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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Romney's Plan to Win Virginia: Lyme Disease

| Fri Sep. 28, 2012 10:53 AM EDT

On Thursday evening, Anahita Nemat, a conservative PR specialist living in Northern Virginia, tweeted out this photo, with the description: "Received my first mailer from @MittRomney & @PaulRyanVP today. It talks about Lyme Disease. Huh? I'm confused! Why?"

@AnahitaNemat/Twitter@AnahitaNemat/Twitter

We were confused too. But it turns out that Romney has, over the last few months, actually made Lyme disease—the bacterial disease transmitted to humans from deer ticks—part of his pitch to suburban Virginia voters. It started back in August, when he sent a public letter (paid for by the campaign) to Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) commending him for his push to create a "Tick-Borne Diseases Advisory Committee." "More needs to be done," Romney wrote. "As president, I will work to ensure that more attention is focused on this important issue ... We need to ensure that all scientific viewpoints concerning this illness can be heard."

 

 

Incidentally, the letter, which was sent out on August 4th, wasn't picked up by the press until this Thursday, when the Washington Examiner reported on it as part of a "bid for worried moms in the outer suburbs populated with whitetail deer and other wildlife."

As it turns out, Romney is actually injecting himself into an intense dispute within the medical community, pitting the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) against the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). IDSA believes there is "no convincing biological evidence" that Lyme is a chronic infection, while ILADS thinks there are flaws with the current testing system. Wolf and Smith have aligned themselves with ILADS, which is reflected in their bill and other public statements.

Here's the problem, though. That Lyme disease epidemic Romney is so concerned about? The spread of the disease is aided and abetted by climate change. Lyme Disease already costs the US $2.5 billion annually, is expected to double in geographic scope over the next 70 years. But Romney has said government should do nothing to stop man-made climate change—if it's even happening at all. "My view is that we don't know what's causing climate change on this planet," he said at a debate last October. "And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us."

I won't pretend that I know exactly what the Romney campaign is doing here, except to note that it's tough to micro-target any deeper than a mailer talking about ticks. An obscure subsection of Virginia law requires that I ask University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato about all such Old Dominion issues, but in an email, the campaign guru professed ignorance: "VA is home to some Lyme disease, but I would never have guessed that it was a presidential level issue!"

Perhaps the campaign has some data that shows that this kind of targeted mailing will drive up his favorables among, say, middle class, politically moderate moms who like to hike. Or maybe they're just trying to get under Obama's skin.

Update: The Weekly Standard's John McCormack has the full mailer.

Find an unusual political pamphlet in your mailbox? Give us a shout: tmurphy [at] motherjones [dot] com.

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Obama Campaign Unleashes Blistering New 47 Percent Ad

| Thu Sep. 27, 2012 11:48 AM EDT

If you're in Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, or Colorado, expect to see a whole lot of this:

The ad features Mitt Romney's now infamous riff on the 47 percent of Americans who he claimed viewed themselves as "victims" and leeched off the government while paying no income taxes—remarks Mother Jones first unearthed last week. On Monday, the Obama campaign debuted its first television ad responding to the video, but this twists the knife. It's the harshest kind of attack, relying not on a gravelly-voiced narrator, but on the opposing candidate's uninterrupted views. With polls showing a major backlash to Romney's 47-percent statement, the odds are pretty good this won't be the last time Team Obama goes to the tape.

Report: Americans Really Don't Like Mosques

| Thu Sep. 27, 2012 11:03 AM EDT

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has a great new interactive feature up today on the boom in mosque construction in the United States since 2000—and the corresponding boomlet in organized backlash to mosque construction. It's not just lower Manhattan—Pew found 53 different projects that faced resistance from their respective communities:

Courtesy of the Pew Research CenterCourtesy of the Pew Research Center

The full report is here.

Romney Gives a Shout-Out to Supporters Linked to Fraud Scheme

| Thu Sep. 27, 2012 6:00 AM EDT

Mitt Romney kicked off his appearance at last week's Univision Forum in Miami by thanking a few key supporters. First, he gave a nod to the state's former Republican governor, Jeb Bush. Then he turned to an elderly couple sitting near the front: "Remedios! Fausto! How are you?"

The GOP presidential candidate would be hard-pressed to find two more enthusiastic supporters in South Florida than Remedios Diaz-Oliver and her husband, Fausto, a Cuban-American power couple with GOP roots as deep as their pockets.

They also have a troubled history when it comes to the IRS and US Customs.

In 1999, then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush was forced to distance himself from Remedios Diaz-Oliver when the Associated Press reported that she had recently pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of accessory to customs fraud after the fact and one of knowingly providing a false document. Diaz-Oliver had raised at least $25,000 for the Bush campaign at a Miami fundraiser, which campaign spokeswoman Karen Hughes called "unfortunate," adding, "I could only speculate that if the (Miami) volunteers would have known, they would not have asked her to help in the host committee." The Diaz-Olivers and their business partners had been indicted on 18 counts relating to a tax evasion scheme, but Remedios' felony charges were dropped as part of the plea deal. Remedios was given three years' probation and forced to pay $92,012 to the US Customs Service. (The charges centered on a scheme to avoid paying import duties on imported food products by filing fraudulent invoices.) "I can go back to work and I don't have to spend one single day in any place," a relieved Diaz-Oliver told the Miami Herald at the time.

 

"In my 40 years in private business, I have never evaded my tax obligations," Diaz-Oliver wrote in an email to Mother Jones. "Moreover, I have never committed, nor plead, to any felony violations. To the contrary, I have always proudly paid all of my tax dues to this great country, which opened its doors to me. The record stands absolutely clear on that."

Fausto Diaz-Oliver, meanwhile pleaded guilty in 1999 as part of the same case, to felony charges of corporate tax evasion and customs fraud. He received a sentence of three years probation and 300 hours of community service.

Remedios Diaz-Oliver's ties to the Romney campaign go well beyond that one shout-out. In a January press release, the Romney campaign named Diaz-Oliver as a member of its National Hispanic Steering Committee, alongside prominent Republicans, including former Florida Sen. Mel Martinez. That month, the couple appeared at an event for the US-Cuba Democracy Political Action Committee, of which Diaz-Oliver is a member. In May, both Diaz-Olivers co-chaired a fundraiser for the Romney Victory Fund at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, where a $10,000 contribution or a $25,000 bundle of donations earned funders a photo with the candidate.

 

The Diaz-Olivers came to the US from Cuba together in 1961. In 1991, Remedios founded All American Containers Inc., a plastic and glass container manufacturer. Remedios has also given generously to Democratic politicians, including Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, who is Cuban American.

Supporters' tax woes have plagued both candidates during the campaign. In June, President Obama cited pop singer and prominent supporter Marc Anthony as an example of someone who should be required to pay more in taxes—an auspicious example, given that Anthony recently owed $3.4 million in federal taxes. But the issue is more pronounced for Romney given the controversy over his own returns.

This isn't the first time Romney has run into trouble with a South Florida supporter. In August, the Associated Press reported that the host of a Romney fundraiser in Miami had a prior felony conviction for cocaine trafficking, which under Florida law means he might not even be eligible to vote.

Correction: The headline originally referred to the Diaz-Olivers as donors. They have co-chaired a fundraiser but not donated to the campaign.

Joe Walsh, Flailing in the Polls, Sticks it to the 47 Percent

| Wed Sep. 26, 2012 6:00 AM EDT
Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.)

Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) probably could have picked a better time to come rushing to the defense of Mitt Romney. On Tuesday, a new survey from Public Policy Polling showed the first-term tea partier trailing Democratic challenger and Iraq war vet Tammy Duckworth by 14 points (52–38) in his Chicagoland district. Just 35 percent of voters said they approved of his job performance.

But Walsh, a bombthrower famous for overheated floor statements and dismissive critiques of his political rivals—he recently suggested that Duckworth, a double-amputee, was not a "hero" because she talks about her military service too much—doesn't appear to be toning things down. While other Republican candidates across the country are distancing themselves from Mitt Romney's suggestion that 47 percent of Americans are moochers, Walsh came to the GOP presidential candidate's defense at a campaign stop on Saturday in Roselle, Illinois:

He didn't say it as probably exquisitely as he should have said it...But what Mitt Romney meant to say was this: Here's why this is the most important election in our nation's history: Because we are at a very scary point right now where there are too many Americans dependent upon government right now. Or as a very wise woman told me in the last campaign, we have too many people in the wagon and not enough people pulling the wagon. And if we don't get this election right, the people pulling the wagon are going to put the wagon down and say, "You know what? I've had it, I'm tired." That's what this election is all about.

Here's the video, captured by the liberal super PAC CREDO:

Walsh's hardline on the 47 percent would make a bit more sense if Romney were at least polling well in the district. But Walsh has hitched his horse to the wrong wagon: Only 40 percent of voters in the 8th district say they'll vote for the former Massachusetts governor this fall.

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