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Saulius “Saul” Anuzis.Saulius “Saul” Anuzis. [Source: CBS Detroit]Former Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saulius “Saul” Anuzis (R-MI) announces his candidacy for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee (RNC), in a bid to replace the controversial current chairman, Michael Steele (R-MD). Anuzis currently chairs the Save American Jobs Project. He was unsuccessful in his 2009 bid to take the RNC chairmanship. In an email, he promises to make “fundraising my number 1 priority as chairman,” and vows “NOT… to be the voice or the face of our party. Of course I will be happy to discuss politics and elections with the media, but I won’t be competing with valuable airtime from the men and women on our ticket. Instead, I will work with our elected leaders around the country to give them maximum exposure and guarantee a consistent message that leads us to victory.” He promises to run a “tight ship” financially, and to work on behalf of whichever candidate wins the 2012 presidential primary race. (Weaver 11/12/2010; Saul Anuzis 11/12/2010; O'Connor 11/12/2010) Anuzis is considered to be a frontrunner in what looks to become a race with numerous possible candidates, including Steele, who intends to remain as RNC chair. (O'Connor 11/12/2010) However, Anuzis does not emphasize his support for Kyle Bristow, described by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a “right-wing extremist.” Under Bristow’s leadership, his organization, the Michigan State University branch of Young Americans for Freedom, was dubbed a “hate group” in 2006 by the SPLC, in large part because of Bristow’s demonstrably racist statements and actions. Among his actions as head of the MSU-YPF: insisting that the university create a “Caucasian caucus” for student government and eliminate minority caucuses; stating that gay rights groups “are complicit with murder”; sponsoring a “Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day”; holidng a “Koran Desecration” competition; joking about giving out smallpox-infested blankets to Native American students; and bringing several racist speakers to campus, including a Holocaust denier from the radical British National Party. Many members left MSU-YAF because of Bristow’s extremism, with one former member calling Bristow’s organization a haven for “racists and fascists.” In 2007, Anuzis, then the Michigan Republican Party chairman, said of Bristow after MSU-YAF’s activities had caused an eruption of outrage throughout Michigan: “This is exactly the type of young kid we want out there. I’ve known Kyle for years and I can tell you I have never heard him say a racist or bigoted or sexist thing, ever.” In recent years, Anuzis has helped shepherd Bristow’s rise in the radical right. (Beirich 11/16/2010; Zornick 11/19/2010) Anuzis will lose to Reince Priebus, a Wisconsin Republican Party official, after seven ballots. (Dade 1/14/2011)

A group of Democratic donors, shaken from the defeat the party suffered in the November midterm elections, meets in a Washington hotel to discuss how to counter the huge influx of corporate spending that helped defeat dozens of Democrats and give control of the US House of Representatives back to Republicans. Outside conservative groups such as the US Chamber of Commerce, the American Action Network (see Mid-October 2010), and American Crossroads/Crossroads GPS outspent Democratic groups by more than a two to one ratio. The donors are split on whether to try to emulate their opponents by raising as much money as possible from wealthy corporations and donors, or continuing down their traditional path of funding their campaign efforts via labor unions and organizations such as the Sierra Club. If they decide to pursue corporate cash, some argue, they will be viewed as hypocrites in light of Democrats’ almost-uniform opposition to the 2010 Citizens United decision, which “opened the floodgates” for unlimited corporate and labor donations (see January 21, 2010). One of the fundamental problems, Democrats note, is that while unions are allowed to contribute unlimited funds just as corporations do, unions, which traditionally support Democrats, are far less wealthy than their corporate counterparts. And despite record-breaking fundraising by the Obama presidential campaign in 2008, most corporations donate to Republicans. The donors are not expected to come up with simple answers as they begin to strategize for 2012, where Republicans are expected to raise and spend an unprecedented half-billion dollars trying to defeat President Obama. Moreover, the White House has sent decidedly mixed messages on the subject. During the 2008 race, the Obama campaign instructed an independent progressive “527” PAC, the Fund for America, to shut down its operations after it began releasing attack ads against Obama’s opponent, Senator John McCain (R-AZ). The Obama campaign did not want independent organizations conducting their own operations, but wanted full control of the campaign message. And campaign leaders said they wanted to win with small individual contributions from ordinary citizens, not with massive corporate donations. The White House’s opposition to such outside funding continued through 2010, and as a result, corporate donations to Democratic-supporting groups were far outstripped by Republican donations. Since then, Obama’s top political advisor David Axelrod has indicated the White House would support liberal donors’ independent efforts to counter Republican political donations, but many Democratic donors still believe the Obama administration is not fully behind those efforts. A Democratic strategist who refuses to be identified says: “By and large, the political people in the Obama firmament really have disdain for outside groups. They think they whine and snivel and make all these demands and don’t produce very much.” Some liberal donors and organizations are ignoring the resistance from the White House and making their own plans, such as David Brock, the founder of Media Matters for America (MMFA), who is considering forming his own 527 (see 2000 - 2005) for 2012. Another Democratic activist, Joan Fitz-Gerald of the umbrella group America Votes, says Democrats cannot depend on the courts or Congress to rein in corporate spending, noting that Congressional Democrats failed to get the DISCLOSE Act, a campaign finance reform measure, to the floor of the Senate for a vote (see July 26-27, 2010). Fitz-Gerald says Democrats must adapt to the new political landscape or risk another trouncing in 2012. However, she recommends working through existing progressive organizations more than using hastily formed PACs and 527s funded by one or two wealthy sources. Unions and environmental groups have large, citizen-based funding sources, whereas Republican organizations are often funded by a small group of wealthy donors who bankroll numerous such organizations. Those organizations, she says, lack credibility with voters. The traditional grassroots-based organizations, she says, “are trusted messengers, whether they’re a union that someone belongs to or a group that people have been a member of for many years. At some point the American people, as they see these ads pushing this right-wing agenda, they’re going to ask: ‘Who are these people? What’s the goal of American Crossroads?’” But the funding garnered by the right made the difference in the 2010 elections, Democratic donors agree. Mike Palamuso of the League of Conservation Voters recalls, “For every $500,000 we spent, it felt like American Crossroads spent another $5 million.” Many agree with Democratic political strategist Harold Ickes, who says: “Is small money better? You bet. But we’re in a f_cking fight. And if you’re in a fistfight, then you’re in a fistfight, and you use all legal means available.” (Kroll 11/15/2010)

Roger Ailes.Roger Ailes. [Source: All Access (.com)]Roger Ailes, the former Republican campaign guru who now heads Fox News, calls National Public Radio (NPR) officials “Nazis” for firing NPR and Fox News commentator Juan Williams; Williams recently made comments about Muslims that some, including NPR officials, took as racist. Of the NPR executives who fired Williams, Ailes says: “They are, of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism. These guys don’t want any other point of view. They don’t even feel guilty using tax dollars to spout their propaganda. They are basically Air America with government funding to keep them alive.” (Air America is the now-defunct radio network that featured liberals and progressive talk show hosts and commentators.) Ailes also says that Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, who has castigated Fox News host Glenn Beck for his routine invocation of Nazis in discussing the Obama administration (see October 3, 2010), should be “beheaded” for his writings. (He then claims he is merely joking.) Interviewer Howard Kurtz calls Ailes’s evocation of Nazis “disproportionate to the situation.” NPR spokeswoman Anna Christopher says, “[W]e will let Mr. Ailes’s words speak for themselves.” (Kurtz 11/17/2010) Ailes issues something of an apology, not to NPR or its executives, but to Abraham Foxman, the director of the Anti-Defamation League. Ailes explains, “I was of course ad-libbing and should not have chosen that word, but I was angry at the time because of NPR’s willingness to censor Juan Williams for not being liberal enough.” Ailes writes that he should have used the term “nasty, inflexible bigot” instead of “Nazi” to describe the NPR officials who fired Williams. Foxman says in a statement: “I welcome Roger Ailes’s apology, which is as sincere as it is heartfelt. Nazi comparisons of this nature are clearly inappropriate and offensive. While I wish Roger had never invoked that terminology, I appreciate his efforts to immediately reach out and to retract his words before they did any further harm.” (Stelter 11/18/2010)

Democrats in Congress are contemplating using the Constitutional amendment process to overturn the controversial Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court that allows unlimited corporate spending on elections (see January 21, 2010). A new poll from Public Polling Policy as commissioned by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) finds that a plurality of voters would support such an amendment. Forty-six percent of voters surveyed agreed that “Congress should consider drastic measures such as a Constitutional amendment overturning the recent Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited corporate spending in elections.” Thirty-six percent disagreed, and 18 percent had no opinion. Such an amendment would likely fail in Congress, as it would require a two-thirds majority in both chambers and then ratification by three-quarters of the states. Representative Donna Edwards (D-MD) wrote such an amendment, in draft form, the evening that the Citizens United decision was announced. Her proposed amendment reads: “The sovereign right of the people to govern being essential to a free democracy, Congress and the States may regulate the expenditure of funds for political speech by any corporation, limited liability company, or other corporate entity. Nothing contained in this Article shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press.” She says that there have been times in American history that such amendments catch the public attention and move quickly into law. “The process is very rigorous, and it should be,” she says. “But there have been plenty of examples of amendments to the Constitution that have happened, actually, with fairly rapid-fire when they catch on.” She adds: “I really concluded that the Supreme Court actually put the challenge out to us, here in the Congress. They said, you know, you could make a judgment that this is not really good for the system, but the fact is that the Constitution doesn’t allow you to regulate this. Congress, you have no—the Court told us directly—Congress, you have no authority to regulate. And when the Court says that so directly, it only leaves us one choice.” Two prominent Senate Democrats, John Kerry (D-MA) and Max Baucus (D-MT), support the amendment. A Baucus spokesperson says, “Max is always willing to work with anyone toward the common goal of making sure Montanans’ voices don’t get drowned out by out-of-control corporate campaign donations.” PCCC co-founder Adam Green says: “It’s time to stop thinking small-bore. The solution to Citizens United is not merely disclosure, it’s to overturn Citizens United—and even last November’s Republican-skewed electorate agrees.” Edwards says that Democrats should embrace the concept that the Constitution is a political ground worth fighting on. “A lot of progressives are not accustomed to using the mechanisms of the Constitution,” she says. “The right has used—has tried to do that an awful lot of times on a whole range of different things in state legislatures and across the board. And as progressives, we’re not accustomed to doing that, and this is one instance, though, where the populist demand is there, and our energy and our policy has to match that demand and a Constitutional amendment does that.” (Grim 11/23/2010)

Billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros warns a gathering in New York that the combination of Fox News, Fox talk show host Glenn Beck, the US “tea parties,” and what he calls Americans’ propensity to fantasize unrealistically about their political system may lead “this open society to be on the verge of some dictatorial democracy.” Soros makes his remarks in conversation with CNN host Fareed Zakaria at an International Crisis Center dinner in honor of Soros. The billionaire, often vilified by Beck and others for being a supporter of progressive and liberal causes (see November 9-11, 2010 and After), names George Orwell’s novel 1984 as a possible precursor to the future face of American society; the novel satirized the Communist system of absolute control over society and politics. Soros is harsh in his criticisms of Fox News and its role in American political discourse, saying that it is a threat to American open society. He characterizes Beck as, in the words of Forbes writer Robert Lenzner, “a throwback to the wild and crazy radical elements that never before were given such a public pedestal to foment their hate.” (Lenzner 12/7/2010)

Lieutenant Colonel Terry Lakin, who has refused to obey orders deploying him to Afghanistan because, he says, he questions President Obama’s citizenship and therefore his right to issue orders to the military (see Before April 13, 2010), is convicted of disobeying orders from his lawful superior officers. In a court-martial, a military jury finds Lakin guilty of the specific charge of “missing movement by design.” His lawyers had argued that Lakin should be convicted only on lesser charges. He has already pled guilty to another charge that included not meeting with a superior when ordered to do so and not reporting for duty at Fort Campbell. During his trial, Lakin told the jury that he would “gladly deploy” if Obama’s original birth certificate were released and proved authentic (see June 13, 2008, August 21, 2008, October 30, 2008, and July 28, 2009). He could be sentenced to up to 42 months in prison, but the jury sentences him to six months in prison and dishonorably discharges him from the Army. He also forfeits his pension. During the sentencing phase of his trial, a tearful Lakin tells the jury: “I don’t want [my career] to end this way. I want to continue to serve.… It crushed me not to be on deployment. I can be on a plane tomorrow. I’d truly do that.” Before his trial, Lakin issued a belligerent press statement saying he “invited” the court-martial and refused to deploy until Obama “proved” his citizenship (see April 22-23, 2010). During the trial, prosecutors played a March 30, 2010 YouTube video by Lakin that accused Obama of “subvert[ing] law and truth” and ordered Obama to “release your original, signed birth certificate—if you have one.” Lakin also released a second video in July accusing the Army of convicting him “without a trial” (see July 17, 2010). During sentencing, Lakin called the March video an embarrassing mistake, brought on by pressure and poor advice from supposed supporters (see April 22-23, 2010, August 2, 2010 and August 31, 2010). “I would not do this again,” he said. “It was a confusing time for me, and I was very emotional. I thought I was choosing the right path, and I did not.… I thought this was such an important question that I had to get an answer. I thought I was upholding the Army values by questioning this… but I was wrong.” During the proceedings, “birthers” in the gallery repeatedly interrupt with applause at references to Obama’s birth certificate, and can be heard calling the trial “disgusting.” They also hand out pamphlets with a picture of Obama labeled “usurper” and “ineligible.” (Reilly 12/14/2010; Shane 12/15/2010; Associated Press 12/16/2010)

US Vice President Joseph Biden calls Wikileaks founder Julian Assange a “high-tech terrorist” on NBC’s Meet the Press. The interview was taped two days previously, but is broadcast on this day. Asked if he sees Assange as closer to a hi-tech terrorist than the whistleblower who released the Pentagon Papers (see March 1971) in the 1970s, Biden replies: “I would argue it is closer to being a hi-tech terrorist than the Pentagon Papers. But, look, this guy has done things that have damaged and put in jeopardy the lives and occupations of people in other parts of the world.” Biden adds: “He’s made it more difficult for us to conduct our business with our allies and our friends. For example, in my meetings—you know I meet with most of these world leaders—there is a desire now to meet with me alone, rather than have staff in the room. It makes things more cumbersome—so it has done damage.” Asked if the administration could prevent further leaks, Biden comments, “The Justice Department is taking a look at that.” Biden goes on to suggest that if Assange facilitated the leak of the documents by colluding with the whilstleblower who provided them, thought to be former intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, he could be open to prosecution. “If he conspired to get these classified documents with a member of the US military that is fundamentally different than if someone drops on your lap… you are a press person, here is classified material.” Biden’s comments show an increased level of annoyance in the administration with Wikileaks. For example, the day before this interview was taped, Biden had expressed different sentiments. “I don’t think there’s any substantive damage,” he had commented then. (MacAskill 12/19/2010)

Bryan Fischer, the director of issue analysis for government and public policy at the American Family Association (AFA), accuses the Obama administration of planning to give the entire North American landmass to Native American tribes. Fischer is reacting to a recent announcement by President Obama that the US will sign a non-binding United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, which has been endorsed by 145 countries. The declaration states that “indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories, and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied, or otherwise used or acquired,” and nations “shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories, and resources.” Fischer writes that Obama “wants Indian tribes to be our new overlords.” He continues, “Perhaps he figures that, as an adopted Crow Indian, he will be the new chief over this revived Indian empire.” (Raw Story 12/22/2010)

Hawaiian Governor Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) says he is “incensed” over the so-called “birther” conspiracy theory that asserts President Obama was born in a foreign land and not, as documents have proven, in Honolulu (see June 13, 2008, June 27, 2008, July 2008, August 21, 2008, October 30, 2008, July 1, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, and July 29, 2009). Abercrombie knew Obama’s parents when they attended university in Hawaii, and remembers seeing Obama as a baby when his parents took him to social events. He says he wants to change state policy to allow him to release additional proof that the president was born in Honolulu in 1961. “It’s an insult to his mother and to his father, and I knew his mother and father; they were my friends, and I have an emotional interest in that,” Abercrombie says. “It’s an emotional insult. It is disrespectful to the president; it is disrespectful to the office.” Abercrombie says he has talked to Hawaii’s attorney general and the chief of the Department of Health about how he can release more explicit documentation of Obama’s birth. “He’s a big boy; he can take sticks and stones. But there’s no reason on earth to have the memory of his parents insulted by people whose motivation is solely political. Let’s put this particular canard to rest.” He acknowledges that no matter what he does, some will remain unconvinced. Some of those critics, Abercrombie says, are engaging in a “demonological fantasy” about Obama’s birth. Referring to efforts in several state legislatures to force presidential candidates to produce authentic birth certificates (see February 14-27, 2011), he says, “[I]t is very difficult for me not to conclude that bills like that are meant as a coded message that he is not really American.” (Stolberg 12/24/2010) Abercrombie will abandon his attempt to procure the “explicit” documentation, presumably the “long form” certificate kept on file in Hawaii’s state records (see July 1, 2009), because Hawaii’s attorney general will inform him that the law precludes his disclosing any such information without the person in question’s explicit consent. “There is nothing more that Governor Abercrombie can do within the law to produce a document,” Abercrombie spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz will say. (St. Petersburg Times 2/27/2011)

Rick Santorum (R-PA), currently a longshot candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, says that President Obama should oppose abortion because he is black. Santorum, who opposes abortion rights, says: “Barack Obama says no, well if that human life is not a person then.… I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say ‘now we are going to decide who are people and who are not people.’” Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski later writes of Santorum: “He’s expressing a relatively common view in anti-abortion circles: That the higher rate of abortions among African-Americans means that black Americans should be particularly hostile to the practice. It’s not an argument that’s had much traction, however, with black voters, and Santorum may not be the ideal messenger for it.” (Kaczynski 1/1/2012; Huffington Post 1/1/2012) NewsOne later comments: “What Santorum implies, as have anti-abortion billboards posted in inner cities (see February 2010), is that African-Americans such as Obama should oppose abortion because they were once considered three-fifths of a person by law and not completely human. And in saying this, Santorum succeeds in belittling women’s reproductive rights and the civil rights movement.” (NewsOne 1/2/2012)

Tim Phillips (L) and David Koch, together at an Americans for Prosperity event.Tim Phillips (L) and David Koch, together at an Americans for Prosperity event. [Source: Americans for Prosperity]Oil billionaire and conservative activist David Koch (see 1977-Present, 1979-1980, 1997, 1981-2010, 1984 and After, Late 2004, May 6, 2006, April 15, 2009, November 2009, December 6, 2009, April 2010 and After, July 3-4, 2010, June 26-28, 2010, August 28, 2010, August 30, 2010, and September 24, 2010) attends the 112th Congress’s swearing-in ceremony, accompanied by Tim Phillips, the head of the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity (AFP—see May 29, 2009) and a number of current and former Koch Industries lobbyists, including Nancy Pfotenhauer. The event marks the ascendance of Republicans to the majority of the House, and the selection of John Boehner (R-OH) as speaker of the House. After the ceremony, Koch asks Frank Guinta (R-NH), a freshman Republican and “tea party” member elected in part by lavish AFP spending on his behalf, if he will attend a party that Koch is throwing for Republican Congressional members. Guinta affirms that he will attend. Lee Fang, a reporter for Think Progress who observes the Koch-Guinta conversation, speaks to Koch after the two conclude their discussion. Fang identifies himself as a Think Progress reporter and asks Koch what he expects from the Boehner-led Congress; Koch replies, “Well, cut the hell out of spending, balance the budget, reduce regulations, and, uh, support business.” Phillips immediately intervenes, identifying Fang to Koch as “a good blogger on the left, we’re glad to have him—” but Fang continues interviewing Koch. During the relatively brief interview, Phillips repeatedly attempts to push Fang’s cameraman Scott Keyes away from Koch, and shouts into Keyes’s camera, in an apparent attempt to disrupt the interview. However, Koch is cooperative with being interviewed. Koch is apparently proud of the work being done by AFP and says, “We’re going to do more too in the next couple of years.” Fang asks Koch if he is proud of the tea party movement, and Koch replies: “Yeah. There are some extremists there, but the rank and file are just normal people like us. And I admire them. It’s probably the best grassroots uprising since 1776 in my opinion.” Koch is hesitant to answer questions about “climate change,” agreeing only that “[c]limate does fluctuate,” but refusing to answer questions about the effect of carbon pollution on the climate. Instead, he says that any attempts to regulate carbon emissions will “really damage the economy.” Fang concludes by asking about the Citizens United decision that allows unlimited corporate spending on elections (see January 21, 2010). According to Fang, Koch looks uncomfortable discussing the subject and is quite reticent. Koch refuses to answer when Fang asks him about a recent meeting he sponsored with former Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck “and several other conservatives” (see June 26-28, 2010). While Phillips continues to interrupt and chide Fang for asking about the Citizens United decision, Koch refuses to answer Fang’s question, “Could you tell the public what you discussed at that meeting?” (Fang 1/5/2011; Fang 1/6/2011; Fang 1/7/2011; Fang 1/10/2011)

Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum (R-PA) blasts the Obama administration in what reporters term an attempt to establish himself as the Republican Party’s most conservative candidate. Speaking at the annual Strafford County Lincoln-Reagan dinner, Santorum claims that Democrats such as Barack Obama have “addicted” the nation’s poor on government “entitlements” instead of allowing them to work for a living, saying: “Close your eyes, like you’re listening to a drug dealer outside a school yard. They see entitlements as a way to make you dependent, weaker, less of a person than you are, drugging you into submission to a government who promises a high to take care of you.” Santorum also lashes out at the nation’s public schools, saying: “Just call them what they are. Public schools? That’s a nice way of putting it. These are government-run schools.” Santorum objects to Democratic attempts to increase funding for the nation’s Head Start program, calling it ineffective and a tool of Democrats to establish control over young people. He says: “They fund it more. Why? Because it brings more children into their domain. It brings more children out of the household.… Their agenda is to socialize your children with the thinking they want in those children’s minds.” Santorum home-schools his seven children; however, between 2001 and 2004, he enrolled them in Pennsylvania’s Cyber Charter School, a publicly-funded school, while he and his family lived in Virginia, and failed to pay over $100,000 in tuition fees and charges that the state and the local district were forced to absorb. Santorum now says he supports a government-funded voucher program that would allow parents to send their children to a school of their choice, or to have the government pay them to teach their children at home. “I would support anything that gets the money in who should be in control—or who should be the object—of the education system in this country,” he tells the assemblage. “And that is not the children but the parents. Because parents have the obligation to raise and educate their children.” (Marr 3/11/2011; Mencimer 1/4/2012; Montopoli 2/15/2012)

Paul LePage.Paul LePage. [Source: Portland Press-Herald]Maine Governor Paul LePage (R-ME) says that the NAACP can “kiss my butt” after explaining why he is refusing to attend any events honoring the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on King’s national holiday. LePage tells a local reporter that he considers the NAACP a “special interest” group, and adds: “End of story. And I’m not going to be held hostage by special interests. And if they want, they can look at my family picture. My son happens to be black, so they can do whatever they’d like about it.” Asked if his absence is an indication of a pattern rather than an isolated incident, LePage responds: “Tell ‘em to kiss my butt. If they want to play the race card, come to dinner and my son will talk to them.” LePage, a tea party-backed candidate who was sworn into office last week, has an adopted son of Jamaican heritage. Maine NAACP director Rachel Talbot Ross responds: “I don’t care who he’s got in his family. And he’s saying we’re playing the race card? The makeup of his family isn’t the issue and it never was the issue. For him to say we’re playing the race card shows a real lack of awareness of the very important issues we’re working to address. Our kids deserve better. Maine deserves better. His son deserves better.” Ross goes on to call LePage’s comments “ignorant,” and adds, “We don’t want to misinterpret his intention, but the message we’re getting is that we’re not welcome and we’re not part of the Maine he’s preparing to lead for the next four years.” Ralph Carmona, spokesman for the League of United Latin American Citizens, says LePage’s comments today put him in mind of his fall campaign promise to tell President Obama to “go to hell.” Carmona says: “The governor’s comments are creating, have the potential to create, a real racial dilemma for all Mainers. It is astonishing and troubling he would use this kind of rhetoric.” LePage later adds that he has prior personal and professional commitments that prevent him from attending events in honor of King. NAACP leaders say LePage has previously turned down a number of invitations from the group in recent months. LePage spokesman Dan Demeritt later sends out a statement denying the issue has anything to do with race, and notes that while mayor of Waterville, LePage attended several Martin Luther King Day breakfasts. Demerrit says: “This is not about race. Paul has a black son. This is about a special interest group taking issue with the governor for not making time for them and the governor dismissing their complaints in the direct manner people have come to expect from Paul LePage.” Demerrit calls LePage “very free spoken.” (Cover 1/14/2011; Seitz-Wald 1/14/2011; Bouchard 1/14/2011) Maine’s Congressional delegation, whose members are all either attending the MLK Day events in person or sending representatives, declines to comment on LePage’s remarks. NAACP president Benjamin Jealous calls LePage’s comments “inflammatory,” and issues a statement reading in part: “Gov. LePage’s decision to inflame racial tension on the eve of the King holiday denigrates his office. His words are a reminder of the worst aspects of Maine’s history and out of touch with our nation’s deep yearning for increased civility and racial healing.” (Cover 1/15/2011) Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart, an African-American, says of LePage’s comments: “Wow. Uncivil. Uncouth. Appalling. Reducing the NAACP and its venerable history of fighting for civil rights to ‘special interests’ is pure ideological laziness in the extreme.” He continues: “Just because LePage has a black son (by adoption) doesn’t mean no one can or should question his racial sensitivities.… Despite LePage’s offensive posterior invitation, I urge the Portland, Maine, branch of the NAACP to keep inviting the rude governor to events. Blacks are only 1.2 percent of the state’s population. But sooner or later, LePage will have to learn that he can’t talk to citizens of his state like that.” (Capehart 1/14/2011) In previous years, Maine’s governor has alternated between breakfasts honoring King in Portland and Bangor. This year’s breakfast is being held in Portland. LePage has been issuing rejections to attend the King breakfast since December 2010. He intends to release a pre-recorded radio address honoring King’s legacy. Bob Talbot, a 70-year-old executive board member of the Greater Bangor Area NAACP, says he cannot remember when a Maine governor did not attend one of the breakfasts, with the sole exception of former Governor John Baldacci (D-ME), who attended President Obama’s inauguration in 2009 instead of attending one of the breakfasts. “Governor LePage keeps saying he represents all Mainers,” Talbot says. “Well, I’m an eighth-generation Mainer. I think he needs to reconsider what it means to be a Mainer. He needs to understand that we’re all Mainers, not just a certain few or a certain political party.” (Bouchard 1/14/2011)

WorldNetDaily, a conservative news blog, reports that Governor Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) says the Hawaii Department of Health may not be able to locate the “long form” birth certificate for President Obama that it is required to keep on file. Previously, Health Department chief Chiyome Fukino said that she has personally seen the “long form” certificate and can vouch for its authenticity (see October 30, 2008 and July 28, 2009). According to an article written by Jerome Corsi, Abercrombie tells a Honolulu Star-Advertiser reporter that he intends to find “definitive valid records” that prove Obama was born in Hawaii in order to head off a possible controversy during Obama’s 2012 re-election bid (see December 24, 2010). Corsi has written numerous attacks on Obama in the past, and most have been found to have been riddled with errors and falsehoods (see August 1, 2008 and After, August 15, 2008, October 8, 2008, and October 9, 2008). Corsi also reports that Abercrombie intends to find and make public what Corsi calls “a recording of the Obama birth in the state archives,” presumably the long form. “It was actually written, I am told, this is what our investigation is showing, it actually exists in the archives, written down,” Abercrombie says. Corsi says that the “short form” birth certificate provided by Obama during the 2008 election campaign (see June 13, 2008) is fraudulent, and that though “two purportedly independent Web sites that have displayed a strong partisan bias for Obama—Snopes.com… FactCheck.org” have published photographs of the document (see August 21, 2008), WND reports have stated that “the Hawaii Department of Health has refused to authenticate the COLB [certificate of live birth] posted on the Internet.” Corsi goes on to say that Obama’s parents could have lied about his birth to Hawaiian authorities, and that newspaper announcements of his birth published in 1961 (see July 2008) “do not prove he was born in Hawaii, since they could have been triggered by the grandparents registering the birth as Hawaiian, even if the baby was born elsewhere.” Corsi also says that the address in the press announcements was that of Obama’s maternal grandparents, not his father’s, who maintained a separate apartment in Honolulu “after he was supposedly married to Ann Dunham, Barack Obama’s mother.” He also claims that “Dunham left Hawaii within three weeks of the baby’s birth to attend the University of Washington in Seattle,” apparently in an effort to insinuate that she is not Obama’s actual mother. Corsi quotes Tim Adams, whom he identifies as “a former senior elections clerk for the city and county of Honolulu in 2008,” as saying that “no long form, hospital-generated birth certificate” for Obama exists in the Hawaiian Department of Health, “and that neither Honolulu hospital—Queens Medical Center or Kapiolani Medical Center—has any record that Obama was born there.” (Corsi 1/18/2011) The non-partisan fact-checking organization PolitiFact will investigate Corsi’s claims, and find them fraudulent (see February 14-27, 2011). Four months later, Obama will release the “long form” certificate (see April 27, 2011).

House Republicans rush a bill to the floor for a vote to eliminate all public funding of the presidential election. The bill, if passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Obama, would eliminate one of the few remaining public funding methodologies for federal elections, and, critics say, give wealthy corporate and individual donors even more influence over elections. Public financing of presidential elections was made law by the 1971 Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA—see February 7, 1972 and 1974) and upheld by the Supreme Court (see January 30, 1976). The bill comes to a vote almost exactly a year after the Supreme Court allowed corporations and labor unions to make unlimited donations to political organizations (see January 21, 2010). The bill, HR 359, was sponsored by Representative Tom Cole (R-OK) in June 2009 and cosponsored by 17 other House members, all Republicans. It would eliminate the Presidential Election Campaign Fund and the Presidential Primary Matching Payment Account. The Republican House leadership did not hold hearings on the bill, nor allow it to be debated in committee. Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) calls the bill “a sneak attack on the system,” and notes that the Republicans had pledged to observe “transparency and openness,” but instead are pushing through such a transformative bill without allowing debate. The bill passes the House on a 239-160 vote, with the Republican majority overriding the Democratic minority. Ten Democrats vote for the bill and one Republican votes against it. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has already introduced his version of the bill in the Senate, though Senate Democrats say the bill has no chance of passing; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says through a spokesperson that the bill will never be brought up for a vote. (Kroll 1/24/2011; Raw Story 1/25/2011; Walsh 1/26/2011; Overby 1/27/2011; Salant 1/27/2011)
Repair or Eliminate? - Presidential candidates who accept public funding must agree not to accept private donations in the fall campaign. Every presidential candidate from 1976 to 2008 has accepted public funding. In 2000, George W. Bush (R-TX) did not take public financing for his primary campaign, and in subsequent years no presidential nominee has taken such funding. In 2008, Barack Obama (D-IL) declined to take public financing for his general election, the first presidential nominee to do so. Republicans claim the elimination of the public funding program would save the government between $520 and $617 million over the next 10 years. Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center, says the public financing system needs to be updated. It was created in 1976, she notes, and does not reflect the needs of 21st-century candidates. Lawmakers from both parties have attempted, without success to introduce legislation to update the system. McConnell says that Americans do not believe in the PECF, citing declining public participation. The program is funded by a $3 check-off on individual tax returns; in 1980, almost 29 percent of tax returns carried the check-off, while in 2007 only 8.3 percent of tax returns checked off the donation. “In a time of exploding deficits and record debt, the last thing the American people want right now is to provide what amounts to welfare for politicians,” McConnell says. House Democrats have introduced legislation that would modify and update the PECF instead of end it. One of that legislation’s sponsors, David Price (D-NC), says, “Dare we forget what Watergate was all about?” (Price is referring to the post-Watergate origins of the PECF.) “President Nixon’s Committee to Re-Elect the President, fueled by huge quantities of corporate cash, paid for criminal acts and otherwise subverted the American electoral system. Let’s not return to the darkest days of our democracy.” (Kroll 1/24/2011; Walsh 1/26/2011; Overby 1/27/2011; Salant 1/27/2011)
Obama Administration Opposes Bill - The Obama administration strongly opposes the bill, saying that the public financing system should be improved rather than eliminated. In a statement, the White House says: “The presidential election public financing system was enacted in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal to free the nation’s elections from the influence of corporations and other wealthy special interests. Rather than candidates having to rely on raising large sums of private money in order to run, the system provides qualifying presidential candidates with the option of accepting matching funds in the primary and a public grant in the general election.… H.R. 359 would kill the system, not strengthen it. Its effect would be to expand the power of corporations and special interests in the nation’s elections; to force many candidates into an endless cycle of fundraising at the expense of engagement with voters on the issues; and to place a premium on access to large donor or special interest support, narrowing the field of otherwise worthy candidates.” (Raw Story 1/25/2011)
Divided Response from Lawmakers - Representative Eric Cantor (R-VA) says after the bill passes that voting it into effect “should be a no-brainer.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) says that Congress “should come together to ensure that the American people are heard, that they are heard and that they are not drowned out by special interest dollars.” Republicans such as Aaron Schock (R-IL) call Democrats and the Obama administration “hypocrites” because in 2008, Obama turned down public financing. Schock says, “It was President Obama who killed it and made a mockery of public financing of president campaigns with his arrogant pressing of self advantage.” David Price (D-NC) makes an angry rejoinder, saying: “Talk about having it both ways. [Schock] comes onto this floor to condemn President Obama for opting out of the system, and then he proposes to abolish the system so that everybody has to opt out.” Cole also condemns Obama for not taking public financing in 2008, and says he believes public financing of elections should be illegal, but goes on to say that he supports Republicans who take public financing because it is a legal option. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) says: “Special interest money is having a corrosive effect on our democracy, eating away at the people’s confidence in their government and their elected representatives. The one beacon of light in this system is the public financing of presidential campaigns. It is, I would remind everyone, a voluntary system.” “This is an attempt to finish the job that the Supreme Court started with the Citizens United decision,” says Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY). Schumer chairs the Senate Rules Committee, which has jurisdiction over campaign finance legislation. “It would bust one of the last dams protecting our election system from an uncontrolled flood of special-interest money.” (Walsh 1/26/2011; Overby 1/27/2011; Salant 1/27/2011)
Campaign Finance Reform Advocates Critical of Bill - David Arkush of the citizens advocacy group Public Citizen says in a statement, “A vote for HR 359 is a great way to tell the American people that you want to give corporations more power over our government rather than make democracy work for ordinary Americans.” Craig Holman of Public Citizen says of the bill: “Make no mistake about it: The Republican leadership’s legislation to eliminate public financing is an attack not just on the presidential public financing system, but also an attack on congressional public financing proposals. To ensure that the public’s voice can be heard against the corporate onslaught, we need to expand public financing of elections, not kill it.” Campaign finance reform advocate Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21 calls the bill “a gross abuse of the legislative process.” (Kroll 1/24/2011; Raw Story 1/25/2011) The nonpartisan Public Finance Action Fund, which advocates for public financing of state and federal elections, says in a statement: “These efforts are not about saving taxpayer money, they are about giving corporate donors even more access than they enjoy today. We hope these measures don’t advance any further.” (Walsh 1/26/2011)
Bill Dies in Senate - The bill will, as expected, not pass the Senate, which is under Democratic control. A similar bill will be introduced in December 2011 (see December 1, 2011), again pass the House, and die in the Senate. (Abrams 12/1/2011)

The progressive magazine Mother Jones reports on Congressional Democrats’ plans to curb the effects of the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision, which allows unlimited contributions to campaign organizations by corporate and union donors (see January 21, 2010). Last year, Senate Republicans refused to allow a campaign finance reform bill, the DISCLOSE Act, to come to the floor for a vote (see July 26-27, 2010). Now Democratic leaders say they are considering filing challenges to the nonprofit tax statuses of many of the groups that were so influential in the 2010 elections. Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) tells a Mother Jones reporter about the plan. According to Van Hollen, two of the groups they plan to target are Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and the American Action Network (AAN—see Mid-October 2010), headed by former Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN). Together, the two groups spent over $43 million supporting conservative candidates and targeting Democrats, accounting for some 23 percent of all outside conservative spending between them. According to Van Hollen, “People are looking at different legal strategies through the courts because there’s emerging evidence that these groups have abused the rules.” Representative David Price (D-NC) agrees. “I think there are ample goals for challenging the way those groups have acted,” he says. Crossroads GPS spokesperson Jonathan Collegio says in return, “Van Hollen is irresponsibly making claims on zero evidence whatsoever and this is extremely irresponsible for an elected official holding high office.” No one from AAN is willing to respond to the Mother Jones reporting. Both Crossroads GPS and AAN, like many other such groups, are organized under the IRS’s 501(c)4 tax status—tax-exempt, not-for-profit groups whose purpose under the IRS code is “primarily to further the common good and general welfare of the people of the community” (see 2000 - 2005). The law allows such groups to engage in political advocacy, such as running ads for or against candidates, but such “electioneering” activities must not be those groups’ “primary activity.” As far as is known, Crossroads GPS and AAN have no other purpose except electioneering. 501(c) groups do not have to register as political action committees (PACs) and are allowed to conduct their business with very little outside scrutiny. However, if the Federal Election Commission or the IRS determine a group has violated the rules, that group would be forced to register as a PAC and disclose the sources of its funding. If the Democrats challenge the status of these groups, they would be following in the footsteps of private organizations. A coalition of public advocacy groups has filed complaints against Crossroads GPS and another 501(c)4 group, American Future Fund (AFF—see October 12, 2010), claiming that their primary functions are, according to the Crossroads GPS complaint, to “influence the 2010 federal elections and to elect Republicans to office.” The complaints are still pending. In September 2010, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) asked the IRS to examine several 501(c) groups to “ensure that political campaign activity” wasn’t their primary activity (see September 28, 2010). (Kroll 1/28/2011)

The media reports that Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, a former Republican campaign operative and the former head of a tea party organization, has become the head of a lobbying and political consulting firm, Liberty Consulting. The firm boasts that Thomas’s “experience and connections” will assist clients with “governmental affairs efforts” and political donation strategies. Critics say Thomas is in the midst of an enormous conflict of interest, because her husband, Clarence Thomas, is a Supreme Court justice. She left the tea party group in November 2009 because of questions that her leadership of the group, Liberty Central, which actively worked to defeat Democrats, was not appropriate for the wife of a sitting Court justice. Thomas has met with almost half of the 99 Republican freshmen in the House and Senate, according to an email she sent out to congressional chiefs of staff last week in which she called herself “a self-appointed ambassador to the freshmen class and an ambassador to the tea party movement.” Ann Pearson of the government watchdog organization Common Cause says that Thomas’s position at a lobbying and consulting firm “show[s] a new level of arrogance of just not caring that the Court is being politicized and how that undermines the historic image of the Supreme Court as being above the political fray.… It raises additional questions about whether Justice Thomas can be unbiased and appear to be unbiased in cases dealing with the repeal of the health care reform law or corporate political spending when his wife is working to elect members of the tea party and also advocating for their policies.” Some Republican lawmakers are uncomfortable with Thomas’s new position, with one senior House Republican aide criticizing Thomas for attempting to “cash in” on her ties to the tea party movement. Republican House freshman David Schweikert (R-AZ), who won his election in part because of support from tea party groups and was endorsed by Liberty Central, says he has not met Thomas and knows nothing of her background. “This is the spouse of Justice Thomas?” he says when asked about the situation by a reporter. “No, I’ve never met her. It’s not something I’ve heard about. And I hang out with a lot of freshman.” So far, only one Republican freshman will publicly admit to scheduling a meeting with Thomas. Thomas used to be an aide to former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX), who until recently headed the tea party financing organization FreedomWorks (see August 14, 2009). She has also worked as a staffer at the US Chamber of Commerce, a trade organization that contributes heavily to Republican causes (see January 21-22, 2010), and at the conservative Heritage Foundation. In 2009 she founded Liberty Central, which she described as a group that would bridge the gap between the conservative Republican establishment and the anti-government tea party movement. She eventually stepped down after questions were raised about her position’s impact on her husband’s appearance of impartiality, and the group was merged into another tea party organization (see November 2009 - November 2010). She filed incorporation papers for Liberty Consulting within a day of news reports about her departure from Liberty Central. She has told conservative news source Daily Caller that she intends to continue working for the group that bought Liberty Central, the Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty, and will “help them in any way I can think of, whether it’s lobbying on the Hill or connecting with the grass roots, or helping speak or write or fundraise.” However, lobbying records show no registration for Thomas, Liberty Consulting, Liberty Central, or the Patrick Henry Center. Liberty Central general counsel Sarah Field refuses to answer questions about whether Thomas is being paid through Liberty Consulting as a consultant. A source familiar with the Thomases and with Capitol Hill Republicans says her sojourn from Liberty Central to Liberty Consulting has damaged her reputation among some conservatives. “Ginni’s reputation around town is now even more of a fake entitled woman who is only here because of her husband,” the source tells a reporter. “Now she has opened her own lobbying shop… not sure how [the] conservative circle will feel when they find that out, or if they’ll care or not.” (Vogel, Cogan, and Bresnahan 2/4/2011)
Previous Conflicts of Interest - Virginia Thomas has weathered criticisms of conflict of interest before. In late 2000, as a Heritage Foundation staffer, she was helping select key members for the Bush administration even as her husband was engaged in deliberating the Bush v. Gore Court decision that installed George W. Bush as president (see 9:54 p.m. December 12, 2000). At the time she waved off criticisms, saying that she and her husband conducted “separate professional lives.” (Hennessey 3/14/2010)
'Cloud of Corruption' Surrounding Justice Thomas? - Legal analyst Ian Millhiser of the liberal news Web site Think Progress is far more blunt in his assessment than some more cautious critics, writing: “Now, Ginni Thomas appears to have found a way to earn money off her husband’s actions as a justice. Clarence Thomas released countless amounts of corporate spending on US elections [by voting with the majority in Citizens United], and Ginni Thomas can get rich advising those corporate clients on how to direct that spending. To be sure, it is possible that Ginni is somehow limiting her advice to ‘political investments’ that were legal before Clarence gave businesses like hers so many new potential customers. But if this is the case, Ginni has an obligation to explain just how she is limiting her advice—it’s the only way to remove the obvious cloud of corruption her actions have created around her husband.” (Millhiser 2/4/2011)

New York Times legal correspondent Adam Liptak observes what he calls a large weakness in the position that the Supreme Court should not have granted First Amendment rights to corporations in its 2010 Citizens United decision (see January 21, 2010). Liptak notes that Justice Anthony Kennedy cited more than 20 precedents affirming his argument that corporations are people under the First Amendment’s free-speech provision, and Justice John Paul Stevens recognized that body of precedents in his dissent. Liptak notes that regardless of the precedent, the provision still can be wrong. But, he notes, the weakness in the argument centers around the status of the news media as an amalgamation of “corporate persons,” writing, “If corporations have no First Amendment rights, what about newspapers and other news organizations, almost all of which are organized as corporations?” There is a general acceptance that “the press is different,” he notes, writing: “The First Amendment, after all, protects ‘the freedom of speech, or of the press.’ Since ‘the press’ is singled out for protection, the argument goes, media corporations enjoy First Amendment rights while other corporations do not.” Liptak calls this a weak argument. There is little evidence to show that the Founders intended “to single out a set of businesses for special protection” under the First Amendment, nor is there a lot of support for the Court’s current stance that the institutional press has rights that other speakers, specifically corporations, do not have. Moreover, he asks, who exactly is the press? Is it a corporate media firm or a person with a Twitter account? In initial arguments in the Citizens United case (see June 29, 2009), government lawyer Malcolm L. Stewart argued that Congress has the power to regulate “corporate speech” about political candidates, even going so far as to prohibit the publication of a book in the weeks before an election, an argument that did not sit well with most of the justices. (Liptak notes that in the second set of arguments, “[t]he government backed away from that position at the second argument, but not very far—see September 9, 2009). Stewart could have gone further in claiming “that media corporations, the institutional press, would have a greater First Amendment right,” as he said in his first argument, though he did not use that as his primary argument. Stevens seemed supportive of that argument in his dissent. Justice Antonin Scalia, in his concurrence, did not, writing: “It is passing strange to interpret the phrase ‘the freedom of speech, or of the press’ to mean, not everyone’s right to speak or publish, but rather everyone’s right to speak or the institutional press’s right to publish. No one thought that is what it meant.” Former Times columnist and Court reporter Anthony Lewis reached a similar conclusion in 2008, writing, “The amendment surely meant to cover both oral and written expression [rather than] a specially protected institution.” In the majority opinion, Kennedy wrote, “There is no precedent supporting laws that attempt to distinguish between corporations which are deemed to be exempt as media corporations and those which are not.” Law professor Eugene Volokh agreed, writing, “If ordinary business corporations lack First Amendment rights, so do those business corporations that we call media corporations.” Law professor Richard Hasen acknowledges that the correct treatment of media corporations in the issue of free speech and campaign finance is “among the most difficult questions for supporters of reasonable campaign finance reform.” Liptak concludes: “There are good arguments both ways about whether corporations ought to be covered by the First Amendment. But it is harder to say that some corporations have First Amendment rights and others do not.” (Liptak 2/7/2011)

An image from a ‘Team Themis’ proposal given to the US Chamber of Commerce in late 2010.An image from a ‘Team Themis’ proposal given to the US Chamber of Commerce in late 2010. [Source: Docstoc (.com)]The liberal news Web site Think Progress, an affiliate of the Center for American Progress, reports that it has discovered evidence of a potentially illegal scheme to entrap and destabilize political organizations, including Think Progress, that support President Obama and other Democrats. The scheme, in development since November 2010 at least, centers around the US Chamber of Commerce (USCOC), a large trade organization that makes large secret donations to Republican candidates and organizations (see January 21-22, 2010 and October 2010), and a law firm, Hunton and Williams, hired by the USCOC. According to emails secured by Think Progress, Hunton and Williams is working with a set of private security firms—HBGary Federal, Palantir, and Berico Technologies (collectively called “Team Themis”)—to develop tactics to damage progressive groups and labor unions. Some of the organizations and unions targeted include Think Progress, a labor coalition called Change to Win, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), US Chamber Watch, and StopTheChamber.com. The last two are small organizations dedicated to exposing some of the secretive practices of the USCOC. One project proposed by Team Themis is an entrapment scheme. The proposal called for the creation of a “false document, perhaps highlighting periodical financial information,” to give to a progressive group opposing the USCOC, and then exposing the document as a fraud, thus undermining the credibility of the organization. Another proposal involved using potentially illegal computer-hacking techniques to create what the group calls a “fake insider persona” to “generate communications” with Change to Win and to undermine the credibility of US Chamber Watch. The proposal actually advocates the creation of two such personas, one to be used “as leverage to discredit the other while confirming the identity of the second.” Together, “Team Themis” asked for $200,000 for initial background research and another $2 million for an active disinformation campaign. It is unclear from the emails whether any of the proposals were accepted, and if the disinformation campaign was ever launched. Think Progress was recently provided with the emails by members of “Anonymous,” an online “hacktivist” community responsible for attacking the Web sites of oppressive regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, along with American corporations that have censored the online information repository WikiLeaks. The emails were secured from HBGary Federal after one of that firm’s executives, Aaron Barr, tried to take Anonymous down. Barr claimed to have penetrated the group and intended to sell the data he collected to Bank of America (BoA) and to US federal authorities. In return, Anonymous hackers penetrated Barr’s email account and published some 40,000 company emails. Barr intended to approach Bank of America, Think Progress writes, because WikiLeaks is believed to have sensitive information about the firm that it intends to publish later in the year. BoA hired Hunton and Williams and other law firms to pursue WikiLeaks. BoA’s legal team also targeted Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald, an outspoken supporter of WikiLeaks, saying that it had plans for “actions to sabotage or discredit” him. The USCOC posts a response to Think Progress on its blog dismissing the report as “baseless attacks.” And prominent liberal blogger Marcy Wheeler (see April 18, 2009) says that the Think Progress report will probably “cause the Chamber of Commerce to rethink the spying work with HBGary it apparently has been considering.” (Berico Technologies 11/3/2010 pdf file; Fang 2/10/2011) Liberal blogger Brad Friedman, who has spent years covering voter suppression tactics by political organizations, will soon learn that he is targeted by Team Themis. An email sent by Barr and provided to Friedman “focused on me included names, personal information, home addresses, etc. of myself, family members, and a number of other members of VR,” Friedman will write. (Velvet Revolution is an “umbrella group” that includes StopTheChamber.) “Part of the plan included highlighting me as a ‘Tier 1’ player in a sophisticated disinformation/discrediting scheme that relied on high-tech tools developed for the US government’s ‘War on Terror.’ Team Themis’ US Chamber of Commerce plan was to deploy the very same techniques and technology used to track terrorists, terror organizations, and nations such as Iran, against private non-profit political advocates and citizens in the US.” The email also lists the names of people whom Barr clearly believes to be Friedman’s wife and two children (Friedman says the names listed are not family members—he is not married and has no children). The email also lists a Maryland address as Friedman’s home—another error, as Friedman lives in another state. Friedman will write that obviously Barr and his researchers found another, unrelated person named Brad Friedman and learned personal details about that person and his family. Prominent officials such as Ilyse Hogue of MoveOn.org and Robert Weissman of Public Citizen are also listed for “targeting.” (Brad Friedman 2/14/2011)

The government watchdog and campaign finance advocacy group Common Cause asks the Supreme Court to explain why Justice Clarence Thomas did not completely disclose the nature of his participation in a 2008 retreat hosted by Charles and David Koch, the influential oil billionaires and conservative advocates (see 1977-Present, 1979-1980, 1997, 1981-2010, 1984 and After, Late 2004, May 6, 2006, April 15, 2009, May 29, 2009, November 2009, December 6, 2009, April 2010 and After, July 3-4, 2010, June 26-28, 2010, August 28, 2010, August 30, 2010, September 24, 2010, January 5, 2011, and October 4, 2011). According to a Court spokesperson, Thomas made a “brief drop-by” at a four-day event in Palm Springs, California, held in January 2008, and gave a talk. But disclosure reports filed by Thomas show that he was reimbursed an undisclosed amount for four days of “transportation, meals, and accommodations” over the weekend of the retreat. The reimbursement came from the Federalist Society, an influential conservative legal group. Today Common Cause sends a letter to the Court asking for “further clarification” as to why the two statements are at odds. Common Cause official Arn Pearson says, “I don’t think the explanation they’ve given is credible.” If Thomas’s visit was a “four-day, all-expenses paid trip in sunny Palm Springs,” Thomas should have reported it as a gift under federal law. The Court, the Federalist Society, and Koch Industries all refuse to comment on the issue. Common Cause has said that because of Thomas’s past appearances at the Koch retreats, and the conservative political work done by his wife Virginia Thomas (see November 2009 - November 2010 and February 4, 2011), he should have recused himself from the 2010 Citizens United decision (see January 21, 2010). Common Cause notes that both Thomas and Justice Antonin Scalia have appeared at Koch-hosted retreats. Both Thomas and Scalia voted as part of the 5-4 majority that decided the case. Political analysts say the Koch brothers have been some of the main beneficiaries of the decision. (Lichtblau 2/14/2011)

Jack Davis, a Republican candidate for the House of Representatives from the Buffalo, New York, area, suggests that Hispanic farmworkers be deported from the US, and African-Americans from the inner cities be bused to farm country and made to pick the crops. Davis, an industrialist from Akron, makes his comments in an endorsement hearing held by local tea party activists. In 2008, he made similar comments to a Tonawanda News reporter, when he said: “We have a huge unemployment problem with black youth in our cities. Put them on buses, take them out there [to the farms], and pay them a decent wage; they will work.” Many listeners then and now say Davis is, in essence, advocating a return to slavery. After hearing Davis’s comments, Republican leaders deliver their endorsement to another candidate, Assemblywoman Jane L. Corwin. Amherst County GOP chairman Marshall Wood says, “I was thunderstruck” when he heard Davis’s statements. “Maybe in 1860 that might have been seen by some as an appropriate comment, but not now.” Davis shrugs off the reaction to his comments, saying merely, “It’s politics.” Davis’s spokesman W. Curtis Ellis says of Davis’s comments, “It may not be politically correct and it may not be racially correct, but when you have African-American people in Buffalo who do not have jobs and are out of work, why are you bringing people into this country illegally to take jobs?” Davis, Corwin, and others are running in a special election to replace Representative Chris Lee (R-NY), who recently resigned his seat after revelations surfaced about his Internet flirtation with a woman not his wife. Wyoming County GOP chairman Gordon Brown says Davis “repeatedly almost disqualified himself” during the hearing by contradicting typical party positions, raging against illegal immigration and free trade policies. “The most racist part was where he said he was busing the blacks in to pick the vegetables,” Brown says. When Davis made his comment, “the room sort of went silent. It was like, ‘Did I just hear that?’” Davis has run for office as a Democrat three times in the past. He is now attempting to secure enough signatures to run as a tea party candidate. The election will be held May 24. The Democratic candidate opposing Corwin will be Kathleen Hochul, the Erie County clerk. (Zremski 3/15/2011; Dolan 3/17/2011; Camia 3/21/2011) Buffalo News columnist Rod Watson, a conservative African-American, later complains of the “manufactured outrage” over Davis’s comments, and will praise Davis’s suggestion as “busing jobless young blacks to farms so they can learn work skills while earning an honest dollar.” He will say Davis’s comments are far less insulting than those recently made by Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour (R-MS), a possible 2012 presidential candidate who has extolled the virtues of white supremacist groups. “A white man saying what’s good for blacks is always grist for those looking for advantage in aggrievement,” Watson will write. “It’s part of the unwritten rules on race in a nation still struggling with the issue that only blacks can say such things about blacks, just as only whites can make ‘redneck’ jokes.” Watson will note that African-American radio host Ted Kirkland says: “I’ve advocated that on my show. There’s nothing wrong with hard work and getting your hands dirty.” And Watson will quote Democratic legislator Betty Jean Grant, who says, “Republicans won’t hire black youths for any kind of jobs,” and says she “saw nothing racist” in Davis’s comment. Watson will admit that some find it disconcerting when a white millionaire states his opinion about what should be done for, or to, poor African-Americans. “It’s also fair to ask how many blacks Davis has hired, or how many jobs he has funded in light of his expressed interest in unemployed African-Americans,” he will write. He will conclude that the idea itself must be considered separately from its “suspect source.” (Watson 3/17/2011) News and blog Web site BlakNewz is more outraged; its administrator will write: “Is that like black slaves picking cotton for the massa? Why not bus in the poor white people in New York State and nearby states to pick the crops?” (BlakNewz 3/15/2011) Hochul will win a narrow victory over Corwin, delivering the NY-26 seat to the Democratic Party for the first time in decades. Davis, a “tea party” candidate, will garner 9 percent of the vote; in his concession speech, Davis will tell his listeners, “The country needs me.” (McCarthy 5/26/2011)

Mike Huckabee (R-AR), the former governor of Arkansas, currently a host on Fox News and a potential 2012 presidential candidate, tells a gathering at the National Press Club that it is “useless” to get into the seemingly endless debate on President Obama’s citizenship (see July 20, 2008, August 15, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, October 16, 2008 and After, November 10, 2008, December 3, 2008, August 1-4, 2009, May 7, 2010, Shortly Before June 28, 2010, and Around June 28, 2010) as recently revived by billionaire Donald Trump (see February 10, 2011). “I find it unnecessary, useless, and frankly a bit unnecessary to get into all sorts of debates over President Obama’s religion or the authenticity of his birth,” he says. “I know for some people that it is an obsession. It is not with me.” Huckabee has said that if Obama were not a US citizen, that fact would have emerged during the 2008 presidential primary. He also acknowledges that Obama is a Christian (see October 1, 2007, December 19, 2007, January 11, 2008, Around March 19, 2008, and April 18, 2008) and calls Obama a good role model for fathers, saying: “I have no disagreement with President Obama as a human being. In fact, I’ll go so far to say one of the things I respect very much is the role model that he has served as a husband and a father. And I think he has been an exemplary husband to his wife and an extraordinary father to his daughters. Frankly, America needs a good role model like that.” Huckabee emphasizes that he does not agree with Obama’s policies, saying, “But this is not an attack on President Obama, the person, even though you will see sharp elbows at the policies that he has put forth, specifically, many of the economic policies.” (St. Petersburg Times 2/28/2011)

Mike Huckabee (R-AR), the former governor of Arkansas, currently a host on Fox News and a potential 2012 presidential candidate, speculates that President Obama may have been born in Kenya. If this were true, Obama would not be eligible to be president. Huckabee states, incorrectly, that Obama grew up in Kenya. Huckabee is appearing on a radio show hosted by conservative Steve Malzberg. The host brings up the subject of Obama’s “controversial” birth certificate (see July 20, 2008, August 15, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, October 16, 2008 and After, November 10, 2008, December 3, 2008, August 1-4, 2009, May 7, 2010, Shortly Before June 28, 2010, and Around June 28, 2010), as recently revived by billionaire Donald Trump (see February 10, 2011), and asks, “Don’t you think we deserve to know more about this man?” Huckabee responds: “I would love to know more. What I know is troubling enough. And one thing that I do know is his having grown up in Kenya, his view of the Brits, for example, very different than the average American. When he gave the bust back to the Brits, the bust of Winston Churchill, a great insult to the British (see June 29, 2009). But then if you think about it, his perspective as growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather, their view of the Mau Mau Revolution in Kenya is very different than ours because he probably grew up hearing that the British were a bunch of imperialists who persecuted his grandfather.” PolitiFact, the nonpartisan, political fact-checking organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, believes that Huckabee is echoing discredited claims recently made by conservative author Dinesh D’Souza, who accused Obama of being an “anti-colonialist” and covert supporter of Kenyan extremists (see September 12, 2010, September 12, 2010 and After, September 12, 2010 and After, September 16, 2010, September 17, 2010, September 23, 2010, and September 23-24, 2010). Contrary to Huckabee’s assertions, Obama did not grow up in Kenya. He had virtually no contact with his Kenyan father and never met his paternal grandfather, whom D’Souza wrote had such a powerful influence on him. Instead, Obama grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia. After the interview on Malzberg’s show, Huckabee corrects his error, saying: “On Monday, while on Steve Malzberg’s radio show on New York’s WOR Radio, I was asked about the President Obama’s birth certificate issue. In my answer, I simply misspoke when I alluded to President Obama growing up in ‘Kenya’ and meant to say Indonesia.” PolitiFact notes that in the past, Huckabee has warned against buying into the idea that Obama is not a US citizen, affirmed Obama’s Christianity, and praised Obama as a role model for fathers (see February 23, 2011). (St. Petersburg Times 2/28/2011)

A lawsuit by two anonymous plaintiffs is filed challenging the foreign-contribution provision of the campaign finance laws, a provision that was not overturned by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision (see January 21, 2010). The lawsuit is on behalf of a Canadian citizen who claims he wants to support President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, and a dual Israeli-Canadian citizen who wants to contribute to Obama’s opponent Mitt Romney and to the campaign of Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK). The Israeli-Canadian citizen says they want to help prevent what they call a “government-takeover of the health care system in the United States,” according to the suit. The filing says both plaintiffs are legally authorized to live and work in the United States, but are not permanent residents; one is a young attorney with a moderately successful practice and the other earns a modest salary as a medical resident at a New York hospital. The lawsuit asks that legal residents, as well as citizens and US-registered entities, be allowed to make donations. While the lawsuit appears to be bipartisan in nature, the lawyers representing the anonymous plaintiffs are from a top-flight law firm, Jones Day, which usually represents Republican and wealthy corporate clients. Think Progress’s Ian Millhiser notes that the firm’s clients “include some of the biggest corporate beneficiaries of the Citizens United decision—including Koch Industries and the US Chamber of Commerce.” The lawyers are Warren Postman and Yaakov Roth, both of whom are former Supreme Court clerks and thusly do not come cheap—in 2005, Jones Day charged as much as $370 an hour for services provided by lawyers with similar levels of experience. Millhiser writes: “To be clear, a court decision in favor of Jones Day’s clients would not necessarily allow BP or the Dubai Sovereign Wealth Fund to immediately start buying US elections. The lawsuit only asks the court to allow lawful residents make campaign contributions. Nevertheless, such a decision would be a significant crack in the wall protecting American democracy from foreign money. There are any number of foreign corporations who would love to see that happen.” (Vogel 3/18/2011; Millhiser 3/18/2011) The court will deny the lawsuit (see August 8, 2011).

Georgia State Representative Mark Hatfield (R-GA) introduces his so-called “birther” bill, House Bill 401, which would require presidential and vice-presidential candidates to prove their citizenship before being placed on Georgia’s elections ballot. “I think the issue with our sitting president has been left unresolved for a significant length of time that people have concerns,” Hatfield says. “But this is not just about our current president. It’s about enforcing the constitutional provisions for anyone who seeks the office of presidency.” Ninety-three fellow representatives, all Republicans, sign on to Hatfield’s bill as co-sponsors. By the next day, March 3, 20 withdraw their names, and several more withdraw the following day. On March 4, local attorney and Libertarian Loren Collins publishes a scathing op-ed in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution noting that Hatfield’s bill would create requirements for president that do not exist in the US Constitution. Noting that the bill would require candidates to affirm that they have never held dual citizenships in other countries, Collins writes: “There is not and never has been any constitutional rule mandating that the president ‘has never held dual or multiple citizenship.’ This is pure birther fantasy, a nonexistent bit of pseudo law that an attorney such as Hatfield should know better than to promote.” PolitiFact, the nonpartisan, political fact-checking organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, determines that Collins’s claim of the bill’s extraconstitutionality is true. When PolitiFact contacts Collins for comment, the lawyer reminds it that Article II of the Constitution reads: “No Person except a natural born Citizen… shall be eligible to the Office of President.” The language does not and should not exclude candidates who are or were dual citizens, Collins says. Foreign law decided who qualifies for dual citizenship, and foreign law should not decide who is eligible to be US president. Hatfield tells PolitiFact that he does not consider himself a “birther,” but wants proof that Obama is indeed eligible to be president. “We’ve seen a computer-generated summary of a live birth but not the particulars of his birth on a long form,” Hatfield says (see June 13, 2008 and July 1, 2009). “Congress has never created an enforcement mechanism, so it is up to the states to step up and fill the gap.” Hatfield says the Founders thought that presidents should be born in the United States, their parents should be citizens, and dual citizens should be barred to avoid foreign influence. That’s why the Constitution uses the term “natural born citizen” instead of “citizen,” he says. PolitiFact writes, “Under Hatfield’s definition, Obama couldn’t be president.” Neither could Obama’s 2008 challenger, John McCain (R-AZ), who was born to a US military family in the Panama Canal Zone (see March 14 - July 24, 2008). PolitiFact learns from legal experts on US citizenship that Hatfield’s “natural born” concept does not exist in the law. Law professor Peter Spiro says: “If that [the bill] passes in Georgia’s Statehouse, it will be challenged and it will be struck down as unconstitutional. I am 100 percent confident.” Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow with the conservative Heritage Foundation, says Hatfield’s bill contains a dual-citizenship ban that does not exist in the Constitution. “It’s trying to add an additional requirement to the eligibility for president,” von Spakovsky says. According to PolitiFact, legal scholars agree that the Founders intended to block naturalized citizens, or those who became citizens after their birth, from becoming president. However, Spiro notes, the law has never been tested, the Supreme Court has never ruled on the issue, and no candidate with dual citizenship or who was born outside the country has won the presidency. (Hunt 3/1/2011; St. Petersburg Times 3/4/2011) Georgia House Speaker David Ralston (R-GA) says he does not believe the bill will win passage. “I’m not promoting the bill or squelching discussion. We’ll have a discussion, and then we’ll see what happens,” he says. “I believe President Obama is the duly elected president of the United States. I’ve never followed the ‘birther’ school of thought.” (Galloway 3/2/2011)

Iowa State Senator Kent Sorenson (R-IA) introduces a bill, SB 368, that would require candidates for president or vice president to file a certified copy of their birth certificate along with their affidavit of candidacy in order to be eligible to be included on the Iowa election ballot. Sorenson has long identified himself as a believer in the “birther” conspiracy theory that alleges President Obama is not a US citizen (see July 20, 2008, August 15, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, October 16, 2008 and After, November 10, 2008, December 3, 2008, August 1-4, 2009, May 7, 2010, Shortly Before June 28, 2010, and Around June 28, 2010). The bill reads in part: “A candidate for president or vice president shall attach to and file with the affidavit of candidacy a copy of the candidate’s birth certificate certified by the appropriate official in the candidate’s state of birth. The certified copy shall be made part of the affidavit of candidacy and shall be made available for public inspection in the same manner as the affidavit of candidacy.… A candidate for president or vice president who does not comply with the requirements of this section shall not be eligible for placement on the ballot as a candidate for president or vice president anywhere in the state.” The bill does not clear a deadline for submission, but may be reintroduced in the next session. Sorenson previously introduced a bill that would recognize only silver and gold as legal tender in Iowa. He recently told an Iowa reporter that his constituents elected him to the Iowa Senate to “burn this place down. They want me to do battle. And I understand that.” (WorldNetDaily 3/6/2011; Murphy 3/25/2011)

Billionaire entrepeneur and television host Donald Trump, who has begun publicly questioning President Obama’s US citizenship (see February 10, 2011), explores the “controversy” on ABC’s morning talk show Good Morning America. In an interview conducted on his private plane, “Trump Force One,” Trump implies that Obama is lying about being born in Hawaii (see October 1, 2007, April 18, 2008, Before October 27, 2008, August 4, 2010, and February 28, 2011), says he is a “little” skeptical of Obama’s citizenship, and says the “birthers” who express their doubts about Obama should not be dismissed as “idiots” (see February 17, 2010). “Growing up no one knew him,” Trump claims. “The whole thing is very strange.” As he has in recent interviews, Trump says he is considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. He implies that he can buy his way into victory, saying he is willing to spend $600 million on a primary run. “I have much more than that,” he says. “That’s one of the nice things. Part of the beauty of me is that I’m very rich. So if I need $600 million, I can put up $600 million myself. That’s a huge advantage over the other candidates.” Asked if his talk of a candidacy is anything more than a publicity stunt, he replies, “I have never been so serious as I am now.” (Marr 3/17/2011)

The Twitter post made by Fox News correspondent Todd Starnes.The Twitter post made by Fox News correspondent Todd Starnes. [Source: Media Matters]A Panama City Beach citizen uses his or her cell phone to record an incident that breaks out at a local Burger King restaurant. The conflict starts when one resident, who identifies herself as Kimesia Smith of Montgomery, Alabama, (police later learn that her real name is Nekiva Vonte Hardy) becomes angry after having to wait an apparently too-lengthy period of time for her order. Hardy leaps up on the counter and throws a charity coin jug at employees. Three of Hardy’s friends join in, throwing napkins, utensils, and trays throughout the restaurant. All four scream imprecations and abusive comments. Hardy is arrested and taken to jail on charges of simple battery, in part because an employee says Hardy pulled her hair. Explaining her actions, Hardy later says, “I don’t play no games.” Panama City Beach Police Chief Robert Harding notes that Hardy’s actions are not related to spring-break parties, saying, “She’s a 30-year-old unemployed mother of three from Montgomery, so I would surmise that she’s not a spring breaker.” Hardy is later charged with a felony count of criminal mischief and two counts of misdemeanor battery and disorderly conduct. The cell phone video of the incident becomes something of a hit on YouTube, garnering tens of thousands of views. State attorney Glenn Hess says: “While many view this video as amusing, we see it as hard evidence of serious crimes being committed. I’m quite certain the employees who were battered and terrorized by [Hardy] do not find this the least bit amusing.” Hardy has a lengthy criminal record. (WJHG-TV 3/23/2011; Cruz 3/24/2011; Mandall 3/28/2011) On March 24, Fox News reporter Todd Starnes posts a somewhat different interpretation of the incident: he links to a local news report and writes a Twitter post that reads, “Blacks riot at Burger King.” Fox Nation, the online blog for Fox News viewers, then posts the video and a brief synopsis of the story, focusing on Hardy’s “bikini-clad” state but omitting references to her race. Progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters calls Starnes’s take on the incident “racist.” After Media Matters publishes its article, Starnes deletes the post. Starnes’s profile identifies him as “a contributor on FOX & Friends, Hannity, and FOX Nation.” (Hananoki 3/24/2011; Fox News 3/24/2011)

On his Fox News show, host Sean Hannity says that while he believes President Obama was indeed born in the US (see July 2008, October 30, 2008, July 28, 2009, and July 29, 2009), he asks why Obama has never released his birth certificate. The Obama campaign released the “short form” certificate in 2008, the version routinely issued by Hawaii’s Department of Health (see June 13, 2008), and since then the certificate has been repeatedly shown to be valid (see June 27, 2008, August 21, 2008, and July 28, 2009). Hannity is apparently referring to the “long form” certificate, which is kept on file and never released (see July 1, 2009). Hannity shows a clip from billionaire Donald Trump’s same-day visit to the ABC morning talk show The View, where Trump alleged that “there’s something on that birth certificate that he doesn’t” want made public. Several of Hannity’s guests agree that Obama “should just show it” assuming he has “nothing to hide.… It would shut everybody up and no one would care.” Hannity asks: “[I]t kinda does get a little odd here. Can’t they just produce it and we move on?” Representative Michael Burgess (R-TX) says: “Obviously there’s some value to the White House not producing it. I don’t know what that could be. This easily could have been ended. It could have been ended a couple of years ago.” (Media Matters 3/23/2011; Media Matters 3/28/2011)

Conservative radio host Sean Hannity interviews Joseph Farah, the editor and primary writer for conservative news blog WorldNetDaily (WND). WND has been at the forefront of the “birther” movement against President Obama (see December 5, 2008, May 28, 2009, August 1-4, 2009, and January 18, 2011). Hannity says that it is unfair for “birthers” such as Farah to have “been beaten up so badly in the press” for pursuing the issue, and goes on to add that birthers have been “crucified and beaten up and smeared and besmirched.” Farah blames Obama and his administration for the controversy, and praises billionaire Donald Trump (see (see February 10, 2011, March 23, 2011, and March 23, 2011) for bringing the controversy to the forefront once again. He tells Hannity, “I think it’s very appropriate for Americans to begin to question if there’s a reason that Obama will not produce this simple document that, you know, we all have to produce at various points in our lives, and when the governor of Hawaii, who claims to be a lifelong friend of Obama, cannot find this document, cannot produce it, it’s natural that this becomes an increasingly big issue, an issue that I think touches on both national security.” Obama has indeed produced an authenticated copy of his birth certificate (see June 13, 2008). Farah’s reference to Governor Neil Abercrombie’s inability to “find” the original birth certificate, first proposed on WND, has since been debunked as groundless (see January 18, 2011). Farah promises that WND researcher Jerome Corsi (see August 1, 2008 and After, August 15, 2008, October 8, 2008, October 9, 2008, and January 18, 2011) will have “startling” research on the matter coming soon. (Media Matters 3/24/2011; Media Matters 3/28/2011) Hannity revisits the subject later this evening on his Fox News broadcast. After telling viewers that the controversy exists in part because of Obama’s fond memories of spending some of his childhood in Indonesia, Hannity tells the White House to just “show the birth certificate.… Why won’t they release the birth certificate?… Why don’t they just release it and get it over with?” (Media Matters 3/24/2011; Media Matters 3/28/2011) Hannity has brought the subject up in previous broadcasts (see March 23, 2011).

Law professor Richard Hasen writes that an Arizona case before the Supreme Court may add to the abilities of wealthy individual and corporate donors to influence elections. In the case of McComish v. Bennett, Arizona’s public campaign financing laws are being challenged. Public financing of campaigns (i.e. using tax dollars for campaigns) is entirely voluntary, but candidates who do opt into the system may not accept outside donations. Privately funded candidates face no such restrictions, but receive no public campaign funding. If a privately funded candidate spends significantly more on the campaign than his/her publicly funded opponent, Arizona’s law has a so-called “trigger” provision that provides matching funds, to a point, to make the spending somewhat more equitable. The case before the Court was brought on behalf of wealthy private donors, and is based on the complaint that the matching funds provision is a violation of their clients’ freedom of speech. Hasen predicts that the Court, with its conservative majority and its ruling in the Citizens United case (see January 21, 2010), will rule in favor of the wealthy plaintiffs and strike down some or all of the Arizona law. Arizona imposes no limits on the spending of outside groups, Hasen argues, and if the matching funds provision is triggered, he asks, “What’s the worst thing that can happen if a wealthy candidate spends gobs of cash running against a candidate who has opted into the public financing system?” He answers, “The publicly financed candidate gets more government dollars to campaign, and the voters hear more speech.” Hasen notes that several conservative legal experts have found that the “free speech” argument is specious. Conservative Ninth Circuit Judge Andrew Kleinfeld wrote against the argument in a previous ruling in the case, observing that in his view “there is no First Amendment right to make one’s opponent speak less, nor is there a First Amendment right to prohibit the government from subsidizing one’s opponent, especially when the same subsidy is available to the challenger if the challenger accepts the same terms as his opponent.” And Charles Fried, the solicitor general during the Reagan administration, filed an amicus brief in the case arguing that it is the wealthy candidates and interest groups who “in reality are seeking to restrict speech.” Hasen believes that the conservative majority will rule in favor of restricting the “speech” of publicly funded candidates in Arizona (and by extension in other states) because, as it ruled in a 2008 case, such financing laws were “an impermissible attempt to level the playing field between wealthy and non-wealthy candidates.” Hasen is blunt in his conclusion, stating, “Five conservative […] justices on the Supreme Court appear to have no problem with the wealthy using their resources to win elections—even if doing so raises the danger of increased corruption of the political system.” (Hasen 3/25/2011) Hasen is correct: the Court will rule 5-4 in the case, which will be renamed Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom PAC v. Bennett, that the matching funds provision is unconstitutional (see June 27, 2011).

WorldNetDaily (WND), the conservative news blog that relentlessly promotes the “birther” claims that President Obama is not a legitimate US citizen (see July 20, 2008, August 15, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, October 16, 2008 and After, November 10, 2008, December 3, 2008, August 1-4, 2009, May 7, 2010, Shortly Before June 28, 2010, Around June 28, 2010, March 23, 2011, and March 24, 2011), begins promoting a book by one of its senior authors, Jerome Corsi, titled Where’s the Birth Certificate? The Case that Barack Obama is Not Eligible to Be President. The book is slated to be published in May 2011. Corsi has long accused Obama of a number of crimes and frauds, almost all of which have been disproven and debunked (see August 1, 2008 and After, August 15, 2008, October 8, 2008, October 9, 2008, and January 18, 2011). WND promotes the book as “[t]he result of more than two years of solid investigative research by Corsi and a team of WND reporters and editors,” and predicts it will become “a huge bestseller [that will] change the dynamics of the debate over eligibility—IF, of course, the book is not spiked by the hostile establishment media.” WND uses the promotional campaign to raise funds both for book promotion and for WND in general (the book is published by “WND Books”). Publisher Joseph Farah writes that WND readers need to help the organization “raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to air [promotional television] commercials on television networks and stations throughout the country.” The first commercial is hosted on WND’s Web site. “We need to make this the biggest publishing event of the year,” Farah says. (WorldNetDaily 3/27/2011) The day after WND issues its press release/report, Fox Nation, the online blog of Fox News, publishes a front-page story on the book’s promotional campaign, repeating some of the WND copy and linking to the story at WND. (Fox Nation 3/28/2011)

Appearing as a guest on the Fox News morning talk show Fox and Friends, billionaire Donald Trump continues to raise questions about President Obama’s citizenship. The show hosts reference a recent interview by Trump on the ABC morning talk show The View, in which Trump alleged that “there’s something on that birth certificate that he doesn’t” want made public. After showing a clip from the interview, the hosts interview Trump about his appearance on The View. He denies View co-host Whoopi Goldberg’s statement that the continuing questions about Obama’s citizenship hinge on questions about his race, states that “anyone can get” their official birth certificate merely for the asking (see June 13, 2008 and July 1, 2009), and concludes: “I didn’t think this was such a big deal, but it’s turning out to be a very big deal.… If you weren’t born in this country, you cannot be president” (see March 2-4, 2011). Trump refuses to answer a direct question as to whether Obama was born in the United States, makes a number of unproven claims about doctors and nurses at the Honolulu hospital not remembering Obama’s birth, claims that Obama family members do not know what hospital he was born at, and casts aspersions on the birth announcements published in the Honolulu newspapers in the days after his birth (see July 2008). He repeats the claim that Obama has spent “millions of dollars” defending himself from “birther” claims, a claim that will soon be debunked (see April 7-10, 2011). He even says that Hawaiian Governor Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) “should be investigated” for claiming that he remembers Obama’s birth (see December 24, 2010). Obama “could have been born outside of this country,” Trump states. (Media Matters 3/28/2011; Johnson 3/28/2011)

An illustration accompanying a front-page story on the online Fox Nation blog.An illustration accompanying a front-page story on the online Fox Nation blog. [Source: Media Matters]Fox Nation, the online blog of Fox News, promotes Donald Trump’s recent claims that President Obama is not a US citizen and may not be a Christian (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, and March 28-29, 2011). Fox Nation publishes a story with the headline “Trump on Obama: ‘Maybe He’s a Muslim.’” The story excerpts a recent interview of Trump by Fox News talk show host Bill O’Reilly, who said Trump “hammer[ed] the birth certificate” during a recent appearance on the ABC morning talk show The View. O’Reilly says his own investigative staffers determined that two birth announcements placed in Honolulu newspapers the week of Obama’s birth proved to his satisfaction that Obama was indeed born in the US and therefore is a US citizen (see July 2008). “There couldn’t have been a sophisticated—what is he, Baby Jesus?—there was a sophisticated conspiracy to smuggle this baby back into the country? So I just dismissed it. But you made a big deal of it.” Trump explains that those announcements could have been planted by Obama supporters bent on fraud, and even claims, “I have never seen” a birth announcement in a newspaper. “Really?” O’Reilly responds. “They are common.… But why is this important to you?” Trump says that because he doubts Obama is a citizen, Obama’s status as president is doubtful. He goes on to defend “birthers” as “just really quality people that just want the truth,” and lambasts media figures who make “birthers” “afraid to talk about this subject. They are afraid to confront you or anybody about this subject.” He concludes: “People have birth certificates. He doesn’t have a birth certificate (see June 13, 2008). He may have one but there’s something on that, maybe religion, maybe it says he is a Muslim. I don’t know. Maybe he doesn’t want that. Or he may not have one. But I will tell you this. If he wasn’t born in this country, it’s one of the great scams of all time.” (Media Matters 3/30/2011; Fox Nation 3/30/2011) O’Reilly has been critical of the so-called “birthers” before (see July 29, 2009).

Leonard Pitts Jr.Leonard Pitts Jr. [Source: SourceMedia (.net)]Leonard Pitts Jr., an African-American columnist for the Miami Herald, writes that the ongoing “birther” conspiracy theory surrounding President Obama’s citizenship, recently re-energized by billionaire Donald Trump (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, and April 1, 2011), is, at its core, driven by racial prejudice. “[I]t is time to call this birther nonsense what it is,” he writes, “not just claptrap, but profoundly racist claptrap.” Pitts goes on: “And spare me the e-mails where you soliloquize like Hamlet, the back of your hand pressed to your forehead, eyes turned heavenward, as you moan how it is impossible to criticize this president without being accused of racism. Criticize him to your heart’s content. Give him hell over Libya. Blast him about Guantanamo. Knock him silly on health care reform. He is the president; taking abuse is part of his job description. But this ongoing birther garbage, like the ongoing controversy about his supposed secret Muslim identity (see October 1, 2007, December 19, 2007, Before October 27, 2008, January 11, 2008, Around March 19, 2008, and April 18, 2008), is not about criticism. It is not about what he has done but, rather, what he is.” The “Muslim” and “birther” controversies are “dog whistle” issues, he writes, that “provide euphemistic cover for those who want to express alarm over the raw newness of him, the sweeping demographic changes he represents… without appearing uncouth enough to do so.” He concludes: “Frankly, I wish Trump and his fellow birthers would just go ahead and call Obama an N-word. Yes, it would be reprehensible and offensive. But it would be a damn sight more honest, too.” (Pitts 4/1/2011)

Fox News host Sean Hannity, discussing the recent spate of doubts voiced by billionaire Donald Trump regarding President Obama’s US citizenship (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, and April 1-8, 2011), says that while he believes Obama was indeed born in the US, and the evidence proving this is “compelling” (see June 27, 2008, July 2008, August 21, 2008, October 30, 2008, July 1, 2009, and July 28, 2009), it is, however, “odd to me, you know, show the stupid birth certificate and move on.” Obama released an official copy of his Hawaiian birth certificate in 2008 (see June 13, 2008), but Hannity, like some others, considers that certificate inadequate. Fox News contributor Jonathan Morris says he believes Trump is playing to the relatively large percentage of “birthers” among New Hampshire Republicans. If Trump indeed wishes to run for president in 2012, as is rumored, then he would need to do well in New Hampshire’s Republican primary. (Media Matters 4/5/2011) Hannity has brought the same subject up in previous broadcasts (see March 23, 2011 and March 24, 2011).

Donald Trump and Meredith Vieira on NBC’s ‘Today Show.’Donald Trump and Meredith Vieira on NBC’s ‘Today Show.’ [Source: Slapblog (.com)]Billionaire Donald Trump, the host of NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice, reportedly considers running for president in 2012 as a Republican. Trump has made similar claims in 1988 and 2000, but those were, according to Media Bistro, “just publicity stunts.” Trump is focusing on the “birther” controversy, claims from some on the right that President Obama is not a naturally-born American citizen. Though Obama has produced his birth certificate (see June 13, 2008) and satisfied constitutional requirements for proving his eligibility to serve as president, Trump and many “birthers” insist that he is actually a Kenyan citizen (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, and April 1-8, 2011). Today, Trump takes part in contentious interviews on NBC’s Today Show, with Today co-host Meredith Vieira interviewing him; on MSNBC’s Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough; and an appearance later in the day on CNN. (On Morning Joe, former Governor Ed Rendell (D-PA) tells Trump, “Get off the birther stuff.”) Time magazine media critic James Poniewozik calls the Today interview “a trifecta of self-promotion for NBC Universal. It gave a platform to the star of Celebrity Apprentice, one of NBC’s few minor hits. It gave Today a buzzed-about interview… [a]nd it helped publicize an new NBC / Wall Street Journal poll that shows Trump tied for second as a hypothetical GOP presidential candidate.” Trump tells Vieira: “Three weeks ago when I started, I thought he was probably born in this country. Right now, I have some real doubts.… I have people that actually have been studying it and they cannot believe what they’re finding.” Trump is combative with the somewhat acquiescent Vieira, saying he is increasingly suspicious that Obama has “conned the world” about his citizenship. Trump refuses to let Vieira refute his allegations; for example, when Vieira attempts to tell Trump about Hawaii’s policy on what birth documents it makes available (see July 1, 2009), Trump merely talks loudly over her. She lets him go unchallenged with a number of long-debunked assertions. For example, Trump asserts that Obama’s grandmother claimed to have seen Obama born in Kenya (see October 16, 2008 and After), saying: “His grandmother in Kenya said, ‘Oh no, he was born in Kenya and I was there and I witnessed the birth.’ Now, she’s on tape and I think that tape’s going to be produced fairly soon.… The grandmother in Kenya is on record saying he was born in Kenya.” Poniewozik says that claim is on a par with a recent fraudulent “birth certificate” from Kenya made available on the Internet (see August 1-4, 2009); so, Poniewozik writes, “now millions of Today viewers are invited to take it as fact.” Trump also claims to have sent his own investigators to Hawaii, who have supposedly unearthed startling evidence of Obama’s Kenyan citizenship (see April 7, 2011), but does not give any specifics. Poniewozik concludes that NBC News anchor Brian Williams is likely “mortified” by Trump’s NBC appearance, considering how Williams and NBC News have “thoroughly worked over the birther conspiracies” and found them groundless. (NBC News 4/7/2011; Weprin 4/7/2011; Poniewozik 4/7/2011; St. Petersburg Times 4/7/2011) Trump’s claim that Obama has spent “over $2 million” defending himself from challenges to his citizenship is quickly shown to be false (see April 7-10, 2011).

Donald Trump, the billionaire entrepeneur and television show host who, it is rumored, may run for the Republican nomination for president in 2012, tells CNN’s Candy Crowley that he does not “like to talk about” the “birther” issue “too much.” Trump has relentlessly attacked President Obama’s citizenship—the central tenet of the “birther” issue—in recent weeks (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, and April 7, 2011). The media watchdog blog Mediaite credits Crowley with a game attempt to “challenge Trump’s tenuous grasp of the facts surrounding President Obama’s birth, but like most conspiracy theorists, there’s no evidence too strong to ignore or too weak to believe, as long as it supports your delusion.” Trump “simply ignore[s]” the facts Crowley presents, Mediaite reports. (Christopher 4/10/2011)

Dr. Chiyome Fukino, the former director of Hawaii’s Department of Health who has personally reviewed President Obama’s original birth certificate and pronounced it valid (see October 30, 2008 and July 28, 2009), calls the “birther” controversy “ludicrous.” She again pronounces the certificate valid, and denounces “conspiracy theorists” in the so-called “birther” movement for continuing to spread bogus claims about the issue (see July 20, 2008, August 15, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, October 16, 2008 and After, November 10, 2008, December 3, 2008, August 1-4, 2009, May 7, 2010, Shortly Before June 28, 2010, Around June 28, 2010, March 23, 2011, March 24, 2011, March 27-28, 2011, March 28, 2011, and April 5, 2011). “It’s kind of ludicrous at this point,” she tells an NBC interviewer. Fukino speaks in response to recent attempts by billionaire television host Donald Trump to revive the controversy surrounding Obama’s birth certificate and citizenship (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, and April 21, 2011). Trump has made statements on NBC and CNN saying that “nobody has any information” about Obama’s birth and “if he wasn’t born in this country, he shouldn’t be president of the United States.” Fukino says no matter who releases what, the “birthers” will continue to question Obama’s citizenship. “They’re going to question the ink on which it was written or say it was fabricated. The whole thing is silly.” Fukino again explains the difference between the “long form” birth certificate, the Hawaiian “record of live birth” kept in state government vaults according to state law, and the “short form” certificate which is issued per an individual’s or family request (see July 1, 2009). She has twice inspected the “long form” certificate and found it true and valid, once at the request of former Governor Linda Lingle (R-HI), who in October 2008 asked Fukino if she could make a public statement in response to claims then circulating on the Internet that Obama was actually born in Kenya (see October 30, 2008). Fukino insisted on inspecting the form herself, in the company of the Hawaiian official in charge of state records, found the form valid, and stated such. “It is real, and no amount of saying it is not, is going to change that,” Fukino says. She notes that her then-boss, Lingle, was a supporter of Obama’s challenger, John McCain (R-AZ), and would presumably have to be in on any cover up since Fukino made her public comment at the governor’s office’s request. “Why would a Republican governor—who was stumping for the other guy—hold out on a big secret?” she asks. She notes again that the “short form” “certification of live birth” that was obtained by the Obama campaign in 2007 and has since been publicly released (see June 13, 2008) is the standard document that anybody requesting their birth certificate from the state of Hawaii would receive from the Health Department. The “short form” was given to the Obama campaign at Obama’s request. “What he got, everybody got,” Fukino says. “He put out exactly what everybody gets when they ask for a birth certificate.” Other records, such as vital records in the Health Department’s Office of Health Status Monitoring, show that “Obama II, Barack Hussein” was born on August 4, 1961 in Honolulu, further verifying Obama’s citizenship status. And two Honolulu newspapers announced the birth of a baby boy to Obama’s parents on that date (see July 2008). But Trump and others continue to insist that only the original “long form” record will prove Obama’s birth status. Joshua Wisch, a spokesman for the Hawaii attorney general’s office, says that Hawaiian state law precludes the release of “vital records” such as the “long form” birth certificate to anyone, even to the individual whose birth it records. “It’s a Department of Health record and it can’t be released to anybody,” he says, nor can it be photocopied. Obama could visit the Health Department and inspect it, but could not take it or make copies. Obama requested and received the same “short form” birth certificate anyone would get upon making such a request, Wisch says. (MSNBC 4/11/2011)

Arizona House Bill 2177, a bill requiring presidential candidates to prove they are natural-born citizens before being listed on Arizona state ballots, passes the Arizona State Senate, on a 20-8 party-line vote. The bill then passes the House on another party-line vote, 40-16. House Republican Carl Seel (R-AZ), who co-sponsored the bill, says the intent of the legislation is to “maintain the integrity of the Constitution.” A candidate wishing to run for president in Arizona would, under the legislation, have to submit a “long form birth certificate” that includes at least their date and place of birth, the names of the hospital and doctor, and, if applicable, signatures of any witnesses in attendance. Candidates who do not have such a document could submit other documents in its stead. The original bill required the long-form certificate to be presented, but after some tension between Republican state lawmakers, the long-form certificate was made optional, and other documents were inserted as certifying natural birth—including for Jewish citizens a circumcision certificate, a document given to Jewish parents after their male child is ceremonially circumsized. Such certificates are religious and not legal documents, but the bill would allow such a document to be used to prove citizenship. Other “acceptable” documents include hospital birth records, a postpartum medical record, or an early census record. Critics of the bill say it is driven by the “birther” controversy over whether President Obama is actually a US citizen (see June 27, 2008, July 20, 2008, and August 21, 2008). Billionaire Donald Trump, who says he may run for president as a Republican in 2012, has made frequent calls for Obama to reveal his birth certificate. Obama’s birth certificate has long been made publically available (see June 13, 2008), but “birthers” have consistently refused to accept its validity. State Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) voted against the bill and says it would have no standing in federal or state law even if signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer (R-AZ). “This is designed specifically to challenge [Obama’s] ability to run for re-election,” she says. “Frankly, I think they’d be better served by just surfacing a good candidate to run against him.” Critics note that such requirements as stated in the bill already exist under federal law, and Obama, as every presidential candidate has before him, submitted such documents during his filing to run for the White House. (Elliot 4/15/2008; State of Arizona House of Representatives 2011; Delikat 4/13/2011; King 4/13/2011; Sunnucks 4/13/2011) Many credit Trump with energizing the Republican legislators’ push to pass the bill. Trump recently met with Seel concerning the bill and his considered run for the presidency (see April 7, 2011). (Sunnucks 4/13/2011) The Senate version of the bill included wording that some lawmakers said defined natural-born citizens as children whose parents were citizens at the time of the candidate’s birth, which would possibly conflict with constitutional statute. That wording was eliminated from the House version. (Rau 3/23/2011) When the bill reaches Brewer’s desk four days later, she vetoes it (see April 19, 2011).

Glenn Beck, a Fox News talk show host who also hosts a syndicated radio show, tells radio listeners that he wishes the “birthers” would stop with the conspiracy theories. “Birthers” believe President Obama is not really a US citizen, despite all the evidence to the contrary (see June 13, 2008, August 21, 2008, and October 30, 2008). Referring to his co-hosts, Beck says, “This is why Stu [Burguiere] hates, and I hate, and Pat [Gray] hates the birther thing.” Republicans who continue to flog the “birther” conspiracy theory, Beck says, are missing out on a real opportunity to “show real differences between the right and the left” in the upcoming presidential election. Beck tells his listeners: “If you’re going to lose your country—we’re going to lose it on a birth certificate? You have a real opportunity to talk about American exceptionalism and what made us exceptional. You have a real opportunity to talk about taxes and spending. Instead, you’re gonna waste time on the birth certificate? I understand. I personally think he’s a citizen. I think he was born here. I don’t think he was a Manchurian Candidate from birth. But, if you want to, great. You’re out of your mind if you think that is a winning argument for the next election.… Stop with the damn birth certificate! Stop!” (Bershad 4/14/2011; Seidl 4/14/2011)

The altered photograph sent out by California ‘tea party’ activist Marilyn Davenport. She claims the depiction is not racist.The altered photograph sent out by California ‘tea party’ activist Marilyn Davenport. She claims the depiction is not racist. [Source: Orange County Weekly]Marilyn Davenport, a member of the Orange County (California) Republican Party (OCGOP) and a prominent tea party activist, sends an email to “a few friends” depicting President Obama as a half-ape “child” sitting on the laps of chimpanzee parents. The photograph is headed by the words, “Now you know why no birth certificate” (see June 13, 2008). Davenport attempts to laugh off the email as a joke, telling a reporter: “Oh, come on! Everybody who knows me knows that I am not a racist. It was a joke. I have friends who are black. Besides, I only sent it to a few people—mostly people I didn’t think would be upset by it.” Other local Republicans are less amused. One of her fellow OCGOP members, who refuses to be identified, says: “It’s unbelievable. It’s much more racist than the watermelon email. I can’t believe it was sent out. I’m not an Obama fan but how stupid do you have to be to do this?” The member is referring to a February 2009 email sent out by another Orange County Republican, then-Los Alamitos Mayor Dean Grose, who emailed a picture of a watermelon patch in front of the White House and then denied the picture was racist (see February 24-26, 2009). Another Republican official who also refuses to be identified says that Davenport is “a really, really sweet old lady so I am surprised to hear about this.” In a telephone conversation, OCGOP chairman Scott Baugh tells Davenport the email is tasteless. When contacted by a reporter from the Orange County Weekly, Davenport asks: “You’re not going to make a big deal about this are you? It’s just an Internet joke.” Baugh tells a reporter that it is indeed a big deal. “When I saw that email today I thought it was despicable,” he says. “It is dripping with racism and it does not promote the type of message Orange County Republicans want to deliver to the public. I think she should consider stepping down as an elected official.” Michael J. Schroeder, an Orange County resident and former California Republican Party chairman, calls the email disgusting. “This is a three strikes situation for Marilyn Davenport,” Schroeder says. Schroeder cites Davenport’s impassioned defense of a former Newport Beach city councilman who made explicitly racist slurs against “Mexicans,” and her defense of Grose and the watermelon picture. “Now, she has managed to top both of those incidents by comparing African-Americans to monkeys. She has disgraced herself and needs to resign. If she doesn’t, the Republican Party must remove her.” Davenport responds by sending an angry email to fellow California conservative activists demanding to know the identity of “the coward” who supplied a copy of her email to the press. She refuses to speak to at least two reporters, blaming the “liberal media” for the controversy. She later sends another email to fellow Orange County Republican elected officials, apologizing if anyone was offended and again blaming the “liberal media” for reporting the story. She writes: “I’m sorry if my email offended anyone. I simply found it amusing regarding the character of Obama and all the questions surrounding his origin of birth. In no way did I even consider the fact he’s half black when I sent out the email. In fact, the thought never entered my mind until one or two other people tried to make this about race. We all know a double standard applies regarding this president. I received plenty of emails about George Bush that I didn’t particularly like yet there was no ‘cry’ in the media about them. One only has to go to Youtube or Google Images to see a plethora of lampooning videos and pictures of Obama, Bush, and other politicians. That being said, I will NOT resign my central committee position over this matter that the average person knows and agrees is much to do about nothing. Again, for those select few who might be truly offended by viewing a copy of an email I sent to a select list of friends and acquaintances, unlike the liberal left when they do the same, I offer my sincere apologies to you—the email was not meant for you. For any of my friends or acquaintances who were the recipients of my email and were truly offended, please call me so I may offer a sincere verbal apology to you.” Orange County Republican activist Tim Whitacre defends Davenport, telling a reporter: “Marilyn Davenport is a staunch, ethical Republican lady. There is nothing unethical about this from a party standpoint because it wasn’t sent out to the party at large with any racist statements and it wasn’t signed as a central committee member. As a private individual, she is just real big on birther stuff. One of her passions that drives her is the president’s lack of forthrightness about where he was born. Marilyn believes that nobody knows where he was born and so this picture says a thousand words. She is not a perfect lady, but she is no racist. She is a gentle person who would feed you, help you, be there for you if you were in trouble. She is known as a pleasant, loving person and it kills me that she is being attacked by this non-story knowing her mindset.” (Moxley 4/15/2011; KCAL-TV 4/15/2011; CBS Los Angeles 4/15/2011) Baugh says that he wants an ethics investigation into Davenport’s actions. (Associated Press 4/15/2011) Conservative blogger Charles Johnson calls Davenport’s message “a vicious racist email about the first African-American president,” and writes, “This latest sickening example makes the connection between birtherism and old-school racism utterly explicit.” (Charles Johnson 4/15/2011)

White nationalist lawyer and A3P leader William Johnson at San Juan Capistrano tea party rally.White nationalist lawyer and A3P leader William Johnson at San Juan Capistrano tea party rally. [Source: Media Matters]A coalition of local tea party and white supremacist organizations hold a joint rally in San Juan Capistrano, California. The rally is scheduled to coincide with over 100 other tea party rallies around the country scheduled for the same day. This rally is organized by an organization called American Third Position (A3P), a white nationalist political party founded by racist white “skinheads” (see October 15, 2009 and After), and promoted on the website of TeaParty.org, also called the 1776 Tea Party, a large and well-established tea party umbrella group. At the rally, white nationalist lawyer William Johnson, an A3P founder, complains of the media attention he had drawn with his recent failed attempt to land a judgeship in California. “Ron Paul endorsed me for Superior Court judge, and I was on my way,” Johnson tells the crowd. “No sooner than I’d put my hat in the ring than… it came out that Johnson is a white nationalist, that Johnson wants to create a separate white ethno-state, that Johnson supports the 14 words of David Lane [a member of the defunct violent white power group The Order who died serving a jail term for murdering a Jewish radio host—see June 18, 1984 and After and May 1992], that ‘We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children,’ and the media went wild with all of that, and Ron Paul withdrew his endorsement of me… because he did not believe in a separate white ethno-state and he didn’t know that I did.” Johnson is followed by Holocaust denier Mark Weber of the Institute for Historical Review, who avoids overt anti-Semitism in his remarks. David Holthouse of the progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters will write, “Although it would be unfair to characterize the tea party movement on the whole as white nationalist, it’s clear that large gatherings of angry, conservative, predominately white Americans are viewed with relish by groups like A3P.” A3P Pennsylvania chairman Steve Smith says after the rally: “The tea parties are fertile ground for our activists. Tea party supporters and the A3P share much common ground with regard to our political agendas.” Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler will tell Holthouse that white supremacist groups such as A3P are not welcome at his organization’s events, but the organization can do little to stop their involvement, saying, “As a national umbrella organization with over 3,500 chapters, we obviously don’t have folks from the national organization at every rally to monitor literature distribution.” Meckler will say he knew nothing of A3P’s involvement in the April 16 rally or others it took part in until Holthouse contacted him, and will say: “We would absolutely ban any white nationalist group from our organization if we found them to be trying to get involved. We have a 100 percent zero tolerance policy towards this type of group. This type of activity has no place in the legitimate tea party movement. They [A3P] are hiding behind a tea party banner. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. We’ll be on the lookout.” Holthouse notes that tea party organizations have been sensitive to accusations of racism in their ranks since July 2010, when the NAACP asked tea partiers to “purge” racists from their ranks. The NAACP’s request was met with scorn and opprobrium from tea party members, and A3P has continued to take part in tea party rallies since that time, apparently without opposition (see October 10, 2010). At the April 16 rally, the A3P table is next to a table hosted by the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a white supremacist, segregationist organization. (Holthouse 2011; Southern Poverty Law Center 2011)

The press learns that the Obama administration is considering having President Obama (see January 27-29, 2010) issue an executive order that would force federal contractors to disclose donations over $5,000 to political organizations. Such firms seeking government contracts would be required to disclose contributions to groups that air political ads either attacking or supporting candidates. Both Republicans and Democrats say that if issued, the order would have an immediate effect. Groups such as the US Chamber of Commerce (USCOC), a large Republican donor that has made large undisclosed donations to Republican-supporting candidates and organizations (see January 21-22, 2010 and October 2010), attacks the White House over the considered executive order, saying it proves Obama is using his executive power to punish political adversaries and reward supporters. USCOC spokesperson Blair Latoff calls the proposed order “an affront to the separation of powers [and] to free speech” (see January 21, 2010) that would create a litmus test for companies wanting to work with the federal government. The order, Latoff adds, could mean “prospective contractors that fund political causes unpopular with the government or the current administration may find that they don’t get a contract award due to political discrimination.” Republican senators will raise the same concerns in a letter sent to the White House the next day. Lawyer Jan Baran, who has worked for both the USCOC and Republican interests, acknowledges that the order could curtail fundraising attempts for the 2012 elections. White House officials and Congressional Democrats say the order would prevent the 2012 elections from being taken over by wealthy anonymous donors on both sides of the political aisle. Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21, a nonprofit group that favors stricter campaign finance rules, says, “The fact that Congressional Republicans may oppose disclosure does not mean that efforts to obtain it are, by definition, partisan.” (United Press International 4/20/2011; Hamburger 4/21/2011; Lichtblau 4/27/2011) A week later, Bruce Josten, the top lobbyist for the USCOC, will assail Obama and the White House over the proposed executive order, telling a reporter that the organization “is not going to tolerate” what it considers a “backdoor attempt” by the White House to silence private-sector opponents by disclosing their political spending. Josten will even indirectly compare Obama to Libyan leader Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi; citing the Obama administration’s efforts to hasten the deposing of al-Qadhafi, Josten will say of the order: “We will fight it through all available means. To quote what they say every day on Libya, all options are on the table.” White House spokesman Jay Carney will say in response to Josten’s attack, “What the president is committed to is transparency, and he certainly thinks that the American taxpayer should know where his or her money is going.” Josten is joined by the Business Roundtable, a powerful business association made up of a number of chief executives, which will call the proposed order “yet another example of regulatory over-reach,” and will claim the order would increase paperwork and drive up costs for businesses. (Fang 4/27/2011) Lee Fang, a reporter for the liberal news Web site Think Progress, will write that the executive order could have a powerful impact on the USCOC. “[T]he White House’s disclosure rule threatens the entire existence of the Chamber,” Fang will write. “This is because the Chamber only exists to hide the identity of corporations seeking to fight nasty political battles without having their name or brand exposed. As the Wall Street Journal noted, the Chamber’s ‘most striking innovation has been to offer individual companies and industries the chance to use the chamber as a means of anonymously pursuing their own political ends.’ The Chamber’s members include defense contractors, bailed out banks, and other donors likely to be affected by the government contractor campaign disclosure rule.” Fang will also cite a recent plan by the USCOC to sabotage organizations that support Obama and Democratic candidates by using legally questionable tactics such as false entrapment strategies and even computer hacking (see February 10, 2011). The funding for the scheme was never made public. He also cites recent monies secured by the USCOC from foreign entities that, because of the Citizen United decision, could be flowing into US political activities without disclosure (see October 2010). (Fang 4/27/2011) Republicans in Congress will move to pass legislation that would thwart the order, if it is ever issued (see May 26, 2011 and July 15, 2011).

Chris Van Hollen, in an undated appearance on Fox News.Chris Van Hollen, in an undated appearance on Fox News. [Source: Associated Press / Politico]Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and other prominent Democrats file a lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission (FEC) asking that entity to force the disclosure of political campaign donor information. In 2007, after a Supreme Court ruling (see June 25, 2007), the FEC drastically rewrote its disclosure requirements, creating what Van Hollen calls a “major loophole” that many 501(c)4 entities funded by corporate or labor union donations are using to operate “under a veil of anonymity.” Van Hollen and his colleagues say they want to force wealthy corporations and individuals to disclose who they are and how much they donate to political organizations. Currently, the Citizens United decision (see January 21, 2010) allows such donors to remain anonymous, and the organizations that receive their donations to conceal the amounts they are receiving. Van Hollen cites the 2002 Bipartisan Candidate Reform Act (BCRA—see March 27, 2002) as applying in this instance. In the brief he submits for the lawsuit, Van Hollen writes: “The US Chamber of Commerce, a Section 501(c) corporation, spent $32.9 million in electioneering communications in the 2010 Congressional elections, and disclosed none of its contributors; American Action Network (AAN—see Mid-October 2010), a Section 501(c) corporation, spent $20.4 million in electioneering communications in the 2010 Congressional elections, and disclosed none of its contributors; Americans for Job Security, a Section 501(c) corporation, spent $4.6 million in electioneering communication in the 2010 Congressional elections, and disclosed none of its contributors.” The lawsuit comes almost simultaneously with news that the White House is considering issuing an executive order that would require federal contractors to reveal their donations (see April 20, 2011). Democrats admit that even as they push the lawsuit forward, and President Obama publicly criticizes the practice of secret donations, they, too, are raising undisclosed donations for the various 2012 campaigns. Experts note that in most cases, Democrats’ efforts to raise undisclosed donations are far smaller than efforts by Republicans, and the amounts they are receiving are, so far, much smaller. Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21, who is leading Van Hollen’s legal team, acknowledges that the lawsuit will not alter campaign finance policy before the 2012 elections, though he says it is possible that the lawsuit could receive a favorable decision and force disclosure while appeals are pending.
Similarities to DISCLOSE Act - Both the lawsuit and the executive order are similar to sections of the DISCLOSE Act, a legislative package drafted by Van Hollen and other Congressional Democrats that was blocked by Senate Republicans from coming to a vote (see July 26-27, 2010). USCOC spokesperson Blair Latoff says the lawsuit and the order comprise a “desperate attempt by the White House and House Democrats to resurrect the corpse of the DISCLOSE Act.” (Law professor Steven D. Schwinn will refute Latoff’s accusation, writing that Van Hollen’s lawsuit in no way seeks to force the DISCLOSE Act into law via the courts.) Like the failed legislation, the lawsuit and the proposed executive order would work to curtail the effects of the Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United decision, which allows virtually unlimited and anonymous political spending by corporations and other entities. The lawsuit argues that the concealment of donor identities contradicts both the law and the Court’s ruling, citing the following language in the majority ruling: “With the advent of the Internet, prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable.”
Seeks Change in FEC Regulations - The lawsuit specifically challenges an FEC regulation adopted in 2007 that contravened language in the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (see March 27, 2002) that required disclosure of donations of $1,000 or more if the donations were made for the purpose of furthering “electioneering communications.” Another petition filed by Van Hollen’s group asks the FEC to revise a regulation that “improperly allowed nonprofit groups to keep secret the donors” whose funds were being used to pay for so-called independent expenditures in federal elections. (van Hollen 4/21/2011 pdf file; Hamburger 4/21/2011; Lichtblau 4/21/2011; Steven D. Schwinn 4/25/2011; Fang 4/27/2011)
'Sign of Weakness' - Bradley A. Smith, a former FEC commissioner and the head of the Center for Competitive Politics, a conservative advocacy group, says of the lawsuit: “This is a sign of weakness by a group that’s afraid they’re going to lose, and lose big. Again and again, you see evidence that their real purpose is to try to shut down their political opposition.” Smith and other conservatives say Democrats want to “chill” free speech. (Lichtblau 4/21/2011)
FEC Will Refuse to Consider Accompanying Petition - In December 2011, the FEC will refuse to consider an accompanying petition on a 3-3 vote. (Commission 12/16/2011; Commission 12/16/2011) The vote is along partisan lines, with the three Democrats on the commission voting to consider the petition and the three Republicans voting against. The law prohibits the FEC from having a majority of commissioners from either party. (Israel 1/21/2012)
Judge Will Rule in Favor of Plaintiff - In March 2012, a district judge will rule in favor of Van Hollen in the lawsuit (see March 30, 2012).

The New York Times publishes the results of a recent poll it conducted in conjunction with CBS News. The poll finds a general “lack of passion” among Republican voters for any particular 2012 presidential contender. However, one of the poll’s findings is buried deep in the story: Forty-seven percent of Republican voters believe that President Obama was born in another country (therefore making him not a US citizen and ineligible for the presidency). Twenty-two percent say they do not know where he was born, and 32 percent say he was born in the United States (see June 13, 2008, August 21, 2008, and October 30, 2008). Within hours, the section about Republicans doubting Obama’s birthplace is removed from the online version of the Times article with no explanation. (Rutenberg 4/22/2011; Boehlert 4/22/2011; Amato 4/23/2011)

Appearing on ABC’s Sunday morning talk show This Week, in an interview taped ahead of time but broadcast on Easter morning, Christian evangelist Franklin Graham gives his blessing to billionaire presidential candidate Donald Trump’s rumored presidential aspirations, saying: “When I first saw that he was getting in, I thought, ‘Well, this has got to be a joke.’ But the more you listen to him, the more you say to yourself: ‘You know? Maybe the guy’s right.’” Graham says he agrees with Trump’s allegations that President Obama may not be an American citizen. The Charlotte Observer notes, “There was no discussion of how Graham, a conservative Christian, could support a thrice-married owner of gambling casinos.” Graham has said in recent years that Obama was “born a Muslim” and Islam is a “wicked” religion. On This Week, he questions Obama’s Christianity (see January 6-11, 2008) and refuses to say that Obama’s birth certificate is valid (see June 13, 2008, June 27, 2008, August 21, 2008, and October 30, 2008). “The president… has some issues to deal with here,” he says. “He can solve this whole birth certificate issue pretty quickly (see July 1, 2009). I was born in a hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, and I know that my records are there. You can probably even go and find out what room my mother was in when I was born. I don’t know why he can’t produce that.… It’s an issue that looks like he could answer pretty quickly.” In a subsequent interview for Christianity Today, Graham backs away from his previous claims that Obama is a Muslim, saying: “I do not believe for an instant that Obama is a Muslim. He has said he’s not a Muslim. I take him at his word. People say he’s not born in the United States. I take it on the word that they properly vetted him before they swore him into office. I’m sure somebody had to look at his credentials. I’m not saying the president is a Muslim, never said he’s a Muslim. He says he’s a Christian.… I’ve never said that Obama was born a Muslim.” However, he notes, “All throughout the Muslim world, every person whose father is a Muslim is recognized under Islamic law as a Muslim.” Obama’s father was a nonpracticing Muslim. (Funk 4/25/2011; Bailey 4/26/2011) The Charlotte Observer publishes an op-ed in response to Graham’s claims that accuses him of “spouting… nonsense” about Obama’s birth certificate and “join[ing] Trump in fostering the bizarre and false birther allegations.” (Charlotte Observer 4/26/2011) In 2010, Graham told a CNN reporter that Obama’s “problem” was that he was “born a Muslim” (see August 19, 2010).

Responding to recent comments by evangelist Franklin Graham that questioned President Obama’s US citizenship (see April 24-25, 2011), Fox News anchor Shepard Smith tells his viewers: “Fox News can confirm that the president of the United States is a citizen of the United States. Period.” Smith refers viewers to the validated copy of Obama’s birth certificate that has been available for years (see June 13, 2008) before making the assertion that Fox confirms Obama’s US citizenship. (Media Matters 4/25/2011; MacNicol 4/26/2011)

Michelle Goldberg.Michelle Goldberg. [Source: Guardian]Author and journalist Michelle Goldberg examines the racial prejudice behind Donald Trump’s recent spate of attacks on President Obama’s citizenship and integrity (see February 10, 2011, March 17, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 28, 2011, March 28-29, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 1-8, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7-10, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 7, 2011, April 10, 2011, April 14-15, 2011, and April 21, 2011). Trump has recently alleged that Obama was a “terrible student” in college who would not have made it into Ivy League universities such as Columbia and Harvard without some sort of racial bias (see April 26, 2011). Goldberg says Trump is mining the “fever swamps” of the far-right conspiratists for his allegations. Goldberg tracks claims about Obama’s educational history back to a 2008 editorial in the Wall Street Journal that challenged Obama to release his college transcripts to prove that he was not a “mediocre student who benefited from racial preference” (see September 11, 2008). The Journal overlooked the fact that Obama made the Harvard Law Review and graduated with honors from that university’s law school. In recent years, “birther” lawyer Orly Taitz, who has introduced forgeries of Kenyan “birth certificates” into evidence in court as “proof” that Obama is not a US citizen (see August 1-4, 2009), has issued a number of allegations about Obama’s college years. Currently she claims he must have been a foreign exchange student in order to get into Columbia University, saying: “That might be one of the reasons why his records are not unsealed. If his records show he got into Columbia University as a foreign exchange student, then we have a serious issue with his citizenship.” She also disputes Columbia’s records of Obama’s graduation from that university, saying that Obama left school after nine months, and offers as proof a document from the National Student Clearinghouse that lists Obama’s dates of attendance as September 1982 to May 1983. However, Kathleen Dugan of the National Student Clearinghouse says Taitz’s search inputs were incorrect, and thusly yielded incorrect data. Taitz also continues to promote the debunked theory that Obama’s 1983 visit to Pakistan proves he is not a citizen (see Around June 28, 2010), and speculates that he visited Pakistan, not for a month or so, “but a year and a half.” Taitz ties the disparate threads of her conspiracy—Obama the poor student benefiting from racial bias, Obama the foreign national, Obama the closet Muslim—into a single theory: she claims that Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal engineered Obama’s acceptance into Harvard Law School, paid his way through school, and worked behind the scenes to get Obama the position of editor of the Law Review. The Saudi prince was introduced to Obama by African-American Muslim radical activist Khalid Al-Mansour, Taitz says (see July 21, 2009). She confirms that she has been in contact with Trump and has forwarded all of her information to him. Goldberg writes: “It’s easy enough to see why this particular narrative has endured. Not only does it position the president as a Muslim Manchurian candidate with longtime ties to agents of the caliphate, but it also assures resentful whites that this seemingly brilliant black man isn’t so smart after all. In that sense, it’s of a piece with the right-wing obsession with Obama’s use of a teleprompter, and with the widespread suspicion that he didn’t really write the eloquent Dreams From My Father, a claim Trump recently made at a Tea Party rally. Obama, in this view, is both sinister and stupid, canny enough to perpetrate one of the biggest frauds in American history but still the ultimate affirmative-action baby. Trump is clearly not as intelligent as Obama, but he’s not an idiot, either. When he blows this particular dog whistle, he knows exactly what the Republican base is hearing.” (Goldberg 4/26/2011)

The Tennessee State Legislature approves a bill, SB1915, that allows for direct corporate donations to political candidates. The bill also raises the amount that can be given by contributors by around 40 percent. Corporations will be treated as political action committees (PACs—see 1944 and February 7, 1972). The original bill was sponsored by Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Jamie Woodson (R-Knoxville) and passed by a party-line vote, with Republicans voting for passage and Democrats against. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner objected to the bill, saying that foreign-based corporations could also contribute under it; House sponsor Glen Casada (R-College Grove) responds by saying that such corporations would have to have a presence in Tennessee to make such contributions. Turner says after the bill passes: “It’s going to be like an arms race with Democrats and Republicans trying to compete for this corporate cash. I just think it’s wrong. I think it’s un-American. Tennessee will rue the day we’ve done this.” For his part, Casada says the bill will lessen candidate dependence on PACs and provide more money to “educate voters.” He adds, “More money is more free speech.” Woodson says the law follows directly from the controversial Citizens United decision by the US Supreme Court (see January 21, 2010), which allows corporations and labor unions to spend unrestricted amounts of money in support of, or opposition to, federal candidates. Republicans lauded the decision by saying it promoted free speech (see January 21, 2010). The Tennessee State Legislature approved a law similar to the Citizens United decision in 2010. The new bill authorizes corporations to give directly to candidates and political parties. Tennessee has long banned such corporate contributions. (Woods 4/26/2011; Humphrey 4/27/2011) Governor Bill Haslam (R-TN) will sign the law into effect. Republicans claim the law will “equalize” contributions, and remove the “advantage” in donations from labor unions enjoyed by Democrats. “This basically would just level the playing field, because unions are allowed to do this by statute now,” says Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro). However, in October 2010, reporter Tom Humphrey showed that corporate and PAC donations favored Republicans by as much as a 3-1 margin, an advantage not overcome by union contributions. (Humphrey 10/29/2010; Woods 4/26/2011)

Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham tells her listeners that President Obama’s decision to present his “long form” birth certificate as proof of his US citizenship (see April 27, 2011) proves his 2012 re-election campaign will hinge on race. After playing a montage of audio clips from commentators accusing Obama of racism, or saying that his campaign will focus on race, she tells her audience: “It’s official. The Obama campaign is going to run on race. No? They might not say that, but let there be no misunderstanding of where this is going. This is going right to the heart of liberalism. Liberals see people, not as individuals who are capable of anything if given the opportunity, and freed up and loosened from the bonds of government regulation and bureaucratic restraints. No. They see people as a certain color, or a certain gender, or a certain sexual orientation. They have to be put in these boxes. The favorites boxes of the bean counters. Liberals have always looked at people that way. The truth about race, and this president, is not a pretty truth.… The truth about this administration and race goes right to the core of what liberalism has done to the black family, to minorities in general. The great diversion of liberalists has always been to drop the charges of racism, the spurious and the negative and the perjorative charges of racism [against conservatives], every time they are proven to be incorrect and the way they approach a problem” (see September 4, 1949, and After, March 12, 1956 and After, 1969-1971, 1978-1996, 1980, 1981, March 15, 1982, 1983, June-September 1988, 1990, September 1995, August 16, 1998, March 1-2, 2001, August 29, 2001, March 15, 2002, July 15, 2002, August 2002, September 26, 2002 and After, August 5, 2003, September 28 - October 2, 2003, May 17, 2004, May 18, 2004, October 9-13, 2004, November 15, 2004, November 26, 2004, December 5-8, 2004, December 8, 2004, May 10, 2005, September 28-October 1, 2005, September 30 - October 1, 2005, September 30, 2005, 2006, March 29, 2006, December 2006, January 19, 2007 and After, January 24, 2007, April 2007, April 2, 2007, July 22, 2007, August 21, 2007, September 22, 2008, October 8-10, 2008, October 24, 2008, January 6-11, 2008, November 10, 2008, January 25, 2008, January 31, 2008, February 1, 2008, February 28, 2008, May 19, 2008, June 2, 2008, June 6, 2008, June 26, 2008, August 1, 2008 and After, August 4, 2008, August 4, 2008, August 19, 2008, August 25, 2008, October 7, 2008, October 20, 2008, October 22, 2008, October 28, 2008, November 18, 2008, January 18, 2009, February 24-26, 2009, March 3, 2009, April 7-8, 2009, May 26, 2009, May 26, 2009, May 27, 2009, May 27-29, 2009, May 28, 2009, May 29, 2009, May 31, 2009, June 2, 2009, June 5, 2009, June 7, 2009, June 12, 2009, June 20, 2009, June 25, 2009, July 8, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 21, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28-29, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 19, 2009, September 2009, September 14, 2009, October 13, 2009, February 25, 2010, March 20, 2010, July 14, 2010, July 15, 2010, September 11, 2010, September 12, 2010, September 12, 2010 and After, September 15, 2010, September 18, 2010, September 21, 2010, September 24, 2010, October 22-23, 2010, November 9, 2010, November 12, 2010, December 22, 2010, January 14, 2011, February 20, 2011, March 2011, March 19-24, 2011, April 1, 2011, April 5, 2011, April 14-15, 2011, April 15, 2011, April 22, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 28, 2011). Liberals, Ingraham says, rely on racial politics, divisiveness, and “class warfare” to succeed in the political arena. “[I]n the end,” she says, “it’s kind of all they have, that and abortion.” She derides people “on the left” for attacking billionaire television host and enthusiastic “birther” Donald Trump for being racist (see April 14-15, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, and April 28, 2011). Any such charges, she says, are ridiculous. But those charges will be used by anyone who criticizes Trump for his challenge to Obama’s citizenship, she predicts, and cites Trump’s recent exhortation for Obama to “get off the basketball court” and focus on national issues as an example of an unfair charge of racism (see April 27, 2011). “And the very thing the left always starts to accuse the right of is what they are most guilty of,” she says. (Media Matters 4/28/2011) Ingraham has had her own issues with racism and gender (see 1984, April 1997, and July 17, 2009).

Pamela Geller, the conservative blogger who has for years attacked President Obama’s parentage and his citizenship (see July 20, 2008, October 24, 2008,August 4, 2009, and April 27, 2011), now calls Obama “a b_stard, literally and figuratively.” Geller’s characterization is part of a long tirade about Obama’s father, Barack Obama Sr., based on information about the elder Obama cited by the Arizona Independent, which obtained the Immigration and Naturalization Service file on Obama Sr. (see April 28, 2011). Geller accuses Obama’s father of “impossible philandering, multiple wives, and bad behavior,” says the elder Obama was forced to leave Harvard University and the United States itself, and blames his “polygamy” on his Muslim faith. She also says the portrait Obama has painted of his father in his first memoir, Dreams of My Father, is completely false, though Obama never knew his father and depicted his father in an unflattering light. Geller writes: “He was a terrible man—immoral and irresponsible. His treatment of women was incredibly callous and cruel—not to mention the abandoment of his children and his multiple wives. President Obama is indeed a bastard, literally and figuratively. What a horrible man. Dreams of My Father. Indeed. Perhaps this explains President Obama’s animus towards the United States” (see November 8, 2007, Before October 27, 2008, January 16, 2008, April 9, 2009, June 5, 2009, June 25, 2009, June 29, 2009, September 14, 2009, November 17, 2009, February 2, 2010, June 11, 2010, September 12, 2010, September 12, 2010 and After, September 12, 2010 and After, September 16, 2010, September 17, 2010, September 23, 2010, September 23-24, 2010, March 2011, April 15, 2011, and April 27, 2011). A New York Times analysis of the same information concludes that Obama Sr. had a tribal wife in Kenya at the time he married Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, and explains: “We call this ‘polygamy’; they see it as moving on with life. First marriages fizzle out in Africa, as they do everywhere else. The difference is that culturally, legal divorce is very frowned upon: It’s viewed as shirking financial and familial responsibilities. Epidemiologists, who have studied this cultural pattern because of its impact on the spread of HIV, often say that Africans tend to have ‘concurrent’ relationships, while Americans have ‘consecutive’ ones. That’s a wild generalization, but the point is that Obama Sr. would not have viewed his first marriage back in Kenya as something disreputable. It clearly became worthy of investigation to school and immigration officials, though, after he started fooling around with white women.” Geller calls the hints of racism towards Obama Sr. ridiculous, and cites fellow conservative blogger Jack Cahill as providing “proof” that Obama Sr.‘s marriage to Dunham was possibly invalid, making Obama the “b_stard” that she accuses him of being. (Pamela Geller 4/29/2011) The progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters notes that Geller’s attack on Obama and his father is part of a new initiative by “birthers” to besmirch Obama by attacking his father (see April 29, 2011). (Newbold 4/29/2011)

Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN), a contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, says Congress should not raise the nation’s debt limit (sometimes called the “debt ceiling”) even though many economists and financial leaders warn of economic catastrophe if the US does not raise that limit. Bachmann says Congress is considering bills that would force the government to make payments on debts even if the debt ceiling remains unchanged. (Associated Press 4/30/2011)

Long-shot Republican presidential candidate Buddy Roemer (R-LA), a former governor of Louisiana, gives an interview to the liberal news Web site Think Progress in which he blasts the current system of campaign finance. Roemer is campaigning on a promise to reduce the influence of the wealthy on the government, and refuses to accept over $100 in contributions from any one source. He also forces the disclosure of the identities of his donors. After speaking at a tea party rally in New Hampshire, Roemer speaks to Think Progress reporter Lee Fang. Roemer is highly critical of large corporate donors and the trade organizations that represent them, and decries the failure of the DISCLOSE Act to pass Congress (see July 26-27, 2010). “It’s disastrous, it’s dysfunctional, to their shame,” he says. Large corporations such as General Electric using their influence to avoid paying taxes is “what’s wrong with America.” Roemer adds: “Right now, too often the political debate has become about the money and not about the issues. And those who have the money have a vested interest in the results and you never know who they are.… I have full disclosure and I challenge my opponents to do the same.” Fang notes that some of the largest corporate donors and “bundlers” (groups like the US Chamber of Commerce, which “bundle” donations from corporations and individuals and funnel them to political organizations) support Roemer’s fellow Republican candidates, and are the primary reason why the DISCLOSE Act failed to pass. “They lobbied both Democrats and Republicans to kill the bill in the Senate,” Fang says. Roemer says Congress and the campaign financial system are both “dysfunctional,” and adds Democratic-supporting labor unions to the list of organizations that are corrupting politics. “The guys with the bucks want unfettered regulation. They want to run America.… The reason the tax code is four thousand pages long and paid no taxes last year and made five billion dollars? It’s [campaign] checks. That’s whats wrong with the American system. It’s not free anymore. It’s bought.” Roemer says the only way he knows to challenge the system is by example. “You know I’ve got to run against the system,” he says. “It’s corrupt. And the only way I know how to do it… is by example. I’m going to show that a grassroots campaign can capture New Hampshire, South Carolina. I’m going to whip ‘em, on my own terms.” The Republican Party does not support Roemer’s campaign, and is blocking Roemer from participating in primary debates. (Fang 5/4/2011)

The Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), a nonpartisan campaign finance watchdog organization, finds that independent organizations supporting Republicans and Democrats are spending unprecedented amounts of money on supporting, or more often attacking, candidates for office. The huge rise in spending comes as a direct result of the Citizens United decision that allowed corporations and labor unions to spend unlimited amounts of money on campaign donations (see January 21, 2010). While organizations are spending huge amounts of money on both sides of the political divide, spending for conservative candidates outweighs spending on liberal candidates by an 8-1 margin. CRP’s analysis finds that the increased spending helped Republicans retake the US House of Representatives in 2010, and is having a long-term effect on the nation’s campaign and election systems. (MacColl 5/5/2011; Jilani 5/6/2011)
Most Democratic Spending Comes from Unions - Labor unions gave over $17.3 million in independent expenditures opposing Republican candidates. The union contributing the most: the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), with over $7 million. The National Education Association (NEA) formed a “super PAC” (see March 26, 2010) that spent $3.3 million on election activities. Super PACs must disclose their donors and the amounts donated (see 2000 - 2005), but an array of groups under the 501(c) tax laws do not have to disclose that information (see September 28, 2010).
Corporations Spend Lavishly for Republicans - While corporations donated some money to Democratic causes, most of their money went to Republicans. Corporations gave over $15 million to super PACs such as American Crossroads, which supports an array of conservative candidates. CRP notes that conservative groups that do not have to disclose their donors spent $121 million, and corporations and wealthy individuals were the likely sources of almost all of that money.
Secret Donations on the Rise - In the 2006 elections, the percentage of spending from groups that do not disclose their donors was 1 percent. In 2010, it was 47 percent. “Nonprofit” organizations that can legally hide their donors and donations increased their spending from zero percent in 2006 to 42 percent in 2010. For the first time in over 20 years, outside interest groups outspent party committees, by $105 million. The amount of independent expenditure and electioneering communication spending by outside groups has gone up 400 percent since 2006. And 72 percent of political advertising spending by outside groups in 2010 came from sources that were prohibited from spending money in 2006. (MacColl 5/5/2011)

Lawyer James Bopp Jr. forms a super PAC, Republican Super PAC Inc., in order to make unlimited financial contributions towards “independent” expenditures in support of Republican candidates in the November 2012 elections. Bopp is joined by Roger Villere, the chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party. Bopp is known for arguing high-profile cases against abortion rights (see November 1980 and After and Mid-2004 and After) and campaign finance regulations (see December 10, 2003 and Mid-2004 and After). He was the lawyer who first worked with the lobbying and advocacy group Citizens United, whose lawsuit gave the Supreme Court the opportunity to greatly deregulate campaign finance law (see January 10-16, 2008, March 24, 2008, and January 21, 2010). According to an email from Bopp and Villere, the Republican Super PAC will coordinate with other independent groups “to bridge gaps in the independent campaigns supporting Republican candidates.… The best way to neutralize President Obama’s unprecedented $1 billion political war chest and the political spending by labor unions and wealthy Democrats is to build a super fund-raising infrastructure for independent expenditure spending.” (Willis 5/16/2011) The majority of the money raised and spent on behalf of candidates by super PACs has gone to support Republicans, and not President Obama or Democratic candidates (see January 21-22, 2010, March 26, 2010, August 2, 2010, September 13-16, 2010, September 21 - November 1, 2010, September 28, 2010, October 2010, Around October 27, 2010, November 1, 2010, (May 4, 2011), and May 5, 2011).

Alan Binder.Alan Binder. [Source: PBS]TPMDC reporter Brian Beutler notes that many Congressional Republicans, led by but not limited to those who consider themselves “tea party” members (see April 30, 2011), are heeding the advice of a small number of unorthodox financial experts who go against the “common wisdom” that a possible credit default by the US would lead to potential catastrophe among national and global financial markets. The issue centers on Congressional Republicans’ insistence that they will not raise the US debt limit, or debt ceiling, unless the Obama administration gives them a wide array of draconian spending cuts; in the past, raising the US debt limit has been a routine matter, often handled with virtually no debate and little, if any, fanfare. Beutler says that the most influential of these advisors is Stanley Druckenmiller, who made billions managing hedge funds. Druckenmiller’s advice was that the US could weather several days of missed interest payments if the US debt ceiling were not immediately raised without serious consequences. House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), and Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) are all echoing Druckenmiller’s claims in media interviews and in Congress. Beutler writes that the newfound popularity of Druckenmiller’s claims “alarms everyone from industry insiders to Treasury officials to economists, conservative and liberal, to non-partisan analysts who say the consequences of the US missing even a single interest payment to a debt-holder would be catastrophic—even if it was followed immediately by a legislative course correction.” Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Binder, now a Princeton economist, warns that if the US were to default on its debt even for a few days, the US dollar would crash in value, interest rates would spike, and the US economy would find itself spiraling into a full-blown recession. Binder writes: “For as long as anyone can remember, the full faith and credit of the United States has been as good as gold—no one has better credit. But if investors start to see default as part of US political gamesmanship, they will demand compensation for this novel risk. How much? Again, no one can know. But even if it’s as little as 10-20 basis points on the US government’s average borrowing cost, that’s an additional $10 billion to $20 billion in interest expenses every year. Seems like an expensive way to score a political point.” JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon agrees, telling PBS viewers: “Every single company with treasuries, every insurance fund, every—every requirement that—it will start snowballing. Automatic, you don’t pay your debt, there will be default by ratings agencies. All short-term financing will disappear. I would have hundreds of work streams working around the world protecting our company for that kind of event.” JPMorgan issued a statement after Dimon’s comment saying that even a brief default would trigger “a run on money market funds… that would leave businesses unable to meet their short-term obligations and teetering on the bring of bankruptcy.” JPMorgan compares the money-market run to the aftermath of the 2008 Lehman Bros collapse, which sent the US into a recession. Analyses and reports by the Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee and Government Accountability Office have warned of dire consequences following a default even of a day or two. Toomey and others insist that a credit default would simply make the Treasury Department find other ways to avoid missing interest payments, but, economists and financial leaders warn, the consequences of that would be enormous. Binder writes: “If we hit the borrowing wall traveling at full speed, the US government’s total outlays—a complex amalgam that includes everything from Social Security benefits to soldiers’ pay to interest on the national debt—will have to drop by about 40 percent immediately. That translates to roughly $1.5 trillion at annual rates, or about 10 percent of GDP. That’s an enormous fiscal contraction for any economy to withstand, never mind one in a sluggish recovery with 9 percent unemployment.” Druckenmiller and some Republicans believe that forcing a credit default would end up benefiting the country, as the Obama administration would give in to Republican demands for enormous spending cuts in return for Republicans’ agreement to raise the debt ceiling. Business Insider reporter Joe Weisenthal recently wrote: “Of course, a default by the world’s most stable nation would probably have impacts in ways nobody can imagine, but one thing seems to be clear. The notion—as some people suggest—that a default would somehow increase US credit-worthiness is absurd.” (Weisenthal 4/20/2011; Rampell 4/26/2011; Beutler 5/20/2011)

Four of Fox News’s presumptive presidential candidates. Clockwise from upper left: Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee.Four of Fox News’s presumptive presidential candidates. Clockwise from upper left: Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee. [Source: Huffington Post]New York Magazine reporter Gabriel Sherman profiles Fox News chairman Roger Ailes (see October 7, 1996), who also serves as a Republican campaign consultant (see 1968, January 25, 1988, and September 21 - October 4, 1988). According to close friends and advisers to Ailes interviewed by Sherman, Ailes wants far more than the continued ratings and advertiser success of Fox News—he wants the network to steer one of its own into the White House in 2012 (see October 2008). He is tremendously influential; a Republican strategist tells Sherman: “You can’t run for the Republican nomination without talking to Roger. Every single candidate has consulted with Roger.”
Letdown? - Ailes has been keenly disappointed in the results of his network’s official and unofficial candidates so far. Former Alaska governor and Fox commentator Sarah Palin (see September 15-16, 2010), who has not yet announced her candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, is polling at around 12 percent among Republican voters. Official presidential candidates Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, and Rick Santorum, a former senator, who both are commentators for Fox, have even lower numbers, at 10 percent and 2 percent respectively. Ailes has asked Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ), who is not a Fox employee, to run; until recently, Fox News was enthusiastically promoting the putative presidential run of billionaire “birther” Donald Trump (see March 17, 2011). Ailes has envisioned General David Petraeus as a potential candidate, but Petraeus has instead accepted the post of CIA director. “He thinks things are going in a bad direction,” says a Republican close to Ailes. “Roger is worried about the future of the country. He thinks the election of [President] Obama is a disaster.” None of the current crop of candidates meets Ailes’s expectations. Ailes is particularly disappointed in Palin; according to the same Republican, Ailes considers her “an idiot”: “He thinks she’s stupid. He helped boost her up. People like Sarah Palin haven’t elevated the conservative movement.” After Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot in January 2011, and other media outlets focused on Palin’s use of gunsight graphics to “target” Giffords and other vulnerable Democrats in the 2010 election (see March 24, 2010), according to Sherman, “Ailes recognized that a Fox brand defined by Palin could be politically vulnerable.” After the Giffords shooting, Ailes told an interviewer, “I told all of our guys, ‘Shut up, tone it down, make your argument intellectually.’” Ailes was infuriated when Palin refused his advice to remain quiet until after the memorial service, and accused her critics of committing “blood libel,” a phrase often seen as anti-Semitic. The problem with Palin was further exacerbated when she argued about the amount of work Fox expects her to do: she does not want to host special broadcasts or other tasks the network expects of her. In March 2011, Fox suspended the contracts of Gingrich and Santorum so they could run their campaigns without legal or ethical entanglements. Shortly thereafter, Huckabee chose to remain at Fox and abandon his plans for a primary challenge. The network is still waiting for Palin’s decision whether to run for president.
Creation of the Tea Party - While Ailes and Fox News did not directly create the “tea party” “grassroots” movement, Ailes was involved in its creation and promotion from its outset (see February 19, 2009, February 27, 2009, and April 15, 2009). Ailes has always been somewhat leery of having Fox News too closely associated with the burgeoning movement (see March 13, 2009 and After, March 23-24, 2009, April 2, 2009, April 6-7, 2009, April 6-13, 2009, April 8, 2009, April 13-15, 2009, April 15, 2009, April 15, 2009, April 16, 2009, May 13-14, 2009, July 28, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 28, 2009, September 12, 2009, and September 12, 2010), and at one point banned Fox News host Sean Hannity from hosting a tea party rally. However, according to Sal Russo, a former Reagan aide and the founder of the national Tea Party Express tour, “There would not have been a tea party without Fox.” Fox News has promoted a number of successful “tea party” candidates (see May 14, 2008 - February 2010), including former host John Kasich (see March 27, 2008 - June 1, 2009 and After), who won the Ohio gubernatorial election in 2010. Before that election, Gingrich, still a Fox News commentator at the time, said that he was confident the “tea party” would evolve into “the militant wing of the Republican Party” (see April 21, 2010). Ailes used some of the same “astroturf” tactics (see February 27, 2009 and April 14, 2009) in developing the “tea party” as he did when he represented tobacco companies such as R.J. Reynolds, creating phony, seemingly independent “front” groups to push the “tea party” messages in the media. (Sherman 5/22/2011)

Fox Business Channel host Eric Bolling uses a racial smear to characterize President Obama’s visit to Ireland and other European countries. Obama left for Europe shortly after a number of tornadoes caused heavy damage in parts of Missouri. On his Twitter account, Bolling says “Obama chugging 40s in IRE while tornadoes ravage MO.” He repeats the smear on his television show Follow the Money a few hours later. (Media Matters 5/23/2011; Media Matters 5/24/2011; Media Matters 2/16/2012) The progressive media watchdog Web site Media Matters notes that Missouri authorities have praised the White House and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for their quick and effective response to the tornadoes. (Media Matters 5/24/2011) The progressive news site Think Progress notes that Bolling’s reference to Obama “chugging 40s” is inaccurate and racially motivated. Obama was photographed drinking Guiness from a glass in an Irish pub. More importantly, Bolling’s reference is to malt liquor, usually sold in the US in 40-ounce bottles or cans. Think Progress reporter Alex Seitz-Wald writes: “Throughout the late 80s and 90s, 40 oz malt liquor was rolled out with ‘aggressive marketing campaigns aimed at minority drinkers,’ which often portrayed black actors and rappers in stereotypical or exploitative fashions. There is a fairly large body of academic literature exploring the relationship between malt liquor and African Americans.… Hip hop culture has appropriated malt liquor, with numerous songs with ‘40 oz’ in the title. ‘Rap artists have been popular images in malt liquor advertising and ‘gangsta’ rap performers portray malt liquor as a sign of masculinity,’” according to a 2005 study. Bolling is apparently trying to associate Obama with African-American street gang and rap culture. He is also apparently trying to portray Obama as having a drinking problem, a characterization with no evidence to back it. (Seitz-Wald 5/24/2011) After facing a barrage of criticism over his racially inflammatory remarks, Bolling attempts to clarify his remarks, saying he intended no racial connotations and merely attempted to imply that Obama is a drunkard. “I took some heat for saying Obama should have delayed his bar crawl, or whatever he’s doing over there,” he tells a Fox Business Channel audience. Media Matters observes: “That, of course, is not what he said. And Bolling did not explain why he thinks it’s OK to call Obama a binge drinker.” (Media Matters 5/24/2011; Holden 5/25/2011)

US District Judge James Cacheris throws out one count of the indictment against two men accused of illegally reimbursing donors to Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton’s Senate and presidential campaigns. In the ruling, Cacheris holds that the campaign finance law banning corporations from making contributions to federal candidates is unconstitutional. Cacheris rules that under the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court ruling (see January 21, 2010), corporations have the same right as people to contribute to campaigns. No one has attempted to extend the Citizens United ruling to apply directly to campaign contributions by corporations. Previously, the law has been interpreted to apply only to independent corporate expenditures. In his ruling, Cacheris notes that only one other court has addressed the issue, with a Minnesota federal judge ruling that a state ban on corporate contributions is legal. Cacheris writes: “[F]or better or worse, Citizens United held that there is no distinction between an individual and a corporation with respect to political speech. Thus, if an individual can make direct contributions within [the law’s] limits, a corporation cannot be banned from doing the same thing.… That logic is inescapable here.” In court filings, prosecutors defending campaign finance law in the Virginia case said that overturning the ban on corporate contributions would ignore a century of legal precedent. Prosecutor Mark Lytle wrote: “Defendants would have the court throw out a century of jurisprudence upholding the ban on corporate political contributions, by equating expenditures—which the Court struck down in Citizens United—with contributions. This is, however, equating apples and oranges.” The case, United States v. Danielczyk, concerns accusations that William P. Danielczyk Jr. and Eugene R. Biagi helped funnel a corporate contribution to Clinton’s presidential campaign. The two men allegedly reimbursed $30,200 to eight contributors who gave to Clinton’s 2006 Senate campaign, and reimbursed $156,400 to 35 contributors to her 2008 presidential campaign. Clinton is not named as a defendant in the case. (Barakat 5/27/2011; Confessore 5/27/2011)
Strongly Mixed Reactions - Biaigi’s lawyer Todd Richman says after the ruling: “Corporate political speech can now be regulated, only to the same extent as the speech of individuals or other speakers. That is because Citizens United establishes that there can be no distinction between corporate and other speakers in the regulation of political speech.” Sean Parnell of the Center for Competitive Politics, a group opposing campaign-finance regulations, says, “This was definitely something that is almost incidental in terms of the case it was decided in.” Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21, a group supporting stricter campaign finance laws, says Cacheris went beyond his purview as a federal judge and ignored laws and Supreme Court rulings before the Citizens United decision that were not impacted (see February 7, 1972, April 26, 1978, and March 27, 2002). Had the Supreme Court wanted to overturn the ban on direct corporate campaign contributions, Wertheimer says, it could have done so in the Citizens United decision. Wertheimer says Cacheris’s ruling should be appealed and overturned. Law professor Daniel Ortiz says the ruling “pushes the outer limits of the Citizens United logic,” and will probably be overturned in a higher court. The Citizens United case differentiates between independent expenditures by corporations that are not coordinating with a candidate’s campaign, and direct campaign contributions. (Barakat 5/27/2011; Confessore 5/27/2011) Ian Millhiser of the liberal news Web site Think Progress writes: “If today’s decision is upheld on appeal, it could be the end of any meaningful restrictions on campaign finance—including limits on the amount of money wealthy individuals and corporations can give to a candidate. In most states, all that is necessary to form a new corporation is to file the right paperwork in the appropriate government office. Moreover, nothing prevents one corporation from owning another corporation. Thus, under Cacheris’s decision, a cap on overall contributions becomes meaningless, because corporate donors can simply create a series of shell corporations for the purpose of evading such caps.” (Millhiser 5/27/2011) Conservative legal scholar Eugene Volokh writes on his blog that he believes the Cacheris decision is in error. He believes the ban on corporate contributions to be legal and appropriate, though unlike Millhiser, he also supports the Citizens United decision. He cites the Supreme Court’s Buckley v. Valeo decision (see January 30, 1976) as limiting the means by which corporations can donate to political campaigns. He echoes Millhiser’s concerns about “shell corporations,” writing: “[T]he problem with corporate contributions is that they provide an avenue for evading individual contribution limits; if I want to donate $25,000 to a candidate instead of the $2,500 limit, I could set up nine corporations, and then donate myself and also have those corporations make similar donations. Few people would do that, but some people who want to be big political players might. Nor can this easily be dismissed as a supposed ‘sham’ and be thus distinguished from ‘legitimate’ corporate contributions.” The ban on direct corporate contributions does not stop individuals from donating directly to campaigns, Volokh writes, and thusly does not encroach on freedom of speech. (Eugene Volokh 5/27/2011) Law professor Richard Hasen also believes the decision will be overturned or reconsidered, citing the Supreme Court’s ban on direct corporate spending in Federal Election Commission v. Beaumont (see June 16, 2003), a ruling that other courts have held was not overturned by the Citizens United decision. Neither the prosecution nor the defense referred to the Beaumont decision in their arguments. (Rick Hasen 5/31/2011) “If this case stood, it would mean the end of campaign contribution limits for everyone, because it would be so easy to get around the law through a straw or sham corporation,” Hasen says. (Confessore 5/27/2011)
Reconsideration - Four days later, Cacheris will ask for briefs from both sides in the case about the issues raised in his decision, indicating that he may well find that the Beaumont decision means that the ban on direct corporate contributions will remain in effect. (Rick Hasen 5/31/2011) Cacheris will not reconsider his decision. (Confessore 6/7/2011; Millhiser 6/8/2011)
Appeals Court Overturns Decision - A day after Cacheris refuses to reconsider his decision, an appeals court will overrule his decision. (Millhiser 6/9/2011; United States Court Of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit 6/9/2011 pdf file) In June 2012, a federal appeals court will find that the Citizens United ban does not apply to direct corporate contributions. Appellate Judge Royce Gregory will write, “Leaping to this conclusion ignores the well-established principle that independent expenditures and direct contributions are subject to different government interests.” (Thomson Reuters 6/28/2012)

Former Republican Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), joining the race to contend for the Republican presidential nomination, tells an audience at the Faith and Freedom Conference in Washington that America was a much better place before 1965, when the Voting Rights Act (VRA—see August 6, 1965 and June 29, 1989) was enacted and the “welfare state” began. “Social conservatives understand that America was a great country because it was founded great,” Santorum says. “Our founders, calling upon in the Declaration of Independence, the supreme judge, calling upon divine providence, said what was at the heart of American exceptionalism.… ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights.‘… Ladies and gentlemen, America was a great country before 1965.” Reporter David Love notes that in 1965, institutionalized racism was still the law in many areas of the country. Police brutalized voting rights protesters and civil rights workers were murdered without legal repercussions. The civil rights legislation enacted during this time began the variety of federal “safety net” programs such as food stamps, aid for mothers and their children, disabled citizens, and others, and also began stamping out institutionalized, legal racism. Medicare and Medicaid were enacted under the Social Security Act of 1965. The 1965 Omnibus Housing Act provided funds for building housing for indigent Americans, including many African-Americans. The federal government began funding public schools in 1965. And two years later, the courts used 1965 legislation to overturn laws against miscegenation—interracial marriage. Love concludes: “So the question remains, was America better before 1965? Well, it depends on your point of view. If you are a conservative who views the Great Society legacy as a big government intrusion into the lives of people, then the answer is yes. If you think government has no business protecting civil rights, funding schools and feeding hungry children, increasing economic opportunity, and promoting the arts, your answer will undoubtedly be yes. However, if you are an African-American who enjoys exercising the right to vote, or a senior who doesn’t want anyone touching your Medicare, or someone who believes the federal government has a role to play in fighting poverty, chances are you have a different view of things.” (Love 6/7/2011)

Gabon President Ali Bongo (L) and US President Barack Obama labeled as ‘hoods’ by Fox Business Channel.Gabon President Ali Bongo (L) and US President Barack Obama labeled as ‘hoods’ by Fox Business Channel. [Source: Media Matters]Fox Business Channel host Eric Bolling uses a number of racially charged characterizations in his report on a visit by an African head of state to the White House. Bolling, hosting a segment on President Ali Bongo of Gabon’s visit with President Obama, titles the segment “Hoods in the House,” and puts the title on screen under footage of Obama sitting with Bongo in a White House meeting room. Bolling introduces the segment by saying: “Guess who’s coming to dinner? A dictator. Mr. Obama shares a laugh with one of Africa’s kleptocrats. It’s not the first time he’s had a hoodlum in the hizzouse.” Apparently Bolling is calling both Obama and Bongo “hoods,” slang often used for African-American street criminals. “Hizzouse,” a term Bolling uses for the White House, is slang for a crack house or a house used by African-American street gangs. Bolling begins the segment by saying: “So what’s with all the hoods in the hizzy? A month after the White House hosted the rapper Common, who glorifies violence on cops, the president opened his doors to one of Africa’s most evil dictators. Here’s Ali Bongo, the Gabonese president, who’s been accused of human rights violations and plundering billions of his country’s dollars.” When Bolling says that Obama has previously hosted “a hoodlum in the hizzouse,” he shows footage of Common. Progressive media watchdog Web site Media Matters will explain that Fox News viewers may recognize Common as the target of a recent smear by Fox News and other conservative media outlets, which marked the instance of his visit to the White House by falsely accusing him of being a “cop killer rapper.” Later in the segment, Bolling says of Bongo: “Smile for the birdie. Our president’s sitting with one of Africa’s most wanted. It’s not the first time he’s had a hood in the big crib.” “Big crib” is more slang for houses used by street gangs. When Bolling says “Smile for the birdie,” he shows an image of Bongo with a lighting effect—a flashing tooth, an apparent reference to some African-American rappers’ preference for gold inserts in their teeth. Media Matters notes, “For the record, it is true that Gabon and Bongo have a troubling human rights record, and Obama pressured Bongo on the issue during their meeting.” During the segment, Bolling’s guest, Human Events editor Jason Mattera, says that “Barack Obama likes to defecate on American allies.” And another of Bolling’s guests, Fox Business reporter Sandra Smith, accuses Obama of preferring to “entertain” America’s enemies in the White House over the nation’s allies. “Do we really have to have them in the White Hizzy?” she asks. (Gregory 6/11/2011; Media Matters 2/16/2012)

A new “super PAC” aligned with presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R-MA) is being formed by a group of Romney backers and former Romney campaign aides, according to a report by the Washington Post. Super PACs are political organizations that exist to influence elections, which take unlimited amounts of outside money from donors, including individuals, unions, and corporations, and pool that money to advocate for or against a candidate (see March 26, 2010). By law, super PACs are supposed to operate independently of a candidate’s official campaign organization.
Restore Our Future - The Romney super PAC, “Restore Our Future” (ROF), is one of a number of such organizations created in the aftermath of the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling (see January 21, 2010). Restore Our Future is apparently the first super PAC to form specifically in support of one of the 2012 presidential contenders, with the sole exception of Priorities USA Action, a super PAC in support of President Obama. ROF treasurer Charles R. Spies, who served as Romney’s general counsel in his 2008 presidential effort, refuses to disclose how much the organization has raised, or who is donating. Spies merely says: “This is an independent effort focused on getting Romney elected president. We will do that by focusing on jobs and his ability to fix the economy.” A Romney campaign aide says that a Federal Election Commission (FEC) filing coming up in July will show the organization having raised some $20 million. A major Romney donor who refuses to allow his identity to be revealed says, “We just want to show that we’ve got more dough than anyone.” The Romney campaign’s communication director, Gail Gitcho, says the campaign welcomes any outside support, and points to the Obama campaign as the largest fundraiser in the race, saying, “We are pleased that independent groups will be active in fighting this entrenched power [the Obama campaign] so the country can get back to work.”
Leaders of ROF - Members of the ROF board of directors include Spies; Carl Forti, political director for Romney’s 2008 campaign; and Larry McCarthy, a member of the Romney media team in 2008. Forti is the co-founder of the Black Rock Group consulting firm and the political director of American Crossroads, a conservative super PAC expected to raise over $120 million for candidates in 2012. Neither Forti nor American Crossroads will discuss the role played by Forti in both organizations. ROF actually registered itself with the FEC in October 2010, but has remained unaffiliated and essentially dormant until recent weeks. Now ROF officials are briefing top donors about the organization’s plans and fundraising goals. Former Obama spokesman Bill Burton, the head of Priorities USA Action, says: “I’m not surprised that there’s even more money coming into this race to help Mitt Romney. He’s a pretty deeply flawed candidate; he’s going to need all the help he can get.” Dave Levinthal of the Center for Responsive Politics says of the super PACs: “The outside groups are akin to the biggest booster club you can imagine for a college football team. The club can’t give cars or gifts to the players, but they can do everything else possible to support them.… It’s a brand-new way to play politics.” (Eggen and Cillizza 6/23/2011) The Post fails to note many of the details about ROF’s senior officials. According to the Public Campaign Action Fund, Spies is not only a lawyer and a consultant, but a registered lobbyist for Clark Hill PLC, representing a chain of luxury casinos. ROF’s address as listed on its FEC filings is the same as Clark Hill’s Washington, DC, office. The Action Fund observes, referring to the Republican primary and the number of wealthy donors lined up behind each major candidate, “While [ROF] officially can’t coordinate with the Romney campaign, having lobbyists on your side is definitely a good way to boost one’s standing in the so-called ‘wealth primary.’” (Public Campaign Action Fund 6/23/2011) The liberal news Web site Think Progress will soon note that McCarthy is a veteran advertising creator for Republican candidates, and was one of the strongest creative forces behind the infamous 1988 “Willie Horton” ad, which many considered to be extraordinarily racist (see September 21 - October 4, 1988). In 2010, McCarthy served as a media strategist for the American Future Fund, which launched attack ads attempting to link Democrats to the Park 51 community center in Manhattan, deemed by conservatives as the “Ground Zero Victory Mosque” and mischaracterized as a monument celebrating the 9/11 attacks. Those ads were decried by many as being bigoted against Muslims. McCarthy has brushed off criticism of his ads, and said the fact-checking organizations that found his ads to be flawed suffered from a pro-Democratic bias. Think Progress reporter Lee Fang will write that when he tried to find the American Future Fund office in Iowa, the address listed for the group turned out to be a UPS mailbox in a strip mall near an airport. Fang will write, “With a record of such secrecy and racist, anything-goes campaign tactics, one can expect Romney’s new outside group to be just as ugly in the presidential race.” (Vogel 10/29/2010; Fang 6/27/2011)

Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) tells a CBS News viewing audience that the Obama administration is lying when it says the US government would default on its loans if Congress refuses to raise the US debt ceiling. Bachmann accuses the Obama administration of using “scare tactics” to push for a debt-ceiling increase. Bachmann has said previously that Congress should not raise the debt ceiling (see April 30, 2011). Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and other Obama adminstration members, along with a bevy of economists and financial leaders including Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and former Chairman Alan Greenspan, have urged Congress to raise the debt ceiling by August 2 to avoid the US defaulting on its outstanding loans and engendering what many call an economic catastrophe (see May 20, 2011). The US Treasury has used accounting steps, what it calls “extraordinary measures,” to avoid default since the nation reached its debt limit on May 16. The final deadline for the US to raise its debt limit is August 2. Bernanke and others have said that even a brief US default could cause an uproar in the global economy. But Bachmann says she has “no intention” of voting for a hike to the limit, saying instead: “It isn’t true that the government would default on its debt. Because, very simply, the Treasury secretary can pay the interest on the debt first, and then, from there, we have to just prioritize our spending.” Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer asks Bachman: “Experts inside and outside the government say that, if we don’t raise the debt ceiling, we face the United States having to default on its financial obligations. Are you saying these are scare tactics? Or are you saying that’s not true? How can you say that?” Bachmann replies: “It is scare tactics. Because, Bob, the interest on the debt isn’t any more than 10 percent of what we’re taking in. In fact, it’s less than that. And so the Treasury secretary can very simply pay the interest on the debt first, then we’re not in default.… What it means is we have to seriously prioritize. It would be very tough love. But, I have been here long enough in Washington, DC, that I’ve seen smoke and mirrors time and time again.” Bachmann says if elected president, she would end the nation’s deficit problem by making extreme cuts in spending. “I would begin very seriously by cutting spending,” she says. “President Obama, again, he spent a trillion dollar stimulus program that’s been an abject failure. We need to seriously cut back on spending first and foremost, and then prioritize.” Her only recommendation to handle the job crisis is to cut corporate tax rates; she explains: “We have one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world; we need to drop that significantly, so that we have a pro-business, pro-job creation environment. So if we cut back the corporate tax rate, if we would zero out the capital gains rates, allow for 100 percent expensing when a job creator buys equipment for their business, that would go a long way toward job creators recognizing that this is a pro-business environment.” She says that the administration’s health care package, which she calls “Obamacare,” will cost “800,000 jobs.” Schieffer says, “That is data that other people would question,” and she retorts by saying the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), not she herself, has made that claim. A recent analysis by the St. Petersburg Times’s PolitiFact showed that Bachmann’s claim of “Obamacare” costing 800,000 jobs is an “exaggeration” of the CBO’s figures, and is “misleading.” Bachmann dodges questions about the elimination of the minimum wage, which she has advocated since 2005, and the elimination of farm subsidies, from which she and her family have benefited. (Madison 6/26/2011)

The US Supreme Court strikes down part of an Arizona law providing public funding for political campaigns. In the case of Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom PAC v. Bennett, the Court rules 5-4 that a provision in Arizona law providing additional funds to publicly funded candidates whose opponents use private donations to outspend them is illegal. Some opponents of unfettered outside spending feared that the Court would use the case to put an end to most, if not all, programs that provide public money to candidates; Think Progress’s Ian Millhiser explains: “Candidates will only agree to accept public financing if it won’t prevent them from running a competitive race. If a state offers only a few thousand dollars in public funds to a candidate whose opponent is backed by tens of millions of corporate dollars, then the non-corporate candidate will have no choice but to raise money on their own. To defend against this problem, Arizona developed a two-tiered public financing system. Candidates receive additional funds if their opponent or corporate interest groups overwhelm them with attack ads, and thus candidates who are determined not to be tainted by the corrupting influence of major donors are not left defenseless.” The ruling will not have an impact on the presidential race, since the federal public financing system lacks such a provision, and since it seems unlikely that either President Obama or his Republican challenger Mitt Romney (R-MA) will use public financing in 2012. The case was brought by two organizations, the Institute for Justice and the Goldwater Institute, on behalf of Arizona state candidates who rejected public funds. The groups argued that the provision infringed on those candidates’ freedom of speech by compelling them to spend less money to avoid triggering the additional funds.
Majority, Minority Opinions - Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts agreed: “We hold that Arizona’s matching funds scheme substantially burdens protected political speech without serving a compelling state interest and, therefore, violates the First Amendment.” The matching funds provision “imposes an unprecedented penalty on any candidate who robustly exercises [his] First Amendment right[s],” Roberts adds. If the provision is allowed to stand, “the vigorous exercise of the right to use personal funds to finance campaign speech” leads to “advantages for opponents in the competitive context of electoral politics.” The privately funded candidate, Roberts writes, must “shoulder a special and potentially significant burden” when choosing to exercise his First Amendment right to spend funds on behalf of his candidacy. Justice Elena Kagan dissents, writing that the plaintiffs “are making a novel argument: that Arizona violated their First Amendment rights by disbursing funds to other speakers even though they could have received—but chose to spurn—the same financial assistance. Some people might call that chutzpah.”
Reactions - Attorney Bill Maurer, who represented the Institute for Justice, says the ruling “makes clear that the First Amendment is not an exception to campaign finance laws; it is the rule” (see January 30, 1976 and January 21, 2010). He adds that he hopes the ruling will serve as “a clear reminder to government officials that they may not coerce speakers to limit their own speech.” Millhiser writes: “So public financing laws can technically remain, but Arizona’s attempt to protect publicly financed candidates from a wave of corporate attack ads is absolutely forbidden. Moreover, because few candidates can know in advance whether the will face an onslaught of hostile corporate ads, most candidates will hedge their bets and avoid the risk of public financing.… Without unlimited corporate money in elections, most candidates could afford to take public funds unless their opponent had unusual access to wealth or wealthy donors.” Referring to the 5-4 Citizens United decision (see January 21, 2010), Millhiser continues, “In the post-Citizens United America, however, no one is safe from corporate America’s nearly bottomless pool of potential campaign expenditures.” Nick Nyhart of Public Campaign, an organization opposed to the unrestricted influence of outside donors, says, “The five-vote Big Money majority on the court has spoken again in favor of wealthy special interests.” Fred Wertheimer of the campaign finance group Democracy 21 calls the ruling “another seriously misguided campaign finance decision,” but adds “it does not cast any doubt on the continued viability or constitutionality of a number of other existing public financing systems that do not include ‘trigger funds’ or similar provisions.” Common Cause President Bob Edgar says, “This is not the death knell of public financing.” (Vogel 6/27/2011; Millhiser 6/27/2011)
Plaintiffs Financed by Wealthy Conservative Interests - The next day, Think Progress’s Lee Fang will reveal that the two groups who filed the lawsuit, the Institute for Justice and the Goldwater Institute, are financed by wealthy conservative interests. The Institute for Justice, a group dedicated to bringing cases to court in order to deregulate private corporations and to increase the participation of wealthy corporate interests in elections, was created with “seed money” from oil billionaire Charles Koch (see 1977-Present, 1979-1980, 1981-2010, 1984 and After, May 6, 2006, April 15, 2009, December 6, 2009, November 2009, July 3-4, 2010, August 28, 2010, August 30, 2010, and September 24, 2010). The Walton Family Foundation, a foundation run by the billionaire family of Arkansas retailer Sam Walton (the founder of Wal-Mart), has donated $1.64 million to the group. The Foundation has written that the Citizens United decision and the Arizona case are two top priorities for the Institute. The Goldwater Institute, one of Arizona’s most prominent conservative think tanks, is focused on rolling back health care reform. The Institute is funded by several foundations, including the Walton and the Charles Koch Foundations. Fang notes that much of the funding for both groups remains undisclosed. (Fang 6/28/2011)

A group of tea party-affiliated organizations, including the lobbying group Americans for Prosperity (see Late 2004), the Tea Party Patriots, the Heritage Foundation, the Buckeye Foundation, American Majority, and the far-right, extremst John Birch Society (JBS—see March 10, 1961 and December 2011), hosts a two-day event called the “We the People Convention.” The event is designed to help raise money and awareness for Republican political candidates, in part through the auspices of the Ohio Citizens PAC. Some 88 area tea party groups in the Ohio Liberty Council are the local sponsors; the attendance is estimated at around 300 people. According to the organization’s Web site, “The purpose of the convention is to provide educational programs that will help all citizens participate in self governance as provided by the US and Ohio Constitutions by participating in the governance of their township, village, municipality, state, and country.” The convention includes “breakout sessions” that give information on “start[ing] your own Patriot group in your home town, or strengthen[ing] your existing group.” According to a report by the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights’s Devin Burghart, the workshops advocate the dismantling of public education, Social Security, and Medicaid; the banning of labor unions; and voter suppression efforts against non-white voters. Burghart writes, “A hard look at this conference provides an invaluable window on the way the tea party movement works against even the most minimal efforts to promote the common good.” Many of the workshop presenters engage in what Burghart calls overtly racist jargon, including accusations that blacks who receive government assistance “have no souls” and President Obama is “not American.” Global warming is a fraud perpetuated by socialists to obtain control over private enterprise, one workshop asserts, with global warming advocates being compared to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. Another hosted by John McManus of the JBS claims that the Federal Reserve system is a Communist front group, and calls for a return to a gold- and silver-based monetary system. McManus also leads workshops that claim American Democrats are colluding with American neoconservatives to build a “one-world government,” a “New World Order” (see September 11, 1990) that would oppress whites and institute “global socialism.” Matt Spaulding of the Heritage Foundation tells listeners that they are the current equivalent of the Revolutionary War-era patriots, and the enemies of America are the “elites” and “progressive liberals” who intend to subvert American democracy. Progressive liberalism, Spaulding says, is an outgrowth of German Nazism. He cites what he calls “Obamacare,” the 2009 health care legislation bitterly opposed by many tea party groups, as an example of the Obama administration’s drive to “socialize” America and undermine constitutional law. At the welcoming ceremony, tea party spokesman Tom Zawistowski, the incoming president of the Ohio Liberty Council, tells the audience that the Obama administration is a “professional army” of socialists intent on overthrowing the Constitution. Zawistowski tells the assemblage that only they, the heirs and successors to American Revolutionary War figures such as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, can stop Obama and the “liberal agenda” from destroying America as it currently exists. Vendors sell anti-Obama literature and bumper stickers, along with information on how to purchase weapons engraved with “We the People Convention” and selected phrases from the US Constitution. “[W]e do not hate Obama because he is black,” he says, “we hate him because he is a socialist, fascist, and not American.” While Zawistowski claims that tea parties have no affiliation with Republican politicians, Jenny Beth Martin of the Tea Party Patriots hosts a luncheon where she cautions listeners to avoid voting for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and instead consider voting for another Republican, Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN). (We the People Convention 7/2011; Burghart 9/16/2011)

A mysterious company that donated $1 million to a political action committee (PAC) favoring presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R-MA) dissolves just months after its formation, leading some to speculate that its only purpose was to make political donations. The company, W Spann LLC, was formed on March 15, 2011 by Boston lawyer Cameron Casey, who specializes in estate tax planning—“wealth transfer strategies”—for “high net worth individuals,” according to corporate records and the lawyer’s biography on her firm’s Web site. Casey filed a “certificate of formation” with the Delaware Secretary of State’s office, but provided no information about the firm. The only address listed was that of a Wilmington, Delaware, registered agent service, Corporation Service Company, which provides such services for many companies. That firm refuses to discuss its clients. Spann’s address was listed as 590 Madison Avenue, New York City, a midtown Manhattan office building, but the building’s management firm, Minskoff Equities, shows no records of any such tenant. On April 28, W Spann LLC donated $1 million to Restore Our Future, a “super PAC” (see 2000 - 2005 and June 30, 2000) aligned with the Romney campaign (see June 23, 2011). Casey dissolves the company today, two weeks before Restore Our Future makes its first campaign filing of the year reporting the donation, by filing a “certificate of cancellation.” Lawrence Noble, the former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission (FEC), says, “I don’t see how you can do this,” when asked about the donation. If the only purpose of Spann’s formation was to contribute to the pro-Romney group, “There is a real issue of it being just a subterfuge” and that could raise a “serious” legal issue, Noble says. At least, “[w]hat you have here is a roadmap for how people can hide their identities” when making political contributions. Casey will refuse to discuss the matter with the press, and her employer, the law firm Ropes & Gray, will say through a spokesman that it cannot comment. (Ropes & Gray has as a longtime client Bain Capital, the firm formerly headed by Romney. The law firm has its offices at 590 Madison.) Restore Our Future campaign treasurer Charles Spies, a former Romney campaign official, will also refuse to answer questions about Spann. He will say, “Restore Our Future has fully complied with, and will continue to comply with, all FEC disclosure requirements.” A Romney campaign official will later add, “Mitt Romney follows both the letter of the law and the spirit of the law in all circumstances.” Bain Capital spokesperson Alex Stanton says of W Spann: “Bain Capital has many employees who actively participate in civic affairs, and they individually support candidates from both parties. The firm takes no position on any candidate, and the entity in question is not affiliated with Bain Capital or any of our employees.” Critics say the Spann story shows how easily disclosure requirements are being avoided in the aftermath of the Citizens United decision (see January 21, 2010). “This is sham disclosure. It’s a barrier to disclosure,” says Michael Malbin of the Campaign Finance Institute. It is another example of how American political campaigns have gone “back to the future” and to the “pre-Watergate days” (of 1972) when Richard Nixon was raising unlimited amounts of money without disclosure, Malbin says. (Isikoff 8/4/2011)

Three members of the US House of Representatives’ “tea party” caucus introduce a measure to force the federal government to pay the principal and interest on the debt, and to continue to pay military personnel, even if the government goes into default because Congress refuses to raise the debt ceiling. The Obama administration and a bevy of economists and financial leaders have warned that if Congress refuses to raise the debt ceiling by August 2, the US will go into default on its debt, sending the nation’s economy into a tailspin and perhaps triggering a worldwide economic downturn (see May 20, 2011). Representatives Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Steve King (R-IA), and Louis Gohmert (R-TX) introduce House Resolution 2496, the PROMISES Act (Payment Reliability for Our Obligations to Military and Investors to Secure Essential Stability Act). All three accuse the Obama administration of lying about the potentially disastrous effects of a national default (see April 30, 2011 and June 26, 2011). President Obama recently said he could not promise that Social Security and disability checks would go out to senior citizens and veterans on August 3 if the nation defaulted on its debt on August 2 (see July 11-12, 2011); Bachmann and the others accuse Obama of lying and “fear mongering.” Bachmann says, “Don’t allow military men and women to dangle over a fire and claim they won’t get paid.” All three say that even if the government defaults on its loans, there is enough money to pay the Defense Department, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security benefits. Gohmert says that Obama should have told the nation, “The only thing that you have to fear is fear itself,” and says House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) should “not… trust the president anymore.” King says of Obama, “I can’t imagine what his argument would be against paying our military and keeping our credit rating up.” Obama has offered Congress a package containing $4 trillion in spending cuts and small tax increases on the wealthy, a package that has been rejected by Congressional Republicans. Instead, Bachmann says, “President Obama is holding the full faith and credit of the United States hostage so he can continue his spending sprees.” Bachmann refuses to say who would not get paid if the nation went into default, saying instead, “We want to take the politics out of this issue.” (Resnick 7/13/2011)

Mo Brooks.Mo Brooks. [Source: Public domain / Wikimedia]Many Congressional Republicans, particularly “tea party” freshmen, believe that not only is the Obama administration lying about the potentially catastrophic consequences of a US credit default that would follow the failure of Congress to raise the nation’s debt ceiling (see April 30, 2011, May 20, 2011, June 26, 2011, and July 11-12, 2011), but some even say that a credit default would be ultimately good for the nation. President Obama is joined by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), the chairman of the Federal Reserve, and Moody’s credit rating agency in saying that Congress’s failure to raise the debt ceiling by August 2 would be an economic disaster and must be avoided. But Representative Eric A “Rick” Crawford (R-AK) says otherwise. Crawford says all Obama would have to do to handle a default and the subsequent halt in US borrowing would be to use existing tax revenue to pay for what Crawford sees as “essential” federal services: the military, Medicare and Social Security, and interest on existing debt. If other government services, programs, and agencies such as the FBI, veterans’ benefits, and others would be interrupted, Crawford says that would be acceptable. “That wouldn’t work for just a few days. That would work for a few years,” he says, adding that he will not vote for a debt ceiling increase unless it is coupled with massive federal spending cuts. Budget deficits require “that we take some painful measures now. I’d rather swallow that bitter pill today.” Most of the cuts Crawford and fellow Republicans want would be in social safety-net programs, from Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and disability benefits to funding for education and veterans programs. Crawford and a number of House Republicans simply refuse to accept statements that economic calamity would result from a missed deadline, the Washington Post reports. That opinion, the Post says, will make raising the debt ceiling far more difficult than similar ceiling raises of previous years. Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL) says that not raising the debt ceiling would actually benefit the economy in the long run. Raising the debt ceiling, he says, just enables the federal government to spend itself into more debt. “A debt ceiling problem, as large as it is, is not anywhere near as a big or as bad as” more debt, he says. He adds that the government can continue paying creditors even if it is refused further credit. “There should be no default on August 2,” he says. “In fact, our credit rating should be improved by not raising the debt ceiling.” Most financial leaders in government and the private sector believe that the US credit rating will be dropped, perhaps significantly, if the US defaults on its debt, and the consequences of that drop could send the nation’s economy into a full-blown recession or even a depression. Even Boehner says the debt ceiling must be lifted. “Missing August 2nd could spook the [stock] market,” he says. “And you could have a real catastrophe. Nobody wants that to happen.” An Obama official recently said of legislators like Crawford and Brooks, “These are the kinds of people who get eaten by bears.” Washington Monthly editor Steve Benen writes: “The problem that plagues the nation is not about competing parties, ideologies, or creeds. It comes down to a dispute between those who believe empirical reality exists and deserves to be taken seriously vs. those who don’t. With Republican members of Congress and their supporters choosing the latter, it’s increasingly difficult to imagine the United States thriving in the 21st century.” (White 5/13/2011; Fahrenthold 7/14/2011; Benen 7/15/2011)

On a 259-169 vote, the US House of Representatives passes an amendment that would “prohibit the use of funds to implement any rule, regulation, or executive order regarding the disclosure of political contributions.” The amendment to an unrelated bill was introduced by Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) on June 24, 2011. The amendment is aimed at preventing the Obama administration from implementing any policy or executive order that would force disclosure on the anonymous corporate donors that have spent tens of millions of dollars influencing elections since the Citizens United ruling (see January 21, 2010). Eighteen Democrats join almost every Republican in voting for the amendment. Ian Millhiser of the liberal news Web site Think Progress speculates that many of those voting for the amendment were influenced by a huge corporate public relations and lobbying effort against campaign finance. After the media revealed that the Obama administration was considering issuing an executive order that would force government contractors to disclose their campaign donations (see April 20, 2011 and May 26, 2011), as Millhiser writes, “industry groups responded by ginning up paranoid fantasies claiming that the administration would use these disclosures to create a ‘pay to play’ scenario where only contractors who donate to Democratic causes could receive contracts.” Recent history, however, indicates that mandated disclosure would bring about the opposite effect, Millhiser writes. He recalls the 2008 resignation of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson, who was implicated in a huge scandal involving his office’s illegal contracting practices, wherein President Bush’s political opponents were denied government contracts while “personal cronies” were awarded contracts. “Had a disclosure rule been in effect,” Millhiser writes, “it would have been possible to compare the donation patterns of all government contractors against who was awarding them contracts, and systematically uncover examples of political corruption. Transparency is the enemy of corruption—not the means to implement it.” (Censer 5/15/2011; US House of Representatives 7/15/2011; Millhiser 7/18/2011)

Law professor John Yoo, who during his tenure at the Justice Department wrote memos defending torture and the right of the executive branch to conduct its business in secret (see March 1996, September 25, 2001, September 25, 2001, October 4, 2001, October 23, 2001, October 23, 2001, November 2, 2001, November 5, 2001, and November 6-10, 2001), co-authors an article for the far-right American Enterprise Institute that attacks the Obama administration for considering the idea of an executive order to require government contractors to disclose their political contributions (see April 20, 2011 and May 26, 2011). The article, by Yoo and lawyer David W. Marston, is entitled “Overruling Citizens United with Chicago-Style Politics,” a reference to some of the unsavory and often-illegal political machinations undertaken by Chicago Democrats. The article repeatedly compares the Obama administration to the Nixon administration’s attempts to “use the available federal machinery to screw [their] political enemies,” as Yoo and Marston quote from a 1971 Nixon White House memo. Yoo and Marston say that the Obama administration, in an effort to recoup its losses from the Citizens United decision (see January 21, 2010]), “is making an unprecedented assault on free speech” by considering the executive order and by pushing the DISCLOSE Act (see July 26-27, 2010). (Yoo and Marston claim that the DISCLOSE Act, if passed into law, “would have forced all those doing business with the government to give up their ability to participate in the political process, as is their right under the First Amendment, aside from just voting on Election Day.”) They write: “Under the guise of ‘transparency’ and ‘accountability,’ the order curtails constitutionally protected speech rights and opens the door for retaliation against those not supporting the administration politically,” and go on to observe that in their opinion, this “assault on free speech” (see January 21, 2010 and January 22, 2010) is being joined by “the media [and] defenders of free speech.” Yoo and Marston claim that the Founding Fathers intended for corporations and other entities to be able to involve themselves in politics entirely anonymously, citing the example of Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison publishing the Federalist Papers under the nom de plume “Publius.” Indeed, Yoo and Marston write, “disclosure of political contributions may be a prelude to the thuggish suppression of political speech by harassment and intimidation,” and they cite the instances of boycotts, vandalism, and death threats against people in California who donated money in support of Proposition 8, which declared gay marriage illegal. “Mandated disclosure of financial support for a political viewpoint can become the springboard for lawless retaliation against citizens for holding unpopular views,” the authors write. “Disclosure” and “transparency,” the “wonder drugs du jour,” are already “being used to silence core First Amendment speech rights and to threaten America’s long protection of anonymous political speech,” they contend, and claim that “thugs” are attempting to use violence and intimidation to nullify the Citizens United decision, force the issuance of the Obama executive order, and push the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to expand disclosure requirements. Only allowing financial donors to remain secret, the authors say, protects their rights to free speech and political involvement. “[D]isclosure invites retaliation,” they argue; only secrecy can protect free speech. The authors even cite a case brought on behalf of the NAACP, in which the organization was allowed to keep its membership lists secret for fear of attacks on its members or their families by white supremacists. (Yoo and Marston 7/20/2011) Ian Millhiser, a legal expert for the liberal news Web site Think Progress, angrily rebuts Yoo and Marston’s claims. Millhiser, referencing Yoo’s opinions issued during his stint in the Bush administration, writes, “If there is anyone in the universe who should think twice before criticizing a government lawyer for enabling a president to break the law, it is John Yoo.” He goes on to criticize Yoo’s legal thinking in the article, noting that the Citizens United ruling held that “disclosure could be justified based on a governmental interest in ‘provid[ing] the electorate with information’ about the sources of election-related spending.” Millhiser writes: “President Obama’s proposed executive order provides the electorate with information about the sources of election-related spending. So Yoo’s entire argument can be rebutted in exactly two sentences.” After rebutting other portions of Yoo and Marston’s arguments, Millhiser concludes, “Yoo’s defense of corporate America’s power to secretly buy elections is weak even by his own tragically incompetent standards.” (Millhiser 7/22/2011)

In an interview with CBS News’s Scott Pelley, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) says that he got “98 percent” of what he wanted in a deal with Senate Democrats and the White House in the just-concluded debt ceiling extension legislation. Boehner says he and his House Republicans successfully blocked a comprehensive “grand bargain” with the Obama administration because, as he says, the “president was insisting on more taxes [and] never got serious about the kind of spending cuts that were necessary in order to get America back on a sound fiscal footing.” He tells Pelley that he “walked away” from Obama’s final proposal. “We had a lot of productive conversations, a lot of tense conversations,” Boehner says. “But it became pretty clear to me that I wasn’t going to be for higher taxes, and the president wasn’t going to cut spending as he should.… I told the president: ‘I’m not going there. I can’t do that.’” Boehner says that he has no intention at this time of ever supporting revenue increases of any sort, whether it be tax increases, closing of corporate tax loopholes, or other ways to bring more revenue into federal government; instead, he hopes that the future focus of Congressional debate “will be on reducing expenditures coming out of Washington.” Asked if Republicans would ever support tax increases, Boehner says: “I think that would be a stretch. It doesn’t seem likely to me that that would be recommended, much less supported, but I’ve been surprised before.” He concludes: “When you look at this final agreement that we came to with the White House, I got 98 percent of what I wanted. I’m pretty happy.” Sixty-six House Republicans voted against Boehner’s final plan, though it passed both chambers and was signed into law by Obama hours before the US would have defaulted on its debt. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the deal cuts federal deficits by $2.1 trillion over 10 years while also raising the debt limit by an equal amount. The deal also creates a joint, bicameral committee of legislators charged with finding additional cuts. (Pelley 8/1/2011; Strauss 8/1/2011) Days later, Standard & Poor’s cuts the US credit rating (see August 5, 2011). Republicans, including Boehner, will blame Obama for the legislation and the resulting credit reduction (see August 6-9, 2011).

A dozen wealthy donors have contributed over half of the money collected by so-called “super PACs” in the first half of 2011, according to an analysis by USA Today. Super PACs are political organizations that exist to influence elections, which take unlimited amounts of outside money from donors, including individuals, unions, and corporations, and pool that money to advocate for or against a candidate (see March 26, 2010). By law, super PACs are supposed to operate independently of a candidate’s official campaign organization.
Majority of Donors Republican Contributors - The majority of those donors are contributing to Republican/conservative organizations, and overall, Republican organizations are outraising Democratic organizations by a 2-1 margin. American Crossroads, the organization formed by former Bush political advisor Karl Rove, has collected $2 million from billionaire Jerry Perenchio, another million from billionaire Robert B. Rowling, and $500,000 from Texas real estate billionaire Bob Perry. The super PAC supporting the Obama reelection campaign, Priorities USA Action, founded by former Obama spokesperson Bill Burton, has collected $2 million from Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg, and $500,000 each from media owner Fred Eychaner and from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The super PAC supporting the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney (R-MA), Restore Our Future (see June 23, 2011), has received million-dollar donations from hedge fund manager John Paulson, Utah firms Eli Publishing and F8 LLC, and the shadowy W Spann LLC (see July 12, 2011). It has also received half a million each from Perry, financiers Louis Moore Bacon and Paul Edgerly, Edgerly’s wife Sandra Edgerly, New Balance Athletic Shoes executive James S. Davis, J.W. Marriott of the hotel chain Marriott International, and Richard Marriott of Host Hotels and Resorts. Meredith McGehee of the Campaign Legal Center says: “The super PACs are for the wealthy, by the wealthy, and of the wealthy. You’re setting up a dynamic where the candidates could become bit players in their own campaigns,” particularly in less-expensive races for the House of Representatives. Katzenberg says his donation to the Obama-supporting super PAC was because of the increasing dominance of “Republican extremists” in national elections: “The stakes are too high for us to simply allow the extremism of a small but well-funded right wing minority to go unchallenged.” Charles Spies, the treasurer of Restore Our Future and Romney’s former general counsel, refuses to discuss donors, but says, “Donors recognize Mitt Romney is the most experienced and qualified candidate to challenge President Obama’s record of out-of-control, big government spending.” One donation drawing scrutiny is a $193,000 donation to the presidential campaign of Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) from a group called Americans for Rick Perry. The primary funder of that group is Texas billionaire Harold Simmons, who gave $100,000 to the group 10 days after Perry signed legislation allowing Simmons’s company to accept low-level radioactive waste from other states at its West Texas facility. A Perry spokesman denies any coordination between Simmons and his campaign, and says Perry has not even decided whether to run for president. Simmons helped fund the 2004 group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which launched a powerful campaign that smeared then-presidential candidate John Kerry (D-MA) and his Vietnam War record. American Crossroads has reported raising $3.9 million during the first six months of 2011. Its affiliate, Crossroads GPS, has spent $19 million on anti-Democrat advertising so far. That group does not have to report its donors or the amounts it receives. (Schouten and Schnaars 8/4/2011)
'Recipe for Corruption - Legal expert Ian Millhiser of the liberal news Web site Think Progress comments: “It’s tough to imagine a surer recipe for corruption. Although super PAC’s are prohibited from giving money directly to candidates—one of the few remaining campaign finance laws that wasn’t eviscerated by Citizens United and similar cases (see January 21, 2010)—it’s not like a presidential candidate isn’t perfectly capable of finding out which billionaires funded the shadowy groups that supported their campaign. Moreover, if just a handful of people are responsible for the bulk of these donations, a newly elected president will have no problem figuring out who to lavish favors on once they enter the White House.” (Millhiser 8/4/2011)

The outside of the Standard & Poor’s office complex on Wall Street.The outside of the Standard & Poor’s office complex on Wall Street. [Source: Satellite Radio Playground (.com)]The US loses its top-rank AAA credit rating from the financial services company Standard & Poor’s; the firm drops the US credit rating one notch to AA-plus. The US has never had anything but top-tier credit ratings in its financial history, and has top credit ratings from S&P since 1941. S&P makes its decision based on the huge Congressional battle over raising the US’s debt ceiling, normally a routine procedural matter that was used by Congressional Republicans, who threatened to block the ceiling raise unless they were given dramatic spending cuts by the entire Congress and the White House. (House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) boasted that he and his Republican colleagues got “98 percent” of what they wanted in the debt ceiling deal—see August 1, 2011.) Because of the dispute, the US was hours away from an unprecedented credit default until legislation was finally signed and the default avoided. S&P also cites the government’s budget deficit and rising debt burden as reasons for the rating reduction, saying in a statement, “The downgrade reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government’s medium-term debt dynamics.” The drop in the US credit rating will result in a rise in US borrowing costs for American consumers, companies, and the government. US treasury bonds, once seen as the safest securities in the world, are now rated lower than bonds issued by countries such as Britain, France, Germany, and Canada. S&P says the outlook on the US’s credit rating is “negative,” implying another downgrade is possible in the next 12 to 18 months. A senior investment officer with a West Coast management company says such a downgrade was “once unthinkable,” and says the entire global economic system will be affected. After the fierce Congressional battle, President Obama signed legislation mandating $2.1 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade, but S&P officials had asked for $4 trillion in savings as a “down payment” for restoring the US’s financial stability. Part of S&P’s rationale for the downgrade is its assumption that Congressional Republicans will not allow tax cuts implemented by the Bush administration in 2001 and 2003 to expire as scheduled by the end of 2012. The Obama administration immediately notes that S&P’s made a $2 trillion error in calculating the US debt, an error that the firm acknowledges but says does not affect its decision to downgrade the US credit rating. A Treasury Department spokeswoman says, “A judgment flawed by a $2 trillion error speaks for itself.” (Appelbaum and Dash 8/5/2011; Brandimarte and Bases 8/6/2011) Credit rating agencies such as S&P have suffered tremendous damage to their credibility in recent years; a Congressional panel called the firms “essential cogs in the wheel of financial destruction” after what the New York Times calls “their wildly optimistic models [that] led them to give top-flight reviews to complex mortgage securities that later collapsed.” (Appelbaum and Dash 8/5/2011)
S&P Explains Decision: 'Political Brinksmanship' - S&P explains its decision in a press release. The firm is “pessimistic about the capacity of Congress and the [Obama a]dministration to be able to leverage their agreement this week into a broader fiscal consolidation plan that stabilizes the government’s debt dynamics any time soon.” Fiscal policy decisions between Congress and the White House, the firm says, “will remain a contentious and fitful process.” The firm accuses Congressional Republicans in particular of “political brinksmanship” in threatening to allow a debt default if their conditions were not met, and says such tactics destabilize both the US and the global economy. “The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy,” the firm says. “[T]he majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the” legislation. “The outlook on the long-term rating is negative.” (Standard and Poor's 8/5/2011) In an email before the debt ceiling was raised, S&P’s global head of sovereign ratings wrote: “What’s changed is the political gridlock. Even now, it’s an open question as to whether or when Congress and the administration can agree on fiscal measures that will stabilize the upward trajectory of the US government debt burden.” (Appelbaum and Dash 8/5/2011)
GOP Presidential Candidates, Congressional Members Blame Obama - The day after the downgrade, Republicans in Congress and on the campaign trail blame the Obama administration for the downgrade (see August 6-9, 2011).
Economist Lambasts S&P, Blames Congressional Republicans - Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman lambasts S&P and blames Congressional Republicans for the downgrade (see August 5-6, 2011).

Stung by the recent decision by Standard & Poor’s to downgrade the US government’s credit rating (see August 5, 2011) and the economic turmoil triggered by that decision in response to Republican-backed debt ceiling legislation (see May 20, 2011), US Republicans begin blaming the Obama administration for the downgrade. After the legislation passed, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) boasted that he and his fellow Republicans had gotten “98 percent” of what they wanted from the legislation (see August 1, 2011). Boehner now says, “Democrats who run Washington remain unwilling to make the tough choices required to put America on solid ground.” He quotes the S&P report in making his criticisms of Washington Democrats, failing to note that the S&P report singled out Republicans as responsible for the legislative decisions that led to the downgrade. “This decision by S&P is the latest consequence of the out-of-control spending that has taken place in Washington for decades. The spending binge has resulted in job-destroying economic uncertainty and now threatens to send destructive ripple effects across our credit markets.” Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) says the downgrade and subsequent stock market plummet “provide further evidence that President Obama’s agenda has been a disaster for our economy.” Mitt Romney (R-MA), the former governor of Massachusetts and a frontrunner for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, says the downgrade is “a deeply troubling indicator of our country’s decline under President Obama.” Longshot GOP candidate Jon Huntsman (R-UT) says the downgrade is due to the spreading of a “cancerous debt afflicting our nation” and calls for “new leadership in Washington” to address the ongoing crisis. Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) calls Obama “inept.” Michele Bachmann (R-MN), a House Republican who led the “tea party” fight to block the debt ceiling from being raised (and thereby triggering a government debt default—see April 30, 2011, June 26, 2011, July 13, 2011, and July 14, 2011), now blames the Obama administration and particularly US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for the debacle. Campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination in Des Moines, Iowa, Bachmann says that President Obama should fire Geithner: “The president’s refusal to remove Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner shows the president has no plan to restore the AAA credit rating to the United States of America. The president is not listening to the people of this country, nor is he providing the leadership that is necessary to bring about economic recovery.… I once again, today, in Polk County, Iowa, call for Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to resign immediately for the sake of our country and to return our economy to full status.” Bachmann accuses Obama of “destroying the foundations of the US economy one beam at a time.” In robocalls targeting House Democrats, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) pins the blame for the downgrade on House Democrats. One call targeting David Loebsack (D-IA) says: “… Loebsack continues to oppose a [Constitutional] Balanced Budget Amendment that would force Washington to live within its means. Loebsack and his fellow Democrats’ addiction to big government spending has led to a downgrade of America’s credit rating and a dramatic loss in the global markets that could force you to pay more for everyday expenses. While David Loebsack keeps standing in the way of real fiscal reform, middle-class families in Iowa could now see a loss in retirement savings while mortgage rates, car payments, and student loans could become even more expensive.” Democrats respond with criticisms of their own. Tim Kaine (D-VA), a Senate candidate, says that “the continuing resistance of Congressional Republicans to entertain the need for new revenue as part of a reasonable solution is a critical part of the downgrade decision.” Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) adds, “By refusing to negotiate in good faith, Republicans turned the debt-ceiling debate into a hostage crisis and last night we saw its first casualty.” Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt says, “The Republican candidates would have put our economy at great risk by allowing the nation to default on its obligations.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) calls for a “balanced approach” to future economic decisions, which would include revenue increases such as tax hikes and the closing of tax loopholes for rich corporations as well as spending cuts. (Goldfarb 8/6/2011; Brandimarte and Bases 8/6/2011; National Journal 8/6/2011; Haberman 8/7/2011; Hohmann 8/9/2011)

A three-judge district court in Washington, DC, denies a lawsuit, Bluman v. Federal Election Commission, filed by two foreign citizens asking that they be allowed to contribute money to US political campaigns (see March 2011). Two of the judges, Brett Kavanaugh and Rosemary Collyer, were both appointed to the bench by the Bush administration. The court finds: “[I]t is undisputed that the government may bar foreign citizens from voting and serving as elected officers. It follows that the government may bar foreign citizens (at least those who are not lawful permanent residents of the United States) from participating in the campaign process that seeks to influence how voters will cast their ballots in the elections. Those limitations on the activities of foreign citizens are of a piece and are all ‘part of the sovereign’s obligation to preserve the basic conception of a political community.’” Kavanaugh’s concurrence even cites, briefly, foreign law: “It bears mentioning, moreover, that plaintiffs’ home countries—Israel and Canada—and many other democratic countries impose similar restraints on political spending by foreign citizens. See, e.g., Canada Elections Act [and] Knesset Election Law.” The plaintiffs, identified as Benjamin Bluman and Asenath Steiman, had argued that the Citizens United decision (see January 21, 2010) opened the door for foreign involvement in US elections. The case can be appealed to the Supreme Court. (Memorandum Opinion 8/8/2011; Millhiser 8/8/2011; Millhiser 1/5/2012) The Supreme Court will deny the Bluman appeal (see January 9, 2012).

The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit issues a pair of rulings in two related cases that affirm campaign finance disclosure provisions in Maine and Rhode Island. Both cases were brought by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), a conservative group that opposes, among other things, state and federal laws granting gays and lesbians the right to marry. The Citizens United ruling (see January 21, 2010) allows for unlimited donations from corporations and labor unions, but also upholds disclosure laws that can be “justified based on a governmental interest in ‘provid[ing] the electorate with information’ about the sources of election-related spending.” NOM’s pair of lawsuits challenged those areas of campaign finance laws in the two states, asking that NOM’s donors be allowed to remain secret. The court denies the lawsuits, writing in part: “In an age characterized by the rapid multiplication of media outlets and the rise of internet reporting, the ‘marketplace of ideas’ has become flooded with a profusion of information and political messages. Citizens rely ever more on a message’s source as a proxy for reliability and a barometer of political spin. Disclosing the identity and constituency of a speaker engaged in political speech thus ‘enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.‘… Additionally, in the case of corporate or organizational speakers, disclosure allows shareholders and members to ‘hold them accountable for their positions.‘… In short, ‘the First Amendment protects political speech; and disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to that speech in a proper way.’” Unless the appellate court’s decisions are overturned, the two states’ campaign disclosure statutes will remain in effect. NOM attorney James Bopp used a number of arguments in court that legal analyst Ian Millhiser will characterize as “paranoid fantasies regarding the impact of disclosure laws,” such as the need for anti-gay groups to keep their donors secret to protect those donors from harassment and threats. Industry groups have argued that government officials intend to use disclosure laws to reward their political allies. Millhiser will observe sardonically, “Because there is nothing dirtier than requiring wealthy individuals and corporations to come out from the shadows and reveal which elections they want to buy.” Similar lawsuits against campaign disclosure laws in Florida and New York, which Millhiser will say are the product of a “coordinated campaign” against disclosure, are pending. A lower court dismissed the New York case, and that decision is in the process of being appealed. (NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MARRIAGE et al v. WALTER F. MCKEE et al 8/11/2011; NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MARRIAGE v. JOHN DALUZ 8/11/2011; Danetz 8/16/2011; Millhiser 8/17/2011) Shortly after the Citizens United ruling, Bopp confirmed that this case, like the Citizens United case and others (see Mid-2004 and After), is part of a long-term strategy to completely dismantle campaign finance law (see January 25, 2010).

Ethan Harris of Bank of America.Ethan Harris of Bank of America. [Source: National Association for Business Economics]Many prominent economists and financial leaders lay the blame for the US credit rating downgrade (see August 5, 2011) at the feet of Congressional Republicans. Republicans have been unified in blaming the Obama administration’s economic policies for the downgrade (see August 6-9, 2011), though House Speaker John Boehner boasted that he and his fellow Republicans received “98 percent” of what they wanted in the debt-ceiling legislation that led to the downgrade (see August 1, 2011). Nobel Prize-winning Paul Krugman, a self-described liberal, blamed Congressional Republicans for the downgrade hours after credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s announced it (see August 5-6, 2011), and S&P itself implied that Republicans were at fault for the downgrade for being willing to risk sending the nation into default if they were blocked from getting their way in the debt-ceiling legislation (see August 11, 2011). Even before the credit rating downgrade, the New York Times reports, “macroeconomists and private sector forecasters were warning that the direction in which the new House Republican majority had pushed the White House and Congress this year—for immediate spending cuts, no further stimulus measures and no tax increases, ever—was wrong for addressing the nation’s two main ills, a weak economy now and projections of unsustainably high federal debt in coming years” (see May 20, 2011). These economists and forecasters generally agree with the Obama administration’s wishes to immediately stimulate the economy to include greater private-sector spending and create more jobs, with spending cuts more useful as a long-term remedy. Republicans in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail, however, continue to insist that their policies are what will rescue the US economy; House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) says that he and his fellow Republicans “were not elected to raise taxes or take more money out of the pockets of hardworking families and business people,” and will never consider tax or revenue increases of any sort. Even Republican economic figures such as Reagan advisor Martin Feldstein and Henry Paulson, the Treasury secretary under President George W. Bush, say that revenue increases should balance any spending cuts, a position Congressional Republicans—particularly “tea party” Republicans such as presidential candidate Michele Bachmann (R-MN)—refuse to countenance. Bank of America senior economics research official Ethan Harris writes: “Given the scale of the debt problem, a credible plan requires both revenue enhancement measures and entitlement reform. Washington’s recent debt deal did not include either.” Ian C. Shepherdson, the chief US economist for research firm High Frequency Economist, says, “I think the US has every chance of having a good year next year, but the politicians are doing their damnedest to prevent it from happening—the Republicans are—and the Democrats to my eternal bafflement have not stood their ground.” Joel Prakken, chairman of Macroeconomic Advisers, and Laurence H. Meyer, former Federal Reserve governor, both call the Republicans’ calls for spending cuts “job-kill[ers].” Bill Gross, head of the bond-trading firm Pimco, lambasts Republicans and what he calls “co-opted Democrats” for throwing aside widely accepted economic theory for Republican-led insistence that draconian spending cuts, largely in social safety-net programs such as Social Security and Medicare, will “cure” the US’s economic ills. Instead, Gross writes: “An anti-Keynesian, budget-balancing immediacy imparts a constrictive noose around whatever demand remains alive and kicking. Washington hassles over debt ceilings instead of job creation in the mistaken belief that a balanced budget will produce a balanced economy. It will not.” (Calmes 8/12/2011)

Researchers David E. Campbell and Robert D. Putnam, the authors of American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, conducted extensive polling and research on the ideology and beliefs of those who consider themselves affiliated with the “tea party” movement for their book. Campbell and Putnam write that their findings indicate what many have long believed: that by and large, the American “tea party” movement is made up of people who populate the right wing of the Republican Party. Moreover, they note, their and other polling indicates that the “tea party” is fighting an increasing tide of American disapproval. Within the last year, the number of people who label themselves as “opponents” of the “tea party” movement has doubled to around 40 percent, while those considering themselves “supporters” have dwindled to around 20 percent. In the authors’ polling, the “tea party” movement ranks lower than Republicans or Democrats in favorability, and even lower than groups such as atheists and Muslims. Their approval numbers are similar to those of the Christian Right. “Tea party” members tend to be overwhelmingly white, and their tolerance and approval of immigrants and minorities are significantly lower than even mainstream Republicans. They embrace many positions taken by so-called “social conservatives”—strong opposition to abortion, for example, and strong support for increasing the role of religion in politics. The authors write, “The tea party’s generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government.” “Tea party” members tend to support Republican presidential candidates like Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Rick Perry (R-TX), who proclaim their affinity for religion in politics. However, mainstream Americans tend to frown on increasing the role of religion in politics. According to the authors’ research, while the media narrative has portrayed the “tea party” movement as what they term “nonpartisan political neophytes,” in fact the early members of the movement were what the authors call “highly partisan Republicans.” Today, they observe, “past Republican affiliation is the single strongest predictor of tea party support today.” The authors conclude: “On everything but the size of government, tea party supporters are increasingly out of step with most Americans, even many Republicans. Indeed, at the opposite end of the ideological spectrum, today’s tea party parallels the anti-Vietnam War movement which rallied behind George S. McGovern (D-SD) in 1972. The McGovernite activists brought energy, but also stridency, to the Democratic Party—repelling moderate voters and damaging the Democratic brand for a generation. By embracing the tea party, Republicans risk repeating history.” (Campbell and Putnam 8/16/2011)

Liberal columnist Joan Walsh uses a recent op-ed by authors and researchers David Campbell and Robert Putnam (see August 16, 2011) to ask why the media portrays the “tea party” movement as a powerful new force of non-partisan advocates of small government, when research shows that the movement is, as Walsh and others have long argued, largely formed of right-wing social conservatives. Walsh writes: “It’s great to have data, but this is something a lot of us believed all along—the tea party was the Republican base dressed up in silly costumes. Why was the media so quick to declare them a vital new force in politics?” Walsh points to the early involvement of the billionaire Koch brothers (see July 3-4, 2010 and August 30, 2010), lobbying groups such as FreedomWorks (see April 8, 2009 and April 14, 2009) and Americans for Prosperity (see Late 2004), and Fox News, whom she says did early and “energetic publicity for… tea party rallies” (see March 23-24, 2009, April 6-13, 2009, April 6-7, 2009, April 8, 2009, April 13-15, 2009, April 15, 2009, April 16, 2009, May 13-14, 2009, July 28, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 28, 2009, September 1, 2009, September 12, 2009, September 18, 2009, Early November 2009, and May 22, 2011). Former Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck helped start one of the earliest nationwide “tea party” organizations, the “9-12 movement” (see March 13, 2009 and After). The first “tea party” rally Walsh attended, in San Francisco in April 2009, was sponsored by right-wing talk radio station KSFO and featured speakers such as Melanie Morgan, who, Walsh recalls, “whipped the crowd into an anti-government frenzy that day.” Many “birthers”—people who insist that President Obama is not the legitimate president because he is not an American citizen—were on hand. Race is a big issue for many “tea party” members, Walsh writes: while Obama’s race is a bone of contention for many “tea partiers,” “it’s worth noting that these are the same people who’ve been fighting the Democratic Party since the days of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and the beginning of the War on Poverty, almost 50 years ago. They associate those long overdue social reforms with giving folks, mainly black people, something they don’t deserve. I sometimes think just calling them racist against our black president obscures the depths of their hatred for Democrats, period.” (Walsh 8/17/2011) Walsh is echoing similar claims made by Mother Jones columnist Kevin Drum almost a year ago (see September 2010).

The online news site Daily Beast writes that the tea party movement that once swept American politics seems to be “losing… steam.” Reporter Patty Murphy writes: “Gone is the white-hot rage that famously defined the town hall meetings of August 2009 and sent incumbents from both parties packing a year later. In its place is… lingering frustration and continued anger with Washington, but a growing realization within the upstart movement that sustaining a revolution is harder than starting it—and that merely electing conservatives doesn’t guarantee they’ll buck the system they promised to overthrow.” Utah tea party member Jerry Stotler blames the lawmakers elected as a result of tea party activism. Speaking of a recent budget compromise between Congressional Republicans and Democrats, he says: “One of the most powerful words in the English language is ‘no.’ The tea party has failed to use their power of ‘no.’ If they would’ve just stood strong on their principles, this [compromise] wouldn’t have happened.” Murray notes that many of the tea party’s favorite lawmakers, such as Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), organization leader and 2012 House candidate Jamie Radtke (R-VA), and Governor Paul LePage (R-ME), are disappointing followers. Chaffetz has chosen not to run against Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Radtke is struggling for momentum against George Allen (R-VA) in the 2012 Senate race, and LePage has endorsed moderate Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) instead of Snowe’s more conservative challengers. One Republican aide says incumbents like Hatch, Snowe, and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) are working harder to curry favor among tea party activists. Graham tells Murray: “The tea party has added an energy on the big issues we haven’t had before. These people are fearless.… [T]hey’re doing the nation a great service.” But Graham, like some other Republicans, is showing a willingness to buck tea party ideology at times; for example, he insists that he is “for clean air and clean water,” a direct rebuke to the tea party’s stated desire to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency and its opposition to any dealings with “climate change” science. Graham tells Murray that the tea party has to do more than merely oppose ideas if they want their movement to last. “The question for the tea party is, what is your vision?” he says. “I buy into their vision of limiting the size and scope of government. I’ve been doing that for years. The problem that parties have, tea party, Republican Party, Democratic Party, is you can disconnect yourself from the people. The tea party has got to convince people that you can find common ground.” Polls show that the tea party’s popularity among registered voters has dwindled dramatically since 2009; Graham, for one, is not worried about a tea party challenger when he runs for re-election in 2014. (Murphy 8/25/2011)

Rolling Stone reporter Ari Berman writes that Republican lawmakers across the nation have launched “an unprecedented, centrally coordinated campaign to suppress the elements of the Democratic vote that helped elect Barack Obama in 2008. Just as Dixiecrats once used poll taxes and literacy tests to bar black Southerners from voting, a new crop of GOP governors and state legislators has passed a series of seemingly disconnected measures that could prevent millions of students, minorities, immigrants, ex-convicts and the elderly from casting ballots.” The initiative is ostensibly to counter the “epidemic” of “voter fraud” that Republicans insist is not only plaguing the nation, but affecting the outcome of elections. (In 2007, the Brennan Center released a report that found the instance of voter fraud vanishingly small, and concluded that more people die by lightning strikes than commit voter fraud—see 2007). Judith Browne-Dianis of the Advancement Project tells Berman, “What has happened this year is the most significant setback to voting rights in this country in a century.” As far back as 1980, powerful Republican operative Paul Weyrich told evangelical leaders: “I don’t want everybody to vote. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” In 2010, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group founded by Weyrich and funded in part by the billionaire Koch brothers (see 1977-Present, 1979-1980, 1981-2010, 1984 and After, Late 2004, May 6, 2006, April 15, 2009, May 29, 2009, December 6, 2009, November 2009, July 3-4, 2010, August 28, 2010, August 30, 2010, September 24, 2010, January 5, 2011, October 4, 2011, and February 14, 2011), began working to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of legitimate voters, almost of all identified as being part of ethnic or gender groups that are more likely to vote Democratic. Thirty-eight states have submitted legislation designed to impede voting “at almost every step of the electoral process.”
Requiring Proof of Citizenship - Kansas and Alabama now require would-be voters to show proof of US citizenship before being allowed to vote.
Impeding Voter Registration - Florida and Texas have passed legislation making it more difficult for groups like the League of Women Voters, an organization widely considered to lean Democratic, to register new voters. Maine repealed same-day registration, which had been in effect since 1973 and had worked to significantly increase voter participation. The Florida legislature passed a law requiring groups to hand in voter registration forms within 48 hours of collection, and imposed what Berman calls “a barrage of onerous, bureaucratic requirements” and serious criminal penalties for those who fail to comply. As a result, many people who once volunteered to help register voters are afraid to do so again. The League of Women Voters says it will no longer operate in Florida, and called Florida’s efforts “good old-fashioned voter suppression.” The Florida statute took effect one day after its passage, under an emergency statute designed for “an immediate danger to the public health, safety or welfare.” Since 2009, Florida has arrested a total of three people for suspected voter fraud. Republican state senator Mike Fasano, one of the few in his party to oppose the restrictions on registrations, says, “No one could give me an example of all this fraud they speak about.”
Curbing Early Voting - Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia have cut short early-voting periods. Six states have moved to impose new restrictions on voter registration drives. In 2004, then-Florida governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) said he thought early voting was “great.… It’s another reform we added that has helped provide access to the polls and provide a convenience. And we’re going to have a high voter turnout here, and I think that’s wonderful.” However, his successor Rick Scott (R-FL) does not agree, and neither do most Republicans. After analysis showed what a benefit early voting was for Obama’s numbers, early voting became a key target. Florida has cut early voting days from 14 to 8 days. Ohio, where early voting numbers gave Obama a narrow victory in 2008, has cut its early voting days from 35 to 11, with only limited hours on weekends. Both states have banned voting on the Sunday before elections, when many black churches historically mobilize their constituents. The Early Voting Information Center at Reed College states, “There is no evidence that any form of convenience voting has led to higher levels of fraud.”
Denying Convicted Felons the Right to Vote - Florida and Iowa have passed laws denying convicted felons the right to vote, disenfranchising thousands of previously eligible voters even if they have already served their sentences and have returned to society. Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist (R-FL) restored the voting rights of 154,000 felons convicted of non-violent crimes. In March 2011, after 30 minutes of public debate, Governor Scott overturned that decision, instantly disenfranchising almost 98,000 citizens and prohibiting another 1.1 million convicts from being allowed to vote after they are released from prison. Former President Bill Clinton asked in July: “Why should we disenfranchise people forever once they’ve paid their price? Because most of them in Florida were African-Americans and Hispanics and would tend to vote for Democrats—that’s why.” Iowa Governor Terry Branstad (R-IA) recently took a similar action, overturning his predecessor’s decision to restore voting rights to some 100,000 ex-felons. Until recent years, Iowa saw up to five percent of its residents ineligible to vote, including 33 percent of its African-American residents. Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, and Virginia require former felons to apply for the right to vote to be restored.
Voter Identification - Six states—Alabama, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin, all controlled by Republican governors and legislatures—have passed laws requiring an official government ID to cast a ballot. Berman notes that some 10 percent of US citizens lack such identification, and the number of young and black voters, groups that traditionally lean Democratic, are much higher. The turn towards voter ID requirements began in 2008, when the US Supreme Court upheld an Indiana photo-ID requirement even though state lawyers could not produce a single instance of the kind of voter fraud that photo ID laws are designed to prevent. After the ruling, ALEC orchestrated a nationwide move towards photo ID requirements. ALEC wrote draft legislation for Republican legislators based on Indiana’s ID requirement. Five of the states that passed those laws had their legislation submitted by legislators who belong to ALEC. Heather Smith, president of the voter-registration group Rock the Vote, says: “We’re seeing the same legislation being proposed state by state by state. And they’re not being shy in any of these places about clearly and blatantly targeting specific demographic groups, including students.” In Texas, the Republican-dominated legislature passed “emergency” legislation that was signed into law by Governor Rick Perry saying that a concealed-weapons permit is acceptable ID, but a college ID is not. Republicans in Wisconsin effectively disenfranchised every college student by requiring that acceptable IDs contain information that no colleges put on their IDs. Dane County board supervisor Analiese Eicher says, “It’s like creating a second class of citizens in terms of who gets to vote.” In Wisconsin, for example, about half of African- and Hispanic-American citizens do not have a driver’s license, and the state has an extremely small number of Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices—some of which are only open one day a month. Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) attempted to close 16 DMV offices, all in heavily Democratic-voting areas. Berman notes, “Walker planned to close a DMV in Fort Atkinson, a liberal stronghold, while opening a new office 30 minutes away in the conservative district of Watertown.” Democratic governors in five states—Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, and North Carolina—have all vetoed ID laws. Voters in Mississippi and Montana are considering ballot initiatives requiring voter IDs. Legislation is currently pending in Pennsylvania. Perhaps the most restrictive law was signed into effect by South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC). Voters must have a free state ID to vote—but they must pay for a passport or birth certificate. Brown-Dianis says, “It’s the stepsister of the poll tax.” Many elderly black residents who were born at home in the segregated South and were never issued birth certificates can no longer vote unless they go to family court to prove their identity.
Significant Impact on 2012 Voting - Berman writes that when these measures are taken in the aggregate, the turnout of Democrats to the 2012 votes will be significantly smaller, perhaps enough to throw races to Republican candidates. In July, Clinton told a group of student activists: “One of the most pervasive political movements going on outside Washington today is the disciplined, passionate, determined effort of Republican governors and legislators to keep most of you from voting next time. Why is all of this going on? This is not rocket science. They are trying to make the 2012 electorate look more like the 2010 electorate than the 2008 electorate.” Clinton was referring to the 2010 elections, widely considered a Republican “wave” election in part because of far smaller turnouts among young and minority voters than in 2008, and because of a large number of “tea party” voters. Clinton added, “There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today.”
Cracking Down on Voter Fraud? - Republicans insist that voter fraud is rampant in America. Since George W. Bush took office in 2001 after losing the popular vote (see 9:54 p.m. December 12, 2000), his administration made “voter fraud” a top priority for Justice Department prosecutors. In 2006, the DOJ fired two US Attorneys who refused to prosecute patently fraudulent voter fraud allegations. Bush advisor Karl Rove called voter fraud “an enormous and growing problem.” He told the Republican National Lawyers Association that America is “beginning to look like we have elections like those run in countries where the guys in charge are colonels in mirrored sunglasses.” The Republicans successfully destroyed the community activism group ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) after false allegations were made that it was, as Berman writes, “actively recruiting armies of fake voters to misrepresent themselves at the polls and cast illegal ballots for the Democrats.” A massive DOJ probe in 2006 and 2007 failed to prosecute a single person for intentionally impersonating another person at the polls, an action that the DOJ claimed was at the heart of the voter fraud investigation. Eighty-six cases of voter fraud did win convictions, but most of those were immigrants and former felons who did not intentionally cast illegal votes. An enormous investigation in Wisconsin resulted in 0.0007 percent of the electorate being prosecuted for voter fraud. And the Brennan Center report found the instance of voter fraud in America extraordinarily small (see 2007).
Voter Fraud Allegations Dog Obama Victory - Republican lawmakers and activists made a raft of allegations after the November 2008 elections that placed the White House in the hands of Barack Obama (D-IL). The 29 states that register voter affiliation showed a roughly 2-1 increase in new Democratic voters over Republicans for 2008, and Obama won almost 70 percent of those votes. Election reform expert Tova Wang says flatly, “This latest flood of attacks on voting rights is a direct shot at the communities that came out in historic numbers for the first time in 2008 and put Obama over the top.” Berman cites Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as emblematic of the Republican pushback against the Obama victory. Kobach is a former Bush-era Justice Department advisor who helped push through his state’s requirement that every voter prove his or her citizenship, ignoring the fact that Kansas has prosecuted exactly one case of voter fraud since 2006. Kobach used fear of illegal immigrants to help push his requirement through, stating without evidence, “In Kansas, the illegal registration of alien voters has become pervasive.” He also stated that many people were casting ballots in the name of dead voters, and cited the example of Alfred K. Brewer as a dead voter who mysteriously voted in 2008. However, as the Wichita Eagle showed, Brewer is very much alive. “I don’t think this is heaven,” Brewer told the Eagle, “[n]ot when I’m raking leaves.” Representative John Lewis (D-AL), a civil rights crusader who was brutally beaten during the 1960s effort to win voting rights for African-Americans, says bluntly, “Voting rights are under attack in America.” On the House floor in July, Lewis told the assemblage, “There’s a deliberate and systematic attempt to prevent millions of elderly voters, young voters, students, minority and low-income voters from exercising their constitutional right to engage in the democratic process.”
Fighting Voter Disenfranchisement - Voting-rights organizations are fighting back as best they can. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is challenging several of the new voter-restriction laws in court. Congressional Democrats are pushing the Department of Justice to block or weaken laws that impede minority voters from exercising their rights. Lewis says, “The Justice Department should be much more aggressive in areas covered by the Voting Rights Act.” Meanwhile, many voting-rights experts predict chaos at the polls in November 2012, as voters react with confusion, frustration, and anger at being barred from voting. “Our democracy is supposed to be a government by, of, and for the people,” says Browne-Dianis. “It doesn’t matter how much money you have, what race you are, or where you live in the country—we all get to have the same amount of power by going into the voting booth on Election Day. But those who passed these laws believe that only some people should participate. The restrictions undermine democracy by cutting off the voices of the people.” (Berman 8/30/2011)

Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Donna Edwards (D-MD) introduce legislation that, if adopted, would move to amend the Constitution to empower Congress and the states to limit corporate spending on political activities. The legislation is a direct move against the Citizens United ruling (see January 21, 2010). Conyers tells reporters: “Last year, the Supreme Court overturned decades of law and declared open season on our democracy. It is individual voters who should determine the future of this nation, not corporate money.” Edwards adds, “Since that flawed ruling was issued, campaign spending by outside groups including corporations surged more than four-fold to reach nearly $300 million in the 2010 election cycle.” Reversing the Citizens United ruling, she says, “is the only way to once and for all put the American people, and not corporations, in charge of our treasured democracy.” (Lillis 9/20/2011)

Army soldier Stephen Hill.Army soldier Stephen Hill. [Source: The Week]The conservative gay rights group GOProud blasts former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), a presidential contender, for making what it calls disrespectful comments towards a gay soldier in the evening’s GOP presidential debate. During the debate in Orlando, Florida, Stephen Hill asks the debaters if they would work to “circumvent” the repeal of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT) statute barring gay service personnel from discussing their sexual orientation. Some members of the debate audience boo and catcall the soldier during the question, an incident which none on the stage choose to address. Santorum answers the question, and says of DADT: “I would say any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military. And the fact that they’re making a point to include it as a provision within the military that we are going to recognize a group of people and give them a special privilege to—and removing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ I think tries to inject social policy into the military. And the military’s job is to do one thing, and that is to defend our country.… What we’re doing is playing social experimentation with our military right now. And that’s tragic.” GOProud issues a statement condemning Santorum’s remarks. Two organization leaders, Christopher Barron and Jimmy LaSalvia, write: “Tonight, Rick Santorum disrespected our brave men and women in uniform, and he owes Stephen Hill, the gay soldier who asked him the question about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal, an immediate apology. That brave gay soldier is doing something Rick Santorum has never done—put his life on the line to defend our freedoms and our way of life [referring to Santorum’s lack of military service]. It is telling that Rick Santorum is so blinded by his anti-gay bigotry that he couldn’t even bring himself to thank that gay soldier for his service. Stephen Hill is serving our country in Iraq, fighting a war Senator Santorum says he supports. How can Senator Santorum claim to support this war if he doesn’t support the brave men and women who are fighting it?” (GOProud 9/22/2011; Madison 9/23/2011) Santorum achieved notoriety in 2003 for his comments that legalizing homosexual acts would lead to incest, child rape, and bestiality (see April 7, 2003).

Fox News chief Roger Ailes acknowledges that Fox News has undergone what he calls a “course correction” over the last year, dialing back some of the most inflammatory and partisan rhetoric that is its brand. The release of talk show host Glenn Beck (see March 28 - April 6, 2011) is one of the actions Ailes has taken to “moderate” Fox News’s stance, as is the lower profile given former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as a prominent Fox personality—once aggressively promoted by the network as the savior of the Republican Party, Palin is much less visible on the network now. Fox executives admit that after Barack Obama’s election in 2008 (see January 2009), “the entire network took a hard right turn (see February 2, 2009, February 9-10, 2009, February 10, 2009, February 20, 2009, March 16-17, 2009, March 17, 2009, March 17-24, 2009, March 18, 2009, March 23-24, 2009, March 24, 2009, March 24, 2009, March 31, 2009, April 1, 2009, April 1, 2009, April 1-2, 2009, April 3, 2009, April 3-7, 2009, April 6, 2009, April 6-13, 2009, April 6-7, 2009, April 13-15, 2009, April 15, 2009, April 16, 2009, April 22, 2009, April 23, 2009, April 28, 2009, April 29, 2009, May 5-6, 2009, May 6, 2009, May 8-15, 2009, May 13-14, 2009, May 26, 2009, May 27, 2009, June 2, 2009, July 8, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28-29, 2009, July 30, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 8, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 14, 2009, August 28, 2009, September 1, 2009, September 12, 2009, September 18, 2009, September 29, 2009, October 11, 2009, October 16, 2009, November 3, 2009, November 5-8, 2009, November 18-19, 2009, November 24, 2009, January 27, 2010, May 20-22, 2010, June 11, 2010, June 24, 2010 and After, July 2, 2010, July 24, 2010, September 1, 2010, September 4, 2010, September 4, 2010, September 15-16, 2010, September 18, 2010, September 18, 2010, September 27, 2010, September 28, 2010, September 29, 2010, September 29, 2010, September 30, 2010, October 1, 2010, October 3, 2010, October 26, 2010, November 9-11, 2010 and After, and November 9-11, 2010 and After)… but, as the tea party’s popularity fades (see August 25, 2011), is edging back toward the mainstream” (see November 16, 2010, November 17-18, 2010, February 23, 2011, February 28, 2011, March 19-24, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 23, 2011, March 24, 2011, March 27-28, 2011, March 30, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 26, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 28, 2011, May 22, 2011, May 23-24, 2011, June 10, 2011, July 13-14, 2011, January 14, 2012, January 17-18, 2012, February 11-16, 2012, and February 12-13, 2012). Ailes has ordered the opinion show hosts such as Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly to tone down the rhetoric, in part in response to the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and the resultant debate about the aggressive, violent rhetoric being promulgated on the right (see March 24, 2010). Moreover, as media pundit Howard Kurtz writes, “[i]t was, in his view, a chance to boost profits by grabbing a more moderate audience.” Ailes’s contract is up in 2013, and some expect the 71-year-old media magnate not to renew his contract thereafter. Ailes continues to insist that his news network is the only “fair and balanced” (see 1995) news outlet on television, with the other broadcast and cable news providers being relentlessly liberal in their presentations, but on the other hand implicitly admits that he routinely pushes right-wing memes and talking points on his network. Today, for example, he is touting Fox News’s new “Regulation Nation” series, pushing the idea that government regulations have a stranglehold on American business. “[N]o other network will cover that subject,” he says. “I think regulations are totally out of control.” Government bureaucrats hire Ph.D.s to “sit in the basement and draw up regulations to try to ruin your life,” he says. Under Ailes’s direction, Fox News will feature stories on “over-regulation” in many of its straight-news and opinion shows. Some non-Fox News conservative pundits, such as radio host Rush Limbaugh, wonder if Ailes hasn’t given up on his commitment to conservative principles in return for ratings, saying, “Fox wants these people [Republican primary candidates] to tear each other up, ‘cause they want approval from the mainstream media.” Kurtz says that Ailes has turned the Republican primary into his own “reality show” for ratings and profits, essentially agreeing with Limbaugh. Overall, others are registering that Ailes is attempting to dial back the hyperpartisan posturing, even former Obama administration aide Anita Dunn, who says, “You have the sense that they’re trying to at least appear less of the hyperpartisan political network they had been.” (Kurtz 9/25/2011)

The campaign of presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R-MA), the former governor of Massachusetts, acknowleges the influence of the Koch brothers (see July 3-4, 2010 and August 30, 2010) on Republican politics and the “tea party” movement. According to an internal campaign memo, the Koch brothers, particularly David Koch, are the “financial engine of the tea party” even though Koch “denies being directly involved.” The memo explicates the attempts that Romney and the campaign have taken to secure the support of the Koch brothers, including a January 2011 meeting between Romney and David Koch at an elite club in Manhattan, and an August 28 meeting that was canceled because of Hurricane Irene. David Koch publicly endorsed Romney for president in 2008, and one of Romney’s first major campaign fundraisers for the 2012 race was held at Koch’s mansion in the Hamptons. Political strategists acknowledge the success the Koch brothers have had in getting dozens of far-right candidates elected to Congress in 2010 and creating a network of tea party members who can help Romney secure the 2012 presidential nomination. Strategists have also noted Romney’s lack of support among many tea party members and organizations, and the likelihood that Romney will fail to capture the 2012 Republican presidential nomination without tea party support. “In many national surveys, Romney has had difficulty breaking 25 percent in support and that’s because [tea party] conservatives are suspicious of him and doubt his commitment to their issues,” says the Brookings Institution’s Darrell West. “He’s courting the tea party because he needs them to win.” But that support is far from certain. Judson Phillips, the co-founder of Tea Party Nation, says: “Our vote is split up among so many candidates—none of whom are Romney. Romney’s problem with a lot of tea party voters, myself included, is at this point I don’t know what he believes and I don’t care—because even if he tells me, ‘When I get to the White House I’m going to be fiscally conservative,’ he will probably change his mind, depending on which way the political winds are blowing.” Romney has a reputation as a “flip-flopper” who has changed his mind on a number of key issues, and a closet moderate who once supported abortion rights, the 2008 government bank bailouts, gay rights, and gun control. (Peterson 11/2/2011; Fang 11/3/2011)

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT).Senator Mike Lee (R-UT). [Source: Gabe Skidmore / Telestial State (.com)]Senator Mike Lee (R-UT)‘s “leadership PAC,” the Constitutional Conservatives Fund PAC (CCFPAC), writes to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to ask for permission to collect unlimited contributions from corporations, labor unions, and individual donors for independent spending on behalf of other candidates. So-called “leadership PACs” are political committees set up and run by members of Congress, and other elected officials, to allow them to make contributions to other candidates and spend money on their behalf. It is a well-established method for Congressional members to build influence within their parties. The CCFPAC’s lawyers argue that there is no danger of other candidates being corrupted, because CCFPAC’s spending to help candidates get elected (or to attack their opponents) will be independent of those candidates. The request cites the controversial Citizens United Supreme Court decision (see January 21, 2010) that allowed corporations and labor unions to spend unlimited amounts in independent expenditures on behalf of candidates. Law professor Richard Hasen will argue that such a contention—that a candidate will not be corrupted because the spending on his or her behalf—is specious, and moreover, another danger exists, that of the corruption of the head(s) of the leadership PAC. He will write, “Corporations or labor unions (acting through other organizations to shield their identity from public view) could give unlimited sums to an elected official’s leadership PAC, which could then be used for the official to yield influence with others.” Any member of Congress could use his or her leadership PAC to effectively become the fundraising arm of their party, Hasen will write, merely by funneling all the money through that leadership PAC. Hasen argues that the McCain-Feingold ban on such “soft money” collections (see March 27, 2002) was not set aside by Citizens United, though he will cite a single sentence of the majority opinion in that decision as being a possible means of giving the CCFPAC request a veneer of legal justification: “We now conclude that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” That sentence, Hasen will argue, “which denies the reality that large independent spending favoring a candidate can sometimes corrupt or create the appearance of corruption, looks like it may doom those soft-money rules too. The result of all this is that federal campaign finance law is unraveling even faster than pessimists expected after Citizens United.” (PAC 10/17/2011 pdf file; Hasen 10/25/2011) Think Progress legal analyst Ian Millhiser will agree with Hasen, writing that “[i]n essence, Lee just sought permission to set up his own slush fund, powered by unlimited corporate donors, and use this slush fund to buy influence with his fellow lawmakers by running ads in their districts.… So Lee’s idea is that corporate CEOs, Wall Street tycoons, and other well-moneyed interests can show up at his office and turn over completely unlimited amounts of funds. Lee can then buy new friends in Washington and in state governments by channeling these corporate funds to an army of grateful politicians. And the more money corporate America gives him, the more powerful Lee becomes—and the more he owes this new found power to his brand new corporate sugar daddies.” (Millhiser 10/26/2011)

Presidential candidate Rick Santorum (R-PA) gives an interview to the owner of the evangelical blog Caffeinated Thoughts. The video of the interview is placed on YouTube, where it goes largely unnoticed until mid-February 2012. In the interview, Santorum says that he does not believe in contraception and, if elected president, he would confront the “dangers of contraception” and challenge religious groups who accept its use. “One of the things I will talk about that no president has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea,” he says. “Many in the Christian faith have said: ‘Well, that’s okay. Contraception’s okay.’ It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be. They’re supposed to be within marriage, they are supposed to be for purposes that are, yes, conjugal, but also… procreative. That’s the perfect way that a sexual union should happen. We take any part of that out, we diminish the act. And if you can take one part out that’s not for purposes of procreation, that’s not one of the reasons, then you diminish this very special bond between men and women, so why can’t you take other parts of that out? And all of a sudden, it becomes deconstructed to the point where it’s simply pleasure. And that’s certainly a part of it—and it’s an important part of it, don’t get me wrong—but there’s a lot of things we do for pleasure, and this is special, and it needs to be seen as special. Again, I know most presidents don’t talk about those things, and maybe people don’t want us to talk about those things, but I think it’s important that you are who you are. I’m not running for preacher. I’m not running for pastor, but these are important public policy issues. These how profound impact on the health of our society.” Time magazine’s Michael Scherer notes poll data that show some 99 percent of American women having used a form of contraception. “In politics, it is generally not a good thing to characterize something nearly every adult in the country has happily used as ‘a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be,’” Scherer writes. (Scherer 2/14/2012; Spak 2/15/2012) The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf writes: “What separates issues that are in the proper purview of politics from matters best left to individuals? I’d hate to draw that line for everyone, but watching Rick Santorum… I’m confident in declaring that he’s put himself on the wrong side of it.” Friedersdorf writes that Santorum obviously believes it is in the president’s purview “to opine on and shape public policy according to his notion of what is ‘special.’ As he surely knows, what is ‘special,’ what ought to be kept ‘special,’ and what is required to keep sex ‘special’ are all deeply contested matters. They inevitably turn on judgments shaped by faith, moral reasoning, and intuition. The American people, having wrestled with these questions, have concluded in overwhelming numbers either that contraception doesn’t make sex less special—or that if it does make sex less special, the tradeoff (less special sex in return for fewer unwanted pregnancies or abortions or STDs or more pleasure or human connection) is worthwhile.” Friedersdorf goes on to note that Santorum cannot credibly claim to be a supporter of smaller, limited government if he believes the president should have a say in whether contraception is available to American citizens or not. (Friedersdorf 2/15/2012) Matt K. Lewis of the conservative news blog The Daily Caller writes that Santorum’s position is likely to hurt his chances of winning the presidency, and continues: “When it comes to discussing such issues, Santorum should have practiced abstinence. He did not.” (Lewis 2/15/2012) Nick Gillespie of the libertarian news publication Reason agrees with Friedersdorf about Santorum’s questionable allegiance to the concept of limited government: “Calling all conservatives: Is this the sort of anti-Obama limited-government candidate you really want to get behind? And indeed, Santorum is out of touch in at least two distinct ways: First, the president shouldn’t be concerning herself with rubbers, IUDs, and birth control pills (whether she’s a Republican or a Democrat). Second, all the social indicators he seems to be worried about—including sexual activity among teens and teen pregnancy rates—have been declining.” (Gillespie 2/15/2012)

A new report by the Brennan Center for Justice shows that just three “independent” corporate political organizations outspent the US labor movement in judicial elections for 2009-10. The report, entitled “The New Politics of Judicial Elections 2009-10,” shows that three corporate interest groups—the Ohio Chamber of Commerce (Partnership for America’s Future), the Business Council of Alabama, and the Illinois Civil Justice League (JustPAC) outspent the US labor movement 13-1 in trying to influence state Supreme Court elections. Together, the three groups spent $3,554,445 on activities involving judicial elections. In total, organized labor groups spent $261,4230. Labor unions have always contended that they could not spend nearly as much on election activities as corporations. (Skaggs et al. 10/2011 pdf file; Millhiser 10/27/2011)

An unofficial logo for the Cain presidential campaign.An unofficial logo for the Cain presidential campaign. [Source: Draft Cain (.org)]Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain (R-GA), who is battling allegations that he sexually harassed two former employees, is further shaken by reports that his campaign may have accepted illegal corporate donations. The apparently-defunct corporation, Prosperity USA, was run by Wisconsin political operatives Mark Block and Linda Hansen, who now serve as Cain’s chief of staff and deputy chief of staff, respectively. The corporation, which incorporated itself as a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization under federal tax law, helped get Cain’s campaign up and running by paying for tens of thousands of dollars in expenses, including computers, chartered flights, and travel to several states. Such payouts are possible violations of federal tax and campaign law. According to documents obtained by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Prosperity USA claims it was owed about $40,000 by the Cain campaign for a variety of items in February and March. It is unclear whether the Cain campaign has reimbursed Prosperity USA. Cain began taking donations for his presidential bid on January 1, 2011, but records indicate Prosperity USA may have been spending money on behalf of him well before that date. The records have been verified as authentic by sources close to Prosperity USA. Cain’s federal election filings make no mention of monies owed to Prosperity USA, and the figures in the documents do not match payments made by the Cain Campaign. Other payouts include a $100,000 fee to the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), a conservative black organization; Cain spoke at the organization’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. dinner in mid-January, an event hosted by controversial conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart. CORE is heavily involved in tea party events. Apparently Cain was not paid for the appearance, inasmuch as his personal financial disclosure forms do not show any honorariums for speeches. (Bice 10/30/2011; USA 10/31/2011 pdf file)
Apparent Violations of Tax, Campaign Law - Election law experts say the transactions raise many questions about Priorities USA and its connection to the Cain campaign. A Washington, DC, lawyer who advises many Republican candidates and conservative groups on campaign issues, and refuses to be publicly identified, says, “If the records accurately reflect what occurred, this is way out of bounds.” She says it is a violation of tax law for Prosperity USA to advance money to the Cain campaign for the items invoiced, and the expenditures also seem to violate federal campaign regulations. “I just don’t see how they can justify this,” she says. “It’s a total mess.” Wisconsin campaign attorney Michael Maistelman, a Democrat who has worked for candidates from both parties, agrees, saying, “The number of questionable and possibly illegal transactions conducted on behalf of Herman Cain is staggering.” Think Progress legal expert Ian Millhiser writes that “if Prosperity USA effectively donated money to the Cain campaign by fronting money to them and agreeing not to be paid back, that is a violation of federal election law,” even if the Cain campaign eventually pays the money back. Block and Hansen have refused to comment on the issue. In 1997, Block, then advising the campaign of former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Jon Wilcox, settled allegations of election-law violations by agreeing to pay a $15,000 fine and to stay out of Wisconsin politics for three years. (Bice 10/30/2011; Millhiser 10/31/2011) Election lawyer Lawrence H. Norton, who formerly served as a general counsel for the Federal Election Commission (FEC), later says, “If they are supporting his campaign, whether directly or indirectly, they are violating the law.” (Confessore 11/3/2011)
Connections to Koch-Funded Political Organization - In recent years, Block has run the Wisconsin chapter of Americans for Prosperity (AFP—see Late 2004), a nonprofit conservative lobbying and political action group co-founded by the conservative Koch brothers (see 1977-Present, 1979-1980, 1981-2010, 1984 and After, May 6, 2006, April 15, 2009, May 29, 2009, December 6, 2009, November 2009, July 3-4, 2010, August 28, 2010, August 30, 2010, September 24, 2010, January 5, 2011, October 4, 2011, and February 14, 2011). AFP played a key role in organizing the tea party movement. Block met Cain through AFP, and encouraged him to run for president. Block has incorporated a number of offshoot organizations and corporations from AFP, most of which bore the word “prosperity” in their names. AFP officials insist that Block’s organizations are legally separate from theirs. Documents show that when Block left AFP at the beginning of 2011, he left behind tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid invoices.
History of Involvement with Cain Campaign - Block’s largest group was the now-defunct Wisconsin Prosperity Network (WPN), envisioned as an umbrella organization that would spend over $6 million a year underwriting other conservative political organizations. Hansen was the group’s executive director. WPN was also set up as a tax-exempt nonprofit organization. Under the law, neither WPN nor Prosperity USA can have direct political involvement with any candidate or candidate organization. Sources familiar with the situation say the two organizations were closely linked, and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from Wisconsin conservatives. One supporter, who still advocates for Cain and thusly refuses to have his name publicly disclosed, says he and many others are very upset with the groups for failing to use the money they raised for their intended purposes. The supporter names Hansen as being particularly responsible for the groups’ money usage. By February 2011, both groups were deeply in debt, with WPN showing a net loss of $62,000 and Prosperity USA showing net losses of $110,000. Prosperity USA’s biggest debt was an almost-$40,000 debit to “FOH,” which records show means “Friends of Herman Cain,” the name of Cain’s presidential operation. The debt includes almost $15,000 for what is called an “Atlanta invoice”; $17,000 for chartered flight service; $5,000 for travel and meetings in Iowa, Las Vegas, Dallas, Houston, and Louisiana; and $3,700 for iPads purchased for the Cain campaign. Other small-ticket items for travel and expenses by Block are listed as “not billed to FOH but due from them.” Other expenses include a September 2010 bill for $5,000 for costs incurred by Cain’s speech to the conservative Right Nation rally in Chicago, which records show Cain attended at the request of AFP; the Cain campaign later used a segment from that speech in a campaign ad. Prosperity USA also paid for a trip by Block to Washington, DC, to meet with billionaire oil magnate and conservative financier David Koch. Singer Krista Branch, who recorded “I Am America,” the unofficial anthem of the tea party movement, was supposed to be paid $3,000 by Prosperity USA; Cain has since adopted the song as his campaign theme. Branch’s husband, Michael, is a Cain campaign and fundraising consultant. The records also show $150,000 in loans from individuals who are not identified. Sources say Hansen paid much of that loan money to CORE earlier in the year. Michael Dean, the attorney for both Prosperity USA and WPN, resigned his position with WPN in the summer of 2011, and contacted the IRS about the organization’s tax-exempt status. And WPN is a listed litigant in a case pending before the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
'Outside Counsel' Will Review Allegations - The Cain campaign will respond by saying that an “outside” lawyer will review the allegations. “As with any suggestions of this type, we have asked outside counsel to investigate the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s suggestions and may comment, if appropriate, when that review is completed,” says campaign spokesman J.D. Gordon. Gordon refuses to identify the “outside counsel,” or give a time frame as to when the review will be complete. (Bice 10/30/2011; Confessore 11/3/2011)

Six US Senators led by Tom Udall (D-NM) introduce a constitutional amendment that would give Congress the right to regulate the federal campaign finance system. The amendment is directed towards overturning the Citizens United decision that allows almost unregulated spending by corporations, unions, and special interests in political campaigns (see January 21, 2010). Udall is joined in sponsoring the amendment by Michael Bennett (D-CO), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). In a press release from his office, Udall is quoted as saying: “As we head into another election year, we are about to see unprecedented amounts of money spent on efforts to influence the outcome of our elections. With the Supreme Court striking down the sensible regulations Congress has passed, the only way to address the root cause of this problem is to give Congress clear authority to regulate the campaign finance system.” In the same release, Bennett adds: “The Supreme Court’s reversal of its own direction in the Citizens United decision and other recent cases has had a major effect on our election system. State legislatures and Congress now may not be allowed to approve even small regulations to our campaign finance system. This proposal would bring some badly needed stability to an area of law that has been thrown off course by the new direction the Court has taken.” Harkin is quoted as saying: “By limiting the influence of big money in politics, elections can be more about the voters and their voices, not big money donors and their deep pockets. We need to have a campaign finance structure that limits the influence of the special interests and restores confidence in our democracy. This amendment goes to the heart of that effort.” And Merkley is quoted as saying: “It was President Lincoln who described the genius of American democracy as ‘government of the people, by the people, and for the people.’ We office holders work for the people. They elect us. They are in charge. Citizens United puts in motion the opposite: it moves us towards government by and for the powerful. As such, it is a dagger poised at the heart of American democracy. If we are going to preserve a government responsive to its citizens, we need commonsense reforms that give the American people a full voice. This constitutional amendment is essential for the people to be heard.” The amendment would:
bullet authorize Congress to regulate and limit the raising and spending of money for federal political campaigns and allow states to regulate such spending at their level;
bullet include the authority to regulate and limit independent expenditures, such as those from Super PACs, made in support of or opposition to candidates;
bullet not dictate any specific policies or regulations, but instead allow Congress to pass campaign finance reform legislation that withstands constitutional challenges. (US Senate 11/1/2011)
Passing a constitutional amendment is not an easy task. Two-thirds of Congress must agree to the amendment, or two-thirds of state legislatures must call for the amendment. Once proposed, three-quarters of state legislatures must vote to ratify the amendment. (Jilani 11/2/2011) This is not the first proposal to amend the Constitution to limit corporate spending (see September 20, 2011).

’We Are Ohio’ logo.’We Are Ohio’ logo. [Source: ProgressOhio (.org)]Ohio Senate Bill 5, known as the Ohio Collective Bargaining Limit Repeal, is defeated by a voter referendum. The bill would enable severe limitations on collective bargaining for public employees in the state, and make it difficult for those employees to strike and collectively bargain for wages, health insurance, and pensions, and would have increased employee contributions for pensions and health insurance. The hard-fought campaign pitted Governor John Kasich (R-OH) and Ohio Republicans against the state’s teachers, firefighters, police officers, and unions. The bargaining limit repeal was supported by farmers and a number of independent corporate organizations, including Citizens United, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, and the National Federation of Independent Business; it was opposed by labor unions, Democrats, and some independent organizations, including the bipartisan political action committee We Are Ohio, which helped launch the referendum. Over $50 million was spent on the campaign by outside parties and both political parties. Ohio Democrats and labor leaders call the repeal a win for progressives and worker rights, and the first step in recapturing the state government, which has been dominated by Republicans since the 2010 elections. Doug Stern, a firefighter who joined We Are Ohio, says: “Hey, I’m a Republican, but I’m telling you, Republican firefighters and police officers aren’t going to be voting Republican around here for a while. We’ll see what happens in 2012, but our guys have a long memory. We’re angry and disgusted.” Supporters, relying on large infusions of cash from corporate and other interests, relied largely on media advertising to support the repeal, while opponents staged mass protests and organized grassroots volunteers who they say will continue to work to defeat Republican interests. One $100,000 television ad paid for by Citizens United depicted schoolchildren while a voiceover told viewers that the bill allows schools to “replace” bad teachers, and added, “We parents and educators deserve the right to run our own schools.” Citizens United president David Bossie (see May 1998) told a reporter that his organization “decided to get in and play a role right at the end to educate the voting public and try to persuade them that this is the right way to go.” We Are Ohio called such ads “desperate attempt[s] by another shadowy out-of-state group that refuses to disclose the source of its money” (see January 21, 2010). Kasich repeatedly argued that the harsh measures against public employees and labor unions were necessary to balance the state’s budget. One senior state Republican says that Kasich “snatch[ed] defeat from the jaws of victory” by alienating labor-friendly independents in the state. (Levinthal 11/2/2011; Think Progress 11/3/2011; Thrush 11/8/2011)

The US government’s Nixon Presidential Library begins making the grand jury testimony of former President Richard Nixon available to the public. In June 1975, Nixon testified about his involvement in the Watergate scandal after his resignation (see August 8, 1974) to a California grand jury. Although he was protected by the pardon granted him by his successor, Gerald Ford (see September 8, 1974), he could have been charged with perjury if he lied under oath. No such charges were filed against Nixon. Judge Royce Lambeth ordered the testimony made public in July 2011 over the opposition of the Obama administration, which argued that too many people from the Nixon administration were still alive for secret testimony involving them to be made public. Lambeth wrote, “The court is confident that disclosure will greatly benefit the public and its understanding of Watergate without compromising the tradition and objectives of grand jury secrecy.” The records are available at the California home of the library and online. Historian Stanley Kutler, who was one of the principal figures involved in the lawsuit to bring the testimony to light, says, “This is Nixon unplugged.” However, he adds: “I have no illusions. Richard Nixon knew how to dodge questions with the best of them. I am sure that he danced, skipped, around a number of things.” Nixon’s testimony, conducted for 11 hours over two days, was the first time an ex-president ever testified before a grand jury. The library is also releasing thousands of pages of other Watergate-era documents, several oral histories from that time, and 45 minutes of recordings made by Nixon with a dictating machine. Some portions of the Nixon grand jury testimony have not yet been made public, due to the fact that they deal with people still alive. Some or all of that information may be made public at a future date. Kutler says it is doubtful the public will learn much more about Watergate from the new records: “The grand jury after that testimony had a chance to sit and indict but they did not, so I don’t expect it to be that important.” He adds that the opening of grand jury records is a milestone by itself, “another precedent for opening up secretiveness in public life.” (Woodward and Benac 11/10/2011) After initially reviewing the transcripts, Kutner says: “It’s Nixon being Nixon. It’s a virtuoso performance. How about $10 for every time he says, ‘I don’t recall’?” (Daily Mail 11/11/2011) According to reporters who review the transcripts, Nixon spent much of his time before the grand jury defending his legacy as president and denying first-hand knowledge of any of the activities that made up the Watergate scandal, but acknowledging his administration committed some questionable acts. “I want the jury and the special prosecutors to kick the hell out of us for wiretapping and for the plumbers and the rest,” he said, “because obviously, you may have concluded it is wrong.” (Woodward and Benac 11/11/2011) Nixon reiterated the story that his secretary Rose Mary Woods accidentally erased 18 1/2 minutes of an audiotape that might have shown his complicity in the Watergate conspiracy (see November 21, 1973), saying: “Rose had thought it was four minutes, or something like that. Now the counsel have found that it is 18-and-a-half minutes, and I practically blew my stack.… If you are interested in my view as to what happened, it is very simple. It is that it was an accident.” Nixon was harsh with the Watergate prosecutors, accusing them of persecuting him and employing what he called double standards against him as opposed to his Democratic adversaries. “If I could give one last bit of advice,” he told the prosecutors, “taking the double standard is going to make you much more popular with the Washington press corps, with the Georgetown social set, if you ever go to Georgetown, with the power elite in this country. But on the other hand, think of your children—they are going to judge you in the pages of history.… I mean, I am not unaware of the fact that the great majority of the people working in special prosecutor’s office did not support me for president.” (Daily Mail 11/11/2011)

Representative Ted Deutch (D-FL) introduces a resolution proposing a constitutional amendment that would ban corporate money in politics and end “corporate personhood.” Deutch calls his proposal the Outlawing Corporate Cash Undermining the Public Interest in our Elections and Democracy (OCCUPIED) Amendment. The proposal reads, “Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to expressly exclude for-profit corporations from the rights given to natural persons by the Constitution of the United States, prohibit corporate spending in all elections, and affirm the authority of Congress and the states to regulate corporations and to regulate and set limits on all election contributions and expenditures.” The amendment, if adopted, would overturn the Citizens United decision (see January 21, 2010), re-establish the right of Congress and the states to regulate campaign finance laws, and effectively outlaw the ability of for-profit corporations to contribute to campaign spending. Deutch says in a statement that refers to the Occupy protesters demonstrating throughout the nation: “No matter how long protesters camp out across America, big banks will continue to pour money into shadow groups promoting candidates more likely to slash Medicaid for poor children than help families facing foreclosure. No matter how strongly Ohio families fight for basic fairness for workers, the Koch brothers will continue to pour millions into campaigns aimed at protecting the wealthiest 1 percent (see November 8, 2011). No matter how fed up seniors in South Florida are with an agenda that puts oil subsidies ahead of Social Security and Medicare, corporations will continue to fund massive publicity campaigns and malicious attack ads against the public interest. Americans of all stripes agree that for far too long, corporations have occupied Washington and drowned out the voices of the people. I introduced the OCCUPIED Amendment because the days of corporate control of our democracy. It is time to return the nation’s capital and our democracy to the people.” (US House of Representatives 11/18/2011 pdf file; Jilani 11/18/2011) Three weeks ago, a group of Democratic senators introduced a similar amendment (see November 1, 2011). On December 8, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) will introduce a version of the OCCUPIED Amendment in the Senate that he calls the Saving American Democracy Amendment. Deutch will say of Sanders’s action: “There comes a time when an issue is so important that the only way to address it is by a constitutional amendment. I am thrilled that Senator Bernie Sanders has introduced the Saving American Democracy Amendment, a companion bill to H.J. Res 90, my legislation in the House. The dominance of corporations in Washington has imperiled the economic security of the American people and left our citizens profoundly disenchanted with our democracy. I look forward to working with Senator Sanders to save American democracy by banning all corporate spending in our elections and cracking down on secret front groups using anonymous corporate cash to undermine the public interest.” (Jilani 12/8/2011) Two House Democrats introduced similar legislation in September 2011 (see September 20, 2011).

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) unanimously rejects a petition by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) for him to be allowed to head his own “super PAC” (see March 26, 2010). Lee’s “leadership PAC,” the Constitutional Conservatives Fund PAC (CCFPAC), had requested permission from the FEC to turn itself into a PAC capable of accepting donations directly from corporations and unions (see October 17, 2011). Previously, the FEC had released a draft opinion opposing the request, but Lee’s lawyer Dan Backer had said he felt the FEC would approve the request. Lee spokesperson Brian Phillips calls the decision “a head-scratcher.” Backer and Lee had counted on the controversial Citizens United Supreme Court decision (see January 21, 2010) that allowed corporations and labor unions to spend unlimited amounts in independent expenditures on behalf of candidates, and essentially say that if corporations and unions can run super PACs, politicians should be able to do so as well. They argued that because the law bars Lee from spending the money on his own reelection efforts, and because he is willing to pledge that he would not personally solicit large donations, the FEC should grant the request. The draft opinion said that Lee’s request violates campaign finance law that expressly prohibits elected officials from being associated with a political entity that collects money beyond the legal limits (see March 27, 2002), and the unanimous decision echoes that finding. A PAC such as the CCFPAC is limited to collecting $5,000 per person per year and is banned entirely from accepting corporate donations. Lee, a “tea party” favorite, would have been the first politician in the country to have his own super PAC. Commissioner Donald McGahn, the most conservative commissioner and an opponent of most campaign finance laws, told Lee and his legal team: “Your argument essentially does away with contribution limits. It’s well beyond what we do here and well beyond what I do here, which is saying something.” McGahn says he agrees that the government should not discriminate when applying regulations on independent expenditures, but that the statute and regulations clearly limit contributions to members of Congress to protect against corruption or the appearance of corruption. Lee’s office says that letting Lee run a super PAC of his own would actually increase transparency and accountability. Lee may yet appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. (Canham 11/24/2011; Millhiser 11/28/2011; Romboy 12/1/2011)

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (R-GA) issues accusations that Americans on government aid programs are in many cases wasteful drug users who use their aid money to go on lavish vacations. Gingrich, riding a surge of popularity as the Iowa caucuses approach, calls President Obama “the food stamp president” during his stump speeches. In an appearance in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Gingrich says: “Remember, this is the best food stamp president in history. So more Americans today get food stamps than before. And we now give it away as cash—you don’t get food stamps. You get a credit card, and the credit card can be used for anything. We have people who take their food stamp money and use it to go to Hawaii. They give food stamps now to millionaires because, after all, don’t you want to be compassionate? You know, the Obama model: isn’t there somebody you’d like to give money to this week. That’s why we’re now going to help bailout Italy because we haven’t bailed out enough people this week, the president thought let’s write another check. After all, we have so much extra money.” The nonpartisan fact-checking entity PolitiFact calls Gingrich’s accusations complete lies. The “food stamp program,” known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), has very strict guidelines about what can and cannot be bought with federal aid dollars. Except for very limited exceptions, SNAP recipients cannot use aid money for restaurant meals or to buy anything other than groceries. SNAP funds cannot be used to buy alcoholic beverages. The “electronic benefits transfer” card, or EBT cards, are similar in appearance to credit cards, but have a very different function. EBT cardholders cannot use their cards to buy airline tickets, whether it be for Hawaiian vacations or anything else. PolitiFact doubts that any recipients would have enough funds to buy such tickets in the first place; the average monthly SNAP benefit is $134 per person. Julia Isaacs of the Brookings Institution says, “There is undoubtedly some illegal bartering of EBT cards—though I understand trafficking in EBT cards is less than under the old food stamps—but I am having trouble imagining how you could barter an EBT card for an airplane ticket.” PolitiFact notes that Gingrich’s claims may have come from a recent news broadcast in St. Louis, which found that some Missouri SNAP recipients spent $2,737 on food in Hawaii in January 2011. The money, though spent out of state, was spent on legitimate goods such as groceries. The amount was .07 percent of the total money allocated to SNAP residents in Missouri for January 2011. And the Missouri beneficiaries had legitimate reasons to be in Hawaii—some of them were members of the military transferred to new duty bases, for example. If the Missouri story is the source of Gingrich’s claims, PolitiFact notes, then Gingrich completely misrepresented the facts of the story. As far as the “food stamps for millionaires” claim, anyone who earns over 130 percent of the poverty line cannot receive benefits. No such beneficiaries have been identified, and if they do exist, they are breaking the law. Michael Wiseman of George Washington University says, “I would challenge Newt Gingrich to find a millionaire in annual income who gets on food stamps legally.” PolitiFact says that Gingrich’s claims are “so ridiculous” that the researchers thought for a time that he might be joking. Think Progress reporter Marie Diamond calls Gingrich’s claims “absurd.” At a recent campaign event in Iowa, citizen Don Brantz confronted Gingrich, saying: “You don’t always tell the truth, Mr. Gingrich, and that food stamp thing is one of them. Iowa already has a computer system. We do not pay money so the people on food stamps can buy beer and anything else. It’s a very specific thing.” (Diamond notes that Gingrich is a frequent world traveller, taking lengthy vacations in luxury spots around the world. In one instance, he told reporters that after taking a luxury cruise in Greece, he came away with a deeper understanding of the European financial crisis.) (St. Petersburg Times 12/1/2011; Diamond 12/2/2011; Khan 1/2/2012) MSNBC talk show host Ed Schultz will say that Gingrich, like fellow Republican candidate Rick Santorum (R-PA), “is also quick to connect programs like food stamps to the African-American community.” Schultz’s guest, author and radio host Michael Eric Dyson, says: “I don’t think we need Newt Gingrich’s pedagogy in the NAACP. I think this is condescension at its most poignant. And, as with Rick Santorum, when you have pet Negro causes, you tend to treat Negros like pets.” New York Times columnist Charles Blow will say of Gingrich’s remarks that “this sort of racial pandering is exactly what happens at this point in a race.” Blow calls Gingrich’s remarks “extreme, very racist.” (Byers 1/6/2012)

According to a Washington Post analysis, 10 percent of US billionaires have given to the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney (R-MA), who seems to be securing enough primary wins to be named the Republican Party’s presidential nominee. Romney himself is a former venture capitalist worth at least $250 million. Forty-two of the US’s 412 billionaires have donated to Romney’s campaign and third-party “super PACs” (see March 26, 2010, June 23, 2011, and November 23, 2011). President Obama has 30 billionaires on his donor list, or something over 7 percent. Romney opponents Rick Perry (R-TX) and Jon Huntsman (R-UT) have 20 and 12, respectively. The Washington Post reports: “Very wealthy donors are likely to play a greater role in this election cycle in the wake of recent court decisions that have loosened rules for campaign contributions (see January 21, 2010). That will only heighten one of the dominant narratives of the 2012 campaign: the nation’s rising income inequality and the outsize political influence of the super-wealthy.” Donors can only give $5,000 directly to candidates’ campaigns, but under the Citizens United ruling, they can give unlimited amounts to super PACs that run independent ads on behalf of, or in opposition to, candidates. “The only limit on the resources is the willingness of the donors to give,” says government professor Anthony Corrado, a former Democratic official. “It doesn’t take long to transfer $500,000 from one account to another.” Obama had a head start in raising campaign funds going into October 2010, largely because the Republican candidates were spending money against one another in primary battles. But now that Romney seems more and more assured as the Republican nominee, Republican donors are expected to focus on donating to his campaign and super PACs, and are expected to catch up to and surpass Obama and the Democrats in short order (see August 2, 2010, September 20, 2010, September 13-16, 2010, October 2010, Around October 27, 2010, May 5, 2011, and August 4, 2011). In 2008, Obama distanced his campaign from third-party donors, and donations from those individuals and interests were relatively down. But, perhaps recognizing the advantage Republicans have in raising money from the wealthy, Obama no longer objects to those donations. Romney’s largest donor so far is hedge-fund billionaire John Paulson, who has given $1 million to Romney’s super PAC Restore Our Future (see June 23, 2011). Think Progress’s Travis Waldron notes that Paulson made millions by shorting the housing market before the mortgage collapse that sparked the global financial crisis and drove the US economy into a recession. Other billionaires supporting Romney include Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, California real estate developer Donald Bren, and developer and publisher Sam Zell. Several billionaires who used to support Romney’s primary opponent Newt Gingrich (R-GA), including casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and Amway founder Richard DeVos, are expected to begin giving generously to the Romney campaign or to his super PAC. Obama’s richest donor is Len Blavatnik, a Russian-American industrialist who has also donated to Romney. Other billionaires supporting Obama include insurance magnate Peter Lewis, former Google executive Eric Schmidt, and venture capitalist John Doerr. Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt downplays the billionaire contributions, saying, “Our campaign is fueled by donations from more than 1 million Americans, 98 percent of which were in amounts of $250 or less.” Corrado says that as the November elections approach, spending will only increase. “One of the things about large investors in campaigns is that they’re very interested in getting results,” he says. “And it is much easier to get a large effect in a race if you can give to directly advocate for and against a candidate.” (Farnam 12/1/2011; Waldron 12/6/2011)

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously votes into effect a resolution declaring that corporations are not people and are not entitled to the same constitutional protections. The vote is spurred in part by the controversial Citizens United Supreme Court decision (see January 21, 2010) that allowed corporations and labor unions to spend unlimited amounts in independent expenditures on behalf of candidates, and the recent claim by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney that “corporations are people” (see August 11, 2011). Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa must sign the resolution into effect. It is non-binding, which means that its value is largely symbolic. Nevertheless, the vote, taken in a chamber packed with Occupy LA members and other activists, draws a standing ovation when it is concluded. If Villaraigosa signs the resolution into effect, Los Angeles will be on record as supporting federal legislation that would ensure corporations are not entitled to the same rights as people, particularly in the area of money spent on elections and campaigning. The resolution also proposed language for a constitutional amendment especially when it comes to spending money to influence elections. It also proposed language for a constitutional amendment declaring that money is not a form of speech and affirming the right of the federal government to regulate corporations (see November 1, 2011). Council President Eric Garcetti, who co-sponsored the resolution with Councilman Bill Rosendahl, says: “Every American should have an equal voice in their government. But unless there are big changes, your voice is only as loud as your bank account. And its the big corporations that have the largest bank accounts of all.… The flood of corporate money since Citizens United is literally drowning our democracy. It’s drowning the people’s voice in the government.” During open debate, activist Sylvia Moore tells the assemblage: “Corporations have taken over our society. They are deciding what we eat, how people educate their children, and whether or not we have health care. Corporations are polluting our environment. Some refuse to pay their fair share in taxes. And they are even deciding who gets to vote. They are making our laws when it’s government officials that should be making our laws.” The resolution cites Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black’s 1938 opinion on the subject, in which Black wrote, “I do not believe the word ‘person’ in the Fourteenth Amendment includes corporations.” (City News Service 12/6/2011; Think Progress 12/7/2011)

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R-MA) criticizes the influence of super PACs and third-party organizations in political campaigns, calling the “new entities” a “disaster” and claiming that campaign finance laws have “made a mockery of our political campaign season.” Romney was the first to form a presidential super PAC, Restore Our Future (ROF—see June 23, 2011), and that organization has been extraordinarily successful in raising money to use for Romney’s benefit (see January 31, 2012, February 6, 2012, March 11, 2012, May 21, 2012, and Late May 2012). In an appearance on MSNBC, Romney says: “This is a strange thing in these campaign finance laws. They set up these new entities, which I think is a disaster, by the way. Campaign finance law has made a mockery of our political campaign season.… We really ought to let campaigns raise the money they need and just get rid of these super PACs.” Republicans have advocated for unlimited direct contributions (see April 27, 2011, May 26, 2011 and After, January 10, 2012, January 21, 2012, and January 31, 2012) to candidates’ campaigns. Such direct contributions are currently illegal. Asked if he would ask ROF to stop running an ad that drew criticism from its target, Romney’s primary challenger Newt Gingrich (R-GA), he answers: “It’s illegal, as you probably know. Super PACs have to be entirely separate from a campaign and a candidate. I’m not allowed to communicate with a super PAC in any way, shape, or form. If we coordinate in any way whatsoever, we go to the big house.” Gingrich has recently said that the idea of super PACs running entirely independently of the campaigns they work to assist is “baloney,” stating: “They ought to take this junk [negative ads] off the air. And don’t hide behind some baloney about, this ‘super PAC that I actually have no control over that happens to be run by five of my former staff.’ That’s just baloney.” ROF was created by, and is staffed by, many former aides and colleagues of Romney’s. Gingrich has named a former aide, Rick Tyler, to work with his super PAC, Winning Our Future. (Madison 12/11/2011)

A federal appeals court strikes down a Wisconsin law limiting how much a single person can donate to independent political action committees, or PACs. The ruling is made in favor of a lawsuit filed by Wisconsin Right to Life (WRTL), which sued in August 2011 just before a round of recall elections targeting nine state senators. The courts issued a temporary injunction on the law, and the appeals court makes the repeal permanent. Before the ruling, Wisconsin law mandated that individuals could give no more than $10,000 to a PAC. The court rules that such limitations restrict free speech. WRTL’s Barbara Lyons calls the ruling a “sweeping victory” that will allow the group to “significantly contribute to the state and national dialogue on speech and elections.” But Mike McCabe of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign disagrees, saying that the ruling renders candidates almost irrelevant as special interest groups and their money become dominant in campaigns: “I’m not sure that very many people will notice a difference because money is flowing so freely in Wisconsin politics,” he says. “There’s no shortage of channels through which special interest funds can flow.” The court cites the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allows unlimited contributions to campaign organizations by corporate and union donors (see January 21, 2010), as the basis for its ruling. Judge Diane Sykes writes in the majority opinion: ”Citizens United held that independent expenditures do not pose a threat of actual or apparent quid pro quo corruption, which is the only governmental interest strong enough to justify restrictions on political speech. Accordingly, applying the $10,000 aggregate annual cap to contributions made to organizations engaged only in independent spending for political speech violates the First Amendment.” The ruling is expected to have a tremendous impact on recall elections scheduled for 2012, including the recall of Governor Scott Walker (R-WI), as groups both in support of and opposition to the recalls can spend large amounts of money on campaign advertising. (Bauer 12/11/2011; Millhiser 12/13/2011) WRTL won a landmark Supreme Court case in 2007 that struck down restrictions on so-called “issue advertising” (see June 25, 2007), a ruling that directly impacted today’s court finding. Days later, the local Chippewa Herald will write an editorial criticizing the ruling. The editorial specifies the “dialogue” that WRTL’s Lyons means “a heavy rotation of television and radio ads, phone calls, and direct-mail pieces.” WRTL’s purpose in its electioneering is fairly transparent, the Herald states, but many of the special interest groups involved in such electioneering are not transparent at all. “Do we want our campaigns to be about what the candidates stand for—heard directly from them—or about issue ads where candidates are either supported or attacked through a thinly veiled message urging people to contact a particular candidate?” The Herald notes that much of the $44 million spent on the state senate recalls “came from groups not subject to the state campaign contribution limit,” and few Wisconsin citizens know who those groups are. “The courts have ruled that political contributions and campaign spending is a First Amendment right,” the Herald states. “But those contributions and spending should not be done in secret or through a maze of groups and organizations that operate like legal money launderers.” The Herald advocates “complete disclosure” to “ensure openness and a clean and healthy democracy.” (Chippewa Herald 12/14/2011)

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