Political MoJo

Ted Cruz Uses Rush Limbaugh in Radio Ad to Take Down Marco Rubio

| Fri Feb. 5, 2016 11:46 AM EST

Ted Cruz is hoping Rush Limbaugh can push him over the top in next Tuesday's New Hampshire Republican primary. Here's a spot that the senator from Texas is running on a Boston sports radio station, using the conservative yakker's words to brand Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who holds a slight edge in the race for second place, as a pro-amnesty hypocrite:

Rush Limbaugh: "If you're looking for the Republican candidate who is the most steadfastly opposed to liberalism, whose agenda is oriented toward stopping it and thwarting it and defeating it, it's Ted Cruz."

Narrator: "Rush is right. It's Ted Cruz who's led our fights in Washington. To secure our border. To stop taxpayer-funded benefits for illegal immigrants. And it was Cruz who stood up for us against the Washington establishment. When the Gang of Eight proposed amnesty for 11 million illegal immigrants, it was wrong. Ted Cruz fought them. But what about Marco Rubio? When Rubio ran for Senate, he made this pledge:

Marco Rubio: "I will never support it, never have and never will support any effort to grant blanket legalization amnesty."

Rush Limbaugh: "That's what he said. It's not what he did. It was Marco Rubio that was a member of the Gang of Eight, and Ted Cruz that wasn't."

Narrator: Ted Cruz, the only one we can trust."

The ad is not an endorsement from Limbaugh, who made the comments on his radio show. Limbaugh isn't quite the voice of God, but in a tight Republican primary, he might be the next best thing. Cruz is talking about immigration every chance he can get in the Granite State—even when he's supposed to be talking about heroin—as he tries to catch up to Donald Trump and keep his rival from Florida at bay.

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Fed-Up Uber Drivers Aim to Disrupt Super Bowl 50—With Their Own Mobile App

| Fri Feb. 5, 2016 6:00 AM EST

A disruptive smartphone app turned Uber into a $50 billion global juggernaut. Now a group of disgruntled Uber drivers, with the help of their own smartphone app, aims to kneecap the car-hailing service precisely when and where it will be most in demand: Super Bowl Sunday in the Bay Area.

Striking drivers reportedly intend to slow traffic near the stadium and inundate the streets around crowded Super Bowl events.

For Uber, the stakes are high. The big game is in Santa Clara, about an hour from Uber's San Francisco headquarters. The company has chipped in $250,000 to $500,000 in cash and services to sponsor the Super Bowl Host Committee, according to Quartz. In return, it gets to be the first ride-sharing service allowed to access a Super Bowl game. It will even have exclusive pick-up and drop-off zones at the stadium—a coup for Uber's marketing department, assuming the company doesn't fall on its face.

And that's where Uber's labor problems may come back to haunt it. The drivers, who often make less than minimum wage, are angry because the company slashed fares nationwide over the past month. On Monday, several hundred of them protested at Uber's offices in San Francisco and New York.

The group behind the San Francisco protest, United Uber Drivers, has pledged to hold a massive strike on Super Bowl Sunday, and some Uber drivers in other cities have said they will do the same in solidarity. According to the industry publication Ride Share Report, the drivers intend to slow highway traffic near the stadium and inundate the streets around crowded Super Bowl events in San Francisco.

That might not be all. United Uber Drivers did not respond to emails from Mother Jones, but downloading the group's special iPhone app offers a bit more insight into its plans:

Other messages explain that when a push notification is received through the app, all drivers will be asked to go offline simultaneously, crippling Uber's network. "We need you to invite every Uber driver you know," urges the first message, written in November. "This communication technology will allow us to invite, unite and strike effectively without any fear or loss of the business relationship with Uber."

But that might be easier said than done. With an estimated 40,000 Uber drivers in the Bay Area, the group will need a lot of downloads to mount an effective strike. Of course, people said the same thing about some startup's harebrained bid to defeat the taxi industry. Uber proved them wrong.

Ted Cruz Attacks Sean Penn—and Here's Penn's Response

| Thu Feb. 4, 2016 5:33 PM EST

At an addiction policy forum in Hooksett, New Hampshire, on Thursday, Sen. Ted Cruz, the winner of the Republican Iowa caucuses, turned his talk about the awful consequences of addiction into a rant against…illegal immigration. And, of course, the media and Hollywood. After describing how addiction has affected his family—his half sister died of a drug overdose in 2011—Cruz quickly pivoted to discuss the flood of "undocumented Democrats" (Freudian slip?) coming across the border from Mexico and the need to build a wall to keep them out. He suggested the wall was also needed to protect the United States from drug cartels. Then he turned to the entertainment industry and one member in particular:

El Chapo. You know, Sean Penn seems to think he is a sexy and attractive character. I so appreciate Hollywood for glorifying vicious homicidal killers. What a cute and chic thing to celebrate. Someone who murders and destroys lives for a living. El Chapo's organization brings vast quantities of drugs into this country, vast quantities of heroin.

Of course, this was a reference to Sean Penn's recent Rolling Stone article, in which Penn conducted an interview with the fugitive drug cartel chieftain in a secret jungle location. The piece did not celebrate El Chapo—but Cruz was looking to blame all the usual suspects for the drug epidemic in New England: the media, Democrats, and a big-name actor.

Asked to respond to Cruz's effort to link him to the addiction plague in the Granite State, Penn, in an email, told Mother Jones:

Ted Cruz is a generically funny and dangerously adept thought-smith. Clearly, he watches too much television and neglected to read my article before criticizing. It's understood. He's busy trading genius and raising aspirations with Mr. Trump. Blame Canada.

Penn's last sentence is a reference to this.

We've asked the Cruz campaign if it would like to respond—and whether the senator is a fan of South Park.

This Is How Much the Koch Brothers Hate Donald Trump

| Thu Feb. 4, 2016 1:02 PM EST

There is one man standing in the way of the Koch brothers' plans to elect a free-market conservative to the White House in November. His name is Donald J. Trump.

The Kochs, whose fascinating political evolution I detail in my book Sons of Wichita, are not fans of the bombastic real estate mogul whose positions on everything from taxes to foreign policy are at odds with theirs. Charles Koch has said Trump's plan to create a Muslim registry would "destroy our free society"—and for months Trump has been a source of debate and discussion within their donor network, which is raising nearly $900 million for the 2016 elections. Early on in the race, some members of the network believed, as did almost everyone else, that Trump would implode on his own. Some still do. And a very small handful of Koch network donors are Trump supporters. But in recent months, the Kochs and their allies—who now are largely leaning toward Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz—have considered a campaign targeting Trump, whose candidacy they believe poses a threat to the Republican Party, if not the country at large.

The Kochs' Trump problem is the topic of my new piece, just out at Vanity Fair. I report:

But Trump's second-place Iowa finish was more a blow to his ego, in some respect, than the viability of his campaign. If he prevails in New Hampshire, where he's maintaining a huge lead in the polls, pressure is likely to mount within the Koch network to launch an offensive before a march to the nomination gains formidable momentum. When the Kochs and several hundred of their allies gathered last weekend for another summit, halting Trump was a major topic of discussion.

What form might this attack take? According to The Hill, the Kochs' operatives have carefully assessed Trump's vulnerabilities—and those of the other candidates—and determined that highlighting his track record of bankruptcies and predatory business deals harms his standing with likely voters. (The Democrats deployed a similar strategy, to great effect, against Romney's "vulture capitalism.")

"As to whether we would mount something like that, everything is on the table,” one senior Koch official told me. "But there's no real plan. In all of our meetings we've discussed it."

One thing that has held the Koch network back so far, in addition to the Trump backers within their ranks, is the concern that taking on Trump would inevitably draw the thin-skinned tycoon's legendary invective, which it almost certainly would. If the Kochs go after Trump, rest assured that he will take every opportunity to highlight how he's being attacked by a cabal of billionaires seeking to control the outcome of the election. And this more or less explains their caution to this point. By taking on Trump, the Kochs risk lending credence to his claims of being an outsider who is battling against a corrupt political system rigged by the elites.

If Trump performs poorly in New Hampshire, the Koch network may be able to avoid a damaging showdown. But if he wins, it may already be too late to halt the runaway Trump train, especially if there's no Trump-targeting campaign in the can. So what happens if Trump seizes the nomination? Here's where things get very interesting.

If Trump becomes the nominee and he faces self-declared socialist Bernie Sanders in November, the senior Koch official explains, members of the donor network are likely to hold their noses and back Trump's candidacy. But there's another scenario that could prove far more controversial and possibly damaging for the network: a Trump-versus-Clinton matchup. There is absolutely no love between the Clintons and the Kochs, whose company experienced one of the most traumatic periods in its history as it fought off regulators during Bill Clinton's presidency. But, so strong is the dislike for Trump within Koch network, that a Clinton-Trump race is a tough call. "I could see the network not participating in the presidential election at all," says the senior Koch official.

This doesn't mean the Koch network would stand down in 2016 entirely. Under this scenario, donors would instead channel their resources into other races. If this were to occur—and it's a very big if—that would be a stunning development for a network of donors that has been amassing such a huge warchest for the presidential race.

Read the full story here.

Watch a Very Smug Martin Shkreli Invoke the Fifth Amendment

| Thu Feb. 4, 2016 12:53 PM EST

Martin Shkreli, the former pharmaceuticals executive who sparked national outrage after it was discovered he price-gouged a drug by more than 5,000 percent, appeared before the House Oversight committee on Thursday for a hearing on pharmaceutical pricing. When members of the committee asked him about the price-fixing that led to a federal investigation of his company, Shkreli repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege "against self-incrimination" and refused to answer.

He instead let his smug smile speak for itself, while Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md) described the struggles of his constituents to pay for their medicine.

At one point, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) asked Shkreli how to pronounce his name, to which he received a rare response. Gowdy then said, "See, there you can answer some questions—that one didn't incriminate you!"

Gowdy continued, "I just want to make sure you understand you are welcome to answer questions and not all of your answers are going to subject you to incrimination. You understand that, don't you?"

"I intend to follow the advice of my counsel," Shkreli replied. "Not yours."

Shkreli, who was once labeled the "most hated man in America," repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment, even when he was asked what he would say if given the chance to speak to people with HIV/AIDS who were unable to purchase the drug Darapim after his dramatic price hike. He also refused to discuss his $2 million purchase of a Wu-Tang clan album.

Shkreli's choice to remain silent comes after weeks of defiant Twitter rants and a bizarre diss video aimed at Ghostface Killah, after the rapper publicly mocked him:

After he left the hearing on Thursday, however, Shkreli started communicating and posted this on Twitter:

Chris Christie: I May Be Old and Smelly, but at Least I'm Not Ted Cruz

| Thu Feb. 4, 2016 12:32 PM EST

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie likes to think of himself as a guy who tells voters what he believes, and as he makes a last-gasp attempt to climb out of sixth place in the New Hampshire Republican primary, what he's telling people is this: He really can't believe he's losing to these idiots.

Speaking at a retirement community in Bow, New Hampshire, on Wednesday afternoon, Christie used an anecdote about the late actor James Gandolfini to rip into front-runner Donald Trump as a highly skilled magician deceiving the electorate with smoke and mirrors.

As he told the seniors, when he was a US attorney from New Jersey, Christie had gone with his daughter to a Broadway performance of Beauty and the Beast. Gandolfini, whose daughter on the show, Jamie-Lynn Discala, played the role of Belle, saw Christie in the line for refreshments and tapped him on the shoulder. "He said, 'Um, I'm Jimmy Gandolfini,' Christie recalled. "I said, 'I know.' And he said to me—he's a big guy, he had a very strong firm handshake, as you might imagine, and he wasn't letting go of my hand, so he's shaking and he pulled me towards him—and he says, 'You know it's all make-believe, right?'"

Christie paused for a moment, and then got to his point. "You know it's all make-believe, right?," he said, getting into it. "The guy who's running first in the polls right now—you know it's all make believe. You know that there's not really a board room he and Ivanka sit in, right? You know that when he says you're fired you're not really fired, right? Because it's not real! It is an all an act! It is all for TV!"

Trump, who leads in the polls by double digits, has perhaps overshadowed the notoriously blustery Christie by being even more blustery. But Christie wasn't simply trying to take Trump down a few notches; he also wanted to bring down Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, the first- and third-place finishers in Iowa who are both now lapping him in the state where he's invested most of his energy. In the second truck-driving metaphor of his speech, he took aim at the two freshmen senators who don't know how to drive in the mud:

New is great—it's shiny and pretty. It looks great. I understand that. New is really good. Even on a day like today, right, you went and passed the car dealer and saw a new pickup truck, and you said, "Look at that pickup truck! It looks good." So you go and you buy the new truck and you park that truck right in front of your house. Let's say this rain keeps going, I don’t know what the forecast is, but if it keeps raining for a while you know what happens, rain turns everything into mud. And let's say you go outside to get your new car after a day or so in the rain. You get in that new truck the first time and start it up. You put it in gear and it's in the mud and the wheels start spinning. And you're thinking, why can't I get out of the mud? I gotta get out of the mud. You keep doing it, you're going back and forth, the wheels are spinning, and you're starting to get frustrated, and what's the only thing that's running through your mind? Where the heck is my old truck! My old truck always got me out of the mud. I never got stuck in the mud with my old truck. My old truck's banged up a little bit. It's scratched up a little bit. It doesn't smell nearly as good as it used to. It doesn't look as good as it used to, but I can't go anywhere in this new truck because it can't get out of the mud.

There's two different kinds of trucks in this race, man. The Marco Rubio–Ted Cruz truck is the new, shiny, smells-nice truck. And then there's the Chris Christie truck. It’s old. It's beat up. It's dinged up. It doesn't smell as good as it used to. But man, the Chris Christie truck knows how to get out of the mud. You know why? Because it's been in the mud before.

Chris Christie is a smelly old truck, and he wants your vote, New Hampshire. Except, that is, when he's a helicopter.

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Study Shows Limiting Access to Planned Parenthood Hurts Poor Women Most

| Thu Feb. 4, 2016 7:29 AM EST

On Jan. 1, 2013, the state that has stood out in its assault on reproductive rights eliminated Planned Parenthood clinics from its Medicaid public family planning program for low-income women. The result? By the end of 2014, fewer claims for contraception were filed, and more low-income Texas women had babies.

According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, when access to Planned Parenthood was taken away, women didn't find other options—they simply got less contraceptive care. The University of Texas at Austin study showed that prescriptions for long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs), such as IUDs and birth control implants, dropped by nearly 36 percent, and Depo Provera shots dropped by 31 percent.

Texas' public family planning program covers single women who earn less than $1,800 per month, or less than $2,426 if they have a child.

The study, which examined all pharmacy and medical claims from Jan. 1, 2011 through Dec. 31, 2014, filed under the public fee-for-service family planning insurance, also found adverse effects in the consistency of contraceptive care. In the 23 of 254 counties in Texas that have a Planned Parenthood-affiliated clinic, there was a nearly 20 percent decrease the number of women who returned to receive another injection of Depo Provera after they had previously relied on it for birth control. (The Depo Provera shot must be administered every three months to be effective.) According to Planned Parenthood's website, each individual shot can cost up to $100 without insurance, plus any applicable exam fees. An IUD can cost up to $1,000.

The study found no significant change for short-term contraception, such as the birth-control pill, in the wake of the coverage change. But it's important to note that IUD's and birth control implants are much more effective in preventing pregnancy than the pill or condoms, and contraceptive injections are also slightly more effective. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend LARCs as the most reliable form of birth control.

The rate of childbirth covered by Medicaid saw a relative increase of 27 percent within 18 months after the exclusion of Planned Parenthood from Medicaid programs in Texas counties with Planned Parenthood affiliates.

“The U.S. continues to have higher rates of unintended pregnancies than most rich nations, and we know that U.S. and Texas women face barriers as they try to access preventative services,” said Amanda Stevenson, lead author of the study. “It’s a public health issue that Texas women struggle to achieve their reproductive goals.”

Marco Rubio Is Very Upset That President Obama Went to a Mosque

| Wed Feb. 3, 2016 11:36 PM EST

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama visited a mosque for the first time as president, and offered perhaps the least controversial comment imaginable: "You're part of America too," he told his hosts. "You're not Muslim or American; you're Muslim and American."

Sen. Marco Rubio was not impressed, telling voters in New Hampshire:

I'm tired of being divided against each other for political reasons like this president's done. Always pitting people against each other. Always. Look at today—he gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims. Of course there's going to be discrimination in America of every kind. But the bigger issue is radical Islam. And by the way, radical Islam poses a threat to Muslims themselves.

 

To be clear: America discriminates against Muslims.

In 2012, Wired reported that "[t]he FBI is teaching its counterterrorism agents that 'main stream" [sic] American Muslims are likely to be terrorist sympathizers; that the Prophet Mohammed was a 'cult leader'; and that the Islamic practice of giving charity is no more than a 'funding mechanism for combat." That investigative series on federal law enforcement's prejudices against Muslims won a National Magazine Award. In 2011, the Associated Press reported on how the NYPD, with the help of the CIA, spied on America mosques and even infiltrated Muslim student associations. That series won a Pulitzer. Last week, Buzzfeed reported on the intense pressure applied by the federal government on Muslim immigrants who apply for citizenship. My colleague Kristina Rizga has reported on the pervasiveness of anti-Muslim bullying in schools. One of the candidates who beat Rubio last week literally proposed banning Muslims from entering the country; the other limited his ban to people from predominantly Muslim countries.

This is all pretty easy to find online, but in Rubio's defense, the Internet is pretty spotty in New Hampshire.

Chris Christie Promises to Beat Hillary Clinton's "Rear End"

| Wed Feb. 3, 2016 12:30 PM EST

After capturing a whopping 1.8% of the vote during Monday's Iowa Republican caucus, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has turned his attention to the future. At a campaign event in New Hampshire on Wednesday, Christie promised to "beat [Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton's] rear end" if given the nomination and the chance to debate against her for the presidency. 

"You know the last person she wants to see on that stage in September? You're looking at him," Christie said to a group of laughing New Hampshire citizens. "You know why? She's been running away from federal prosecutors for the last six months. Man, she sees a federal prosecutor on the stage—I'll beat her rear end on that stage, and you know what? After I do, she'll be relieved because she'd just be worried I'd serve her with a subpoena."

Rand Paul Drops Out

| Wed Feb. 3, 2016 11:26 AM EST

Rand Paul dropped his bid for the White House Wednesday morning after a fifth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses.

"It's been an incredible honor to run a principled campaign for the White House," Paul said in a statement. "Today, I will end where I began, ready and willing to fight for the cause of Liberty."

The first-term Kentucky senator's Iowa finish, with 4 percent of the vote, was a poor showing compared with the third-place finish of his father, former Rep. Ron Paul, there four years ago. Ted Cruz worked hard to win over the more libertarian-leaning voters who had caucused for Ron Paul four years ago. At many Cruz rallies, his campaign showed a video of former Ron Paul supporters pledging their support to Cruz. "He's really picked up the mantle of Ron Paul in many ways," Joel Kurtinitis, Ron Paul's 2012 regional director, says in the video. In the eve of the Iowa caucuses, Ron Paul spoke at his son's final rally on Sunday night in Iowa City, but his presence didn't give his son the lift he needed Monday night.

Out of the presidential primary, Paul won't have a long reprieve from campaigning. He is up for reelection to the US Senate in November and already has an opponent in Jim Gray, the Democratic mayor of Lexington.