Mojo - June 2012

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Big Waffle Goes All in for American Crossroads

| Fri Jun. 22, 2012 7:16 AM PDT
Waffle House.

Karl Rove's super-PAC, American Crossroads, raised $4,540,700 in May, according to Federal Election Commission reports filed on Wednesday. For an outfit that has pledged to spend at least $300 million attempting to defeat President Obama and take back the Senate, this may not sound like very much. But keep in mind that 1) big-money donors like Sheldon Adelson and Foster Friess have already signaled their intent to donate to 501(c)4s (like Crossroads' sister outfit, Crossroads GPS), which don't have to file monthly disclosure reports or disclose their donors and 2) the biggest gifts to outside groups usually come in the last month before the election.

So who's giving to Crossroads? For the most part, it's individuals. Any company looking to hide its money would go through Crossroads GPS, which doesn't disclose its donors (at least not yet). But one name did catch my eye—the Rutherford River Group, which gave Crossroads $250,000. Rutherford River Group lists an address at 2352 Pine Street in San Francisco—this building. There's no record of the Rutherford River Group on Google, but it's the same address used by Diane "Dede" Wilsey, a major philanthropist who's given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican causes (and a few Democrats; it's California) and maxed out to the Romney campaign. She also owns a vineyard called Rutherford River Ranch Vineyards, and the address provided to the FEC is the same address used by her foundation and the vineyard, so, voila. I'm not sure why she used a company that has virtually no footprint to donate to Crossroads but I've reached out for an explanation. Wilsey isn't the only affluent Bay Area resident giving to Crossroads; Charles B. Johnson, the principal owner of the San Francisco Giants, gave $200,000.

Also of note:

Joe Craft, CEO of Alliance Resources Partners, a Kentucky coal company, personally gave $1.25 million, and donated $425,000 through his company. Why is that significant? Craft is also Mitt Romney's Kentucky finance co-chair. This is legal, so long as Craft's check came with no strings attached. But it goes to show just how much of an overlap there is between outside groups and the campaigns themselves. (It was Craft, you'll recall, whose $7 million naming gift for a University of Kentucky dorm caused writer and activist Wendell Berry to pull his papers from his alma mater.)

Crow Holdings, the company helmed by Swift Boater Harlan Crow, gave $1 million. Oh, and Waffle House, the 24-hour southern breakfast chain that's so ubiquitous FEMA uses it to assess hurricane damage, gave Crossroads $100,000 from its corporate coffers. This is surprising because one doesn't normally associate Big Waffle with big scary super-PACs, but also not that surprising: CEO Jim Rogers Jr. is a longtime supporter of Republican causes, and the company's political action committee has given exclusively to Republicans (in considerably more modest quantities). His ties to Romney date back to 2006, when he joined the finance team of Romney's political action committee, Commonwealth PAC.

Corn on MSNBC: Romney's Super PAC Ski Trip

Thu Jun. 21, 2012 7:22 PM PDT

David Corn sat down with Politico's Joe Williams and X-L Alliance's Liliana Gil on MSNBC's "Martin Bashir" to hash out Mitt Romney's speech to Latino leaders today. Is there anything Mitt can say—or any amount he can spend—that can limit the President's advantage on immigration?

 

Later, they discussed the legalities of a GOP retreat to the uber-elite ski country of Deer Valley, Utah—a trip that will feature Mitt Romney, GOP leaders, and Super PAC all-stars. Apparently skiing and shmoozing do not qualify as "coordination."

 

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

Does George Zimmerman's Story Add Up?

| Thu Jun. 21, 2012 3:59 PM PDT

Does George Zimmerman's account of what happened on the night he shot and killed Trayvon Martin add up? That question, and whether or not he acted legally in self-defense, will be adjudicated in a Florida court. Aside from Zimmerman landing back in jail for allegedly lying during his bond hearing, the story on the Martin killing has been relatively quiet in recent weeks. But now, on the court's orders, Zimmerman's legal team has been forced to release additional documentary evidence, including a written statement from Zimmerman and a police video (above) in which he reenacts the deadly altercation for investigators the day after it went down.

It isn't hard to see why Zimmerman's attorneys were reluctant to make the material public. It raises more questions and reveals apparent discrepancies in his story.

In a four-page written statement to police on February 26, the night of the shooting (see the document below), Zimmerman says Martin "circled his vehicle" and then disappeared into the darkness as Zimmerman spoke to a police dispatcher on his cell phone. When the dispatcher asked him for his location, Zimmerman wrote in the statement, "I could not remember the name of the street so I got out of my car to look for a street sign."

His stated reason for exiting his vehicle may not be implausible, but it's certainly odd: After all, Zimmerman had lived in the Retreat at Twin Lakes, a small gated community, for years. And he was a leader of its Neighborhood Watch program; prior to the night he killed Martin, he'd called the police no less than 46 times since 2004 to report alleged incidents in the neigborhood. This is a guy who now doesn't recognize which street he's on in his neighborhood?

Also eyebrow-raising is Zimmerman's recollection of the violence that took place after he exited his vehicle. In the written statement, Zimmerman describes reaching for his cell phone to dial 911 as Martin accosts him, comes at him, and punches him in the face. "I fell backwards onto my back," Zimmerman wrote. "The suspect got on top of me."

But in his reenactment at the scene, filmed the day after the shooting by police investigators, Zimmerman describes moving forward after Martin punches him in the face, not falling onto his back. "I think I stumbled," he tells investigators, gesturing forward with his right hand from the spot where he says Martin punched him. "I fell down, he pushed me down, somehow he got on top of me."

An investigator then asks, "On the grass or on the cement?" 

Zimmerman points and walks forward about six paces, the camera following him, as he responds: "It was more over towards here. I think I was trying to push him away from me, and then he got on top of me somewhere around here, and that's when I started screaming for help."

Zimmerman has a right to his day in court. It's important to keep that in mind. But as more information from the investigation emerges, it doesn't seem to be doing much for his case in the court of public opinion.

 

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Arizona Secretary of State Thinks Obama Told Colleges He Was Born in Kenya

| Thu Jun. 21, 2012 5:20 AM PDT
Ken Bennett (R)

Arizona secretary of state Ken Bennett stepped in it back in May when he threatened to keep President Barack Obama off the November ballot unless the state of Hawaii produced a copy of his birth certificate. This was an odd demand, because Obama and the state of Hawaii have already produced two copies of Obama's birth certificate. Bennett eventually backed down and apologized to the citizens of Arizona (but not before Democrats demanded that he investigate rumors that Mitt Romney is secretly a unicorn).

Now, Bennett is at it again. Speaking to local Republicans last week, Bennett alleged that the president may have told college admissions officers that he had been born in Kenya in order to receive special perks. Per the Arizona Republic:

"Now, I know there are a lot of people who are very skeptical about whether the president was born in Hawaii," he said. "Personally, I believe he was.

"I actually think he was fibbing about being born in Kenya when he was trying to get into college and doing things like writing a book and on and on and on.

"So, if there was weird stuff going on, I actually think it was happening back in his college days because I think he has spent $1.5 (million) or $2 million through attorneys to have all the college records and all that stuff sealed.

"So, if you're spending money to seal something, that's probably where the hanky panky was going on."

Bennett on Wednesday said that his comments are being misconstrued and that he was hinging his statement on the word "if."

It just depends on what your definition of if is!