Rarely a day passes without a reminder that, in 2012, Republicans are steamrolling the competition in the dash for super-PAC cash. According to a new analysis by the Sunlight Foundation, GOP-aligned super-PACs have raised $227 million for the 2012 elections, while their Democratic counterparts have raised $77 million—a nearly 3-to-1 advantage.

Not startled? Then consider this: A single Republican super-PAC, the pro-Romney Restore Our Future, has raked in more money this election cycle ($82 million) than all Democratic-aligned super-PACs combined. That's one super-PAC beating hundreds of competitors.

Source: Sunlight Foundation, Center for Responsive PoliticsSource: Sunlight Foundation, Center for Responsive Politics

Restore Our Future's donor list is a who's-who of GOP mega-donors: Texas homebuilder Bob Perry, casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson, energy executive Bill Koch, hedge fund gurus John Paulson and Paul Singer, and financier John Childs. The Romney super-PAC is run by the savvy operatives Carl Forti (whom the New York Times recently dubbed "the $400 million man of the 2012 cycle"), attorney Charles Spies, and attack-ad specialist Larry McCarthy.

At this point, it's highly unlikely that Democratic-aligned super-PACs will catch up with the big guns on the other side. Then again, when it comes to the presidential race, Democrats don't need to play catch-up. There's only so much money the candidates' campaigns and outside groups can spend to sway voters, especially those in battleground states, before the money stops having an impact on voters flooded with messaging. Priorities doesn't need to match the GOP money machine dollar for dollar; it needs to hold its own in the states that matter and get its message out while voters are still receptive to what's on their TV or computer.

If Priorities wants to do that, it needs to reach its $100 million fundraising goal (or close). From the look of things, that's a big if.

Over at National Review Online, Avik Roy takes issue with my scoop on Romney's investment in a Chinese appliance-manufacturing firm that sought to profit from US outsourcing. Roy says he used to work at Brookside Capital, the Bain-affiliated entity that made this investment, but he doesn't indicate whether he was around (or in a senior position) at the time of this particular deal in 1998. (On his Google+ page, by the way, Roy notes he was at Bain Capital, not Brookside. Yeah, I suppose, this stuff can be confusing.) Moreover, Roy now serves on Romney's health care policy advisory group. Thus, he has a stake in this venture.

His argument is basically this: Romney did not make the decisions regarding Brookside's investments, and, consequently, cannot be held accountable for these deals.

If Roy was not an eyewitness to internal Bain/Brookside deliberations in the late 1990s, his testimony is less than compelling. Can he say that Romney took no interest in how Brookside was being managed? Had no discussions with those Bain colleagues who were in charge of these decisions?

All that aside, Roy is promoting a classic corporate dodge. He writes:

Which of Bain Capital’s investments is it fair to hold Mitt Romney accountable for?

The answer: He is accountable for the investments in which he actually made the decisions. If I have my 401(k) invested in the Fidelity Select Health Care Fund, am I responsible for every decision made by the portfolio manager at Fidelity? Obviously not. The same goes for Mitt Romney.

This was hardly equivalent to a retirement fund investment. Romney "wholly owned" Brookside, according to a SEC filing. He created this entity. No doubt, he had a say regarding who was managing it. It was part of the Bain world he oversaw. He bears a degree of responsibility—perhaps Romney can calculate the precise percentage—for this venture.

Imagine this scenario: Romney owned a coal mining company. He decided to open a particular mine. He placed that project in the hands of other executives. Would he hold no responsibility if the mine generated profits because the execs he put in charge operated it well—or if the mine became the site of a horrendous accident because those same execs purposefully overlooked safety rules?

Did Romney literally have nothing to do with Brookside—a $559 million venture by early 1999—though he owned it? Did he never look at its lists of investments? Never have a chat with the guys running it? Or did he just let them run free and not pay attention to the direction of their investments—which in itself would be significant?

The Romney camp keeps insisting on a narrative that allows Romney to take credit for the positive aspects of his Bain days (thousands of low-wage Staples jobs!) and to sidestep all else (outsourcing, bankruptcies, politically-inconvenient investments). But in the world of high-and-complicated finance, it's not that simple.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.)

Since being sworn in—on Thomas Jefferson's Koran, no less—as the country's first Muslim congressman five years ago, Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison has been a magnet for conservative criticism. Florida Rep. Allen West told an interviewer in 2011 that Ellison, because his faith undermines America's Judeo-Christian foundation, represents "the antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established." Just last week, his Minnesota colleague Michele Bachmann accused Ellison of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

Now, the Republican nominee to take Ellison on in November has gotten in on the action. On Tuesday, Chris Fields, a Marine Corps veteran with no prior political experience, sent out a fundraising appeal asking for help defeating his "militantly anti-America" opponent":

While I was fighting on a battlefield in Iraq, my opponent was doing everything he could to cut funding for the war and the soldiers fighting it.

Keith Ellison is militantly anti-America. He attacked the Pledge of Allegiance, voted countless times to throw our troops serving in harm's way to the wolves and teamed up with Barney Frank to destroy the banking industry. Not surprisingly, he's the proud co-chairman of the radical Congressional Progressive Caucus.

(Emphasis his). Fields doesn't stand a chance against Ellison; Democrats hold a 22-point edge in the distict and Cook Political Report rates the seat a "solid D." But he's still the representative of the state GOP in this race, and was endorsed by the party convention.

On the other hand, it could have been worse. Fields won his party's nomination by beating Lynne Torgerson, who was running to expose Ellison's plot to spread Islamic Shariah law. Torgerson blamed Fields' victory on a plot by Ron Paul activists to take over the state, citing as evidence my 2011 magazine piece on the New Hampshire Free State Project. As Shep Smith said, politics is weird.

Lance Cpl. Kyle Hankins, a combat engineer with Charlie Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, provides rear security during a patrolling exercise at Udairi Range in Kuwait. US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Michael Petersheim.

Larry Pratt

Here's the first right-wing conspiracy theory about the shootings that killed 12 people and injured dozens more at a midnight screening of the latest Batman movie in Aurora, Colorado, over the weekend.

All indications from the Aurora Police Department are that Batman gunman James Holmes acted alone, for reasons that have yet to be established. But Larry Pratt—the president of Gun Owners of America, a far-right Second Amendment group that's backed by prominent people like Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)—has a different theory. Pratt believes the timing of Holmes' rampage, which left 12 people dead and 58 wounded, seemed designed to coincide with the upcoming negotiation of the United Nations Small Arms Treaty. A press release sent out to radio bookers on Tuesday advertising Pratt's availability noted that, "In an article posted at The New American…one expert even outlined a theory that Holmes didn't act alone, but was possibly 'enlisted' to carry out his violent act." Pratt, the publicist stated, was free for interviews on Holmes' "impeccable" timing.

The email sources the claim to a blog post by a writer for the New American, the official publication of the John Birch Society—which, in turn, directs readers further down the rabbit hole to a website called Natural News, which breaks it down:

All this looks like James Holmes completed a "mission" and then calmly ended that mission by surrendering to police and admitting everything. The mission, as we are now learning, was to cause as much terror and mayhem as possible, then to have that multiplied by the national media at exactly the right time leading up the UN vote next week on a global small arms treaty that could result in gun confiscation across America.

…In other words, this has all the signs of Fast & Furious, Episode II. I wouldn't be surprised to discover someone in Washington was behind it all. After all, there's no quicker way to disarm a nation and take total control over the population than to stage violence, blame it on firearms, then call for leaders to "do something!" Such calls inevitably end up resulting in gun confiscation, and it's never too long after that before government genocide really kicks in like we saw with Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao and other tyrants.

(Emphasis theirs.) This is total baloney, both because Holmes acted alone according to every report we have, and because the United Nations Small Arms Treaty that Pratt and Co. are so concerned about doesn't exist. The treaty is still in the drafting stage, it's not supposed to focus solely on small arms, and, as I reported last summer, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has actually taken steps to ensure that any version of the treaty wouldn't infringe on American interests. Besides, even if President Obama did sign off on a massive United Nations power grab, there's still the Senate.

Gun Owners of America is a fringe group. More mainstream groups like the National Rifle Association tend to stick to more mainstream conspiracy theories—like that Obama is secretly pushing lax gun laws as part of a "massive Obama conspiracy" to ban guns altogether.


This will make your head hurt:

Can a government document be both publicly available and properly classified at the same time? That is not a Zen riddle. It is a serious question posed in a provocative lawsuit filed last year by the American Civil Liberties Union, and on Monday a federal judge said the answer was yes.

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of Federal District Court in Washington ruled that [PDF here] the State Department had acted correctly in withholding more than half of 23 classified diplomatic cables sought by the A.C.L.U. — all of which had been posted on the Web months earlier by WikiLeaks...The State Department, acting as if the cables were still secret, withheld 12 of the 23 cables completely and released 11 with some redactions.

Did you get that? Wikileaks did what they do and went about wikileak-ing a load of top-secret State Department correspondence. The ACLU, being cute and wanting to prove a point, filed a lawsuit to try to force the government to own up to information that is now widely available to any child with a wireless router. The State Department responded by exercising its authority to withhold already publicly available information, and continued to deem—Oxford English Dictionary be damned—the cables classified.

A federal judge then concurred that state secrets that are definitely no longer secret can still be kept legally secret-ish by a secretive State Department. Basically, it's the same kind of maddening, circular logic used in that scene in ABC Family's pious, cheese-heavy teen soap The Secret Life of the American Teenager, when Adrian Lee and her lover Ricky are debating the true meaning of the word "before":

But to be serious for a moment, a ruling like this raises crucial questions for those wishing to blog, tweet, or report on the juicy details buried within a Wikileaks, or Wikileaks-style, data-dump. If a reporter were to write about publicly available documents that the State Department does not offically recognize as declassified, would that journalist be open to prosecution under the Espionage Act of 1917, simply because the government clings to a legal technicality? It's a situation in which the definition of the term "classified" is potentially in limbo.

This episode is merely another drop in the bucket of the $12 billion+  that the Obama administration has spent in the past year alone to pummel transparency.

How will Republicans pay for their proposal to extend Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of Americans? In part, by raising taxes on low- and moderate-income working families.

According to the watchdog group Citizens for Tax Justice, the GOP's tax plan would allow the expiration of tax breaks worth a total of $11.1 billion for 13 million working families. (Democrats want to keep those tax breaks in place.) That's enough money to make up for 40 percent of the value of the GOP's proposed tax cuts for the rich.

Here's a rundown of the GOP's proposed tax increases, and what they'll cost working families:

Child Tax Credit: A tax deduction for families with children
GOP proposal: End a portion of the credit for families making between $3,000 and $13,300
Savings to federal government: $7.6 billion annually
Tax increase for average family: $854 annually

Earned Income Tax Credit: A tax credit for people who work but have low wages
GOP proposal: Reduce EITC for some married couples (i.e., bring back the "marriage penalty") and for families with three or more children
Savings to federal government: $3.4 billion annually
Tax increase for average family: $530 annually

According to CTJ, virtually all of these tax increases would apply to families making less than $50,000—people for whom a few hundred dollars can make a huge difference. Unfortunately for them, the media is focused instead on how Obama's tax increases on incomes above $250,000 will make life intolerable for rich people.

Iraq War veteran Jon Soltz and Mother Jones' David Corn take a closer look at Mitt Romney's foreign policy, revealing that—both in terms of ideals and advisers—it's not a far cry from George W. Bush's approach.

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

Mitt Romney in Iowa in December 2011.

Mitt Romney is having a hard time finding businesses that didn't get any help from the government.

Romney has been holding events and making speeches focusing on a set of remarks President Barack Obama made about how government and other people help individuals succeed. The original line Obama used was "If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business—you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."

The Romney campaign has spent the last couple of weeks deliberately ripping Obama's remarks earlier this month out of context, implying that Obama was disparaging business people by suggesting individual initiative has nothing to do with success. As Slate's Dave Weigel writes, conservatives have seized on this misinterpretation as "proof" Obama is actually a secret Marxist. The implication here is really twofold: Obama can't fix the economy because he doesn't understand business, and because "you didn't build that," Obama thinks it's perfectly fine to take from hardworking rugged individualists (like you) and give to a bunch of freeloaders who'd rather not work for a living (like them). 

The problem is that the real-world examples Romney keeps seizing on include people who got help from the government. As ABC News' Jake Tapper reported Monday, the star of a recent Romney ad hitting Obama over "you didn't build that" had received millions in government loans and contracts. Romney stopped in Costa Mesa, California Monday to meet with a "roundtable" of small business leaders, held in front of a sign that says "We did build it!"

Naturally, it turned out that at least two of the companies represented—Endural LLC and Philatron Wire and Cable—had received hundreds of thousands of dollars in government contracts. When Romney visited the Boston's historic black neighborhood of Roxbury last week, Romney touted an auto repair shop, declaring that "This is not the result of government...This is the result of people who take risks, who have dreams, who build for themselves and for their families." Except it turned out that the auto repair shop guy started out without any funds and was only able to build his business because of a bond issed by the local government.

If Romney was trying to prove that businesses only succeed on the backs of Galtian ubermensches with no external help, he's mostly proved the opposite point. But fortunately for the Romney campaign, this particular attack benefits from a widespread American cultural delusion that success has nothing to do with structural advantages and everything to do with individual excellence, or that you can't be proud of your accomplishments if you acknowledge the collaborative efforts of others on your behalf. So even the individuals Romney cited are indignant about the idea that they received help, despite knowing that they did. Jack Gilchrist, the businessman featured in Romney's ad who received millions of dollars in government contracts and loans, simply rationalized it as getting "some of my tax money back." Brian Maloney, the Roxbury businessman who started his auto repair shop with a government loan, told National Journal "We don't need any more of government's help. We haven't had any."

Navy SEALs conduct a capabilities exercise at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story during the 43rd annual Underwater Demolition Team (UDT)-Sea, Air and Land (SEAL) East Coast Reunion. The annual reunion started in 1969 and has expanded into a weekend of events, contests, and a SEAL capabilities exercise. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William S. Parker.