Courtesy of State Sen. Mae BeaversLast month, Tennessee state Sen. Mae Beavers introduced SB 1091, a bill that would require presidential candidates to present a long-form birth certificate in order to qualify for the ballot in the Volunteer State. Beavers, a Republican, is in good company: Nearly a dozen states have now introduced similar legislation—part of national campaign mounted by the birthers, those conservatives who believe that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. To date they haven't had much luck; a bill proposed in Arizona looked the most promising but was scuttled in committee; on Wednesday, New Hampshire GOPers knocked down a similar proposal.
It's a far-fetched goal, and it turns out that Beavers, who recently discussed her bill on Reality Check, a radio show devoted to debunking birther legislation, still has some research to do. From the transcript:
RC: What are the specific requirements in the bill?
MB: That they have to have the long form birth certificate.
RC: What is the long form birth certificate?
MB: Now, you're asking me to get into a lot of things that I haven't really looked into yet.
The host then asked the obvious follow-up: why put a term into the bill, if you don't know what it means? Beavers responded, "Well, we are following some of the bills that have been filed in lots of other states, and you know how it is, you file your bill and, you know, you prepare before you go to committee."
File first, understand later?
Beavers went on to state more clearly, "I'm not entirely sure what long form means." She seemed genuinely surprised by the news that not all states even print long-form birth certificates anymore. "I only know about Tennessee," she explained. As for her motives for introducing the bill, Beavers didn't declare herself as an outright birther, but she noted, "I think people have raised questions about [Obama's birth] enough to make everybody wonder." Although the state of Hawaii has produced a certificate of live birth for Obama that has been been widely distributed, Beavers said proof of Obama's citizenship must have gotten buried in her inbox: "I get emails all the time with things in them, you know; I can't honestly tell you that I read all of them, because I get so many."
Beavers' long-form slip-up fits a trend of Republican state lawmakers amping up extreme right-wing legislation with dubious supporting evidence. As we reported last month, South Dakota state Rep. Phil Jensen floated a measure banning Islamic Sharia law that would have also undone child custody protections, and another bill that could have provided an opening for the killing of abortion providers. Alabama state Sen. Gerald Allen borrowed his own anti-Sharia bill from Wikipedia, and when asked by a reporter what Sharia actually is, said, "I don't have my file in front of me." Texas state Rep. Leo Berman, who introduced both an anti-Sharia bill and a birther bill, recently explained that he got most of his political information on YouTube because "YouTubes are infallible."
Beavers did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Image 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.
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.
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.