Mojo - June 2012

Sheldon Adelson's $10 Million Donation to Romney Super-PAC: Tip of The Iceberg?

| Wed Jun. 13, 2012 12:06 PM EDT
Sheldon Adelson.

Sheldon Adelson, the conservative billionaire casino mogul, has reportedly given $10 million to the pro-Romney super-PAC Restore Our Future. All told, Adelson and his wife, Miriam, have pumped at least $25 million into outside political groups so far this election cycle. Most of that money went to Winning Our Future, the now-dormant super-PAC that backed Newt Gingrich's presidential bid.

But is Adelson's latest eight-figure donation as sign of more to come?

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Corn on MSNBC: Are Republicans Blocking Economic Recovery?

Wed Jun. 13, 2012 10:36 AM EDT

Mother Jones DC bureau chief David Corn joined host Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC's The Last Word to discuss congressional gridlock and its impact on the 2012 presidential election.

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

San Francisco-Bashing GOPer Sean Duffy Raised Campaign Cash in...San Francisco

| Wed Jun. 13, 2012 10:34 AM EDT
Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wisc.)

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wisc.), an alumnus of MTV's Real World (Class of '97, Boston) who rode the 2010 tea party wave into Congress, doesn't much like the campaign trackers affiliated with the outfit SuperPAC Credo following him around his northwestern Wisconsin district. That super-PAC is arm of the progressive phone company Credo Mobile, which is based in San Francisco. Late last month, Duffy went out of his way to bash the trackers on his trail as "a group of four of these radicals from San Francisco." Ouch. (Trackers, mind you, are fixtures of the campaign trail in Congressional elections.)

But Duffy's disdain for liberal San Francisco didn't prevent him from jetting out west Tuesday to raise some campaign cash. As the San Francisco Chronicle reported, Duffy appeared alongside House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) at a $1,000-a-head fundraiser at San Francisco's posh Presidio Golf Club.

Here's the invitation:

Via the San Francisco ChronicleVia the San Francisco Chronicle

Duffy hasn't had any trouble raising money his first term in office. His campaign haul to date totals $1.38 million, and he has $960,857 cash on hand, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Duffy's haul puts him in the top-third in fundraising for all members of Congress. Not bad for a freshman.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for June 13, 2012

Wed Jun. 13, 2012 10:19 AM EDT

Cpl. Ryan M. Olszewski stands next to a CH-53E Super Stallion main gearbox aboard USS Makin Island on June 11. The 21-year-old Niagara Falls, N.Y., native serves as a CH-53E Super Stallion airframe mechanic with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 268, the aviation combat element for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The unit embarked the ship, as well as USS New Orleans and USS Pearl Harbor in San Diego on Nov. 14, beginning a seven-month deployment to the Western Pacific, Horn of Africa and Middle East regions. US Marines photo by Lance Cpl. Claudia M. Palacios.

North Carolina's GOP Wants to Protect You From Discrimination–Except if You're Gay

| Wed Jun. 13, 2012 5:02 AM EDT
No rainbow flags for this state's GOP.

During the first weekend of June, Republicans, including guest speakers Donald Trump, Rick Perry, and former Minnesota governor Tim "T-Paw" Pawlenty, gathered at the North Carolina GOP State Convention in Greensboro.  Energized by last month's passage of Amendment One, which banned recognition of any domestic legal union except heterosexual marriage, the state's GOP presented a platform with a plank that effectively condones discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Section 3 of Article III (titled "Individual Liberty") reads: "Government should treat all citizens impartially, without regard to wealth, race, ethnicity, disability, religion, sex, political affiliation or national origin. We oppose all forms of invidious discrimination. Sexual orientation is not an appropriate category."

"This [plank] is something that has been ongoing," Buck Golding, a member of the 2012 Platform Committee, explained in a phone interview. Referring to Amendment One (which passed with 61 percent of the vote) he added, "We had a poll here. Marriage in my state is thought of as between a man and a woman and I concur with that."

How Dark-Money Groups Sneak By the Taxman

| Wed Jun. 13, 2012 5:00 AM EDT

Here at Mother Jones we talk about "dark money" to broadly describe the flood of unlimited spending behind this year's election. But the truly dark money in 2012 is being raised and spent by tax-exempt groups that aren't required to disclose their financial backers even as they funnel anonymous cash to super-PACs and run election ads.

By Internal Revenue Service rules, these 501(c)(4)s exist as nonpartisan "social welfare" organizations. They can engage in political activity so long as that's not their primary purpose, but skirt that rule by running issue-based "electioneering communications" that can mention candidates so long as they don't directly tell you to vote for or against them (wink, wink), or by giving grants to other politically active 501(c)(4)s. (Super-PACs, on the other hand, can spend all their money endorsing or attacking candidates, but must disclose their donors.)

Some overtly partisan dark-money groups are better at dancing around these rules than others. Last month, the IRS stripped an organization called Emerge America of its 501(c)(4) status. As it informed the group, which explicitly works to elect Democratic women, "You are not operated primarily to promote social welfare because your activities are conducted primarily for the benefit of a political party and a private group of individuals, rather than the community as a whole." Sure enough, Emerge America's mission statement on its 2010 tax form made no attempt to hide this fact: "By providing women across America with a top-notch training and a powerful, political network, we are getting more Democrats into office and changing the leadership—and politics—of America." D'oh!

Emerge America certainly isn't the only 501(c)(4) to walk the line between promoting social welfare and promoting a political party. It just wasn't savvy or subtle enough to not get busted. Other dark-money groups tend to describe their missions in broad terms that are unlikely to raise an auditor's eyebrows. But how they spend their money suggests their actual agendas. A few examples:

 

American Action Network

What it is: Conservative dark-money group cofounded by former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.).
Mission statement (as stated on tax forms): "The American Action Network is a 501(c)(4) 'action tank' that will create, encourage, and promote center-right policies based on the principles of freedom, limited government, American exceptionalism, and strong national policy."
How it walks the line: AAN spent $20 million in the 2010 election cycle targeting Democrats, including producing ads that were pulled from local airwaves for making "unsubstantiated" claims, but $15 million of that went toward issue ads. Last week, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington claimed that from July 2009 through June 2011 AAN spent 66.8 percent of its budget on political activity, an apparent violation of its tax-exempt status. CREW is calling for an investigation, suggesting that "significant financial penalties might prod AAN to learn the math."

 

Crossroads GPS

What it is: The 501(c)(4) of Karl Rove's American Crossroads super-PAC
Mission statement: "Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies is a non-profit public policy advocacy organization that is dedicated to educating, equipping, and engaging American citizens to take action on important economic and legislative issues that will shape our nation's future. The vision of Crossroads GPS is to empower private citizens to determine the direction of government policymaking rather than being the disenfranchised victims of it. Through issue research, public communications, events with policymakers, and outreach to interested citizens, Crossroads GPS seeks to elevate understanding of consequential national policy issues, and to build grassroots support for legislative and policy changes that promote private sector economic growth, reduce needless government regulations, impose stronger financial discipline and accountability on government, and strengthen America's national security."
How it walks the line: The campaign-finance reform group Democracy 21 has called Crossroad GPS' tax-exempt status a "farce," pointing to $10 million anonymously donated to finance GPS' anti-Obama ads. Likewise, the Campaign Legal Center wants the IRS to audit GPS. According to its tax filings, between June 2010 and December 2011 GPS spent $17.1 million on "direct political spending"—just 15 percent of its total spending. Yet it also spent another 42 percent of its total spending, or $27.1 million, on "grassroots issue advocacy," which included issue ads.

 

Americans for Prosperity

What it is: Dark-money group of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation (which was founded by David Koch).
Mission statement: "Educate U.S. citizens about the impact of sound economic policy on the nation's economy and social structure, and mobilize citizens to be involved in fiscal matters."
How it walks the line: Since 2010, Americans for Prosperity has officially spent about $1.4 million on election ads. However, the group's 2010 tax filing shows that $11.2 million of its $24 million in expenses went toward "communications, ads, [and] media." In May, an anonymous donor gave AFP $6.1 million to spend on an issue ad attacking the president's energy policy. Just before Wisconsin's recent recall election, AFP sponsored a bus tour to rally conservative voters. But its state director said the tour had nothing to do the recall: "We're not dealing with any candidates, political parties, or ongoing races. We're just educating folks on the importance of [Gov. Scott Walker's] reforms."

 

FreedomWorks

What it is: Dark-money arm of former House Majority Leader Dick Armey's Tea Party-aligned super-PAC of the same name
Mission statement: "Public policy, advocacy, and educational organization that focuses on fiscal on economic issues."
How it walks the line: FreedomWorks' 501(c)(4) hasn't spent any money on electioneering this election, but it has funneled $1.7 million into its super-PAC, which has spent $2.4 million supporting Republican campaigns. FreedomWorks has focused its past efforts on organizing anti-Obama Tea Party protests and encouraging conservatives to disrupt Democratic town hall meetings to protest the party's health care and renewable energy policies.

 

Citizens United

What it is: Conservative nonprofit that sued the Federal Election Commission in 2008, resulting in the Supreme Court's infamous Citizens United ruling.
Mission statement: "Citizens United is dedicated to restoring our government to citizens [sic] control. Through a combination of education, advocacy, and grass roots organization, the organization seeks to reassert the traditional American values of limited government, freedom of enterprises, strong families, and national sovereignty and security. The organization's goal is to restore the founding fathers [sic] vision of a free nation, guided by honesty, common sense, and goodwill of its citizens."
How it walks the line: Since its formation in 1988, the nonprofit has released 19 right-wing political documentaries, including films narrated by Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee, a rebuttal to Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, and a pro-Ronald Reagan production (plus the upcoming Occupy Unmasked). On its 2010 tax filing, Citizens United reported spending more than half of its $15.2 million budget on "publications and film" and "advertising and promotion."

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Researchers Blow Some Holes in Stand Your Ground

| Tue Jun. 12, 2012 5:35 PM EDT

After avoiding major national scrutiny for more than six years, "Stand Your Ground" laws are increasingly coming under fire for making America a more dangerous place. Late last month, two economists from Texas A&M University—that hotbed of socialist leftism!—published a report (PDF) concluding that the broad "self-defense" statutes didn't actually deter crime, as proponents suggest. Rather, murder and manslaughter with firearms rose as much as 9 percent in SYG states—as many as 700 more deaths per year nationwide.

The Texas A&M report, which looked at crime stats from 2000-2009, is perhaps the clearest evidence yet that the NRA's crowning legislative triumph has been a public-policy nightmare. On the heels of the Trayvon Martin killing—in which shooter George Zimmerman initially claimed immunity from prosecution under Florida's landmark SYG law—we here at MoJo crunched the numbers and found similarly disturbing trends. So did the Wall Street Journal. Just last weekend, the US Commission on Civil Rights announced it was investigating SYG, claiming there are "some indicators of racial bias" in the law's enforcement nationwide.

Corn on MSNBC: Can Romney's Fear-Mongering Trump Obama's Foreign Policy Record

Tue Jun. 12, 2012 5:07 PM EDT

Mother Jones' DC bureau chief David Corn joined Martin Bashir on MSNBC to discuss the Romney campaign's attacks on President Obama's foreign policy record.


Corn also discussed the "facts" Romney has thrown around concerning housing and health care.

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

Elizabeth Warren: Jamie Dimon Should Quit the New York Fed's Board

| Tue Jun. 12, 2012 2:37 PM EDT

Elizabeth Warren, the progressive favorite who's vying for Republican Scott Brown's Senate seat in Massachusetts, has a new target: JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.

Dimon has been criticized for the $3 billion hit JPMorgan's took on a bungled hedge by a London trader. In a release blasted out to reporters on Tuesday, Warren said Dimon should step down from the board of the New York Federal Reserve Bank in the wake of his firm's big loss. Warren's call for Dimon's resignation comes on the eve of the CEO's appearance before the Senate banking committee to testify about the bad trade.

Here's more from Warren:

"Jamie Dimon should take the opportunity of this hearing to step down from the New York Fed's Board, and Congress should pass legislation that will prohibit these kinds of conflicts of interest in the future," said Warren.

"Four years after the financial crisis, Wall Street has still not been held accountable, and that lack of accountability has history repeating itself—huge, risky financial bets leading to billions in losses. It is time for some accountability," said Warren. "It's really frustrating to see these Wall Street firms make the same mistakes over and over again, and for the CEO's who run these companies to escape accountability. Dimon stepping down from the NY Fed would be at least one small sign that Wall Street will be held accountable for their failures."

Somali Militants Say Obama Is Worth 10 Camels

| Tue Jun. 12, 2012 2:27 PM EDT
10 of these.

Al-Shabaab—the population-terrorizing Al Qaeda-linked Islamist group in Somalia that has carried out deadly bombings in Uganda and elsewhere—has an odd sense of humor. As BBC News reported on Monday:

After the US put bounties on the heads of al-Shabab commanders, senior militant official Fuad Muhammad Khalaf announced: "Whoever reveals the hideout of the idiot Obama will be rewarded with 10 camels, and whoever reveals the hideout of the old woman Hillary Clinton will be rewarded 10 chickens and 10 roosters," he said after Friday prayers.

The bounty is the terror group's sardonic comeback to the US government offering $7 million last week for information leading to Ahmed Abdi aw-Mohamud Godane, an al-Shabaab co-founder and faction commander. The State Department has recently been hard at work backing at a UN-supervised peace plan for Somalia. The East African nation is the site of a rapidly expanded US-led drone war against AQ affiliates, and the Obama administration also has a habit of killing the country's pirates.

Typically, a male brown camel can be worth up to $7,000; females are worth up to $20,000. That means Al-Shabaab's mock offer for information on the president's "hideout" equals between $70,000 and $200,000—which is $6,800,000 less than what the United States is currently offering for one al-Shabaab leader. (Just for a frame of reference, an Australian insurance firm put Barack Obama's worth at $51,000 in crocodile attack insurance back in November.)

Here are a few other things you can get for $200K:

As for the bounty on Secretary Clinton's head, MyPetChicken.com puts the price of a hen at up to $25. A rooster will cost you roughly $3.00. That comes to a grand total of $280 for information leading to the capture of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

$280 will get you one new ProForm 280 CSX upright exercise bike from Best Buy—with $55.02 in change.