Mojo - October 2012

VIDEO: David Corn Talks Fact-Checking on CBS Sunday Morning

Mon Oct. 22, 2012 9:06 AM EDT

Mother Jones DC bureau chief David Corn spoke with CBS Sunday Morning's Rita Braver this week about the role of fact-checkers in the 2012 campaign. Instead of having the last word on what is or is not a fact, Corn writes in his recent Mother Jones piece on the subject, the truth-seekers have become "merely participants in the ever-roiling political tussle." Here's the video:

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

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Don't Speak, I Know Just What You're Bundling

| Mon Oct. 22, 2012 8:55 AM EDT
Gwen Stefani in the video for her 2004 single, "Rich Girl."

There's no doubt about whom pop singer Gwen Stefani wants running our tragic kingdom come 2013: Barack Obama.

Stefani, according to a list of bundlers released by the Obama campaign, is among the most effective fundraisers the president has. Stefani raised half a million dollars for the Obama campaign, more than heavy hitting politicos like former president Bill Clinton and former secretary of state Madeline Albright. Here's the breakdown from the Center for Public Integrity:

Notable additions to the list include Madeleine Albright, who served as secretary of state under former President Bill Clinton and has raised at least $200,000; pop singer Gwen Stefani, who raised at least $500,000; fashion designer Tom Ford, who has raised at least $500,000; and Warner Brothers CEO and Chairman Barry Meyer and his wife Wendy, who raised at least $500,000.

Other new bundlers include former U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen of Wisconsin, who raised at least $200,000; Connecticut Gov. Daniel Malloy, who raised at least $200,000; and former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida, who raised at least $100,000 and spoke at the Democratic National Convention last month.

That's bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S. The Romney campaign might have interesting bundlers as well, but unlike previous Republican campaigns they don't release their names. So it's hard to tell, underneath it all, who is raising funds for Romney.

Searching High and Low for Voter Fraud in Iowa

| Mon Oct. 22, 2012 5:03 AM EDT

Earlier this month, two Iowa felons were arrested and charged with felony and aggravated misdemeanor counts of election fraud because they had registered to vote when they picked up their new driver's licenses. One, Stacy Brown, told an investigator from the Major Crimes Unit of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation that she'd registered because "she was in a hurry and wasn't paying attention [to] what she was signing." The other, Jason Rawlin, told the investigator that he believed his voting rights had been restored following his release from prison.

Two years ago, both of them would have been in the clear. Yet on the day that he reclaimed the governor's mansion in January 2011, Republican Terry Branstad overturned a 2005 executive order that had automatically restored the franchise to released convicts. Branstad hailed the reversal as a "major priority" of incoming Secretary of State Matt Schultz, a Republican who'd been elected on a platform of smoking out voter fraud in the swing state. 

The now-defunct executive order, signed by former Gov. Tom Vilsack, restored voting rights to an estimated 100,000 Iowans. Branstad's new order, by contrast, has made Iowa one of just four states where felons' voting rights are rarely restored. Few Iowa felons have tried to win back the vote since 2011; only about a dozen have succeeded, but only after submitting time-consuming applications that require a criminal history check and full credit report. Critics have slammed the process as part of a broader policy of voter suppression and intimidation that disproportionately targets minorities and the poor. But Schultz has said the new rules will "send a message to Iowa's voters that their voting privilege is sacred and will not be compromised."

The October arrests came on the heels of three noncitizens in Council Bluffs being charged with felonies for registering to vote. Both were small victories for Schultz's ongoing effort to track down ineligible voters. In January, he proposed a new voter ID bill intented to allay concerns about a bill based on model legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council that had first passed in the Iowa House in 2011. Though he acknowledged that voter fraud hadn't been much of a problem in the state, he said he wanted to close a loophole, pointing to provocateur James O'Keefe's undercover "investigation" of voter fraud in New Hampshire. A Republican-backed voter ID bill died in the state Senate.

Ouch! "Salt Lake Tribune," Citing Romney's 47-Percent Rant, Endorses Obama

| Fri Oct. 19, 2012 5:16 PM EDT

Mitt Romney is in no danger of losing Utah to President Barack Obama. But this has to hurt: on Friday the Salt Lake Tribune endorsed Obama over the quasi-adopted son of the Beehive State. The editorial starts off fine for Romney:

Nowhere has Mitt Romney’s pursuit of the presidency been more warmly welcomed or closely followed than here in Utah. The Republican nominee’s political and religious pedigrees, his adeptly bipartisan governorship of a Democratic state, and his head for business and the bottom line all inspire admiration and hope in our largely Mormon, Republican, business-friendly state.

But it was Romney’s singular role in rescuing Utah’s organization of the 2002 Olympics from a cesspool of scandal, and his oversight of the most successful Winter Games on record, that make him the Beehive State’s favorite adopted son.

Then the Tribune slams him as an opportunistic and untrustworthy shape-shifter:

From his embrace of the party’s radical right wing, to subsequent portrayals of himself as a moderate champion of the middle class, Romney has raised the most frequently asked question of the campaign: "Who is this guy, really, and what in the world does he truly believe?"

The evidence suggests no clear answer, or at least one that would survive Romney’s next speech or sound bite. Politicians routinely tailor their words to suit an audience. Romney, though, is shameless, lavishing vastly diverse audiences with words, any words, they would trade their votes to hear.

It gets worse. The paper ridicules his refusal to provide specifics for his tax plan. And it ends with Romney's 47-percent rant:

If this portrait of a Romney willing to say anything to get elected seems harsh, we need only revisit his branding of 47 percent of Americans as freeloaders who pay no taxes, yet feel victimized and entitled to government assistance. His job, he told a group of wealthy donors, "is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

Where, we ask, is the pragmatic, inclusive Romney, the Massachusetts governor who left the state with a model health care plan in place, the Romney who led Utah to Olympic glory? That Romney skedaddled and is nowhere to be found.

They say you're never a hero in your own hometown. But here's a case in which Romney is pummeled by those who know him well and who yearn for the Romney they once saw. That Romney is long gone.

Romnesia!

Fri Oct. 19, 2012 3:50 PM EDT

On Friday, President Barack Obama launched a new attack on his opponent, charging that the Republican presidential case suffers from "Romnesia." From an Obama campaign press release:

Romnesia [Rom-nee-zhuh] Noun—a condition affecting Mitt Romney, who has shifted his positions from “severely conservative” to “severely kidding”—conveniently forgetting the conservative promises he’s made over the past six years that he’s been running for president.

At a grassroots event today in Virginia, President Obama reminded voters that with just weeks before the election, Romney has come down with a case of “Romnesia” because he is now forgetting what his own positions are on issues important to women and their families—like refusing to say whether or not he’d sign a bill that helps women fight back when they don't get equal pay for equal work, supporting legislation that would let your employer deny women coverage for contraceptive care, and saying that he’d be “delighted” to sign a law outlawing a woman’s right to choose in all cases.

Romnesia—several months ago our David Corn deployed the same term in an article headlined, "A Case of Romnesia":

Mitt Romney has a history problem.

It's not only that past events and stances—say, his implementation of an Obamacare-like reform in Massachusetts, or his 1994 call for "full equality" for gay and lesbians—undermine his current efforts by calling into question his political integrity. Romney often distorts—or is detached from—significant realities of his personal past.

Corn, who described several instances of Romnesia in that piece, may not have been the first to coin the term, but he was an early adopter. You can watch the president embrace this diagnosis here: 

Mormon Feminists Don't Like Romney

| Fri Oct. 19, 2012 2:00 PM EDT
Participants in a Days of '47 Pioneer Day Parade, which honors the settling of Utah by the Mormon pioneers.

Though President Obama holds an advantage among female voters, Romney doesn't seem to have a women problem in the polls. At least not yet. But there's one group he definitely can't count on: Mormon feminists.

Romney's awkward and tone deaf comments on women in Tuesday's debate did not sit well with this crew, who follow the teachings of Joseph Smith, but are pushing back against the church's chauvinistic ways.

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Conservative Group Kills Candidate's Samuel L. Jackson "Uncle Tom" Videos

| Fri Oct. 19, 2012 12:11 PM EDT
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in "The Avengers"

Perhaps anti-abortion activist Randall Terry should have known better than to pick a fight with Samuel L. Jackson. A guy whose last movie role was playing Nick Fury in the Avengers was probably not going to sit by quietly while Terry blanketed the airwaves with TV ads accusing Jackson of "carrying water for racists" and supporting "Black genocide" because of his support of President Obama. Yesterday, I explained how Jackson's lawyers had been threatening TV stations and Terry himself with libel suits for airing the ads and posting them online. Apparently my post had some ripple effects.

Terry had created a website, www.uncletomjackson.com, to help broadcast his ads, along with another video he made of himself reciting a "faux Dr. Seuss" rhyme called "The New Uncle Tom." Terry has long had trouble getting his videos in front of bigger audiences, presumably because they often feature graphic and gruesome footage of bloody fetuses. YouTube, apparently, has been reluctant to carry them. So his "Uncle Tom" series was hosted by the Media Research Center, a conservative nonprofit whose mission is to "neutral[ize] left-wing bias in the news media." MRC was founded by L. Brent Bozell III, an abortion foe whose parents were pioneers in the anti-abortion movement, having led the first "Operation Rescue" protest in 1970, three years before Roe v. Wade. (Terry named his first anti-abortion group Operation Rescue.)

But after Mother Jones reported yesterday that Terry's videos were technically political ads for his various campaigns (he's running for both president of the United States and Congress in Florida), MRC pulled the plug on the videos. According to Terry, MRC explained that while it was sympathetic to his cause, as a nonprofit, it was barred from supporting candidates lest it lose its tax-exempt status. Terry, of course, sees MRC's desire to follow the law as a huge betrayal and a sign of insufficient commitment to unborn babies. He blasted out a press release calling the MRC's move a "disgrace" and asking Bozell and MRC to "come to their senses," while bashing Jackson and the "Hollywood elite" for having "silenced dissent." He wrote:

Once again, a 501c3 tax-exempt organization considered their tax-exempt status more important than babies' lives, and the truth. We can understand Mr. Jackson fighting back as he defends baby killing; but for Brent Bozell and Media Research Center to surrender to child killers in the name of their tax-exempt status is unconscionable.

Terry's outrage is understandable. Earlier this year, Terry succeeded in running aborted fetus ads during the Superbowl that were aired across the country, largely because the TV stations had no choice. (As a political candidate, Terry's TV ads are protected by FCC rules as free speech; the stations have to run them.) MRCTV also hosted the ad videos on its website. They're still there, with a very obvious link underneath to the "Terry for President" website, making MRC's concerns about its nonprofit status seem fairly recent. If the Jackson "carrying water" ads could violate tax laws, certainly the Superbowl videos could, too. Perhaps the folks at MRC believe that they have much more to fear from Samuel L. Jackson than from the IRS. They could be right about that. A press contact for MRC did not respond to a request for comment.

Marriage Equality Looking Like a Done Deal in Maryland

| Fri Oct. 19, 2012 12:08 PM EDT

Absent some kind of dramatic last-minute reversal in public opinion, marriage equality looks like a done deal in Maryland. 

The latest poll from the Washington Post puts supporters of same-sex marriage with 52 percent of the vote to 43 percent opposed. Maryland's marriage equality law was passed earlier this year, but no marriages will actually take place until it is approved by a majority of voters in the state. Maine and Washington are also facing same-sex marriage referendums, and while no state has yet adopted same-sex marriage rights through a popular vote, as the article accompanying the poll points out, marriage equality is leading in all three states.

Naturally, you don't want to draw too large of a conclusion from a single poll. But Talking Points Memo's Polltracker shows that while the divide narrowed somewhat in early fall, support for same sex marriage in Maryland has grown in recent weeks: 

Anti-gay rights groups like the National Organization for Marriage have pinned their hopes on flipping the minority vote by employing conservative black religious leaders as spokespeople in order to discredit the idea of same-sex marriage as a civil right. But among black voters, like other Americans, approval of same-sex marriage rights has been rising.

What anti-gay rights groups are banking on is the idea that the polls don't accurately reflect what people do when they get in the ballot box, and there's been some evidence of that in the past. But given the numbers in Maryland, November 7th may mark the expiration date of NOM's racial wedge strategy. 

Charts: Meet Romney's Pork-Friendly Military Entourage

| Fri Oct. 19, 2012 10:54 AM EDT

Mitt Romney recently released the names of more than 300 retired senior military officers who have endorsed his candidacy for president. The list includes prominent fans of the Iraq War and Don't Ask, Don't Tell. But what can we glean from the names more generally? A whole lot—and I've enlisted Mother Jones' crack data visualization team to help.

If you were to look at the composition of today's American military by branch, it would look like this:

This makes sense: The Army's got the most personnel—more than a million soldiers—and bears the heaviest burden in our overseas wars. But Romney's generals and admirals don't break down like this at all:

They include far fewer ground-war veterans—soldiers and Marines—and come predominantly from the Air Force and Navy. What could explain the disparity? Well, a lot of things. For one, the Navy has a lot of hidebound conservative-friendly hierarchical traditions. For another, the Air Force has long enjoyed a reputation as the most socially conservative of the services.

But beyond that, there could be another factor at play in the composition of Romney's military support: money. Here's another chart, showing the relative sizes of the budget each service got in fiscal 2012 for "procurement," i.e., how much they could spend on contractor-built toys like planes, ships, and weapons:

Check out the resemblance between the second and third pie charts: While Romney's military advisory council may not resemble the armed forces' overall composition, it closely mirrors how much each respective service spends to buy stuff. 

Despite the fact that it's the largest branch of service by body count, the Army can't come close to the Navy and Air Force when it comes to big-ticket tech and coveted pork projects. After all, ships don't sail in deserts and soldiers don't fly jets. Retired flag officers are likelier than civilians to work as "Beltway bandits"—lobbyists and contractors trying to grab military cash for often-bloated and wasteful priorities—and ex-Air Force generals and ex-Navy admirals are the best folks to cajole Congress into buying a new behind-schedule fighter jet or bankrolling an extra Virginia-class submarine.

These monied veterans no doubt hear a nightingale's song when Romney complains about the size of the Navy, rails against the age of US military tanker aircraft, and pledges to spend 4 percent of GDP on defense (a move that could cost Americans another $2.1 trillion dollars). Just last week in a foreign policy speech carefully designed to boost his credibility as a possible commander in chief, Romney vowed that he would "restore our Navy to the size needed to fulfill our missions by building 15 ships per year." That's a nearly 70 percent boost over current shipbuilding levels—hardly the hallmark of a fiscal conservative.

It's unclear exactly what effect all these promises will have on national security, but one thing seems clear: They should keep defense contractors safe from attacks for the next four years.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 19, 2012

Fri Oct. 19, 2012 10:30 AM EDT

Marines with Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, run with their rifles during an endurance course while training in Djibouti, Oct. 9, 2012. US Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Robert Fisher.