Political MoJo

Senate Democrats Re-up Their Dark-Money Disclosure Bill—and Dare GOPers to Block It

| Tue Jun. 24, 2014 3:22 PM EDT
Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), right, and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), cosponsors of the DISCLOSE Act of 2014.

The 2014 elections are awash in dark money—and it's only getting worse. The Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity alone plans to spend $125 million or more on this year's elections. In response, Senate Democrats are ratcheting up their efforts to put anonymous political spending in the headlines. On Tuesday, a group of Democrats introduced a rebooted version of the DISCLOSE Act, a bill intended to cast light on political dark money, which spiked from $69 million in 2008 to $310 million in 2012.

Cosponsored by 50 Democrats in the Senate, the DISCLOSE Act of 2014 would cover election spending by corporations, labor unions, super-PACs, and, most importantly, politically active nonprofits (like Americans for Prosperity or the Democrat-aligned Patriot Majority). Disclosing dark money is a tricky issue—here's how new bill would attempt to do it.

Say you run an anonymously funded nonprofit group planning to spend money on the 2014 midterms. Under this bill, after spending your first $10,000 on elections, you'd have to disclose that spending within 24 hours to the Federal Election Commission. You'd then need to disclose each additional $10,000 in election spending—again within 24 hours. Right now, spending by nonprofit groups can occur with little or no disclosure, so this would give reporters, parties, campaigns, and the public much more up-to-date information on who's spending money where.

What about the donors funding these groups? The new DISCLOSE Act would require groups covered by the bill to reveal the source of donations of $10,000 or more. That's no sweat for super-PACs, which already disclose their donors. But it's a huge deal for politically active nonprofits, those groups organized under the 501(c)(4) section of the tax code. Part of the appeal of these nonprofits is the anonymity they afford their funders: A donor can give $1 million or $10 million or $100 million without anyone being the wiser. (The bill does allow for groups to use separate bank accounts—one to fund election spending, another to fund issue advocacy—to give anonymity to donors who wish to support non-political work.)

The bill also targets the use of pass-throughs and shell corporations to evade disclosure rules, mandating that groups that receive such donations name the origin of the money. We've seen a few notable instances of this. In 2011, a mysterious company called W Spann LLC gave $1 million to the pro-Romney super-PAC Restore Our Future—then it dissolved. The true donor's identity remained hidden until pressure from Democrats and the media prompted Ed Conard, a former partner of Romney's at Bain Capital, to reveal that he authorized the W Spann donation. In late 2012, the Washington Post reported that Cancer Treatment Centers of America founder Richard Stephenson and his family routed $12 million in donations to the tea-party group FreedomWorks through two Tennessee companies. Until the Post's story, the true source of the $12 million was unknown.

Back to the new DISCLOSE Act. In a nutshell it calls for: More information on campaign spending, disclosed more quickly. More disclosure of previously hidden big donors—liberal and conservative and centrist—influencing elections. And no shell games to avoid the sunlight.

The bad news: The new DISCLOSE Act is likely going nowhere. Senate Republicans, rallied by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), have blocked earlier iterations of the DISCLOSE Act since 2010. McConnell, currently a foe of campaign finance limits, will no doubt fight the new legislation. It is almost guaranteed the bill will not secure the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.

In unveiling the new DISCLOSE Act, Senate Democrats highlighted McConnell's past support for greater disclosure of election spending. In 1987, McConnell introduced a resolution to allow Congress to set limits on outside spending intended to elect or defeat a candidate for federal office; he said the measure "would restrict the power of special interest PACs, stop the flow of all soft money, keep wealthy individuals from buying public office." In 1997, McConnell called for "expedited" public disclosure of campaign giving and spending. And in 2000, on the Senate floor, he said, "Virtually everybody in the Senate is in favor of enhanced disclosure, greater disclosure, that's really hardly a controversial subject."

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Watch: What The Dick Cheney/Rand Paul Feud Tells Us About the GOP

Tue Jun. 24, 2014 2:54 PM EDT

Mother Jones Washington bureau chief David Corn dropped by MSNBC's Hardball to talk with Chris Matthews and the Huffington Post's Howard Fineman. The topic: the ongoing civil war within the GOP—and between Rand Paul and Dick Cheney—over the crisis in Iraq. It's hardly the first time the two have been at odds: Paul accused Cheney of exploiting Iraq for Halliburton's gain, and called him out on torture; Cheney fired back, saying Paul was "not familiar" with the facts.

 

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

These 204 Republicans Don't Want to Punish Companies That Steal Workers' Wages

| Tue Jun. 24, 2014 12:33 PM EDT
House Speaker John Boehner

Last week, House Republicans voted to protect companies that steal workers' wages.

According to the Department of Labor, many big firms that receive hundreds of millions of dollars a year in federal contracts—including Hewlett Packard, AT&T, and Lockheed Martin—have a history of wage theft. Wage theft refers to employer practices such as not paying overtime, paying employees with debit cards that charge usage fees, or requiring workers to arrive to work early to get ready without paying them for that extra time. On Thursday, House liberals introduced an amendment to a defense spending bill that would forbid the government from handing out contracts to companies that jack their employees' pay. The amendment barely passed, with 25 Republicans voting with Democrats in favor of the measure. But most GOPers—204 of them—voted against the change. (The full list is below.)

The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), a group of about 70 liberal Dems in the House, has introduced the same anti-wage-theft amendment to other spending bills in recent weeks, in the hope that it will make it into the final version of one of those spending bills and be signed by President Barack Obama.

In May, House Republicans voted down the anti-wage-theft amendment when it was attached to a spending bill that funds several government agencies. (Ten GOPers voted in favor.) That led to some bad press for GOPers—perhaps one reason why, when the CPC added the same provision to a defense spending bill Thursday, it passed, with 15 more Republicans crossing over to vote with Democrats.

Obama has cracked down on federal contractors in other ways this year. In February, the president signed an executive order mandating a minimum wage of $10.10 for federal contractor employees. In April, he signed another directive which forbids contractors from retaliating against workers who discuss their pay with each other.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.)

Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.)

Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas)

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.)

Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.)

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.)

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas)

Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.)

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas)

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.)

Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio)

Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.)

Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas)

Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) 

Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.)

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.)

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.)

Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.)

Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.)

Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.)

Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.)

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.)

Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.)

Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa)

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas)

Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.)

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.)

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas)

Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas)

Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.)

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas)

Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.)

Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio)

Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.)

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho)

Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.)

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.)

Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.)

Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas)

Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.)

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.)

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.)

Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.)

Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.)

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.)

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah)

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.)

Rep. John Carter (R-Texas)

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.)

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.)

Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.)

Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.)

Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.)

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas)

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa)

Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.)

Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.)

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.)

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) 

Rep. Mike D. Rogers (R-Ala.)

Rep. Michael Turner  (R-Ohio)

Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas)

Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.)

Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) 

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.)

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.)

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.)

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)

Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Texas)

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas)

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.)

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.)

Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas)

Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.)

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.)

Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.)

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.)

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.)

Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.)

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio)

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.)

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)

Rep. Adrian Smith (R-Neb.)

Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.)

Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio)

Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.)

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.)

Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.)

Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.)

Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.)

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.)

Rep. John C. Fleming (R-La.)

Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.)

Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.)

Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.)

Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.)

Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.)

Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.)

Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.)

Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas)

Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.)

Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.)

Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.)

Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.)

Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.)

Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.)

Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.)

Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.)

Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.)

Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.)

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.)

Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.)

Rep. Dan Benishek (R-Mich.)

Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.)

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.)

Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.)

Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ariz.)

Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.)

Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.)

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.)

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.)

Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.)

Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas)

Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.)

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.)

Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas)

Rep. Cory Gardner (Colo.)

Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio)

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.)

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.)

Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ariz.)

Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.)

Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.)

Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.)

Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.)

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.)

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.)

Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.)

Rep. Robert Hurt (R-Va.)

Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) 

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.)

Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho)

Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.)

Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.)

Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.)

Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.)

Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.)

Rep. Rich Nugent (R-Fla.)

Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R-Miss.)

Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.)

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.)  

Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.)

Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.)

Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.)

Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.)

Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.)

Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.)

Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.)

Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.)

Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio)

Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.)

Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.)

Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.)

Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.)

Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.)

Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.)

Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.)

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.)

Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas)

Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.)

Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.)

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.)

Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.)

Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.)

Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.)

Rep. Paul Cook (R-Calif.)

Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.)

Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.)

Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mon.)

Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.)

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.)

Rep. George Holding (R-N.C.)

Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) 

Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio)

Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.)

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.)

Rep. Luke Messer (R-Ind.)

Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.)

Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.)

Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.)

Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.)

Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Pa.)

Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah)

Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.)

Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.)

Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.)

Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas)

Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio)

Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas)

Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.)

Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) 

Rep. Vance McAllister (R-La.)

Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) 

Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.)

Here's the Full Justice Department Memo That Allowed Obama To Kill an American Without Trial

| Mon Jun. 23, 2014 1:45 PM EDT

In September 2011, Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical US-born cleric, was killed ​​in an American drone strike in Yemen. His death was the first public example of the US government targeting and killing one of its own citizens abroad based on the suspicion of terrorist activities, though the names of other Americans also appear on the Obama administration's "kill list."

Last year, NBC's Michael Isikoff published a Justice Department "white paper" that details the legal rationale for targeting American citizens. Now, as the result of Freedom of Information Act lawsuits brought by the New York Times and the ACLU, the public has access to a redacted version of the full 2010 memo from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel justifying the Obama administration's controversial Awlaki assassination. You can read it below:

 

GOP Front-Runner Compares Gay Marriage to Polygamy

| Mon Jun. 23, 2014 10:28 AM EDT
Republican House candidate Pedro Celis

Last week, a top GOP House candidate in Washington state compared gay marriage to polygamy.

"Marriage is something more for religion to decide," Republican front-runner Pedro Celis said Thursday when asked about his stance on same-sex marriage at a GOP candidate forum, the Seattle Times reported. "Is this marriage or not? Polygamy—is it fine or not? It's a religion thing."

The National Republican Congressional Committee has backed Celis, a former Microsoft engineer, to run against Democratic Rep. Suzan DelBene in Washington's first congressional district. DelBene is expected to hold onto her seat in November, but national Republicans are trying extra hard to change that. The NRCC recently bumped Celis into the highest tier of its candidate recruitment and training program. Celis is now a "Young Gun," meaning that the committee considers him to be on a "clear path to victory."

In 2012, Celis voted against Washington's initiative to legalize gay marriage. He says same-sex marriage issues are best left to the states.

Celis wasn't the only one to express interesting views on same-sex marriage at Thursday's event. Another GOP contender, former county council staffer Ed Moats, said "homosexual marriage" is "anthropologically regressive." The Republican primary will be held on August 5.

Before this event, Celis had said his campaign was focused on Obamacare and jobs.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for June 23, 2014

Mon Jun. 23, 2014 8:44 AM EDT

The USS North Carolina returns after a deployment to the Western Pacific Region to friends and family waiting at Pearl Harbor. (US Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jason Swink)

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Herman Cain: A First Grader Could Run America Better Than Obama

| Fri Jun. 20, 2014 2:09 PM EDT
Herman Cain.

Failed Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain—remember him?—laced into President Obama and his administration at the annual conference of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a confab for evangelicals and pro-life activists.

Cain said the Obama administration was suffering from "a crisis of crises" on the home front and abroad. He then contended that "a first grader would approach these problems a lot smarter" than Obama and his team. "I'm not saying that to be insulting," he said. "I'm just telling you the truth."

Cain also exhorted the half-filled ballroom at Washington, DC's Omni Shoreham hotel to inform themselves and get active in politics. They needed to get involved because, as he put it, "stupid people [who do vote and volunteer] are ruining America."

Those in the room need to outnumber those "stupid people," he continued. "The solution is real simple folks. Those of us who are informed have got to outvote the stupid people. And you have got to become ambassadors of intelligence, ambassadors of information."

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for June 20, 2014

Fri Jun. 20, 2014 10:04 AM EDT

American, Japanese and Australian service members assemble for a photo in Cambodia at the start of the 2014 Pacific Partnership program to provide humanitarian and disaster relief preparedness aid to the Asia-Pacific region. (US Navy Photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Greg Badger)

Tea Party Darling Joe Walsh Says He Was Kicked Off His Own Radio Show for Using the N-Word

| Thu Jun. 19, 2014 11:14 PM EDT

On Thursday, former Republican congressman and Tea Party darling Joe Walsh complained on Twitter about being kicked off his radio show for using the n-word and other racial slurs on air.  He tweeted, "It appears I can say [The name of Washington's pro football team], which is supposedly offensive, but when I say other words, commercial." He then proceeded to go on a bizarre online rant, repeating more racial slurs. 

Walsh's radio show airs on "The Answer" in Chicago and New York, which is home to a number of conservative talk shows. According to Walsh's Twitter account, his manager allowed him to say the name of Washington's football team on-air, but didn't allow him to say other offensive racial epithets. Here's what Walsh had to say about it all:

Walsh, who once called Obama a "tyrant" for ceasing to deport certain young undocumented Americans, noted that the radio station had sent him home, and he would find out what happens next with his job tomorrow at 5 p.m. Mother Jones has reached out to Walsh and "The Answer" for comment.

The CIA Wanted to Make Bin Laden Demon Dolls. Here Are 4 Other Bizarre CIA Plots.

| Thu Jun. 19, 2014 2:43 PM EDT
Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir interviewing Osama bin Laden

On Thursday, the Washington Post's Adam Goldman had the scoop on how, circa 2005, the CIA began secretly developing creepy-looking Osama bin Laden action figures in their war against Al Qaeda. You read that right:

The faces of the figures were painted with a heat-dissolving material, designed to peel off and reveal a red-faced bin Laden who looked like a demon, with piercing green eyes and black facial markings.

The goal of the short-lived project was simple: spook children and their parents, causing them to turn away from the actual bin Laden.

The code-name for the bin Laden figures was "Devil Eyes," and to create them the CIA turned to one of the best minds in the toy business…The toymaker was Donald Levine, the former Hasbro executive who was instrumental in the creation of the wildly popular G.I. Joe toys that generated more than $5 billion in sales after hitting the shelves in 1964.

It wasn't long before the CIA abandoned this project (you can check out photos of a demon-doll prototype here).

While we're on the subject, here's a quick look at some of the spy agency's other notably bizarre or goofy pet projects:

The Sukarno Porno Plot:

The operation that inspired the Ben Affleck movie Argo wasn't even the craziest CIA scheme that involved a fake movie: In the mid-'60s, the CIA was no fan of Sukarno, the first president of Indonesia. The agency began production on a sex tape (titled "Happy Days") and naughty photos of a Sukarno lookalike gettin' it on with a Russian lover. The CIA wasn't able to track down a double who looked enough like a nude Sukarno, so "Happy Days" never got its big premiere date. Regardless, Sukarno was overthrown in 1967 during Indonesia's transition to the "New Order," and replaced by general Suharto, a US-backed, genocidal military dictator who held on to power for more than three decades.

Spy Cats:

In the '60s, the CIA tried implanting small microphones into cats, which they would then send to spy on the Soviets. The project was dubbed "Acoustic Kitty." The first attempt at cat-espionage resulted in the animal getting crushed by a taxi near the Soviet embassy in Washington, just moments after the operation began. All other missions failed, as well, and the initiative was terminated in 1967. Here's a diagram of the secret project:

 

Poison toothpaste:

The poisonous toothpaste, concocted by a CIA chemist, was meant for the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the first democratically elected prime minister of the Republic of the Congo. The idea was later vetoed, and Lumumba was murdered in a coup after barely three months in office.

Exploding cigar:

Fidel Castro: The CIA didn't like him all that much. So they wanted to blow up his head with a special exploding cigar. Click here to read about the other weird ways the CIA tried to whack Castro.