Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

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Tim Murphy is a senior reporter at Mother Jones. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy@motherjones.com.

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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.

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 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.

Michele Bachmann's Ponzi-Scheming Donor

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) is still running for president.

Michele Bachmann (remember her?) is flailing desperately in her bid to become the first sitting member of the House to win a presidential election since James A. Garfield. There's a pretty big incentive for her to stay in the race at least through the holidays: She has a book coming out in November. But there's also a pretty strong disincentive for her to stay in the race much longer than that—in February May her biggest career donor goes on trial in federal court for fraud, and there's the potential for some pretty incriminating details to trickle out.

Over at The New Republic, Mariah Blake has an excellent piece on a Bachmann story that hasn't gotten quite the attention it deserves. Partly that's because it's tougher to explain in one snappy phrase (i.e. "pray away the gay!"), and partly because it speaks to systematic problems that aren't unique to the congresswoman. Following up on reporting by Karl Bremer at Ripple in Stillwater, Blake explains how Frank Vennes and his partner, convicted Ponzi schemer Tom Petters, made millions on phony investments and then poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into political campaigns in the 2000s. Vennes' donations seemed to have a clear motive: receiving a presidential pardon for a prior felony conviction.

Many Minnesota politicians, Democrats and Republicans, received a lot of money from Ponzi schemers Tom Petters and Frank Vennes. But Bachmann was one of the few to take tangible actions in response. During her first Congressional campaign in 2006, Vennes and his associates donated $50,000 to Bachmann's campaign and PAC. Bachmann, in turn, lobbied the White House to reconsider Vennes' pardon application. Vennes and his wife then donated another $11,200. Blake writes:

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