Mojo - August 2012

The Right's Favorite Historian Comes Apart at the Seams

| Fri Aug. 10, 2012 7:56 AM PDT
David Barton, during an interview with longtime fan Glenn Beck in April.

For more a decade, the religious right's leading authority on America's founders and their divine inspiration has been David Barton, a fast-talking Texan with a bachelor's degree in Christian education and a climate-controlled underground vault stocked with tens of thousands of antique documents, including Bibles, diaries, and correspondence. Barton has turned the study of America's Christian roots into a lucrative business, hawking books and video sermons, speaking at churches and political confabs, and scoring a fawning New York Times profile and interviews on the Daily Show. He's got friends in high places: "I almost wish that there would be like a simultaneous telecast and all Americans would be forced—at gunpoint no less—to listen to every David Barton message," Mike Huckabee told an Evangelical audience in March of 2011. "I never listen to David Barton without learning a whole lot of new things," Newt Gingrich told conservatives in Iowa that same month.

That's probably because much of what David Barton writes seems to have originated in David Barton's head.

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Karl Rove's Dark Money Group Crossroads GPS Busted for Bogus Ad

| Fri Aug. 10, 2012 7:50 AM PDT
North Dakota senate candidate Heidi Heitkamp.

Crossroads GPS, the dark-money nonprofit group co-founded by Karl Rove, recently unveiled a TV ad hammering North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, a candidate for US Senate, for spending "taxpayer dollars to buy private planes." That was a lie.

In a takedown letter sent to local broadcasters, Heitkamp explained that the planes referenced by Crossroads were given to her for free by the federal government. What's more, the planes formerly belonged to the Department of Defense and one was for drug trafficking surveillance, the other for spare parts. No money was spent, and the planes weren't for "private" use at all.

Crossroads responded by spiking the ad, which it had paid $191,000 to splash across the North Dakota airwaves. Crossroads spokesman Nate Hodson told the Huffington Post the ad was "was voluntarily removed from rotation" after realizing "a content issue." The way Hodson put it, it appeared that Crossroads had owned up to its own error and worked to right a wrong.

Not quite. As Politico's Maggie Haberman reported, one North Dakota broadcast station, KMXC, said it had alerted Crossroads to the ad's inaccuracies well before the spot was pulled, undercutting Crossroads' claim to have proactively pulled the ad.

Heitkamp, formerly North Dakota's attorney general, faces Rep. Rick Berg (R-N.D.) in the race to replace outgoing Sen. Kent Conrad, a Democrat. Berg leads Heitkamp by 5 percentage points in RealClearPolitics' polling average.

The Top Six Classes at "Newt University"

| Fri Aug. 10, 2012 3:02 AM PDT

This is how the Romney campaign plans to unleash the Gingrich at the upcoming Republican National Convention:

Newt Gingrich hoped to get a coveted speaking slot at the Republican National Convention. Instead the Romney campaign will have him teach a series of workshops they have nicknamed Newt University…

"Newt University"(Tulane: Newt's actual university.)…Still, Mr. Gingrich insisted that he planned to play nice in Tampa. He is focused on preparing his lesson plans for Newt University, he said, not on sowing any further party discord. "The truth is the hardest-core conservatives didn't win the nomination. So to turn to Romney and say, 'You now have to dance to our tune' doesn't make much sense to me."

The former House speaker's background as a historian and professor will likely come in handy when formulating syllabi for his guerilla college. Based on his past academic and intellectual work, here's a good estimation of the lectures you'd hear in a Gingrich U freshman-year seminar: 

1) Prof. Newt on European colonialism: "Within the beliefs of 20th century American liberalism, European colonialism is an unacceptable political policy, but what did it mean to the natives? Did the colonial powers perform a painful but positive function in disrupting traditional society and so paving the way for modernization?"

"Within the beliefs of twentieth century American liberalism, European colonialism is an unacceptable political policy, but what did it mean to the natives? Did the colonial powers perform a painful but positive function in disrupting traditional society" Gage Skidmore/FlickrGage Skidmore/Flickr

2) Prof. Newt on the French Revolution: "What we have now [in American society] is an outgrowth of the French Revolution...a rejection of the larger world in favor of secularism."

"What we have now [in American society] is an outgrowth of the French Revolution," which the former House Speaker defines as the wholesale "rejection of the larger world in favor of secularism." Gage Skidmore/Flickr Gage Skidmore/Flickr

3. Prof. Newt on the history of the American entertainment industry: "There's a new book coming out on Reagan and Hollywood in the late '40s, and it's appalling the number of hardcore communists that were working in the movie industry."

"There's a new book coming out on Reagan and Hollywood in the late '40s, and it's appalling the number of hardcore communist that were working in the movie industry." IowaPolitics.com/Flickr IowaPolitics.com/Flickr

4. Prof. Newt on the dinosaurs: "Why not aspire to build a real Jurassic Park? (It may not be at all impossible, you know.) Wouldn't that be one of the most spectacular accomplishments of human history?"

"Why not aspire to build a real Jurassic Park? (It may not be at all impossible, you know.) Wouldn't that be one of the most spectacular accomplishments of human history?" Mike Licht/Flickr Mike Licht/Flickr

5. Prof. Newt on zoological study: "I would really love to spend six months to a year in the Amazon basin, just being able to spend the day watching tree sloths."

"I would really love to spend six months to a year in the Amazon basin, just being able to spend the day watching tree sloths." publiceye.org/Wikimedia Commons publiceye.org/Wikimedia Commons

6. Prof. Newt on the discovery of America: "Romney was the kind of guy who would have fired Christopher Columbus."

"Romney was the kind of guy who would have fired Christopher Columbus." Gage Skidmore/Flickr Gage Skidmore/Flickr

I'll leave it to you to imagine the rest of the curriculum.

(h/t Maggie Haberman)

MAP: On Paid Sick Leave, NYC Tries to Join the Rest of the World

| Fri Aug. 10, 2012 3:00 AM PDT

The United States is one of the only countries in the world that doesn't give sick workers paid leave.

Now some New York City politicians are trying to change that—at least for their little corner of the country. A proposed city law would require most employers to give staff at least five days of paid sick leave each year. A veto-proof majority of City Council members support the bill, which has both grassroots and glitzy backers, but Council Speaker Christine Quinn (who killed a similar bill in 2010) refuses to bring it to a vote, citing potential strain on business and a crappy economy.

Jury to Hear Allegations Against Kansas Anti-Abortion Activist

| Fri Aug. 10, 2012 3:00 AM PDT

In February 2011, we wrote about Mila Means, a Wichita-based doctor who was training to provide abortion services. The city has been without an abortion provider since the murder of Dr. George Tiller in May 2009, but when Means tried to fill that void, she was blocked by anti-abortion activists. Now Means is back in the news, as a court case examines whether one of those anti-abortion activists threatened her life.

The Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division has charged anti-abortion activist Angel Dillard of violating a federal law that makes it illegal to use force or the threat of force to prevent someone from providing abortion services. The Associated Press reported this week (via RH Reality Check) that a jury will hear the case, which centers on a letter Dillard sent Means last year that she says was "divinely inspired":

Jurors will have to decide whether the letter Dillard sent to Dr. Mila Means last year constitutes a "true threat" intended to intimidate the doctor from providing abortion services.
In her letter, Dillard wrote that thousands of people from across the United States are already looking into the doctor's background.
"They will know your habits and routines. They know where you shop, who your friends are, what you drive, where you live," the letter said. "You will be checking under your car every day — because maybe today is the day someone places an explosive under it."

Dillard's got a longer history of extreme anti-abortion activism in Wichita. After Tiller's murder, Dillard told the Associated Press that she admired his killer, Scott Roeder, for what he did. "With one move, (Roeder) was able ... to accomplish what we had not been able to do … So he followed his convictions and I admire that." Dilllard had requested that a judge, rather than a jury, hear her case because her previous friendship with Roeder might influence a jury.

The case is not scheduled to go to trial until February 5, 2013.

Federal Prisons Chief to Inmates: Don't Kill Yourself

| Fri Aug. 10, 2012 3:00 AM PDT

Federal Bureau of Prisons director Charles E. Samuels has been in the hot seat lately over the BOP's treatment of some of the prisoners in its custody—most notably the mentally disabled prisoners housed in solitary confinement at ADX Florence, the federal supermax prison in Colorado. Samuel's latest response was to write an uncharacteristically touchy feely letter to all federal prisoners, urging them not to commit suicide.

A federal class-action lawsuit filed in June alleges that many ADX prisoners suffer from severe mental illness that has been exacerbated or even caused by their years of extreme isolation and sensory deprivation in small concrete cells. It claims that the BOP fails to provide even a semblance of psychiatric care to these prisoners, with grisly results. According to a litigation fact sheet, "inmates often mutilate themselves with razors, shards of glass, sharpened chicken bones, writing utensils and other objects. Many engage in prolonged fits of screaming and ranting. Others converse aloud with the voices they hear in their heads. Still others spread feces and other waste throughout their cells. Suicide attempts are common. Many have been successful."

Another lawsuit, filed earlier in the spring, accuses ADX officials of denying proper mental health care to inmate Jose Martin Vega, who subsequently hanged himself in his cell.

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This Week in Dark Money

| Fri Aug. 10, 2012 3:00 AM PDT

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

the money shot

 


quote of the week

"The point of having a super PAC is like having a Rolex. It's a pain to tell time with a Rolex, but it's great for looking rich and picking up girls. Similarly, our super PAC isn't here for raising money, but it gives us a very unique bragging right."
—Anthony Kao, president of the Joe Six PAC super-PAC, talking with the American Prospect. He got the idea to create his super-PAC, which has raised $0 to date, after finding an article on Reddit about a Florida man who launched 60 of them.

 

attack ad of the week

A new ad (which has yet to air on TV) from the pro-Obama super-PAC Priorities USA Action features a familiar face. Joe Soptic, who was laid off from a Missouri steel plant after it was sold to Bain Capital, appeared in an Obama campaign ad in May that blamed Mitt Romney for closing the plant. Soptic appeared in the Priorities ad wearing the same shirt (but no glasses) and insinuates that Romney is partly responsible for his wife's death from cancer. Campaigns and super-PACs are prohibited from coordinating with each other, and both camps said they hadn't. But after news that Soptic told his story to reporters during an Obama campaign conference call in May, an Obama spokeswoman walked back a claim that the campaign was unaware of Soptic's story.

Here are the two ads:


 

stat of the week

193 percent: How much spending by groups that don't have to disclose their donors has increased in 2012 compared with the same time in 2010, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. 

 

chart of the week

A new study by the liberal think tank Demos and the US Public Interest Research Group sheds some light on the wealthy donors behind this year's "tsunami of slime." Among the findings: 58 percent of all outside spending has come from just five groups, and 1,082 donors account for 94 percent of all super-PAC donations from individuals. We chartified some of the data:

 

more mojo dark-money coverage

How Secret Foreign Money Could Infiltrate US Elections: Think the United States is immune from foreigners' campaign cash? Think again.
250 Years of Campaigns, Cash, and Corruption: From George Washington to Citizens United, a timeline of America's history of political money games.
Dark Money's Top Target: Claire McCaskill: Will Dems save the centrist Missouri senator from Karl Rove's attack ad onslaught? Don't hold your breath.

 

more must-reads

• New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman ramps up his investigation into shadowy 501(c) groups. New York Times
• Republican senators urge the IRS to ignore political pressure for "sudden changes to well-established law" when it considers revising dark-money rules. Senate Finance Committee
• Senate candidate Heidi Heitcamp (D-N.D.) gets Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS to pull a false attack ad against her. Talking Points Memo
• Kansas Senate President Steve Morris, a Republican who lost his primary Tuesday, blames Koch brother-affiliated outside groups from moderates' defeat in state races. Huffington Post

Andrew McCarthy's Defense of McCarthyism

| Thu Aug. 9, 2012 3:27 PM PDT
Andrew C. McCarthy speaks at the National Press Club on Wednesday.

Leading Republicans, including House Majority Leader John Boehner and Sen. John McCain, have rejected Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-Minn.) and several of her colleagues' claims that Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

So with their support crumbling, the Shariah-panic caucus brought out one of their big guns to defend Bachmann's crusade. Andrew C. McCarthy, a National Review columnist and former federal terrorism prosecutor, headlined a Center for Security Policy event in Washington on Wednesday in which he accused the Obama administration of Islamist sympathies. "There is something terribly wrong if members of Congress were not asking questions about Islamist influence in our government," McCarthy told the largely sympathetic audience at the National Press Club. "Islamophobia is a term that was manufactured by the Muslim Brotherhood precisely for the purpose of browbeating people into silence about the activities and threat posed by Islamic supremacism." 

This isn't the first time McCarthy has used the credibility he's earned as a former prosecutor to lend legitimacy to nutty accusations. In September of 2009, McCarthy alleged that "terrorist sympathizers" had "assumed positions throughout the Obama administration." By "terrorist sympathizers," McCarthy meant Obama administration lawyers who had represented Gitmo detainees or challenged Bush-era war on terror policies the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional. Many of these lawyers went on to defend policies like targeted killing and indefinite detention, but to McCarthy, they were all foot soldiers in a "Grand Jihad,"—the title of a book in which he argues that the Muslim Brotherhood and the American left have teamed up to destroy America. "What do health care reform and 'the Grand Jihad' have in common?" National Review's Kathryn Jean-Lopez asked McCarthy in a 2010 interview. "They both enjoy support of Islam and the left," McCarthy replied. "In this context, by 'Islam,' I mean the Islamist movement." Great Islamists in history: Hassan al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb, and Ted Kennedy.

Louisiana School Revokes Pregnancy Policy

| Thu Aug. 9, 2012 11:50 AM PDT

A Louisiana public charter school drew criticism this week for requiring female students "suspected" of being pregnant to take pregnancy tests—and expelling students who tested positive. But a national outcry has led the school to scrap the rule, according to school offiials.

From the Associated Press:

No one at Delhi Charter School in rural northeast Louisiana realized there was anything wrong with the policy until the American Civil Liberties Union's state chapter threatened to sue, said chairman Albert Christman. The policy has gotten "everybody up in a roar," he said.

The change was prompted by a letter from the ACLU of Louisiana that pointed out that the policy violated federal law and the Constitution. In its response to the change, the ACLU noted that Christman "claimed that the policy was intended to protect students from ridicule and harassment."

"Blaming the victim is never the appropriate response to misconduct," Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, said in the release. "If students at Delhi are being harassed, the school's responsibility is to protect them while ensuring their education."

Dehli claims that "just a handful" of female students had been affected by the policy since it was instated in 2006. But when students return to school next week, it will no longer be in effect.

Report: David Koch Will Be a Romney Delegate

| Thu Aug. 9, 2012 10:26 AM PDT

David Koch has helped to raise millions of dollars for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, placing him among Romney's most successful super-fundraisers, known as "bundlers." Now the billionaire industrialist and Koch Industries executive is set to represent Romney as a delegate at the Republican National Convention in late August.

Koch, who with his older brother Charles is marshaling hundreds of millions of dollars for GOP causes in 2012, is listed as one of 34 at-large delegates by the New York Republican Party, according to National Journal. It's unclear if Koch will actually go to Tampa to vote to formally give Romney the GOP nomination, but if he does, you can expect quite a stir given Koch's prominence in conservative circles and demonization by liberals.

Koch helped found Americans for Prosperity, the powerful conservative nonprofit organization headquartered in northern Virginia. AFP is a major player in the 2012 election cycle. It has launched sophisticated voter registration campaigns in battleground states and is expected to unload $25 million on ads urging people to vote President Obama out of the White House. AFP had never before run ads expressly saying "vote for" or "vote against" a particular candidate, AFP president Tim Phillips told reporters this week. But Phillips cited the "disastrous economic policies of this administration" as the driving force behind the anti-Obama ad blitz. (The real reason for AFP's new ad strategy may have more do with this.) The first wave of anti-Obama ads, Phillips added, will cost $6.7 million and run in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

David Koch's personal support for Romney includes a $50,000-a-head fundraiser in July at his oceanfront home in Southampton and another 2010 Hamtpons fundraiser.