Mojo - June 2012

Report: Aggressive Police Response to Occupy Oakland Was "Flawed"

| Fri Jun. 15, 2012 5:00 AM EDT
Riot police prepare to raid the Occupy Oakland encampment in the early morning of October 25.

The Oakland Police Department's aggressive response to an Occupy Oakland protest that made international news last October was "flawed," according to a newly released 120-page report (PDF). Commissioned by the city in December and conducted by the Frazier Group consulting firm for $100,000, the report criticized the department for its "outdated, dangerous, and ineffective" crowd-control tactics, which critically injured one protester.

The report comes on the heels of news that an OPD officer may have botched the investigation into the police-inflicted injury that left Marine vet Scott Olsen in critical condition during the October 25 protest. (A criminal investigation initiated by the OPD had been closed entirely until the Frazier Group expressed "serious concerns regarding [its] quality and breadth" and got it reopened, the new report revealed.) The allegation was made in a document filed with Thelton Henderson, the federal judge tasked with overseeing OPD independent monitors following a 2003 drug-planting scandal's settlement. In January, Henderson wrote that the police response to Occupy Oakland protests raised "serious concerns" and that the department remained "woefully behind its peers around the state and nation." If the department doesn't make significant improvements, it runs the risk of being placed in federal receivership.

The Frazier report criticized the OPD for inadequately planning the early morning raid of the Occupy Oakland camp that sparked the October protests.  It also blamed the aggressive police response on "a series of cascading events," including recent command turnover that resulted in failures to learn from mistakes, and "years of diminishing resources" that have reduced the number of officers in the department by 23 percent since 2009.

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This Week in Dark Money

| Fri Jun. 15, 2012 5:00 AM EDT

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

the money shot

 

quote of the week

"We need our side to wake up."
—Democratic Senate Campaign Committee executive director Guy Cecil, in an plea to wealthy liberal donors to start giving to super-PACs to narrow the party's outside-spending gap.

 

chart of the week

Casino tycoon and former Newt Gingrich super-PAC megadonor Sheldon Adelson gave $10 million to the pro-Mitt Romney super-PAC Restore Our Future this week—the largest disclosed donation in support of Romney to date. Adelson and his wife have contributed $35 million to super-PACs so far, and Sheldon has said that he plans to give at least $100 million to conservative groups . For the billionaire, that's just a drop in the bucket:

 

STAT of the week

$367/hour: That's how much the average House member has to raise to keep her seat. Senators must come up with $819 an hour. Check out our list of Congress' most and least expensive seats, on an hourly basis.

 

race of the week

Outside spending dominated the year's first general election contest, held Tuesday to replace Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) (who stepped down after last year's assassination attempt). Parties and super-PACs poured more than $2.3 million into the race between tea partier Jesse Kelly and former Giffords staffer Ron Barber (the victor). At least $1.1 million of it was in support of Kelly, including $100,000 from the Citizens United PAC, and nearly $200,000 from Karl Rove's American Crossroads. This recent ad from the House Majority PAC, which spent $458,000 supporting Barber and was the only Democratic super-PAC in the mix, featured a clip of Kelly calling Giffords a "hero of nothing" in 2010, before she was shot:

 

more mojo dark money coverage

How Dark-Money Groups Sneak By the Taxman: Nonprofits like Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS are all about "social welfare," not partisan politics. Well, at least that's what they tell the IRS.
Sheldon Adelson's $10 Million Donation to Romney Super-PAC: Is this just the tip of the Iceberg?
• Tune in: This weekend, MoJo editors-in-chief Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery will appear on Moyers & Company to talk dark money. Check your local listings for times.

 

more must-reads

• Obama senior campaign adviser David Axelrod calls for a constitutional amendment to undo Citizens United—after meeting with super-PAC donors. New York Times
• Campaign-finance reform advocates hail a decision to let people to donate to campaigns via text message. Center for Responsive Politics
• Corporations are people: A conservative dark-money group lists a corporation as a board member. Republic Report
• 73 million cans of Natty Light—and other stuff Sheldon Adelson could buy with $10 million. Huffington Post

Virginia Poised to Impose Country's "Most Restrictive" Abortion Rules

| Fri Jun. 15, 2012 5:00 AM EDT

UPDATE 6/15/2012, 5pm EST: Women's health groups scored an unexpected victory today: Contrary to expectations, the Virginia Board of Health voted 7-4 to grandfather in abortion clinics, meaning that already existing providers will be allowed to continue operating under the old regulations, and will be exempt from having to meet the standards of the new bill. For more information, see the Twitter stream of the Virginia Coalition to Protect Women's Health, which has been providing live updates from the meeting.

As many as 20 of Virginia's 22 abortion clinics face closure if, as expected, the Virginia Board of Health votes today to make a series of medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion clinics—currently in effect as "emergency" regulations—into permanent law. As Mother Jones' Kate Sheppard reported last year, the rules require facilities performing more than five first-trimester abortions per month to meet conditions usually imposed on full-fledged hospitals, like installing 5-foot wide public hallways and making sure that the number of beds equal the number of parking spots.  These measures were put in place last February, passed as an amendment to a bill unrelated to reproductive rights.

Today, they will likely become permanent.

"If passed as written, these will be the most restrictive state abortion regulations in the country," said Tarina Keene, Director of the Virginia Coalition to Protect Women's Health.

Corn on MSNBC: Romney's "Better" Economy and Obama's "Choice"

Thu Jun. 14, 2012 5:00 PM EDT

Mother Jones' DC bureau chief David Corn joined Martin Bashir on MSNBC on Thursday to discuss Mitt Romney's speech on the economy:

Corn also discussed President Obama's speech:

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

GOP Congressional Candidate Admits Buying Sex-Themed Domain Names

| Thu Jun. 14, 2012 4:04 PM EDT

On Thursday morning, Mother Jones reported that GOP congressional candidate Trey Radel, a former Fox radio talk show host in southwest Florida, had once owned a company that registered a number of smutty Internet domain names. Many of the sex-related web addresses were in Spanish. The list included such sites as www.casadelasputas (whore house), and www.sexguideonline.com. Radel did not respond to repeated requests for comment from Mother Jones. But after our story broke, Florida news outlets started hounding Radel for an explanation. This afternoon, he finally addressed the matter.

The News Press reports:

Radel said Thursday afternoon that he owned a business that bought and sold thousands of domain names, and he was not aware of every name purchased. When he became aware of such names, he said, they were disposed of immediately and he worked to ensure no content was posted.

He said the story is the work of a liberal publication that often attacks conservative Republican candidates.

Radel also sent a letter to supporters saying Mother Jones is an "ultra-liberal San Francisco rag... trying to personally smear" him—an "attack" he wears "as a badge of honor."

Still, Radel's opponents were quick to criticize his past business. Again from the News Press:

"It's shocking and it's disappointing," said state Rep. Paige Kreegel, R-Punta Gorda, who's running against Radel for the GOP congressional nomination. Even if there was no content under those names, he said, the names speak for themselves.

Radel's explanation may also not survive further media scrutiny. He registered some of the domain names in 2005, and www.casadelasputas.com, for example, was still listed under his name through the end of 2010. After that, the registrant's name was hidden through Domains By Proxy, a registration service. But this address remained registered anonymously until the end of May this year. It wasn't deleted until this week—after Mother Jones asked the Radel campaign about it.

The George H.W. Bush Horrible HBO Documentary Drinking Game

| Thu Jun. 14, 2012 12:34 PM EDT
"Our love needs a transfusion, so let's shoot it full of wine!"

41, a new film about former President George H.W. Bush, takes a slurp-and-nuzzle approach to the political documentary.

The documentary—premiering Thursday at 9 p.m. EST on HBO—two days after the ex-prez celebrated his 88th birthday—is a hideously fawning look at the man and his career. (This might have had something to do with the fact that the film was executive-produced by Jerry Weintraub, a Hollywood Walk-of-Famer with close ties to the Bush family.)

With a career in public service as rich and controversial as that of Bush, any competent documentarian would have more than enough to drool over. Where to begin? Iran-Contra, perhaps? The brutal campaign blitzes engineered by Lee Atwater, maybe? Operation Just Cause?

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John McCain Doesn't Know What He's Tweeting About

| Thu Jun. 14, 2012 10:20 AM EDT

John McCain was on fire on Wednesday. The Senate was set to vote on the Farm Bill, so the Arizona Republican senator decided to tweet out a list of the 10 worst projects being funded the bill, under the hash-tag #FarmBillPork. Here's number six:

Mac is back, baby!

Some of the projects McCain pokes fun at do seem pretty wasteful. As Politico's David Rodgers reports, Nebraska's two senators wouldn't offer any explanation for why they included a 31-word passage designed to help the popcorn industry. The Farm Bill is notorious for being larded with counterproductive, often wasteful measures. But feral pig eradication isn't a pet project—it's a response to a serious problem with very real economic and environmental consequences.

Feral pigs cause about $400 million in property damage each year in Texas along. The national figure is much higher. Mississippi State's wild pig information site notes that a "conservative estimate of the cost of wild pig damage to agriculture and the environment in the United States currently stands at $1.5 billion annually." That's like three Solyndras! Feral pigs spread diseases, they're bad for business (especially if you own a farm or a golf course), and they're bad for just about any species that's not a feral pig because they're a non-native invasive species. They're also pretty big polluters.

Skepticism is a healthy thing when it comes to massive appropriations bills. But McCain doesn't seem to have any genuine interest in evaluating the merits of a project before he mocks it; he'd rather play to the lowest common denominator by making a joke about pigs. This isn't the first time he's done this, either.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for June 14, 2012

Thu Jun. 14, 2012 9:00 AM EDT

Pfc. Sean Robertson and Pvt. Geno Romero—both with 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division—practice climbing rubble with an iRobot Packbot 510 during a robotics class at Fort Irwin, Calif., on June 4. Robertson, a combat engineer with 38th Engineer Company, and Romero, a cavalry scout from A Troop, 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, participated in the robotics course during Reception, Staging, Onward Movement, and Integration (RSOI) at the National Training Center. US Army photo by Sgt. Kimberly Hackbarth, 4th SBCT, 2nd Inf. Div. Public Affairs Office.

Mitt Romney: The Devil's Dictionary

| Thu Jun. 14, 2012 5:00 AM EDT
Mitt Romney

(This post has been updated.)

It's tough to cover—or simply follow—a presidential election without growing deeply cynical about the whole process. So rather than fighting it, we're going to just come clean: Politicians often don't mean what they say, or, more charitably, they say what they mean but they mean something completely different than what you think.

Mitt Romney is no exception—which is why we're unveiling Mitt Romney's Devil's Dictionary, a new running feature to help you better understand what Mitt Romney means when he says (for example), "Our president doesn't have the same feelings about American exceptionalism that we do." Unlike the original Ambrose Bierce offering, we can't promise that it will be clever, witty, or darkly humorous, but it is, nonetheless, a dictionary. And it will, at least, be updated. Here's a start:

Apologize v. 1. Something one should never do, even in effort to minimize the diplomatic fallout from freak accidents like accidentally burning the Koran in a country you've occupied for 10 years. 2. To admit weakness. 3. Something Mitt Romney does not do. E.g. "I do not apologize."

Congratulations int. 1. A salutation, generally employed to fill awkward pauses. E.g. "That's a nice lava lamp. Congratulations!"

Donut n. 1. A chocolate goodie. 2. Something political reporters talk about to fill dead air. E.g. "Can you see that one of those, um, chocolate goodies finds its way to our ride."

Exceptionalism n. 1. Something Barack Obama does not believe in, notwithstanding his repeated insistence that America holds a unique place in the world and that his own personal narrative could not have been happened anywhere else. E.g. "Our president doesn't have the same feelings about American exceptionalism that we do."

French Canadian n. 1. A term used to describe anyone Romney meets. Usually not French Canadian. E.g. "Are you French Canadian?"

Lemonade n. 1. Lemon. 2. Wet. 3. Good. E.g. "Governor Romney how was the lemonade?" "Lemon, wet, good."

Mandate n. 1. A penalty. E.g. "Massachusetts' mandate was a...a penalty." 2. A tax. E.g. "Well, the Supreme Court has the final word, and their final word is that Obamacare is a tax, so it's a tax."

Obamacare n. 1. A health care reform law that attempts to guarantee universal coverage through an individual mandate. Not to be confused with Romneycare (n.), which is a health care reform law that attempts to guarantee universal coverage through an individual mandate.

Out of Touch: n. 1. A charge leveled against one's opponent, often uttered while speaking at a fundraiser held inside a mansion. E.g. "At a $2,500-per-person fundraiser at Isleworth Country Club in suburban Orlando, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney berated President Barack Obama for being out of touch with middle-income Americans."

People n. 1. A corporation. E.g. "Corporations are people, my friends!"

Pie n. 1. Something Mitt Romney loves. E.g. "I love rhubarb pie. I love coconut-cream and banana-cream pie. I loved good apple pie, cherry pie, blueberry pie. I just like pies." See also: scouting, water.

Pizza n. 1. An American dish comprised of a doughy crust, tomato sauce, and cheese, in which the cheese has been scraped off.

Retire v. 1. To remain active. 2.) To maintain a part-time role at a company while retaining full ownership, signing off on key documents, and taking a six-figure salary. e.g. "Mr. Romney retired from Bain Capital on February 11, 1999 to head the Salt Lake Organizing Committee."

Scouting n. 1. Something Mitt Romney loves. E.g. "I love the scouting program. I love the principles of scouting!" See also: water, pie.

Small government n. 1. A governing philosophy in which the federal government expands its regulation of marriage and women's bodies and increases funding for overseas military expeditions.

Sport n. 1. Sports. E.g. "I, figured he had to be in sport, but he wasn't in sport."

Tree n. 1. A tall leafy plant native to Michigan. Should be approximately 24 feet tall and deciduous. E.g. "The trees are the right height." 2. Mitt Romney. E.g. "What kind of tree is that? It's a Mitt Romney tree!"

Unemployed n. Running for president. E.g. "I should tell you my story: I'm also unemployed."

Varmints n. 1. The most dangerous game. E.g. "I've always been, if you will, a rodent and rabbit hunter, small varmints if you will."

Venn diagram n. 1. A chart featuring two circles, in which the overlapping portion represents the difference between the two.

Water n. 1. Something Mitt Romney loves. E.g. "I love the Great Lakes. You know, we've been to Massachusetts. I love the ocean, too. I do love the ocean." See also: scouting, pie.

Why int. 1. Gee. 2. Golly. 3. Gosh. E.g. "If I won California, why, we'd win in a landslide"

Charts: $35 Million Is Chump Change—If You're Sheldon Adelson

| Thu Jun. 14, 2012 5:00 AM EDT

In April, casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson told political reporter Jon Ralston that "I'm going to give one more small donation—you might not think it's that small—to a super-PAC." Sure enough, the Las Vegas billionaire reportedly just gave $10 million to the pro-Romney super-PAC Restore Our Future. That's on top of another $25 million given to conservative super-PACs by Adelson and his wife, cementing their status as the most massive megadonors of 2012.

The Adelsons aren't new to the world of outsized political contributions. But their spending in the past few months has exceeded their entire reported political spending between 1992 and 2010, which totalled $27.6 million and included $17 million to the short-lived Freedom's Watch (billed as the conservative answer to MoveOn.org in the 2008 election).

 

Beyond his super-PAC donations, Adelson is ready to spend as much as $100 million this year, the Wall Street Journal reports. (Much of his upcoming donations may go to dark-money groups, in which case they won't have to be disclosed.) Don't worry, he won't feel a thing: As of March, Adelson was worth nearly 250 times that—$24.9 billion.

 

For another perspective on just how loaded Adelson is, consider how his net worth stacks up to the typical American family's:

 

The Adelsons are hardly the only ones taking advantage of the post-Citizens-United free-for-all. But they are blowing all other donors away: Their spending exceeds that of the next six biggest donors. (So far, most major donors are also supporting conservative super-PACs, which are outspending their liberal counterparts by a factor of 7 to 1.)