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“The Lord Works In Mysterious Ways”: FEC Investigation Into Michele Bachmann’s Election Campaign Now Focusing On Marcus

In 2011, Michele Bachmann claimed God spoke to her and told her to run for president. Apparently, the Lord works in mysterious ways. The Minnesota Congresswoman’s presidential campaign was a disaster on the inside even more than on the outside, as evidenced by all the ethics investigations she’s facing. Now Marcus Bachmann, the Congresswoman’s husband,  is the subject of a Federal Elections Commission investigation, according to the New York Times.

“The latest is a federal inquiry into whether an outside ‘super PAC’ improperly coordinated strategy with Mrs. Bachmann’s campaign staff, including her husband, in violation of election laws,” the Times reports

In a complaint to the F.E.C. in February, Peter Waldron, a Florida Republican operative hired to enlist evangelical Iowa pastors, described overhearing the president of the super PAC ask Brett O’Donnell, a senior campaign adviser, about radio and TV stations.

In an interview on Thursday, Mr. Waldron said Mr. O’Donnell had replied, “I’ll call you tomorrow.”

Election law prohibits substantial coordination, though not all contacts, between campaigns and super PACS, Mr. Ryan said.

Mr. Waldron, who calls himself a whistle-blower, also disclosed an e-mail from Mr. Bachmann describing a phone call Mr. Bachmann made to a donor asking for $7,000. In the e-mail, Mr. Bachmann wrote that the donor had agreed to give the money through the super PAC. He concluded: “Praise the Lord!! Thank you Peter for your servant leadership.”

Mr. Ryan said the call appeared to violate a rule against campaign staff members raising more than $5,000 for a super PAC.

Regular readers of The New Civil Rights Movement are all too familiar with Peter Waldron, Bachmann’s evangelical outreach director who has ties a top advocate of Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill.

Even the Times notes Waldron “has a controversial past,” and adds:

In 2006 he was jailed briefly in Uganda for possession of assault rifles, according to news reports. In the 1990s he led a Florida youth charity that received more than $600,000 in state and local grants before it collapsed amid questions about its effectiveness, according to The St. Petersburg Times, now The Tampa Bay Times.

But there’s so much more.

Waldron, who one year before the 2012 elections announced that the Holy Ghost had told him Michele Bachmann is the one for president, just published a new book, Bachmannistan: Behind The Lines, that claims Rep. Bachmann fired a staffer who had seven children, and another on the way, on Christmas eve.

Christian family values?


By: David Badash, The New Civil Rights Movement, September 6, 2013


September 7, 2013 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Padding The Coffers”: When Crass Fundraising Takes A Grimm Turn

Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) announced just days ago that he would support President Obama’s call for military intervention in Syria. “We have to keep our word; this is about our credibility,” the New York Republican said last weekend. “We can’t permit a precedent where there is a use of chemical weapons and there is no response.”

Four days later, Grimm changed his mind, and announced yesterday he opposes the policy he’d previously endorsed.

I’ll leave it to others to speculate as to why, exactly, the congressman reversed course so quickly and completely, but Grimm appears to have tipped his hand a bit.

Rep. Michael Grimm, a New York Republican, is sending out fundraising emails based on his decision to switch from supporting President Obama’s Syria plan to opposing it.

Grimm’s campaign list sent out the fundraising call on Thursday with the subject line “Oppose Military Action in Syria.”

The fundraising appeal, sent within a few hours of Grimm’s newly announced position, asks donors, “Will you stand with me in opposing President Obama’s plan with a donation of $25 or more right now?” It adds, “Stand with me today with a donation of $25 or more to strongly oppose military action in Syria.”

Terri Lynn Land, a Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Michigan, yesterday tried to pull the same fundraising stunt.

To be sure, there are no laws or ethics rules prohibiting this sort of crass fundraising, and for all I know, there may well be prospective sucker donors out there who respond to these appeals.

But I like to think reasonable, fair-minded observers can agree that this is just cheap and ugly. In Grimm’s case, we have an elected member of the U.S. Congress telling constituents and supporters (1) Syria used chemical weapons to slaughter civilians; (2) the U.S. is weighing a military response; (3) Grimm flip-flopped over the course of a few days; so (4) send Grimm some cash because … Obama is bad. Or something.

Pro tip: don’t try to exploit a national security crisis involving a chemical-weapons attack to pad your campaign coffers. Just. Don’t. Do. It.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 6, 2013

September 7, 2013 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Syria | , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Rejection Of Reality”: Conservative Claims About Low-Income Excess Are Just Wrong

Are people better off than they were before the recession? By most headline figures they’re not: Poverty and inequality have risen to record levels, median incomes declined. Unemployment has improved marginally, but 37 states have yet to regain their pre-recession job levels.

Conservatives like to push back on claims of rising inequality or worsening poverty by pointing out that their measure of poverty or inequality insufficiently captures the increasing well-being of even the poor. They’re better off, they say, because low and middle-income Americans are living better than they did in the past. These arguments manifest themselves in concern over “Obamaphones” or access to liquor or drugs, and generally recommend policy solutions as odious as drug-testing as a prerequisite for welfare or stricter control over food stamps. As Matt Bruenig aptly pointed out on this blog, even taking these conservative policy solutions at their face value, fraud complaints are spurious. We want poor people to have more money. Programs like food stamps and Medicaid undoubtedly accomplish that.

But let’s dive deeper into whether families are better off. The Census Bureau periodically publishes assessments of well-being. Their most recent iteration, released yesterday, measures well-being comprehensively based on various conditions such as homeownership (or rentership) and housing condition, access to appliances and electronic goods, neighborhood conditions, meeting basic needs to avoid eviction and eat, and ability to get help from families or the community should they need it. Most of the trends in the results aren’t shocking, with extreme differences in situation based on age, sex and race.

Their headline results are sobering, however. How households fared from 2005 to 2011, according to the Census Bureau’s more comprehensive assessment:

Families are having an increasingly difficult time paying basic expenses. From 2005 to 2011, the number of Americans who couldn’t pay rent or afford food climbed from 16.4 to 16.9 million, a 16 percent increase.

Households with unmet essential expenses increased from 16.4 to 20 million. One in five households now experience difficulty meeting basic needs.

Those experiencing food shortages increased from 2.7 to 3.4 million.

A plurality of households lack access to basic appliances. 36 percent of households didn’t have either a washer, dryer, fridge, stove, dishwasher or phone.

There are strong racial correlations to decreased well-being. Only 44 percent of Hispanics reported access to all six basic appliances compared with 71 percent of white households.

So, even conceding that headline stats don’t tell the whole story, conservative arguments fail on their own merits. No, there isn’t an increasing access to basic appliances that would signal a middle-class lifestyle. No, low-income families aren’t better able to meet basic needs like paying rent or purchasing food. Families are worse off because they’re poorer. Making some goods (like phones) marginally less expensive in the face of collapsing incomes and household wealth hasn’t truly improved the plight of low-income workers. Trying to restrict or reduce proven government programs despite these conditions isn’t then a conservative acknowledgement of nuance, it’s the rejection of reality.


By: Joe Hines, The American Prospect, September 6, 2013

September 7, 2013 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Poverty | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“When Liberals Enable Tyrants”: Can A Liberal Oppose Tyranny And Support Military Intervention At The Same Time?

What is liberalism supposed to be about on the world stage? What values and goals do American liberals wish to promote around the world? I’m pretty certain most would say free democratic societies; full political rights for ethnic minorities; equal rights for women and, with any luck, gay people; a free press; an independent judiciary; and so forth. And, where those cannot be achieved, at least a base-level opposition to tyranny, reaction, religious fundamentalism, and so on.

Most would name these things. But, I have to say, most rank-and-file liberals don’t seem to me to be very passionate about them. What most liberals are passionate about is one thing: opposition to U.S. militarism. That’s what really roils the loins. Ever since Vietnam, there’s been this template, this governing notion that every military action the United States undertakes is by definition both immoral and bound inevitably to lead to a quagmire; that the U.S. military can do only bad in the world. Lord knows, there’s plenty of evidence to back up the claim, and a posture of deep skepticism about all military plans and promises is the only serious posture (abandoned by most of the “serious” people back in 2003).

I’ve described here two impulses: the desire to do good in the world, or at least to prevent the bad; and opposition to American force. Often these desires can exist in harmony. But what if they conflict? Why is opposition to any projection of force always the deciding factor? At times it can lead people into some very illiberal little corners.

I say this is one of those times. Taking no action now, after what Assad did, strengthens the hand of murderers, theocrats, and some of the most illiberal people on the planet. Yes, I have concerns about what might happen. You’ve read many columns, I’m sure, and heard many Democratic members of Congress on cable television talking about the potential catastrophic effects of a strike. I don’t deny them. I worry about them daily.

But I bet you haven’t heard many people talk about the potential harmful effects in the region of not striking the Assad regime. Yes, you probably saw Lindsey Graham and John McCain talk about how Iran would be emboldened in its nuclear ambitions, but that’s not even the half of it. Here are six consequences of not launching a strike against Syria, all of which could harm small-d democratic hopes in the region and, indeed, potentially increase the carnage.

(1) An Emboldened Assad

If the U.S. doesn’t strike, Assad would be emboldened to intensify the fighting in rebel-held areas. Rebel groups of different kinds hold a large number of cities and towns, as this map will show you. What if, concluding that the war-weary West doesn’t really care what he does and isn’t going to lift a finger to stop him, Assad (with Iran’s help) launches savage campaigns in these areas?

No strike is a green light for Assad to take over all the liberated areas by any means necessary, maybe including, again, chemical weapons. The CWs weren’t used last month just because he’s a big meanie. They were used to ferret rebel fighters out of their strongholds. Why wouldn’t he do it again if no one does a thing to stop him? And again?

(2) More Radicalized Rebels

Also within Syria itself, it’s possible that a failure to strike will radicalize more rebels and turn more of them against the United States and send them into the waiting arms of ISIS and al-Nusra, the al Qaeda affiliates. It certainly seems safe to say that the “good” elements of the anti-regime forces, the people looking to the West for help, would be the losers if we don’t strike. Both the regime and the rebel Islamists have been killing members of the better rebel factions, and both groups would get the message from no U.S. strike that those factions have no protector.

(3) A Win for Hezbollah

Hezbollah, Assad’s ally and Iran’s terrorist proxy army, could more easily take over in Lebanon if the U.S. holds back. Right now in Lebanon, there is no government. I don’t want to drag you too deeply into Lebanese politics, but Hezbollah wants one of two things: either to be in the government, or at least to have what is called the “obstructing third” privilege that permitted it in the last government to block anything the government wants to do. On the other side are pro-Western politicians who have sought to reduce Hezbollah’s influence. No strike would only embolden Hezbollah, which could then decide on key military and security appointments in the next government.

(4) A Strengthened Iran in Iraq

Why? Because of the ongoing competition between Iran and Saudi Arabia for Iraqi influence, no strike would probably make Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki tilt more toward Iran (Saudi Arabia supports a U.S. strike, albeit not quite openly). Lately, according to Ken Pollack, Washington and Tehran have been in a kind of unexpected entente in Iraq. And Tehran probably has enough on its plate in Syria to prevent it from starting to make power moves in Iraq. But it’s possible, if the U.S. stands down over Syria, that Iran could start doing just that in Iraq, even as the country seems to be sliding back into civil war.

(5) A Blow to Israel

And there’s Israel to think about it. If Nos. 2 and 3 above come to pass—a strengthened al Qaeda and Hezbollah—well, that can’t be very good news for Israel. There are now “resistance brigades” affiliated with the Syrian regime operating in the long-disputed Golan. These brigades, too, will take note if the United States does nothing here.

(6) A Nuclear-Trigger-Happy Iran

There is, yes, the ultimate question of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. I think it’s hard to argue that a U.S. strike would delay those ambitions. But it is not hard to argue the opposite—that the lack of American action against Syria would make Tehran feel that much freer to proceed with that much more impunity.

Looking back over my list, who could benefit from the U.S. not taking action here? Assad, the dictator with the blood of 100,000 on his hands. Iran, one of the world’s most reactionary regimes. Hezbollah, a terrorist force that crushes the democratic aspirations of the Lebanese people. And al Qaeda, the extremist fanatics behind 9/11. Are those the kinds of people liberals want to help? I’m sure liberal members of Congress who’ve announced they’re voting no—Raúl Grijalva, Alan Grayson, Charlie Rangel, Barbara Lee, and about 17 others—have spent a heck of a lot of time thinking about what could go wrong if we do strike. I bet they haven’t given a moment’s thought to what could go wrong if we don’t.

I say that’s worth thinking about. Also worth thinking about is the fact that many liberal-minded people from the region, and certainly many or virtually all of the nonextremist rebels, want the United States to act. From their point of view, without the United States’ engagement, the region is buried in slaughter, theocracy, and darkness. I would expect American liberals at least to stop and think about that.

Again, no one is talking about 130,000 ground troops. That was a qualitatively different thing, and I opposed it from the start. Yes, an American attack might escalate matters. But it also might not. We got in and out of Libya. It’s not clear what that one accomplished yet, although we did presumably prevent a slaughter of many thousands in Benghazi. It is clear what we accomplished in Kosovo, where another murderer was removed from office and hauled to the Hague (without one American life lost). So it doesn’t always end badly. And it isn’t always immoral. This is one of those cases where, if the scale of the action is appropriate and if it works, a military incursion can actually serve liberal ends. No, that’s not for sure. But it is for sure that doing nothing helps the reactionaries.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, September 6, 2013

September 7, 2013 Posted by | Syria | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Mitt The Prophet”: Still Pandering, The Romney Camp Shows Its Continued Detachment From Reality

In preparation for a review on 2012 campaign books for the Monthly, I’ve been reading Jonathan Alter’s fine book The Center Holds this week, and have been marveling anew at the detachment from reality exhibited by Mitt Romney and his advisers, culminating in their inability to understand how and why they lost (or even that they had lost, until well after the race had been decided).

So it’s amusing to read McKay Coppins’ BuzzFeed article today indicating that the people who thought they’d be running the country right now are declaring Romney a prophet whose views are being vindicated every day:

From his widely mocked warnings about a hostile Russia to his adamant opposition to the increasingly unpopular implementation of Obamacare, the ex-candidate’s canon of campaign rhetoric now offers cause for vindication — and remorse — to Romney’s friends, supporters, and former advisers.

“I think about the campaign every single day, and what a shame it is who we have in the White House,” said Spencer Zwick, who worked as Romney’s finance director and is a close friend to his family. “I look at things happening and I say, you know what? Mitt was actually right when he talked about Russia, and he was actually right when he talked about how hard it was going to be to implement Obamacare, and he was actually right when he talked about the economy. I think there are a lot of everyday Americans who are now feeling the effects of what [Romney] said was going to happen, unfortunately.”

Give me a break. Nobody in Obama’s camp denied there were issues on which the U.S. and Russia would disagreed, and nobody predicted implementation of Obamacare would be a walk in the park, particularly given the viciously irresponsible determination of Republicans to screw it up while blocking with their House veto the simple legislative “fixes” major legislation always requires. Besides, Romney’s “prophecies” were virtually all throwaway lines aimed at pandering to conservatives to get them off his case so that he could run his campaign on the only issue he cared about: making himself the CEO of the U.S. economy.

Another quote from Spencer Zwick in Coppins’ piece gets at the truth of his and other Romneyites’ complaint:

“It’s frustrating because there’s no way to correct it,” Zwick said. “We don’t do what they do in the U.K. and lead the opposition party when you lose. When you lose there is no way to sort of be vindicated. There’s no way to say, ‘OK, well, I didn’t win the presidency but I’m going to continue to fight.’ There’s no fighting. There’s no platform to do that. Fifty million Americans voted for the guy and yet it’s all for nothing.”

Yeah, it’s tough to go from measuring the drapes in your White House office to being a political outcast with no appreciation from much of anyone in either party and no prospects for another campaign. But please, don’t pretend that the heavily financed mendacious shuffle which the Romney campaign represented from beginning to end was in fact some sort of prophetic stance.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 5, 2013

September 7, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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