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Profile: National Rifle Association (NRA)
National Rifle Association (NRA) was a participant or observer in the following events:
The New World News, a British Moral Rearmament publication, prints what it calls the “Communist Rules for Revolution,” claiming that the “rules” were captured during a raid on a German Communist organization’s headquarters in Dusseldorf in 1919 by Allied forces during World War I, and published in the Bartlesville, Oklahoma (US) Examiner-Enterprise that same year. In 1946, the NWN writes, the attorney general of Florida, George A. Brautigam, obtained them from a known member of the Communist Party, who told him that the “Rules” were then still a part of the Communist program for the United States. According to the NWN, the “Rules” are as follows:
Corrupt the young; get them away from religion. Get them interested in sex. Make them superficial; destroy their ruggedness.
Get control of all means of publicity, thereby:
Get people’s minds off their government by focusing their attention on athletics, sexy books, plays, and immoral movies.
Divide the people into hostile groups by constantly harping on controversial matters of no importance.
Destroy the people’s faith in their natural leaders by holding the latter up to contempt, ridicule, and obloquy.
Always preach true democracy, but seize power as fast and as ruthlessly as possible.
By encouraging government extravagance, destroy its credit, produce years of inflation with rising prices and general discontent.
Incite unnecessary strikes in vital industries, encourage civil disorders, and foster a lenient and soft attitude on the part of government toward such disorders.
Cause breakdown of the old moral values—honesty, sobriety, self-restraint, faith in the pledged word, ruggedness.
Cause the registration of all firearms on some pretext, with a view to confiscating them and leaving the populace helpless.
The “Rules” are a hoax invented by NWN writers: there was no German Communist “Spartacist” headquarters in Dusseldorf, the Examiner-Enterprise never published such a document, and Russian experts at the University of Chicago will label them an “obvious fraud,” “an obvious fabrication,” and “an implausible concoction of American fears and phobias.” In 1970, the New York Times will investigate the document; no copies of it exist in the National Archives, the Library of Congress, or any of the university libraries it examines. Montana Senator Lee Metcalf (D-MT) will look into the document’s existence around the same time, and will learn that both the FBI and CIA have already investigated it and found it to be “completely spurious.” (Brautigam did endorse the “Rules,” and his statement and signature avowing the legitimacy of the “Rules” will give the document a veneer of legitimacy.) However, the “Rules” will continue to be used to claim that Communists are for a number of ideas unpopular among European and American conservatives, most frequently gun control and sex education. The National Rifle Association is one organization that frequently cites the “Rules” in its arguments against gun-control legislation, citing the Communists’ “secret plans” to “confiscate” Americans’ guns and thus “leav[e] the populace helpless.” American and British lawmakers regularly receive copies of the “Rules” in letters and faxes citing their opposition to gun control, sex education, support for labor, or other “Communist” ideals or entities. In 1992, University of Oklahoma political science professor John George and his co-author Laird Wilcox will write in their book Nazis, Communists, Klansmen, and Others on the Fringe, “Widely distributed since the mid-forties, the ‘rules’ have been trundled out at various times when they ‘fit’ or ‘explain’ the issues of the day, especially to argue against firearms control and sex education.” In April 1996, George will say: “These people [meaning far-right American extremists] would love for the document to be real. But it has been exposed again and again as a phony.” Folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand will write: “The rules have to do with dividing people into hostile groups, encouraging government extravagance, and fomenting unnecessary ‘strikes’ in vital industries. What we have lost, the list suggests, is a world without dissent, budget deficits, inflation, and labor unrest. I just can’t remember any such Golden Age.” [Stickney, 1996, pp. xx; Free Inquiry, 1999; Rosa Luxemburg, 2003; Snopes (.com), 7/10/2007]
White supremacist Timothy McVeigh (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990 and November 1991 - Summer 1992) closely follows the culminating events of the Ruby Ridge, Idaho, siege (see August 31, 1992). McVeigh is appalled by the government’s conduct, as is his friend Terry Nichols, with whom he is staying (see Summer 1992). [Douglas O. Linder, 2001; CNN, 12/17/2007] McVeigh has been closely following the events at Ruby Ridge since the siege began in April 1992, both in local newspapers and in publications such as the National Rifle Association’s American Hunter and the racist, separatist Spotlight, and will complain that the mainstream media gives only the government’s version of events. He will later recall this as a “defining moment” in his life. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 147-148; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996] McVeigh will go on to bomb a federal building in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995).
The National Rifle Association (NRA) issues a statement claiming that “jack-booted government thugs” have “the government’s go-ahead to… murder law-abiding citizens.” Former President George H. W. Bush quits the NRA in protest. The Southern Poverty Law Center will later say that the NRA is echoing “Patriot movement” and other anti-government rhetoric. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
Steve Stockman. [Source: Steve Stockman]Representative Steve Stockman (R-TX), a freshman congressman who has won fans in the militia movement for his defense of “citizen’s militias” and his accusations that the Clinton administration deliberately caused the Branch Davidian tragedy (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After), receives a fax regarding the Oklahoma City bombings (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). The fax reads:
Bldg 7 to 10 floors only military people on scene—
BATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms]/FBI.
Bomb threat received Last Week.
Perpetrator unknown at this time.
According to a statement released by Stockman five days later (see April 23-24, 1995), no one in his office pays any attention to the fax until they learn of the Oklahoma City bombing. Once they realize that the fax may pertain to the bombing, a staffer forwards it to the FBI. Later investigation will show that the fax was sent by Libby Molloy, a former Republican Party official in Texas who now works for Wolverine Productions in Michigan, a firm that produces shortwave broadcasts aimed at militia audiences. (The fax has the word “Wolverine” stamped across the top as part of the sender information.) Molloy also sends the fax to Texas State Senator Mike Galloway and to the offices of the National Rifle Association (NRA). [New York Times, 4/23/1995; 'Lectric Law Library, 4/24/1995; Dallas Morning News, 4/25/1995; Time, 5/8/1995; Houston Press, 6/22/1995]
The press reports that Representative Steve Stockman (R-TX) received a fax shortly after the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) that described the effects of the blast (see 10:50 a.m. April 19, 1995). FBI investigators initially believed that Stockman received the fax three minutes before the 9:02 a.m. blast, but later determined that it had been sent shortly afterwards. They believe that the fax may have been sent by Mark Koernke, a member of the Michigan Militia. Authorities are seeking Koernke for questioning, but say that questioning him is not a high priority. [New York Times, 4/23/1995; 'Lectric Law Library, 4/24/1995] The fax will later be determined to have been sent around 10:50 a.m., almost two hours after the blast. Subsequent reporting claims that Stockman received the fax from Libby Molloy, the former Republican chairwoman from Orange County, Texas, who has ties to the Michigan Militia. Texas State Senator Mike Galloway also says that his office received a copy of the fax the same day, and turned it over to the FBI. The fax contained the word “Wolverine” stamped at the top; Molloy now works for Wolverine Productions, a Michigan firm that produces shortwave broadcasts aimed at militia audiences. [Dallas Morning News, 4/25/1995] Koernke broadcasts via Wolverine Productions. Stockman will deny knowing either Molloy or Koernke, though Molloy will later say that Stockman’s office has provided Wolverine Productions with information helpful for Koernke’s broadcasts. [Time, 5/8/1995] Stockman releases a statement concerning the fax and the subsequent press reporting, writing in part: “On the day of the Oklahoma City bombing someone sent our office an anonymous fax which appeared to relate to that tragedy. Our office—not aware of the bombing or the meaning of the fax—set it aside. Our office—like the offices of most public officials, receives every imaginable kind of mail from the public. This fax was no different. After my staff heard news reports of the tragedy—the fax was retrieved and I was made aware of it. I immediately instructed my staff to turn the fax over to the FBI. My office did so within minutes. There has been some confusion in the media over when my office received this fax and when we turned it over to the FBI. There has been no confusion in my office—we turned it over right away.” Stockman says the FBI has confirmed his version of events, and attaches a statement from FBI official John Collingwood showing that he sent the fax “at 11:57 a.m. on April 19, 1995, to the FBI Office of Public and Congressional Affairs.” Stockman also says that a member of his staff sent another copy of the fax to the National Rifle Association (NRA) on April 20, and says, “I believe the staffer acted in good faith, nonetheless, this was done without my knowledge.” Stockman believes he received the fax because of a memo he sent to Attorney General Janet Reno on March 22, 1995, asking if the Justice Department planned any raids against “citizen’s militia” groups and warning of a Branch Davidian-like debacle (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After) if the raids were actually carried out. ['Lectric Law Library, 4/24/1995] The Houston Press will later report that the initial confusion about the timing of the fax was caused by the NRA, whom the Press will call “Stockman’s chief patron.” The Press will also note that Stockman has ties to the militia movement, and in a recent Guns and Ammo magazine article, accused the Clinton administration of deliberately killing the Branch Davidians and burning their compound in order to justify its ban on assault weapons (see September 13, 1994). Stockman says he regrets “some of the language he used” in the article. Stockman has also associated himself with anti-Semitic radio show host Tom Valentine, and railed against “outside influences,” presumably Jewish, in the Federal Reserve and other federal financial institutions. [Houston Press, 6/22/1995]
Entity Tags: Mark Koernke, Houston Press, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Clinton administration, Janet Reno, Libby Molloy, US Department of Justice, John Collingwood, Tom Valentine, Steve Stockman, Wolverine Productions, Michigan Militia, Mike Galloway, National Rifle Association
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Stephen Higgins, the former head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF, sometimes abbreviated ATF), publishes an op-ed for the Washington Post explaining why his agency mounted a raid on the Branch Davidian compound outside of Waco, Texas (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993). Higgins says he wrote the piece after watching and reading about the public reaction to the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), which many claim was triggered by the Waco debacle (see April 19, 1993). Higgins says a raft of misinformation surrounds the BATF raid on the Davidian compound, and gives his rationale for the raid.
BATF Did Not Instigate Investigation into Davidians - “[D]espite what fundraisers at the National Rifle Association would have us believe, the [B]ATF is not part of some sinister federal plot to confiscate guns from innocent people,” he writes. The agency was alerted to the Davidians’ stockpiling of weapons by reports from a local deputy sheriff, who heard from a United Parcel Services driver that a package he delivered to the Davidians contained grenade parts (see November 1992 - January 1993), and earlier deliveries included black gunpower, firearms parts, and casings. “[C]onspiracy theorists had best include the local sheriff’s office and UPS as part of the collusion,” Higgins writes. In addition, the day before the raid, the Waco Tribune-Herald began the “Sinful Messiah” series of reports on the Davidians and their leader, David Koresh (see February 27 - March 3, 1993), which detailed, Higgins writes, “the potential danger the group represented to the community as well as, somewhat ironically, the failure of local law enforcement agencies in addressing the threat. (The conspiracy now would have to include the local newspaper publisher!)”
Davidians Posed Clear Threat to Community - Higgins says that it would have been dangerous to assume that the Davidians were peaceful people who did not plan to actually use the weapons they were amassing, and repeats the claim that Koresh said in late 1992 that “the riots in Los Angeles would pale in comparison to what was going to happen in Waco” (see December 7, 1992). Higgins goes on to say that during the 51-day siege, Koresh alluded to a previous plan to blow up the dam at Lake Waco, that Koresh wanted to provoke a confrontation with the BATF, and had at one point considered opening fire on a Waco restaurant to provoke just such a conflict.
BATF Feared Mass Suicide - Higgins notes that the BATF, like the FBI, feared the possibility of “mass suicide” (see February 24-27, 1993, Around 4:00 p.m. February 28, 1993, March 5, 1993, March 7-8, 1993, March 12, 1993, (March 19, 1993), and March 23, 1993), and gives several examples of cults who have carried out just such mass suicides.
Disputes Claims that BATF Fired First Shots - Higgins disputes the claims “that the Davidians were only defending themselves when they shot and killed four [B]ATF agents and wounded numerous others” during the February 1993 raid. He notes that investigations have shown that all four BATF agents were killed by Davidian gunfire (see February 2000) and not “friendly fire,” as some have alleged, and asks, “[W]hat possible excuse could there have been for the Davidians even taking up arms—let along using them—upon learning inadvertently from a TV cameraman that ATF agents were on their way to serve warrants?” Had the Davidians allowed the BATF agents to serve their warrants, “there would have been no subsequent loss of life on either side.” He goes on to say that it was the Davidians, not the BATF, who first opened fire, as a Treasury Department report has confirmed (see Late September - October 1993). He writes that for BATF agents to have merely “driven up to the compound and politely asked to conduct a search without displaying any firearms” would have been “dangerous and potentially suicidal.”
Using Waco as an Excuse for Violence - Higgins concludes that people like Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, do not decide to do violence to innocent people because of tragedies such as the Davidian incident, but “use it as an excuse for their behavior.” He notes that after the Oklahoma City bombing, someone called it a “damned good start.” He says perhaps the upcoming hearings on the Waco tragedy (see Late July 1995) might influence some of these people: “By seeing the faces of the survivors and reading their stories, maybe those who so vehemently rail against government authority in general, and government workers in particular, will come to understand better that those people they’ve been so quick to criticize have real faces and real families. They car-pool to work. They coach Little League sports. They mow their lawns. They’re the family next door that waters your plants and takes in your mail while you’re away. No one deserves to have their life placed in jeopardy simply because they work in, or happen to be passing by, a government office. And no one, not even law enforcement officers who get paid for risking their lives, deserves to be targeted by violent extremists threatening to kill them simply for doing their jobs.” For others, like radio talk show host G. Gordon Liddy, who has advised his listeners to shoot BATF agents in the head because they wear bulletproof vests (see August 26 - September 15, 1994), “I doubt there’s much hope,” Higgins writes. He says that Liddy’s excuse that he was talking strictly about self-defense doesn’t wash; some angry and unstable individuals might well take Liddy’s words literally. Higgins compares Koresh to mass murderers such as Charles Manson and David Berkowitz (“Son of Sam”), and concludes: “We can’t change the outcome of what happened at Waco, but we have a responsibility not to ignore simple fairness and compassion in our search for the truth. If there is to be another hearing on Waco, let’s hope it’s for the purpose of examining the facts and learning from the tragedy, not merely to please one more special interest group with an anti-government agenda.” [Washington Post, 7/2/1995]
Entity Tags: US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, David Koresh, G. Gordon Liddy, Branch Davidians, Stephen Higgins, Washington Post, Waco Tribune-Herald, Timothy James McVeigh, National Rifle Association
Timeline Tags: 1993 Branch Davidian Crisis
President Clinton signs the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which the New York Times calls “broad legislation that provides new tools and penalties for federal law-enforcement officials to use in fighting terrorism.” The Clinton administration proposed the bill in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City terrorist bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). In many ways, the original bill will be mirrored by the USA Patriot Act six years later (see October 26, 2001). Civil libertarians on both the left and right opposed the legislation. Political analyst Michael Freeman called the proposal one of the “worst assaults on civil liberties in decades,” and the Houston Chronicle called it a “frightening” and “grievous” assault on domestic freedoms. Many Republicans opposed the bill, and forced a compromise that removed increased wiretap authority and lower standards for lawsuits against sellers of guns used in crimes. CNN called the version that finally passed the Republican-controlled Congress a “watered-down version of the White House’s proposal. The Clinton administration has been critical of the bill, calling it too weak. The original House bill, passed last month, had deleted many of the Senate’s anti-terrorism provisions because of lawmakers’ concerns about increasing federal law enforcement powers. Some of those provisions were restored in the compromise bill.” [CNN, 4/18/1996; New York Times, 4/25/1996; Roberts, 2008, pp. 35] An unusual coalition of gun rights groups such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) and civil liberties groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) led the opposition to the law. [New York Times, 4/17/1996] By the time Congress passed the bill, it had been, in the words of FBI Director Louis Freeh, “stripped… of just about every meaningful provision.” [Roberts, 2008, pp. 35] The law makes it illegal in the US to provide “material support” to any organization banned by the State Department. [Guardian, 9/10/2001]
Sarah Palin during her tenure on Wasilla’s City Council. [Source: Sarah Palin Truth Squad (.com)]Wasilla, Alaska, City Council member Sarah Palin, a 32-year-old former sportscaster and current housewife, challenges three-term incumbent John C. Stein for mayor. Wasilla is a small town of less than 5,000 residents; Palin is popular among residents for her success in beauty pageants and for her history as a point guard on the 1982 Wasilla High School state basketball championship team. Before the Palin campaign, mayoral elections have focused relentlessly on local issues, such as paving dirt roads and putting in sewers. Personal campaigning revolved around who went hunting with who. [Anchorage Daily News, 10/23/2006; New York Times, 9/2/2008; Anchorage Daily News, 9/2/2008] Instead, Palin, guided by advisers such as Mark Chryson of the Alaskan Independent Party (AIP—see October 10, 2008), runs an unusually negative campaign against Stein. Her campaign slogan is “Positively Sarah.” Palin emphasizes her stance against abortion, her membership in the National Rifle Association (NRA), and her church work. She runs as an outsider against what she calls an “old boy network” that has controlled Wasilla’s government long enough. She vows to replace “stale leadership” and a “tax-and-spend” mentality with “fresh ideas and energy,” and, in campaign literature, complains that citizens asking city leaders for help routinely encounter “complacency, inaction, and even total disregard.” The Alaska Republican Party runs advertisements on Palin’s behalf, a first in Wasilla politics as Alaska municipal politics are officially nonpartisan. Palin also mounts a stinging negative campaign against Stein, including insinuations that he, a Lutheran, is a secret Jew. “Sarah comes in with all this ideological stuff and I was like, ‘Whoa,’” Stein will later recall. “But that got her elected: abortion, gun rights, term limits, and the religious born-again thing. I’m not a churchgoing guy, and that was another issue: ‘We will have our first Christian mayor.’” Of the Jewish campaign theme, Stein will recall: “I thought: ‘Holy cow, what’s happening here? Does that mean she thinks I’m Jewish or Islamic?‘… The point was that she was a born-again Christian.” Stein, who is pro-choice, remembers a “national anti-abortion outfit sen[ding] little pink cards to voters in Wasilla endorsing her.” Victoria Naegele, the managing editor of the local Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman newspaper and herself a conservative Christian, will later recall: “[Stein] figured he was just going to run your average, friendly small-town race. But it turned into something much different than that.… I just thought, ‘That’s ridiculous, she should concentrate on roads, not abortion.’” Palin wins with 638 votes, a 58 percent majority. A local TV station calls her Wasilla’s “first Christian mayor,” though Stein is a Christian as well. [Anchorage Daily News, 10/23/2006; New York Times, 9/2/2008; Time, 9/2/2008; Seattle Times, 9/7/2008; Washington Post, 9/14/2008] Palin has a tumultuous first term as mayor (see Late 1996 - 1999).
Sarah Palin, taking the oath of office as mayor, 1997. [Source: New York Times]Wasilla, Alaska, City Council member Sarah Palin becomes Mayor of Wasilla after running a groundbreakingly negative political campaign (see Mid and Late 1996). In her term, she focuses on town development and personal politics. Palin supporters will say that she helps Wasilla develop from a small backwater into a fast-growing suburb, almost doubling its population during her term and bringing in large “box stores” such as Target. Critics will say that she leads the overdevelopment and exploitation of a town that was largely homesteaded farmland before her arrival. Palin weathers a brief attempt at a recall, in part because of town leaders’ fears of retaliation: She quickly becomes known for using her position for exacting revenge against her personal and political enemies. Council member Anne Kilkenny, a Democrat, will later remember Palin’s efforts to get books banned from the Wasilla library. “They were somehow morally or socially objectionable to her,” Kilkenny will recall. Town librarian Mary Ellen Emmons, later described by former mayor John C. Stein as “aghast” at Palin’s requests, resists Palin’s efforts at what Kilkenny will call “censorship,” and Palin promptly fires her. After residents protest, Palin relents and allows Emmons to retake the position, and drops her call to ban the library books; in late 1996, Palin tells a local reporter that her talk of banning books was merely “rhetorical.” Once in office, Palin demands that many of Stein’s supporters and appointees in city government resign, an unprecedented event in town history. She forces the public works director, city planner, museum director, and others to resign, and fires Police Chief Irl Stambaugh, who will lose a wrongful termination lawsuit in 2000. (Stambaugh will later say that part of the reason why Palin fires him is because she tells him “the NRA [National Rifle Association, a powerful Palin supporter] didn’t like me and that they wanted change.” Palin also informs Stambaugh that he “stared” at her during their meetings and attempted to be “physically intimidating.”) Palin packs city government with figures from the area Republican Party, sometimes including wives and relatives, and responds to a question about running city government without experienced government personnel by saying: “It’s not rocket science. It’s $6 million and 53 employees.” She attempts to replace two council members with persons she knows, though the mayor does not have that legal power. She issues an edict forbidding city employees from talking to anyone in the press without her authorization. Victoria Naegele, the editor of the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, will recall: “It was just things you don’t ever associate with a small town. It was like we were warped into real politics instead of just, ‘Do you like Joe or Mary for the job?’ It was a strange time and [the Frontiersman] came out very harshly against her.” Going against her stance on cutting taxes and restricting spending, Palin forces through a half-cent raise in the local sales tax to pay for a $15 million sports complex that hosts, among other local teams, a junior league hockey team, but the city will later have to pay more than $1.3 million to settle an ownership dispute over the site. And again going against her stated distaste for taking federal money, she makes frequent trips to Washington to lobby for federal funds for local rail projects and a mental health center, among other initiatives. In 1999, Palin will become president of the Alaska Conference of Mayors. [Anchorage Daily News, 10/23/2006; New York Times, 9/2/2008; Time, 9/2/2008; Seattle Times, 9/7/2008; Washington Post, 9/14/2008] Palin will use her second and final term as mayor as a springboard to higher office (see January 2000 - 2002).
A New York Times editorial warns that the conviction and death sentence of domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh (see June 11-13, 1997) has done nothing to stem what it calls “the violence of the militias that inspired him.” The editorial warns: “The militias are different from anything that preceded them because they gather not to take out their rage on Communists or minorities, but to wage war against a government they consider treasonous. In recent years militia groups have assaulted, harassed, and threatened scores of government officials. It is difficult for most Americans to take seriously a group of people whose targets include America’s county clerks and whose members hold that manufacturers’ labels on the backs of road signs actually point the way to the nearest concentration camp. But militia ideology has already provoked the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), the worst act of terrorism ever to take place on American soil. Since that act the militias have continued to grow, and the possibility of more terrorism is undimmed.” Some American communities, the editorial observes, “can no longer enforce their land, tax, and weapons laws, unwilling to risk that an employee might be attacked by militia members” (see January 1994 and April 1994). Firefighters fear taking helicopters over land owned by some militia members, because they worry they will be shot down. Militia officials have filed phony liens against local officials in at least 23 states (see 1993-1994). The editorial states: “The militias are a particularly insidious strain of the American viruses of paranoia and violence. They echo the white supremacy of the Ku Klux Klan and the conspiracy theories and gun obsessions of the John Birch Society. They draw on the American icon of the man who wants to be left alone to live by his creed, taking ideas and leaders from the rural Posse Comitatus movement that reached its peak during the farm crisis of the 1980s (see 1969).… [W]ith the end of the cold war, it may be that conspiracy theories once obsessed with Communism turned inward toward the American government. The militias, most of which operate in small, autonomous groups, now also have the Internet to propagate theories and plans.” The McVeigh case has invigorated many hardcore militia groups, many of whom insist the bombing was carried out by the government to discredit the militia movement and to justify its intention to implement martial law and tyranny. Many mainstream groups such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) welcome militia members and echo many militias’ ideologies and beliefs. And some lawmakers, such as Representative Helen Chenoweth (R-ID), are openly sympathetic to the militias (see February 15, 1995 and May 2, 1995). The editorial concludes with praise for the federal government’s peaceful resolution of the Montana Freemen standoff (see June 13, 1996), stating: “The Freemen standoff also showed the importance of public condemnation of violence. The Freemen found little support in surrounding communities. While militia forces thrive on government attacks, they cannot withstand the disdain of their neighbors. The militias are so widespread because they ostensibly draw on ideas strongly rooted in American history. But even citizens with sympathy for those ideas need to distinguish between their peaceful and their violent expression.” [New York Times, 6/14/1997] The editorial echoes concerns recently expressed by Times columnist Frank Rich (see June 5, 1997).
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch profiles two gun dealers, Henry S. McMahon and Karen Kilpatrick, who say they have endured threats of reprisal from federal officials after selling 223 guns to David Koresh, the Branch Davidian leader whose compound was destroyed by flames in a government assault (see April 19, 1993). McMahon, 37, and Kilpatrick, 42, were never charged with any crime, but they say government agents have threatened and intimidated them for seven years. They say they cannot hold down jobs, and live together in a federally subsidized apartment in a small Idaho town, surviving on government disability benefits. In 1997, the Justice Department rejected complaints they filed after finding no evidence of harassment or mistreatment. They tried to file a civil rights suit against the government, but could not pay for legal representation. They hope that the Danforth investigation (see July 21, 2000) will net them some government money. Both Kilpatrick and McMahon spent time at the Waco compound, and McMahon still has a Bible filled with handwritten notes he took during some of Koresh’s religious talks. McMahon says he never believed Koresh’s teachings: “I was there to sell David a gun,” he says.
BATF: No Evidence of Harassment - After the April 1993 debacle, the two claim that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) has persecuted them, ruining their reputations among their fellow gun dealers. BATF spokesman Jeff Roehm says their allegations have been investigated and discounted. “There was no finding that anyone behaved inappropriately and no agent was disciplined,” Roehm says. He adds that he is prohibited by law from responding to specific allegations. McMahon says they sleep on air mattresses and keep their belongings boxed up, ready to flee from “the feds” at a moment’s notice.
Sold Guns to Koresh - McMahon and Kilpatrick moved to Waco in 1990, because Texas gun laws make it easy for people like them to sell guns without regulatory interference. Koresh was one of their best customers. McMahon calls Koresh a gun collector, who stockpiled an armory of various weapons (see May 26, 1993) merely to resell them for profit, and not to mount an assault on government officials. It was a July 1992 visit to McMahon’s business by BATF agents (see June-July 1992) that helped spark the BATF assault on the compound (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993). McMahon says he told the agents, Jimmy Ray Skinner and Davy Aguilera (see June-July 1992 and November 1992 - January 1993), that Koresh was an investor. He also says that he called Koresh during that visit, and Koresh invited the agents to the Waco compound, but the agents declined the invitation.
Left Texas before Raid - Later in 1992, McMahon and Kilpatrick quit the gun-selling business in Texas and moved back to their home state of Florida; they deny that the BATF visit had anything to do with their decision. After the February 1993 BATF raid, they called the BATF office in Pensacola, informed the agents there of their business dealings with Koresh, and, though the agents told them to stay quiet, were besieged by reporters who somehow found out about their connections with Koresh.
Protective Custody - The BATF placed them in protective custody and flew them to Oregon, where they stayed with McMahon’s parents for 22 days. McMahon now says the agents told him their lives were in danger from Davidians loyal to Koresh, and adds that he and Kilpatrick now wish they had “gone public from the very get go” and not gone to Oregon. On March 23, federal agents brought them to Waco and questioned them—McMahon says they were threatened, shouted at, and physically assaulted—and told them they would be charged with manufacturing illegal weapons. They refused to implicate Koresh in illegal gun deals. Instead, the agents released the two and they returned to Florida. The owner of the gun shop that employed them, Duke McCaa, refused to take them back, citing his fear of the BATF and his lawyer’s advice. McCaa now says he does not believe McMahon’s and Kilpatrick’s tales of threats and harassment by federal agents. Kilpatrick testified for the prosecution in the 1994 trial of 11 Davidians (see January-February 1994).
Speaking for Gun-Rights Organizations - For a time, the two became high-profile spokespersons for the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other gun-rights groups; Soldier of Fortune magazine paid for them to go to Las Vegas, where they talked about Waco.
'They Owe Us' - The two moved to Bonners Ferry, Idaho, in 1993, where they worked a variety of odd jobs, including night security at a wilderness school for troubled youth. In 1995, McMahon testified before a House committee about Waco. After the testimony, McMahon says employees at the school harassed him and Kilpatrick, forcing them to quit. He and Kilpatrick filed for bankruptcy in 1996. Currently, the two live on disability payments; in 1997, a judge determined that Kilpatrick suffered from an “anxiety-related disorder” related to her involvement with the BATF assault on the Waco compound; McMahon was found to be unable to relate to fellow coworkers or cope with the pressures of employment. McMahon blames his jobless status on Waco, saying: “I have no problem getting a job or working. After I’ve been there awhile people find out more of what I am. Once they find out about Waco, I’m branded. I shouldn’t have to carry around this baggage to explain myself to people.” As for their insistence on government compensation: “We are due some compensation from the government. That’s the bottom line,” McMahon says. “They owe us.” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 1/29/2000]
Entity Tags: Henry S. McMahon, David Koresh, Branch Davidians, Duke McCaa, Davy Aguilera, US Department of Justice, Jimmy Ray Skinner, Karen Kilpatrick, US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Jeff Roehm, National Rifle Association
Timeline Tags: 1993 Branch Davidian Crisis
After years of battling Republican filibuster efforts and other Congressional impediments, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 is signed into law. Dubbed the “McCain-Feingold Act” after its two Senate sponsors, John McCain (R-AZ) and Russ Feingold (D-WI), when the law takes effect after the 2002 midterm elections, national political parties will no longer be allowed to raise so-called “soft money” (unregulated contributions) from wealthy donors. The legislation also raises “hard money” (federal money) limits, and tries, with limited success, to eliminate so-called “issue advertising,” where organizations not directly affiliated with a candidate run “issues ads” that promote or attack specific candidates. The act defines political advertising as “electioneering communication,” and prohibits advertising paid for by corporations or by an “unincorporated entity” funded by corporations or labor unions (with exceptions—see June 25, 2007). To a lesser extent, the BCRA also applies to state elections. In large part, it supplants the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA—see February 7, 1972, 1974, May 11, 1976, and January 8, 1980). [Federal Election Commission, 2002; Center for Responsive Politics, 2002 ; Connecticut Network, 2006 ]
Bush: Bill 'Far from Perfect' - Calling the bill “far from perfect,” President Bush signs it into law, taking credit for the bill’s restrictions on “soft money,” which the White House and Congressional Republicans had long opposed. Bush says: “This legislation is the culmination of more than six years of debate among a vast array of legislators, citizens, and groups. Accordingly, it does not represent the full ideals of any one point of view. But it does represent progress in this often-contentious area of public policy debate. Taken as a whole, this bill improves the current system of financing for federal campaigns, and therefore I have signed it into law.” [Center for Responsive Politics, 2002 ; White House, 3/27/2002]
'Soft Money' Ban - The ban on so-called “soft money,” or “nonfederal contributions,” affects contributions given to political parties for purposes other than supporting specific candidates for federal office (“hard money”). In theory, soft money contributions can be used for purposes such as party building, voter outreach, and other activities. Corporations and labor unions are prohibited from giving money directly to candidates for federal office, but they can give soft money to parties. Via legal loopholes and other, sometimes questionable, methodologies, soft money contributions can be used for television ads in support of (or opposition to) a candidate, making the two kinds of monies almost indistinguishable. The BCRA bans soft money contributions to political parties. National parties are prohibited from soliciting, receiving, directing, transferring, and spending soft money. State and local parties can no longer spend soft money for any advertisements or other voter communications that identify a candidate for federal office and either promote or attack that candidate. Federal officeholders and candidates cannot solicit, receive, direct, transfer, or spend soft money in connection with any election. State officeholders and candidates cannot spend soft money on any sort of communication that identifies a candidate for federal office and either promotes or attacks that candidate. [Legal Information Institute, 12/2003; ThisNation, 2012]
Defining 'Issue Advertisements' or 'Electioneering Communications' - In a subject related to the soft money section, the BCRA addresses so-called “issue advertisements” sponsored by outside, third-party organizations and individuals—in other words, ads by people or organizations who are not candidates or campaign organizations. The BCRA defines an “issue ad,” or as the legislation calls it, “electioneering communication,” as one that is disseminated by cable, broadcast, or satellite; refers to a candidate for federal office; is disseminated in a particular time period before an election; and is targeted towards a relevant electorate with the exception of presidential or vice-presidential ads. The legislation anticipates that this definition might be overturned by a court, and provides the following “backup” definition: any broadcast, cable, or satellite communication which promotes or supports a candidate for that office, or attacks or opposes a candidate for that office (regardless of whether the communication expressly advocates a vote for or against a candidate).
Corporation and Labor Union Restrictions - The BCRA prohibits corporations and labor unions from using monies from their general treasuries for political communications. If these organizations wish to participate in a political process, they can form a PAC and allocate specific funds to that group. PAC expenditures are not limited.
Nonprofit Corporations - The BCRA provides an exception to the above for “nonprofit corporations,” allowing them to fund electioneering activities and communications from their general treasuries. These nonprofits are subject to disclosure requirements, and may not receive donations from corporations or labor unions.
Disclosure and Coordination Restrictions - This part of the BCRA amends the sections of FECA that addresses disclosure and “coordinated expenditure” issues—the idea that “independent” organizations such as PACs could coordinate their electioneering communications with those of the campaign it supports. It includes the so-called “millionaire provisions” that allow candidates to raise funds through increased contribution limits if their opponent’s self-financed personal campaign contributions exceed a certain amount.
Broadcast Restrictions - The BCRA establishes requirements for television broadcasts. All political advertisements must identify their sponsor. It also modifies an earlier law requiring broadcast stations to sell airtime at its lowest prices. Broadcast licensees must collect and disclose records of purchases made for the purpose of political advertisements.
Increased Contribution Limits - The BCRA increases contribution limits. It also bans contributions from minors, with the idea that parents would use their children as unwitting and unlawful conduits to avoid contribution limits.
Lawsuits Challenge Constitutionality - The same day that Bush signs the law into effect, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and the National Rifle Association (NRA) file lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the BCRA (see December 10, 2003). [Legal Information Institute, 12/2003]
Dr. Stuart Wright, a professor of sociology who testified before Congress on the Branch Davidian siege (see April 19, 1993) in 1995 (see Late July 1995 and August 4, 1995), says government investigations of the Davidian siege and the final assault that took almost 80 lives became so politicized as to be almost useless. “The [National Rifle Association] got involved in it, allied with the Republicans, in Congressional subcommittee hearings,” Wright says. “And on the other side, the Democrats were defensive because the Republicans were going after [President] Clinton.” Wright concludes, “I’m not sure the evidence was ever looked at in an objective light.” [Waco Tribune-Herald, 2/23/2003]
The Supreme Court rules in the case of McConnell v. Federal Election Commission. The case addresses limitations on so-called “soft money,” or contributions to a political party not designated specifically for supporting a single candidate, that were imposed by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), often known as the McCain-Feingold law after its two Senate sponsors (see March 27, 2002). A three-judge panel has already struck down some of McCain-Feingold’s restrictions on soft-money donations, a ruling that was stayed until the Court could weigh in. Generally, the Court rules that the “soft money” ban does not exceed Congress’s authority to regulate elections, and does not violate the First Amendment’s free speech clause. The ruling is a 5-4 split, with the majority opinion written by liberal Justice John Paul Stevens and his conservative colleague Sandra Day O’Connor. The opinion finds that the “minimal” restrictions on free speech are outweighed by the government’s interest in preventing “both the actual corruption threatened by large financial contributions and… the appearance of corruption” that might result from those contributions. “Money, like water, will always find an outlet,” the justices write, and the government must take steps to prevent corporate donors from finding ways to subvert the contribution limits. The majority is joined by liberal justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and David Souter, and the four other conservatives on the court—Anthony Kennedy, William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas—dissent. [Legal Information Institute, 12/2003; Oyez (.org), 2011] The case represents the consolidation of 11 separate lawsuits brought by members of Congress, political parties, unions, and advocacy groups; it is named for Senator Mitch McConnell, who sued the FEC on March 27, 2002, the same day the bill was signed into law. Due to the legal controversy expected to be generated by the law and the need to settle it prior to the next federal election, a provision was included in the BCRA that provided for the case to be heard first by a special three-judge panel and then appealed directly to the Supreme Court. This District of Columbia district court panel, comprised of two district court judges and one circuit court judge, was inundated with numerous amicus briefs, almost 1,700 pages of related briefs, and over 100,000 pages of witness testimony. The panel upheld the BCRA’s near-absolute ban on the usage of soft money in federal elections, and the Supreme Court agrees with that finding. However, the Court reverses some of the BCRA’s limitations on the usage of soft money for “generic party activities” such as voter registration and voter identification. The district court overturned the BCRA’s primary definition of “noncandidate expenditures,” but upheld the “backup” definition as provided by the law. Both courts allow the restrictions on corporate and union donations to stand, as well as the exception for nonprofit corporations. The Court upholds much of the BCRA’s provisions on disclosure and coordinated expenditures. The lower court rejected the so-called “millionaire provisions,” a rejection the Supreme Court upholds. A provision banning contributions by minors was overturned by the lower court, and the Court concurs. The lower court found the provision requiring broadcasters to collect and disclose records of broadcast time purchased for political activities unconstitutional, but the Court disagrees and reinstates the requirement. [Legal Information Institute, 12/2003] McConnell had asked lawyer James Bopp Jr., a veteran of anti-campaign finance lawsuits and the head of McConnell’s James Madison Center for Free Speech, to take part in the legal efforts of the McConnell case. However, before the case appeared before the Supreme Court, McConnell dropped Bopp from the legal team due to a dispute over tactics. [New York Times, 1/25/2010] The 2010 Citizens United decision will partially overturn McConnell (see January 21, 2010).
Entity Tags: Federal Election Commission, David Souter, Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, William Rehnquist, US Supreme Court, Stephen Breyer, Sandra Day O’Connor, National Rifle Association, Mitch McConnell, John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, James Bopp, Jr, Clarence Thomas
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
Political scientist Timothy Groseclose of UCLA and economist Jeffrey Milyo of the University of Missouri-Columbia release a study entitled “A Measure of Media Bias” that purports to document the “liberal bias” of the mainstream media. Unfortunately for Groseclose and Milyo’s conclusions, their measure of “bias” is found severely wanting, and they fail to mention the substantial body of scholarly work that challenges their theories. The study contains observations of 20 mainstream news outlets, including national newspapers, news magazines, and network and cable television news channels. [Groseclose and Milyo, 12/2004; MSNBC, 12/19/2005; Media Matters, 12/21/2005]
Previous Positions at Conservative Institutions - Groseclose and Milyo have previously received significant funding for their research from three prominent conservative think tanks: the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI), the Heritage Foundation, and the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace. Groseclose has served as a fellow of the Hoover Institution, while Milyo received a $40,500 grant from AEI. Both were named as fellows by the Heritage Foundation. The two authored an article for the conservative American Spectator in 1996.
Flawed Study - Groseclose and Milyo, according to their study, “measure media bias by estimating ideological scores for several major media outlets” based on the frequency with which various think tanks and advocacy organizations were cited approvingly by the media and by members of Congress over a 10-year period. In order to assess media “bias,” the authors assembled the ideological scores given to members of Congress by the liberal group Americans for Democratic Action; examined the floor speeches of selected members to catalog which think tanks and policy organizations were cited by those members; used those citations as the basis for an ideological score assigned to each think tank (organizations cited by liberal members were scored as more liberal, whereas organizations cited by conservative members were scored as more conservative); then performed a content analysis of newspapers and TV programs to catalog which think tanks and policy organizations were quoted. If a news organization quoted a think tank mentioned by conservative members of Congress, then it was said to have a conservative “bias.” The authors write: “As a simplified example, imagine that there were only two think tanks, and suppose that the New York Times cited the first think tank twice as often as the second. Our method asks: What is the estimated ADA score of a member of Congress who exhibits the same frequency (2:1) in his or her speeches? This is the score that our method would assign the New York Times.” The progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters will call the methodology “bizarre,” and will write: “If a member of Congress cites a think tank approvingly, and if that think tank is also cited by a news organization, then the news organization has a ‘bias’ making it an ideological mirror of the member of Congress who cited the think tank. This, as Groseclose and Milyo define it, is what constitutes ‘media bias.’” [Groseclose and Milyo, 12/2004; Media Matters, 12/21/2005] In December 2005, the parent company of the Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones and Co., will question the study’s validity, noting: “[I]ts measure of media bias consists entirely of counting the number of mentions of, or quotes from, various think tanks that the researchers determine to be ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative.‘… And if a think tank is explicitly labeled ‘liberal” or “conservative’ within a story to provide context to readers, that example doesn’t count at all. The researchers simply threw out such mentions.” [Poynter Online, 12/21/2005]
Classifying Organizations - Groseclose and Milyo assign “scores” to a variety of partisan and nonpartisan advocacy groups and think tanks. Some of these scores are problematic:
The National Rifle Association (NRA), widely characterized as a strongly conservative organization, scores a 49.5 on a 100-point scale, classifying it as barely conservative;
The RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization closely affiliated with the Defense Department, scores a 60.4, classifying it as strongly liberal;
The Council on Foreign Relations, a nonpartisan political organization featuring both Republicans and Democrats on its board and headed by a former Bush administration official, scores a 60.2, classifying it as solidly liberal;
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), an organization consistently reviled by conservative pundits, scores a 49.8, classifying it as slightly conservative;
The Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks political contributions, scores a 66.9, classifying it as highly liberal;
The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a defense policy think tank chaired by former Democratic House member Dave McCurdy, scores a 33.9, classifying it as more conservative than AEI and the hard-right National Taxpayers Union.
Lack of 'Balance' Indicates Bias in Study - According to Media Matters, Groseclose and Milyo classify news stories as exhibiting a partisan bias if they fail to balance a “liberal” group’s quote with a “conservative” group’s quote, regardless of the nature of the reporting. For example, the authors cite the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which they classify as staunchly liberal, as one of the organizations most often quoted without “balancing” quotes from conservative groups. Media Matters will write, “[B]ecause there are no pro-racism groups of any legitimacy (or on Groseclose and Milyo’s list), such stories will be coded as having a ‘liberal bias.’” In contrast, stories featured in the study that quote a spokesperson from the NRA are often “balanced” by quotes from a “liberal” organization, Handgun Control, Inc., though, as Media Matters will note, that organization renamed itself the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in 2001, and Groseclose and Milyo do not include that name in their statistics, “therefore, it is impossible to determine from reading the study if Groseclose and Milyo’s score reflects post-2001 citations by legislators and the media of the group under its new name.” Moreover, because the study only assigns partisan weight to quotes from advocacy groups or think tanks, if a story cites a member of Congress as taking a position and contrasts that position with a quote from a think tank, that story, according to the authors, is “biased” in favor of the think tank’s position. Media Matters calls this practice “miscategorization.”
Assuming Reporter, News Outlet Bias - One of the most questionable practices in the study is the assumption that if a reporter quotes a source, that reporter—or his or her news outlet—must believe the opinions expressed by that source. Media Matters will write that “most, if not all, reporters across the ideological spectrum would find [that assumption] utterly ridiculous.” [Groseclose and Milyo, 12/2004; Media Matters, 12/21/2005] The Dow Jones statement will find, “By this logic, a mention of al-Qaeda in a story suggests the newspaper endorses its views, which is obviously not the case.” [Poynter Online, 12/21/2005] The authors say that only two mainstream news outlets, Fox News and the Washington Times, slant rightward. The study finds that Fox News’s coverage is quite moderate; in a 2005 interview on MSNBC, Milyo will say that Fox’s news coverage can be equated with the moderate Republicanism of Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), considered the most “liberal”-leaning Republican in Congress. [MSNBC, 12/19/2005]
Bias Findings at Odds with History - The study makes some odd conclusions about liberal bias: for example, the Wall Street Journal, whose op-ed page has long avowed itself as a champion of conservative thought, is characterized by the study as having more “liberal bias” than any news outlet surveyed. The authors claim that they studied only news reporting and not editorial writings, but as Media Matters will note, “the Journal is respected on both the right and the left, and it would be shocking to hear even the most rabid right-winger assert that the Journal is America’s most liberal news outlet.” [Groseclose and Milyo, 12/2004; Media Matters, 12/21/2005]
Methodology Flawed - In December 2005, a spokesman for Dow Jones will call the study “logically suspect and simply baffling.” The statement will note that Groseclose and Milyo only studied four months of Journal reporting, from 2002, while they studied 12 years of CBS News reporting, 11 years of National Public Radio reporting, eight years of reporting from US News and World Report, and two years of reporting from Time Magazine. The Washington Post and Washington Times were also only studied for brief periods. “Yet the researchers provide those findings the same weight as all the others, without bothering to explain that in any meaningful way to the study’s readers,” the statement will note. It will conclude, “Suffice it to say that ‘research’ of this variety would be unlikely to warrant a mention at all in any Wall Street Journal story” (see December 21, 2005).
Failure to Mention Other Studies - The authors fail to mention a large number of previous studies of “media bias.” They do, however, cite three studies that, according to Media Matters, are as “questionable” as this particular study. One assumed that since conservatives say in surveys that the media is biased, then that bias unquestionably exists. The second assumed that news magazines that sold more subscriptions in geographic areas weighted towards Democratic voters were biased in favor of Democrats. The third is an AEI study whose statistics and methodologies were found to be deeply flawed. Groseclose and Milyo ignore one of the most rigorous and exhaustive studies in recent years, a 2000 analysis by the International Communication Association, which found that newspapers and news magazines exhibited little measurable bias, and television network news broadcasts exhibited measurable but relatively insubstantial bias. That study included 59 other studies, all of which go unmentioned in the Groseclose-Milyo study.
Conservative Bibliography - Media Matters will write that the authors seem almost unaware that other studies of media bias exist. The study’s bibliography is heavily freighted with citations from conservative media critics such as Brent Bozell (founder of the Media Research Center) and Reed Irvine (the late founder of Accuracy in Media). The bibliography also cites an article from the hard-right Internet publication WorldNetDaily. It does not cite any entries from dozens of well-known scholarly journals of communication and media studies, most of which have examined the topic of media bias in their pages. [Groseclose and Milyo, 12/2004; Media Matters, 12/21/2005]
Entity Tags: Olympia Snowe, National Public Radio, National Rifle Association, National Taxpayers Union, RAND Corporation, Timothy Groseclose, Time magazine, Washington Times, Reed Irvine, Washington Post, US News and World Report, Wall Street Journal, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, International Communication Association, Jeffrey Milyo, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Brent Bozell, Americans for Democratic Action, American Civil Liberties Union, American Enterprise Institute, CBS News, Center for Responsive Politics, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, Heritage Foundation, Fox News, Dow Jones and Co., Council on Foreign Relations, Media Matters, WorldNetDaily
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Rock musician Ted Nugent, brandishing an assault rifle on stage in this undated photo. It is not clear whether the rifle is real. [Source: NIN (.com)]During a concert, rock musician Ted Nugent brandishes what appears to be an assault rifle on stage and makes crude and profane comments about Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY), the two leading contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Invitations to 'Suck on My Machine Gun' - In a video clip of the incident, Nugent waves the rifle around and shouts: “I was in Chicago. I said, ‘Hey, Obama, you might want to suck on one of these, you punk!’ Obama, he’s a piece of sh_t. I told him to suck on my machine gun. Let’s hear it for it. And I was in New York. I said, ‘Hey, Hillary, you might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless b_tch!” He also invites Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to “suck on my machine gun” and calls Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) a “worthless wh_re.” Nugent, an enthusiastic Republican, has been a member of the National Rifle Association’s board of directors since 1995, and has frequently issued crude and profane criticisms of Democratic candidates and policies.
Fox Host Refuses to Criticize Nugent, Instead Attacks Obama - Three days later, Fox News host Sean Hannity airs a clip of the incident on his show, and, calling Nugent a “friend and frequent guest on the program,” refuses to criticize his statements. Hannity shows the clip, then says: “That was friend and frequent guest on the program Ted Nugent expressing his feelings towards Democratic presidential contenders Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Joining us now, Democratic strategist Bob Beckel and Republican strategist Karen Hanretty.” Hannity asks Beckel why liberals might be upset at Nugent’s rhetoric but, he says, “I don’t hear anybody criticizing Barack Obama for accusing our troops of killing civilians, air-raiding villages, et cetera, et cetera. What’s more shocking to you? What’s more offensive to you? Is it Barack Obama’s statement about our troops or Ted Nugent?” (Hannity is referring to a recent allegation he made that Obama was lying about US troops killing Afghan civilians; Hannity’s allegation was itself false—see August 21, 2007). Beckel responds: “You know, only you could figure out a way to ask a question like that. First of all, Nugent, this is a boy who’s missing a couple dogs from under his front porch. This guy has been pimping for Republicans for years now. They want him to run for Senate against Obama. I can’t believe—when the Dixie Chicks said something about George Bush, which was mild compared to this jerk, and the religious right, the Dobsons and the Robertsons, rose up in fury. You rose up in fury.” (Beckel is referring to complaints from Hannity and other conservatives that followed comments by the lead singer of the country group the Dixie Chicks that criticized President Bush—see March 10, 2003 and After.) Hannity says: “You know, typical Bob Beckel. But you can’t answer the question. I didn’t ask you that.” After a brief period of crosstalk, Beckel asks, “Are you prepared now, Sean—are you prepared to disavow this lowlife or not?” Hannity refuses, saying: “No, I like Ted Nugent. He’s a friend of mine.… [H]e’s a rock star. Yes, here’s my point. If you don’t like it, don’t go to the concert, don’t buy his new albums.” Instead, Hannity asks if Beckel’s “liberal brain can absorb” his question about Obama’s supposed lies regarding Afghanistan, and Beckel responds: “The question is not even a close call. I think Nugent was far over the line and Obama was not.… This Nugent is more offensive. This guy ought to be knocked off the air. He ought to never come on your show again, and if you have him on, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. He’s a bum!”
Hannity Has Criticized 'Hate Speech' Directed at Conservatives - Hannity apparently has different standards for different people. He has accused Clinton of indulging in “hate speech” when she talked about the existence of what she called a “vast right-wing conspiracy.” In March, he devoted an entire segment to a “list of the worst examples of liberal hate speech.” [National Ledger, 8/24/2007; Media Matters, 8/27/2007]
Sean Hannity, a Fox News host who also hosts a daily radio show, has conservative columnist Ann Coulter as a guest on his radio show. Coulter and Hannity warn listeners that President Obama wants to “tak[e] our guns and schools and doctors.” Coulter says: “[B]y the way, the NRA [National Rifle Association] also has information on how they [the Obama administration] are going to be expanding the concept of national parks to include, you know, highways running from Rhode Island to Virginia. National parks have gun bans imposed throughout.” Of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the enormous Obama-backed economic recovery plan that includes large government-financed bailouts of several large corporations, Coulter says: “This bill is so much worse than earmarks and pork. This is a total government takeover, and Big Brother coming in and taking our guns and schools and doctors.” Hannity agrees with Coulter’s claims. [Media Matters, 4/9/2009]
Many in the media speculate as to the motivations behind Richard Poplawski’s murder of three Pittsburgh police officers, which takes place on this day (see April 4, 2009). Findings that Poplawski is a white supremacist who hates Jews and fears that the federal government will confiscate his guns (see April 4, 2009) lead some to speculate that he was driven to violence by right-wing speculation and hate speech. In June 2009, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert will call Poplawski’s action a “right-wing, hate-driven attack,” and note that Poplawski and others like him have been inflamed by information provided by such organizations as the National Rifle Association (NRA), which consistently tells its Web site visitors that President Obama is planning to mount a nationwide gun confiscation. Herbert will also note that a friend of Poplawski’s told reporters that the shooter “feared the Obama gun ban that’s on the way.” [New York Times, 6/19/2009] In the days after Poplawski’s killing spree, Daily Beast columnist Max Blumenthal will speculate that Poplawski was driven to violence by the steady diet of right-wing hate speech and anti-government conspiracy theories he immersed himself in. Blumenthal notes that Alex Jones of Infowars, while himself not an advocate of white supremacy, is popular on the neo-Nazi Web site Stormfront.org for his incessant diatribes about the imminent takeover of the citizenry by FEMA and the Obama administratrion’s plans on confiscating guns as part of its plan to establish a leftist dictatorship. Blumenthal also notes Poplawski’s fondness for Fox News’s Glenn Beck, who often repeats and embellishes Jones’s conspiracy theories on his show, and his apparent self-affiliation with the radical fringes of the Tea Party movement. Author and reporter David Neiwert will tell Blumenthal: “It’s always been a problem when major-league demagogues start promulgating false information for political gain. What it does is unhinge fringe players from reality and dislodges them even further. When someone like Poplawski hears Glenn Beck touting One World Government and ‘they’re gonna take your gun’ theories, they believe then that it must be true. And that’s when they really become crazy.” [Daily Beast, 4/7/2009] Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an expert on political extremists, says of Poplawski’s views, “For some time now there has been a pretty good connection between being sucked into this conspiracy world and propagating violence.” She says Poplawski’s attack on the police is “a classic example of what happens when you start buying all this conspiracy stuff.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 4/5/2009]
Senate Democrats are unable to break a filibuster by Senate Republicans that is blocking passage of the DISCLOSE Act.
Act Would Mandate Disclosure of Donors - The DISCLOSE Act—formally the Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act—would overturn many elements of the Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United decision that allows virtually unlimited and anonymous political spending by corporations and other entities (see January 21, 2010). If passed, it would have created new campaign finance disclosure requirements and made public the names of “super PAC” contributors (see March 26, 2010). Individuals, corporations, labor unions, and tax-exempt charitable organizations would, under the act, report to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) each time they spend $10,000 or more on campaign-related expenditures. Additionally, all outside groups, including “super PACs,” would have to report the names of donors. Moreover, the legislation would provide for so-called “Stand By Your Ad” requirements mandating that super PACs and other outside campaign groups producing political advertisements disclose the top funders in the ad. The CEO or highest-ranking official of an organization would, under the act, have to appear in the ad and officially “approve” the message. [Open Congress, 6/29/2010; OMB Watch, 7/24/2012]
Unbreakable Filibuster - Even public support from President Obama fails to sway enough Republican senators to vote against the filibuster, as did changes made to the bill by sponsor Charles Schumer (D-NY) designed to assuage some of Republicans’ concerns about the bill. The bill has already passed the House, shepherded through under Democratic leadership against Republican opposition. Democrats have a slim majority in the Senate also, but Senate rules allow the minority to mount filibusters that require 60 votes to overcome, and a number of Republicans would need to break from the Republican pack to vote down the filibuster. Additionally, some conservative senators such as Ben Nelson (D-NE) have not publicly stated their support for the bill. One Republican who had previously indicated she might vote for cloture (against the filibuster), Susan Collins (R-ME), dashed Democrats’ final hopes by saying she would not vote for cloture after all. “The bill would provide a clear and unfair advantage to unions while either shutting other organizations out of the election process or subjecting them to onerous reporting requirements that would not apply to unions,” says Collins spokesman Kevin Kelley. “Senator Collins believes that it is ironic that a bill aimed at curtailing special interests in the election process provides so many carve-outs and exemptions that favor some grass-roots organizations over others. This, too, is simply unfair.” Other so-called Republican moderates such as Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Scott Brown (R-MA) have previously indicated they would not vote for cloture. Ironically, one of the “carve-outs” in the bill Schumer added was on behalf of the far-right National Rifle Association (NRA), an addition that Schumer says was made to placate Republicans. Schumer says that even if the bill does not pass now, attempts to reintroduce it will be made. The DISCLOSE Act “is one of the most important for the future of our democracy, not just for the next six months but for the next six decades,” he says. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs says: “I don’t know what the final vote will be tomorrow, but I know that you—if you had a sliver of Republicans that thought special-interest giving and corporate influence in elections was… part of the problem, then this bill would pass. Now we get to see who in the Senate thinks there’s too much corporate influence and too much special-interest money that dominate our elections and who doesn’t. I don’t know how it could be any clearer than that.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) retorts: “The DISCLOSE Act seeks to protect unpopular Democrat politicians by silencing their critics and exempting their campaign supporters from an all-out attack on the First Amendment (see January 21, 2010). In the process, the authors of the bill have decided to trade our constitutional rights away in a backroom deal that makes the Cornhusker Kickback look like a model of legislative transparency.” [Politico, 7/26/2010] The “Cornhusker Kickback” McConnell is referencing is a deal struck in late 2009 by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to win Nelson’s support for the Democrats’ health care reform package, in which Nebraska, Nelson’s state, would receive 100 percent government financing for an expansion of Medicare. [Las Vegas Sun, 12/20/2009]
Entity Tags: Harry Reid, Federal Election Commission, Charles Schumer, Ben Nelson, Barack Obama, US Supreme Court, US Senate, Susan Collins, Scott Brown, DISCLOSE Act of 2010, Olympia Snowe, Mitch McConnell, National Rifle Association, Robert Gibbs, Kevin Kelley
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
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