Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy


Tim Murphy is a senior reporter in MoJo's DC bureau. 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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VIDEO: There's No "Reasonable" Solution for Climate Change, Says Leader of Climate-Change Subcommittee

| Tue Apr. 9, 2013 4:36 PM EDT

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.)

Why does Chris Stewart hate baby polar bears?

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McConnell Asks FBI to Investigate Secret Tape—Then Fundraises Off It

| Tue Apr. 9, 2013 1:14 PM EDT

Sen. Mitch McConnell's first response to Mother Jones' report on a closed-door campaign meeting about prospective challenger Ashley Judd: Call the FBI. His second response: Ask for money.

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 One Step Away From Banning Islamic Law (Again)

| Tue Apr. 9, 2013 11:56 AM EDT
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."

The Big GAO Report on Political Intel is Kind of Meh

| Fri Apr. 5, 2013 12:02 PM EDT
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?"

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