How do you know you're lagging in the polls and running out of time in Iowa? When you start cutting ads like this, accusing President Obama of waging a "war on religion":
What is this war on religion, anyway? Did Congress authorize it? How is it being paid for? If Rick Perry is a Christian and President Obama is at war with Christians, can Obama detain Perry indefinitely without trial?
Perry doesn't say. Instead, he leaves us with this: "I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian. But you don't need to be in the pew every Sunday to know that there's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military, but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school." (Note: Kids are still allowed to celebrate Christmas.) This comes just one day after the Texas governor blasted President Obama for supporting human rights for gay people, warning that it was "not in America's interests." Perry has purchased $1 million worth of air time in Iowa in a last-ditch effort to turn around his campaign; he's looking pretty desperate at this point.
For a politician who once proposed relocating children from single-parent households to orphanages, it was not all that surprising when Newt Gingrich recently declared that, if elected president, he'd ease child labor laws to allow poor kids to work as janitors.
What's notable, however, is the newly minted GOP presidential front-runner's explanation. Gingrich argues that poor children lack role models who can instill in them the value of hard work—something that, say, a part-time job cleaning bathrooms could easily remedy. Making his case to an audience in Des Moines, Iowa, last week, Gingrich touted the work of an educational nonprofit he founded in the early 1990s called Earning by Learning (EBL). The program offered cash—$2 per book—to students as an incentive to read over the summer. What he failed to mention is that his group also led to a formal ethics complaint amid concerns about not just who was funding Gingrich's program, but where that money was really going.
As Gingrich tells it, the program started that first summer in 1990 with 9 kids and ended with 30. "What happened was simple," he said. "The ice cream truck comes by. The kid who's in the program walks up and buys their own ice cream. Their friend says to them, 'How come you have money?' He goes, 'Well, I read.' So kids are showing up to the program saying, 'I demand that you let me read!'"
The point of the story is that private initiatives often succeed where government programs fail. EBL was a lean, mean, private machine. "The overhead is entirely voluntary," Gingrich said of the program in 1995. "The only money goes to the kids. So if you have $1,000 at $2 a book, you can pay for 500 books. Whereas, in the welfare state model, if you have $1,000, you pay $850 for the bureaucracy."
But that description turned out to be false. A 1995 Mother Jones investigation revealed that the program's all-volunteer army came at a hefty price. The group paid its Atlanta volunteers $500 each; nearly half of the total budget of the Houston branch of the program went to one salaried staff position.
A Wall Street Journal report earlier that year was even more damning, revealing that most of the money in the program's endowment in Georgia was being kicked back to Gingrich's friends, including Mel Steely, a former Gingrich staffer who was at the time working on an authorized biography of the House speaker. According to the paper, "90% of the $20,000 raised in the past year went to Steely and two other professors who help him evaluate the program. The children earned less than $10,000, from money leftover from prior years."
TheLos Angeles Times piled on, noting that "reading program funds were used to reimburse Steely for travel, lodging and meal expenses during three trips to attend Gingrich's Saturday morning college course." The overhead, in other words, was actually quite substantial.
If you're a resident of Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Missouri, or Minnesota, you're on notice. Starting this week,Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, who is currently challenging President Obama in the Democratic presidential primary, will begin airing graphic campaign ads featuring what purport to be aborted fetuses, during local news broadcasts.
As I reported last month, the ad buy is part of Terry's nationwide strategy to take advantage of an FCC loophole barring censorship of campaign ads. Although networks and their local affiliates have the authority—and a legal imperative, in some cases—to block "indecent" material from the airwaves, there's an exception when it comes to political spots, so long as they're within 45 days of a primary or caucus.
Per a release:
The ad has multiple graphic images of babies murdered by abortion, and makes the argument that to vote for Obama knowing that Obama supports the murder of babies is a betrayal of the Catholic Faith.
The ad will run on every TV station in Iowa and the five state regions that surrounds Iowa (Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Missouri, and Minnesota). The ad will run on at least one news broadcast per station.
Last year, following a successful trial run in a Washington, D.C. congressional race (for the non-voting "delegate" position), Terry announced plans to field single-issue congressional candidates in the nation's 25 biggest media markets, for the sole purpose of running graphic anti-abortion spots that would otherwise never make it onto the airwaves. Terry's already recruited candidates in Cincinnati, the Twin Cities, and St. Louis—and he himself is taking on Obama.
This video of an eight-year-old cub activist named Elijah confronting Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) on gay rights hit the tubes on Sunday and went viral pretty fast. It's pretty easy to see why: Elijah tells Bachmann, "My mommy's gay but she doesn't need any fixing." Bachmann's response, other than momentary shock, is to wave "bye, bye" to the kid.
Bachmann is currently lagging in single digits in Iowa, where by all accounts she needs a strong showing. But she's built up enough of a reputation for her opposition to gay rights that, even as she slides in the polls, she still has a pretty sizable bullseye on her back and has been on the receiving end of a number of similar video ambushes.
If you have a ton of cash and a political agenda, it's easier than ever to make powerful friends and influence people. Here's a handy how-to guide to the complex, cash-drenched world of federal campaign finance.