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“The Election-Industrial Complex”: Campaign Consultants And Media Companies Are Cashing In On Our Corrupt Elections

Four days before Ben Carson finally wrapped up his failed candidacy, his campaign paid $348,141 to a direct mail company. The same amount was paid at the start of the month to Pennsylvania-based Action Mailers, bringing the company’s February total close to $1 million.

That same day, a web service provider for Carson’s campaign (run by the candidate’s chief marketing officer) was paid $59,000. In February, as the campaign limped to an end, checks totaling $651,000 were sent to Eleventy for web services.

Carson, in an interview with CNN after he announced that he would be dropping out of the race, said “We had people who didn’t really seem to understand finances, or maybe they did—maybe they were doing it on purpose.”

In total, through the end of February, Carson’s campaign raised $63 million and spent $58 million, according to FEC filings.

Much of that money came from small individual donations, and much of it was spent on a handful of companies tasked with raising money from those individual donors. There are many links between companies paid money by his campaign and the individuals who surrounded Carson.

Eleventy, whose president, Ken Dawson, was the campaign’s marketing chief, received close to $6 million over the course of the campaign. Action Mailers received over $5 million. Carson spent just over $5 million on television buys, less even than Donald Trump, whose “free media” campaign has kept his ad expenses incredibly low. Just as important, Carson spent little on developing a ground game.

“There’s a lot of people who love me, they just won’t vote for me,” Carson said as he bowed out. Hundreds of thousands loved him enough to give money to what they thought was an actual campaign.

The rise of super PACs in the aftermath of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision has often dominated the discussion over money in politics in recent election cycles. There is much more to the tale. It’s not just about who is spending the cash, but where it’s going.

Harpers Magazine, in its April cover story, delves into the world of “strategists, pollsters, TV-ad makers, media buyers, direct-mail specialists, broadcasters, and other subcategories of what we should properly call the election-industrial complex.” Its conclusion leaves the reader feeling, if only for a moment, somewhat sorry for the billionaires and multi-millionaires pumping money into elections. It’s all wasted extremely efficiently, mostly on advertising buys.

Exhibit A: Jeb Bush, whose campaign and supportive PACs spent close to $150 million on his failed candidacy, with nothing to show for it but… well, actually, there’s just nothing to show for it.

The big winners are consultants and television companies.

Les Moonves, chairman of CBS, made it clear, twice, that what may be bad for America is very good for his company. “Super PACs may be bad for America,” Moonves said following the 2012 election, “but they’re very good for CBS.” That year, CBS made $180 million out of the election.

This election cycle, not only are broadcasters pulling in cash from advertising, they also have Donald Trump to thank for an unprecedented ratings spike.

“It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS,” Moonves told a media conference in San Francisco in December. “Man, who would have expected the ride we’re all having right now? … The money’s rolling in and this is fun,” Moonves said.

“I’ve never seen anything like this, and this going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It’s a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going.”

 

By:  John Breslin, The National Memo, March 23, 2016

March 24, 2016 Posted by | Campaign Advertising, Campaign Consultants, Election Industrial Complex | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Supreme Court Fight Is About Democracy”: Conservatives Want To Bring Back Pre-New Deal Jurisprudence

There’s a reason beyond garden-variety partisanship that Senate Republicans resist even holding hearings on President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Their gambit evades a full and open debate over the conservative judicial agenda, which is to use the high court in an aggressive and political way to reverse decades of progressive legislation.

The central irony here: The very conservatives who use “judicial activism” as a battering ram against liberals are now the aggressive judicial activists. It’s precisely because Garland’s record reveals him to be a devout practitioner of judicial restraint that an intellectually frank dialogue over his nomination would be so dangerous to the right. It would expose the radicalism of their jurisprudence.

Some conservatives are quite open about this, and few have been more candid than George F. Will, my Post colleague. To begin with, he deserves credit for making clear in his most recent column that Garland really is a stout advocate of judicial “deference” and for pointing out the absurdity of the Republicans’ refusal to take up his nomination. And in the past, Will has been unusually direct in defining the stakes in our battles over the role of the courts.

In a 2014 column aptly headlined “Judicial activism isn’t a bad thing,” he wrote: “Conservatives clamoring for judicial restraint, meaning deference to legislatures, are waving a banner unfurled a century ago by progressives eager to emancipate government, freeing it to pursue whatever collective endeavors it fancies, sacrificing individual rights to a spurious majoritarian ethic.”

Will’s attack on “a spurious majoritarian ethic,” of course, is another way of criticizing the workings of democracy. Where does this lead?

It leads to the Citizens United decision (which Will supports as emphatically as I oppose it) that overthrew decades of precedent and a century of practice involving limits on the power of big money in politics; to the Supreme Court’s evisceration of the Voting Rights Act; and to the scrapping of all manner of legislation aimed at protecting workers’ rights, the environment and consumers. Historically, it’s an approach that, more often than not, leans toward employers over employees, creditors over debtors, property owners over less affluent citizens, and corporations over individuals.

We know what this approach looks like because it’s the one the court pursued for decades before the New Deal. It is this pre-New Deal jurisprudence that conservatives want to bring back. Some conservatives have talked openly about the “Constitution in Exile,” referring to the way our founding document was once read to overturn many New Deal and Progressive Era laws. Starting in the late 1930s, the court moved to a different approach that gave Congress broad latitude to legislate on matters related to social justice and economics and saw its task as intervening primarily on behalf of individual rights.

Will’s outright embrace of “judicial activism” has brought him some critics on the right. One of them is Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a leading defender of the Senate Republicans’ current strategy. “Most contemporary conservative proponents of judicial restraint,” Whelan has written, “are also proponents of originalism and see judicial restraint merely as supplementing originalist methodology when that methodology fails to yield a sufficiently clear answer to a constitutional question.”

Whelan added that his approach would, like Will’s, allow judges to “enforce the rights, and limits on power, that the Constitution, fairly construed, sets forth.” But it would also “prevent judges from inventing rights and powers that are not in the Constitution.”

Here’s my translation of Whelan: He’s instructing Will to notice how originalism — the conservative theory that insists we can apply the original meaning of the Constitution’s words and the Founders’ intentions with some ease — leaves judges with plenty of power to toss out progressive laws. At the same time, it gives conservatives grounds to oppose liberals on such issues as abortion and gay marriage.

I’ll stipulate that there are some legitimate conservative arguments against liberals on their own forms of social-issue activism. But I’d insist that we will understand this court battle better if we pay attention to Will’s straightforward language: Through originalism and other doctrines, conservatives have embraced an astonishingly aggressive approach to judging. It allows them to reach outcomes through the courts that they cannot achieve through the democratic process.

At heart, this is a debate over how we define democracy. It’s also a struggle over whether government will be able to serve as a countervailing force to concentrated economic power.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 20, 2016

March 23, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Democracy, Senate Republicans | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Jim DeMint Looking Over His Shoulder”: Trump Made A Big Promise Aimed At Winning Over Nervous Conservatives

It sort of got lost in competing news about his efforts to seem a mite more normal now that he’s almost certain to head to Cleveland in July as the leader in delegates, if not the putative nominee, but Donald Trump made a very unusual and highly significant promise aimed right at the beating heart of movement conservatism:

Speaking at the construction site for his new hotel in Washington, D.C., Monday, Trump said he will make a list public in the next week of 10 conservative judges that he would consider nominating to the Supreme Court. If elected, Trump said, he would only pick from that list, which is being made in consultation with the conservative Heritage Foundation.

He first made that promise over the weekend in Florida, and he seems to want to make sure it’s widely heard. This means somebody is giving him good advice about how to address the concerns of conservatives about his ideological reliability.

Of all the things they fear about a President Trump, the most urgent is that he will throw away a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape SCOTUS and constitutional law. And of all the temptations they have to hold their noses and support the man despite all of his heresies and erratic behavior, the most powerful would be the confident belief that at least he would position the Court to overrule Roe v. Wade, protect Citizens United, overturn Obama’s executive orders, eviscerate regulation of businesses, inoculate religion-based discrimination, and maybe even introduce a new Lochner era of constitutionally enshrined property rights. This would be a legacy that might well outweigh the risks associated with a Trump presidency.

Promising to make his SCOTUS list public right now is smart, because otherwise it’s an empty promise, and involving the Heritage Foundation in developing it is key to its credibility. Not only has Heritage had a long history of vetting Republican appointees; its current president, Jim DeMint, is arguably the most reliable of “constitutional conservatives,” a man who believes conservative policy prescriptions ought to be permanently protected from the occasional liberal majority via a divinely inspired and unchanging Supreme Law.

Bonding with conservatives over SCOTUS makes some psychological sense for Trump as well. Nothing symbolizes the betrayal of the conservative rank and file — whose abiding exemplar is arguably the humble anti-choice activist staffing phone banks and licking envelopes to protect the unborn from “baby-killers” — by those GOP elites in Washington better than the long string of Republican SCOTUS appointees who have turned out to be traitors to the Cause, from Roe v. Wade author Harry Blackmun to the generally liberal John Paul Stevens and David Souter to the current Obamacare-protecting chief justice. If Trump can break that pattern with Jim DeMint looking over his shoulder, maybe he won’t be that bad for conservatism after all.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, March 22, 2016

March 23, 2016 Posted by | Conservatism, Donald Trump, Jim DeMint, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“GOP Hypocrisy On Public Display”: Garland Nomination Forces GOP To Defend The Indefensible

Apparently, President Barack Obama still believes that congressional Republicans can be shamed.

Apparently, he thinks he can persuade GOP senators to consider his Supreme Court nominee with an implicit threat to expose them as hypocrites, obstructionists and revanchists if they refuse.

Has Obama learned nothing over the past eight years? The GOP Congress is shameless.

Although Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made it clear within hours of the death of Justice Antonin Scalia that he would refuse to consider — no hearings, much less a vote — any nominee Obama proposes, the president went ahead and performed the duties assigned to him by the U.S. Constitution: He selected a worthy nominee to fill the vacancy.

And not just a worthy nominee, but also one whose credentials, in a rational political world, would draw broad bipartisan support. That nominee is Judge Merrick Garland.

Chosen for a seat on the D.C. Court of Appeals by President Bill Clinton, Garland is a centrist who is highly regarded throughout Washington. He’s a former prosecutor; as a Justice Department lawyer, he oversaw the trial team that prosecuted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and his accomplice, Terry Nichols. In his 1997 confirmation, he received 32 Republican votes, seven from senators still serving.

Allow me to make a prediction: None of that matters. McConnell will still refuse to hold hearings on Garland’s nomination, no matter how much his party’s hypocrisy is held up to public view. According to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, 63 percent of Americans believe the Senate should at least hold hearings on Obama’s nominee.

So what? Garland and Obama had barely left the Rose Garden, where the announcement was held, when McConnell reiterated his pledge to stonewall. “The next justice could fundamentally alter the direction of the Supreme Court and have a profound impact on our country,” he said, “so of course the American people should have a say in the court’s direction.”

I have news for the Senate majority leader. The American people had their say in 2012, when they re-elected Obama with 51 percent of the vote, 5 million more votes than Mitt Romney received. And Obama is still the president. There is nothing in the nation’s founding document that suggests the chief executive should forfeit his duties during his final year.

Count me among those who wish that Obama had nominated a black woman, a first for the nation’s highest court. Not only would GOP obstruction in the face of a highly qualified black female jurist have likely motivated an enthusiastic turnout among Democratic voters in the fall, but it would also be an important symbol in a diverse country. Black women are a crucial part of the progressive coalition, and there are plenty among that cohort who would be excellent choices, including Attorney General Loretta Lynch and U.S. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Of course, such a nominee would likely have given up any chance to actually serve on the Supreme Court, since Republicans would have taken the next several months to mount a smear campaign against her. That would have made her toxic, even if Obama’s successor is a Democrat.

The same applies to Garland, who has agreed to take one for the team. He’s smart enough to know the political calculus: Obama picked him to force Republicans to defend their indefensible position.

Already, conservative groups are gearing up to spend millions to make sure no weak-kneed Republicans fall out of lockstep with the marching orders from on high. (If you’re sick of seeing millions spent secretly to dominate the political process, by the way, you should pay attention to the Supreme Court. The Citizens United case, which allows corporations to spend freely on elections, was brought to you by a high court dominated by conservatives.)

If nothing else, this ought to bring to an end to the attempts by some Washington observers to pin the blame for the reckless partisanship that threatens to swamp the ship of state equally on Democrats and Republicans, on Obama and his GOP antagonists. That’s just nonsense.

It ought to be clear by now that the GOP’s one remaining principle is to oppose Obama at every turn — and utterly without shame.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, March 18, 2016

March 19, 2016 Posted by | GOP, Merrick Garland, Mitch Mc Connell, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Conservatives Are Right To Be Frightened”: Don’t Believe The Hype: Here’s What A Liberal Supreme Court Would Actually Do

If you look at how the Democratic and Republican candidates for president have reacted to the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Antonin Scalia, you might notice a greater sense of urgency from the Republicans. The Democrats are certainly talking about it, and they’ve certainly expressed their contempt at the absurd arguments Republicans are making in support of their position that the president of the United States shouldn’t be allowed to appoint Supreme Court justices if a new president will take office in a year. But they aren’t spinning out nightmare scenarios about what will happen if they lose this conflict. The Republicans, on the other hand, seem much more worried.

And they’re right to be, because at the moment, they have more to lose. But what would actually happen if the balance on the Court shifts from 5-4 in favor of conservatives (what it was before Scalia’s death) to 5-4 in favor of liberals?

To hear Republicans tell it, the results would be positively apocalyptic. Here’s how Ted Cruz described it in a CNN town hall last night:

“We are one liberal justice away from the Supreme Court striking down every restriction on abortion that’s been put in place the last 40 years. We are one liberal justice away from the Supreme Court writing the Second Amendment out of the Constitution. We are one liberal justice away from the Supreme Court ordering Ten Commandments monuments to be torn down, ordering veterans memorials to be torn down, and undermining our fundamental religious liberty.”

This is almost verbatim what Cruz has been saying since Scalia died; on Meet the Press last Sunday, he added colorfully that a liberal majority would mean “the crosses and Stars of David sandblasted off of the tombstones of our fallen veterans.”

There’s no doubt that if and when a new liberal justice takes his or her seat on the Court — either because Obama’s nominee somehow gets confirmed or because Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders wins the election and appoints one — it will be the most significant shift in the Court’s balance in decades. And that’s in large part because the right has gotten so much of what it wanted out of this Supreme Court. While conservatives shake their fists at the Court and call John Roberts a traitor, the truth is that with just a few exceptions, most notably the legalizing of same-sex marriage and the upholding of (most of) the Affordable Care Act, the Roberts Court has delivered the right a spectacular string of victories over the last few years. Among other things, they found an individual right to own guns for the first time in history, knocked down limits on spending by corporations (and unions) on political campaigns, whittled away at affirmative action, gutted the Voting Rights Act, made it harder for employees to sue for sex discrimination, and declared that corporations have religious rights.

Nevertheless, according to the Pew Research Center, in 2008, 80 percent of Republicans had a favorable view of the Supreme Court. By 2015 that figure had fallen to 33 percent. And 68 percent of conservative Republicans described the Court as “liberal,” which is laughable by any standard one could devise.

So what happens now? Margo Schlanger compiled this list of major rulings where Scalia was in a 5-4 majority, all of which could in theory be overturned, from Citizens United to D.C. v. Heller (which established the individual right to own guns) to Shelby County v. Holder (which invalidated key parts of the Voting Rights Act). But that doesn’t mean a liberal majority would go on a rampage, overturning all those settled cases.

“The Supreme Court is a conservative institution as a whole; justices aren’t looking to overturn the apple cart,” Jill Dash of the liberal American Constitution Society told me this morning. She argued that it’s unlikely that a liberal majority would set about to repeal those high-profile decisions, particularly within the first few years of that majority.

Samuel Bagenstos, a professor at the University of Michigan law school who served in the Justice Department under President Obama, also doubts that there would be too many major decisions overturned. “The four more liberal justices currently on the Court take precedent and stare decisis seriously, and I don’t think that will change,” he said.

But there would be change in complex areas of law where the courts are still working through how previous decisions apply to varied situations. Affirmative action is one “where the Court would be much more likely to uphold programs designed to promote diversity in schools and the workplace,” Bagenstos says. He also points to employment law as an area where a liberal majority could chart a new path, in cases concerning arbitration clauses in contracts and what constitutes systemic discrimination. Dash notes that a liberal majority would probably produce a spate of voting rights cases, as challenges to restrictions imposed by Republican state legislatures would find a friendlier hearing, even if Shelby County isn’t entirely overturned.

And then there’s abortion, always at the top of everyone’s mind when the Supreme Court comes up. In recent years, conservative states have pushed the envelope farther and farther in restricting the availability of abortion, with onerous rules on abortion clinics and invasive mandates on the women seeking the procedure. The question is which of these measures violate the Court’s 1992 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which stated that the government can’t impose an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to choose.

The conservative position to this point has been that virtually no burden is “undue.” If the state makes you drive hundreds of miles, wait for days, make multiple visits to a clinic, hear an oration of lies penned by some GOP state legislator about how getting an abortion might give you cancer and drive you mad, so far the Supreme Court has said it’s just what women should have to tolerate.

But that might no longer be true. “A liberal who replaced Justice Scalia would likely read the Casey ‘undue burden’ standard as imposing a much more significant limitation on the regulation of abortion than the Court has in recent years,” says Bagenstos, “so you could see a major practical shift in reproductive rights jurisprudence. I don’t think the Court would overrule any precedent, though. It would just find a wider range of burdens to be ‘undue.’”

In short, a liberal replacing Scalia would be an important change with profound consequences for all Americans’ lives. But it wouldn’t happen all at once, and it wouldn’t be so earth-shattering as to cause riots in the streets. Nobody’s going to sandblast the crosses off the gravestones at Arlington. Nevertheless, conservatives are right to be frightened. They’ve had a long run with conservative dominance of the Supreme Court, and it may be coming to an end. Now they’ll understand how liberals have felt for the last few decades.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, February 18, 2016

February 19, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Liberals, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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