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“We’re Just Educating Folks”: Koch’s Americans For Prosperity Say They’re Not Supporting Scott Walker In WI Recall

DC-based special interest group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is busing-in out-of-state Tea Partiers and spending millions on advertisements, rallies, and phone banks in the weeks before recall elections for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, and four state senate seats. But the group founded and funded by New York-based oil billionaire David Koch insists their activities have nothing to do with the campaigns or elections.

“We’re not dealing with any candidates, political parties or ongoing races,” said AFP-Wisconsin Director Scott Hilgemann about AFP’s four-day, ten-city bus tour taking place the week before Wisconsin’s June 5 election.

“We’re just educating folks on the importance of the reforms,” he said.

The “reforms” Hilgemann is referencing include Governor Walker’s contentious attack on public sector collective bargaining and his austerity budget, which AFP touts as having saved taxpayers money — but which Walker’s critics say have crippled public schools and led to Wisconsin being dead last among all 50 states for job growth. Those controversial reforms also compelled over 900,000 people to sign petitions for Walker’s recall.

Since at least November, AFP has staged an aggressive pro-Walker campaign while claiming to be focused merely on promoting Walker’s “reforms” rather than the candidate himself or the recall election. The group has been one of Walker’s top allies since he introduced his divide-and-conquer legislation in February of 2011.

Continuation of AFP “It’s Working!” Campaign

Just as Walker’s opponents started collecting recall signatures in November 2011, AFP began running a series of slick TV and web ads claiming “It’s Working!”, and alleging that Walker’s fiscal policies have been good for the state (while ignoring all the bad news). The campaign has reportedly cost at least $2.9 million so far — nearly three times as much as Walker’s opponent Tom Barrett has raised.

The ads come from the “charitable” side of AFP — the AFP Foundation — which as a charity organized under Section 501(c)(3) of the tax code, has an absolute prohibition against intervening in political campaigns. The ads were produced in collaboration with another 501(c)(3), the Bradley Foundation-funded MacIver Institute, which has the same prohibition. As the Center for Media and Democracy has reported, the ads push the envelope on Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules about nonprofit participation in political campaigns, never mentioning Walker or the election but advancing a message consistent with Walker’s electoral strategy.

The AFP-Foundation and MacIver “It’s Working!” campaign has also included a series of townhall events across the state in November and December to have a “respectful discussion on why we must maintain the reforms that have saved hundreds of millions for Wisconsin taxpayers,” according to an AFP press release. The implication is clear — the election of a governor other than Walker would threaten the “reforms,” and his reelection would maintain them. And according to AFP, “we must maintain the reforms.”

But, AFP claims the campaign is not about the elections — indeed, if it were, the organization could lose its nonprofit status.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign believes the AFP / MacIver ads really are about the elections, and filed a complaint with the IRS accusing the groups of violating IRS rules.

“Stand With Walker”

In February and March of last year, hundreds of thousands of people occupied and marched on the capital in protest of Governor Walker’s policies, including his Act 10 proposal to limit public sector collective bargaining. At the start of the uprising’s second week, Walker accepted a phone call from a person he believed to be David Koch, who asked how the governor’s efforts to “crush that union” were going. The caller was actually Buffalo Beast blogger Ian Murphy, who recorded and publicized the conversation. Among other things, Walker asked that Koch have “his guy on the ground” – presumably an Americans for Prosperity leader – organize rallies and encourage people “to call lawmakers and tell them to hang firm with the governor.”

Regardless of how AFP received the request for help, the group seemed to have met Walker’s request. The same day that Walker chatted with the fake David Koch, Koch’s AFP began running “Stand With Walker” TV ads across the state, along with promoting a pro-Walker petition. As the anti-Walker protests heated up, AFP launched a “Stand With Walker” website and a “Stand With Walker Wisconsin Bus Tour,” and organized a “Stand With Walker” counter-rally at the state capitol.

Months later, Walker himself adopted the “Stand With Walker” slogan for his election campaign. (The slogan also appeared to inspire this face-melting rock video).

Not about the Election?

In 2012, AFP appears to be ramping-up its campaign to aid Walker as his recall election grows near. AFP kicks off the “A Better Wisconsin Bus Tour” in Waukesha on May 30, visiting ten Wisconsin cities before rendezvousing in Racine with out-of-state AFP members. As part of the tour, 70 staff members will be recruiting volunteers to call voters and canvass neighborhoods. In recent weeks, the group has also been organizing phone banks.

Although Governor Walker likes to complain that out-of-state union bosses are behind his recall, AFP has been recruiting plenty of support for Walker from outside Wisconsin. State AFP chapters around the country have been organizing organizing “Freedom Phone” phonebanks for “patriots throughout the nation” to make phone calls into Wisconsin to tell Wisconsin residents to “support[] the Wisconsin reforms.” The AFP chapter in Illinois is busing out-of-staters “to rally and canvass neighborhoods in [Racine] Wisconsin on June 2” (three days before the election) to “make our voices heard in support of the Wisconsin reforms.” The effort appears to be well-funded — attendees are charged cost only $5 for a round-trip bus ticket with lunch and dinner provided. By comparison, a round-trip commercial bus ticket from Racine to Chicago would cost $47, lunch and dinner not included.

AFP-Wisconsin’s director insists the effort has nothing to do “with any candidates, political parties or ongoing races,” despite photos from recent events prominently displaying pro-Walker campaign propaganda and one of AFP’s top field coordinators being a current Vice-Chair and Executive Board Member of the Winnebago County Republican Party. Additionally, many AFP staffers have long ties to the GOP, such as AFP Director Luke Hilgemann, who until recently worked as Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder’s Chief of Staff.

It is not clear whether the bus tour, phone banks, and canvassing are operating via the 501(c)(3) AFP-Foundation, which is officially prohibited from any political campaign activity, or through AFP’s 501(c)(4) wing, which can participate in a limited amount of election work, but cannot act as a Political Action Committee.

Regardless of which AFP wing is advancing the campaign, it stretches the imagination to believe AFP’s claims that organizing bus tours, phone banks, TV ads and out-of-state canvassers — in the weeks and months before the election — has nothing to do with the election. Particularly when AFP chair David Koch, who has not given any money directly to Walker’s recall campaign fund, has recently said “we’re helping [Walker], as we should” and “we’ve spent a lot of money in Wisconsin. We’re going to spend more.”

 

BY: Brendan Fischer, Center For Media and Democracy, May 27, 2012

May 27, 2012 Posted by | Wisconsin Recall | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“We Need To Support All The Troops”: Military Women In Line To Get Same Rights As Civilian Women

If you’re a member of the U.S. military and you happen to be a woman, you might think you were entitled to the full range of health care allowed your civilian counterparts. But you would be wrong. That’s why Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., crafted an amendment to the National Defense Appropriation Act that would grant, according to the Ms. magazine Web site:

the same rights as civilian women under federal policies that provide affordable abortion care to women who are the victims of rape or incest. Under the current policy, servicewomen are only eligible for abortion care if the woman’s life is at risk.

On Thursday, just in time for the Memorial Day weekend, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved the amendment by a 16-10 vote. The measure must next move to the Senate floor, and faces an uncertain future if, as expected, the appropriations bill goes to a joint conference. (The House bill is not expected to include a similar provision.)

Currently, abortions are forbidden to military personnel unless they are victims of sexual assault or the pregnancy endangers their lives. But if the pregnancy is the result of a rape the soldier, sailor or Marine must pay for her own abortion — a cost that can be prohibitive on a military paycheck. And in a war zone, a woman in uniform will likely find no civilian medical professionals available to her who will perform the procedure.

This is all the more galling when one considers the epidemic of sexual assault against military women that continues to grip the armed forces — assaults perpetrated by men who are supposed to be their comrades.

In 2009, reporting for CBS News, Katie Couric delivered this statistic:

One in three female soldiers will experience sexual assault while serving in the military, compared to one in six women in the civilian world.

And the numbers haven’t changed much. Because of the stigma attached to reporting one’s rape by a fellow soldier, it’s not unheard of for a woman made pregnant through rape to try to self abort. (For one account, see Kathryn Joyce’s outstanding 2009 article, “Military Abortion Ban: Female Soldiers Not Protected by Constitution They Defend,” at Religion Dispatches.)

If Congress really wants to show its appreciation to all of our troops, it will pass the appropriations bill with the Shaheen amendment in tact. But with this Congress, whose freshmen claim to love, love them some Constitution, military women will likely learn the limits of the right-wing version of the U.S. Constitution. (Now, what do you need all those rights, for, little lady?)

 

By: Adele Stan, Washington Monthly Political Animal, May 26, 2012

May 27, 2012 Posted by | Women's Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Preserving The Status Quo”: Pope’s Butler Arrested, Nun’s Investigated, Which Is The Bigger Scandal?

Let’s face it — everybody loves a juicy scandal, especially when it involves the Vatican. And dear Animals, lest you think I veer from the topic of politics to which I am pledged while guest-blogging here, I can assure you that there is nothing in the realm of the Holy See that is not political.

From the Associated Press:

The Vatican confirmed Saturday that the pope’s butler had been arrested in its embarrassing leaks scandal, adding a Hollywood twist to a sordid tale of power struggles, intrigue and corruption in the highest levels of Catholic Church governance.

Paolo Gabriele, a layman who lives inside Vatican City, was arrested Wednesday with secret documents in his possession and was being held Saturday, the Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said in a statement.

At issue are confidential letters to and from Pope Benedict XVI regarding the Vatican’s financial dealings disclosed in the recently published book, His Holiness, by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi. The AP notes that the scandal “has seriously embarrassed the Vatican at a time in which it is trying to show the world financial community that it has turned a page and shed its reputation as a scandal plagued tax haven.”

So, in arresting Gabriele, the Vatican is doing what it does best with those who would challenge its sources and methods: putting the screws to them.

You’d think that the pope and his men might be so consumed with straightening out the Holy See’s financial mess, and penitentially finding the institution’s way back to the straight and narrow that they’d have little time to do much else. But, no, instead the pope has seen fit to focus his institution’s resources on a mission designed to bring U.S. nuns into line.

From Reuters’ Stephanie Simon:

The Vatican last month accused the leading organization of U.S. nuns, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, of focusing too much on social-justice issues such as poverty and not enough on abortion, gay marriage and euthanasia. The Vatican also rapped the group for standing by as some nuns publicly challenged U.S. bishops on matters of church doctrine and public policy.

In a move that many nuns viewed as an insult, the Vatican put the nuns’ organization under the effective control of three U.S. bishops, who have the power to rewrite its statutes, its meeting agendas and even its liturgical texts. The board of the Leadership Conference is due to meet next week in Washington, D.C. to mull a response.

Those of a certain age may recall when, during a papal visit in 1979, Sister Theresa Kane, then president of the Leadership Conference, challenged Pope John Paul II to include women in the priesthood. At the time, Cardinal Ratzinger, now known as Pope Benedict, was JPII doctrinal enforcer. He apparently holds a grudge.

Readers may also remember the Vatican Bank scandal of the 1980s, which involved all manner of financial shenanigans, including a counterfeiting scheme that involved the delivery of $14.5 million in bogus bonds to the Vatican. All told, the Vatican Bank scams amounted to a “$1.3 billion scandal,” according to the New York Times And back in the 1980s, $1.3 billion was real money.

In 2009, now retired from her office at the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Sr Kane addressed a gathering of the National Coalition of American Nuns, just as the Vatican embarked on its investigation of LCWR. From the National Catholic Reporter:

“Regarding the present interrogation, I think the male hierarchy is truly impotent, incapable of equality, co-responsibility in adult behavior,” she said, not mincing any words. “In the church today, we are experiencing a dictatorial mindset and spiritual violence.”

A scandal, then, of epic proportions.

 

BY: Adele Stan, Washington Monthly Political Animal, May 26, 2012

May 27, 2012 Posted by | Vatican | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“In Memoriam”: Joe Biden Recalling Dark Days After Losing Family, “It Can And Will Get Better”

Vice President Joe Biden, in a moving speech to families of fallen troops on Friday, recounted the dark days following the tragic deaths of his wife and daughter and talked about understanding thoughts of suicide.

“It was the first time in my career, in my life, I realized someone could go out – and I probably shouldn’t say this with the press here, but no, but it’s more important, you’re more important. For the first time in my life, I understood how someone could consciously decide to commit suicide,” he said. ”Not because they were deranged, not because they were nuts, because they had been to the top of the mountain, and they just knew in their heart they would never get there again.”

Biden said he would sometimes call family just to hear someone say that he could get through it, that he could make it through the grief. He recalled the day he got the news in 1972, a few weeks after he had been elected to the U.S. Senate for the first time at the age of 29.

“I was down in Washington hiring my staff and I got a phone call, saying that my family had been in an accident,” he said. “And just like you guys know by the tone of the phone call, you just knew. You knew when they walked up the path. You knew when the call came. You knew. You just felt it in your bones: Something bad happened. And I knew — I don’t know how I knew, but the caller said my wife is dead. My daughter is dead. And I wasn’t sure how my sons were going to make it. They were Christmas shopping and a tractor trailer broadsided them.

“In one instant, killed two of them and, well…” Biden said, his voice trailing off before finishing the thought.

He was angry, he said, angry they were gone, angry at God, and he recalled walking through the rotunda at the Capitol, on his way home to identify the bodies.

“And I remember looking up and saying, ‘God,’ I was, as if I was talking to God myself, ‘You can’t be good, how can you be good?’”

Biden said he was lucky to have the support of his family, but as the days and weeks unfolded, it sometimes wasn’t enough.

“There was still something gigantic missing,” he said. “And just when you think, ‘Maybe I’m going to make it,’ you’re riding down the road and you pass a field, and you see a flower and it reminds you. Or you hear a tune on the radio. Or you just look up in the night. You know, you think, ‘Maybe I’m not going to make it, man.’ Because you feel at that moment the way you felt the day you got the news.”

And he said well-wishers would express their condolences and often tell him that they knew how he felt, something he resented.

“You knew they were genuine. But you knew they didn’t have any damn idea, right?” Biden told attendees at the TAPS National Military Survivor Seminar and Good Grief Camp in Arlington, Va.. “That black hole you feel in your chest like you’re being sucked back into it.”

He said a phone call finally jolted him out of despair. It didn’t take away his grief but showed him a path through it. Biden didn’t identify the caller by name but said he was a former New Jersey governor whose wife had also died suddenly. The caller told Biden to start marking in a calendar each day how he felt, and that, after a few months, he would find that he still had dark days but that they would grow fewer and further apart.

“He said, ‘That’s when you know you’re going to make it,’’” Biden said.

Biden concluded his remarks with some advice: to keep in mind what late loved ones would have wanted and that loved ones who are alive still need you.

“Folks, it can and will get better,” Biden said. “There will come a day – I promise you, and your parents as well – when the thought of your son or daughter, or your husband or wife, brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye. It will happen.”

 

By: Donovan Slack, Politico, May 25, 2012

May 27, 2012 Posted by | Family Values | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Delivering For The Well-To-Do”: Romney’s Bain Experience Wasn’t Real American Capitalism

The debate is on. The Obama forces and the Mitt Romney campaign are dueling back and forth with ads and heated rhetoric about Romney’s record at Bain Capital.

Actually, this debate began during the Republican primary season, when Romney was eviscerated by his probusiness foes vying for the nomination. Rick Perry called the Bain approach to business “indefensible,” “inherently wrong,” “vulture capitalism,” and Newt Gingrich called it “exploitation.” So, those who are worried that the critique of Romney’s role as a corporate raider is somehow a criticism of American capitalism or is somehow antibusiness should play back the Republican primary debate tapes.

Here are the fundamental questions about Romney and Bain: Did they help middle class, working families; did they create hundreds of thousands of jobs in America; was this American business at its best?

The answer, in my view, is clearly no. This is not George Romney running American Motors, this is not Steve Jobs creating Apple, this is not Ray Kroc developing McDonald’s. This is Wall Street run amok, with little regard for jobs lost, pensions lost, debt piled up, lives and communities left in tatters. The sole purpose of Bain Capital was to make money, and lots of it, for themselves and their investors. It was not to rebuild companies and rebuild lives. It had nothing to do with job creation.

If this is the Romney business “experience”—thanks, but no thanks.

The scary part of the Bain experience is that we have a candidate who favors $5 trillion in tax breaks, mostly for the wealthy, while unfairly targeting middle class families. The budget and tax policies advocated by Romney and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin are inherently unfair to working families and continue the shift in income and benefits to those who have prospered this past decade.

In short, the Romney platform and the Romney experience at Bain point to a potential president who delivers for the well-to-do, not those who have been hurt by the economic collapse.

So, why does Romney favor, for himself and his wealthy friends, tax breaks to put money in Swiss bank accounts and the Cayman Islands? Why does he support carried interest deductions for the wealthiest Americans that allow him to only pay 14 percent in taxes? Why will he not admit that just because he can afford the lawyers and fancy accountants does not make it right?

Romney’s problem is that he is not supportive enough of real, fair, honest American capitalism—he is too tied to fast and loose Wall Street “exploitation” that got us all into this economic mess in the first place.

One can argue strongly that these money-making tactics have done far more harm than good to our economy and to American businesses over the past 20 years. That is why Bain and Wall Street excesses are so important to main street voters. That is why this debate about America’s future course is so important this election year.

 

By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, May 26, 2012

May 27, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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