Mojo - June 2012

News Flash: Even Christians Hate Christian TV

| Thu Jun. 7, 2012 11:37 AM EDT

Pastor David Wright is the CEO of DOersTV.com, an online Christian reality TV network. He's been using Facebook to do some research on his audience, and this week sent out a press release revealing his findings. No one who's ever watched Christian TV will be especially shocked, but Wright declared himself "flabbergasted" to learn that even the vast majority of Christians who responded to his network's Facebook fan page hate Christian TV. "I kind of expected there would be those Christians who thought Christian TV was too boring or not relevant for the times, but I never would have imagined the disdain thousands of Christians have for Christian TV," Wright said in his release.

Fortunately, Wright was able to get to the source of the frustration. He says that the vast majority of Christians think that Christian TV is boring and that it features "Too much begging for money and fundraising telethons." Another problem he identified is that Christians think Christian TV is full of ethically challenged "false prosperity teachers" manipulating people to give money. "Unfortunately, the greed for money has replaced the need for ministry among many of our ministers and Christian TV Networks. People are feed [sic] up with the lust for material things," said Wright, noting that the overabundance of greedy religious figures on Christian TV was a big turn off for viewers. "We can't have pastors indulging in sin and expect people not to be turned off." Wright promises to take the information to heart: he's declared a moratorium on telethons, so the devout can safely tune in to "Kingdom Building Today" or the oxymoronic "Christian Comedy Television" on his network without hearing that God thinks they should write the network a big check. Praise the lord! 

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for June 7, 2012

Thu Jun. 7, 2012 11:32 AM EDT

US Navy Sailors assigned to Riverine Squadron (RIVRON) 1 participate in Tactical Combat Casualty Care training with Indonesian Navy Kopaska commandos during Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Indonesia 2012. CARAT 2012 is a nine-country, bilateral exercise between the United States and Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, and Timor Leste and is designed to enhance maritime security skills and operational cohesiveness among participating forces. US Navy photo by Lt. Fernando Rivero.

Sheldon Adelson Opens Up His Wallet, Vol. MCXVI

| Thu Jun. 7, 2012 9:52 AM EDT

When Newt Gingrich finally ended his presidential campaign in May, he went out of his way to thank the man who did more than anyone to try to get him to the White House—Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, the chief patron of the pro-Newt super-PAC Winning Our Future. Adelson, along with his wife, Miriam, gave a combined $21 million to Winning Our Future during the GOP primary, much of which went to television spots attacking Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital.

Now that the primary is over, it's Romney who's trying to smooth things over with the mega-donor. In May, while the political world fixated on the GOP nominee's summit with Donald Trump in Las Vegas, Romney quietly held a 45-minute meeting with Adelson. Adelson can't give Romney's campaign more than $2,400, so the real purpose was to get him to open up his wallet to a super-PAC, where he could give as much as he wanted.

And now it appears to be paying off. Politico's Ken Vogel reports that Adelson has just cut his first $1 million check to the pro-Romney super-PAC  Restore our Future. And there signs he's planning on giving more. To wit: Vogel notes that Adelson is in talks with Rudy Giuliani (!!) about bankrolling a new super-PAC devoted to electing GOP senate candidates.

A million is pocket change by Adelson's standards. But then again, it's only June.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for June 6, 2012

Wed Jun. 6, 2012 12:17 PM EDT

 

Pfc. Joseph Salerna, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, backs his Bradley Fighting Vehicle aboard a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft with the help of an Air Force loadmaster, June 3, at Lawson Army Airfield, Fort Benning, Ga. Photo by the US Army.

Democrats Can Have Ginormous Spending Gaps Too

| Wed Jun. 6, 2012 11:34 AM EDT
An actual flood of donations.

The big news from Tuesday, rightly, is that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker cruised to victory in his recall election with help from a handful of out-of-state billionaires. Walker raised $30 million; his challenger, Democrat Tom Barrett, raised $3.9 million. Money doesn't buy elections, but it definitely makes them a lot easier to win—otherwise there'd be no point in giving.

But the recall wasn't the only election on Tuesday and it wasn't the only race in which a massive spending gap tipped the scales. As MoJo alum Mike Beckel noted at iWatch News, Democrats spent big bucks to take down an independent candidate in a California primary. In the 26th district, Democrat Julie Brownley squeaked past independent Linda Parks for the second spot on the ballot in November:

Records show four outside groups, including two super PACs, have collectively spent more than $1 million on independent expenditures to help Brownley.

The two pro-Brownley super PACs in the race are the "House Majority PAC," whose primary purpose is to "win back the House majority for Democrats," and "Women Vote," a project of EMILY's List, which works to elect Democratic women supportive of abortion rights.

By contrast, the only outside group supporting Parks, centrist super-PAC icPurple, spent just $52,000—a roughly 20 to 1 gap. For Democratic donors, it was money well spent. The 26th is a blue district they'll need to win in November to have any chance of taking back the House.

Elsewhere in California, Democrats failed to put a candidate on the November ballot in the Democratic-leaning 31st district despite picking up nearly half the vote. That's because they never settled on a candidate, splitting their portion of the vote four ways. (In California's new "jungle primary" system, the top two vote-getters in the primary, regardless of party, appear on the ballot in November.) Birther dentist Orly Taitz, meanwhile, received 113,000 votes in the US Senate primary, but did not qualify for the November ballot. Maybe next time.

Democrat Declares Victory in Wisconsin Senate Race That Could Flip Majority Control

| Wed Jun. 6, 2012 9:45 AM EDT
Former state senator John Lehman, center.

In the 21st senate district in southeastern Wisconsin, Democrat John Lehman declared victory late Tuesday night in the recall election of Republican state Sen. Van Wanggard. With all precincts reporting, Lehman led Wanggard by just 779 votes.

The race matters because a Lehman win would hand Democrats control of the state senate for the first time since Gov. Scott Walker took office in January 2011. It would also mean Democrats and labor unions avoided a clean sweep in Tuesday's six recall elections in Wisconsin.

"Tonight, the citizens of Racine County voted for checks and balances in our state legislature," Lehman said in a statement. "I look forward to working with my colleagues in the state senate."

Wanggard has yet to concede. His campaign manager released a statement Wednesday morning that said: "We owe it to all of Senator Wanggaard's supporters and the voters of Wisconsin to thoroughly examine the election and its results and act accordingly once we have all of the information."

The Wanggard-Lehman recall battle was similar to the marquee race on Tuesday's recall ticket, the Scott Walker-Tom Barrett election. Just as Walker and Barrett squared off for the first time in the 2010 gubernatorial election, Wanggard defeated Lehman in a 2010 state senate race. Now it appears that Lehman has got his revenge for that loss.

There could be a recount in the Wanggard-Lehman race with the final, unofficial result so close. In Wisconsin, if a race's margin of victory is 0.5 percent or less, it triggers a taxpayer-funded recount. If it's between 0.5 percent and 2 percent, a candidate can demand a recount at a discounted price.

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Most of Obama's 2008 Bundlers Are AWOL, But…

| Wed Jun. 6, 2012 6:00 AM EDT

Earlier this week, BuzzFeed reported that 88 percent of the more than 550,000 individuals who donated $200 or more to Barack Obama in 2008 have yet to match their previous giving in 2012. "I don't dislike him personally," one former donor said, "but I'm disappointed that he's not the change-agent I had hoped for." The Obama campaign shrugged off the story, saying its reelection fundraising is on track.

Obama has raised about $120 million more than Mitt Romney, in no small part because of his bundlers—supporters who have maxed out their individual contributions and gone on to solicit money from others to donate in one large bundle. 

But many of the 2008 bundlers who made the Obama campaign the richest ever have yet to step up. A comparison of the 2008 and 2012 bundler lists shows that just 28 percent, or 159, of Obama's bundlers from four years ago have raised money for the president this year. 

Is that a sign of a faltering fundraising strategy? Not necessarily: In 2008, the Obama campaign reported having 558 bundlers who raised between $76.3 million and $118.9 million (out of $745 million raised overall). This year, it has already reported 532 bundlers who have collectively raised between $106 and $110 million. As the Center for Responsive Politics suggested in April, Obama's fundraising numbers "show that the wealthy, well-connected individuals who typically become bundlers are rallying to Obama's aid to a greater degree than they did in his first bid for the Oval Office." Already, the estimated hauls brought in by bundlers who work in the legal, securities and investment, business services, real estate, and entertainment industries have exceeded those of 2008. And many of the currently AWOL 2008 bundlers could return in the next five months.

Obama's new batch of bundlers include New Age author Deepak Chopra, who has collected between $100,000 and $200,000; LGBT activist couple Tim Gill and Scott Miller, who have collected at least $500,000; actress Eva Longoria, who has collected between $200,000 and $500,000; director Tyler Perry, who has collected at least $500,000; and Robert Pohlad, whose family owns the Minnesota Twins, who has collected at least $500,000.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney has only revealed the names of his bundlers who are lobbyists, as required by law. His disclosures show that he has at least 25 bundlers who have raised a minimum of $3 million.

Live Coverage of the Wisconsin Recall Results

| Tue Jun. 5, 2012 8:15 PM EDT

Check back here for exit polls, live results, and dispatches from Tom Barrett's election night headquarters. Follow our man in Milwaukee, @AndrewKroll, for the latest from the Badger State.


9:40 p.m. Central time: Gov. Scott Walker is the projected winner of Tuesday's historic gubernatorial recall election in Wisconsin. News outlets called the race for Walker less than an hour after polls closed. Walker led his opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, 58 percent to 41 percent with half of precincts reported across the state. Read more here.

8:32 p.m. Central time: To the ire of Democrats and labor officials, the role scandal-plagued Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus will play in tonight's election operations remains in doubt. The Journal Sentinel reports:

While Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas and his chief of staff insisted Tuesday that County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus was not the one in charge of election duties for the recall election, she appeared to be at the helm.

Nickolaus refused to respond to questions in her office, turning her back and closing her office door while a reporter waited at a service counter. Her deputy, Kelly Yaeger, didn't respond, either.

Nickolaus was observed passing out election supplies to local clerks leading up to Tuesday's election, and she's the one who fielded questions Tuesday from the field, said Gina Kozlik, Waukesha's deputy clerk-treasurer.

Shawn Lundie, Vrakas' chief of staff, said he was confident procedures put in place with Yaeger would ensure smooth reporting of votes Tuesday night. He also said Yaeger, while fully competent, was free to ask Nickolaus to assist her.

Vrakas, for his part, added that Nickolaus "agreed to step aside and hand off her duties to Kelly (Yaeger), and that has occurred."

8:20 p.m. Central time: More exit poll details trickling in:

7:48 p.m. Central time: Several voting precincts in the Milwaukee area have reported running low or out of ballots for Tuesday's recall elections, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

Poll workers at Phyllis Wheatley School, 2442 N. 20th St., reported having only 10 paper ballots shortly after 6 p.m. with many people waiting in line. The polling place had already run low on ballots earlier in the day and election officials dropped off more.

As of 6 p.m., 548 ballots were cast at Phyllis Wheatley School, more than twice as many as in previous elections, said Lois Sneed, chief elections inspector.

[…]

 

Registration forms for residents signing up to vote also ran low or were gone at several wards in Milwaukee. Janet Veum, communications coordinator for Wisconsin Jobs Now, said registration forms ran out at Wards 141 and 142 at 2450 N. 6th St. Ballots and registration forms ran out at 53rd St. School, and ballots were running low at the Center St. Library.

Poll workers at Wards 108 and 109 at Ben Franklin School, 2308 W. Nash St., and Wards 110 and 111 at Children's Outing Association, 2320 W. Burleigh St., also reported running out of registration forms for new voters.

7:25 p.m. Central time: Wisconsinites who turned out to vote in Tuesday's recall elections for Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, and four GOP state senators were split almost evenly by party identification, according to CNN exit polls. Thirty-five percent said they were Democrats and 33 percent identified themselves as Republicans. Thirty-two percent described themselves as independents.

Nine out of ten voters, exit polls found, said they'd made up their minds about how to vote in the recall elections prior to May. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Walker's opponent, won the recall's Democratic primary on May 8. Just seven percent of voters said they decided how to vote in the recalls on Election Day.

Scott Walker's Recall Is 1 of 103 Recalls So Far in 2012

| Tue Jun. 5, 2012 3:29 PM EDT

Voting in Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's recall election is underway, but it's far from the only recall election happening this year. There are 17 recalls in four states scheduled for Tuesday alone. According to Joshua Spivak, an expert on recalls in American politics, 2012 is on pace to surpass last year's all-time record of 151 recall elections

For the first half of 2012, Spivak's recall count is at 103 in 17 states. That includes recalls that have taken place, been scheduled, or have prompted the official facing recall to resign. Here's more from Spivak:

Of the 103 recalls, they breakdown like this:

  • 32 recalls resulted in a vote for removal. They took place in 17 different states
  • 14 recalls resulted in a resignation in the face of removal
  • 1 recall failed to get on the ballot, but the official resigned anyway
  • 1 recall saw the official die in office
  • 27 recalls resulted in the targeted official won the recall election
  • 30 are scheduled to take place between today and August
  • 6 instances, most notable El Paso, Texas, a judge rejected the recall.
  • 6 other instances, the targeted officials are either still fighting the recall in court or refusing to schedule one as a member of the city council.
  • 52 attempted recalls (at least) that failed to gather enough signatures to get on the ballot.
  • 115 (at least) open and unresolved recall petitions circulating now (I may be off on this—in some of these, the recall might have been abandoned).

The recalls are against all types of officials, Six mayors have been removed, five have survived, and another four are facing a recall vote.

The reasons for the recall span the spectrum. Some of the more noteworthy ones including opposing another member's appointment of his girlfriend to the village council, trashing a hotel room, and one launched by the wife of a losing candidate. In one ongoing recall attempt, we have the official facing charges of rape, pimping, pandering and maybe attempted murder (don't worry, that was just a school board member). Last year, we had a school board member facing a recall who was caught sexting with a 14 year old. That was not the reason for the recall (it came out during the campaign).

Among other nuggets are that the mayors of both Troy, Montana, and Troy, Michigan, are facing recalls (the mayor from Montana lost). And while it may be time to stop all of your weeping and swallow your pride, the mayor of Tombstone, Arizona, was recalled. And yes, he was replaced by the owner of Johnny Ringo's bar, who will now be your huckleberry.

In summary, we should be ahead of last year's pace. The big caveat, outside of the fact that I may be missing a number of recalls both this year and last, is that this is a presidential election year, not an off year election. I think it is possible that there may be less recalls on Election Day than last year (there were 30 on the first two Tuesday's in November). Perhaps people will be more focused on the presidential race, and will ignore recalling local officials. Of course, the opposite could occur. We will see in November.

Spivak also has a great primer on Wisconsin's six June 5 recall elections of Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, and four Republican state senators, including Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. (Read my profile of Fitzgerald's grassroots-powered challenger, Lori Compas.) Spivak's Wisconsin primer is necessary reading before results from around the state start to flood in.

Obama's Empty Federal Bench

| Tue Jun. 5, 2012 11:44 AM EDT

There are more empty seats on the federal bench now than when President Barack Obama took office, according to a Congressional Research Service report, skewing federal courts to the right and leaving some jurisdictions with overwhelming caseloads.

From same-sex marriage to health care to immigration, the past few years have shown just how important the federal judiciary can be in shaping how Americans live their lives. Yet the study, first posted by Steven Aftergood of Secrecy News, shows what liberal legal advocacy groups have been saying for a while: The Obama administration is lagging behind its recent predecessors when it comes to judicial confirmations. The report notes that Obama is the only one of the last three presidents to have more district and circuit court vacancies today than when he first entered the White House. 

Here's a chart from the report:

The chart makes it clear that, as my colleague Nick Baumann reported last year, this isn't simply a matter of Republican obstruction, although that is an important factor. Even if that ceased tomorrow, the Obama administration has offered so few judicial nominations that most of the vacancies still wouldn't be filled. Recess appointments aren't a solution, because without Senate approval lifetime judicial appointments become short term ones.  Should Obama lose the 2012 election, the number of vacancies would set up a President Mitt Romney with the opportunity to pack the federal bench with Republican nominees.