In March, Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) held his first hearing as chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Environment, which is responsible for, among other things, studying the impact of climate change on America's natural resources. The catch: Stewart is something of a climate skeptic who is "not as convinced as a lot of people are that man-made climate change is the threat they think it is."
At a town hall forum in his district last week, Stewart elaborated on those views when pressed by local environmental activists. Although his beliefs put him at odds with 97 percent of climate scientists, Stewart argued that his views on climate change put him squarely within the scientific mainstream. His evidence: If there really were a consensus, Congress would have have taken action to combat climate change years ago. Here's the video, via the pro-climate group Forecast the Facts:
Let me say that when I'm talking to you here right now, my position on climate change was very moderate and actually very mainstream. And that is this: If you think that the science on climate change is settled, you're simply overstating the facts. And let me give you an example of that. Two years ago, President Obama controlled the House and the Senate—the Senate by a 60-vote margin. They did not put forth a vote on human climate change. And do you know why? Why do you suppose they didn't? Because they recognized that science behind this...
There's one final thought that's really important in this, which is that even if you concede that climate change is real, even if you concede, there are no reasonable remedies that don't absolutely bankrupt the West.
Stewart's narrative is a bit off, actually. The House did pass major climate legislation in 2009, and the Senate came pretty close, but negotiations within the bipartisan coalition that was working on the bill broke down. The issue wasn't that the Senate rejected climate science—the legislation failed due to a variety of political pressures, including concerns from coal-state Democrats, and South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham's insistence that the body put immigration reform first. (Ryan Lizza has the best explanation of that episode here.)
On Tuesday morning, McConnell's campaign twitter account blasted out a link to a new splash page ("teammitch.com/wiretap") asking supporters to "stand with Senator McConnell" by signing up for his mailing list—and donating to his campaign. The campaign specifically charges the "liberal media," which in this case is apparently Mother Jones, with "illegal and underhanded tactics":
As we explained in the piece, Mother Jones was provided a copy of the tape. It was not involved in making the tape.
McConnell's move isn't unusual for a campaign dealing with a news story like this—which may have some benefits for a politician who has worked hard to ingratiate himself with the state's conservative activists. What better way for McConnell to show his mettle than by coming under attack from the left?
Oklahoma state Rep. Sally Kern (R) with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)
The Oklahoma legislature moved one step closer to protecting the state from the long hand of Islamic law on Monday, when the state Senate approved on a 40–3 vote a bill prohibiting the use of foreign or religious laws in state courts. If that sounds like something you've heard before, it's because you have—the bill is an attempt by conservative lawmakers to finish what they started in 2010, when voters in the Sooner State approved a constitutional amendment to prohibit Islamic Shariah law from being used in state courts. That amendment, which passed with 70 percent of the vote, was almost immediately blocked by a federal court and promptly ruled unconstitutional because it specifically targeted Islam. Citing a handful of child custody and divorce proceedings, anti-Shariah activists alleged that the American way of life could soon be under threat from radical Islam.
Creating a legislative bulwark against a global caliphate in Oklahoma—where less than 1 percent of the population is Muslim—is a bit like building a seawall in the desert, but one can never be too certain about these things, and so, in March, state Rep. Sally Kern (R) introduced a bill to make things right. HB 1060 differs from the constitutional amendment in that it doesn't single out Islam specifically; instead, it applies a blanket policy to all religious institutions and foreign laws, borrowing from a model that has been introduced in more than two dozen states and passed in six since 2009.
Here's the bill:
If you think Kern is overreacting, consider that she believes Islam isn't the biggest threat facing the nation—the real problem is homosexuality. "Not everybody's lifestyle is equal, just like not all religions are equal," she said in a 2008 speech. "Gays are an even bigger threat than terrorism or Islam, which I think is a big threat."
President Barack Obama signs the STOCK Act into law in April, 2012.
On Thursday, the Government Accountability Office released its much-anticipated report on political intelligence, a booming but mostly anonymous industry that harvests information on congressional and regulatory activities and passes it on to hedge funds. The industry has exploded over the last decade; in 2009, the most recent year for which an estimate is available, the industry was valued at $402 million. And the industry's growth shows no signs of letting up.
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) pushed hard to inset an amendment into the STOCK Act (which prohibited insider trading by members of Congress) mandating that people who collect and sell political intelligence, many of whom are former Hill aides themselves, formally register as operatives. That was defeated after an intense lobbying effort from hedge funds, who wanted to preserve their anonymity. Slaughter and Grassley had to settle for a GAO study:
The report is mostly about what we don't know about political intelligence. "The prevalence of the sale of political intelligence is not known and therefore difficult to quantify." "The extent to which investment decisions are based on a single piece of political intelligence would be extremely difficult to measure." "It is also difficult to determine the extent to which nonpublic government information is being sold as political intelligence." "[I]t is not always clear whether such information could be definitively categorized as material...and whether such information stemmed from public or nonpublic sources at the time of the information exchange." "Congress would need to address the lack of consensus on the meaning of the terms 'direct communication' and 'investment decision.'"
There are none of the bombshell statistics or anecdotes that the GAO is known for, and the report's one Capitol Hill case study, in which Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) leaked the contents of a speech that would influence stocks of asbestos manufacturers, produced no evidence of actual wrongdoing. The STOCK Act sat dormant for five years until a 60 Minutes report compelled Congress to act. Reformers, aware of the adage that nothing ever gets fixed in Washington without a scandal, have been waiting for a similar catalyst for political intelligence.
If you're an open-government advocate, the most disconcerting thing about political intel may just be how normal it's become. Consider this: While deflecting arguments that its operatives should register, political intel professional also told the GAO auditors that any regulation of their colleagues should apply to that other brand of Capitol Hill gossip-hound—reporters. Per the report: "Other interviewees questioned the need for a media exemption. For example, three political intelligence firms, and one attorney from a law firm said that there should not be an exemption for media organizations because they engage in the same activists as political intelligence firms, and ask the same type of questions about the same issues that their subscribers and clients are interested in."
That sounds cynical—and it is—but it's also a reflection of the extent to which Washington media companies are increasing tailoring their services toward an elite clientele. A 2008 internal memo from Politico famously asked its reporters to ask themselves regularly, "Might an investor buy or sell a stock based on this story?"
In early February 2013, a US Patent and Trademark Office court in Washington, DC, confirmed what baseball fans had suspected for more than a century: The New York Yankees are evil. After an internet startup, Evil Empire Inc., had attempted to trademark the phrase "Baseball's Evil Empire," the Yankees filed an injunction, and the panel of judges agreed. As the court put it, "The record shows that there is only one Evil Empire in baseball and it is the New York Yankees." If only it were true. The ranks of Major League Baseball owners include some of the richest men—and they are almost exclusively white males—in the country, as likely to open their wallets for a super-PAC as they are a top-shelf free agent. Viewed in the context of the competition, with its anti-discrimination settlements and SEC investigations, the Yankees are, like their Opening Day roster, fairly pedestrian.
So where does your team's ownership rank? We took a stab at it, analyzing each franchise by its level of political activity (based on campaign donations and office-seeking) and relative degree of evil—trademarked or not. Read below the matrix for the full breakdown.
Baltimore Orioles: Peter Angelos made his big break in 1992, when his law firm scored $100 million from a class-action lawsuit against asbestos manufacturers. Henceforth, he made bank by (mostly) sticking up for the little guy—taking on more asbestos companies, the lead paint industry, and a diet pill manufacturer. But he also uses his money and influence to get what he wants. Angelos agreed to take the lead in a massive suit by the states against tobacco giant Philip Morris only after demanding 25 percent of the winnings—far greater than any other attorney received. (He eventually settled for half that.) Angelos and his wife gave $1.8 million to Democratic candidates and PACs last fall.
Boston Red Sox: John Henry, the team's majority owner, purchased the franchise in 2002 with the earnings from his commodities futures trading company. Hedge funds, of course, have produced some of the worst excesses in an industry notorious for them, while arguably producing little of merit for society. But there are probably worse ways to make your money than what Slate’s Matt Yglesias calls "a scam where one class of rich people rips off another class of rich people." When minority partner Phillip Morse (who founded a medical device company) chartered his private jet to the CIA, he never expected that it might end up being used for something nefarious—like the rendition of terror suspects to countries with less humane methods of interrogation. ''I was glad to have the business, actually," he told the Boston Globe. "I hope it was all for a real good purpose." But Morse wanted to make one thing clear in his interview with the Globe: "When it's chartered, it never has the logo of the Red Sox on it." Henry gave almost $1 million to Democrats between 1992 and 2004, but nothing in 2012.
Chicago White Sox: Jerry Reinsdorf made his fortune as a real estate developer who specialized in building tax shelters. One of the league's most anti-union owners, he was accused of colluding with fellow owners to drive down player salaries in the 1980s. He gives millions to charter schools, but takes even more out of the city's coffers thanks to a sweetheart deal that allows him to pay just 25 percent of the standard property tax rate for the United Center (home of the NBA's Chicago Bulls, which he also owns). Reinsdorf also threatened to move the White Sox unless the city and state agreed to build it a new $125 million stadium on the South Side. In March, he teamed up with a former Secret Service director, a top aide to Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano, and a private prison lobbyist to launch SRB2K LLC, billed as a "global security firm." (We're guessing they'll come up with a better name.) Whatever happens, though, he's probably better than Charles Comiskey.
Cleveland Indians: The worst thing about lawyer Larry Dolan is actually his nephew, James, the widely derided owner of the New York Knicks. One thing Larry hasn't done: change that awful logo.
Detroit Tigers: Little Caesar's founder Mike Ilitch can't compete with the team's former pizza-mogul owner, Domino's founder Tom Monaghan, who built his own quasi-theocratic township in South Florida. Ilitch and his wife, Marian, gave $184,000 to federal candidates in 2012, mostly to Republicans.
An official labor report alleged that Astros owner Jim Crane told subordinates, "Once you hire blacks, you can never fire them."
Houston Astros: Jim Crane's company, Eagle Global Logistics, was forced to pay the federal government more than $4.3 million to settle charges of war profiteering related to contracts in Iraq. In 2001, Eagle paid a $9 million settlement after an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigation found rampant racial and gender discrimination at the company. (Among other things, the agency's report included an allegation that Crane had told subordinates, "Once you hire blacks, you can never fire them.") Crane gave $45,800 to political causes in 2012, most of it to the Obama Victory Fund—which may explain why he went golfing with the prez and Tiger Woods in February.
Kansas City Royals: In 1992, when he was still president and CEO of Walmart, David Glass was confronted by NBC's Dateline with evidence of child labor at a T-shirt factory in Bangladesh. His response: "You and I might, perhaps, define children differently." As Glass explained, looks can be deceiving—Asians are short. Then he ended the interview. Meanwhile, as the Royals' owner he's pocketed profits without making any discernible investment in the on-field product. He also once revoked press credentials of reporters who asked critical questions.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: They say your first billion is always the hardest. Arte Moreno made his hawking roadside billboards. Staunch Republicans, the Morenos gave $100,000 to the Romney Victory Fund in 2012. Moreno's worst move as an owner was his insistence on giving his team its clunky new, multi-city moniker. But in his defense, nothing says "don't be evil" like lowering the price of beer.
Minnesota Twins: Jim Pohlad, a Minneapolis banker, hasn't had much time to prove himself after inheriting the franchise from his late father, Carl—who was infamous for volunteering to kill off the team in exchange for $150 million from Major League Baseball. That is, until Hennepin County ponied up $350 million for a new stadium. In 2012, the Pohlad clan doled out $644,000 to political causes and candidates, almost all of it to Democrats.
New York Yankees: The Steinbrenner brothers' father, shipping magnate George, was banned from baseball twice—once for paying a gambler to spy on his own player, and once for attempting to cover up illegal donations to Richard Nixon's 1972 reelection campaign. Current Yanks owners Hal and Hank haven't given anything to candidates. They did, however, manage to trademark the expression "Evil Empire."
The Bronx Bombers pay their respects to the Sith Lord.
Oakland Athletics: Lewis Wolff, a real estate magnate and hotel developer, bought the A's in 2005 and has talked openly about moving the team more or less ever since. But his biggest crime may have been shutting down the upper deck of the mostly-empty O.co Coliseum, which had become a refuge for fans wishing to smoke pot during the middle innings. He gave just $2,500 to federal candidates in the 2012 cycle; now politicians know how the A's fans feel.
Seattle Mariners: Hiroshi Yamauchi is the former president and chairman of Nintendo, and the man responsible for introducing the world to Pokémon—even though he can't stand video games. Or even baseball: He has been the owner of the Mariners for the last two decades, but has never once been to a game. It's time to seriously consider the idea that Yamauchi, whom profiles describe without fail as "autocratic," is actually just a bot. His fellow owners are a bit more active, though. You may know minority owner Wayne Perry as the president of the Boy Scouts of America, which is still weighing whether it should keep discriminating against gay children. Last year, Perry and co-owner Robert Glaser gave six figures to Republican and Democratic super-PACs, respectively.
Tampa Bay Rays: Goldman Sachs alum Stuart Sternberg took controlling interest of the club in 2005. He had left Goldman in 2002, two years after it had acquired his firm, Spear, Leeds & Kellogg—and six years before Goldman helped bring down the global economy. SLK was no angel either. Prior to its acquisition by Goldman, it had been fined $1 million by the National Association of Securities Dealers for delaying paperwork in order "to secure a competitive advantage, protect its interests and maximize its profits or minimize its losses." But by the standards of 21st-century Wall Street, the Rays' Goldman-stocked front office—ably chronicled in Jonah Keri's The Extra 2%—looks more George Bailey than Bernie Madoff. Sternberg's only political gift in 2012, a grand total of $1,000, went to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
Texas Rangers: Compared with one of its previous owners, George W. Bush, who went on to invade two countries and enter the United States into an intractable War on Terror, the Rangers' current front office is downright tame. Principal owner Ray Davis made his billion on gas pipelines; in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita his company, Energy Transfer, paid the federal government $10 million to settle an allegation of price manipulation (the company did not admit to any wrongdoing). Bob Simpson, Davis' co-chair, sold his fracking giant XTO to Exxon Mobil for $41 billion. Former hurler Nolan Ryan, who also has a stake in the team, was instrumental in getting Ron Paul elected to the House in 1996.
Toronto Blue Jays: The Jays are one of only two Major League teams owned entirely by corporations. In this case, it's the Canadian telecom giant Rogers Communications, which is prohibited by law from contributing to American political campaigns. We don't really have anything to add to that.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Ken Kendrick made headlines back in April 2010 when he announced that he had purchased one of the rarest and most expensive baseball cards ever produced—a 1909 Honus Wagner—for $2.8 million. Soon thereafter, he was back in the news: Arizona legislators passed the state's draconian anti-immigration law, SB 1070, and activists were calling for boycotts of the Diamondbacks and the 2011 All-Star Game at Chase Field. Why? While Kendrick claimed to oppose the bill, the Republican donor also reportedly held a private fundraiser for an SB 1070 proponent, state Sen. Jonathan Paton, in his private box at Chase Field.
Liberty Media chair John Malone, according to Wired, was "widely considered the Darth Vader of the infobahn."
Atlanta Braves: Liberty Media started as a spin-off of cable giant Tele-Communications Inc. (TCI). Its chairman, John Malone, currently owns more land than any other American—2.1 million acres. (Interestingly enough, America's No. 2 landowner is none other than former Braves owner Ted Turner.) Malone, according to a 1994 Wired profile, was "widely considered the Darth Vader of the infobahn" because of his insatiable push to conquer the industry. His Wall Street nickname is marginally more favorable: "swamp alligator."
Chicago Cubs: Remember the plan hatched last year by Cubs family patriarch Joe Ricketts to defeat the "metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln" (a.k.a. Barack Obama)? 'Nuff said. The Ricketts family, which owns the team through a trust, spent almost $14 million on elections last year. Most of it went to Republicans, but daughter Laura, an Obama bundler, gave more than $575,000 to Democrats. (She also launched a super-PAC to support LGBT candidates.) Pete Ricketts, one of Joe's three sons, is a Republican National Committeeman from Nebraska and former US Senate candidate; he may run again next year.
Cincinnati Reds: Robert Castellini took over his family's business and turned it into one of the nation's largest fruit, vegetable, and flower distributors. Profiles of the septuagenarian invariably mention how, when he was starting out, his workdays would start at the crack of dawn (hard work!) and how he promised Reds fans a World Series when he bought the team in 2006 (passionate and driven!). In 2011 and 2012, he gave more than $100,000 to Republican candidates and committees, including $30,800 to the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Colorado Rockies: From the family that brought you factory farms and coked-up cattle! Charlie and Dick Monfort helped run the eponymous Big Ag empire until 1987. That's when family patriarch Kenneth Monfort sold out to ConAgra, and the Monfort boys became ConAgra execs. Kenneth made his fortune by busting the union that served his workforce and replacing union workers with immigrant laborers—many of them undocumented. (At one point, the company's annual employee turnover rate hit 400 percent.) Also represented in the Rockies' ownership group is former GOP senate candidate Pete Coors, purveyor of super cold beer and brother to Joe Coors Jr., who once predicted that Armageddon would arrive in 2000. Here's Pete explaining how poor people caused the financial crisis:
Los Angeles Dodgers: Lead owner Mark Walter's financial house, Guggenheim Partners, is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission over his ties to former junk bond trader Michael Milken. Walter and co-owner Magic Johnson (yes, him) teamed up to give six figures to the Obama Victory Fund. The families of Dallas investor Bobby Patton ($93,800) and Todd Boehly ($169,000) gave big to both Democrats and Republicans. The most offensive thing about this ownership group was probably The Magic Hour.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, a major foe of the Marlins Park fiasco, called it "the gift that keeps giving."
Miami Marlins: Jeffrey Loria, the millionaire art dealer and Charlie Brown-as-philosophy author, is widely considered the worst baseball owner of his generation. The Marlins' boom-and-bust cycles were already diminishing the team's shaky South Florida fanbase when along came the Miró-inspired Marlins Park. Built last year with $474 million in public financing, the deal, which will end up costing Miami-Dade County $1.1 billion, has made Loria the second least popular person in South Florida (behind Fidel Castro), according to one 2012 poll. Carlos Gimenez, who parlayed his opposition to the stadium deal into a successful run for Miami-Dade mayor, described Marlins Park to Sports Illustrated's S.L. Price as "the gift that keeps on giving."
Milwaukee Brewers: By all accounts, Mark Attanasio is a laid-back, baseball-savvy guy who also happens to run an investment company that manages some $11 billion in assets. Former commissioner (and former Brewers owner) Bud Selig had this to say about him in the New York Times: "Mark is quiet, thoughtful—he has a personality that really fits Milwaukee, even though he's not from here. He has the same passion I have for the game, and he lives and dies with each pitch, which I can understand completely." But Selig is terrible, so never mind. Attanasio didn't give to any candidates in 2012, but his co-owners chipped in about $1 million.
New York Mets: Sterling Equities cofounder Fred Wilpon famously was a major mark for Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme: At one time, according to The New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin, Madoff had 480 accounts from Sterling employees or clients. By the time the scam fell apart in December 2008, Wilpon and his partners had invested some $550 million. On top of that, the Mets' stadium sold its naming rights to Citigroup in 2006 for $400 million, a few years before the bank had received $45 billion in TARP money. As if all that weren't enough, an Amway meeting space/recruiting center recently moved into Citi Field.
"I just believe the organization needs an image that's not directly tied to wins and losses," said Phillies owner David Montgomery.
Philadelphia Phillies: David Montgomery worked his way up through the ranks in the Phillies organization, even working as the team's scoreboard operator in the early '70s. But his long tenure hasn't exactly made the mild-mannered "Gentleman Dave" a fan favorite, probably because he's said things like this: "I just believe the organization needs an image that's not directly tied to wins and losses." The ownership group's $200,000-plus in 2012 contributions came mostly from pipe-tobacco magnates John and Leigh Middleton.
Pittsburgh Pirates: The Nutting family has had an ownership stake in the Pirates since the mid-'90s, and a majority share since 2007. During that time, the team hasn't had a single winning season. Robert Nutting apparently has been content to collect handsome profits without reinvesting in better personnel—although the Pirates did manage to secure $228 million in public funding for PNC Park. Nutting's contribution to the general collapse of society has been negligible, however. He runs a four-star resort in Pennsylvania* and a chain of small newspapers.
San Francisco Giants: Charles B. Johnson, a mutual-funds baron and the 211th-richest person in the world according to Forbes, spent some $200,000 to try to defeat California's Proposition 30, the sales and income tax increase that included elements of the state's millionaire's tax initiative. (Prop. 30 passed in November.) Other political expenditures: $50,000 for Prop. 32, which would have kept unions and corporations from using automatic payroll deductions to bankroll political activity, and $200,000 for Karl Rove's American Crossroads.
St. Louis Cardinals: In the early 1990s, William DeWitt Jr. helped put together an ownership group—including George W. Bush—that would go on to buy the Texas Rangers. Years later, he would buy the Cardinals from Anheuser-Busch and raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to help elect (and reelect) his former partner.
Washington Nationals: "Nobody tells Ted Lerner what to do," former business magazine publisher Bill Regardie told the Washington Post. "Ted Lerner is not used to being told what to do. In the last 30 years, no one has told this man to do anything." One of the things Nationals' owner Lerner hasn't done, whether told to or not, was to pay for a doctor or certified athletic trainer at the team's Dominican academy, even after teen prospect Yewri Guillén died of a brain infection in 2011.
Correction: This piece originally placed Robert Nutting's luxury resort in West Virginia. It also mistakenly used "copyright" instead of "trademark." The story has been updated.