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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Map of the Day: The Problem With Maps

| Thu Mar. 10, 2011 6:00 PM EST

Image Courtesy of the AtlanticImage Courtesy of the AtlanticBy now, you've probably taken a look at our (As Seen on TV!) charts on the rising income equality gap in the United States. Now the Atlantic has gotten in on the action, with this interactive map from Patchwork Nation's Daniel Chinni and James Gimpel. Look at all the pretty colors.

It's a pretty fantastic concept, conveying the complexity of the American landscape in a way that the red state-blue state map—or even a map about where you can marry your cousin—simply can't. But I've got some issues.

For one thing, it's subject to the same fundamental flaw of the electoral map: There's only room for one category per county. Colorado Springs has been called the "Evangelical Vatican," but it's not an "Evangelical Epicenter" on Chinni's map, because it's also a "Military Bastion." The two categories are of course related, but there's no room for that kind of complexity. Orange County, likewise, gave us modern the modern conservative movement and Billy Graham, but it's a "Monied Suburb" here, which puts it in the same category as certain parts of Vermont. Hispanic immigration extends far beyond the Southwest, but because it's not a defining force like it is in, say, Imperial County, the demographic shift barely registers.

A more systematic problem is simply that it's really, really tough to come up with any sort of grouping system for American places. States don't work. Congressional districts don't either. Counties have the benefit of at least being relatively small, but that's still highly variable—and in any event totally blind to population. Cook County, Illinois has 5 million residents and encompasses about half of the Patchwork categories; Brewster County, Texas has 10,000 people but takes up four times as much space. Alaska looks like one giant boomtown but in reality no one's building McMansions at Denali National Park.

This isn't a problem with Chinni and Gimpel—who've done great work here—so much as it's a problem with making maps about America.

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Live Updates From Peter King's Radicalization Hearings

| Thu Mar. 10, 2011 12:29 PM EST

Barbour's New Hire: Dark Money and Voter Suppression

| Wed Mar. 9, 2011 1:03 PM EST
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.

Quote of the Day: American Crossroads Edition

| Wed Mar. 9, 2011 10:33 AM EST

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 4:01 AM EST

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.

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