Politics is a constantly changing business, but there are still a few things you can count on in every election cycle: like Karl Rove’s dark money group, Crossroads GPS, blowing its donors’ money on misleading, ineffective attack ads.
Since President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law in 2010, its opponents have spent over $400 million on television ads attacking it, with Crossroads leading the way. But despite Republicans’ repeated assertions that Obamacare would be the issue that causes Americans to rise up against Democrats and throw them out of office, the torrent of attack ads has actually done little to sway public opinion against the law. In fact, according to a Brookings Institution study, anti-Obamacare ads may have actually increased ACA enrollments by raising awareness about the law and its benefits.
But still, conservative outside spenders are determined to take their anti-health care message directly to the voters. The latest example is a new ad from Crossroads GPS, in which a Colorado woman named Richelle McKim laments that Senator “Mark Udall’s vote for Obamacare has hurt families in Colorado.”
McKim recounts her husband’s decision to start a new business, saying “We knew we needed to find health care. Because we were a single-income family, we couldn’t afford our plan.” Text then flashes across the screen, letting viewers know that “Richelle had to go back to work.”
It seems like a perfect case to make to the suburban women who are likely to decide Senator Udall’s tight re-election battle against Republican congressman Cory Gardner.
It also happens to be totally false.
As Denver television station KDVR reports, McKim has worked constantly over the past six years; from July 2008 through May 2010, she worked from home as the office manager for her husband’s company (which, evidently, wasn’t founded as a response to Obamacare). Since then, she has worked for Anadarko Petroleum and Noble Energy — which have donated $57,550 and $36,000 to Gardner’s campaign, respectively.
By McKim’s own admission, Obamacare didn’t actually drive her back into the workforce, as the ad claims.
“It wasn’t the Affordable Care Act,” she told KDVR. “It was just a financial burden, having a single income for so long.”
And, for good measure, McKim’s husband used to forgo health insurance because he suffers from high blood pressure — a pre-existing condition that made his insurance more expensive until the ACA became law.
This is far from the first time that Obamacare opponents have been forced to stretch the truth, flatly lie, or just give up and use paid actors to tell a scare story. Indeed, it begs the question: If the Affordable Care Act is really such a disastrous boondoggle, why couldn’t Crossroads — or the Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity, or even House Republican Conference chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers — find an actual victim?
In this case, the fact that Obamacare has helped cut Colorado’s uninsured rate by 6 percent might have something to do with it.
By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, August 8, 2014
According to the New York Times the retention election of three Tennessee judges “has been preceded by an expensive and acrimonious campaign bolstered by organizations like Americans for Prosperity, which receives financial support from the billionaires Charles G. and David Koch and other conservative groups”. Those supporting retention of the judges have been compelled to raise “more than $1 million” to combat the effort to defeat them. Could there be anything more unseemly or contrary to the purposes for which the judiciary was established?
I do not doubt that there are persons out there (and even corporations now) who contribute to judicial campaigns for the purpose of electing or retaining judges who are fair, competent and impartial and who will carry out the applicable laws and enforce the state and federal constitutions. Then there are the other 99 percent who wish to influence particular matters or judicial philosophy in general. Judges are not and were never intended to be elected representatives. I cringe at the constant contention that judges should be held “accountable”. They are accountable to the laws and the Constitution. They should not be subject to the whim of those who find certain past rulings objectionable or seek to influence future ones by buying elections. Nothing could weaken the independence of the judiciary more than having judges removed or not re-elected because of prior decisions that they have made.
The whole concept of judicial independence is that judges should feel to rule as they deem correct without fear of retaliation. Nor should judges undertake the position with some feeling that they are indebted to those who have financed their election. Per the Times: “The Republican State Leadership Committee, a national group, plans to spend at least $5 million on judicial races this year.” Why? Because they want to influence future judicial decisions.
Let’s face it — this movement is exclusively a conservative one. Conservatives own it. Judges are to be ousted for “liberal” rulings like upholding same-sex marriage, ordering new trials in death penalty cases or generally ruling in favor of persons charged with crimes — stuff like upholding the Constitution. Judicial elections are degrading. Voters do not know whether or not the candidates are qualified. And finally money has further corrupted the process. I have said on prior occasions: Can you imagine a lawyer or a litigant walking up to a judge in the middle of a trial and handing the judge a check for his or her campaign? Would it make any difference if the check was delivered a week before? And isn’t it even worse now that the big boys are coming in with even bigger checks?
We should end judicial elections entirely, but until we do, we must find a way to limit the corrupting influence of money in the election process and stop putting the judiciary up for sale.
By: Judge H. Lee Sarokin, The Huffington Post Blog, August 7, 2014
It’s a number that gives Democrats chills: $125 million. That’s the widely reported number reflecting how much the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity intends to spend on this year’s midterm elections. In practical terms, it means Democrats will effectively be running against two rivals: Republicans and the Republicans’ outside allies.
Reid Wilson reports today, however, that the scope of the AFP operation isn’t done expanding.
Americans for Prosperity, the on-the-ground wing of the network of conservative organizations spearheaded by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch, will open new state chapters in South Dakota and Alaska in coming weeks, the group’s president said. In an interview, Tim Phillips said that would bring to 35 the number of states where AFP has permanent offices. […]
Phillips said early reports that his organization will dish out $125 million on the midterm elections understates the actual amount they will spend.
If you’re starting to see AFP as something resembling an actual political party, there’s a good reason – the lines have blurred. The Koch-funded group has hundreds of field operatives, just like a party. It’s opening field offices in dozens of states, just like a party. It’s focusing on GOTV operations, just like a party.
And, of course, it’s investing millions in anti-Democratic attack ads, just like a party.
But unlike other national far-right forces, the Kochs’ group (just like a party) also intends to help “influence the makeup of state legislatures.” Tim Phillips told the Washington Post, ”A lot of times a local property tax battle will bring a whole new group of people out. It’s easier to get movement on the state level.”
All of this, incidentally, doesn’t include the AFP’s “action fund.”
Remember this one?
During a closed-door gathering of major donors in Southern California on Monday, the political operation spearheaded by the Koch brothers unveiled a significant new weapon in its rapidly expanding arsenal – a super PAC called Freedom Partners Action Fund.
The new group aims to spend more than $15 million in the 2014 midterm campaigns – part of a much larger spending effort expected to total $290 million, sources told POLITICO.
As we talked about at the time, the “action fund” will allow the Koch brothers and their donor allies to be more explicit in their backing of like-minded Republicans, while devoting more of their campaign dollars to actual campaign activities.
This isn’t to say the beneficiaries of the Kochs’ support always win; the results from the 2012 cycle clearly show otherwise. But we’re nevertheless looking a formidable political force that Democrats and the left will simply never be able to keep up with financially.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 18, 2014
Over the last five months, a deal has come together that would solve some of the most contentious issues in Detroit’s bankruptcy. It would minimize the pension cuts for 30,000 retirees and city workers, save the city’s art collection and give a reasonable amount of money to the city’s bondholders.
As expected, there were some objections from a few big insurance companies that stood to lose heavily. But with the support of Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, the deal seemed to have a shot in the state legislature, which would be required to spend about $195 million of tobacco-settlement money on behalf of Detroit’s pensioners.
And then, a few days ago, a loud and depressingly familiar voice rose in protest. The Koch brothers, through the screeching megaphone they built known as Americans for Prosperity, condemned the deal and announced plans to contact 90,000 conservatives around the state to build up pressure against it. The Associated Press reported that the group threatened to run ads against any Republicans in the legislature who voted for the deal in the coming days.
AFP has already set up a website — “No more bailouts for Detroit!” — that plays on the long-running, sometimes racially inflected resentment of Detroit around Michigan.
“Michigan has rewritten its laws numerous times to give Detroit special treatment and more financial assistance,” the website says. “Unfortunately, all this help has encouraged, rather than corrected, bad behavior. Years of fiscal mismanagement, corruption and cronyism resulted in Detroit’s staggering $18 billion of debt. Yet its leaders continue to blame the State for Detroit’s problems.”
The poor management of the city by its own officials is well-known and stretches back decades, but the state and its residents bear a huge responsibility for Detroit’s plight. State officials allowed fleeing white residents to hide behind suburban boundaries that depleted the city’s tax base while cutting revenue sharing. The think tank Demos found that revenue sharing cuts amounted to a third of the city’s revenue losses between 2011 and 2013.
As Robert Kleine, a former state treasurer, wrote in the Detroit Free Press last August:
“Detroit may have mismanaged finances, but the state’s cuts to revenue sharing doomed the city. One option would have been for the state to restore revenue sharing to previous levels which would have been worth nearly $200 million to Detroit. The state could have afforded to do this if it had not cut business and income taxes in 2000, and then given business another $1.8-billion tax break in 2011.”
Under the circumstances, the proposed state contribution on behalf of vulnerable pensioners is a modest way to make up for Lansing’s decades of abandonment. But it’s too much for the Kochs to stomach. They apparently want city workers and retirees to publicly suffer for the sin of having been union members. They want bondholders and insurance companies at the front of the creditors’ line, and don’t seem to care if the Detroit Institute of Arts has to sell off its paintings and sculptures to put them there.
As they have in so many other areas of public life, two of the country’s wealthiest citizens are using their good fortune to make life far more difficult for those at the bottom of the ladder.
By: David Firestone, Editor’s Blog, The New York Times, May 21, 2014
It was just two weeks ago that affiliates of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political operation financed by Charles and David Koch, decided to extend support to Cliven Bundy. Despite the Nevada rancher’s defiance of the law and court orders, and despite the fact that he denied the legitimacy of the United States government, AFP helped promote Bundy’s cause and mock the Bureau of Land Management for trying to enforce federal law.
Americans for Prosperity Nevada, the state affiliate of the Koch Brothers-backed group, appears to have hastily deleted social media posts expressing support for Cliven Bundy, the renegade rancher who exposed himself as a racist in recent press conferences.
A tweet sent by AFP Nevada on April 10 urging followers to read more about the #BundyBattle, which involves Bundy’s refusal to pay fines for allowing his cattle to graze on public land, has been deleted. A Facebook graphic that the group posted criticizing the Bureau of Land Management for enforcing grazing laws against Bundy has similarly disappeared.
The instinct to run away is understandable, and it’s hard to blame AFP officials for waking up yesterday and wondering what in the world they’d gotten themselves into.
But the scrubbing is of limited utility given that screen-grabs and caches exist. Media Matters, for example, still has the content online that AFP is trying to take offline.
And all of this only serves to reinforce the question: what was the right thinking?
If you missed last night’s A block, it’s worth your time.
“[L]et us all pray that it is out of ignorance that the National Review comparing him to Gandhi and the right-wing activists comparing him to Rosa Parks, and the Fox News channel booking him and his family over and over and over and over and over again as heroes, and the Republican senator calling his armed supporters pointing guns at federal law enforcement officers ‘patriots’ – let us pray that that was happening under a veil of ignorance. Let us pray that they had no idea that there is a long-standing fairly violent right-wing movement in this country that is born in the defense of slavery and that causes people to say weird stuff about sheriffs being the supreme authority and the federal government not existing.
“Let us pray that the right and these Republican senators made a hero out of this guy in bloody ignorance of where he was really coming from.
“But it is a choice as to whether or not you do your homework before you try to mainstream a guy like this. The turn today to ‘let me tell you another thing I know about the Negro,’ that was telegraphed way, way, way in advance here. Anybody who chose not to see it coming now has this mess all over themselves.”
And as of today, the AFP’s solution is to clean up this mess by pretending it never said what it very clearly said.
As for Bundy, he apparently keeps talking, and is now attempting to invoke the legacies of both Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks in his defense.
The far-right movement really knows how to pick ‘em.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 25, 2014