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“The Dumbest Rock In The Box”: Unemployed Ken Cuccinelli Finds A Job With Rand Paul Suing Obama

Say you’re Ken Cuccinelli. You’ve recently lost the Virginia governor’s race to Terry McAuliffe, of all people. You’ve given up your post as America’s most litigious state attorney general. A good chunk of the GOP establishment resents your hyper-conservative crazy talk for damaging the brand. Yet another snowstorm is bearing down on the nation’s capital in what has been a particularly cold and miserable winter—and despite this, most Americans still believe that global warming is a real thing. How on earth do you pull yourself out of this funk?

Sue the president, of course! And the Director of National Intelligence! And the heads of the FBI and NSA! And anyone else you can think of who might know anything about the massive government spying program that Edward Snowden revealed to such great effect. And to guarantee public attention (because, really, at this point, why should anyone be paying attention to you?), file the suit on behalf of someone vastly more popular than you—for instance, libertarian nerd-chic rockstar and 2016 presidential hopeful Rand Paul.

So it was that, late Wednesday morning, Cuccinelli and Paul stood before a gaggle of political reporters on the freezing plaza outside the E. Barrett Prettyman district court house, a vaguely Soviet-looking box of a building just a couple of blocks west of the Capitol, to tout their freshly filed complaint against a government gone wild in its violation of the Fourth Amendment. In his brief remarks, Paul cited the “huge and growing swell of protest” against the government’s overzealous monitoring of its own citizenry. To illustrate what he predicts will be “a historic lawsuit”—a class action complaint on behalf of every American citizen who has used a telephone in the past seven-plus years—Paul brandished two fistfuls of cell phones (including one with an especially snazzy leopard-print case). Considering the hundreds of millions of Americans who use phones, he noted gravely, this case “may well be the largest civil action lawsuit on behalf of the Constitution.”

Paul and Cuccinelli did not stand alone, physically or metaphorically. The Tea Partying libertarians at FreedomWorks are co-plaintiffs in this case, and a couple dozen of the groups’ young ground troops had been milling about in the cold for the past hour, chanting and snapping pics and generally lending some pep to the proceedings. After Paul got the presser rolling, FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe, characteristically hipsterish in his black-rimmed specs and blade-like sideburns, offered his take. “This is one of the most important things my organization has been involved in,” he asserted. “This isn’t a Republican vs. Democrat issue. It isn’t about the Obama administration. The government has crossed a line.” Kibbe then assured everyone that FreedomWorks was going to “put that genie back in the bottle.”

As lead counsel, Cuccinelli fielded questions about the legal whys and hows of the suit. Yes, he is optimistic that this will go all the way to the Supreme Court. No, he does not expect it to be tried in conjunction with a similar suit brought by Larry Klayman, the lawsuit-happy conservative gadfly who has a similar complaint wending its way through the courts. Is he worried about “standing”—that is, showing that his clients have themselves been injured and so have the legal right to file this complaint? Don’t be ridiculous! “If you use a phone—and both my clients do—then they are injured by the gathering of this information,” he insisted. Most fundamentally, why exactly are Paul et al even bothering with this crusade when there are multiple other suits already farther along in the pipeline? “The other cases thus far are on behalf of individuals,” explained Cuccinelli. “That does not provide relief for every American using telephones.” By contrast, this class action seeks not only to end the data collection but also to compel the government to purge its databases of all info amassed since 2006. In other words: When Paul wins, we all win!

And make no mistake, Senator Paul has his eye on winning—though political watchers suspect he is focused on a juicier prize than some random lawsuit, even a constitutionally “historic” one. It has, for instance, been repeatedly noted that Paul’s online effort to gather the signatures of Americans upset by the NSA’s spy games will yield a fat database of like-minded voters that could be usefully mined for, say, a presidential campaign.

As for Paul’s new BFF, bringing Virginia’s lightning-rod ex-AG on board with this case makes better political sense than legal sense. Not to question Cooch’s legal chops, but surely Paul had his pick of Fourth Amendment geniuses. In fact, Paul and Cuccinelli are currently embroiled in a nasty spat with former Reagan administration attorney Bruce Fein—who spent the past several months working with Paul on this complaint before being unceremoniously jettisoned for Cuccinelli.

It’s not just that Fein’s people are ticked that Cuccinelli has taken over the case; they are accusing the former AG of appropriating huge chunks of a legal brief previously written by Fein. As Fein’s spokesman (and ex-wife) Mattie Fein fumed to the Washington Post on the very day of the presser, “I am aghast and shocked by Ken Cuccinelli’s behavior and his absolute knowledge that this entire complaint was the work product, intellectual property and legal genius of Bruce Fein.” Testy emails have been zipping back-and-forth between Teams Paul, Cuccinelli, and Fein, complete with finger-pointing and name calling. In one, Mattie, somewhat indelicately, called Cucinnelli “dumb as a box of rocks.” Bottom line, she told the Post, “Ken Cuccinelli stole the suit.”

From a political perspective, however, one can easily imagine why Paul would value this particular box of rocks. While the senator already has the love and trust of the GOP’s small-government enthusiasts, he needs to do some serious wooing of its social conservatives. Thus, for example, his recent efforts to revive the Clinton scandals of the 1990s. So who better to ally himself with in his current undertaking than anti-abortion, anti-gay-rights champion Cuccinelli? For many of the same reasons that Virginia women gave their AG the cold shoulder in November’s gubernatorial election, Republican “values voters” love the guy. Paul’s making common cause with Cuccinelli could help soothe some of the base’s suspicions regarding the libertarian senator’s moral fitness.

Not to suggest that the senator isn’t genuine in his outrage over the NSA’s antics. Those Paul men are nothing if not consistent in their small-government passions. But if linking arms with Cooch in this crusade happens to serve Paul’s broader political aims, where’s the harm? (Unless you’re Bruce Fein, of course.)

Certainly, Cuccinelli seems happy with the arrangement.  At Wednesday’s presser, after Paul bid the media farewell to return to his senate duties, the former AG hung around to answer additional questions. As the TV camera guys broke down their equipment and the FreedomWorks activists began drifting back down Constitution Ave., Cuccinelli lingered on the plaza, surrounded by a tight circle of reporters. Nothing takes the sting out of a frigid winter day like a warm bath of attention.

 

By: Michele Cottle, The Daily Beast, February 13, 2014

February 14, 2014 Posted by | Politics, Rand Paul | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Resolution To Disapprove”: By Voting Against Themselves, Republican’s Hope To Fool The Tea Party

On Tuesday, the Senate held a vote on a “resolution to disapprove” of raising the debt limit. The resolution failed 45-54. The 45 disapprovers were all Republicans. Twenty-seven of the Republicans voting to disapprove of raising the debt limit also voted, just a few weeks ago, to raise the debt limit. Do those 27 Republican senators disapprove of their own votes because raising the debt limit turned out to be a terrible mistake with disastrous consequences? No. They voted to disapprove of their own actions because a group of loud and angry people disapprove of their actions.

The face-saving “resolution to disapprove” measure seems to derive from a a 2011 McConnell idea that would have preserved the debt limit as a grandstanding ploy without actually risking default. In McConnell’s plan, the president would be allowed to increase the debt limit a little bit at a time, and Congress would then vote on whether to disapprove of the raises. It’s actually pretty brilliant politics, as it would have done two things:

  • Forced President Obama to raise the debt limit, which is always politically unpopular, three times in one (election) year.
  • Allowed every single Republican in Congress to vote against raising the debt limit without worrying that the U.S. would actually default.

Naturally, McConnell’s plan was declared rank RINOism and it went nowhere. This was in part because some conservatives believed that the plan removed the possibility of extracting massive concessions in exchange for raising the limit, but also because there simply are a lot of conservatives who oppose raising the limit at all, ever. The result of not listening to McConnell: Republicans had to vote to raise the debt limit anyway, conservatives now feel betrayed, right-wing Senate primary challenges are more likely, and non-far-right voters have more reason to be scared of allowing Republicans to govern.

Thus the meaningless symbolic vote of disapproval, in both chambers. The sorts of conservatives McConnell is hoping this stunt satisfies may be deluded enough to believe that breaching the debt ceiling wouldn’t be so bad, but they are not dumb enough to be impressed with this gesture. Most important, the people and organizations they get their information and take their cues from will not suddenly start praising these 27 senators, McConnell included, as True Conservatives.

At this point, it’s very easy to get on the wrong side of the activist conservative movement, and once you’re labeled a RINO, there’s almost nothing you can do to clear your name. John Boehner had to let the extremists take the whole country on Mr. Ted’s Wild Ride for a few weeks just to keep his job, and most Tea Party types still hate him. Sen. John Cornyn is in trouble for taking his signature off a petition.

And look at the sad tale of Marco Rubio, who, not long ago, was supposed to be a major contender for the “true conservative” vote in the 2016 Republican primaries. Then Rubio, like an idiot, actually listened to people more concerned with the long-term survival of the GOP than short-term symbolic victories and attached himself to the comprehensive immigration reform project. Activist conservatives hate immigration reform nearly as much as they hate Obamacare. Now, Rubio has abandoned his bill. He’s praised Cruz to the heavens and joined the vote against the deal to reopen the government, but the damage is done. Rubio has been tainted as a cooperator. In March, Rubio came in a close second to Rand Paul in the CPAC straw poll. In October, he received 5 percent — 35 votes out of 762 — in the Values Voters straw poll.

Symbolic gestures, like McConnell’s, and outright flip-flops, like Rubio’s, aren’t going to quiet or stop the conservative revolt. They might at least provide some sort of model for getting through this next year without it doing too much more damage. The government will have to fund itself. The debt ceiling will need to be raised again distressingly soon. The “resolution to disapprove” could be the way Congress passes everything from now on. Pass some sort of minor budget deal, then vote on the resolution disapproving of it. Pass the farm bill, hold the vote disapproving of it. Maybe try immigration reform again with a disapproval vote attached?

None of this will fool Erick Erickson and Heritage Action and the Senate Conservatives Fund and Freedomworks, but it might just allow terrified Republicans to convince themselves that it’s OK to take votes leadership wants them to take. You get to have a backsies!

 

By: Alex Pareene, Salon, October 30, 2013

October 31, 2013 Posted by | Republicans, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Your Job Isn’t Safe Until Extremist’s Lose Theirs”: Tea Party Extremism Cost Millions Of Jobs And Risks Millions More

If Americans learn anything from this month’s shutdown-and-debt-ceiling debacle, they ought to realize that political extremism brings real costs—denominated in dollars and jobs as well as national cohesion and prestige—and that those costs are not small. So long as the Tea Party faction continues to wield its malign influence over the Republican leadership in Congress, the threat of further, even worse damage will not subside.

Everyone should heed the clear warning issued by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), his cohort on Capitol Hill, and the leaders of outfits such as the Tea Party Express and FreedomWorks, all enraged and determined to lash out again as soon as possible. “This was going to be a multi-stage, extended battle,” said Cruz, “but we’ve also seen a model that I think is the model going forward to defeat Obamacare, to bring back jobs, economic growth…”

Only a dwindling fraction of voters is still mesmerized by such demagogic nonsense, but their anger intimidates enough Republicans to ensure that Cruz and company can seek to sabotage the economy again—and they will. So it is vital for everyone to understand what these vandals have inflicted on us already.

We will probably not know the full cost of the shutdown and the near-default for several months, if ever, but fresh estimates are now arriving daily. According to Standard & Poor’s, the financial ratings agency, the shutdown alone reduced economic activity in the United States by at least $24 billion and cut growth in the current quarter by as much as 0.6 percent. That means a loss of thousands of jobs and billions in household income, just when the economy would traditionally surge upward for the holiday season.

But that is just the beginning of a much grimmer inventory of suffering, which can be traced back more than two years to the first episode of Tea Party debt-ceiling bluster. For that assessment, we can look to none other than the Peter G. Peterson Foundation—named for its creator, a former Republican Commerce Secretary and fanatical fiscal hawk—whose latest contribution to public discourse is a thorough study, with charts, of “the cost of crisis-driven fiscal policy.” Peterson’s full study is worth reading, but its essential points are simple enough.

The repeated manufacturing of partisan fiscal crises has created sufficient uncertainty to reduce growth since 2009 by as much as 0.3 percentage points annually—eliminating as many as 900,000 potential jobs.

Now add on the wrong-headed cuts in federal discretionary spending caused by budget sequestration—the awful “solution” to the 2011 debt crisis. That reduced annual growth by 0.7 points since 2010 and raised unemployment by almost a full percentage point, or 1.2 million lost jobs.

Finally, the report examines two possible economic scenarios that could follow a Treasury default: a “brief” recessionary interlude that would see unemployment jump to 8.5 percent, costing 2.5 million jobs, and a longer, deeper, more volatile recession in which joblessness would rise to 8.9 percent and more than three million jobs would be lost.

Just as disturbing as all this sad waste of human potential is the incredible pettiness of the goals pursued by the Republican leadership. Their ultimate, most pathetic demand was to deny health insurance to their own aides.

So when Ted Cruz and the Tea Party tell you their holy crusade against health care will “bring back jobs,” assume the opposite (and act accordingly). There is no bipartisan compromise on offer here— only more of the same ruinous obstruction, and worse.

Your job won’t be secure until they lose theirs.

 

By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, October 18, 2013

October 19, 2013 Posted by | Jobs, Republicans, Tea Party | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Concerted Right Wing Effort”: We Are The Ones Who Shut The Government Down

There are still some dead-enders on the right, who go through the motions and pretend Democrats should be blamed for the government shutdown, but it’s awfully difficult to take them seriously. At times, it doesn’t even seem as if those repeating the talking points believe their own rhetoric.

A fair number of Republicans, meanwhile, are admitting what is plainly true. Take Rep. Peter King’s (R-N.Y.) comments on “Fox News Sunday.” Watch on YouTube

For those who can’t watch clips online, King said:

“I’ve been against this government shutdown form the start. Now, I disagree with [Georgia Republican Tom Graves], we are the ones who did shut the government down. Charles Krauthammer called it the “suicide caucus.” I mean, Wall Street Journal said they were “kamikazes.” You don’t take the dramatic step of shutting down the government unless you have a real strategy and has a chance of working. It’s never had a chance of working; we’re now almost pushing ‘Obamacare’ to the side and we’re talking about other issues, and people are still out of work and the government is still shut down.”

When prominent Republicans appear on Fox to say Republicans are responsible for the shutdown, it’s safe to say the “maybe we can pin this on Democrats” gambit has run its course.

It’s not just King, either. The American Bridge super PAC put together a collection of Republicans holding their own party responsible for this fiasco. It’s not an especially short list.

What’s more, new reports over the weekend brought into focus how the right shaped its shutdown strategy months ago, and then carefully stuck to the game plan.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Mike McIntire had this report on Saturday.

Shortly after President Obama started his second term, a loose-knit coalition of conservative activists led by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III gathered in the capital to plot strategy. Their push to repeal Mr. Obama’s health care law was going nowhere, and they desperately needed a new plan.

Out of that session, held one morning in a location the members insist on keeping secret, came a little-noticed “blueprint to defunding Obamacare,” signed by Mr. Meese and leaders of more than three dozen conservative groups.

It articulated a take-no-prisoners legislative strategy that had long percolated in conservative circles: that Republicans could derail the health care overhaul if conservative lawmakers were willing to push fellow Republicans — including their cautious leaders — into cutting off financing for the entire federal government.

The piece included a familiar cast of right-wing characters — Heritage Action, FreedomWorks, Club for Growth, et al — adding the billionaire Koch brothers “have been deeply involved with financing the overall effort.”

In other words, it’s time for the nonsense over who bears responsibility for this to end.

A month ago, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) wanted to pass a clean spending bill to the White House to avoid a shutdown. At the time, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) pushed the argument — in writing — that a clean CR was a win for Republicans. When they’re being at least a little honest, some House Republicans are willing to admit that Senate Democrats already compromised when they accepted the lower spending levels far-right lawmakers demanded.

And given all of this, those who continue to suggest Democrats deserve the blame are clearly working from the assumption that you and other Americans are easily suckered into believing nonsense.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 7, 2013

October 9, 2013 Posted by | Government Shut Down | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Incentivizing Harmful Behavior”: Sabotaging Obamacare Is A Lucrative Endeavor For Many Republicans

To gain steam for his initiative to tie funding of the government to defunding Obamacare, Senator Ted Cruz appeared at events over the summer with the Tea Party Express, a political action committee. “Either continue funding the government without giving one more dime to Obamacare, or shut down the government,” demands Tea Party Express chair Amy Kremer.

The Tea Party Express, in turn, has sponsored fundraising drives to help “elect more leaders like Ted Cruz.”

One problem for Cruz-acolytes hoping to make their way into office? The Tea Party Express PAC has spent nearly every dollar of the $2.1 million it has raised this year on campaign consultants and fundraising fees, but not a dime in transfers to candidates or on independent expenditures. In previous years, the PAC has funneled much of its proceeds to Russo Marsh and Rogers, a Republican consulting firm in Sacramento, California.

The frantic crusade to screw up the launch of the Affordable Care Act is a sad tale in American politics. If conservatives are successful, even with a short-term government shutdown Cruz and his House GOP allies might achieve, patients will suffer. If young people fail to sign up for health insurance—the stated goal of one Koch-backed front group now airing television advertisements—more will drown under crushing debt if they find themselves in need of serious medical care. But Washington, DC, has a bizarre way of incentivizing harmful behavior, and the sabotage Obamacare campaign is not without its winners.

A set of campaign consultants and insurance agents stand to profit from confusing Americans on the eve of the healthcare reform enrollment date.

The conservative media frenzy over the defunding debate has invigorated donors to many PACs, not just Tea Party Express. The Senate Conservative Fund PAC recorded its largest-ever fundraising hauls last month, though it spends way more on candidates and on candidate ads than the Tea Party Express. Still, the Jim DeMint–linked PAC expended nearly half its coffers on administrative, research and fundraising payments this year. FreedomWorks, the RNC and the Club for Growth have hopped on the Cruz campaign to raise funds by advocating the repeal of Obamacare. For a non-federal election year, at least these PACs are doing well.

The rigid anti–healthcare reform politics of the Koch brothers is also having a stimulative effect upon a small circle of Republican consultants. Americans for Prosperity, the largest Koch-owned front, pays the traditional 15 percent commission rate on all their television buys—the latest round going to Target Enterprises, a Sherman Oaks, California-based GOP media company. And with a seemingly endless appetite for anti-Obamacare paid media and anti-Obamacare grassroots organizers, Koch makes good on its claim of being a stellar job-creator, at least for jobs in right-wing political advocacy.

The New York Times rightfully notes in an editorial that many other conservative advocacy groups, like the National Liberty Federation, have latched onto the Obamacare fight, viewing the healthcare reform debate as little more than opportunity to raise a few bucks.

The second and less noticed benefactor of some of the more malicious attacks upon healthcare reform are health insurance brokers. Health insurance brokers make a living by selling health insurance and collecting a commission for every person or group they enroll. With healthcare reform set to provide easy access to health insurance options, free of charge, many in the health insurance agent industry view the Obamacare rollout as a death sentence. In recent months, the broker industry has mobilized to erect obstacles for the dozens of community group “navigators,” organizations tapped to spread the word about how to enroll in the exchanges.

In Georgia, under influence from health insurance agent lobbyists, the state passed a law that prohibits navigators from providing advice “concerning the benefits, terms, and features of a particular health benefit plan.” Other states have thrown up licensing laws in an effort to curtail navigators from being able to do, well, anything.

The Center for Public Integrity’s Nicholas Kusnetz has done some of the most interesting investigative reporting on this side of the story, revealing that the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America and the National Association of Health Underwriters have orchestrated a multi-pronged attack on Affordable Care Act navigators. The industry, which has secured anti-navigator laws in sixteen states, has poured some $7.5 million into state campaigns since 2010.

While brokers claim they seek only to ensure patients are not scammed by “unlicensed” navigators, in reality, blocking competition seems to be the primary motivation. Last month, the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America released a statement endorsing an effort by Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-WA) to repeal all of the funding for the navigators programs. Notes from a lobbying association for insurance agents in California warned brokers before a visit to Sacramento: “If we don’t [lobby lawmakers] they will not think it will matter that much when they allow the unlicensed “navigators” to solicit your book of business!!”

Several community groups that had signed up to participate in the navigators program have now backed out, citing political pressure from Republican politicians. The House Oversight Committee, led by Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA), and Republican attorneys general have harassed several navigator groups with lengthy questionnaires and other demands.

Some anti–healthcare reform activists are truly motivated by their convictions. But others stand to gain financially from making sure their fellow Americans have problems signing up for health insurance.

 

By: Lee Fang, The Nation, September 25, 2013

September 26, 2013 Posted by | Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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