Mojo - October 2012

Palm Beach County Screws Up Another Presidential Election

| Mon Oct. 29, 2012 8:56 AM PDT

Just in case 2012 hasn't filled you with Bush-Gore-repeat nightmares yet, there's bad news from the South Florida epicenter of the 2000 debacle: Election officials in Palm Beach County say they screwed up at least 60,000 absentee ballots and have to perform a recount.

That's right: The county that gave you the butterfly ballot is back. An error by the county's printer caused ballots to go out to absentee voters with a typo, and as completed votes roll back into the supervisor's office by mail, volunteer workers have to copy the votes by hand onto new ballots to ensure they're counted by the county's tabulation machines.

"It won't be able to read [the misprinted ballots]," county elections supervisor Susan Bucher told the Palm Beach Post when the problem came to light two weeks ago. "It will just kick them out."

If you're asking, "How the hell?" here's the deal:

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 29, 2012

Mon Oct. 29, 2012 7:53 AM PDT

U.S. Army Privates negotiate the "Victory Tower" at Fort Jackson, SC Oct. 25, 2012. Victory Tower is a military obstacle course designed to build confidence in new Army recruits. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade.

Video: The First Silent Political Ad

| Fri Oct. 26, 2012 4:28 PM PDT

Since June 1, more than 900,000 election ads have run on cable and broadcast television. So it's no wonder that residents of battleground states are probably marking off the days until their TVs will all switch back to showing the usual car, soda, and fast food commercials. One group, however, isn't interested in waiting that long: unPAC, which has previously brought us such treats as super-PAC-themed Pac-Man, is raising money to air a one-minute silent ad in the attack ad-saturated swing state of Ohio. (For just $75 it will even throw in a free unF*CK AMERICA tote bag!) 

Have a look:

The ad, a protest against the $2 billion presidential campaign, is meant to be a "message to politicians, special interest groups and the media: we won't stand by idly while our democracy is bought." unPAC is a collaborative effort between the consumer advocacy group Purpose, the campaign finance reform group United Republic, and Rootstrikers, which was founded by Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig.

Corn on MSNBC: The Racist Case Against Obama

Fri Oct. 26, 2012 4:13 PM PDT

The right wing hate machine is out in full force again: Romney surrogate John Sununu, Sarah Palin, and Donald Trump take on the attack against Obama. Our Washington Bureau Chief David Corn discusses these remarks with Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball.

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

Occupy Oakland Returns to the Streets For One Night

| Fri Oct. 26, 2012 3:08 PM PDT

Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen showed up in a wheelchair at yesterday's march marking the one-year anniversary of the Occupy Oakland camp raid. But this time his injury hadn't been inflicted by police: Last week he was hit by a car while riding his bike, but it was nothing serious, he told me. Olsen became an international face of the Occupy movement last October after he was struck in the head and critically injured by a bean bag round fired by an Oakland police officer during the protest that followed the raid. In contrast to that long night in 2011, "This night has been great," an upbeat Olsen said. "I'm glad it has remained peaceful and no one has had to go to the hospital."

The night remained peaceful, but Oakland residents hadn't been confident that it would be. Banks boarded up their windows. The city sent out a press release noting the $4.9 million spent policing Occupy Oakland, and the $93,000 spent restoring the lawn outside City Hall that had been destroyed by the encampment last year. An anonymous Twitter account sprang up with a profile that declared, "Occupy Oakland: Confusing Oakland for Wall Street since 2011." It railed against black bloc vandals and tweeted that "protesting in a fiscally troubled city benefits nobody and only hurts the citizens. For what gain?"

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 26, 2012

Fri Oct. 26, 2012 7:45 AM PDT

Cpl. Frank P. Wippel, a rifleman with 1st platoon, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, scans the surrounding area for enemy during Exercise Croix du Sud at Camp la Broche, New Caledonia, Oct. 13. US Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Erik Brooks.

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This Week in Dark Money

| Fri Oct. 26, 2012 3:03 AM PDT

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

The Money shot

 

quote of the week

"What is especially striking is that the ads are concentrated on fewer markets than 2008, meaning that a smaller number of Americans have witnessed the onslaught of messages in the race for the White House." —Erika Franklin Fowler, codirector of the Wesleyan Media Project. Since June 1, 915,000 election ads have run, compared with 637,000 during the same period in 2008. The WMP has visualized its findings in a series of charts like the one below. See the rest here.

 

attack ad of the week

Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS dark-money nonprofit has doled out $4.2 million on an ad buy in Ohio and Wisconsin, its first with a direct appeal to "please vote Mitt Romney for President." Crossroads claims tax-exempt status as a "social welfare" group, which can not make political activity its primary purpose. (Previous ads had only asked viewers to "tell President Obama" to do something.) "Nonprofit groups are allowed to undertake some political activity as part of their missions as long as it's not the central thing they do," Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio told NPR.

 

stat of the week

$60 million: The amount various groups spent this Tuesday on independent expenditures. Of that, $18 million—the biggest independent expenditure in Federal Election Commission history—came from the pro-Romney super-PAC Restore Our Future. Rove's Crossroads network pitched in another $12 million, $8 million of it targeting Democratic Senate candidates in eight states. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was the third highest spender with $9 million.

 

chart of the week

This week, outside political spending by nonprofit groups that don't disclose their donors eclipsed $200 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That's more than all previous election cycles combined and nearly double the amount spent in 2010. It's also probably far less than the actual total: Only ads explicitly supporting or opposing a candidate and issue ads that run within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election have to be reported to the FEC. Of the disclosed dark-money spending, $74.1 million has been spent against Obama, compared with just $5.1 million spent against Romney.

 

 

more mojo dark-money coverage

Sean Eldridge Wants to Curb the Influence of Big Donors—Like Himself: This young Democratic player is putting together a bipartisan effort to get big money out of politics. Of course, it's going to take a lot of cash.
23 Ballot Measures to Keep an Eye On: Pot legalization, gay-marriage bans, and more of 2012's most important state props and amendments (and the money behind them).
Inside the Dark-Money Group Fighting Reform in Montana and Beyond: The secretive American Tradition Partnership has ushered in a new era of "funny money with no legal constraints" in Big Sky Country. And it's just getting started.

 

more must-reads

• A look at how Obama or Romney might address—or ignore—Citizens United after the election. ProPublica
• Wal-mart heir rebels against conservative family's donations, donates to pro-Obama super-PAC. Washington Post
• Right-wing Christian nonprofits praise the Koch brothers at an Anchorage fundraiser. Truthout
• Super-PACs haven't been as dominant as some anticipated. NBC News

Corn on MSNBC: Why Is Romney Giving the Media the Silent Treatment?

Thu Oct. 25, 2012 5:00 PM PDT

David Corn joined MSNBC's Martin Bashir and Time magazine's Michael Scherer Thursday to talk about why the Romney campaign is avoiding sit-down interviews with the media before the election. Is it the result of fallout from Richard Mourdock's rape comments, the campaign's fuzzy tax plan, or something else?

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

Want More Campaign Ads? There's an App for That

| Thu Oct. 25, 2012 2:16 PM PDT

Feel like you're undersaturated with campaign advertising? Need even more exposure to the slogans and smiling faces of our two major presidential contenders? When Alexey Komissarouk, a Bay Area programmer, wanted to add to the growing list of apps for political junkies, he designed a program that can give voters a bit more control over the web ads they see.

This week he and a few friends launched Hotspot the Vote, which harnesses Android devices to "Obamify" or "Romnify" WiFi routers so browsers will replace every ad (including ads for Amazon, Etsy, OkCupid, or whatever else you might normally see, along with ads for other politicians) with ads for your candidate. 

"It's like putting up a campaign poster in your living room," he said. And while you might apprecitate being reminded of which candidate you're rooting for with each and every banner ad, the program packs a bigger punch when installed on public routers: Komissarouk is pitching the tool to coffee shops and other spaces with open internet connections. It's Obama or nothing at Philadelphia's Trolley Car Diner, a 1950s-style eatery that owner Ken Weinstein said "Obamified" its free WiFi yesterday.

"We're in a very liberal community," Weinstein said. "Our choice to Obamify reflects our clientele."

Still, Weinstein said the change didn't equate to an official Trolley Car Diner endorsement of the incumbent, and rejected the suggestion that limiting online content for his patrons was a form of censorship: "They have a choice about whether to eat here, and about whether to sign in to our WiFi. As long as we're providing it for free, I think that's reasonable."

Former Obama White House Spokesman Justifies the Killing of a Teenager

| Thu Oct. 25, 2012 12:35 PM PDT

The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf has posted a video of an exchange from a few days ago involving former Obama press secretary (and current Obama campaign adviser) Robert Gibbs, who was asked about the death of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, the 16-year old son of the late radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. Like his father, the younger al-Awlaki was killed in a drone strike in Yemen. "I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children," Gibbs said, suggesting the son somehow deserved his death because of the sins of the father. "I don't think becoming an al Qaeda jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business." Watch:

As Friedersdorf notes, the al-Awlakis were not killed together—Abdulrahman was killed weeks later in a subsequent drone strike, and as Esquire's Tom Junod wrote, he hadn't seen his father in two years. That Gibbs appears to believe they were killed together changes the meaning a little bit, since it suggests he wasn't aware that he was justifying Abdulrahman's death weeks after the fact.

Still, the US government has never provided any evidence that the younger al-Awlaki was a terrorist or played an operational role in Al Qaeda, and it's an elementary moral precept that children are not responsible for the sins of their parents. It's one thing to argue that killing Anwar al-Awlaki was justified because of evidence he was part of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, (although one does not simply lose the constitutional right to due process as a US citizen by being abroad); it's another to justify the killing of a teenager based on decisions made by his father.

It's worth contrasting Gibbs' response with that of an anonymous administration official quoted in the Washington Post's recently published profile of White House counterterrorism adviser (and targeted killing czar) John Brennan. According to the Post, the official called the younger al-Awlaki's death "an outrageous mistake. . . . They were going after the guy sitting next to him." 

Perhaps it's too much to expect an admission of error from a political spokesperson. But no one forced Gibbs to justify Abdulrahman al-Awlaki's death in such glib and callous terms.