Political MoJo

Wealthy California Liberals, Now More Powerful Than Ever

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 10:02 PM EDT

In what will inevitably be great fodder for the GOP primary winner, Forbes notes that:

In the first quarter, Californians contributed about $20 million to leading presidential candidates, with Democrats holding a 3-to-2 edge over Republicans, according to an analysis of fundraising data by The Associated Press.

So, California's 34 million residents will finally have a voice? Not so fast...

[M]ost of the money the candidates raised came from a small group of large donors. A study by the Campaign Finance Institute found that donations under $200 amounted to only 14 percent of the total raised.Contributions of $1,000 or more accounted for 79 percent of the total raised by the candidates, the institute said, compared with 68 percent in 1999.
"You have a bunch of presidential candidates and sitting senators and governors and congressmen who are dependent on very large donations from a tiny segment of the American public," said Steven Weissman, the institute's associate director for policy. "That should certainly raise concerns for those people who are worried about equal access to decision makers."

Er, yes.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Los Angeles Times Wins Pulitzer Prize for Oceans Package. We Say, the More the Merrier

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 8:17 PM EDT

MA06_79x101.jpg

Only U.S.-based newspapers or daily news agencies are eligible for the Pulitzer Prize in journalism. So we give major kudos to the Los Angeles Times for winning a Pulitzer for Altered Oceans in July and August. Ok, Ok, so our oceans package was the first. But we're glad the MSM are pressing the issue.

Virginia Home to Lax Gun Laws

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 7:16 PM EDT

School shootings can happen anywhere, anytime. But it's worth looking at the gun control laws in Virginia after today's tragedy at Virginia Tech and noting that the state has a poor track record when it comes to gun control.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which issues an annual state reportcard on gun laws, gives the state a C-, noting that the state is outright failing when it comes to safety locks and standards. The state also doesn't allow cities to regulate guns, and it doesn't execute background checks on private sales - perhaps significant in this case - and it allows open carry of a handgun that has a capacity of twenty rounds or less. (The NRA tracks gun legislation closely as well. Check out the latest happenings in Virginia, or in any other state, via the NRA-ILA's clickable map.)

Earlier today President's Bush spokesperson Dana Perino addressed today's events and was asked how the President will respond in terms of gun regulations:

I would point you back to the fact that President, along with Secretary Spellings, hosted last October a conference on school gun violence after the Amish school shooting and the other shootings that had happened, because the tragedies are the ones that just collectively break America's heart...As far as policy, the President believes that there is a right for people to bear arms, but that all laws must be followed. And certainly bringing a gun into a school dormitory and shooting...obviously that would be against the law and something that someone should be held accountable for.
Q: Does there need to be some more restrictions? Does there need to be gun control in this country?
Perino: If there are changes to the President's policy we will let you know. But we've had a consistent policy of ensuring that the Justice Department is enforcing all of the gun laws that we have on the books and making sure that they're prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

A reporter then pushed Perino (who's not yet comfortable with being pushed) noting that while Governor of Texas, Bush ushered in legislation eliminating the age restriction on gun possession.

Q: Should there be some kind of federal age limit, as far as the President is concerned, raising the age for gun possession in this country?
Perino: Unfortunately, I'm going to have to go back and look at what the record was in Texas.

Well, Dana, let me help you out. Texas is one of six states (Alabama, Louisiana, New Hampshire, Maine, Texas and Wyoming are the others) where there is no minimum age for possession. Virginia isn't one of these states, and the shooter of 30+ people and himself was not a minor, but gun control laws in aggregate help determine the accessibility of weapons and can impact the outcome of a tragic situation.

There is much, much more to be learned about what went down today, and how this troubled man got his hands on a gun is only a small part of the story. But be sure, just about everyone wishes it had been harder for him to do so.

Sudan Allows U.N. Aid in Darfur, Thanks to Mia Farrow?

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 7:14 PM EDT

Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir says he will allow U.N. aid in Darfur after three years of thumbing his nose at the U.N. and blocking humanitarian work there. Today he says he'll accept what a "heavy support package" including 3,000 well-equipped military police, six attack helicopters, and other aviation and logistics into Darfur.

What does Mia Farrow have to do with this? Quite a lot, believe it or not. As a good-will ambassador for the United Nations Children's Fund, she launched a campaign last month to coax (or shame) China's leaders into cooperation, as I blogged on Friday, by linking the genocide to the Beijing 2008 Games. China had until then used its permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council to thwart international sanctions on Sudan. (More than half of Sudan's oil exports go to China, and Beijing is the Sudan's leading arms supplier.) But upon Farrow's suggestion, Steven Spielberg sent a letter of concern to the officials he is working with as artistic adviser to China on the Games. Within days China dispatched a diplomat to the Sudan. It's possible that this recent step is just lip service. But even so, it has major ramifications. It's a sign that China cares more about its reputation as an ethical, rising global power than any sleazy oil source.

Watch the Daily Show? You're Smart. Read Blogs or Watch FOX? Not So Much

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 3:18 PM EDT

It's always a treat when studies come out that link how much individuals know with where they get their news. In the following tables, the percentage next to a media outlet's name represents the number of viewers of that outlet that can answer 15 of 23 questions about political and world affairs correctly. Not a particularly high bar.

Daily Show/Colbert Report 54%
Major Newspapers' Websites 54%
NewsHour w/ Jim Lehrer 53%
Bill O'Reilly 51%
NPR 51%
Rush Limbaugh 50%

Those are the folks who did well. Here's the group that did just okay.

Newsmagazines 48%
Local Newspaper 43%
CNN 41%

Ouch, CNN. Clean up your act. And here's the folks that did really poorly. This is the funniest group.

Network Evening News 38%
Blogs 37%
Fox News 35%
Local TV News 35%
Network Morning Shows 34%

I'll let you digest all of that without making the numerous easy jokes. But I'll point out two facts: First, other questions from the same poll reveal that people are about as aware of major news events today as they were 20 years ago, so the information explosion has not helped anything. And second, the national average? 35%. So the majority of the country either gets their news from FOX, local news, morning shows, or doesn't get the news from anywhere at all.

For shame, Regis and Kelly.

Update: Some other tidbits that I love. Only 69% of people in America know Dick Cheney is the vice president. Also, this: "Democrats and Republicans were about equally represented in the most knowledgeable group but there were more Republicans in the least aware group."

Vice President Bush?

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 10:29 AM EDT

Jeb Bush, that is. Mitt Romney discussed potential running mates on the campaign trail recently (counting your chickens, Mitt?), and three southerners came up: South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, former U.S. House Speaker and current crazy person Newt Gingrich (of Georgia), and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

Frankly, I would rather have years 13-17 with a Bush in the White House than years 1-4 with Gingrich in it. Romney said that the three gentlemen he mentioned would be prospective veeps for anyone who secured the Republican nomination, a fact that isn't really true. First of all, Romney was in South Carolina when he made the statement, so the southern flavor of his VP list is clearly a product of his circumstances. Second, the Massachusetts-based Romney needs some southern appeal. While that would also be the case for New Yorker Giuliani and maybe the Arizona-based McCain, a southern VP wouldn't be necessary for former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson, nor current Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

Also, it is way, way, way too early to be talking about this.

PS - Did you know Jeb Bush's full first name is not Jebediah? It's John. Very, very disappointing. A President Jebediah would have been kind of neat.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Sadr Pulls Ministers Out of Iraqi Government

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 9:50 AM EDT

Shiite cleric and political leader Moqtada al-Sadr ordered his ministers to quit the Iraqi government on Monday because Prime Minister Maliki won't set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

The Shi'ite Alliance is a coalition of Shiite political parties that includes Maliki and al-Sadr. Al-Sadr's followers hold a quarter of the Alliance's parliamentary seats (al-Sadr's members of parliament will not abandon the government), in addition to six ministries. The withdrawal of al-Sadr's ministers, though it has happened before, puts an already embattled Maliki in an even more tenuous position, and drives the Iraq government closer to the brink.

The problem here at home is that is makes clear that al-Sadr's priorities and the Democrats' priorities are one: a timetable for withdrawal. Not a good thing when you are perceived as being in lockstep with a war zone's most powerful thug.

New Email Released Shows Sampson's a Fibber

| Sat Apr. 14, 2007 1:44 PM EDT

On March 29, Kyle Sampson, former chief of staff to AG Alberto Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys. Sampson's testimony incriminated Gonzales, who had claimed he was not involved in the firing process. Sampson finally spoke -- it had been the most awaited testimony during the case that has preoccupied Washington for months. Well, now it looks like Sampson lied under oath. The former aide, as Michael Scherer reported in Salon, had trouble answering many questions that day; he tallied 127 "I don't remembers" uttered by Sampson throughout the hearing. Perhaps Sampson should have said "I don't remember" to this inquiry put forth by committee member Charles Schumer:

Schumer: Did you or did you not have in mind specific replacements for the dismissed U.S. Attorneys before they were asked to resign on December 7th, 2006.

Sampson: I personally did not. On December 7th, I did not have in mind any replacements for any of the seven who were asked to resign.

A January 6, 2006 email just released to the House Judiciary Committee shows that Sampson had named replacement recs for each USA on the list of to-be-fireds. Oops. This news comes during the heating up of the email controversy over the administration using RNC emails to avoid communicating through their own email system. The White House now claims to have lost 5 million of these emails, many of which relate to the firing of the eight U.S. Attorneys. It's a pretty tangled mess -- Karl Rove is back on the hot seat (I guess he's never really off) and Plamegate is back in the news.

But the new email released revealing Sampson's fibbing does more than just point to the fact that a former justice official lied under oath and reveal a concerted effort by the administration and the DOJ to conceal their communication, it shows that many of the potential replacements named were Bushies; that the mass purge of USAs in December was indeed a way to make room for "partisan loyalists" (an accusation the DOJ has denied). This Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee authorized subpoenas for all DOJ and White House documents relating to the firings that they say they will issue if Gonzales is not forthcoming in his testimony this Tuesday. Senate Dems say that the documents released thus far have been incomplete. I'm banking on there being more juicy bits of information buried in the DOJ and WH's trails of paper and electronic mail. Stay tuned.

Today is National Day of Climate Action

| Sat Apr. 14, 2007 1:27 PM EDT

Many of you likely know that today is the National Day of Climate Action. There are lots and lots of cool events around the country, which you can search by zip code at the Step It Up 2007 website. Got some free time on a spring Saturday? Try saving the planet for a little bit.

Another Haditha?

| Sat Apr. 14, 2007 12:50 PM EDT

A new report from Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission says that a U.S. Marine unit used excessive force when escaping a suicide attempt last month. Twelve Afghani civilians were killed and 35 were injured by the Marines, who apparently did not distinguish between civilians and insurgents when responding to an attempt on their own lives. From the Times:

Following the March 4 attack in Nangahar province, when an explosives-rigged minivan crashed into a convoy of Marines, the unit shot at vehicles and pedestrians in six different locations while driving along a 10-mile stretch of road, according to a report by Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission.

And this isn't a toothless non-prof spouting off, either. This could result in actual prosecution.

A U.S. military commander also determined that Marines used excessive force, and he referred the case for possible criminal inquiry.

As if the United States needs any more bad press in the Arab world...