Political MoJo

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for April 10, 2014

Thu Apr. 10, 2014 7:00 AM PDT

Solders assigned to Troop C, 1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team “Rakkasans,” 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), fire 60mm mortars during a live-fire exercise March 23. The exercise consisted of infantry, artillery and aircraft coming together as one to destroy targets on the range. (Photo by Sgt. Brian Smith-Dutton 3rd BCT Public Affairs)

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Democratic Donors Are Gearing Up for Clinton in 2016

| Thu Apr. 10, 2014 6:36 AM PDT

Democratic donors are apparently warming to the idea of a Hillary Clinton presidential run. On Thursday, Ready for Hillary, a super PAC that aims to encourage Clinton to enter the 2016 race, released its fundraising numbers for the first quarter of 2014. Between January and March, it pulled in more than $1.7 million.

In the realm of super PACs, $1.7 million might not seem like much—compared to the massive sums the Koch brothers regularly dump into campaigns, it's a pittance. But it's an impressive haul given Ready for Hillary's self-imposed limitations. The group started off as a small-scale operation, just two Clinton superfans agitating for their hero to make another run at the White House. Ready for Hillary capped donation at $25,000 to maintain little-guy cred, a restriction its founders have maintained even as major Democratic donors like George Soros have joined their cause. That $1.7 million was cobbled together from 32,000 donations, 22,000 of them from new donors, and 98 percent of them for less than $100. Nearly 10,000 contributions were for the group's suggested amount: $20.16.

The group's funds are coming in at a faster clip with each reporting deadline. Ready for Hillary raised $1.2 million in the first half of 2013 and more than $4 million last year total. The midterm elections are still seven months away, but a growing number of Democrats are already opening up their wallets for 2016.

What's the point of raising all that money when Clinton isn't even a candidate yet? List-building. Ready for Hillary has no intention of running TV advertisements—that responsibility has fallen to Priorities USA, the super PAC that bolstered President Obama's 2012 reelection campaign but has retooled to support Clinton's presumed candidacy. Instead, Ready for Hillary is building a network of field staff and running online ads to collect the names and contact information of diehard Clinton supporters. Once Clinton makes her candidacy official—presumably sometime early next spring—Ready for Hillary will sell or lease its list to the official campaign, giving Clinton a leg up on any primary challengers. She'll launch her campaign with a national database of her most likely donors and volunteers. At the group's current pace, Ready for Hillary should have ample information to offer: It now boasts 1.7 million Facebook fans and, with the latest report, more than 55,000 donors.

 

Most Senators Overseeing the Comcast-Time Warner Deal Have Taken Money From Both

| Wed Apr. 9, 2014 1:35 PM PDT

Today the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from Comcast and Time Warner executives about their extraordinarily controversial merger proposal. A recent poll found that 52 percent of respondents believed mergers like it lead to reduced competition and poorer service for consumers. 

At today's hearing, a number of the senators expressed concern about the deal which, if approved, would result in a single company serving slightly less than 30 percent of the US paid television market and up to 40 percent of American broadband subscribers. Chairman Leahy (D-Vt.) started the proceedings, saying that "thousands of Americans have flooded the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] in recent weeks with comments supporting the restoration of open-internet rules. Their voices on this issue should be heard."

But Leahy and most of his colleagues have already "heard" from both Comcast and Time Warner—in the form of generous campaign contributions. Out of the committee's 18 members, 15 have accepted donations from at least one of the two media giants since the 2010 election cycle; 12 have received money from both. The average contribution over that time: $16,285. Democrats were the biggest recipients, taking an average of $18,531 from the two cable and internet giants, nearly twice as much as their Republican counterparts. Here's the breakdown: 

Senator Comcast Time Warner
Chris Coons (D-Del.) $57,200 $10,200
Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) $41,600 $21,300
Orin Hatch (R-Utah) $36,750 $6,000
Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) $28,373 $23,575
Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) $22,500 $62,650
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) $21,831 $20,275
Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) $20,600 $0
Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) $17,000 $2,333
Al Franken (D-Minn.) $14,750 $11,600
Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) $13,000 $4,000
Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) $12,025 $25,780
Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) $8,500 $5,000
Ted Cruz (R-Texas) $7,500 $0
John Cornyn (R-Texas) $6,000 $3,500
Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) $0 $3,000
Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) $0 $0
Mike Lee (R-Utah) $0 $0
Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) $0 $0

Source: Center for Responsive Politics

WATCH: GOP Lawmaker Compares Getting Abortion to Buying a Car and Picking Carpeting

| Wed Apr. 9, 2014 11:12 AM PDT

A bill is making its way through the Missouri House of Representatives that would require women seeking abortions to undergo mandatory ultrasounds and increase the waiting period for an abortion from 24 to 72 hours—measures that are necessary, in the words of the bill's sponsor, because women should have as much information about pregnancy as he seeks out when he's shopping for a car or picking out carpeting for his house.

Republican Rep. Chuck Gatschenberger made the comparison between cars and pregnancy while taking questions on the bill before the Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities. In his remarks, captured on video, Gatschenberger noted that he has many sisters and daughters who put ultrasound images of their children on the fridge. An off-camera committee member then asked him, "Do you not trust your sisters to make their decisions for themselves?"

Gatschenberger replied:

"Well, yesterday, I went over to the car lot over here. I was just going to get a key made for a vehicle. And I was looking around because I'm considering maybe buying a new vehicle. Even when I buy a new vehicle—this is my experience, again—I don't go right in there and say I want to buy that vehicle, and then, you know, you leave with it. I have to look at it, get information about it, maybe drive it, you know, a lot of different things. Check prices. There's lots of things that I do, putting into a decision. Whether that's a car, whether that's a house, whether that's any major decision that I put in my life. Even carpeting. You know, I was just considering getting some carpeting or wood in my house. And that process probably took, you know, a month, because of just seeing all the aspects of it."

In a later exchange between Gatschenberger and Rep. Stacey Newman, a Democrat on the committee, Newman called his remarks "offensive to every woman in this room." Gatschenberger replied to her that he wasn't comparing reproductive health decisions to buying a car—and then went on to compare reproductive health decisions to buying a car.

Here's part of the exchange:

Newman:  Your original premise, that a woman who is receiving any type of care with her pregnancy, regardless of what decisions are involved, is somehow similar to purchasing a key for an automobile—

Gatschenberger: If you were listening to my explanation, it had nothing to do [with] that…In making a decision—not making a life-changing decision—but making a decision to buy a car, I put research in there to find out what to do.

Newman: Do you believe that buying a car is in any way related to any type of pregnancy decision?

Gatschenberger: Did I say that?

Newman: That's what I'm asking you.

Gatschenberger: I did not say that. I'm saying my decision to accomplish something is, I get the input in it. And that's what this bill does, is give more information for people.

Newman: So you're assuming that women who are under care…for their pregnancy, need additional information that they're not already receiving?

Gatschenberger: I'm just saying they have the opportunity, it increases the opportunity. If you want to know what this bill does, [it] increases the opportunity.

See the whole video here:

GOP Chairman: Let's Get Rid of ALL Donation Limits

| Wed Apr. 9, 2014 7:54 AM PDT

Last week, Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, hailed the Supreme Court's recent decision in McCutcheon vs. FEC, which eliminated the cap on the number of contributions a donor can make to candidates, parties, and political action committees. Of course he would: The cash-starved parties now stand to rake in bag-loads more cash than they did before the decision.

But Priebus wants to go further. On Hugh Hewitt's radio show Tuesday, Priebus called for eliminating all limits on campaign contributions. All of 'em. The $2,600 limit on candidate donations, the $5,000 limit on PAC donations, the $32,400 limit on party committee donations, and so on. "I don't think we should have caps at all," he said.

Priebus says he wants the RNC to get behind any effort to demolish those limits, just as it joined Alabama businessman Shaun McCutcheon in his recent legal fight. "Absolutely, I would" look to get the RNC involved in future deregulation lawsuits, Priebus said. "And I would look to cases that allow us to raise soft money, and I would look to cases that allow us to raise money for the conventions, and—but disclose it all. That's kind of where I'm at personally."

If Priebus gets his way—and don't forget, he already has one major ally; Justice Clarence Thomas, in his separate opinion in McCutcheon, called for gutting all donation limits—we're looking at a pure free-for-all when it comes to money in politics. Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who gave nearly $93 million to outside groups during the 2012 campaign, or movie mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg, who gave and raised more than $30 million to reelect President Obama, wouldn't need outside groups like super-PACs. Hell, they wouldn't need political parties. They could donate $1 million, or $10 million, or $100 million directly to their candidate of choice.

Priebus might even go further. In the wake of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich's ouster over his $1,000 donation to an anti-marriage equality ballot proposal, the RNC chairman suggested he was losing interest in disclosure laws, too. "Even [campaign finance laws] that I want to agree with are getting to be very difficult," he told Hewitt.

No limits, (maybe) no disclosure: If Priebus gets his way, this is the shadowy, cash-drenched future of American politics.

UMass' Derrick Gordon Is First Openly Gay Man In Major College Basketball

| Wed Apr. 9, 2014 7:48 AM PDT

University of Massachusetts shooting guard Derrick Gordon came out as gay to the rest of his team last week, making him the first openly gay player in Division 1 men's college basketball, according to OutSports and ESPN.

"I was thinking about summer plans and just being around my teammates and how it was going to be," Gordon told ESPN. "I just thought, 'Why not now? Why not do it in the offseason when it's the perfect time to let my teammates know and everybody know my sexuality?"

Gordon averaged 9.4 points and 3.5 rebounds a game this season for the Minutemen, who were bounced from the first week of the NCAA Tournament in March. He said he had had private conversations with prominent gay sports figures before coming out, including Jason Collins, who became the first openly gay active player in the NBA when he was signed by the Brooklyn Nets this season.

Gordon posted this photo on Instagram after the announcement, expressing his relief:

This is the happiest I have ever been in my 22 Years of living...No more HIDING!!!...Just want to live life happy and play the sport that I love...Really would love to thank my family, friends, coaches, and teammates for supporting me....I would also like to thank my support team Wade Davis, Jason Collins, Brian Sims, Micah Porter, Anthony Nicodemo, Patrick Burke, Billy Bean, Gerald McCullough, Kirk Walker...You guys are AWESOME!!! Ready to get back in the gym with my teammates and get on the GRIND and get ready for next season!!!! #BETRUE #BEYOURSELF #HONEYBADGER

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for April 9, 2014

Wed Apr. 9, 2014 6:47 AM PDT

Marines with Fox Company, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Marine Regiment, 3rd Battalion, perform a simulated Vertical Assault Exercise during Ssang Yong 14, at Old Army Tank Battalion, Pohang, South Korea, April 2, 2014. Exercise Ssang Yong is conducted annually in the ROK to enhance interoperability between U.S. and ROK forces by performing a full spectrum of amphibious operations while showcasing sea-based power projection in the Pacific. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Sara A. Medina/Released)

Watch Elizabeth Warren Go After Paul Ryan for Blaming Unemployment on the Unemployed

| Tue Apr. 8, 2014 2:03 PM PDT

Last month, Paul Ryan generated a minor media storm for a racially tinged comment lamenting the supposedly weak "culture of work" among "inner city" men. "We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work," Ryan told conservative radio host Bill Bennett. "There is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with." Ryan later said that he had been "inarticulate" and forswore any racial meaning in his comments. He was, he promised, referring to our entire culture; not "the culture of one community."

Now, you either buy that or you don't. If you don't think there is something racially loaded about decrying the lack of work ethic among inner city men, then I'm probably not going to be able to convince you that there is. (But there probably is.)

Either way, Ryan's defense could be interpreted as amounting largely to, I was not saying black people are lazy. I was saying poor people are lazy. This is a myth about poverty. It is not true. (Really.)

Enter Elizabeth Warren. "Paul Ryan looks around, sees three unemployed workers for every job opening in America, and blames the people who can't find a job," the senior Senator from Massachusetts said in a speech at the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor’s Humphrey-Mondale Dinner on March 29th.

Paul Ryan says don’t blame Wall Street: the guys who made billions of dollars cheating American families. Don’t blame decades of deregulation that took the cops off the beat while the big banks looted the American economy. Don’t blame the Republican Secretary of the Treasury, and the Republican president who set in motion a no-strings-attached bailout for the biggest banks – Nope. Paul Ryan says keep the monies flowing to the powerful corporations, keep their huge tax breaks, keep the special deals for the too-big-to-fail banks and put the blame on hardworking, play-by-the-rules Americans who lost their jobs. That may be Paul Ryan’s vision of how America works, but that is not our vision of this great country.

Warren is an increasingly popular figure and is set to play a large role in the Democratic fight to maintain control of the Senate in November.

Here's the whole speech:

(via The Huffington Post)

As UConn Celebrates, State Legislators Look to Help Players Unionize

| Tue Apr. 8, 2014 12:37 PM PDT

The University of Connecticut men's basketball team may have beaten Kentucky in the national championship last night, but star guard Shabazz Napier immediately turned his attention to a bigger foe: the NCAA. Napier used his postgame interview to take the NCAA to task for banning the Huskies from postseason play last season due to poor academic standing. Two weeks ago, after calling the Northwestern unionization efforts "kind of great," he said players sometimes don't have enough money for food.

Connecticut legislators were listening. Some state lawmakers are exploring ways to make it easier for athletes at public schools to unionize, in response to the regional labor board ruling in favor of Northwestern football players as well as Napier's comments. "When you look at the issues, they really look like employees," Democratic state Rep. Pat Dillon said. "And employees have the right to unionize."

The NCAA banned UConn from the 2013 postseason when the team's academic progress rate—a measure of academic eligibility that predicts graduation rate—from 2007 to 2011 did not meet league standards. Dillon said it's hypocritical for the NCAA and others to ban a team for academic reasons while defending the billion-dollar system that has players practicing and playing full-time. "You work them like horses and then you bad mouth them if their academics aren't any good," she said. "The team is punished if they try to make sure these kids get a good education. Of course, they’re punished if they don’t either."

UConn responded to Napier's comments about not having enough to eat with a statement saying that all scholarship athletes are "provided the maximum meal plan that is allowable under NCAA rules." An athletic department spokesman said the university has no comment about potential unionization.

This wouldn't be the first time Connecticut legislators took on NCAA athletics—the state passed a law in 2011 requiring schools to fully disclose all athletic scholarship terms, including expected out-of-pocket expenses for athletes, details about who's responsible for medical expenses, and the renewal process for scholarships that only last one year. A step forward on unionization, though, might be harder to pass, Dillon said. "Starting to do the right thing can actually hurt you with the NCAA," she said. "[Lawmakers] would be worried it would hurt UConn’s recruitment. They wouldn’t say it, but I’m sure they would."

Fox News Confuses NAACP and NCAA 2 Days After SNL Joked About It

| Tue Apr. 8, 2014 9:25 AM PDT

On Tuesday morning, Fox & Friends First host Heather Childers referred to the UConn Huskies as "NAACP national champs." This is funny, because what she meant was "NCAA national champs." The NAACP is the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which, among other things, mounted anti-lynching campaigns in the United States. The NCAA is the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which didn't.

So we all had a brief chuckle at Childers' expense, and were ready to move on—until we noticed that her on-air mix-up was predicted by a Saturday Night Live sketch that aired just last weekend.

In SNL's latest lampooning of Fox & Friends, the cohosts start by blasting the Obamacare enrollment numbers. "It's tough to sign up for things, I've tried for years to join the NAACP," Brian Kilmeade (played by Bobby Moynihan) says. "Brian, why would you do that?" Elisabeth Hasselbeck (Vanessa Bayer) responds. "Well, I just loved college basketball," Brian says.

The SNL writers room is full of time travelers. Watch the sketch here:

(H/t Ben Dimiero)