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“Scott Walker’s Koch Angle”: A Visceral Bond Forged By Americans For Prosperity

One reason Jeb Bush probably won’t raise all the money in 2016 is the existence of very large conservative donor networks that exist beyond the familiar clubby atmosphere of the former 2004 W. rain-makers who seem to dominate “Establishment” circles. The largest and most conspicuous, of course, is the Koch Donor Network, which reportedly aims at raising $900 million towards placing a special friend in the White House.

It’s not clear at this point if the Kochs and their allies intend to spend much of that money during the nomination contest. But if they do, reports Bloomberg Politics‘ Julie Bykowicz, Scott Walker’s probably first in line to become the beneficiary.

Charles Koch, she says, is personally very fond of Rand Paul, but he’s not, as events at the Koch Donor Network’s annual Palm Springs gathering this year indicated, very popular in KochWorld write large. But these folk have a visceral bond with Walker that was forged by Americans for Prosperity’s very direct involvement in his political career, even before his first election as governor:

On a sunny Saturday in September 2009, with Wisconsin in the throes of Tea Party fervor, conservative starlet Michelle Malkin fired up a crowd of thousands at a lakefront park in Milwaukee with rhetoric about White House czars and union thugs and the “culture of dependency that they have rammed down our throats.”

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, a Republican candidate for governor, casually attired in a red University of Wisconsin Badgers sweatshirt, stepped to the podium to amplify the message. “We’re going to take back our government,” he shouted, jabbing the air with a finger. The attendees whooped and clapped. “We’ve done it here, we can do it in Wisconsin and, by God, we’re going to do it all across America.”

In a way, the event was Scott Walker’s graduation to the political major leagues. The audience had been delivered up by Americans for Prosperity, a Tea Party organizing group founded by Charles and David Koch, the billionaire energy executives whose fortune helps shape Republican politics.

The connection became even more intense during the initial wave of demonstrations against Walker’s proposals to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees:

Walker began battling with public employees soon after he was elected, submitting a budget in February 2011 that cut public pensions and sharply limited the collective bargaining rights of many state employees. Koch reinforcements quickly arrived.

A bus caravan of Walker’s friends at Americans for Prosperity disgorged thousands of supporters, carrying signs saying “Your Gravy Train Is Over … Welcome to the Recession” and “Sorry We’re Late Scott. We Work for a Living” into the mass of union activists gathered at the steps of the capitol. It all played out for a cable network audience, with pundits pointing to Walker as the new tip of the spear in a long Republican fight against the labor unions that have helped elect Democrats over the decades.

The AFP’s support wasn’t just a big pep rally. After the governor won the budget battle and his opponents began their effort to recall him, the group deployed hundreds of volunteers to knock on doors and call into voters’ homes to spread Walker’s message that his pension cuts and union reforms were helping solve the state’s budget crisis. The group bought television and digital ads echoing the “It’s Working!” theme—a phrase Walker also frequently used.

Nobody knows right now if these connections will pay off big for Walker in a highly contested nomination battle with so many different players. But he’s certainly got the emotional connection to the money people, and if he can continue to burnish his “electability” credentials, the money spigots will almost certainly be opened for him.

 

By Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, TheWashington Post, February 17, 2015

February 22, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Koch Brothers, Scott Walker | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Barack The Dog”: Reflections Of A GOP Strain Of Persistently Contemptuous Attitudes Towards Women

If you haven’t seen the new Americans For Shared [sic!] Prosperity ad targeting unmarried women, you might want to check it out and then take a long shower:

Yes, the President of the United States is depicted as one of those sleazy dudes some women meet on internet dating services who turn out to be abusers who routinely lie, cheat, steal and spy. The ad doesn’t suggest Barack the Bad Boyfriend is prone to physical violence, but otherwise the whole rap is highly suggestive of the excuses often made by women who stay in abusive relationships, notes The Wire‘s Arit John:

At one point the woman uses phrasing domestic abuse survivors use to describe why they stayed with their partners. “But I stuck with him, because he promised he’d be better,” the woman says. “He’s great at promises.” This is reminiscent of the recent #WhyIStayed hashtag on Twitter in the wake of the Ray Rice domestic violence video. Women explained that they stuck with their abusers in part because he or she promised they’d stop, promised they’d change, or promised they’d never do it again.

John clearly thinks the ad is deliberately exploiting the recent publicity over domestic abuse by NFL players.

It’s not, however, entirely new. As MSNBC’s Anna Brand shows, the theme of Barack Obama as a bad boyfriend was used in the series of ads Republicans and pro-Republican groups aimed at 2008 Obama voters in 2012.

Similar words were uttered in a 2012 ad called “Boyfriend” launched by conservative group Independent Women’s Voice.

“I wanted to believe him, I trusted him,” one woman says to her friend sitting beside her on a couch. “Listen, we all did,” the friends responds.

“Why do I always fall for guys like this?” the first woman laments.

In a 30-second ad by the Republican National Committee in 2012 entitled “The Breakup,” a woman “breaks up” with a cardboard cutout of President Obama sitting across from her at a white tablecloth restaurant. “You’re just not the person I thought you were. It’s not me, it’s you,” she says over cocktail music followed by a prompt to “tell us why you’re breaking up with Obama.”

This pitch obviously didn’t work in 2012. Why are Republicans (at least some of them) going back to it now? One might be tempted to think it reflects a strain of persistently contemptuous attitudes towards women, those incorrigibly “emotional” critters for whom snaring Mr. Right while avoiding Mr. Wrong is the center of their existence and the most powerful metaphor imaginable.

I’d say this “argument” also may reflect some frustration on the part of conservative men who just don’t “get” the Democratic voting predilections of women, and thus have to mark it up to seduction. Back in the 90s, some wag (don’t remember exactly who it was) attributed some of the conservative male fury at Bill Clinton to astonishment that a dog like the Big Dog could get so many women to “sleep with or vote for him.” It’s almost as though Republican men aren’t quite adequate themselves, you know? The “‘Dating Profile” ad does look like it was conceived in a man cave with the assistance of a twelve-pack of beer.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 24, 2014

September 25, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, GOP, War On Women | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Mitch McConnell’s 47 Percent Moment”: There For Millionaires And Billionaires, They Know They Can Count On Mitch

A year ago, President Obama convulsed the White House Correspondents Dinner when he responded to complaints that he wasn’t meeting enough with the Republican leaders in the Congress: “Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?’ they ask. Really?” Obama asked the audience incredulously. “Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?”

The Kentucky senator, continuously partisan and mean spirited in public, earned the jab by leading a record number of filibusters as Senate minority leader during Obama’s tenure, forcing more than a quarter of all cloture votes in the history of the Senate since the beginning of the Republic.

Now, many political bookies, however prematurely, have made Republicans favorites to win the Senate majority. What will McConnell do if he must go from opposition to governing? Last week, the Nation Magazine, which I edit, along with Lauren Windsor of the Undercurrent, released an audiotape of McConnell’s revealing remarks to a private June strategy session of deep-pocket Republican billionaire donors, convened by the Koch brothers.

Introduced by the general counsel of Koch Industries, McConnell begins by paying tribute to his patrons, thanking the Koch brothers personally “for the important work you’re doing. I don’t know where we’d be without you . . . rallying, uh, to the cause.”

So what is the cause? Putting Americans to work? Rebuilding the middle class? Unleashing free market answers to catastrophic climate change?

No, McConnell can’t seem to get himself to address a positive agenda. He envisions only more obstruction. If he is majority leader, he promises, “we’re not going to be debating all these gosh darn proposals. That’s all we do in the Senate is vote on things like raising the minimum wage . . . extending unemployment . . . the student loan package the other day, that’s just going to make things worse.”

With Republican majorities, McConnell tells the fat cats, “We own the budget. So what does that mean? That means that we can pass the spending bill. And . . . we will be pushing back against this bureaucracy by doing what’s called placing riders in the bill. No money can be spent to do this or do that”

So what parts of government would McConnell starve of funds? Although many Republicans are campaigning as faux populists against crony capitalism, McConnell doesn’t suggest that he’ll cut subsidies to Big Oil or the lard-filled budgets of the Pentagon. No, McConnell pledges to his millionaire funders “We’re going to go after them on health care, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board [inaudible].”

For all his posturing about Obama’s dictatorial usurpations, McConnell reassures the millionaires that “we now have, I think, the most free and open system we’ve had in modern times.” Why? Because in the Citizens United decision, the conservatives on the Supreme Court overturned established precedents to give corporations the right to spend unlimited funds in elections. This is a victory for “open discourse,” McConnell argues, making clear just how he expects the corporations to make their opinions known:

“The Supreme Court allowed all of you to participate in the process in a variety of different ways. You can give to the candidate of your choice. You can give to Americans for Prosperity, or something else, a variety of different ways to push back against the party of government.” (Americans for Prosperity is the right-wing Koch funded political vehicle that has been called the “third-largest political party in the United States.”)

For McConnell, the court’s decision to unleash corporate contributions helped heal the pain from what he described as the “worst day of my political life.” Not the 9/11 terrorist bombings or the disastrous vote to invade Iraq. No, according to McConnell, the worst day of his political life was when a Republican congress passed and George W. Bush signed the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reforms, that put some limits of big money in our politics.

Mitch McConnell is surely a man for these times. Big money dominates our politics and corrupts our politicians (including, most recently, McConnell’s campaign manager, who resigned because of his possible involvement in bribing an Iowa state legislator to change his support from Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul in the 2012 Iowa Republican presidential primary). Legislators like McConnell openly serve “the private sector,” currying their donations while serving their interests.

As Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said while campaigning for Alison Lundergan Grimes, McConnell’s underdog challenger: “Mitch McConnell is there for millionaires and billionaires. He is not there for people who are working hard playing by the rules and trying to build a future for themselves.”

Voters aren’t stupid. Given his views and his record, it is not surprising that McConnell is one of the most vulnerable of Republican incumbents, with Grimes running only a few points behind him. Nor is it surprising that more than $100 million may end up being spent on the race, making it one the most expensive contests in Senate history. Millionaires know they can count on McConnell.

McConnell ended his talk by repeating the Republican mantra against taxes and regulation, arguing, “If we want to get the country going again, we need to quit doing what we’ve been doing. Was it Einstein that [sic] said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result?” Let’s hope the voters of Kentucky come to the same conclusion about reelecting a senator who represents donors far better than voters.

 

By: Katrina vanden Heuvel, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 3, 2014

September 5, 2014 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Mitch Mc Connell, Plutocrats | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Evolution Of Rand Paul”: Pandering To GOP Mega Donors

A week ago today, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal condemning “interventionists,” who are quick to use military force abroad “with little thought to the consequences.” Over the course of his 900-word piece, the Republican senator was dismissive of the “hawkish members of my own party.”

“A more realistic foreign policy would recognize that there are evil people and tyrannical regimes in this world, but also that America cannot police or solve every problem across the globe,” Paul wrote. “Only after recognizing the practical limits of our foreign policy can we pursue policies that are in the best interest of the U.S.”

But a few days later, the Republican senator attended the annual summit of Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers’ main political operation, where Rand Paul took a very different line.

Speaking to a ballroom later, some of the loudest applause for Paul came when he quipped: “If the president has no strategy, maybe it’s time for a new president.”

In an emailed comment, however, Paul elaborated by saying: “If I were President, I would call a joint session of Congress. I would lay out the reasoning of why ISIS is a threat to our national security and seek congressional authorization to destroy ISIS militarily.”

Wait, what?

On Wednesday, Paul said he had no use for “interventionists” and the “hawkish members” of his own party who are calling for using force in the Middle East. But just 48 hours later, Paul supports U.S. military intervention abroad to destroy ISIS?

Also keep in mind, less than a month ago, Paul was asked about U.S. airstrikes targeting ISIS targets in Iraq. The senator said he had “mixed feelings” about the offensive. Apparently, those feelings are no longer mixed and Paul is now eager to “destroy ISIS militarily” – says the senator who complained last week about Hillary Clinton being a “war hawk.”

At what point do Rand Paul’s loyal followers start to reconsider whether Rand Paul actually agrees with them?

Sarah Smith recently noted that the Kentucky senator has changed his mind about federal aid to Israel, use of domestic drones, immigration, elements of the Civil Rights Act, Guantanamo Bay, and even accepting donations from lawmakers who voted for TARP.

Now, even the basic elements of his approach to using military force are up for grabs.

I suppose a Paul defender might take heart by assuming the senator doesn’t actually believe these new policy positions; he’s just saying these things to bolster support from centers of power within the Republican Party in advance of a presidential campaign. His genuine beliefs, the argument goes, are the ones he espoused before he started pandering to GOP mega donors.

But if that is the argument, it’s cold comfort. For one thing, once a politician replaces his fundamental beliefs with a more palatable worldview, it’s hard to know which version is the “real” one. For another, the “don’t worry, he’s lying” defense just never seems to resonate with a broad spectrum of voters.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 3, 2014

September 4, 2014 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Middle East, Rand Paul | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Promise Of So Much Money”: For 2016 GOP Candidates, Does Courting The Kochs Bring More Risk Than Reward?

While most Americans were settling in for a long weekend, many of the potential 2016 GOP presidential candidates — Rick Perry, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Mike Pence — went to Dallas for a convention of Americans for Prosperity, the group through which Charles and David Koch channel much of their political money. If any of the politicians were wary about how it looks to have so many people who want to be the leader of the free world kissing the Kochs’ rings, you couldn’t tell. They’re making a strategic calculation that whatever PR risks are inherent in getting too close to the Kochs, they’re outweighed by the money the brothers bring to the GOP’s table. And if the Kochs plan to intervene in the 2016 primaries — something no one seems sure they’ll do — then every Republican candidate wants to be the one on the receiving end of that fire hose of cash.

At the moment, Republicans couldn’t be happier about the Kochs’ support, because the sums they mobilize are staggering. The Koch network (which includes other like-minded benefactors) spent at least $400 million in 2012 and are expect to drop another $300 million in this year’s midterms. The law of ever-increasing campaign spending suggests that in 2016 they’ll spend even more. It would be a surprise if the total didn’t top a half billion dollars.

So far, the Democrats’ efforts to make voters see the Kochs as a pair of villains have met with only limited success. One poll taken in March found 37 percent of people with an opinion about the Kochs (25 percent negative, 12 percent positive). On the other hand, it might be enough if many voters had only the vaguest sense of who the Kochs are and what they stand for. If people hear the name and say, “Aren’t they those billionaire Republican guys? I don’t quite remember,” then that would make Democrats happy. As Greg has explained before, while Democrats certainly want voters to think of their opponents as heartless robber barons, the strategy is more complex than that; it’s also about establishing a context for attacks on Republican positions on economic issues. When you go after Republicans for not supporting an increase in the minimum wage, an association with billionaire oil magnates tells voters why Republicans believe what they do and why their interests are opposed to those of ordinary people.

Republicans will tell you that it’s foolhardy of Democrats to try to make an issue out of the Kochs’ sway over the GOP, mostly because voters don’t particularly care about the influence of money in politics. But even if the attacks had some effect, it would have to be clear and unambiguous before Republican contenders started shying away from the Kochs and all that money.

I’d be extremely surprised if the Kochs actually chose to back a single candidate in the 2016 primary; not only does that risk alienating whoever wins if it’s not the one they picked, it could also turn them into just one faction in a factional conflict. Even if the brothers aren’t toeing the GOP line on some issues (such as immigration or foreign interventionism), they benefit from having everyone on the right view them as a friend to all Republicans. At the same time, it’s in the Kochs’ interest to have all the candidates believe they might back a primary candidate. That way, those candidates will continue to cater to their concerns and maybe even make some promises about actions that could be taken once a Republican is in the White House.

But the closer we get to the 2016 general election, the more problematic it will be for the eventual nominee to be seen as too close to the Kochs. Democrats aren’t going to stop going after them, and if the Republican candidate himself isn’t a plutocrat (none of the contenders this time around approach Mitt Romney’s level of wealth), the next best thing is to say that he’s in a plutocrat’s pocket. So there will be many more Democratic ads with the brothers’ pictures, and many more Democratic speeches tying that eventual nominee to the oil barons from Kansas.

The longer that goes on, the higher the chances that being seen as too close to the Kochs poses a political risk for Republican presidential candidates. But for the moment, they don’t seem too concerned, especially when gaining the Kochs’ favor comes with the promise of so much money.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect; The Plum Line, The Washington Post, September 1, 2014

September 2, 2014 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Koch Brothers | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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