff's January profile in National Review:
He chairs the department of economics and business at Randolph-Macon College and heads its BB&T Moral Foundations of Capitalism program. The funding for the program came from John Allison, the former CEO of BB&T (a financial-services company) who now heads the Cato Institute. The two share an affinity for Ayn Rand: Allison is a major supporter of the Ayn Rand Institute, and Brat co-authored a paper titled "An Analysis of the Moral Foundations in Ayn Rand." Brat says that while he isn't a Randian, he has been influenced by Atlas Shrugged and appreciates Rand’s case for human freedom and free markets.
According to his Rate My Professors page, he is "SOLID," "humorous," and "hot":
An immigration hardliner. For months, the only interesting thing about the race was its impact on Cantor's public comments on immigration reform. Brat considered Cantor a sellout for tepidly supporting some sort of comprehensive immigration reform, and Cantor responded by taking credit for killing the entire thing and alleging that Brat secretly had the support of "liberal" reform advocates. Voters received mailers bragging that "CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN ERIC CANTOR IS STOPPING THE OBAMA-REID PLAN TO GIVE ILLEGAL ALIENS AMNESTY." With Cantor's defeat, you can bet Republicans who so much as hinted at supporting an immigration overhaul are hearing footsteps.
A debt-ceiling denialist. A top Brat critique of Cantor is that he supported raising the federal government's debt ceiling—however reluctantly. As Brat told Slate's Dave Weigel last month, "My commitment is not to increase spending; to have a spending bill where you don’t increase it. Cantor’s voted for 10 of the last 15 debt ceiling increases. I just don’t buy the idea that you are truly put in the position of backing the debt ceiling increase the last minute, that you had no choice."
A dragon slayer. With the primary victory, Brat will almost certainly head to Congress next fall representing a deep-red central Virginia district. Cantor is prohibited by Virginia's "sore loser" law from appearing on the ballot as an independent candidate in November. Brat just needs to get past Democrat Jack Trammell, a colleague at Randolph-Macon College who runs the school's disability services and, according to his Amazon author page, is currently writing a vampire novel.
Long before she let Benghazi happen, Hillary Clinton was the center of a swirl of inventive rumors about sex, drugs, and murder. For entertainment purposes only, we've rounded up some of the greatest (i.e., most scurrilous). We'll add more as they inevitably bubble up in the run-up to the 2016 race.
Benghazi on the brain
Concussiongate Rumor: Then-Secretary of State Clinton faked the flu and a concussion in December 2012 to avoid testifying to Congress about Benghazi. Rumormongers: 2016 presidential dark horse John Bolton and Fox News contributor Monica Crowley
#TCLOT Rumor: As if a phony head injury wasn't bad enough—Hillary faked a blood clot, an even more serious medical condition, to further delay her Benghazi testimony. Rumormonger: Glenn Beck, who added that "if she really had some weird thing in the hospital, then it should prohibit her from ever becoming president."
Brained by Bush's brain Rumor: The clot was real, and Hillary suffered lingering brain damage that could render her unfit for office. Rumormonger: Fox News analyst Karl Rove, who backtracked the next day.
The CLINTON Body Count
Fostering doubts Rumor: Various theories hold that former Clinton White House chief of staff Vince Foster didn't commit suicide in Virginia's Fort Marcy Park. One posits that he was killed because he was having an affair with Hillary Clinton. Rumormongers: Former Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) once shot a watermelon (or a pumpkin—it's unclear) to prove that Foster was shot by someone else. Accuracy in Media founder Reed Irvine took out an ad in the New York Times to note that the FBI had failed to investigate "semen in Foster's shorts, blond hair on his T-shirt and trousers and multicolored carpet fibers on all his clothing." (Bonus: Anne Coulter once joked, "If you attack the Clintons publicly, make sure all your friends know that you are not planning suicide.")
Ron Brown's body Rumor: Commerce Secretary Ron Brown and 34 others were killed in a plane crash orchestrated by the Clintons to prevent him from spilling the beans to special investigators about selling seats on trade missions. Rumormonger: The Clinton Body Count, a website linking the first family to more than 90 deaths.
Whitewater whitewash Rumor: After agreeing to cooperate with special investigator Ken Starr, Whitewater partner James McDougal died in prison—allegedly at the hands of Clinton henchmen. "Chalk up another body to Clinton,'' as one Rush Limbaugh caller put it. An alternative theory: McDougal faked his death to avoid ratting out his benefactors. Rumormonger: The Clinton Body Count
Kittycide Rumor: Former Clinton aide Kathleen Willey alleged that after her cat went missing, a suspicious-looking jogger told her to watch what she said. Then her new cat turned up dead. Rumormonger: Willey, in the the 2007 pseudo-documentary Hillary: The Movie (which triggered the Citizens United Supreme Court decision).
The condoms must be on the other side of the tree. AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee
The Sex stuff
Gay until inauguration Rumor: After majoring in lesbianism at Wellesley, Hillary entered into a sham marriage with Bill Clinton to cover up the truth. At one point, a former classmate moved to Little Rock to continue an affair with Hillary. Rumormonger:Edward Klein, author of The Truth About Hillary: What She Knew, When She Knew It, and How Far She'll Go to Become President
Bisexual after inauguration Rumor: Bill confided that his wife was a bisexual who, as she put it, "had eaten more pussy than he had." Rumormonger: Former Clinton mistress Gennifer Flowers, in a 2013 interview with the Daily Mail
Webb of lies Rumor: Associate attorney general Webb Hubbell was really Chelsea's father. (And Vince Foster was possibly killed because he knew.) Rumormonger: This guy on the Internet who keeps emailing me and every other DC journalist.
Bermuda shorts Rumor: Forget Webb Hubbell. Chelsea was conceived when Bill forced himself on Hillary during a vacation in Bermuda. Rumormonger: Klein, keeping it classy.
Troopergate Rumor: Hillary looked the other way when then-Gov. Bill Clinton used Arkansas state troopers to set up sexual liaisons with dozens—maybe hundreds—of women. Rumormonger: Former right-wing operative-turned-Media Matters honcho David Brock, who later wrote in his book, Blinded by the Right, that "none of the trooper allegations that could be independently checked turned out to be true."
Bill's black love child Rumor: Bill fathered a son after after luring a prostitute into a cocaine-fueled orgy. Hillary dutifully covered it up. Rumormongers: Little Rock businessman Robert McIntosh circulated a flier noting the resemblance between 13-year-old Danny Williams and a young William Jefferson Blythe during the 1992 campaign. A 1999 Drudge Report exclusive featured Williams' mother's on-tape confession. "What becomes immediately obvious to the viewer watching the videotaped confession is that this is clearly not gossip, rumor, or anonymous charges being maliciously directed at a politician," wrote Drudge, before learning three days later that the child was not Clinton's.
Come all ye faithful Rumor: As First Lady, Hillary decorated the White House Christmas tree with condoms, cock rings, and lords-a-leapin' with erect penises. Rumormongers: Disgruntled former FBI agent Gary Aldrich, in his 1996 tell-all, Unlimited Access; and Texas activist "Doc Marquis," who seized on Aldrich's claims as "proof positive that Hillary Clinton is a power, practicing witch."
Sexual pagan Rumor: No, it's not the name of my new metal band—it's Hillary Clinton's orientation. Rumormonger: Southern Evangelical Seminary president Richard Land, who leveled the charge in response to the secretary of state's advocacy for gay rights in Africa.
The Drug stuff
Powder hungry Rumor: When Bill was governor, the Clintons covered up a multimillion-dollar cocaine smuggling ring based in Mena, Arkansas. Rumormonger:The Clinton Chronicles (below), a 1994 pseudo-documentary distributed by the Reverend Jerry Falwell
Boys on the tracks Rumor: Seventeen-year-olds Kevin Ives and Don Henry weren't hit by a train after passing out on an Arkansas railroad track; they were brutally murdered after witnessing a Clinton-assisted drug drop. Rumormongers: Former Rep. William Dannemeyer (R-Calif.) and The Clinton Chronicles
Assorted Power madness
Four martini punch Rumor: Reporter LJ Davis didn't, as he claimed, pass out on his floor after drinking one too many martinis—he was assaulted in his Arkansas hotel room in 1994 by Clinton goons and robbed of four "significant" pages from his notebook. His crime: Asking too many questions about Clinton's work at a Little Rock law firm. Rumormongers: The Wall Street Journal editorial page, which cited the incident as evidence that Arkansas is a "congenitally violent place," and Rush Limbaugh, who told his listeners, "journalists and others working on or involved in Whitewatergate have been mysteriously beaten and harassed in Little Rock; some have died."
PC police Rumor: As first lady, Clinton formed her own clandestine police force. Agents embedded in the FBI, the CIA, and the IRS harassed and eliminated critics. Rumormongers: Richard Poe, author of Hillary's Secret War, and American Evita author Christopher Andersen
Con air Rumor: Hillary purged the White House Travel Office in order to set up a system of kickbacks for an Arkansas airline helmed by a childhood friend of Bill's. Rumormongers: Brock and current Virginia congressional candidate Barbara Comstock
Red, not blue Rumor: A "meticulously documented" report exposed the Clintons' links to a Marxist terrorist plot to take over the country, inspired by the Italian communist and grad-student favorite Antonio Gramsci. Exhibit A: Hillary's failed health care reform plan. Rumormonger: WorldNetDaily columnist Samuel Blumenfeld
Filegate Rumor: Classified FBI files were requested and misused by First Lady Hillary Clinton to target enemies of the administration. White House Office of Personnel Security Craig Livingstone took the fall when Republican investigators caught wind. Rumormonger: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who demanded FBI files be swiped for the First Lady's fingerprints.
Brazilian whacks Rumor: The Clintons forced former Hillary donor Peter Paul to spend two years in a Brazilian prison—including two months in a cellblock known as the "Corridor of Death"—after he filed a lawsuit against the couple claiming they knew about his illegal campaign finance dealings. Rumormonger: Paul, in the 2007 pseudo-documentary Hillary Uncensored
Black helicopters Rumor: Team Hillary used helicopters to surveil the Southampton home of 2006 Republican Senate challenger—and current Fox News contributor—K.T. McFarland. Rumormonger: McFarland, at a campaign event on Long Island
Rush to judgment Rumor: Rush Limbaugh's 2006 drug bust for painkillers possession was a set-up by the Clinton machine. Rumormonger: Poe again
Dressed to kill in 1993 AP Photo/James Finley
The Muslim stuff
Muslim Sisterhood Rumor: Clinton and top aide/alleged lover Huma Abedin (wife of ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.)) are in cahoots with the ladies' auxiliary of the Muslim Brotherhood. Which explains why Clinton has been secretly pushing us to spread Sharia law in America. Rumormongers: "Huma's mom is best friends with the new so-called First Lady of Egypt, who is also a member of the Sisterhood," explained Rush Limbaugh. "Folks, it's Peyton place—it's too much to keep up with." Rep. Michele Bachmann's allegations of collaboration between Clinton and the Brotherhood was cited by protesters in the streets of Cairo.
Mullah moolah Rumor: Clinton's Islamofascist sympathies were secured with a bribe from Iran. Rumormonger: Judicial Watch founder Larry Klayman, who conscientiously adds, "I cannot prove it at this time."
Ban on churches Rumor: Clinton was working with Islamists to shut down Christian houses of worship in the United States before she left office in 2013. Rumormonger: Conservative speaker and self-described "former terrorist" Kamal Saleem
Hillary Clinton with fellow Muslim sympathizer Barack Obama in Cairo, 2009. AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
Just Plain Bizarre
Cold-blooded Rumor: Like most of the Washington elite, Hillary is in fact a blood-drinking extraterrestrial lizard in disguise. Rumormonger: "Reptoid hypothesis" creator David Icke
Everything is Illuminati'ed Rumor: Wake up, sheeple. The Clintons belong to an 18th-century secret society that controls global governance and finance. Rumormongers:Lots of crazy people on YouTube
Contra dancing Rumor: In the 1970s, Hillary worked at a Little Rock law firm that helped funnel weapons to the Contras. Rumormonger: The late Nation columnist Alexander Cockburn
Blood money Rumor: The Clintons consented to the harvesting and selling of HIV- and hepatitis C-positive blood from prison inmates to China in the 1980s. Rumormongers: Klein and WorldNetDaily conspiracy guru Joseph Farah
Starr crossed Rumor: Why did the Clintons enjoy impunity for their myriad crimes? Easy: Ken Starr, the man tasked with investigating them, was a secret Clinton crony. Rumormonger: Poe again
Get behind me, thetan Rumor: Why did the did the movie version of Primary Colors, in which John Travolta plays a thinly-veiled Bill Clinton, go so easy on the first couple? Maybe because President Clinton pressured the German government to extend religious protections to the Church of Scientology. Rumormonger: The New York Post reported that Sen. Lauch Faircloth (R-N.C.) demanded an investigation into the matter; Faircloth denied this.
It's a tax! Rumor: As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton was pushing a secret United Nations takeover of the Internet, to be paid for by a secret tax on American billionaires. Rumormonger: Former Clinton aide Dick Morris
Goo goo for Gaga: Clinton's State Department betrayed its true function as an "agent for Lady Gaga" when it helped the "Bad Romance" singer secure a gig at a gay pride event in Italy. Rumormonger: Mission: America founder Linda Harvey
Here We Go Again…
Face the nation Rumor: Clinton got a face-lift after leaving the State Department to "glam up" for 2016. Rumormonger: Fox and Friends' Steve Doocy, who tweeted afterwards that he was referring only to Clinton's website.
Hey sole sister Rumor: Clinton hired a mentally ill woman to throw a sneaker at her while giving a speech to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries in Las Vegas in April. Rumormongers: Limbaugh and former Republican presidential front runner Herman Cain
Hill's angels Rumor: Hillary is a tool of the Dark Lord Lucifer sent to oppose Jesus Christ in the Last Days. Rumormonger: Montana Republican congressional candidate Ryan Zinke, who called Clinton the "anti-Christ" at a January campaign event.
It takes a child Rumor: Chelsea Clinton became pregnant at the behest of her parents, who believe that the former secretary of state will be viewed more favorably if she has grandkids. Rumormongers: Fox News host Howie Kurtz, the Washington Free Beacon's Michael Goldfarb, and the New York Times' Andrew Ross Sorkin.
Vanity press Rumor: The Clintons arranged for Vanity Fair to publish Monica Lewinsky's recent essay two-and-a-half years before the next presidential election, so it would be forgotten by 2016. Rumormonger: Prolific children's author Lynne Cheney, who asked Bill O’Reilly, "Would Vanity Fair publish anything about Monica Lewinsky that Hillary Clinton wouldn't want in Vanity Fair?" (Yes.)
Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz Cruz spoke at an anti-gay marriage rally on Thursday hosted by Steven Hotze, a controversial doctor who has told women that birth control would make them unappealing to men and has warned that equality for gays would be a stepping stone to child molestation. Hotze, who runs an alternative medicine practice in suburban Houston and is suing the Obama administration over the Affordable Care Act, organized the event through his political action committee, Conservative Republicans of Texas. Cruz was joined on stage fellow Sen. John Cornyn, and state Sen. Dan Patrick, the party's nominee for lieutenant governor.
As I reported in April, Hotze's opposition to gay rights stretches back to at least the early 1980s, when he told Third Coast magazine that gay people "proliferate by one means, and one means only, and that's recruiting. And they recruit the weak. They recruit children or young people in their formative years." With that, he was off:
Three years later, after overturning an anti-discrimination ordinance in Houston, Hotze organized a group of eight candidates he considered allies in the fight against homosexuality. He called them "the Straight Slate." His preferred mayoral candidate said that the best way to fight AIDS was to "shoot the queers." Hotze told a local newspaper reporter that he cased out restaurants before making reservations to make sure they didn't have any gay employees and became such a divisive figure in local politics that for a brief period the Harris County Republican Party cleaved in two.
More recently, his PAC spent big bucks to oppose Annise Parker, a Democratic candidate who would become Houston's first openly gay mayor in 2009. On Thursday, Cruz also signed onto an amicus brief in support of Hotze's lawsuit against Obamacare, which he contends is unconstitutional because it did not originate in the House. But Hotze is an unusual mascot for politicians who fear Obamacare has ruined the health care system, because he operates largely outside of it. An investigation by the Houston Press raised questions about his medical practice, noting that he had inflated his credentials and touted the healing powers of treatments such as colloidal silver—which can turn patients' skin permanently blue—which are not covered by health insurance and not backed up by studies.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has a new health care reform plan, a new political non-profit, and dreams of running for president in two years. But for the time being, he's still governor of Louisiana.
Even as the legislature wrestles over hot-button issues—including a bill to rein in the Common Core math and English standards and a proposal to prevent parishes from suing oil companies for coastal land loss—the second-term governor has been largely AWOL from Baton Rouge. He's as likely to pop up at the DC speech circuit (or in an early 2016 primary state) as he is to pick up the phone to hammer out legislation. And according to Louisiana-based investigative reporting site The Lens, Republicans back home are starting to take it personally:
Pearson said he finds Jindal's detachment "a little disheartening." The Slidell Republican said he has seen the governor twice this session: on opening day and at a committee chairman’s lunch.
"We have big problems with the budget. It looks like we're kicking the can down the road for the next one or two years," Pearson said, adding, "God, it would be nice to see his face on the [House] floor.
"He's the governor, the leader of the state. It's like being on a battlefield and seeing your general to know he's there and cares about the troops," Pearson added. "He should want to be here, be engaged. I don't see any evidence that he is."
Unease over Jindal's frequent out-of-state visits has been simmering for a while now among conservative allies. (Previously, TheLens explored the governor's failure to build to relationships with GOP lawmakers, with more than a dozen on-the-record critiques.) When I profiled Jindal for the magazine in March, I was struck by just how little love was lost between the boy-genius governor and the rank-and-file of his state party. As GOP presidential primary season creeps closer, those tensions aren't likely to go away.