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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Barbour's New Hire: Dark Money and Voter Suppression

| Wed Mar. 9, 2011 10:03 AM PST
Facebook/Haley Barbour

In the first presidential race post-Citizens United, what will candidates do to catch the wave of corporate cash? Here's a good indication, from The Fix:

Former Republican National Committee communications director Jim Dyke has signed on with Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's political action committee, a major signing in the below-the-radar fight for staff talent in advance of the 2012 GOP presidential primary fight.

Dyke's deep connections in South Carolina politics should be a boon for Barbour, but his more recent place of employment might be more relevant: Dyke's a co-founder (along with Karl Rove) and until this week, secretary of American Crossroads, the shadowy conservative soft-money group that, along with its partner Crossroads GPS, funneled unprecedented levels of corporate cash into the 2010 midterms. As we told you this morning, American Crossroads has even bigger plans in 2012.

Dyke won't be holding onto his old job when he joins Haley's PAC—Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio explained via e-mail that Dyke "will not attend any board meetings, be involved in any decision making or receive any correspondence from AC durings his absence." (Update: In case I wasn't clear, Collegio writes that Barbour has "taken a leave of absence" from the Crossroads board). But he should be able to help Barbour, who's already something of a fundraising machine, tap into an even deeper network of corporate donors. It's also not the first Crossroads co-founder Barbour has courted; as MoJo's Andy Kroll reported last month, the Mississippi governor has already wooed former RNC-chair Ed Gillespie. Collegio said Crossroads "has made no plans" about whether to spend any of its expected $120 million on the presidential primary.

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Quote of the Day: American Crossroads Edition

| Wed Mar. 9, 2011 7:33 AM PST

Buried in Playbook this morning is the news that American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, the Karl Rove-led soft money groups unleashed by the Citizens United decision, are setting there sights even higher in 2012 (they're already running ads about Wisconsin). Via Mike Allen, here's Crossroads' press release:

American Crossroads and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (Crossroads GPS) announced a collective fundraising goal of $120 million … American Crossroads (the 527) also announced a new Presidential Action Fund, a new initiative that will be dedicated to shaping the issue environment and driving high-impact messages and themes… You can't outspend the unions—but you can outcompete them with a faster and leaner organization that offers more bang for the buck.

Actually, you can outspend the unions. By a lot. Per Open Secrets, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS spent a combined $39 million on outside expenditures during the 2010 election. The top union donor, the SEIU, contributed $17 million. The top four conservative outside groups outspent the top four unions $97 million to $40 million. For more, check out our reporting on the rise of dark money groups.

Update: A reader points out a WSJ report noting that AFSCME was the largest donor of the 2010 midterms (the Open Secrets data offered a more narrow look at outside spending beyond the confines of political parties). But the second and third largest donors in that report were the Chamber of Commerce and Crossroads. So even by that measure, corporate groups still managed to outspend unions.

Peter King's Radicalization Hearings, Explained

| Wed Mar. 9, 2011 1:01 AM PST

On Thursday, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, will hold hearings on what he calls the "radicalization" of members of the American Muslim community. King, who has previously called for the New York Times to be tried for treason and for WikiLeaks to be listed as a terrorist organization, has never shied away from confronting terrorist threats wherever he sees them—but this time he's struck a nerve. He's been denounced by the ACLU and Democratic rivals—who have compared him to Joseph McCarthy. His own party, meanwhile, has been conspicuously silent. So who's going to speak on Thursday? And what are they going to say? We've got you covered:

When: Thursday at 9:30 A.M. You can watch it live on C-Span, catch the webcast here, and follow my Twitter feed for live updates.

What's the back story? When King announced the hearings last December, he explained that law enforcement officials "are constantly telling me how little cooperation they get from Muslim leaders." King concedes that only a small fraction of American Muslims have ties to terrorism, but argues that those extremists have outsized influence, citing one figure that 80-percent of mosques in the United States are under the control of jihadists (that figure has been debunked). King believes "political correctness" is interfering with national security; as he explains it, the hearings are analogous to investigations into the Italian-American mafia.

Is there anything to that? Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation's top law enforcement officer, has said the threat of homegrown terrorism "keeps me up at night," citing, among others, Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. In a speech last weekend, Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough called combatting radicalization at home "part of our larger strategy to decisively defeat Al Qaeda." Other American citizens who have been charged with planning or commmitting acts of terrorism include Maj. Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter, and failed Time Square bomber Faisal Shahzad. Law enforcement officials say Latino converts to Islam are increasingly vulnerable to radicalization.

But. But, critics of the hearings dispute King's central premise—that American Muslims are complicit in the radicalization of a tiny minority. A February study by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, for instance, reported that Muslim-American terrorist attacks had dropped significantly in the last year, and that 40-percent of all terrorism arrests came after a tip from the Muslim-American community.

Fat Tuesday With Feufollet

| Tue Mar. 8, 2011 12:05 PM PST
Courtesy of Feufollet

On Monday, we told you the story of Amede Ardoin, the king of Cajun Zydeco music, who faded from public view in the 1930s after a severe beating at the hands of two white men. Ardoin's legacy lives on in the music of a new generation of young Cajun bands like the Pine Leaf Boys and Feufollet, a Grammy-nominated group from Lafayette, Louisiana. Performing entirely in French, Feufollet blends traditional Cajun music (think fiddles and accordions) with rock-and-roll influences; it's not your father's zydeco, in other words. I spoke with Feufollet's lead singer, Anna Laura Edmiston, about the Cajun dialect, mysterious swamp gases, and what it's like to write songs no one can understand.

Mother Jones: What's the latest song, good or bad, that super-glued itself in your brain?

Anna Laura Edmiston: "I was a landscape in your dream," by Of Montreal. Well, their version of it.

MJ: Three records that you never get sick of listening to?

ALE: Graceland by Paul Simon; Traveling Wilburys' Vol. 1; and Sunshine on Leith, by the Proclaimers.

MJ: If you could bring anyone back from the dead—or borrow them from a living band—for a big jam session, who would it be?

ALE: Oh my gosh. George Harrison. I think he's great. I love his music, and I know everyone else in the band does. Who doesn't like The Beatles? George has just always been my favorite, just because of his creative outlook on things and where he would take material. Plus, I just love his energy and his Zen-ness.

MJ: Anything you listen to but don't exactly like to publicize the fact?

ALE: I guess I like hip-hop. That's like the weirdest thing I listen to, compared to everything else.

MJ: Are there any Cajun rap groups?

So it Begins: GOP Candidates Sound Off in Iowa

| Tue Mar. 8, 2011 7:31 AM PST
Photo: Gage Skidmore

With just 610 days to go before election day, GOP presidential candidates gathered at Point of Grace Church in Waukee, Iowa Monday night for their first candidate forum of the 2012 race. Or at least some of them did—Mitt Romney took a rain check; so did Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, Sarah Palin, and Mike Huckabee (among others).

So what did the candidates who did show up talk about? Nothing particularly groundbreaking. They bragged about their children and grandchildren, the strength of their marriages, quoted scripture, and generally stayed within their individual comfort zones. Newt Gingrich lectured on Camus and Israel and American Exceptionalism—the latter two of which he believes are being ignored by the Obama administration; Buddy Roemer spoke bluntly about cutting off oil and ethanol subsidies; Herman Cain delivered the equivalent of a PowerPoint presentation, explaining how he'd fix the country in three simple steps; Tim Pawlenty gave the same stump speech you've already seen on YouTube, delivered with a hockey-coach-as-slam-poet cadence; Rick Santorum talked extensively about partial-birth abortion, and how his kids once thought his first name was "ultra" (good thing they didn't Google it).

If you're looking for a quick analysis, Dave Weigel's grades struck me as pretty spot-on. But in reality, the night was less about the five would-be candidates who showed up, than the man they were there to see: Faith and Freedom Coalition founder Ralph Reed. Just five years after his political career imploded amid the Jack Abramoff scandal, the former head of the Christian Coalition and GOP boy wonder has clawed his way back into the role of Republican kingmaker. The 2010 midterms were something of a trial run for Reed, who rode the tea party wave with his new organization, and then rushed into the post-election autopsy to take credit for everything.

Last night, he used his introductory speech to ask for money—"every dollar that you give tonight will stay in Iowa"—and to solidfy his role central in the nominating process. "Some have suggested that we call a truce on the social and moral issues," Reed said. "I don't know about you, but I prefer to have a leader who can walk and chew gum at the same time." Reed has re-emerged as a GOP power-broker by acting as if the past never happened. And for the men on stage, that just might be a good thing; if social conservatives can look past Ralph Reed's transgressions, there might be hope for Gingrich after all.

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