Mojo - November 2012

Even Polls Are Part of the Culture War Now

| Mon Nov. 5, 2012 7:20 PM EST

Numbers don't lie, the old saying goes: people lie.

Conservative blogger Dean Chambers has taken this lesson and "unskewed" it, whitewashing the data gathered across multiple national polls and casting the numbers in a light favorable to Republicans. He does this by re-weighting the polls in favor of Republicans—a happy little magic trick that they don't teach you in those liberal institutions of higher learning.

To Chambers, accurately predicting the outcome of the 2012 election is far less important than attempting to influence that outcome with propaganda.

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This Green Party Candidate Could Swing One of the Most Hotly Contested Races in the House

| Mon Nov. 5, 2012 6:40 PM EST

Ursula Rozum.

A nose-ring-wearing, bike-fixing, chore-sharing 28-year-old could decide one of the most expensive and closely watched congressional races in the country.

Ursula Rozum is running on the Green Party ticket in New York's 24th District, an upstate region that includes Syracuse. Dan Maffei, a Democrat who lost his seat by several hundred votes in 2010, is hoping to take it back from Republican Ann Marie Buerkle. Polling shows the race is razor tight. That means a few extra lefty votes for Rozum could Nader-ify the contest and deliver the seat to Buerkle. And New Yorkers aren't the only ones who are hip to this reality. A family of rich Republicans from Florida, who may be rooting for this very scenario, recently sent thousands in friendly campaign cash Rozum's way.

Rozum is a staff organizer for the Syracuse Peace Council and lives at the Bread and Roses Collective, a group house whose residents commit to social-justice activism, gardening, chore- and meal-sharing, and bike fixing. They do not run around naked or do drugs, she told the Syracuse Post-Standard

Rozum has been visiting college campuses and holding rallies, handing out "Voting Green Is Sexy" stickers, and talking about climate change, job creation, student debt, cutting defense spending, and legalizing marijuana. And her message seems to be getting through: People are jumping on board her "commie lib" train. In the latest polls, Rozum had 7 percent of the vote, and Maffei and Buerkle were tied at 43 percent, with 7 percent undecided.

Election 2012: Do Crazy Rape Comments Really Matter?

| Mon Nov. 5, 2012 6:25 PM EST
Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock.

This election season has seen many ill-advised statements about rape and abortion from white, male, Republican candidates who have had exactly zero experience with either. We've already covered many of those statements, but what's most interesting is how they've affected the candidates who made them.

Take, for example, Todd "Legitimate Rape" Akin (R-Mo.). He had a solid lead on incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill from March to mid-August, when he stated his belief that women have magical rapist-sperm-killing abilities. His polls numbers took a nose-dive after that, as it appeared that voters in the state were going to "shut that whole thing down."

But polls in the past few weeks show that the race might end up being a whole lot closer. McCaskill is still projected to pull out a win, but not by nearly the margin anyone would have predicted two months ago. (Since the remark, reporters have also tracked down police reports indicating that Akin was arrested eight times in the 1980s for protesting outside abortion clinics.)

Meanwhile, over in Indiana, Senate candidate Richard Mourdock drew similar outrage after he stated in an October 23 debate that "even if life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen." Mourdock beat long-serving Sen. Dick Lugar in the Republican primary last May, and was expected to defeat Democrat Joe Donnelly on Tuesday. But his poll numbers have dropped since the rape remark (and Democratic efforts to capitalize on them), and it seems pretty clear that the comment had a significant impact on the state's voters. Now pollsters are predicting a Democratic win in Indiana.

The lesson here seems to be that if you're a Republican male politician from the Midwest, you should keep your insensitive rape comments to yourself. Or, perhaps, just make them far enough before the election so that voters can start to forget about it before they go vote.

On Election Eve, Numerous Complaints of Voting Problems

| Mon Nov. 5, 2012 5:20 PM EST

Will this be the dirtiest election ever? Most people won't go to the polls until tomorrow, but reports of trickery aimed at would-be voters have have piled up over the past few days, angering and worrying civil rights advocates.

The latest bout of hand-wringing started on Friday, when Ohio's Republican Secretary of State, John Husted, announced a last minute-directive that could end up determining the presidential election. Husted put the burden on voters to correctly record the form of ID they gave to election officials when casting provisional ballots—recording the wrong information could invalidate the ballot. Some polls show a tight race in this crucial swing state.

Politico: Only White Voters Give a President a "Mandate"

| Mon Nov. 5, 2012 5:12 PM EST

Political reporters love the concept of political "mandates" even though political scientists are skeptical that mandates even exist. On Sunday, Politico's Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen penned the latest entry in this genre, arguing that Barack Obama, if he wins, won't have a mandate because he won't have won a majority of white voters:

If President Barack Obama wins, he will be the popular choice of Hispanics, African-Americans, single women and highly educated urban whites. That's what the polling has consistently shown in the final days of the campaign. It looks more likely than not that he will lose independents, and it's possible he will get a lower percentage of white voters than George W. Bush got of Hispanic voters in 2000.

A broad mandate this is not.

This pseudo-Buchananite argument—that the white vote is important for symbolic and totemic purposes beyond the actual tally—is a favorite of the political press. At best, VandeHei and Allen are regurgitating the Republican argument that there are "real Americans" who vote Republican and then there is everyone else. The converse argument—that the Republican Party's overwhelming reliance on white votes while the Democrats represent a broader cross-section of the country means that the GOP would lack a mandate—is rarely made. When VandeHei and Allen address the GOP's growing demographic problem, it's merely a matter of numbers and winning elections. They do not question whether a party whose supporters are 91 percent white would have a mandate to govern an increasingly diverse nation. 

VandeHei and Allen's delegitimization of nonwhite voters is reprehensible in and of itself, but it's also historically illiterate. Race may affect perceptions of Barack Obama, but Democrats began having a white voter problem decades ago. In 1964, Johnson carried nonwhites by Barack Obama-like margins because his opponent Barry Goldwater, though not himself a racist, made common cause with white supremacists

Johnson memorably declared after signing the 1964 Civil Rights Act that "we have lost the South for a generation," which in hindsight was less prophetic than optimistic. Johnson's prophecy, however, helps shed light on the details of the Democrats' "white voter problem," details that VandeHei and Allen ignore. When you look at the white working-class vote by region, for example, Democrats remain competitive everywhere but in the South, where they get crushed

So it's not simply that VandeHei and Allen are positing that only a majority of white voters can deliver a mandate for a president. It's that they've unwittingly given a specific subset of white voters in the states of the old Confederacy—the same states that once attempted to secede from the Union in order to preserve their authority to buy and sell human beings and that dumped the Democratic Party over its repeal of American apartheid—a veto on the ability of the first black president to enact his agenda. The last few decades have seen dramatic changes in the South, but the past still matters.

Report: Romney Facebook Followers Take Orders Really Well

| Mon Nov. 5, 2012 5:08 PM EST

The pundits don't have full vote tallies to parse yet, but on the eve of Election 2012, there's a plethora of data out there on how well Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have executed their communications strategies. The latest comes from a Washington researcher who's parsed the candidates' use of Facebook. His findings: Obama supporters love Michelle and the kids, while Romney supporters respond to direct requests for action.

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A Tale of Two "Seinfeld" Bosses (...and Campaign Cash)

| Mon Nov. 5, 2012 4:56 PM EST
Lippman & Peterman: A Seinfeld house divided.

It's confirmed: Not all of Elaine Benes' bosses vote Republican.

A couple weeks ago, I dug through campaign data and found a bunch of underreported and surprising celebrity campaign contributions (A-Rod going to bat for Romney, Miami Vice's Don Johnson shelling out for Obama, etc.). In the glut of data was actor John O'Hurley, best known for his role as catalog executive J. Peterman, Elaine's idiosyncratic boss on Seinfeld. (You might also know O'Hurley from his work as a host on Family Feud, Professor Beltran on Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, or his fundraising for Mark Cuban's Fallen Patriot Fund.) O'Hurley gave $1,000 to Romney's 2012 campaign.

Shortly after the story ran, Mother Jones received this email from a one Richard Fancy, residing in Southern California:

I played Mr. Lippman, Elaine Benis' first boss on Seinfeld, and I just want you to know that not ALL of Elaine Benis' idiosyncratic bosses support Mitt. I'm a proud, nervous Obama supporter.

(We have Seinfeld fans in the DC bureau. You can imagine our immediate reaction to this.)

You might remember Mr. Lippman: He was Elaine's boss at a New York publishing house called Pendant Publishing. He fired George after George had raucous sex with the cleaning lady in an office cubicle. He sneezed on his hands in the presence of Japanese businessmen, thus setting off a chain reaction that results in the near-demise of Elaine's professional life.

Actor Richard Fancy, with his wife Joanna (and under her name), has donated around $650 in total across the board to Democratic candidates, including Tammy Baldwin, Elizabeth Warren, and Obama. "Obama doesn't excite me; he campaigned on 'hope,' which is bullshit," Fancy told Mother Jones during a subsequent phone conversation. "But Democrats basically believe in giving back some of the money they've stolen...My fear is that if Mitt Romney is elected, he won't have the freedom that a rich white man usually does, and he'll be controlled by the dominant sect of the Republican Party that's become crazified."

Fancy is also noted for his character-actor work on films like Oliver Stone's Nixon (in which he played Defense Secretary Melvin Laird), the 1984 miniseries George Washington (he played Samuel Adams), Being John Malkovich, the heartfelt teen sex romp The Girl Next Door, and the vastly underrated Psycho Beach Party. And he also has a lot of TV credits to his name, including the daytime soap General Hospital, and a role as Vulcan captain Satelk in the Star Trek franchise:

Via wiki Not the only Vulcan who supports the incumbent this year. Via Memory Alpha Star Trek Wiki

This presidential election, you're either a Mr. Peterman voter or a Mr. Lippman voter. Although Mr. Pitt would probably vote for Virgil Goode, so there's always that.

4 of 5 Town Hall Debate Undecideds Now Support Obama

| Mon Nov. 5, 2012 3:57 PM EST

At the second presidential debate, a town hall forum held at Hofstra University, 11 undecided voters from Long Island asked President Obama and Mitt Romney questions on a range of issues, including unemployment, gun control, and equal pay for women. Mother Jones caught up with five of them, all of whom are still dealing with the aftermath of Sandy, and asked if they finally have decided. Results? Four of the five say they're voting for Obama. Here's why:

Nina Gonzalez CNNNina Gonzalez CNNVOTER: Nina E. Gonzalez

QUESTION: "President Obama, during the Democratic National Convention in 2008, you stated you wanted to keep AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. What has your administration done or plan to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?"

VOTING FOR: OBAMA. "If I could have had a clear understanding of how Gov. Romney would have provided jobs, I would have gone with him. The bottom line is we need food, shelter, and clothing before we can take care of any other needs. I never got a clear understanding about how he would do it. With my question at least [Obama] showed some concern. Romney just reiterated that he would advocate that people be able to possess weapons. And he essentially said that single mothers were the problem. They have enough problems. He also flip-flopped in regard to his thoughts about abortion. So, I was not happy with his response."

Jeremy Epstein CNNJeremy Epstein CNNVOTER: Jeremy Epstein

QUESTION: "Mr. President, Gov. Romney, as a 20-year-old college student, all I hear from professors, neighbors, and others is that when I graduate, I will have little chance to get employment. Can—what can you say to reassure me, but more importantly my parents, that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?"

VOTING FOR: OBAMA. "I feel that both Mitt and Obama have completely different paths for our country. I think [Romney] would undo a lot of the work the president has done in the few years of his presidency. We're already on one track; let's give it a chance and see where we are in another four years. I liked Romney's answer to my question better—his business experience swayed me, but the third debate swayed me towards Obama. That was a commander-in-chief test. Romney looked uncomfortable; he didn't look presidential like he did in first debate. How are you gonna lead if you're uncomfortable?"

Kerry Ladka Fox NewsKerry Ladka Fox NewsVOTER: Kerry Ladka

QUESTION: "The State Department refused extra security for our embassy in Benghazi, Libya, prior to the attacks that killed four Americans. Who was it that denied enhanced security and why?

VOTING FOR: OBAMA. "It was always a toss up for me. Romney's business skills are well established, and I think we need a strong economy, but more important is Obama's backing of social plans like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. I don't think he'll hurt them, but I think the Romney-Ryan ticket will try to destroy them. Also I'm a fan of Obamacare. I think this nation needs a national health care plan. I'm not crazy about that entire episode with people dying in Libya, but still, overall, I think he's a better man than the governor."

 Phillip Tricolla YouTubePhillip Tricolla YouTube

VOTER: Phillip Tricolla

QUESTION: "Your energy secretary, Steven Chu, has now been on record three times stating it's not policy of his department to help lower gas prices. Do you agree with Secretary Chu that this is not the job of the Energy Department?"

LEANING: ROMNEY. "I'm leaning towards Romney only because I think he's a businessman, and maybe we should try something new—take a chance, go off the beaten path, who knows? Every thing is a shot in the dark at this point. They're both good looking, sharp, very presidential looking. It's really hard. No one is sweeping me away. You know, like sweep me away! I say fix the gas prices. When gas is so expensive, almost $4 a gallon, it sucks so much money out of the economy. You wanna get all the votes? Lower the gas prices, get the natural gas, pull it out of the ground. You'd really make a lot of people happy, especially in upstate New York. It would be the answer to our our prayers."

Barry Green Fios 1 NewsBarry Green Fios 1 NewsVOTER: Barry Green

QUESTION: "Each of you: What do you believe is the biggest misperception that the American people have about you as a man and a candidate? Using specific examples, can you take this opportunity to debunk that misperception and set us straight?"

VOTING FOR: OBAMA. "First of all, my wife would kill me if I voted for Romney. But the problem I think for anybody is whether the information you're getting from either side is true or not. I don't have time to look that up. I think they should make debates so that there are fact-checkers who put [the facts] on half the screen. But even if I can't believe either of them, I have to go with the fact that I think that Paul Ryan was the utmost stupid choice of vice president because he's so totally right wing and so totally anti-women's rights. Then with the Supreme Court, there will be one or two positions that come up in the next four years…There's part of me that hopes it ends up a tie and we end up with Romney and Biden."

California's Biggest "Campaign Money Laundering" Scheme, Revealed—Kinda

| Mon Nov. 5, 2012 3:49 PM EST

California's elections watchdog has been fighting for weeks to unmask a secretive group that gave $11 million to defeat Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's temporary tax increase to fund schools, and to pass Proposition 32, which would kneecap state labor unions. That battle ended Tuesday morning in something of a stalemate.

Americans for Responsible Leadership, the Arizona nonprofit that made the $11 million donation, had refused demands by California's Fair Political Practices Commission to name its donors. So the state watchdog sued ARL, and judges agreed that ARL needed to fess up. ARL relented Tuesday, but its response is far from satisfying: ARL's $11 million originally came from...another shadowy group called Americans for Job Security, which is run out of an office in Alexandria, Virginia. To complicate matters more, Americans for Job Security had funneled the $11 million through a third nonprofit, the Center to Protect Patient Rights, before it finally landed in ARL's coffers.

Think of it as a daisy chain of secret money. The Fair Political Practices Commission described the scheme as the largest case of "campaign money laundering" in California's history. Money laundering is a misdemeanor in California, according to FPPC's chair Ann Ravel. (The state attorney general has the power to take action against ARL.) But the real source of the money, the individuals or corporations that first gave it, remains a mystery. Disclosure, in other words, is not transparency.

Here's what we know about Americans for Job Security and the Center to Protect Patient Rights. Founded in 1997, AJS is a nonprofit currently run by a little-known Republican operative named Stephen DeMaura. The group runs ads backing GOP candidates and does not disclose its donors. In 2008, staff attorneys at the Federal Election Commission found "reason to believe" that AJS violated the law by not registering as a political committee, but the FEC's three GOP commissioners blocked any action against the group.

The Center to Protect Patient Rights, as first revealed by the Center for Responsive Politics, is an ATM for conservative nonprofit groups backing Republican candidates at the state and federal levels. The group doled out $44 million in 2010 to the likes of Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, the Club for Growth, and Americans for Prosperity. Those recipients all went on to slam Democrats and boost GOPers in the 2010 elections.

Who funds the Center to Protect Patient Rights is a mystery: As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, the group does not name its donors. CPPR raked in $13.7 million in 2009, according to tax filings, but said in those same filings that it did not spend any money on fundraising in 2009.

CPPR is said to have ties to billionaires Charles and David Koch and their network of conservative donors. Sean Noble, who runs the group, spoke at a 2010 Koch donor conference; Politico has called Noble a "Koch operative" and the Los Angeles Times described him as a "key operative in the Kochs' political activities." However, no direct connection between CPPR, the Kochs, or their donor network has been established.

Even as it hailed forcing Americans for Responsible Leadership to reveal the trail of secrecy behind its $11 million donation, California's Fair Political Practices Commission admitted the victory was bittersweet. "This case also demonstrates the need for reform to make sure true donors are disclosed and can't hide behind innocuous committee names," said Ann Ravel, the FPPC's chair. "The people of California deserve better."

Rick Scott Ignores Fla. Early-Vote Mess to Stump With Mitt Romney

| Mon Nov. 5, 2012 2:26 PM EST

With friends like these, does Mitt Romney need enemies?

Mitt Romney's final pre-election visit to Florida Monday morning included a surprise guest: the state's Republican governor, Rick Scott. "Tomorrow night, Florida is going to go big for Mitt Romney, and it'll be a precursor to what happens in the country," Scott told the crowd in his warm-up moments before Romney took the stage.

You might expect a presidential candidate to stump with a friendly swing-state governor on the eve of a tight election. But Scott's no ordinary governor, as we've written before. The political novice and former health care executive, who pumped $70 million of his own money into his successful 2010 campaign, has alienated conservatives and progressives alike with a failed costly legal challenge to Obamacare, a failed attempt to charge welfare recipients for their pee, and threatened cuts to disabled careliberal arts education, rape counseling, and tuberculosis treatment during "the worst outbreak in 20 years."

A mid-October PPP poll, taken at the height of Republicans' post-Denver debate bounce, found 37 percent of respondents approving of Rick Scott and 46 percent disapproving. Incredibly, that was a near-all-time high in popularity for Scott. When asked if they'd vote for him or a generic Democrat in the next election, the no-name Dem won, 45-43. Numbers like those have led PPP to call Scott "the most toxic of the raft of Tea Party governors."

And all that was before this weekend, when Scott capped off his yearlong campaign to tighten voting laws by denying appeals from thousands of Floridians to restore the state's historically generous early-voting hours, after multiple counties reported snaking lines of voters with wait times of up to half a day.