Mojo - July 2011

Obama Losing His Base? Here Are 552,000 Reasons Why That's Wrong

| Wed Jul. 13, 2011 10:24 AM EDT

President Obama's 2012 campaign and the Democratic National Committee together raised a staggering $86 million in April, May, and June of this year to re-elect the president. Broken down, more than $47 million of that was raised by the "Obama for America" committee, which surpasses the fundraising totals of the entire Republican field combined. (Note, though, that GOP presidential money-leader Mitt Romney's $18.6 million take in the second quarter didn't include Republican National Committee money, so it's not accurate to compare Obama and the DNC to GOPers, only because we don't know what the RNC has raised.) 

So, Obama can rake in the big bucks—no surprise there. The real story is the 552,000 donors who gave to the Obama 2012 effort, "more grassroots support at this point in the process than any campaign in political history," said campaign manager Jim Messina in a video message to supporters. Messina said that 98 percent of donations last quarter were under $250, and that the average donation was $69.

That haul throws a huge bucket of cold water on claims that Obama is losing his liberal/Democratic base. Pollster James Zogby wrote in September 2009 that Democrats were souring on Obama after the health-insurance-reform fight and for his policies on the war in Afghanistan. Liberal TV host Ed Schultz told former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs last year that "you're losing your base." If Obama's donor rolls are any indication, the left appears to be just as motivated in the 2012 race as they were in 2008.

Of course, reams of polling data have been reinforcing this for months. According to Gallup polling, Obama's approval rating among Democrats has held steady at around 80 percent, give or take a few percentage points, since September of last year. Among liberals, Obama's doing almost as well, with approval ratings hovering around 70 percent; it's currently 76 percent.

So all that talk of Democrats and liberals sloughing off Obama? Nothing to it. Today's fundraising numbers prove Obama's still hugely popular, and that whomever the GOP picks to run against him will face the major undertaking of matching the powerful Obama fundraising machine.

[UPDATE: Adam Green, who co-founded the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, e-mails to remind me that all the donations cited above came in before Obama suggested cuts to Social Security and Medicare, both hugely popular programs among Democrats, as part of a deficit reduction deal. "If President Obama continues down the path to a disastrous deal, he will lose millions in donations and millions of volunteer hours from people who once passionately supported him in 2008," Green writes.]

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Phony Democrats Vanquished in WI Recall Primary

| Wed Jul. 13, 2011 10:01 AM EDT

On Tuesday, Wisconsin voters hit the polls for the first round of voting in this summer's recall elections, targeting a slate of state senators who raised the public's ire during the labor union battle earlier this year. For the most part, the recalls center on six Republican senators who voted for Gov. Scott Walker's anti-union budget bill, and who now face the wrath of angry voters. But Tuesday's primary vote was noteworthy if only because it featured a number of Republicans posing as Democrats in order to knock off the serious Democratic challengers.

It was a dubious and much criticized strategy, and to the relief of Wisconsin Democrats, no phony Dems won. The real Democrats cruised through the primary, winning by wide margins in five of the six races and setting up competitive general recall elections on August 9. You could argue, however, that the dummy Dems succeeded in one area: their entrance in the recall races delayed the general elections by about a month, giving the targeted Republicans more time to fundraise and prepare for the recall.

Here's the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on the run-up to next month's recall vote:

Already the conservative Club for Growth and a liberal coalition called We Are Wisconsin, supported by contributions from national unions, are active in the state. The conservative Americans for Prosperity, which has been connected with the national tea party movement, is operating a phone bank in Kenosha County this week.

In addition to the outside money, both Democratic challengers and Republican incumbents have substantial campaign war chests of their own—with the most money likely to be spent in Darling's Milwaukee-area district. Darling and Pasch have raised nearly $1.4 million between them, with Darling collecting the lion's share, some $958,000.

There's also what politicians call a strong ground game in operation in many of the districts—plenty of people out knocking on doors.

Republicans aren't the only ones in the recall crosshairs. Three state senate Democrats have been targeted as well. The lawmakers faced voter blowback after they left the state in February during the fight over Walker's budget bill, depriving state senate GOPers of a quorum and temporarily blocking a vote on the bill.

That bill, of course, was ultimately passed by the GOP-controlled legislature and signed by the governor in March. Unions and local officials immediately filed suit, challenging its legality and the procedure used to pass the bill in the first place. Those challenges delayed the bill's implementation for a time, but failed in the end. The law—which curbs collective bargaining rights for public-sector unions and makes it more difficult to collect dues and retain union members—took effect last month.

Romney: Iowa Marriage Pledge is 'Undignified'

| Wed Jul. 13, 2011 9:24 AM EDT

Since being unveiled last Thursday, the Iowa Family Leader's "Marriage Vow" has caused a bit of controversy. The pledge, which the influential conservative group says is a prerequisite for an endorsement, included language—since removed—suggesting that black families were more stable during the days slavery than they are today. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum were quick to sign on, but the rest of the GOP contenders took a more cautious approach. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman issued a non-response, saying that he doesn't sign any pledges; former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said he's still studying it. After remaining mum on the issue, though, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has finally made up his mind:

Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for Romney, told The Associated Press in a written statement Tuesday that Romney "strongly supports traditional marriage," but that the oath "contained references and provisions that were undignified and inappropriate for a presidential campaign."

It's unclear which parts of the pledge Team Romney found so undignified and inappropriate but there a bunch of contenders: the aforementioned slavery bit, the comparison of gay marriage to polygamy, the proposed ban on pornography, and the rejection of Sharia-compliant Islam (which is, essentially, all Islam). Given Romney's previous support for the rights of gay couples, his embrace of abortion rights, and his recent defense of the patriotism and religious freedom of American Muslims, the pledge would have marked an abrupt shift in tone even for Romney. His explicit rejection of the document is yet another sign the front-runner is swearing off social conservative red-meat this time around, after playing to the base (and failing) in 2008.

At least in this case, it was a smart move. By staying mum on the pledge for a few days, Romney allowed Bachmann to seize the initiative and fall flat, he gave the Family Leader time to acknowledge that its pledge was actually a bit extreme in parts, and he made Tim Pawlenty—who is still reading the pledge, apparently, so don't distract him—look awkward and dithering.

Rep. Ted Poe's Bogus Jamie Leigh Jones Rescue Story

| Wed Jul. 13, 2011 5:30 AM EDT

Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) has been one of Congress' biggest supporters of Jamie Leigh Jones, the former KBR contractor who in 2007 alleged she'd been drugged and gang-raped by her co-workers, then imprisoned in a shipping container in retaliation for reporting the episode. Poe played a dramatic role in the harrowing story. Jones claimed that once she was able to call her father in Texas, he in turn called Poe, who then summoned the State Department to rescue her from KBR.

In December 2007, Poe's office issued a press release trumpeting the congressman's role. "Congressman Poe was instrumental in facilitating the return of Jamie after receiving a call from her father in July 2005. Congressman Poe contacted the State Department's Department of Overseas Citizen Services, which then dispatched agents from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to rescue Jamie."

Poe’s high-profile role helped turn Jones' story into a national scandal. But on Friday, the Houston jury hearing her civil case against KBR ruled that Jones was not, in fact, raped. Evidence and testimony presented during the trial highlighted many inconsistencies in Jones' story—but it has also inadvertently revealed a big hole in Poe's account. State Department records and phone logs show that Poe had nothing to do with rescuing Jones.

As it turns out, Poe couldn't have sent in the State Department to save Jones when he said he did. That’s because State Department staff were already there. After reporting her alleged rape and being taken to an Army hospital, Jones called her father in the middle of the night, somewhere around 2 a.m. Houston time, which means that it would have been impossible for him to contact Poe's office for at least several hours. According to trial records (PDF), Poe didn't call the State Department until July 29, 2005, a day after Jones had reported her alleged rape and long after the State Department had gotten involved. State Department staff informed Poe when he called that embassy and investigative staff were already on the scene assisting Jones.

But Poe, a conservative former prosecutor who is more often in the news for quoting the Klan on the House floor, referring to immigrants as grasshoppers, or questioning the president’s citizenship, got lots of kudos for his role in the Jones drama. And he has continued to take credit for calling in the cavalry to help Jones. As recently as April 2010, Poe was on the Hill talking about his part in her rescue, saying:

After being in Iraq just a few days, she said she was drugged and gang raped by fellow employees. She was held hostage in a cargo container for 24 hours without food or water. She was assaulted so badly that later she had to have reconstructive surgery.

She convinced one of the people guarding her to let her borrow a cell phone. She called her dad. Her dad called my office in Texas. With the help of the State Department, we helped immediately to rescue her, and she was quickly brought back to America.

The Congressional Victims Rights Caucus, which Poe co-chairs, gave Jones an award in 2008 for "her efforts in raising national awareness of the plight of Americans victimized abroad." And Poe often introduced Jones at her Hill appearances. Jones even gave her daughter the middle name Poetry in honor of the congressman. He appeared in ABC's original 20/20 expose in 2007 that put Jones' story on the map, and Poe makes a cameo with Jones in Hot Coffee, a new documentary on the civil justice system airing on HBO. (Full disclosure: I am also in the film.)

Since the verdict, however, Poe has been noticeably silent about the case. He did not respond to a request for comment.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 13, 2011

Wed Jul. 13, 2011 5:00 AM EDT

U.S. Army Col. Bruce P. Antonia, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, walks through a field during weapons clearing in Dubandi, Logar province, Afghanistan, June 8, 2011. (Photo by Pfc. Courtney Ropp)

Corn on "Hardball": Will Unemployment Rates Affect Obama's Re-election Chances?

Tue Jul. 12, 2011 7:58 PM EDT

David Corn and former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele joined Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball to discuss the latest jobs report and whether Obama can be re-elected with unemployment so high.

David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here. He's also on Twitter.

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Jon Huntsman: Romney is Lousy at Creating Jobs

| Tue Jul. 12, 2011 3:37 PM EDT

While touting his economic record as Utah Governor during a South Carolina campaign stop Monday night, Jon Huntsman took a passive-aggressive swipe at Mitt Romney's job creation credentials:

When you look at the absolute increases in job creation, Utah led the United States in job creation. That compared and contrasted with other states — say, Massachusetts, I'll just pull that out randomly — not first, but 47th.

Huntsman spokesman Tim Miller upped the ante Tuesday morning by stating Massachusetts's job growth under Romney was "abysmal by every standard," and that it edged past only Louisiana, Michigan, and Ohio:

You know your job creation record is bad when you brag about leapfrogging a state ravaged by Hurricane Katrina…We assume Mitt Romney will continue to run away from his record.

New Hampshire Joins Planned Parenthood Attacks

| Tue Jul. 12, 2011 12:36 PM EDT

It's getting hard to keep up with the attacks on reproductive health care around the US, so forgive us for being a little tardy on the news that New Hampshire has also cut support for Planned Parenthood, joining Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, and Texas in efforts to defund the organization.

The state's executive council—an elected five-person panel that advises the governor—decided to slash the $1.8 million in funding to Planned Parenthood at the end of June. Thanks to a rather unique government set-up, the panel gets to approve all grants over $10,000. This essentially means they get a say over the state's governor, which is currently Democrat John Lynch. The panel, which is currently made up of all Republican members, voted 3-2 to block funding to Planned Parenthood. Republicans also hold the majority in the state legislature, but a legislative effort to block funding to the group failed. So the council took it up. Their reasoning? It's a doozy:

"I am opposed to abortion," said Raymond Wieczorek, a council member who voted against the contract. "I am opposed to providing condoms to someone. If you want to have a party, have a party but don't ask me to pay for it."

Let’s start with the fact that the two halves of that quote don't even gibe. Because of preexisting federal law, no public funds are used for abortions; Planned Parenthood is only allowed to use federal funds for all the other services it provides. But the idea that Planned Parenthood otherwise exists only to provide condoms, or to that condoms only serve to let women "party," or that we should punish women who have sex in the first place is, well, wrong at best and offensive at worst.

Since 20 percent the budget for Planned Parenthood in New Hampshire comes from these funds, the group is already having to reduce its services. And by "services," I don't mean a party bus with a bucket of condoms by the keg. Last I checked, pap smears weren't all that fun. As the Huffington Post reports:

"We can't even provide patients with antibiotics for urinary tract infections or STDs anymore," said Jennifer Frizzell, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. She said Planned Parenthood has had to turn away 20 to 30 patients a day who are showing up to refill their prescriptions.
"We have to send them away with a prescription knowing that without insurance, they have to pay the full cost of that at a local pharmacy, and many patients have told us they're not gonna have the money in their budget to afford to fill those prescriptions."

Like every other effort to defund Planned Parenthood around the country, it's low-income women and those who lack health insurance who will suffer most from the cuts in New Hampshire.

Anonymous Hacks Military Megacontractor

| Tue Jul. 12, 2011 12:33 PM EDT
Anonymous members at a 2008 anti-Scientology rally in Los Angeles.

They called it Military Meltdown Monday, and it's certain to raise the temparature in national security circles. Anonymous, the hacktivist hive mind that's messed with Scientologists, the Westboro Baptists, and WikiLeaks' foes, set its sights on defense megacontractor Booz Allen Hamilton and came back with 90,000 military emails and passwords. "Thanks to the gross incompetence at Booz Allen Hamilton," the group boasted yesterday, "probably all military mersonnel [sic] of the U.S. will now have to change their passwords."

AntiSec, a hacker group allied with the Anons, announced the coup (and dumped the data) on the Swedish site The Pirate Bay with a helping of mirth: "We infiltrated a server on their network that basically had no security measures in place...and began plundering some booty. Most shiny is probably a list of roughly 90,000 military emails and password hashes...Happy cracking."

VIDEO: MoJo Presses Bachmann on Gay Therapy Stories

| Tue Jul. 12, 2011 12:17 PM EDT

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has been notoriously outspoken when it comes to her position on gays, contending that homosexuality is a "dysfunction," that it is a satanic evil to even use the word "gay" to describe homosexuals, and that gays and lesbians use public schools to recruit children to their sinful ranks. But when I caught up with Bachmann this afternoon on a Washington, DC, street and asked her about media reports by The Nation and ABC News' Nightline reporting that her family's counseling clinics practice controversial "reparative" therapy to turn gay people straight through the power of prayer, the Republican presidential candidate was uncharacteristically silent.

Statements from a former patient of Bachmann & Associates and undercover video made public by an LGBT activist who secretly filmed his therapy sessions both indicate that the clinic (which has received $130,000 in state and federal funding) does engage in reparative therapy—despite an unequivocal denial from Bachmann's husband, Marcus, in 2006. Reparative therapy, based on the premise that homosexuality is a deviant lifestyle caused by psychological troubles and sexual abuse, has been rejected by every major psychological and psychiatric association. Some studies have suggested it could have harmful effects on patients who undergo such treatment.

Bachmann, who touts her ownership of this small business in her stump speech, has not been keen on answering questions about what Bachmann & Associates actually does. The congresswoman declined to comment to The Nation; her presidential campaign, though, did issue a statement to ABC News: "Those matters are protected by patient-client confidentiality. The Bachmanns are in no position ethically, legally, or morally to discuss specific courses of treatment concerning the clinic's patients." Though it would breach a patient's privacy rights for the Bachmanns to discuss treatment provided to a specific person, they are certainly free to talk generally about their methods and services. Pressed by a local ABC affiliate at a Monday campaign stop in Iowa, Bachmann dodged the subject, saying, "We're very proud of our business, and we're proud of all job creators in the United States. That's what people really care about."

Today, I encountered Bachmann near MoJo's bureau in downtown DC. She was having lunch with an aide in a sandwich shop. After they departed the restaurant, I asked if she would respond to these recent reports. She said nothing—not a word—and would not even look in my direction. She kept walking at a brisk pace. I repeated the question a few times, as her aide tried to prevent me from getting too close to the congresswoman. The aide noted repeatedly that Bachmann was not taking questions. At no time did Bachmann break her stride. 

You can watch the exchange for yourself below. (Warning: My flip-cam skills need improvement.)