Mojo - July 2011

Rove's Dark Money Group Targets 5 Senate Dems

| Mon Jul. 11, 2011 11:25 AM EDT

Crossroads GPS, the shadowy outside spending group connected to Karl Rove, has rolled out the latest installment of its multi-million dollar ad blitz, unveiling a television campaign attacking five Democratic senators.

The group, which announced a $20 million ad campaign focused on spending and the national debt last month, spent $5 million on the first phase of the campaign last month; now it's dropping $7 million on ads targeting Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Bill Nelson of Florida, and Jon Tester of Montana (via The Ticket).

The ads attack the lawmakers for voting for "sky-rocking debt, the failed stimulus, and Obamacare." Here's the ad that's running in Florida:

The group is also running national ads in 11 states that feature a woman tossing and turning in bed at 3:01 a.m. She states that that while she supported Obama in 2008 because "he spoke so beautifully," she's now worried about her parents, children, and the national debt. Here's the ad:

And just think—there's still nearly 16 months until the election!

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Mitt Romney, the Job Creator? Not So Fast

| Mon Jul. 11, 2011 8:18 AM EDT

When he's not repeatedly—and incorrectly—blaming President Obama for making the economic recession "worse" and "last longer," GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney is trumpeting his own job-creating bona fides. He explains that the jobless rate in Massachusetts, where he served as governor from 2003 to 2007, declined by nearly one percent during his time in office, from 5.6 to 4.7 percent. "The governor before me lost jobs; the governor after me has lost jobs; we actually created jobs," he said recently.

But as the Los Angeles Times reports today, Romney's job-creation record is not at all as he portrays it. In fact, when Romney ran Massachusetts, the Bay State's job creation rate ranked dead last in the nation. And the percentage increase in jobs under Romney earned Massachusetts the ranking of 47th in the nation. Only Michigan, Ohio, and Louisiana were worse, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Even the dip in Massachusetts' unemployment rate turns out to not reflect Romney's deft economic leadership but rather an exodus of workers out of the state during his tenure—222,000 of them in a four-year period ending in July 2006, according to researchers at Northeastern University.

Granted, Romney did inherit a troubled state economy from his predecessor, and he did manage to close a $2-billion budget deficit his first year in the governor's mansion. So what happened with jobs? Massachusetts politicos blame Romney's eye for national politics on his muddled jobs record, the Times notes:

"Romney's record of economic stewardship fell short of expectations," said Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a business-backed group that provides research on fiscal and economic matters. In remarks echoed by others, Widmer said Romney fell particularly short in his promise to recruit employers to the state.

The top finance advisor to two prior Republican governors said Romney was distracted by political ambition in the final years of his term.

"The real tragedy of Romney's governorship is that he did not utilize his full capacity as governor," said Stephen P. Crosby, who served in the Cabinet of two previous Republican governors and advised the transition of Romney's Democratic successor. Crosby, dean of the University of Massachusetts' McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, praised Romney's leadership and business acumen but said he never delivered on promises to lure jobs to the state.

"He took his eye off the ball," Crosby said.

Conservative Group Removes Slavery Line from "Marriage Vow" Pledge

| Mon Jul. 11, 2011 5:30 AM EDT

After public outcry about a line in their "Marriage Vow" pledge that made controversial claims about African American children perhaps being better off during slavery, the Family Leader apparently decided to drop that line over the weekend.

The conservative group's vow, which Republican presidential candidates Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum signed shortly after it was released last Thursday, called on candidates to reject gay marriage, pornography, and Sharia law. But perhaps the most controversial line in the pledge was one claiming that "a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA's first African-American President." After the line drew criticism on Friday, the group decided to drop it from the pledge. Via Politico, here's the group's explanation:

"After careful deliberation and wise insight and input from valued colleagues we deeply respect, we agree that the statement referencing children born into slavery can be misconstrued, and such misconstruction can detract from the core message of the Marriage Vow: that ALL of us must work to strengthen and support families and marriages between one woman and one man," the group's officials said in a statement. "We sincerely apologize for any negative feelings this has caused, and have removed the language from the vow."

The new version is now posted here, but we've saved a PDF of the old version for posterity. Bachmann and Santorum are the only GOP 2012 candidates to sign the pledge—and both did so with the controversial line included.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for July 11, 2011

Mon Jul. 11, 2011 5:00 AM EDT

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Derrik Browne and Sgt. Jason Andrade from 1st Cavalry Division, provide security June 27 during a visit by Army officials to Bala Hesar, a fortress in Gardez, Afghanistan. Photo by U.S. Army Spc. Adam L. Mathis, 17th Public Affairs Detachment

Report: Bachmann Clinic Performs Ex-Gay Therapy

| Fri Jul. 8, 2011 8:05 PM EDT

I wrote on Wednesday about one potential spoiler in Rep. Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign: her husband, Marcus. Marcus is a non-certified Christian therapist who operates a clinic called Bachmann & Associates, which has been accused of practicing "reparative" therapy to supposedly turn gay people straight. It's a practice that's been rejected by every major psychologial and psychiatric organization, but given Marcus Bachmann's assertions that gays need to be "educated" like "barbarians," that doesn't seem like a deal-breaker. Marcus has previously denied that the clinic is involved in "reparative" therapy while conceding that his clinic would, hypothetically, be open to that kind of thing, but only if a patient specifically asked to be cured.

Now, writing at The Nation, Mariah Blake offers an account that seems to refute Bachmann's previous denials and shed new light on the family's ties to the "ex-gay" movement:

In the summer of 2004, Andrew Ramirez, who was just about to enter his senior year of high school, worked up the nerve to tell his family he was gay. His mother took the news in stride, but his stepfather, a conservative Christian, was outraged. "He said it was wrong, an abomination, that it was something he would not tolerate in his house," Ramirez recalls. A few weeks later, his parents marched him into the office of Bachmann & Associates, a Christian counseling center in Lake Elmo, Minnesota, which is owned by Michele Bachmann’s husband, Marcus. From the outset, Ramirez says, his therapist—one of roughly twenty employed at the Lake Elmo clinic—made it clear that renouncing his sexual orientation was the only moral choice. "He basically said being gay was not an acceptable lifestyle in God’s eyes," Ramirez recalls. According to Ramirez, his therapist then set about trying to "cure" him. Among other things, he urged Ramirez to pray and read the Bible, particularly verses that cast homosexuality as an abomination, and referred him to a local church for people who had given up the "gay lifestyle." He even offered to set Ramirez up with an ex-lesbian mentor.

The gay rights group Truth Wins Out, meanwhile, just released the results of their own hidden-camera investigation into Bachmann & Associates. That report is cited in Blake's piece, and tells a similar story—the Truth Wins Out operative, John M. Becker, asked the clinic to cure his homosexuality and then described in detail the ensuing therapy sessions.

It's worth noting that this isn't just a story about a campaign spouse. When Michele Bachmann brags about starting a family business on the campaign trail, this is the business she's talking about; it's very much her clinic too—she lists it as an asset on her financial disclosure forms. Marcus, meanwhile, has said that he is his wife's top political "strategist." So what does this all mean? For one thing, it suggests that Marcus Bachmann lied about his clinic's activities. It's possible, I suppose, that he really didn't know what was going on at the clinic, but if that was the case, it seems odd that, as Blake notes, he'd hawk the memoir of a noted "ex-gay" activist at the clinic.

It also raises some serious questions. Reparative therapy isn't covered under most insurance plans. How did Bachmann & Associates describe the treatment when they billed insurance companies? Or did patients just pay out of pocket? And what does this mean for Bachmann and Associates' government funding? As the Minnesota Independent's Andy Birkey has noted, Bachmann & Associates has received $30,000 in state funds.

In Defense of Michele Bachmann

| Fri Jul. 8, 2011 5:46 PM EDT

Among all the reactions to June's abysmal job numbers, Rep. Michele Bachmann delivered what some saw as the most callous.

During a morning interview on CNBC, host Carl Quintanilla asked the congresswoman, "Does it strike you that as the unemployment rate goes up your chances of winning office also go up?" Bachmann started her reply by stumbling on the words, "Well, that could be. Again, I hope so."

Some in the lefty blogosphere seized upon this, taking those eight words to mean that Bachmann cynically hoped for an economic breakdown that would increase her odds of winning the White House in 2012.

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This Week in National Insecurity: Big Gay Edition

| Fri Jul. 8, 2011 2:30 PM EDT

Need a recharge, America? Take a break from Nancy Grace and Casey Anthony to consider the week that was in military madness. In this installment: Obama makes a big pro-gay military appointment, a soldier makes bad decisions with an inflatable girl, Al Qaeda is in stitches—literally—and Republicans want more money for Sousaphones.

The sitrep:

  • President Obama has appointed an openly gay West Point alumna to the military academy's board of visitors. Brenda Sue Fulton graduated with the first class to admit women and served honorably as an Army signal officer. She also cofounded Knights Out, an LGBT alumni group, and she's lent her support to gay and lesbian cadets. "West Point could implement repeal just fine without me," she told the New York Times. "But if my appointment helps West Point send the message to young men and women that—whether you are male or female, straight or gay—if you are qualified to serve, you are welcome; if it does that, then I'll be happy." (Army Times/NYT)
  • An Army officer named Justin Dale Little Jim is facing burglary and destruction of property charges after he was found in the closet of a Manassas, Virginia, adult video store at 2:45 a.m., "attempting to have sexual relations with" a blowup doll. Authorities say they sent a police dog into the store, who led his handlers to Little Jim. Good…dog? (Army Times)

State Budgets: Murder by Loophole

| Fri Jul. 8, 2011 1:05 PM EDT

As President Obama and the Republican leadership continue trying to hash out a deal on raising the debt ceiling in exchange for slashing spending and closing corporate tax loopholes, the House judiciary committee is wasting no time quietly creating new tax giveaways, which could potentially leave localities scrambling for ways to pay for education and health services.

Sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the Business Activity Tax Simplification Act, or BATSA, would prevent states from taxing a sizable chunk of the profits of corporations that do business within their borders, but are based out-of-state. BATSA, which the committee marked up on Thursday, would also allow corporations to "wall off" some of their profits in subsidiaries that are located in states that don't exact an income tax.

Some context: local laws in the 44 states with a corporate income tax determine the types of activities that require a business to pay taxes. But federal law can trump state laws on tax matters, meaning that the federal government effectively enjoys veto power over state and local revenue-generating measures.

In essence, BATSA allows federal lawmakers to create corporate tax shelters that gut state and local finances. And since there's no federal revenue lost in the process, it's no skin off their backs.

In healthy economic times, such a law would be decidedly imprudent, as it could potentially force states and localities to choose between paying for health care services and keeping schools open. But during perilous economic times like these, it would be downright catastrophic, especially given the massive budget cuts many states are facing in 2012

In a report written when the bill was first introduced in April, CBPP found that BATSA granted corporations overly broad exemptions on their tax bills, and created a number of "safe harbors" from taxation. In real terms, who would be affected, and how?

  • A television network would not be taxable in a state even if it had affiliate stations and local cable systems there relaying its programming and regularly sent employees into the state to cover sporting events and to solicit advertising purchases from in-state corporations.
  • A bank would not be taxable within a state even if it hired independent contractors there to process mortgage loan applications and the loans were secured for homes located within the state.
  • A restaurant franchisor like Pizza Hut or Dunkin’ Donuts would not be taxable in a state no matter how many franchisees it had in the state and no matter how often its employees entered the state to solicit sales of supplies to the franchisees or to train the franchisees in company procedures.

Much to the delight of anti-tax, pro-loophole crusaders like Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), the bill is lurching forward. After the bill's markup on Thursday, ATR rejoiced, praising the bill for rescuing businesses from taking on their fair share of the tax burden.

Meanwhile, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that an older, less restrictive version of BATSA would have cost states and local governments $3 billion in revenue annually within five years of its enactment. Which means that if this bill—which enjoys broad bipartisan support in the House—continues moving forward, states will be left to foot the bill at a time when they can least afford it. 

Democrats—Yes, Democrats!—Squeeze Koch Industries for Cash (UPDATED)

| Fri Jul. 8, 2011 12:16 PM EDT

[UPDATE: The DSCC's call to Koch Industries turned out to be a "staff error." Read the committee's full response at the end of this post.]

Can a political money story get any weirder than this?

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who leads the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, recently called an official at Koch Industries, the industrial conglomerate owned by the infamous Koch brothers, to hit up the company for campaign donations. The DSCC exists to help elect Democratic candidates to the Senate, and it faces a pitched fight in 2012 to retain Democrats' slim majority there.

You can listen Murray's message, which sounds to me like a pre-recorded robo-call, here. Even if it is, the message suggests that Koch Industries' political action committee has in fact donated to the DSCC in the past, despite the strongly libertarian and Republican leanings of the Koch brothers themselves.

Here's what Murray said:

Hi, this is US Senator Patty Murray calling. I'm sorry I missed you today. I wanted to catch up with you.

As you know I chair the DSCC. You have been a past supporter of ours through your PAC and I wanted to catch up with you to see if you'd be willing to renew your membership. We've got a great retreat coming up this fall in Kiawah Island in South Carolina. We'd love to have you join us.

So I was hoping you could call me back, 202-[REDACTED]. Thank you.

In a blog post on the company's "KochFacts" site, Philip Ellender, who runs Koch Industries' lobbying and PR operations, responded with a spicy open letter to Murray's message:

Senator Patty Murray, Chair
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee

Dear Senator Murray:

For many months now, your colleagues in the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee leadership have engaged in a series of disparagements and ad hominem attacks about us, apparently as part of a concerted political and fundraising strategy. Just recently, Senator Reid wrote in a DSCC fundraising letter that Republicans are trying to "force through their extreme agenda faster than you can say 'Koch Brothers.'"

So you can imagine my chagrin when I got a letter from you on June 17 asking us to make five-figure contributions to the DSCC. You followed that up with a voicemail indicating that, if we contributed heavily enough, we would garner an invitation to join you and other Democratic leaders at a retreat in Kiawah Island this September.

I’m hoping you can help me understand the intent of your request because it’s hard not to conclude that DSCC politics have become so cynical that you actually expect people whom you routinely denounce to give DSCC money.

It is troubling that private citizens taking part in the discourse have become the targets of White House and DSCC fundraising missives, and we would certainly encourage you to rethink that approach. Ultimately, I expect voters will see through that and will weigh the issues on the merits alone. But in the meantime, if you could provide me some insight on what exactly you are asking of us and why, I would be most grateful.

Sincerely,
Philip Ellender

President, Government & Public Affairs
Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC

Here's what the DSCC's executive director Guy Cecil wrote in reply to Ellender:

Dear Phil:

Thank you for your genuine, heartfelt concern about our recent solicitation and your request for clarification. Indeed, the form letter and follow-up solicitation you received was a staff error.

However, the bigger and more troubling mistake is the long political history of your employer, the Koch Brothers. As a (former?) Democrat, perhaps your time would be better spent looking into their efforts to privatize Social Security or their opposition to expanding the children's health insurance program. Or maybe, you can post a list of all of the anonymous contributions they have made to right-wing smear campaigns across the country. If you'd like to share voicemails from all the shady groups asking you for millions of dollars, we'd happily listen to those as well.

So, I write to make it clear that your invitation was an error and has been rescinded.

Sincerely,

Guy Cecil
Executive Director
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee

P.S.: I was impressed how quickly you responded, given how often you must be on the phone with Governor Walker of Wisconsin.

Rick Perry Pal: Oprah is Triggering the Antichrist

| Fri Jul. 8, 2011 12:05 PM EDT

Oprah Winfrey can be a polarizing figure. But is she leading the United States toward the End Times and the rise of the Antichrist? That's the argument put forth by Mike Bickle, founder of the Kansas City-based International House of Prayer (IHOP), and official endorser of Texas Governor Rick Perry's prayer and fasting festival scheduled for early August in Houston's Reliant Stadium. As we've noted before, Perry's rally, which organizers say is intended in part to convert non-Christians to Christianity, has come under fire because of the controversial views of some of its sponsors. Now, via Right Wing Watch (which has been all over this story), here's footage of Bickle at IHOP explaining where Oprah fits in the Book of Revelation.

"I believe that one of the main pastors, as a forerunner to the Harlot movement, it's not the Harlot movement yet, is Oprah. She is winsome, she is kind, she is reasonable, she is utterly deceived, utterly deceived. A classy woman, a cool woman, a charming woman, but has a spirit of deception and she is one of the clear pastors, forerunners to the Harlot movement."

Watch it here:

So now that Oprah's no longer doing Oprah, does that mean we're in the clear? The public has a right to know.