Mojo - May 2012

Million-Dollar Donor to Romney Super-PAC Once Drove a Car Into a Pond

| Mon May 21, 2012 9:44 AM EDT

John Kleinheinz, who runs the hedge fund Kleinheinz Capital Partners, claimed the top spot among April donors to the pro-Romney super-PAC Restore Our Future, giving $1 million to the group. In a bizarre and colorful twist, Kleinheinz, as Politico reports, was once charged with "criminal mischief" for...driving another man's car into a pond.

One day in 2006, a photographer named David Irvin was snapping pictures of Kleinheinz and his family at their home. An unhappy Kleinheinz believed Irvin was trespassing on his property while taking the photos—Irvin said he was actually on a nearby country club's property. After vowing to the call the cops on Irvin, Kleinheinz got into the photographer's rented Kia SUV, put it in gear, and then ducked out before the car plunged into a nearby pond. The stunt earned Kleinheinz a third-degree felony charge.

Here's more from Politico:

At the time, Kleinheinz told the [Fort Worth] Star-Telegram that he regretted the incident. "This was not an isolated incident, but it was regrettable," Kleinheinz said.

Kleinheinz's $1 million check made him the largest contributor to the super-PAC in April. He was a supporter of both Romney and John McCain's presidential bids in the 2008 election and has been a long-time supporter of Republican politicians.

Kleinheinz did not respond to a request for comment. And Brittany Gross, a spokesman for Restore our Future also declined to comment. "We don't comment on specific donors," Gross said.

Other big donors to Restore Our Future in April included oil production executive and Romney energy adviser Harold Hamm, who gave $985,000, and Bain Capital managing director Stephen Zide, who gave $250,000. In all, Restore Our Future raised nearly $4 million last month.

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Lobbyists Make It Rain for Romney

| Mon May 21, 2012 9:21 AM EDT
Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney, the GOP's presumptive presidential nominee, won't give out the names of his bundlers, the super-fundraisers who individually rake in anywhere from tens of thousands to millions of dollars for the campaign from an array of donors. But from election records, you can learn that among Romney's biggest rainmakers is a cadre of lobbyists representing some of the biggest industries in America.

A new analysis by the Public Campaign Action Fund finds that at least 25 lobbyists have bundled $3,088,151 for Romney's campaign. Those lobbyists including Patrick Durkin of Barclay's Financial who's bundled $927,160, Ignacio Sanchez of the powerful law firm DLA Piper ($86,700), and Bruce Gates of tobacco company Altria Client Services ($27,500). (Campaigns are required by law to disclose their lobbyist-bundlers.)

As Public Campaign's Adam Smith notes, two of Romney's bundlers—Wayne Berman of Ogilvy Government Relations and Tom Fiorentino of the Fiorentino Group—have reached the campaign's "Stars" level ($250,000 minimum) and one, Barclay's Durkin, has reached the "Stripes" level (minimum $500,000). That's Romney campaign lingo (PDF) for the two most elite levels for fundraisers, each of which give the fundraiser inside access to the campaign with weekly briefings, invitations to exclusive Romney finance committee retreats, and VIP access at this summer's GOP convention.

Of course, we don't know all of Romney's bundlers because, unlike the Obama campaign, Romney's team won't disclose them. None of Obama's bundlers is registered as a lobbyist, though, as the New York Times reported last year, at least 15 of them engage in lobbying without officially registering.

Here's the full list of the Romney campaign's lobbyist-bundlers we know of and the amount they've raised so far:

Could Citizens United Be Toast in Just Two Months?

| Mon May 21, 2012 6:00 AM EDT
The 11th Amendment: The key to stymieing super-PACs?

Last December, the Montana Supreme Court defied Citizens United by upholding the state's century-old campaign finance laws. That decision could well be overturned when it comes before the Supreme Court, which stayed the Montana high court's decision in February. But never fear, reformers: The Eleventh Amendment Movement (TEAM), an obscure group based in Hawaii, claims that Citizens United could be effectively overturned within the next two months.

Here's part of TEAM's argument, as laid out in an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court: Because the plaintiff in the Montana case made a "technical error" by naming state Attorney General Steve Bullock in his official capacity, the 11th Amendment bars the Supreme Court from touching the Montana decision. The amendment affirms the principal of sovereign immunity, which prevents federal courts from interfering with lawsuits brought by individuals against state governments.

The group is represented by Carl Mayer, a New York lawyer who's won cases against the likes of Nike and has been working on behalf of journalist Chris Hedges to strike down the indefinite detention provision of the National Defense Authorization Act. Last Wednesday, a federal judge sided with Hedges. (Mayer also unsucessfully sued the New England Patriots and NFL for $185 million on behalf of New York Jets fans, claiming that Patriots coach Bill Belichick rigged games by secretly taping opponents' signals.)

Corn on "Hardball": The Right-Wing Resurrects Jeremiah Wright

Fri May 18, 2012 6:07 PM EDT

David Corn joined Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball to discuss this week's right-wing attacks on President Obama and how Mitt Romney is handling the controversy.

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

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for May 18, 2012

Fri May 18, 2012 11:29 AM EDT

US Army National Guard Spc. Terry Proud, a Security Force member of Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah, pulls security during a mission in Farah City, Farah province, Afghanistan, on May 12, 2012. PRT members are meeting with locals to gather information and opinions about the living conditions in Farah City. Photo by the US Army.

The 43 Most Metrosexual Presidents of All Time

| Fri May 18, 2012 10:12 AM EDT

On Thursday, the New York Times reported on the efforts of a new super-PAC, backed by TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, dedicated to exposing President Obama as a radical, no-good "metrosexual, black Abraham Lincoln." 

But Barack Obama isn't our first metrosexual president. He's not even our first metrosexual Abraham Lincoln. Here's our quick guide to the 43* most metrosexual presidents of all time.

1.) Chester A. Arthur: The "A" is short for Argyle. (It isn't, really.) C-Span notes that our nation's 21st president "was nicknamed 'Elegant Arthur' because of his 'dandy' dressing." One biographer argued that Arthur's "happiest years" came during his stint as New York City customs collector, because the "increased income permitted Arthur to spend excessive amounts at his tailor."

Hey grrrrrl: Smithsonian InstitutionChester A. Arthur: Smithsonian Institution

2.) Thomas Jefferson: Accentuated by the fact that he was a contemporary of John Adams:

Thomas Jefferson: Wikimedia CommonsThomas Jefferson: Wikimedia Commons3.) Franklin Pierce: Pierce sported what historians have classified as a post-powdered antefauxhawk. He was also a terrible president.

TK: TKFranklin Pierce: White House4.) Abraham Lincoln: The original metrosexual Abraham Lincoln:

TK TKAbraham Lincoln: Library of Congress

5–42.) Miscellaneous.

43.) Bill Clinton: 

Bill Clinton: Clinton Presidential LibraryBill Clinton: Clinton Presidential Library

Update: Reader @ThugloniusCrunk points out that: "Young Teddy Roosevelt was called "Jane-Dandy" & "Oscar Wilde" by his elders in the New York Senate." This is true. We've arbitrarily designated him the 17th most metrosexual president of all time:

Theodore RooseveltTheodore Roosevelt

Update 2: Bravo to the Photoshop wizards at TNR behind Metrosexual Abraham Lincoln, Hipster Rutherford B. Hayes, and Freegan Chester A. Arthur. We're all richer for their contribution.

*Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated the number of people who have served as president. Although some observers felt that Grover Cleveland was a different man in his second term, only 43 people have held the office.

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Influential Ex-General: Cut US Nukes Now

| Fri May 18, 2012 9:00 AM EDT

Gen. James Cartwright in 2009, with then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates: National GuardGen. James Cartwright in 2009, with then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates: National GuardWhen it comes to national security, James "Hoss" Cartwright is probably worth listening to. The four-star Marine general capped off 40 years in uniform with a stint as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, retiring last August. Now Cartwright is weighing in on the size of America's nuclear arsenal, and not in the way you might expect: He wants the United States to slash its nuclear stockpile by more than 80 percent.

"The world has changed, but the current arsenal carries the baggage of the cold war," Cartwright told the New York Times on Wednesday. "There is the baggage of significant numbers in reserve. There is the baggage of a nuclear stockpile beyond our needs. What is it we're really trying to deter? Our current arsenal does not address the threats of the 21st century."

Cartwright was promoting a report by the disarmament policy group Global Zero, also released Wednesday, that proposes the US reduce its nuclear arsenal to 900 warheads. (In its most recent count, the US claimed to posssess 5,113 nuclear warheads.) The report was endorsed by Cartwright, former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, a retired NATO general, an ambassador, and an ex-arms negotiator. "For the United States, deterring and defeating aggression in today's world depends a great deal less on projecting nuclear offensive threat and a great deal more on the skilled exercise of all the instruments of power, both 'soft' and 'hard,'" the report states.

This Week in Dark Money

| Fri May 18, 2012 6:00 AM EDT

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

How Citizens United went down: The New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin has a riveting behind-the-scenes story of how the Roberts court decided the landmark Citizens United case. Toobin contends that Chief Justice John Roberts orchestrated a sweeping reinterpretation of decades of campaign-finance laws while keeping his fingerprints off the final opinion (written by Justice Anthony Kennedy). SCOTUSblog's Tom Goldstein counters Toobin with a less conspiratorial take on how the conservative wing of the court made its decision. Plus: A look at four cases working their way to the Supreme Court that could speed—or stem—the flow of unlimited election cash.

New ad blitzes launch: Mother Jones' Andy Kroll reports on the latest ad campaign from Karl Rove's dark-money outfit Crossroads GPS: A 10-state broadside against President Obama. 501(c)(4) groups like Crossroads GPS are prohibited from devoting the majority of their resources to politicking (although there's a chance that may change soon). This ad carefully sidesteps the issue by not explicitly telling viewers to not vote for Obama or to vote for Romney. 

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign unleashed a $25 million ad campaign of its own; it's suspiciously similar to another ad campaign released this week by the pro-Obama super-PAC Priorities USA Action, which is prohibited by law from coordinating with the Obama campaign.

Attack ads work: According to a new survey by two Arizona State professors, the more negative ads voters watch, the more harshly they judge the candidate being attacked. That could explain why, according to the Wesleyan Media Project, 70 percent of ads this year have been negative, compared with 9 percent in 2008. However, the survey also found that some people are more resistant to negative ads: strong partisans, close campaign observers, conservatives, men, young people, and those with unsophisticated political views.

Super-PACs home in on state races: Politico reports that super-PACs focused on congressional races are dominating outside spending, especially in Republican primaries. For example, Club for Growth Action has poured more than $1 million into races in Texas and Nebraska. Its Nebraska ads, like this one, appear to be proving the Arizona State survey true:

21-year-old starts super-PAC: This month's sixth-top spending super-PAC is Liberty for All, a pro-Ron Paul super-PAC cofounded in March by John Ramsey, who has spent upwards of $500,000 of his inheritance on campaign ads for Thomas Massie, a Paul-endorsed candidate running for an open House seat in Kentucky. "We're the only freedom organization that is focused on winning elections, plural," Liberty for All's other founder tells MoJo's Tim Murphy.

Americans Elect folds: Last week, it was becoming clear that Americans Elect's effort to launch a third-party presidential bid through a series of online caucuses was in serious trouble. Today, having gained ballot access in 29 states but unable to nominate a candidate, AE acknowledged defeat. When asked if he planned to end his presidential bid now that AE is toast, the group's front runner, former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer told Slate's Dave Weigel, "I'm digging deep for words, but all I'm coming up with is bullshit."

A plan of attack backfires: The New York Times reports that Character Matters, a new anti-Obama super-PAC, entertained a proposal to cast the president as a "metrosexual, black Abraham Lincoln" and tie him to his former pastor, the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The super-PAC is funded to the tune of $10 million by TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, whose family owns the Chicago Cubs. Ricketts disavowed the ad, but that wasn't enough for Chicago mayor and former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. The Washington Post reports that Emanuel is "livid" and won't return phone calls from the Ricketts family. Muckety maps their influence:

PHOTOS: New Evidence Released in Trayvon Martin Case

| Thu May 17, 2012 8:29 PM EDT

Trayvon Martin died of a single gunshot to the heart, and had traces of marijuana in his blood and a single scratch on one knuckle when he died, according to a trove of new evidence released by the state of Florida Thursday night. According to the documents, the Sanford police believed that the teen's death was "ultimately avoidable," if his killer, George Zimmerman, had "remained in his vehicle and awaited the arrival of law enforcement" on that fateful night in February.

The evidence includes hundreds of pages of documents and photographs gathered by Florida Special Prosecutor Angela Corey and shared earlier this week with the attorneys of Zimmerman as part of the discovery process in his trial for second-degree murder. Zimmerman admitted to shooting the 17-year-old Martin in February, but has claimed that he killed the unarmed, hoodie-wearing African American teen in self-defense.

Corey's office made the evidence available to reporters online Thursday night, and highlights quickly emerged on social media. The evidence included these photos:

The gun George Zimmerman used to kill Trayvon: a 9mm Kel-Tec PF9 double-action pistol: State of FloridaThe gun George Zimmerman used to kill Trayvon: a 9mm Kel-Tec PF9 double-action pistol: State of Florida

A cellphone found at the crime scene, believed to be Trayvon Martin's: State of FloridaA cellphone found at the crime scene, believed to be Trayvon Martin's: State of Florida

 

Photo of George Zimmerman after the shooting: State of FloridaPhoto of George Zimmerman the night of the shooting: State of Florida

Cuts on Zimmerman's head the night of the shooting: State of FloridaCuts on Zimmerman's head the night of the shooting: State of FloridaAnd then there's the first known picture of Zimmerman from on the scene of the shooting. According to the New York Times: "The police took only one photo at the scene of any of Mr. Zimmerman’s injuries — a full-face picture of him that showed a bloodied nose—before paramedics tended to him…It was shot on a department cellphone camera and was not downloaded for a few days, an oversight by the officer who took it."

The first on-scene photo of Zimmerman, which wasn't recovered from a police officer's cellphone until days after the killing: State of FloridaPhoto of Zimmerman recovered from a police officer's cellphone days after the killing: State of Florida

Details from the newly released collection of documents quickly emerged on Twitter late Thursday, as journalists pored through the documents:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rep. Mike Coffman Isn't Sure What Country the President Is From

| Thu May 17, 2012 3:40 PM EDT
Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.)

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.)—last seen in these parts warning that undocumented immigrants would vote en masse for Obama this fall—suggested at a fundraiser last weekend that President Barack Obama might not have been born in the United States. It was awkward:

"I don't know whether Barack Obama was born in the United States of America. I don't know that," Coffman said. "But I do know this, that in his heart, he's not an American. He's just not an American."

After a short pause, which Elbert County Republican Chairman Scott Wills recalled as "deafening silence," Coffman was met with applause, tentative at first.

This comes just one month after another GOP freshman, Missouri Rep. Vicky Hartzler, expressed her own doubts about the President's place of birth.

Okay, so birthers are still a thing, and will probably always be a thing; cut the head off a conspiracy theory and it sprouts eight more. (There are still people who maintain that Zachary Taylor ate poisoned cherries!) But here's the problem for Coffman: As David Nir notes, Coffman's not running in the same district that elected him in 2010:

Colorado's 6th Congressional District was made significantly bluer in redistricting, going from a seat John McCain won by a 53-46 margin to one Barack Obama won, 54-45. That's made Coffman extremely vulnerable this year, yet he's still acting as though he's running in the district that repeatedly elected Tom Tancredo to Congress.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has listed Coffman's seat as a "Red to Blue" pickup, meaning it's going to be a top battleground in the fall. Running a birther campaign and smearing Latinos—a rapidly growing demographic in the Mountain West—might not be the best strategy if he wants to keep his job.