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“Choose Your Grifter”: There Are Distinctions Between The Swindlers In The Republican Party

Steve LaTourette used to be a congressman from Ohio who was closely aligned with Speaker John Boehner. Now he runs a Super PAC called “Defending Main Street” that tries to serve the Chamber of Commerce’s interests against the nihilists in the Tea Party who don’t even want to maintain our roads and bridges. As part of that gig, he writes articles (see, e.g., Politico). Despite taking money from people to do something that he can’t actually do (beat back the nut-jobs) he has decided to divide the GOP into two factions, one of which he disapprovingly labels “the grifters.”

Historically, grifters have taken many shapes. They were the snake-oil salesmen who rolled into town promising a magical, cure-all elixir at a price. The grifter was long gone by the time people discovered the magical elixir was no more magical than water. They were the sideshow con men offering fantastic prizes in games that were rigged so that no one could actually win them. They were the Ponzi scheme operators who got rich promising fantastically high investment returns but returning nothing for those sorry investors at the bottom of the pyramid.

Over the last few years we have seen the rise of a new grifter—the political grifter. And the most important battle being waged today isn’t the one about which party controls the House or the Senate, it’s about who controls the Republican Party: the grifting wing or the governing wing.

Today’s political grifters are a lot like the grifters of old—lining their pockets with the hard-earned money of working men and women be promising things in return that they know they can’t deliver.

There are distinctions between the swindlers in the Republican Party, that is true. There’s a difference between the paranoid ramblings of Michele Bachmann, Steve King, and Louie Gohmert and the fundamentalist stylings of real thieves like K Street Project organizer Rick Santorum and U.S.-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce Freedom Support Award winner Sam Brownback. The first group acts crazy and gets a bunch of small donations. The latter group acts like pious little brats while they’re lining their pockets with massive corporate donations, if not outright bribes. But, it’s okay, because they’re more religious than you are.

They’re all grifters.

Government spending is where they seem to differ, with the first group looking to cash in by not spending federal cash and the latter group looking to direct that cash into private sector entities that reward them with big donations and lucrative second careers. But the record shows, both under Reagan and under the latter Bush, that the GOP deficit spends like mad when they have the power to control where that spending goes. Will the next time be any different?

Not if Steve LaTourette and his benefactors have anything to say about it.

And, yet, the traditional Republican type of grift, where you decry federal spending until the moment you actually control it, is vastly preferable to the new kind of grift which is based on paranoia and a more virulent kind of racism.

I’d tell you to pick your poison, but you don’t get to decide.

 

By: Martin Longman, Ten Miles Square, Washington Monthly, August 4, 2014

August 5, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Republicans, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“In Florida, Anything Can Happen”: Vampires, RINOs And Things That Go Bump In The Night

From the state that gave us Katherine Harris and Mark Foley came news this week that a vampire is running for Congress.

This particular bloodsucker — actually, he does role-playing as a vampire after dark — is trying to defeat Rep. Ted Yoho in a Republican primary in central Florida. The fanged contender believes Yoho — a tea party conservative — is a liberal who has “embarrassed” his constituents.

Speaking of embarrassing, the SaintPetersBlog Web site reported that this challenger, 35-year-old attorney Jake Rush, has moonlighted as a participant in a Gothic troupe engaged in “night-to-night struggles ‘against their own bestial natures.’ ” Rush, a former sheriff’s deputy, issued a news release.

“I’ve been blessed with a vivid imagination from playing George Washington in elementary school to dressing up as a super hero last Halloween for trick-or-treaters,” Rush’s statement said, adding that he also is a “practicing Christian” who “played Jesus” in a church play.

Running for office in the Sunshine State poses some unique problems for vampires, not least their difficulty of campaigning in daylight hours. Yoho will probably keep his seat, particularly if he remembers to wear garlic.

But the Rush candidacy reminds us of an important truism in politics: In Florida, anything can happen.

For more evidence of this, consider what is happening next weekend on Amelia Island, not far from where Jake Rush and the other undead play. There, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy will speak at a fundraiser for Republican moderates. In today’s Republican Party, moderates are less popular than vampires, so it is extraordinary that these two young leaders, who have assiduously courted the tea party the past five years, are willing to associate themselves with those the tea partiers deride as RINOs, Republicans in Name Only.

“It’s great news,” says Steve LaTourette, who runs the Republican Main Street Partnership and is a board member of its offshoot political action committee, which is hosting the gathering at the Ritz-Carlton. “The fact that they want to come is very encouraging as a centrist Republican. . . . That they at least want to break bread with us I give them credit for, because they’re certainly getting attacked for it.”

That they are, in the blogosphere, on talk radio and even in fundraising pitches from tea party candidates. “Next weekend, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, and 25 other members of Congress are flying to Amelia Island to collaborate with a group dedicated to defeating conservatives in Congress,” conservative pundit Erick Erickson harrumphed.

Actually, House Speaker Boehner has addressed the group before but will be on foreign travel this time. More significant is the first-ever attendance of Cantor, who has been seen as a potential threat to Boehner from the right.

The presence of Cantor and McCarthy shows their increased confidence in defying the purity demands of organizations such as the Club for Growth, Heritage Action and FreedomWorks. You can’t get much more defiant than siding with LaTourette, who, in a Post op-ed in September, likened 30 to 40 conservative Republicans in the House to trained monkeys, writing that “the monkeys are running the zoo.”

LaTourette, a former (moderate) Republican congressman, thinks it’s a sign of things to come. He noted that of the 10 Republican House members targeted for primaries by the Club for Growth’s “primarymycongressman.com” project, nine belong to his organization. “We’re not going to lose anything,” LaTourette predicted. He noted that conservative groups have gone from saying “they’re going to kick our ass” to saying “we’re going to win one.”

It’ll be a long time before the 52 House Republican members of the Main Street group gain any real power, but from Florida anything seems possible. Florida has given us everything from former representative Allen West, the most militant of conservatives, to Rep. Alan Grayson, the most strident of liberals. Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor who lost a Senate bid as a Republican and then as an independent, is running for governor again — as a Democrat — and just might win.

Florida, too, gave us Republican Rep. Trey Radel, who recently resigned after a cocaine arrest, and Democratic Rep. Tim Mahoney, who succeeded Foley after the congressional-page scandal by promising to restore family values; he lost the seat after it was reported that he paid a staffer $121,000 to keep their affair quiet.

Now Florida is giving us vampires, RINOs and other things that go bump in the night. It is fun to believe they might be real.

 

By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 4, 2014

April 7, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Florida, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Make ’Em Pay”: House Republicans Act As If They Are Immune From Majority Sentiment, But Each Is Up For Re-Election In 2014

Where do you go if you’re a “Deadliest Catch” kind of guy, manliest of manly men, but couldn’t fish for king crab because some jelly-bellied Republicans threw a tantrum 5,000 miles away and shut down the government?

What do you do if you’re a farmer in Kansas who could not put winter wheat in the ground or get this year’s cattle vaccine because your government agriculture office was deemed nonessential? Whom do you see about the home loan that was held up, the family restaurant near the federal building that couldn’t meet October’s payroll, the bookings lost at season’s end in dozens of national parks?

Real Americans, the wind-chapped toilers so often invoked by politicians in a phony froth, lost real money from the real pain inflicted on their livelihoods by the extortionists in Congress this month.

How much money? At least $24 billion was the estimate given by Standard & Poor’s. Small business was hit particularly hard. And it’s a rolling pain, affecting consumer confidence, that will be felt through a holiday buying season that can make or break many retailers.

“I am a small businessman in a big ocean with big bills,” said Captain Keith Colburn, an Alaska crab fisherman, in Senate testimony during the shutdown. “I need to go fishing,” said the skipper, who is featured in the reality TV show “Deadliest Catch,” but was being held back by “a bunch of knuckleheads,.” who prevented marine regulators from doing their jobs.

So, who pays? For years, Republicans have been trumpeting the idea that when a government action hurts a private business, the government should compensate for the loss. This principle is based on a broad reading of the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment; it’s usually summoned as leverage against environmental regulation.

But in the case of the federal shutdown, of course, the economic hit on millions of Americans didn’t come from government — it came from one political faction in the House of Representatives. You could sue the Tea Party, but what is that? A bunch of costumed zealots on Fox are not responsible for anything that comes out of their mouths and lands in the porous mind of someone like Representative Ted Yoho of Florida.

You could sue Ted Cruz of Texas for initiating the calamity with a marathon of self-absorption. But the senator, like all members of Congress, has broad protection to pretty much say or do anything he wants inside the thick-walled refuge of the Capitol, a free speech guarantee that is warranted even when abused by vanity projects like Cruz.

What’s left is the ballot box. And here, Red State America can do a huge service for the rest of country. The states hit hardest by the shutdown, it now appears, were those where Republicans prevail. Virginia, with its wealth of government jobs and businesses that depend on those jobs, is Exhibit A. There, Republicans are likely to lose the governor’s race next week in part because their party disrupted so many lives in October’s meltdown.

The more difficult job will be ousting, from hardened, gerrymandered districts, the people who put ideology ahead of common sense and commerce. They seem faceless and buffoonish. They act as if they are immune from majority sentiment. But each of them is up for re-election a year from now, and the good news is that almost 75 percent of voters say most Republicans in Congress don’t deserve to be sent back to Washington.

In some districts, it will be civil war. What’s left of moderate Republicans are organizing to go after the crazies. “Hopefully, we’ll go into eight to 10 races and beat the snot out of them,” former Representative Steve LaTourette of Ohio told the National Journal. His group of fed-up Republicans, Defending Main Street, plans to raise $8 million to target the looniest of the loons.

Make Steve King of Iowa pay. As key government offices across the country were shuttered, as farmers in his district could not get their loans processed, King crowed, “We’re right!” He exists because political theater requires new players in clown makeup. The Des Moines Register recently suggested a slogan for King: “Send me back to Washington so I can continue to embarrass Iowa.”

Make Darrell Issa of California pay. Using the vast apparatus of his House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, he is going after National Park Service rangers. Having shut down the government, Issa wants to know why popular parks and monuments were closed. The audacity! During an earlier hearing, a fellow congressman provided an answer: He held up a mirror and aimed it at Republican lawmakers.

And certainly make Marlin Stutzman of Indiana pay. This congressman gave history the money quote on the shutdown. “We have to get something out of this,” he said. “And I don’t know what that even is.” A year from now, he can find out.

By: Timothy Egan, Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times, October 28, 2013

October 29, 2013 Posted by | Congress, GOP | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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