Political MoJo

Read the Supreme Court's Decision on Obama's Recess Appointment Power

| Thu Jun. 26, 2014 10:17 AM EDT

On Thursday, the Supreme Court struck a blow to the president's ability to use recess appointments, rejecting his ability to sidestep pro-forma sessions of Congress. Read the court's full opinion below:

 

 

 

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for June 26, 2014

Thu Jun. 26, 2014 9:37 AM EDT

A US Marine trains to breathe underwater on an emergency air supply at the Marine Corps Base in Hawaii. (US Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Matthew Callahan)

Watch Two US Congressmen Battle Each Other With Prince Songs

| Wed Jun. 25, 2014 5:23 PM EDT

Wednesday marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Prince and The Revolution's album Purple Rain, the soundtrack to the 1984 film of the same name. So, obviously, at least a couple lawmakers were going to mark the occasion by singing and strumming Prince music.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a congressman from Prince's home state, picked up an acoustic guitar and sang a cover of "Purple Rain" (he got the lyrics wrong, but still). Here's a Vine of his Prince tribute:

Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) responded with his own acoustic Prince cover of "Raspberry Beret"—which isn't from Purple Rain, but whatever:

The two Democrats later expressed a desire to jam, possibly to Bruce Springsteen. Perhaps Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) can weigh in next with "Let's Go Crazy."

Prince did not respond to Mother Jones' request for comment on what he thought about the elected representatives doing battle with his songs as glorious weaponry.

Primary Rival Calls Top NSA Critic in the House "Al Qaeda's Best Friend"

| Wed Jun. 25, 2014 5:12 PM EDT

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) is facing a serious primary challenge from businessman Brian Ellis over the second-term congressman's frequent clashes with the Republican establishment. Amash lost his spot on the budget committee after voting against the Ryan budget, opposed John Boehner's bid for speaker, and led his party's far-right faction in forcing a government shutdown last fall. But it's Amash's opposition to the expansive national security and surveillance state that has drawn the fiercest backlash so far.

The latest example: this new ad from Ellis, featuring an ex-Marine calling Amash "Al Qaeda's best friend in Congress":

 

The quote originally came from Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), whose beef with Amash is longstanding. Ellis has received big bucks from his party's establishment donors, and Amash's Republican colleagues in the Michigan delegation have left him out to dry. But Amash, a charismatic disciple of former Rep. Ron Paul, has access to a rich grassroots fundraising network of his own, as well the generous support of the Club for Growth and the DeVos family, one of Michigan's most powerful political families.

Attack ads notwithstanding, Amash's efforts to build a bipartisan coalition to curtail the NSA appears to be working: Last week, the House voted—by a 170-vote margin—to rein warrantless "backdoor searches" of American citizens. And it doesn't appear to be hurting him in Southwest Michigan: A poll of the race from the Detroit News gave Amash a 55–35 lead.

Common Core Opponents Send Oklahoma School Chief Packing

| Wed Jun. 25, 2014 5:04 PM EDT

Conservative activists came up short in some high-profile races on Tuesday. Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel unexpectedly lost his runoff against incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran (thanks in part to high turnout among African-American voters turned off by McDaniel's positions). Former Rep. Tom Tancredo, famous for his fierce opposition to immigrants, blew a lead of his own in failing to win the GOP's Colorado gubernatorial nomination. Oklahoma speaker of the house T.W. Shannon, backed by reality star Sarah Palin and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Cruz), came up short in his quest to replace retiring Sen. Tom Coburn.

But it wasn't all bad news. In Colorado, former state Sen. Ken Buck—one of a handful of tea partiers whose views cost the party control of the Senate four years ago—punched his ticket to Washington by securing the nomination in a safe Republican congressional seat. And in Oklahoma, state school superintendent Janet Barresi lost her primary to conservative challenger Joy Hofmeister. Superintendent races don't normally capture the public's attention, but Barresi was an endangered species—a red-state Republican who supports the Common Core State Standards, a set of math and English benchmarks backed by the Obama administration and adopted by 43 states and the District of Columbia.

Per the McAlester (Okla.) News-Capital:

According to supporters, Hofmeister's victory was fueled by widespread antipathy for both Barresi and the Common Core standards. The Legislature voted to repeal Oklahoma’s endorsement of the national education standards, and Gov. Mary Fallin signed the repeal bill into law earlier this month.

"Doggone it, we worked hard and we’re going to get rid of that old hag. Barresi knows she’s getting her hat handed to her," said Karen Yates, a Tea Party member from Oklahoma City.

Barresi pumped more than $1 million dollars of her money into her campaign and outspent Hofmeister. In the meantime, Hofmeister bested the incumbent in fundraising, garnering much of her support from educators throughout the state.

Barresi isn't the first Republican school chief to go down in flames over the Core. In 2012, Indiana state superintendent Tony Bennett (no relation) lost to a Democratic critic of the standards; the state then became the first to reverse course on implementation. And the prospect of more electoral losses has made the Core's early GOP supporters nervous. Last week, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, once an avid support of the Core, announced new measures to de facto remove his state from the program by delaying testing and reevaluating the standards. Meanwhile, activists have taken aim at former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a supporter of Common Core who has made corporate education reform the centerpiece of his post-gubernatorial life.

Tuesday's news didn't have made much of a dent outside Oklahoma, but the aftershocks might be felt for much longer.

Read the Supreme Court's Unanimous Decision Telling Cops They Need a Warrant to Search Your Cellphone

| Wed Jun. 25, 2014 10:56 AM EDT

Read our explainer of the decision here.

 

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for June 25, 2014

Wed Jun. 25, 2014 9:32 AM EDT

Soldiers partner with community members in Augusta, Georgia for a physical readiness training event. Civilians get the chance to experience life in uniform. (US Army photo by Ashley Armstrong, 35th Signal Brigade Public Affairs)

Chris McDaniel Campaigns With Bizarre Obama Conspiracy Theorist

| Tue Jun. 24, 2014 6:21 PM EDT

Tea party favorite Chris McDaniel spent the final weekend before Tuesday's Mississippi Republican senatorial run-off campaigning with a conspiracy theorist who has alleged that President Barack Obama is a "Manchurian candidate" working as part of a secret plan to "destroy the country."

The remarks, first reported by Right Wing Watch, were made by former Libertarian presidential candidate Wayne Allyn Root who has been pushing this anti-Obama charge for years. This past weekend, Root—who was a classmate of the president at Columbia University—traveled throughout Mississippi on a bus paid for by the Tea Party Express and spoke at rallies in support of McDaniel, who is trying to defeat incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran in a hotly contested race. McDaniel accompanied the bus for three events this past weekend.

During a rally in Biloxi, McDaniel took the stage after Root fired up the crowd with his anti-Obama rant. At that event, Root noted that the shadowy effort dates back to the early 1980s:

It's a purposeful plan to wipe out America, capitalism, the middle class, and destroy American exceptionalism and Judeo-Christian values. How do I know? Listen to this, folks. Because I'm Barack Obama's college classmate, Columbia University class of '83. And when I was there at Columbia, we all studied a plan called Cloward–Piven—if you've ever watched Glenn Beck—Cloward–Piven. And we studied Saul Alinsky. And the plan was get someone elected president, who looks fantastic, who has a beautiful wife, a beautiful children. A family man. Get him to cut his afro or his long hair, his ponytail. Put on a suit, and then lie to everybody. Make sure they know he's a moderate, not a communist...and then destroy the country by overwhelming the system with spending, with taxes, with regulations, with debt, with entitlements, with food stamps. Overwhelm it until it collapses."

Root went on to explain the covert plan, suggesting that Obama didn't really attend Columbia:

We both graduated on the same day. We both graduated political science majors. We both graduated pre-law. And I knew every human being at Columbian University in the political science department. And they all knew me. Seven hundred students. One Reagan conservative—me. And 699 Marxist communists and socialists. And you know who I didn't know? Never met him, never heard of him, never saw him. Didn't know another student at Columbia who ever met him, knew him, or saw. Barack Hussein Obama! Isn't that amazing! Now I just got back from my 30th college reunion and I searched out every one of my classmates who ever knew Barack Obama. Not one. Ladies and gentlemen, our nation is now being run by the Manchurian candidate. The real-life Manchurian candidate.

Before and during the campaign, McDaniel has showed no reluctance to associate himself with advocates of extreme right-wing views. He has hobnobbed with neo-Confederates and anti-gay crusaders. None of this has become a campaign issue.

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."

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.