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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San Francisco's Liberal Tea Party

| Sat Oct. 30, 2010 5:47 PM EDT

Photo: Tim MurphyPhoto: Tim MurphyThe most dedicated progressive activist of the 2010 election cycle might be a 63-year-old hippie from Dayton named "Ganja Santa." Ganja (needless to say, a stage name), spent Saturday's Sanity Rally in San Francisco alternatively posing for pictures in a pot-green Santa suit, and riding around Civic Center Plaza on a beer cooler that's been retrofitted with handlebars and four wheels (a nifty contraption he calls "the cruiser cooler").

He moved to California earlier this year solely to help rally support for Proposition 19, the California ballot provision that would legalize Marijuana. "I was in Dayton, and I just thought, 'Man, if I'm sittin' here and Prop 19 fails, I'll never forgive myself," he said. On Wednesday, win or lose, Ganja Santa will pack up his belongings and return to Ohio.

It's the kind of commitment, if not necessarily the kind of outfit, Democratic campaigns wish they had more of in 2010. By now, you've probably read about yesterday's big Comedy Central rally on the Mall (or as MoJo's Suzy Khimm put it, "Ironypalooza"). Like any half-decent Tea Party-spinoff, though, the DC rally was only a part of the story; statellite viewing parties sprang up in dozens of cities, from the usual suspects (Seattle, Chicago) to the less so (Rapid City, South Dakota, home of the world's most sinister Richard Nixon statue).

In San Francisco, the crowd of about 700 that showed up to watch the main event on the big screen left as soon as it ended, opting not to stick around in the drizzle for the scheduled stand-up comedians, mime troupe, costume contest, and lecture on the virtues of "non-violent communication."

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Texas Republicans' Looming Immigration Civil War

| Fri Oct. 29, 2010 12:21 PM EDT

Some of you may remember Texas state senator/shock-jock Dan Patrick as the man who once proposed curtailing abortion by encouraging women to sell their babies giving $500 tax credits to women who choose adoption instead. Yesterday, Patrick announced the formation of the state senate's Tea Party Caucus, a sort of Lone Star State answer to the group Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann formed in July.

It's more or less what you'd expect: Caucus members are required to sign the "Pledge With Texans" (pdf), a Contract with America-style agreement that blends the impossible, the absurd, and the absurd once more: Balance the budget...while cutting taxes; selectively assert Texas' 10th Amendment rights; fight voter fraud by making it harder to vote. All well and good—up until the last plank: "I pledge to advance, support, and vote for legislation that lawfully protects Texas and Texans from the fiscal and social costs of illegal immigration."

That's really what this is about. Conservatives are going to win a lot of seats in a lot of different places this year by making promises—like repealing the Affordable Care Act and slashing the deficit—that they simply won't be able to make good on, either because it'd be extraordinarily unpopular, or because it's just bad for business. Immigration, as Texas Monthly's Nate Blakeslee explains quite well (subscription), is the fight Texas Republicans really don't want. Or rather, it's the fight the party's ultra-influential donors, like homebuilder and Swift Boater Bob Perry, really, really don't want. But Patrick and his frustrated allies are crashing toward a confrontation with his party's establishment. From Blakeslee:

[Top lobbyist] Bill Miller said the party's big moneymen were watching closely, however quiet they may seem. "If they see this thing getting any traction," he said, "they'll pick up the phone and they'll make it unmistakable where they're coming from on this issue, which is, Are you guys out of your mind?"

Inside Tennessee's Lucrative Anti-Jihad Industry

| Tue Oct. 26, 2010 7:00 AM EDT

In case you missed it, Bob Smietana at the Tennessean has a must-read investigation following the money behind the self-styled "Anti-Jihad" activists fueling the backlash against a planned mosque in Murfreesboro. Conclusion: It's kind of a racket:

Former Tennessee State University physics professor Bill French runs the Nashville-based, for-profit Center for the Study of Political Islam. He spoke recently to a group of opponents of the Murfreesboro mosque gathered at a house in Murfreesboro...

"This offends Allah," said French, pointing to the flag on the wall. "You offend Allah."

French, who has no formal education in religion, believes Islam is not a religion. Instead, he sees Islam and its doctrine and rules—known as Shariah law—as a totalitarian ideology.

"Center for the Study of Political Islam" sounds harmless, right? It gets worse, though. Last year, Steven Emerson, founder of the totally innocuous-sounding Investigative Project on Terrorism Foundation, funneled $3.4 million from IPTF (a tax-exempt non-profit) to a for-profit company he also founded, SAE Productions. The two organizations share the same address in Washington, DC, and in both cases, he's the only executive.

Miss Liberty America Founder: I'm Not a Tea Partier

| Mon Oct. 25, 2010 2:18 PM EDT

Last week I told you about "Miss Liberty America," the beauty pageant that, among other things, will evaluate contestants based on marksmanship (rifles and pistols only), CPR, fitness, and knowledge of the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. I referred to it, somewhat in jest, as "the first-ever Tea Party beauty pageant." This morning I received a message from Alicia Hayes-Roberts, sister of Tea Party presidential candidate Rutherford B. Hayes, and founder of the pageant. Her concern? Being tagged as a Tea Party operation might be bad for business.

"We don't want to be associated with that," Hayes-Roberts told me. "We're a corporation, we are a for-profit operation, and I can't have that."

For one thing, she explained, Miss Liberty America is hoping to promote diversity (the judging panel "will consist equally of African American, Caucasian, Hispanic, and Asian judges to more closely represent America"), and Hayes-Roberts is concerned that the Tea Party tag might complicate matters. For another, she just doesn't consider the event's core message to be anything out of the mainstream. "This fringe you've got fringe on the left, fringe on the right. I want to be associated with what the meat of America is."

"I'm trying to bring people together, not separate people. And there are some organizations that do nothing but segregate people."

So let me clarify: Miss Liberty America is not a Tea Party pageant; it's just a beauty pageant that awards a lifetime NRA membership to the winner, has a goal of "restoring Liberty to the United States" and promotes "personal responsibility," employs a North American Union-fearing presidential candidate as its Chief Financial Officer, and quizzes its contestants on the founding documents. For the record.

Rutherford B. Hayes Speaks!

| Fri Oct. 22, 2010 5:00 AM EDT

Earlier this week, I introduced you to Obama's unlikeliest 2012 challenger (well, other than the Naked Cowboy): Rutherford B. Hayes, a Navy veteran and high-school dropout who's the chief financial officer of Miss Liberty America, the first and only Tea Party beauty pageant. Yesterday, I spoke with Hayes about his campaign.

The first thing Rutherford Bert Hayes makes clear to me is that he is absolutely not related to the disgraced and undemocratically-elected nineteenth president, Rutherford Birchard Hayes. Nor is he even named for the man known to his contemporaries as "Rutherfraud." "It is a coincidence," he says. "Obviously, my dad is a Hayes. But my mother was not, obviously. And her grandpa was named Rutherford. And so it was just a coincidence, because she loved her grandfather, that she named me Rutherford. And then the last name just followed. The nineteenth president, his name was Birchard. And I'm glad I didn't get that. I had enough problems with the name Bert as a kid. You know like, 'Hey Bert, where's Ernie?'"

Hayes is not a Birchard; he is, however, something of a birther: "My birth certificate is Rutherford B. Hayes. That is my real name. And I do have a birth certificate." He explains later in our conversation, "I just kind of put that in there as a jab because [Obama's] had issues with his birth certificate. And the first thing he did when he was in office was seal his records. I mean, I don't kow all the aspects of this stuff, but there have been things that I've seen that definitely question it."

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