Mojo - September 2012

Obama Campaign Responds to Romney's "Harvest" Comments

| Thu Sep. 27, 2012 4:02 PM EDT

Mother Jones released some more Romney video today. This time it's footage of Romney, circa 1985, laying out Bain Capital's business philosophy. The clip was included on a CD-ROM that was created to commemorate Bain & Co.'s 25th anniversary and which was provided to David Corn by a former Bain employee. Romney has repeatedly pointed to his business experience and role at Bain as proof he can rev up the US economy and create more jobs than Obama can, but the vintage video confirms what many have been saying all along: that job creation was not the point of Bain. Young Mitt says the goal of the company was to buy stakes in undervalued companies and then "harvest them at a significant profit" years later.

The Obama campaign responded today by sending out a statement from Randy Johnson, a former worker at Ampad, the office supply company Bain acquired in 1992, proceeding to fire hundred of workers.

Today’s video confirms what I and other workers fired by Mitt   Romney’s Bain Capital already know: that Romney’s business experience   was never about creating jobs. Romney’s own words prove that his focus   was putting profits before people from the very beginning,   ‘harvesting’ companies to make a ‘significant profit’ for himself and   his investors – even if it meant investing in companies that shipped   American jobs to China. Any other explanation Romney puts forth about   this ‘private sector’ experience or understanding of the ‘real economy’   are just empty words from a man desperately trying to rewrite the past   in order to win an election.

The Romney campaign responded by trotting out its standard line about the candidate's time at Bain.  "In  addition to starting  new businesses, Mitt Romney helped build Bain  Capital by turning  around broken companies, creating and saving  thousands of jobs," Romney   campaign spokesperson Amanda Henneberg told the National Journal. "The problem today is that President Obama hasn't been  able to turn around our economy in the same way." As David Corn pointed out today, 1985-era Mitt Romney said it could take up to eight years to turn around a company. Now the candidate is willing to give the president less than four years to turn around the entire US economy.

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LISTEN: Rove's Crossroads GPS Attacks Elizabeth Warren in New Robocalls

| Thu Sep. 27, 2012 1:10 PM EDT
Karl Rove.

Crossroads GPS, the dark-money nonprofit group co-founded by Karl Rove, is running robocalls in Massachusetts attacking Democratic Senate candidate and progressive favorite Elizabeth Warren. The robocalls, which Massachusetts residents reported hearing on Wednesday, hit Warren for her support of President Obama's health-care reform law and for her work as the head of a bailout watchdog in Washington.

The robocalls appear to be Crossroads GPS' first serious foray into the Massachusetts Senate race, pitting Warren against Republican Sen. Scott Brown, since the two candidates agreed in January to discourage outside political spending in their race. Because it operates as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, Crossroads GPS does not disclose its donors. Crossroads is one of the biggest spenders of all the independent groups pouring money into the 2012 elections.

Here's the full audio of one Crossroads robocall, hitting Warren for her support of Obamacare, provided by the Massachusetts Democratic Party:

TRANSCRIPT: Today, you can change your future by voting against Elizabeth Warren. A vote for Warren is a vote for the same type of government failures that got us into the situation we are currently in. Warren supports President Obama's health-care takeover that will cut over $700 billion from Medicare spending. The health-care law backed by Warren could limit the availability of care seniors depend on from the Medicare program they paid for. Vote no on Elizabeth Warren for Senate this November. Paid for by Crossroads GPS.

To be clear, President Obama's health-care law is not a "takeover"—four different news organizations have debunked that claim, and PolitiFact named this its 2010 "Lie of the Year." As for Obamacare cutting $700 billion in Medicare spending, PolitiFact rated that "Mostly False."

Another Crossroads robocall criticizes Warren for mismanaging the funds provided to the bailout watchdog panel she ran from December 2008 to September 2010, according to an independent Massachusetts voter who received one such call. The call also highlights Warren's pay as the head of that watchdog, known as the Congressional Oversight Panel, seeming to portray it as exorbitant for the work she did, the voter says. Warren received nearly $193,000 for work on the panel during that nearly two-year period.

Crossroads' robocalls technically do not violate Brown and Warren's pact to dissuade spending by outside groups—super-PACs, nonprofits, and so on—spend money to influence their race. That agreement applied only to TV, radio, and online advertisements. (Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio did not respond to requests for comment.)

Althea Harney, a spokeswoman for Warren's campaign, said in a statement that Crossroads' robocalls were evidence that the Massachusetts Senate race "is about whose side you stand on—and we all can see who stands with Scott Brown. Karl Rove, Grover Norquist, and national Republicans are wading into this race because they want Republican control of the Senate."

Cracks are showing in the Brown-Warren truce. As Politico recently reported, Grover Norquist's anti-tax organization Americans for Tax Reform is dropping $215,000 on mailers in the Massachusetts Senate race. The AFL-CIO, meanwhile, has sent out fliers hitting Brown for putting "party before people," and the League of Conservation Voters has also spent six figures bashing Brown.

Crossroads GPS' latest foray into the race—with ads that explicitly call for voting against Warren, no less—puts another dent in the Brown-Warren agreement. That truce, to the surprise of many politicos, has held firm for much of 2012, exempting Massachusetts voters from the negative political ads flooding states such as Ohio, Virginia, and Missouri.

That Rove's group would come to Brown's defense is not at all surprising. Rove told big-time donors in August that Crossroads GPS and its sister super-PAC, American Crossroads, intended to spend $70 million on 2012 Senate races. At that same donor meeting, Rove also screened a Crossroads ad targeting the Massachusetts Senate race. (The ad was one of two, the Boston Globe reported, that ran on TV in Massachusetts last winter, but has not run since the Brown and Warren agreed to their truce.) Brown was also spotted chatting with Rove at a Tampa restaurant during the Republican National Convention.

Romney Advisers: Bring Torture Back

| Thu Sep. 27, 2012 12:01 PM EDT

Mitt Romney's national security advisers have quietly urged him to reverse President Barack Obama's 2009 executive order that outlawed the use of interrogation techniques that amounted to torture, according to a 2011 policy memo obtained by Charlie Savage of the New York Times.

The memo, which contains a number of factual errors and misleading statements, lays out two courses for a President Romney: Either immediately promise to rescind Obama's executive order upon taking office, or initiate a "comprehensive review" of interrogation policy that ends with Romney rescinding Obama's executive order. Though the outcome of the "review" is never in doubt, the memo states that the latter policy will make Romney appear "open-minded and empirically driven." The memo does not appear to have a single author, but Savage reports that it was the product of an 18-person policy committee packed with Bush administration lawyers. 

Strangely, the memo is somewhat agnostic in its belief about whether or not the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" actually work. "It is difficult to settle the question definitively," the memo states, adding later that "it is difficult to argue conclusively that enhanced interrogation techniques would have generated more information than the techniques in the Army Field Manual; we simply don't know what we don't know." Contrast that with the blanket assertions from conservatives that abandoning torture left the US vulnerable to terrorist attacks

Beyond these qualifications, the memo lays out an extraordinarily weak case for "enhanced interrogation," with some basic factual errors. Namely:

  • It credits the waterboarding of Khalid Sheik Mohammed for disrupting the so-called "Second Wave," a plot to crash another airplane into the Library Tower in Los Angeles. The only problem is the Bush administration publicly took credit for foiling that plot in 2002, and KSM was captured in 2003. Oops!
  • The memo states that waterboarding detainee Abu Zubayda led to the identification of KSM as the architect of the 9/11 attacks. But former FBI Agent Ali Soufan has said that he extracted that information from Zubayda before he was waterboarded
  • The memo claims that former Obama administration CIA Director Leon Panetta "confirmed" that "waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques helped extract 'useful information'" that lead to the discovery of Osama bin Laden's whereabouts. Only that's not exactly what Panetta said: In the letter referred to in the memo, Panetta states that some detainees who "had been subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques" had provided "useful information." That's not the same as saying they provided the information while being tortured. More importantly, in the same letter, Panetta notes that detainees like KSM, who had been subject to the harshest techniques, still lied to interrogators about the identity of the courier who eventually lead the US government to Bin Laden's compound in Pakistan.

The last four years are a trail of broken promises on civil liberties, from warrantless surveillance to indefinite detention. However, one of President Obama's most uncompromising accomplishments was banning torture through executive order on his first day in office. Still, the administration's use of the state secrets doctrine to shield both the legal architects and corporate enablers of the Bush torture program, and its refusal to prosecute those who went beyond the "legal" torture sanctioned by the Justice Department have left open the possibility that torture could again become US policy. A future president could simply reverse Obama's executive order and bring back Bush-era coercive interrogation techniques, which is exactly what the Romney memo proposes to do. 

Todd Akin: The Highlights Reel

| Thu Sep. 27, 2012 11:24 AM EDT

Tuesday was the final deadline for Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) to drop out of the Missouri Senate race. Despite the desperate pleas of his Republican colleagues, who called on him to bow out following his August remarks claiming that women who are victims of "legitimate rape" can't get pregnant. Akin's refusal to exit the race prompted the Democratic group American Bridge to unleash all their opposition research, which documents other eyebrow-raising comments Akin has made over the years.

The "Akin Files" include quite a few doozies, on topics such as: how banning hate crimes actually increases them, how a defense spending bill authorized bestiality, and why health insurance for poor kids is like the Titanic. Here are some of the greatest hits, via Huffington Post.

On why passing anti-hate-crime legislation named for Matthew Shepard, the young gay man murdered in Wyoming in 1998, would actually increase hate crimes:

"The first major reason to vote no is because this bill increases hatred in America. I will say it again. This bill increases hatred in America," Akin argued. "It creates animosity by elevating one group over another group, and thus creates hatred. This is counter to everything American law has ever stood for, and it will increase hatred in America."

On the National Defense Authorization Act legalizing sexual relations with animals:

"The Senate version came across, a lot of Tea Party people take a good look at that bill and they’re going, 'we're worried that this may give Obama authority to bring troops in and arrest Americans and detain them for long periods of time.' Ok, so that was their concern," Akin said at a rally outside the Capitol. "They should have read it closer, because it also legalized bestiality. The Senate gets a little weird."

On the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which provides healthcare for low-income kids:

"We're going to give that money to give free health insurance to children with families making more than $80,000, children of illegal immigrants," Akin said in 2007. "The Democrats are about to vote for something which will make the Titanic wreck look small."

American Bridge also released some other clips from the Akin highlight reel, including this complaint about how the Civil War took away state's rights (you know, because they could no longer enslave people):

The fact that over a period of time the federal government has taken over more and more and more authority is a major problem. I don't disagree with the premise of it. The question is how do you get the cat back in the bag. When was it that happened? Well it happened most predominately historically during wars, and the worst case was the Civil War where we lost states' rights more than any other particular situation.

And here's Akin on how President Obama is basically the Anti-Christ:

You don't have jobs if you declare war on employers. And that's essentially what's gone on. If you wanted to destroy jobs, what would you do? Just playing like you are the devil, and we have one pretty close to that. And so what would you do? The first thing is you would tax them a whole lot. That's what we've been doing, taxing them a whole lot.

Obama Campaign Unleashes Blistering New 47 Percent Ad

| Thu Sep. 27, 2012 10:48 AM EDT

If you're in Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, or Colorado, expect to see a whole lot of this:

The ad features Mitt Romney's now infamous riff on the 47 percent of Americans who he claimed viewed themselves as "victims" and leeched off the government while paying no income taxes—remarks Mother Jones first unearthed last week. On Monday, the Obama campaign debuted its first television ad responding to the video, but this twists the knife. It's the harshest kind of attack, relying not on a gravelly-voiced narrator, but on the opposing candidate's uninterrupted views. With polls showing a major backlash to Romney's 47-percent statement, the odds are pretty good this won't be the last time Team Obama goes to the tape.

Report: Americans Really Don't Like Mosques

| Thu Sep. 27, 2012 10:03 AM EDT

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has a great new interactive feature up today on the boom in mosque construction in the United States since 2000—and the corresponding boomlet in organized backlash to mosque construction. It's not just lower Manhattan—Pew found 53 different projects that faced resistance from their respective communities:

Courtesy of the Pew Research CenterCourtesy of the Pew Research Center

The full report is here.

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for September 27, 2012

Thu Sep. 27, 2012 9:21 AM EDT

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. James Bates, a security force squad leader for Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah, pulls security as locals look on during a mission to the director of information and culture's office in Farah City, Farah province, Afghanistan, Sept. 25. US Army photo.

GOP Star Mia Love Fires Back at "Anchor Baby" Story

| Thu Sep. 27, 2012 5:01 AM EDT
Mia Love speaks at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida.

Mia Love has made her Haitian immigrant family's bootstraps story the centerpiece of her campaign to become the first black Republican woman elected to Congress. But on Monday, Mother Jones raised some serious questions about the Utah congressional candidate's public statements about her family's immigration story, which she's used to justify a host of draconian budget proposals that range from eliminating the school lunch program to axing student loans.

In 2011, Love described herself to a Deseret News reporter as what some in her party like to derisively call an "anchor baby"—that is, someone who was born in the United States to immigrants hoping to gain legal citizenship. "My parents have always told me I was a miracle and our family's ticket to America," she told the paper.

The story has created a bit of a stir in Utah, where Love is trying to knock off six-term incumbent Rep. Jim Matheson, the state's only Democratic member of the House. Love has fired back and done a number of interviews criticizing our story. Yet she still has refused to answer the fairly basic questions Mother Jones has been putting to her campaign for more than a month, namely: How did her parents get to the United States, and how did they survive here on only $10 if they didn't get any government "handouts"?

Romney Gives a Shout-Out to Supporters Linked to Fraud Scheme

| Thu Sep. 27, 2012 5:00 AM EDT

Mitt Romney kicked off his appearance at last week's Univision Forum in Miami by thanking a few key supporters. First, he gave a nod to the state's former Republican governor, Jeb Bush. Then he turned to an elderly couple sitting near the front: "Remedios! Fausto! How are you?"

The GOP presidential candidate would be hard-pressed to find two more enthusiastic supporters in South Florida than Remedios Diaz-Oliver and her husband, Fausto, a Cuban-American power couple with GOP roots as deep as their pockets.

They also have a troubled history when it comes to the IRS and US Customs.

In 1999, then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush was forced to distance himself from Remedios Diaz-Oliver when the Associated Press reported that she had recently pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of accessory to customs fraud after the fact and one of knowingly providing a false document. Diaz-Oliver had raised at least $25,000 for the Bush campaign at a Miami fundraiser, which campaign spokeswoman Karen Hughes called "unfortunate," adding, "I could only speculate that if the (Miami) volunteers would have known, they would not have asked her to help in the host committee." The Diaz-Olivers and their business partners had been indicted on 18 counts relating to a tax evasion scheme, but Remedios' felony charges were dropped as part of the plea deal. Remedios was given three years' probation and forced to pay $92,012 to the US Customs Service. (The charges centered on a scheme to avoid paying import duties on imported food products by filing fraudulent invoices.) "I can go back to work and I don't have to spend one single day in any place," a relieved Diaz-Oliver told the Miami Herald at the time.

 

"In my 40 years in private business, I have never evaded my tax obligations," Diaz-Oliver wrote in an email to Mother Jones. "Moreover, I have never committed, nor plead, to any felony violations. To the contrary, I have always proudly paid all of my tax dues to this great country, which opened its doors to me. The record stands absolutely clear on that."

Fausto Diaz-Oliver, meanwhile pleaded guilty in 1999 as part of the same case, to felony charges of corporate tax evasion and customs fraud. He received a sentence of three years probation and 300 hours of community service.

Remedios Diaz-Oliver's ties to the Romney campaign go well beyond that one shout-out. In a January press release, the Romney campaign named Diaz-Oliver as a member of its National Hispanic Steering Committee, alongside prominent Republicans, including former Florida Sen. Mel Martinez. That month, the couple appeared at an event for the US-Cuba Democracy Political Action Committee, of which Diaz-Oliver is a member. In May, both Diaz-Olivers co-chaired a fundraiser for the Romney Victory Fund at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, where a $10,000 contribution or a $25,000 bundle of donations earned funders a photo with the candidate.

 

The Diaz-Olivers came to the US from Cuba together in 1961. In 1991, Remedios founded All American Containers Inc., a plastic and glass container manufacturer. Remedios has also given generously to Democratic politicians, including Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, who is Cuban American.

Supporters' tax woes have plagued both candidates during the campaign. In June, President Obama cited pop singer and prominent supporter Marc Anthony as an example of someone who should be required to pay more in taxes—an auspicious example, given that Anthony recently owed $3.4 million in federal taxes. But the issue is more pronounced for Romney given the controversy over his own returns.

This isn't the first time Romney has run into trouble with a South Florida supporter. In August, the Associated Press reported that the host of a Romney fundraiser in Miami had a prior felony conviction for cocaine trafficking, which under Florida law means he might not even be eligible to vote.

Correction: The headline originally referred to the Diaz-Olivers as donors. They have co-chaired a fundraiser but not donated to the campaign.

What do Jon Tester, George Harrison, and Sam Raimi Have in Common?

| Wed Sep. 26, 2012 5:23 PM EDT

Watch these three videos back-to-back.

The first is a new ad released this week by Montana Senate candidate Jon Tester, a wolf-hating, steak-loving, buzz-cut-having Democrat who is locked in a wacky and wild campaign that could very well determine control of the Senate. He—along with the talking zombie wildlife nailed to his cabin walls—wants you to remember that he's a Democrat hunters can get behind:

Now, watch this segment of the music video for George Harrison's 1987 cover of "Got My Mind Set on You":

Finally: This bizarre sequence from Sam Raimi's 1987 slapstick horror movie Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn:

So what exactly do Jon Tester, George Harrison, and Sam Raimi have in common? Magical talking zombie wildlife on their cabin walls. That's what.

He could use a little bit of magic at this point. The latest survey from Mason–Dixon has Tester trailing his Republican challenger, Rep. Denny Rehberg, by three points.