Mojo - April 2012

Obama Whomps Romney in 2012's Campaign Cash Grab (So Far)

| Mon Apr. 23, 2012 3:00 AM PDT

Mitt Romney has at last vanquished his zombie opponents and locked up the Republican presidential nomination. Polls show Romney eating away at President Obama's lead in a head-to-head matchup, now at 3.3 percentage points, according to RealClearPolitics' polling average. When it comes to the campaign cash fight, however, Obama is trouncing Romney, as new fundraising numbers from the first months of 2012 make clear.

Here's the most eye-popping stat: By the end of March, Obama's reelection effort had 10 times more money in the bank than Romney's campaign, $104.1 million to $10.1 million. Looking at the entire 2012 campaign, Obama's haul is now at $196.6 million, while Romney's is at $88.7 million. Below, we've visualized the January-to-March fundraising totals for the Obama and Romney campaigns, the Democratic and Republican National Committees, and a handful of key super-PACs. One takeaway: Democrats may be dominating the traditional campaign and party cash grab, but GOPers, led by Karl Rove, are dominating the outside-money battle.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Buddy Roemer Redefines the Political Circus

| Sat Apr. 21, 2012 3:00 AM PDT
Gov. Buddy Roemer

"We've got to redefine America!" Buddy Roemer roars, sounding exactly like the former Congressman, ex-governor, and current presidential hopeful that he is. But what he says next is a bit of a departure from campaign-trail boilerplate. "Look at Southwest Airlines!" he shouts. "Who here likes Southwest?! I love Southwest! No numbers, no lines, you sit wherever you want! They've redefined the airline!"

"And look at Cirque du Soleil!" he goes on. "Look at what they've done! No popcorn, no sodas! No animals!" Roemer looks incredulous. "No animals!"

Buddy Roemer, you might say, is seeking to redefine the circus. Having had it with both the Democrats, who first made him a Congressman in the 1980s, and the GOP, his party for the past quarter-century, he is running for the nomination of the Reform Party. It's slow going—the campaign event I attended was held in a small classroom on the University of California-Berkeley campus, with maybe 30 students and aging hippies in attendance.

This Week in Dark Money

| Fri Apr. 20, 2012 3:01 AM PDT

A quick look at the week that was in the world of political dark money...

CU Later? Vermont legislators passed a resolution calling on Congress to draft a constitutional amendment that would undo the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling. (New Mexico and Hawaii have passed similar measures.) On Wednesday, Democratic senators held a rally where they expressed their support for such an amendment. New York Sen. Charles Schumer said the 2010 ruling was "the worst decision since Plessy v. Ferguson." He also suggested that bitter rivals Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Hamilton would have agreed on taking down Citizens United: "They’d say, 'Go forward, right on, because our democracy is being ruined by these decisions.'"

The price of a White House visit: The New York Times reports that major donors have been made welcome at the White House. Around 75 percent of donors who gave $100,000 to Obama and the Democratic party have visited, and approximately two-thirds of the president's top 2008 fundraisers have visited. Many of the visitors showed up with the Washington equivalent of a bottle of wine for the hosts—a lobbyist.

New York TimesNew York TimesAttack ads on Antiques Roadshow? Last week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a longstanding ban on political advertising on public TV. So what does the ruling really mean? Short answer: PBS stations can accept (or turn down) political ads—assuming that candidates would even want to advertise there in the first place.

Rove's $100 million money machine: Karl Rove's American Crossroads super-PAC and Crossroads GPS 501(c)4 are expected to announce that they've raised nearly $100 million in this election cycle, Politico reports. Of the $28.4 million brought in by Crossroads GPS, $10 million, or 35 percent of its haul, has come from one person or corporation. Who that megadonor might be is a mystery, since GPS doesn't have to disclose the identity of its donors.  

The sleeper super-PACs: Big national-level super-PACs like Crossroads have been getting a lot of attention, but the Sunlight Foundation reports that smaller groups are already having an impact on the state level.

Energy ad war heats up: The American Energy Alliance, a Koch-funded pro-oil advocacy group, has been taking to the airwaves in swing states with the ad below, which slams Obama's "failing energy policies." It's just one of several groups that have spent nearly $17 million attacking the president's energy record. Meanwhile, the Obama's campaign and super-PAC have spent just one-tenth that touting his record on one of the campaign's most contentious issues.  

Nugent NRA Video Removed From YouTube

| Thu Apr. 19, 2012 10:18 AM PDT
Ted Nugent

A video in which aging right-wing rocker Ted Nugent told the National Rifle Association convention last week that he'll be "dead or in jail" if President Barack Obama is reelected has been removed from YouTube following reports that Nugent had been contacted by the Secret Service.

Right Wing Watch's Josh Glasstetter first noticed that the video had been removed and replaced by a message that states it has "been removed by the user." 

Nugent, who is also a columnist at the Washington Times and whose endorsement was welcomed by presidential candidate Mitt Romney, told the NRA in his speech that "If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year."

Nugent has carved out an over-the-top right wing media persona over the past few years. In 2008 he invited candidate Barack Obama to "suck on his machine gun." Of course, Obama wasn't the president then. 

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for April 19, 2012

Thu Apr. 19, 2012 8:00 AM PDT

Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit fire a three-round-volley rifle salute, April 18, 2012, during a memorial ceremony to honor Cpl. Derek Kerns and Cpl. Robby Reyes, crew chiefs with VMM-261 (reinforced) who died during a training accident in Morocco, April 11, 2012. The 24th MEU, along with the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group, is currently deployed as a theater security and crisis response force capable of a variety of missions from full-scale combat to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Photo by 2nd Lt. Joshua Larson.

One Donor Ponied Up 35 Percent of Crossroads GPS's 2011 Haul

| Thu Apr. 19, 2012 3:54 AM PDT
Karl Rove.

Talk about a mega-donor. Of the $28.4 million in donations banked in 2011 by Republican outside money group Crossroads GPS, a whopping $10 million of it came from just one donor. That's 35 percent. From one person, or one corporation.

Crossroads GPS, which does not disclose its donors, is the brainchild of GOP political mastermind Karl Rove. Founded in 2010, the group is technically a tax-exempt non-profit, known as a 501(c)(4), that can spend money on political advocacy so long as politicking isn't the majority of what it does. To comply with federal tax law, Crossroads must focus most of its work on issues, not candidates; otherwise, the group would have to file as a political action committee and reveal its funders. Crossroads' critics say the group does far too much political advocacy, and that the IRS should not grant the group permanent (c)(4) status. "The continued refusal by the IRS to reign in scofflaws abusing a privileged tax status has only encouraged even more blatant disregard for the law by these groups and their anonymous funders," Gerald Hebert, executive director of the Campaign Legal Center, said in a statement Tuesday.

Crossroads has repeatedly insisted its activities are perfectly legal, and the IRS has not given any clear indication that it is investigating the group.

Here's more on Crossroads' money from Bloomberg:

Crossroads said it took in $77 million from June 1, 2010, through Dec. 31, 2011. It also received a single contribution of $10.1 million before June 1, 2011, as well as donations of $5 million, $4.5 million and $4 million.

The group shared its largesse with other Republican-leaning nonprofits. Crossroads contributed $500,000 to the American Action Network, headed by former Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman, which spent more than $19 million on ads to elect Republicans in 2010; and $50,000 to the 60 Plus Association, which supports privatizing Social Security and spent more than $7 million on ads on behalf of Republican congressional candidates in 2010.

In addition, Crossroads gave $3.7 million to the National Federation of Independent Business, which is suing to overturn President Barack Obama’s health-care law that expands coverage to millions of uninsured Americans. NFIB reported spending more than $1 million on ads to help elect Republicans in 2010, as well as another $1.5 million that it kept hidden and said was exempt from requirements that it disclose campaign spending.

 

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Corn on Hardball: Why Hasn't the Right Condemned Ted Nugent and Allen West's Comments?

Wed Apr. 18, 2012 5:17 PM PDT

Mother Jones' DC bureau chief David Corn and the Washington Post's Eugene Robinson joined host Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball to discuss the controversy over incendiary remarks made against the Democrat party by US Rep. Allen West and right-wing rocker Ted Nugent. At a town hall meeting in Florida last week, Rep. West told voters that somewhere between 78 to 81 Democratic congressional members are Communists. He refuses to apologize for his claims.

Elsewhere, Nugent is in hot water for statements he made at a National Rifle Association convention. "If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year," Nugent said. The Secret Service confirmed today it will question Nugent over his statements. So far, the right has not condemned Rep. West or Nugent for their comments.

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

ALEC to Right-Wing Bloggers: We Need Your Help!

| Wed Apr. 18, 2012 12:24 PM PDT

The American Legislative Exchange Council, the once-obscure organization that pairs corporations with state lawmakers to draft pro-business and often anti-union legislation for the state level, is in damage control mode. Corporate members such as McDonald's, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Mars, Inc. have cut ties with ALEC after taking heat from a coalition of progressive groups angry over ALEC's "discriminatory" voter ID bills and controversial "Stand Your Ground" self-defense legislation that figures into the Trayvon Martin shooting in central Florida.

To push back, ALEC has turned to the conservative blogosphere for help. As PR Watch reported, Caitlyn Korb, ALEC's director of external relations, told attendees at a Heritage Foundation "Bloggers Briefing" on Tuesday that the campaign against ALEC was "part of a wider effort to shut all of us down." She asked the bloggers for "any and all institutional support" in ALEC's fight against progressive groups, especially when it came to social media. "We're getting absolutely killed in social media venues—Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest," she said. "Any and all new media support you guys can provide would be so helpful, not just to us but to average people who don't know much about this fight but are seeing us really get heavily attacked with very little opposition."

Korb educated the bloggers with a handout listing ALEC's positions on a range of issues. PR Watch, one of ALEC's loudest critics, described the handout as "riddled with errors." Here's a list of ALEC statements followed by PR Watch's responses in italics:

  • "The potential solutions discussed at ALEC focus on free markets, limited government, and constitutional division of powers between the federal and state governments." It is hard to discern what voter suppression bills, tax breaks for big tobacco, bans on unionization, protections for companies whose products injure or kill, and "Stand Your Ground/Kill at Will" laws have to do with free markets.

  • "The organization respects diversity of thought; it is a non-partisan resource for its members, which include more than 2,000 Republican and Democratic state legislators." Diversity of thought apparently refers to Republicans talking to Republicans. Although touted as "nonpartisan," when CMD launched ALEC Exposed, out of 104 legislators in leadership positions in ALEC, only one was a Democrat. It's hard to believe that ALEC phone briefs on redistricting are totally nonpartisan.
     
  • "Unlike in many private sector groups that offer model legislation, elected state legislators fully control ALEC’s model legislation process." As ALEC's public Task Force Operating Procedures" (PDF, p. 8) and other documents reveal, corporate members vote alongside legislators in ALEC task forces.
     
  • "Each state legislator and their constituents then decide which solutions are best for them and their states." For the most part, constituents have no way of knowing that corporations wrote or approved ALEC legislation behind closed doors.

Blogger outreach isn't ALEC's only response to the campaign against it. ALEC has issued a handful of statements decrying the "coordinated and well-funded intimidation campaign" against it and pledging to keep pushing its agenda. In what some progressives touted as a victory, ALEC announced this week that it is eliminating of its "Public Safety and Elections" task force, the group that pushed voter ID bills as well as Stand Your Ground laws. Korb said ALEC will soon launch a new website called "I Stand With ALEC" to rally support. "We need to start fighting back," she said.

The progressive groups waging war on ALEC, meanwhile, have no plans of letting up. "Corporate membership in ALEC isn't just destructive to democracy, it's also bad for business," Michael Keegan, president of People for the American Way, said last week. "Corporations that currently support ALEC have a choice to make: They can continue to underwrite reckless assaults on our rights and wellbeing, or they can stand up for their customers by leaving ALEC immediately."

Allen West's Communist Conspiracy Implicates Woodrow Wilson

| Wed Apr. 18, 2012 12:24 PM PDT
Noted Communist Woodrow Wilson.

Rep. Allen West has been on a tear recently trying to defend his assertion that liberal Democrats are actually communists. West's argument focuses not on Democrats' commitment to the dictatorship of the proletariat or the elimination of private enterprise, but the fact that Democrats generally support public assistance and regulation of private industry. 

All of this is ridiculous, but perhaps my favorite West assertion of late is the idea that President Woodrow Wilson was a communist. Here is Mr. West's reasoning, as relayed by TPM's Eric Kleefield:

I think that if you would take the time to study the political spectrum of ideologies, you’d understand that at the turn of the [20th] century, American Communists renamed themselves as progressives. If you study the Woodrow Wilson administration, people referred to the Woodrow Wilson administration as a progressive administration.

So Wilson described himself as progressive, and progressive just means communist, so Wilson was a communist. This is fifth-grade logic.

Tim Weiner's excellent history of the FBI goes into great detail about Wilson's record on communism, but here are a few examples of how President Wilson, in real life, dealt with self-identified communists and socialists:

  • Wilson imprisoned and deported communists, socialists, and leftists for just generally holding views he found subversive.
  • Wilson threw American Socialist Party leader Eugene V. Debs, who had garnered nearly a million votes running against Wilson in 1912, in prison for speaking out against the imprisonment of anti-war leftists.
  • Wilson sent American soldiers to support Czarist forces against Bolshevik revolutionaries during the Russian civil war in 1918.
  • Wilson appointed A. Mitchell Palmer as his Attorney General. The iconic 1920 Palmer Raids resulted in mass arrests and deportations of suspected leftists of all stripes.

How many communists do you have to kill and/or throw in prison to not be considered a communist? It's not like Wilson lacks for actual flaws either, given that he was a huge racist and Confederate sympathizer, among other things.

At this point, you're probably thinking that Wilson, the self-identified progressive, might be better described as an anti-communist than a communist. But that's because you're not looking at the big picture. Wilson's assault on civil liberties eventually resulted in the formation of the American Civil Liberties Union, which—I'm about to blow your mind—was obviously the plan all along.

Partisan derangement is usually directed at a president currently in office; West is gifted in the sense that he's able to maintain a right-wing fever swamp perspective on a president elected a hundred years ago. But if a guy who locks up communists for protesting wars can't catch a break because he supports a federal income tax, the House Progressive Caucus probably doesn't have much of a chance either.  

The Time Ted Nugent Shot Guns With the Secret Service

| Wed Apr. 18, 2012 12:09 PM PDT
Ted Nugent appeals to his target audience.

Today, the Secret Service confirmed that it will interview right-wing shock rocker Ted Nugent in connection with his comments at last week's National Rifle Association convention in St. Louis.

This does not appear to be the first time that the Secret Service has expressed an interest in the Nuge. At the NRA's 2005 conference in Houston, I witnessed Nugent bragging about getting harassed by President George W. Bush's security detail. "I kept getting these phone calls from the Secret Service," he said, wearing fatigues and standing in front of a "Don't Tread On Me" banner on a small stage. "And I'm like, 'Oh shit, what do I do now?'" He recounted that Secret Service agents eventually showed up at a BBQ at his ranch near Crawford, Texas. Nugent thought it was a raid. "I was running around," he recalled. "I thought there was going to be a couple of guys pulling into the BBQ and shooting."

Nugent expressed no qualms about engaging in a gun battle with the heavily-armed agents. "I said, 'I've got a bunch of guys with McMillan assault rifles trained on the back of your head, so if this is a raid, you can just turn right back around.'"

But it turned out that the Secret Service had just stopped by to play target practice. Nugent said he set up bowling pins a few hundred feet away and took aim with a borrowed government rifle and pretended to shoot the director of Bowling for Columbine. "Before I shot, I went, 'In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.' Michael Moore! And I blew him up. Beautiful!"

It's unclear whether Nugent had exaggerated or fabricated parts of this story, though the part about the Secret Service showing up at his ranch near Crawford seems plausible, given that George W. Bush often vacationed at his own ranch nearby. The Secret Service could not immediately be reached for comment.

"If Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will be either dead or in jail by this time next year," Nugent said at last weekend's NRA convention. Or maybe he'll end up shooting off a few more rounds with the feds.