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“How John Roberts Made Hillary Clinton President”: The Irony Is So Rich, Thank You Citizens United!

During Hillary Clinton’s first campaign event in Iowa, the (finally) announced presidential candidate laid out the four main goals of her campaign, including the need to fix our “dysfunctional” political system and to get “unaccountable” money out of politics, even if it requires a constitutional amendment. And thus we have the latest chapter in Clinton’s unique and evolving relationship with Citizens United v. Federal Exchange Commission.

It may be easy to forget that the basis for the claim that led to the controversial Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC was a barely watchable film titled Hillary: The Movie, featuring prominent conservatives such as Dick Morris and Ann Coulter that was trying to damage Hillary Clinton on eve of the January 2008 Democratic presidential primaries. The film was produced by Citizens United, a D.C.-based conservative nonprofit organization.

The film was supposed to be distributed on cable television and video on demand, but the federal government blocked the airing of the film because it violated the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 that prohibited corporate and nonprofit funded advocacy ads that mentioned a candidate’s name within 30 days of a primary or caucus, or 60 days of a general election.

At the time, no one could have predicted that Clinton would finish third in the Iowa caucuses behind Barack Obama and John Edwards, so many conservatives thought that more than just attack ads would be needed to defeat her eventual rise to the presidency: Attack movies were the new and necessary medium.

Well, roughly a year into President Obama’s first term, the Supreme Court made its decision on Citizens United v. FEC, saying that certain provisions in the McCain-Feingold BCRA were unconstitutional, and this brought us into the modern era of a nearly unrestricted and confusing flow of cash into our electoral process through various 501(c)(4)s, PACs, and Super PACs.

Stephen Colbert may have actually best explained how this absurd network of constantly flowing political money works when he announced on his show that he was officially forming an exploratory committee for his potential candidacy for President of the United States of South Carolina, and therefore could no longer run his Super PAC. See the videos here and here.

And here we are today. Less than a week into Clinton’s second official presidential bid, she has already done two things that may completely alter Citizens United v. FEC and our electoral process. Her support of a constitutional amendment limiting or regulating campaign finance is a smart and popular decision among liberal voters, but her campaign’s announcement that it intends to raise a staggering $2.5 billion combined by the official campaign, Hillary for America, and various unaffiliated 501(c)(4)s, PACs, and Super PACs has completely altered our political landscape.

Roughly eight months before the Iowa caucuses, the fundraising machine that will drive or greatly influence Clinton’s campaign has set goals that dwarf those of Obama’s in 2012, and may scare away potential Democratic challengers.

The 2012 presidential election between President Obama and challenger Mitt Romney was the most expensive campaign in history, with each candidate’s election team and supporting groups raising $1.123 and $1.019 billion respectively. Clinton’s campaign intends to surpass that entire amount on its own, and she is allowed to do so because of a case brought to the Supreme Court because a conservative group wanted to have a larger impact on hopefully preventing her from winning the presidency in 2008. The irony is so rich.

Who knows if Clinton will be able to defeat the GOP and Republicans at the game they insisted on creating, but she most likely will at least be able to match them dollar-for-dollar in the general election.

The brilliance surrounding all of this is the fact that Clinton has steadfastly been against this sort of external influence into politics. She articulated her objections on her first day of campaigning in Iowa, and the main reason why campaign finance laws have changed in recent years was due to her objection to the previously unlawful attempt to disseminate a campaign attack video denouncing her in 2008.

Clearly, her campaign’s $2.5 billion fundraising estimate may point to the contrary, but the fundraising strategy of her campaign is actually based around small donations. Additionally, she has not named a finance chair for her campaign.

According to an internal campaign memo obtained by Politico, Hillary for America intends to have a “flat fundraising structure” and a “grassroots donor base and a merit-based finance organization.”

“The campaign will have the resources needed to compete,” continued the memo. “Initially fundraising will be a challenge—with lower limits and a smaller list than Obama in 2011.”

The campaign has moved away from her 2008 strategy of seeking mega-donors, but it also knows that it has the support of unaffiliated organizations such as Ready PAC, formerly Ready for Hillary, that desperately want a Hillary Clinton presidency. (According to FEC regulations, Ready for Hillary was forced to change its name once Clinton officially announced her candidacy.)

Arguably against the wishes of many Clinton supporters, two Clinton 2008 volunteers launched Ready for Hillary in 2013 and have raised more than $15 million for Clinton’s campaign and amassed a 4 million strong grassroots fundraising list that will be given to Hillary for America. Clinton’s campaign has already hired six Ready for Hillary staffers, including co-founder Adam Parkhomenko. These former staffers can no longer coordinate with remaining staffers, and Ready PAC intend to shut down completely in the coming days.

Essentially, Hillary Clinton’s campaign can develop only the fundraising strategy that the candidate supports, but the numerous other political groups that independently support her can fundraise how they see fit. Independent of each other they all collectively believe that these various efforts should enhance candidate Clinton’s chances of moving back into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

All told these fundraising efforts may make her the unstoppable, inevitable candidate that she wanted to be in 2008. The big difference now is that she did not have Citizens United v. FEC to support her campaign.

If Hillary Clinton becomes the 45th president of the United States, the GOP may want to give themselves a nice pat on the back for all the hard work they indirectly have done to fund her presidential campaign.


By: Barrett Holmes Pitner, The Daily Beast, April 16, 2015

April 17, 2015 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Citizens United, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Perry ‘Next In Line’?”: Dick Morris Hoping For A New Lease On His Own Shady Career

There’s already been some Twitter-jokes about Dick Morris’ touting of Rick Perry’s 2016 prospects as the “kiss of death” for the Texas governor. But since Morris is just raising the banner of the famous “Next In Line” hypothesis of GOP presidential nomination contests that others will pick up sooner or later, we might as well take the con man’s argument seriously.

For those unfamiliar with the meme, “Next In Line” is one of those theories that sounds compelling thanks to the very limited sample size of recent presidential nominating contests. But it is based on the idea that Republicans are “orderly” and “hierarchical,” and naturally gravitate towards presidential candidates who have already been vetted in previous contests.

Now to some extent, the “Next in Line” meme is based on truisms: obviously, someone who has already run for president has, other things being equal, a relative advantage in name ID, contacts in key states, and fundraising networks. That’s true for any office in either party. But the idea that Republicans just “fall in line” mechanically behind the previous second-place finisher starts falling apart when you look at individual cycles. It doesn’t really apply to Nixon ’60 or Poppy ’88; far more important than their performance in previous nominating cycles is the fact that both were sitting vice presidents when they first won a presidential nomination. It doesn’t apply to Goldwater; yes, he won a smattering of delegates in 1960, but the only real threat to Nixon that year was Nelson Rockefeller. Nixon ’68 is indeed an example of a thoroughly vetted, previous candidate winning the nomination, but the “Next In Line” hypothesis would have suggested a ’64 also-ran like Romney (who pulled out before NH in ’68), Scranton (who didn’t run), or Rocky (who entered late in ’68 and fell short).

In 1976, the nominee was appointed president Gerald Ford, who had never run for president. You can argue that 1980 nominee Ronald Reagan won because he ran a close second in ’76, but the more important reality is that as the great symbol of a rapidly rising conservative movement, he would have won the first time around (technically the second, since he briefly ran in ’68), perhaps easily, had he not been facing an incumbent president.

The candidate who best fits the “Next in Line” hypothesis was Bob Dole in 1996. Still, Dole won against as weak a field Republicans have ever experienced before 2012. W. was by no means “Next in Line” in 2000. And in 2008 and 2012, while previous candidates did win, anyone who watched the actual competition in either year would be hard pressed to imagine it as a matter of disciplined Republicans falling into line behind the “inevitable” nominee.

If “Next in Line” really was some sort of iron law, of course, it’s unclear it would stipulate a 2016 nomination for Perry, who dropped out of the 2012 contest on January 19 after finishing fifth in Iowa and a very poor sixth in New Hampshire. Yes, there was a brief moment in the early autumn of 2013 when Perry looked like a king-hell rising star and Mitt Romney’s worst nightmare, but he rapidly blew it via a variety of issue mispositionings and debate gaffes, and perhaps the most overrated campaign organization in living memory.

Morris deems Perry Next-In-Line simply by dismissing the other 2012 losers as, well, losers, and then suggesting that Perry can do better this time if he does this and that and doesn’t do this and that. If he had some ham, he could make a ham sandwich, if he had some bread.

The reality is that proponents of Next-in-Line, along with other theories that dismiss disorderly factional fights in the GOP as so much thrashing about before the Establishment’s favorite is accepted, have a real problem in 2016. Nobody’s got a significant early lead in the polls. Christie and Bush have serious handicaps, particularly in the “electability” department that sometimes makes Establishment types grudgingly acceptable to grass-roots conservatives. Paul Ryan appears uninterested in running. Important party factions like the antichoicers, the Christian Right leadership, and Republican governors, don’t seem to have a consensus favorite. You could make a case, on paper, for someone like Scott Walker, who scratches more itches than most. But he’s got ethics problems and the kind of personality that makes him reminiscent of 2012’s on-paper winner, Tim Pawlenty, who never even made it to 2012.

I suppose you could say that on such a muddy track, Rick Perry’s got as much of a chance as anybody. But if he does somehow win the nomination, there will be nothing “orderly” or predictable about it–other than that Dick Morris will get a new lease on his shady career for having prominently “mentioned” him so early.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, April 30, 2014

May 1, 2014 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Republicans | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Circle Of Scam Keeps Turning”: In The Conservative World, Everybody Gets Rich At Some Stage Of The Game

A couple of times in the past I’ve written about what I call the conservative circle of scam, the way so many people on the right are so adept at fleecing each other. Here’s a piece about high-priced consultants milking the Koch brothers for everything they can get, and here’s one about my favorite story, the way that, in 2012, Dick Morris played ordinary people who wanted to see Barack Obama driven from office (he solicited donations to a super PAC for that purpose, laundered the money just a bit, and apparently kept most of it for himself without ever spending any of it on defeating Obama). The essence of the circle of scam is that everybody gets rich at some stage of the game, with the exception of the rank-and-file conservatives who fuel it all with their votes, their eyeballs, and their money.

Today there are two new media stories showing that the circle of scam is humming along nicely. The first comes from Michael Calderone at Huffington Post, who reports on an interesting relationship between Sean Hannity and the Tea Party Patriots. Here’s how it works: TPP is a sponsor of Hannity’s radio show. Then Hannity appears in TPP’s fundraising appeals, and some of the money generated inevitably goes back to Hannity’s radio show. Then Hannity goes on his Fox News show and talks about the terrific work the Tea Party Patriots are doing. Everybody wins!

The details of Hannity’s contract with his syndicate have never been made public, so I have no idea if he shares in the show’s advertising revenue. But even if he doesn’t, he benefits from keeping that revenue high. Last year he moved from Cumulus, where he reportedly made $20 million a year, to Premiere Radio Networks, which, one would presume, pays him something similar.

The second story comes from Kenneth Vogel and Mackenzie Weinger of Politico, who report that it isn’t just Hannity. A bunch of conservative media figures are in on the action, none gaining more than Glenn Beck, who has been paid an astounding $6 million by the Tea Party group FreedomWorks in recent years to promote its efforts. As Dick Armey, who was ousted as FreedomWorks chief in a recent coup, says, this kind of arrangement “compromises the integrity of the pundit-guru, as it were, and it’s an undignified expenditure of the part of the outfit that’s mining the attention.” Well put, Dick. One does need one’s pundit-gurus to have integrity. But even if they don’t, they’ve still got authority, and that’s what the organizations are paying for: the hosts’ ability to tell their audiences: “This is where you should send your money.” And send it they do.

What’s most interesting is that all of this expenditure is fueling an occasionally vicious internecine battle within the conservative movement. Sure, all these hosts spend much of their time bashing Barack Obama. But they’ve been successfully enlisted on one side of the war between the Republican establishment and the ultra-conservative Tea Party, a war that still rages even if the Tea Party is having somewhat less success ousting incumbent Republicans than it did in 2010 or 2012. Instead of conservative media being a force for unity, one that educates the base on what they should be angry about and where to focus their energy, they’re fomenting division and strife within the conservative coalition.

Would the likes of Hannity and Beck be doing so anyway even if they weren’t getting paid? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s certainly something to see. Remember when the right was a smoothly functioning, terrifyingly unified monolith of opinion and action? I wonder if they’ll ever get that back.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, April 17, 2014

April 18, 2014 Posted by | Conservative Media, Conservatives, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Dick Morris Award For Pre-Election Hype”: Pre-spinning Elections Is Even More Obnoxious Than Spinning The Results

I know I have zero influence over the rhetoric deployed by Reince Priebus, but still, I’d like to start a backlash against this particular formulation by the RNC chairman:

The way Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus sees it, 2014 won’t be an average election for the party out of power. It’ll be a “tsunami” wave election.

At a Christian Science Monitor Breakfast on Tuesday Priebus said Republicans would see massive gains in the 2014 election, especially in the Senate.

“I think we’re in for a tsunami election,” Preibus said. “Especially at the Senate level.”

“Wave elections” are big-trending events beyond normal electoral expectations. We have two recent examples in 2006 and 2010. “Tsunami” elections, if the term means anything at all, means really big wave elections. 1974 and 1994 are pretty good examples; 2010, at least at the state level, might qualify as well.

It will be normal, not a “wave,” for Republicans to make sizable gains in the Senate this November, if only because of inherently pro-Republican midterm turnout patterns, the tendency of the party holding the White House to lose seats in midterms (especially second-term midterms), and an insanely pro-Republican landscape of seats that happen to be up. If Republicans pick up eight or nine Senate seats, that might represent a “wave.” They’d have to exceed that significantly before we can talk about any sort of “tsunami.”

So cut out the crap, Reince. Pre-spinning elections is even more obnoxious than spinning the results, unless you are angling for the Dick Morris Award for pre-election hype.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, March 18, 2014

March 23, 2014 Posted by | Election 2014, Reince Priebus | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Playing The Fools Against The Marks”: Why Fox News Finally Dumped Dick Morris

I suppose I should have weighed in on this already, given that it’s been an entire day, but in case you were wondering, here’s what I think about Fox News’ decision to finally give Dick Morris the boot. Erik Wemple probably spoke for many people when he said, “this is a time to celebrate Fox News. It has seen the lunacy of Dick Morris, and it’s taking the appropriate step to inoculate itself against the ravages.” This comes fast on the heels of Sarah Palin being shown the door, some post-election house-cleaning that thankfully has left sage contributors like Karl Rove standing.

So what does this show? It doesn’t, alas, indicate that real accountability is coming to the pundit industry. I’ve always thought it’s too simplistic to view Fox News as nothing more than a partisan organization, as many people on the left do. Since he started the network in 1996, Roger Ailes’ genius has lied in a careful melding of business and ideology, in which neither one ever moves too far ahead of the other and each serves the other’s needs. Fox is extremely valuable to the Republican party and the conservative movement, and it’s also a huge money-maker for Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp. Anyone who appears on the channel has to satisfy both strands of that ideological/financial double helix.

And as Morris shows, satisfying the ideological needs of Fox’s viewers is more complicated than just telling them what you think they want to hear. Morris was so laughably wrong in almost everything he said that even many die-hard conservatives no doubt found him to be a buffoon. When he tells you over and over again that there’s no way your side can lose, and then they do, his credibility suffers even with people who want to believe him. But what really did him in, I think, was when it came out in December that he was, in all probability, running a scam on the Fox News viewers whom he implored to contribute to his super PAC to defeat Barack Obama. None of the money went to that cause, instead probably finding its way back into Morris’s pocket. It’s one thing to treat Fox viewers like fools—most of the network’s personalities do that every day. But it’s quite another to treat them like marks. If you do it as blatantly as Morris did, the entire brand is threatened.

In the end, it became too obvious that Dick Morris wasn’t working for the betterment of the conservative movement, or the Republican party, or Fox News. He was working for the betterment of Dick Morris. Once that became all too obvious, I’m sure Ailes had no qualms about showing him the door. After all, there’s plenty more where he came from.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, February 6, 2013

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

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