Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

Reporter

Tim Murphy is a reporter in MoJo's DC bureau. Last summer he logged 22,000 miles while blogging about his cross-country road trip for Mother Jones. 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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Newt Gingrich's Lockheed Martin Love Affair

| Thu May 12, 2011 6:00 AM EDT

On Wednesday, former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich kicked off his presidential exploratory committee with announcements on Twitter, Facebook, and Fox News. He's in it to win it: In 2009 and 2010, Gingrich raised more money than all of the other candidates combined. With his deep network of PACs and business ventures, the former Speaker has the resources to go along with the strong name recognition. But Gingrich still faces a serious adversary—his record. On everything from medical marijuana, to marriage, to Libya, Gingrich has a long history of making incendiary statements that bely his own actions. Take, for example, his campaign to weed out wasteful spending.

In his 2009 book, Real Change, Gingrich singles out Lockheed Martin and NASA for squandering taxpayer dollars on faulty equipment for the agency's Mars program. The ballooning costs and endless delays, he explained, were emblematic of the "kinds of waste and fraud that currently plague government programs." As he put it: "These cumbersome, bureaucratic companies can match the federal government's expertise in red tape... What matters is not the quality of their engineering, but the quality of their lobbying."

Rather than funneling money into a company operating with little oversight, Gingrich argued, we should let the marketplace place do the work, and hold prize competitions for new technologies.

It's not a terrible idea—in fact, it's similar to the plan put forth by President Obama two years ago. But there's just one problem with Gingrich’s framing: During his two decades as a congressman from Georgia, representing a district adjacent to a major Lockheed assembly plant*, there was no bigger advocate for the contracting giant's "cumbersome, bureaucratic" business interests than Newt Gingrich.

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Can Obama Really Win in Texas?

| Wed May 11, 2011 1:04 PM EDT

In 2008, Barack Obama padded his electoral vote total by taking on John McCain in states that had been ignored by previous Democratic presidential candidates. He won Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana, and, for good measure, Nebraska's first congressional district. Now, Glenn Thrush reports, he's set his sights on an even bigger target—Texas:

On the surface, their rationale seems compelling. The state’s population is about 35 percent Hispanic, almost identical to California’s proportion. The voting-age population in Texas is growing faster than almost anywhere else in the U.S. — with an estimated 1.2 million eligible minority voters, most of them Spanish speakers, added to the state’s population between 2008 and 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Those trends have been emerging for a decade, but Democrats have, by and large, been unable to capitalize on them, owing to the state’s geography and abysmal voter registration and turnout patterns among Latinos. Obama talked enthusiastically about contesting Texas in 2008 but virtually abandoned the state to Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain as Election Day drew near, eventually losing by a million votes and 12 percentage points.

In the right circumstances—facing off against GOP nominee Buddy Roemer, for instance—Obama could probably come pretty close to winning Texas. It's a long-shot, though, and realistically, any electoral scenario in which Obama does pick up the Lone Star State's electoral votes probably has him cruising to reelection pretty easily with or without Texas. If Obama competes in Texas, it'll be an investment in future Democratic candidates—and a sure-fire sign he's confident about winning a second term.

New Birther Conspiracy: It's a Trap!

| Mon May 9, 2011 11:33 AM EDT
President Barack Obama's long-form birth certificate.

Since President Obama released his birth certificate two weeks ago—and perhaps more significantly, since President Obama announced the killing of Osama Bin Laden—the ranks of America's birthers have thinned considerably. According to a recent Washington Post poll, just 10 percent of Americans now strongly suspect that the President was not born in the United States; the number of true believers is even smaller.

But 10 percent of the American public nonetheless represents a fairly sizable niche market. So conservative site WorldNetDaily is still dutifully parsing the available evidence—a missing watermark here, a sloppy signature there, broken twigs everywehere—that might cast some doubt on the legitimacy of the birth certificate. Yes, it's promoting the most obvious explanation: the document is fraudulent. Leading the way is Jerome Corsi, a WND senior reporter and author of the new Obama conspiracy tract, Where is the Birth Certificate? (In light of Obama big reveal, Corsi's editor, WND editor Joseph Farrah, called the title "unfortunate.")

Here's the latest from Corsi:

A private investigator claims employees of the state Department of Health forged three Hawaiian birth certificates for Barack Obama to "screw with birthers."

Takeyuki Irei told WND one document placed the birth at Kapiolani hospital, another at Queens Medical Center and a third in Kenya.

The 57-year-old detective, who has been a P.I. since the 1980s, said he was stunned when he discovered that the purported copy of Obama's original birth certificate released by the White House was more or less an exact image of one of the forgeries...

Irei explained the state employee told him the fake records were kept in a vault in Room 303 of the Hawaii Department of Health. The room, next to the director's office, is well known and holds files such as the records of residents of the Kalaupapa leper colony on the island of Molokai.

Wait a minute—is President Obama a leper?

Anyway, it's not really worth sorting through this story, but the main takeaway is that the fake birth certificates originally embraced by birthers were actually planted by the Obama crew to undermine the birthers' investigations—and to set up the context for the release of the real (but still fake) birth certificate put out by the White House late last month. Is your head spinning? Suffice to say, the hard-core birthers aren't going away anytime soon.

Arizona Legislature Holding Pledge Drive for Border Fence

| Mon May 9, 2011 10:24 AM EDT

Perhaps smarting from the Florida state legislature's war on bestiality and droopy drawers, Arizona has fired a fresh salvo in the battle for the title of America's craziest state.

A new law that Republican Gov. Jan Brewer signed in late April authorizes the construction of a border fence along the state's border with Mexico to halt the influx of undocumented immigrants from Mexico. But there's a catch: Because the state has no money, it plans to finance construction solely through private donations and then use prison labor to build the wall on the cheap. The first order of a business is to set up a website to plug the project. From the Associated Press:

"We're going to build this site as fast as we can, and promote it, and market the heck out of it," said [Steve] Smith, a first-term Republican senator...

Part of the marketing pitch for donations could include providing certificates declaring that individual contributors "helped build the Arizona wall," Smith said. "I think it's going to be a really, really neat thing."

Totally. There's some key context missing here, though. Namely: This isn't the first time Arizona has tried soliciting donations to carry out state business. In 2010, faced with an extraordinary budget deficit due to the deflated housing bubble and some pretty terrible legislating, the legislature passed a new law that sought to balance the budget by kindly asking citizens to donate money to the "I Didn't Pay Enough Fund" (their phrase, not mine). If, as the name suggests, you feel like you haven't paid enough in taxes, you can choose to pay a little bit extra, which the state will then put to good use—say, for buying tanks to break up cockfighting rings. Per the Phoenix New Times, the bill is expected to chip about $2,500 off of the $2.5 billion state deficit, leaving only $2.4999975 billion to go. Baby steps, people; baby steps.

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